Following the news surrounding Harvey Weinstein, a movement to shed light on the frequency of sexual assault and sexual harassment developed on the internet.  The news was followed by a movement of women who had either been sexually harassed or assaulted posting “#MeToo” in their status.  Alyssa Milano, an actress, started the movement a few years ago by asking women to post the hashtag in their status to show the magnitude of sexual violence.

I saw that many friends posted #MeToo as their status.  In fact, it was so many that it made me seriously concerned for humanity.  The comments on their statuses were filled with loving, supportive comments, which restored my faith in humanity.  I have had a number of #MeToos throughout my life, and one of them was particularly traumatic.  So, for a moment I thought about putting MeToo in my status. I stopped myself just as I was about to hit the “post” button.  I was afraid about what other people would think.  Would they view me differently? Would they wonder what happened? Would they feel sorry for me and view me as a victim?  Worse, would they believe me?

I have told very few friends and family what happened. Partially because it is hard to talk about, but mostly because I do not want anyone to see me differently.  Whenever I tell someone, I am worried they will not believe me, or that they will think I am exaggerating.  I had too much drink the night it happened, I invited him into my apartment, I knew my attacker, I was wearing a provocative outfit- these are all factors that discount a victim’s story.  We can do better as a society.  We need to teach boys not to rape; a girl can wear whatever she wants and drink as much as she likes.  It is not her job to make sure that she is not tempting other men the same way it is not a homeowner’s job to make sure their house is not tempting a burglar.  We need to take victims seriously when they come forward; dozens of women had to come forward about Weinstein before they were taken seriously.  Only one person should have to come forward for the allegation to be taken seriously.

The day that I was brave enough to go to the hospital and complete a rape kit for my experience I was told I would owe thousands of dollars for the four hours I spent being handed medication, swabbed and photographed.  It cost me $382 just to step into the hospital. I am blessed to be on my parents’ insurance, which covered almost all expenses, and they paid for the remaining balance.  It is not like that for everyone though.  Some women are required to spend years paying for the medical bills related to the attack after their assault.  They are faced with a harsh question: do I seek treatment for my assault or do I pray that he did not give me an STD?  The experience is traumatic enough itself, not person should have to spend a cent for care after they have been sexually assaulted.  If your house is broken into and you call the police, they do not bill you their services. If we fix one thing and only one thing, it is that treatment for sexual assault victims should be free.

We have come a long way as a society, but we still have a ton of work to do.  It is up to us to ensure that we raise a generation of men that do not rape, and it is up to us to take care for the people that this happens to.  My hope is that someday I will live in a world where I can easily say #MeToo without worrying about society thinks.

Our Christian Call to Help Refugees

By Katie Mendez


The Trump administration has decided to pull out of the Global Compact on Migration, which is intended to: address all aspects of international migration; make an important contribution to global governance and enhance coordination on international migration; present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility; set out a range of actionable commitments; be guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda; and be informed by the Declaration of the 2013 High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development according to the International Organization for Migration’s website.

This is one of the latest moves by the Trump administration to not allow refugees in the country due to his dislike of Muslims and other ethnic groups, as demonstrated by his response to the bombing of an Egyptian mosque.

President Trump also tweeted three videos by an European alt-right organization accusing Muslims of multiple crimes, which were then proven to be false by multiple journalists, government agencies, and officials, such as Teresa May. Trump’s actions have alienated us from our allies, with many British governmental officials calling for Trump to be banned from entering the country.

Trump’s actions regarding  Muslims  and  refugees  are  important  for  multiple  reasons:  they alienate us from our allies, they give Daesh and other terrorist groups material to recruit more people, they “prove” to the Middle East that the United States never cared for them, and they violate our Christian calling to help refugees.

There are currently 6.3 million displaced Syrians with 4.5 million Syrians in hard-to-reach areas of conflict. Another 5.4 million are considered persons of concern. These refugees and populations of concern are at higher risk of human trafficking. The refugee crisis has contributed to higher rates of modern slavery in the areas of sex trafficking, labor trafficking, debt bondage, and child soldiers. Women are bought and sold at markets in Raqqa, Syria, sometimes for as much as $40,000.

While many other countries have failed to support refugees to the best of their ability, the United States is especially held accountable because it has often been the cause of much of the instability in the Middle East, often touts itself as the moral agent of the world, and consistently talks about being the richest nation in the world. Another factor sets it apart from other nations: it claims to be Christian. Further, the majority of Evangelical Christians claim that Trump is the first president to uphold Christian values in decades.

However, Trump’s actions—and many Evangelicals who support him—seem to ignore the Godly calling to help the destitute. Many seem to forget that God judges individuals and nations for their lack of support for the needy and poor: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the  poor  and  needy”  (Eze.  16:49, ESV). The call to help the refugee is not simply an Old Testament calling that become null and void with Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, in the book of Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that God will judge all the nations and separate its people based on who was righteous and who was not:


31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to ’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’


41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The Bible is not silent on what God expects of us. Multiple times, God condemns nations for their lack of empathy and aid to those who needed them most. The old prophets often proclaim God’s judgement on the nations for not feeding the hungry or helping widows and orphans.

Isaiah 58 is another of the many Bible verses that speaks of God’s condemnation for what is called “false fasting”:


1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.


The true fast, God says, is:


6 to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed[b] go free, and to break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

When the United States acts, when we vote, do we vote in accordance with the true fast, or do we vote for the false fast? Is our worship useless to God? If we want to call ourselves a Christian, if we want our worship to be heard and noticed by God, we have an obligation to welcome and take care of the refugee, maybe even host them in our home, as God says in Isaiah 58:7. May we be more concerned with God’s laws than those of our government.


Katie Mendez is a senior in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core.

Person First Outreach

By Nikki Thompson

Last spring break, I went on a trip in partnership with the Texas Hunger Initiative and Baylor Missions. The purpose of the trip was simply to spend a week with in Lubbock and learn about the lives of the people who struggle with poverty. Our team engaged in a very different type of mission trip with a focus on building relationships rather than meeting a material needEngaging in conversation with people who struggle with homelessness opened my eyes to how complex and intersectional poverty is. Poverty is an international problem, but it occurs at a personal level, thus showing the need for relationships. My experiences and conversations with the people of Lubbock opened my eyes to the importance of good volunteers. This relational approach to volunteering and missions also challenged many assumptions I had about homelessness, food-insecurity, and the people I wanted to help. I realized that volunteers, myself included, are often trained using an unhelpful and potentially unethical model as a result of incorrect beliefs about poverty. Throughout the course of this week, it became very clear to me that the ways I had served in the past were not only ineffective but also harmful.

Why Do Our Beliefs About Poverty Matter?

What volunteers and organizations believe about poverty has a direct correlation to how they choose to work for the alleviation of poverty. Logically, this makes sense. If I believe that poverty is material, the way I attempt to alleviate poverty is by giving material goods (i.e. food, clothes, shelter). If I think that poverty is a socio-political issue, I will lobby for policy reform. Therefore, it is vitally important that we understand what poverty is and why individuals struggle with poverty before we attempt to eradicate it. Otherwise, we risk wasting time, effort, and resources. On a personal level, the way we think about poverty colors the way we will interact with people who struggle with poverty. These thoughts can seem harmless but have a large effect on the outcome of the action. The nature of volunteers’ relationships with those they are helping can either ensure success or failure.

Assumptions I Had (And Why They’re Wrong)

I. Poverty is primarily a material issue. It is easy to think that poverty is simply a lack of money when in reality American poverty is a complex and personal issue. In When Helping Hurts, Stephen Corbett and Brian Fikkert conduct experiments in which they ask people who struggle with poverty what it is and then ask middle class people what poverty is. The differences are astonishing. People more removed from poverty, the middle class, tended to describe poverty in material terms. They said that people who struggled with poverty simply lacked material resources. However, individuals who struggle with poverty described their condition on an emotional, psychological and relational level. They often used words such as “shame,” “inferiority,” and “powerlessness.” This is significant because it demonstrates that poverty is much more than material. Poverty affects the whole person, not just their physical being. Because of this, we must create holistic solutions to poverty, considering each person as an individual.

Through talking to people who struggle with homelessness, I discovered that there is not one problem they all share that led to their homelessness. Some of the people I talked to struggled with drug addiction, others with mental illness or physical health issues that hinder them from holding a job. Others have jail time on their record, which severely limits their job and housing choices. Many women who are homeless are victims of domestic violence who were forced to choose between homelessness or abuse. A large number of the homeless community (approximately 40%) identify as being LGBTQ, and many gay youths are kicked out of their homes due to their sexual orientation. Other factors affect homelessness, such as ethnicity. A 2004 survey shows that in the 27 cities studied, 49% of people who were homeless were African American, 35% were Caucasian, and 13% were Hispanic. To put these numbers in context, in 2000 the U.S. population was made up of 75% of white Americans, 12.3% black Americans and 12.5% Hispanic Americans. Another large demographic within the homeless population are veterans. I write all of this to demonstrate that people who are homeless struggle with various things–many fall under multiple from the list above—which keep them homeless or jobless. These people have very specific and very complex situations that bring them to homelessness. This complexity is exactly why we must take a relational approach to homelessness and poverty. We cannot assume that we know what will help people until we actually talk to people; not many of these problems can be solved by simply giving money.

II. People who struggle with poverty are helpless. This is perhaps the most dangerous and harmful thought I had. Not only does this thought process limit our effectiveness as volunteers, it actually feeds into the cycle of poverty by patronizing (and further debilitating) the poor. Like I mentioned before, one of the main ways people describe their poverty is through words reflecting social condition or psychological state rather than their material lack of resources. They say they feel powerless, unwanted and ashamed. If we treat people as if they are our patient, we justify and perpetuate these feelings.

I was a horrible offender of this before, but I didn’t know it. I don’t think I ever consciously thought “these people need my help.” I would think and say things like, “I want to help people who can’t help themselves,” or “I want to be a voice for the voiceless.” These statements take away all agency these people have. While poverty often involves large influences such as social conditions and privileges, this does not render people who are impoverished as helpless victims. Just because someone has suffered because of poverty, oftentimes it means they are working against a social construct or condition much bigger than them. I think there is an important balance between helping people and creating a dependency on the help. We should seek to empower these people by asking them what they need and how we can help and then by acting accordingly.

III. People become homeless because of their choices. During the week I was in Lubbock, my team did a privilege exercise with the people we met in a local homeless outreach center. The exercise consisted of every one of us lining up horizontally and taking a step forward or backward based on our responses to questions related to privilege. The questions covered a multitude of things, from race to socio-economic class to sexuality to gender and the opportunities associated with these things. Each question had a common theme, though, and that was that our experiences were largely unrelated to any choices we made as individuals. They are all circumstances we inherited at birth. For example, a few of the questions were: do one or both of your parents have a college degree? Does your household employ people of color as servants, gardeners, etc.? Have you ever been made fun of or bullied for something beyond your control? It was shocking to see so clearly the privilege that is so pervasive in our society for the middle class, straight white male. There are so many factors which affect our lives that we have no say in. I did not choose to be born a white, middle class female, but because of these things I am able to attend a good university and do not fear that I will struggle with homelessness. However, others were not born with the same luxuries.

A vast majority of the people I talked to over the week did not choose to become homeless, rather it was a circumstance of their life. Heather, one woman I got to know at Carpenter’s church, grew up in a split household with her alcoholic mother. She was molested and raped by her stepfather and became addicted to drugs at a young age. Her drug addiction eventually cost her her children, her job, and her home. After getting clean, Heather found out that she had been living with a mental illness. Another man we met, Sam, was introduced to drugs at age thirteen by his mother, which led to his eventual addiction and involvement in gangs, which subsequently led to jail time. The common factor here is that both Sam and Heather’s poverty can be traced back to factors they had little or no control over.

Positive Habits for Volunteers to Cultivate

I. People-first language. People-first language is probably the hardest but most practical thing I learned in Lubbock. People-first language is a way of speaking that focuses on someone’s personhood instead of their situation. It is very simple. For example, instead of saying “a homeless person,” it is better to say “a person who is homeless” or “a person who struggles with homelessness.” This is very effective in changing both the speaker and the listener’s perception of the individual. The idea behind it is that describing words used often enough become defining words. Our trip leader told us about a study where a professor used regular language to describe a person versus people-first language. The reception was significantly different. The professor asked her students to say the first thing they thought of when she said “homeless person.” The students responded with things such as “drug addiction,” “dirty,” and “lazy.” However, when the professor said “a person without a home,” her students responded with scenarios in which the person lost their job or had a bad relationship with their family and got kicked out. When presented with the normal, dehumanizing language, one is much more likely to believe and ascribe to certain stereotypes. However, when the personhood of a person is the focal point of the phrase, rather than a description of them, we are far more likely to think about them as an individual and consider their situation.

These example make clear the effect language has on the way we see people. When we characterize someone as their situation, we make their situation the most important thing about them and subconsciously apply stereotypes to them. However, when we first acknowledge that this is, first and foremost, a person, we are more aware of them as an individual and tend to think of what could have brought them to this situation. This simple change can alter the way we think about people and communicate respect and regard for the individual. However, regular speaking is a very hard habit to break because it is something we do without thinking. It is a challenge to change the way you speak about people, but the result is well worth it.

II. Relational care. Perhaps the most valuable and applicable thing I learned during my week in Lubbock was the importance of relationships. I don’t often think about what life is like for those who struggle with homelessness, but a main theme in the stories I heard was loneliness. People told me about how, on the streets, you do not usually have friendships or companions. Everyone is fending for themselves so they cannot trust anyone else. I think I had this romantic idea of people banding together to “beat homelessness” that I’ve seen in movies, but this is not the reality. Many of the people I talked to were more than eager to share their stories because it was rare that someone wanted to listen to them. This was something I had to get used to quickly, because coming into the trip I was expecting people to be hesitant to tell me the details of their life. However, the majority of people I talked to unashamedly told me their life story within the first five minutes of meeting them.

One of the men I met, Sam, told a large group of us about his life in great detail. He would interrupt himself, saying “I’m just being honest, I just want to tell you what happened.” His openness about his history with gangs and crimes he committed made me wonder how many people know this about him and how often people take the time to find out about his life. It scares me to think about how easy it is for people to slip through the cracks. A volunteer I talked to told me about a man he used to serve. The man (they never learned his name) stood across the street from the place they served dinner every week, and they eventually started taking dinner out to him. He didn’t say anything other than “thank you,” so they did not find out anything about him until one day when he did not show up. They went out to look for him and he was hospitalized. It turns out, he had gone to college but suffered an anxiety attack and developed schizophrenia following the death of his father. He did not have insurance and was not able to get his medication, so his condition had worsened over the years to this state. Thankfully, the volunteers knew who he was and knew to look for him. It is scary to think about what could have happened if no one had taken the time to notice him.

Heather, one of the women I interviewed, told me how important her relationships with the staff at Carpenter’s Church outreach were to her. She is an active member in the community at Carpenter’s and regularly teaches classes and helps in the kitchen. Though she loves everyone who comes to Carpenter’s, she emphasized that her relationships with staff members played a most crucial role in her recovery and growth. The stability offered Heather in these relationships made it possible for her to get clean and escape an abusive marriage. When we talked, she drew a clear distinction between relationships with staff members to relationships with others who come to Carpenter’s. Heather was a heroin addict, so being around others who struggle with drugs puts her at risk to relapse. Furthermore, she is bipolar and she told me that being around the people’s “drama” was not good for her, either. The stability and consistency of the staff at Carpenter’s allowed her a place to grow and thrive. Relational care is important to restore a feeling of dignity and worth in people who struggle with poverty, to recognize and properly address each individual’s problems and to encourage consistent growth.

III. Creative, personalized solutions and collaboration. A holistic, relational approach to outreach is important in order to effectively help people. For example, If we simply give people food, we risk creating a system in which people become dependent on us for food. Instead, we can use food as a way to attract people and then form relationships with them to actually ask what they need and continue to walk with them as they grow. In Lubbock, my team talked to the Homeless Outreach Team (H.O.T.) of the Lubbock P.D. I think they fulfill the balance between helping and hurting by creating relationships with people and then helping where they can. For instance, the policemen will help people by giving them rides to work or the doctor or helping them move furniture. One of the policemen told us about how he works with panhandlers. He often gets calls about them and has gotten to know a few of them. He knows that panhandling is not a good thing, because it is an easy way for addicts to get money to spend on alcohol or drugs, so he encourages them not to do so. He, instead, helps these people get jobs and helps them get to their job so they can keep it instead of being dependent on handouts.

When we acknowledge that poverty is an issue that affects individualizes specifically, according to their personal context, we become aware that this means there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each individual is different and struggles with different things, so there is no one solution for poverty or hunger or homelessness. These issues are intersectional and complex, which can seem discouraging, but this really just means that we need every type of person to help. You don’t have to be a social worker or a “social justice warrior” to help end poverty. Each person’s skills and talents are needed to create solutions. We must nurture a spirit of collaboration and creativity in the way we approach such large issues because there is not one right answer. As we focus on people and forming relationships, it becomes clear that everyone is needed. On a large scale, organizations should collaborate with their areas of expertise to improve the lives of those around them. Personally, volunteers should utilize their unique skills and interests to creatively solve issues they encounter and discover through relationships with those they desire to help.

Spring Break 2018

Next year, I will be a student leader on this trip through Baylor Missions. We have the same goal of listening to people’s stories and confronting our assumptions about poverty. We will continue to engage the people of Lubbock, Texas and learn about creative, interdisciplinary ways to help alleviate poverty. It is not a conventional “mission trip” in that we will be providing a service. We will be conducting interviews and learning about story-based advocacy and what it means to make room for other’s voices instead of speaking on their behalf. It is an incredible experience through which you will certainly be challenged and I could not recommend it highly enough. The trip application is available online here.

Nikki is a junior majoring in professional writing and rhetoric.

Combating Hunger in Waco

By Nikki Thompson

(Image courtesy of World Hunger Relief, Inc.)

Waco is a hotspot for hunger-related issues. Residents who struggle with poverty often deal with food insecurity. That, paired with the food deserts in Waco, results in a vicious cycle of eating unhealthy foods because they are the most readily available, getting sick, and being unable to pay for healthcare. Furthermore, research shows that nutrition directly affects performance in school. In Waco, food deserts correlate with underperforming and even failing schools. These circumstances reduce the student’s probability of getting a high-paying job, which then reduces options for the next generation. This cycle of poverty is connected to a lack of nutritional produce.

World Hunger Relief, Inc. attempts to address hunger on both a global and a local scale. Its involvement in the Waco community has seen a significant increase in healthy eating. WHRI partners with the Waco government and local nonprofits in various projects to promote policy reform and to increase wellness within the community. Two of their most successful projects are the Veggie Van and the school gardening initiative.

The Veggie Van was launched in June of 2015 as a mobile market system to bring fresh produce to food deserts throughout Waco. This makes it possible for those people who do not live within a two-mile radius of a grocery store and do not have a car to have access to food with nutritional value. The van sells fresh and locally grown produce at affordable prices. Each sale also includes a recipe, so the buyer can know how to cook the produce, thus making it more likely that they will eat it and continue to come back. The van not only makes healthy food available to the community, it sparks conversation about healthy living and why it is important.

Another way WHRI addresses hunger and health in Waco is through their school gardening program. WHRI supports the Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition in many community-wide initiatives. The mission of this program is to partner with schools and develop sustainable communities by teaching students how to grow a sustainable food system and why it is important. Volunteers with WHRI teach students how to grow ornamental plants and food crops. Students are involved in the planting and maintenance of the gardens and as a result, they learn about plants and healthy diets. WHRI is currently partnered with Indian Springs middle school and J.H. Hines elementary.

These two programs are examples of creative ways WHRI addresses hunger in Waco. These are the kinds of solutions we should be seeking for community-wide problems instead of just focusing on legislation. By getting the community involved and making them aware of the problem, WHRI has seen a significant increase in the overall health of Waco. Understanding that communal problems are complex and affect multiple aspects of life is key to change.


Nikki is a junior majoring in professional writing and rhetoric.

The Bat and the Cat

By Aaron Cobbs

Welcome back to Crazy Train, the place where we talk about all things pop culture and apply it to learning in general. I’m still Aaron, and I’m still here to be your conductor for the experience.

So, if you haven’t heard recently, in issue #24 of Batman (2017) by Tom King, Clay Mann, and David Finch, Batman a.k.a. Bruce Wayne (like you don’t know who he is) proposed to Catwoman a.k.a. Selina Kyle. In issue #32 of that same series, after telling a major story about his war with the Joker and the Riddler, Catwoman finally said “yes” to Batman’s proposal.

While this is certainly not the first time that these two have been romantically linked, they have not had as much of a relationship presence as they do now. The two were married in an alternate universe story in The Brave and the Bold #197 (a DC Comics team up series), and were even married in DC’s Earth 2 continuity (and had a daughter together – Helena Wayne). So DC has obviously been thinking about the possibility.

So why is there all the fuss about the proposal now?

Up until this point, Batman and Catwoman in the main continuity have not had as much of a romance as their alternate counterparts. For most of her comic book career, Catwoman has been portrayed as a bonafide villain. When DC decided to make her have a romantic interest in Batman, her character changed to become more antiheroic and eventually, in the modern day, heroic (who steals from the rich). Modern adaptations of the character have brought this to light including helping Batman in video games like Batman: Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Injustice 2. Even the movies got involved with The Dark Knight Rises where both Bruce and Selina ride off into the sunset after Bruce’s brush with death.

So again, Aaron, why all the fuss now?

There is a reason that I’m writing about this and not about another item in pop culture. Bruce and Selina represent the very nature of us. They represent the people who thought that they had it all but realized that there was one thing missing: their own self-care. As the protector of Gotham, Batman is a vigilante, but also a caretaker. He’s adopted four young men into his care as Robin(s), trained them all to be strong in themselves, and has protected the streets of Gotham from the criminals and villains that populate it. He also leads and funds the Justice League of America, mentors and helps out the Teen Titans, and runs a day-to-day business with Wayne Enterprises. He is the definition of a Renaissance Man.

But even Batman can’t do it all, and the one thing that he ultimately fails at is his own self-care. In issue #24 of Batman (2017), titled “Every Epilogue is a Prelude”, Bruce talks with a fellow superhero about the issue of his happiness. He mentions that he is Batman because he wants to be happy with his life, but he doesn’t admit to it because he is scared of the potential of being happy. After everything that he’s seen and done in his career, his greatest fear is being happy with the man under the cowl. Because of that, he takes the first step in asking the love of his life to marry him – to finally end the pain and trauma of his vigilante lifestyle.

In other words, Bruce is finally practicing some self-care.

No matter what action you take, no matter who you are trying to help, and no matter what you say, we are all aiming to be happy. We are all aiming to do something in this world that means something. For a lot of us, that means serving others and doing the right thing. For some of us, that’s a little different. But what is universally missing is the self-care that we need to practice. If there is one thing that you remember, it’s to take care of yourself. If you need help, reach out. If you’re lonely, talk to someone. If you are afraid, admit it. In other words, be your hero.

I learned this lesson coming into college. I was very much like Batman; I always gave solid advice to everyone else. When it came time for my turn, I froze. I didn’t know how to handle myself. It’s not like I didn’t have the wisdom; it was just the fear of either being arrogant or self-serving. In any case, I learned how to be my own hero, and it’s a lesson that I’m still learning to this day. I am thankful for all the people who have helped and supported me, but even they cannot always be there one-hundred percent. In a sense, I had to be happy with the man behind the mask.

Not everyone’s answer to the question, How do you make yourself happy, will be marriage. It won’t be a career, it won’t be service, and it won’t be friends. Sometimes, you do what you have to do to take care of yourself in a positive and constructive way. For me, it’s boxing, eating ice cream, reading comics, and writing helpful yet funny articles like this one. You have to find your way of life and find a way to defeat your own “private demons” (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns 1986).

As you walk out into the world, remember to take care of yourself and to always find your peace. Godspeed, dear readers.


Aaron is a senior majoring in professional writing.

On Picture Books and Patriarchy

By McKenna Middleton

In my childhood, the only compensation for the fateful call for bedtime at 9 p.m. was my bookshelf. Filled with stories big and small, books held the key to new worlds, but also gave me tools to interpret the social sphere in which I was situated. While some of the morals in those children’s books are obvious – be nice, don’t tell a lie, etc. – others were more skillfully veiled.

When I think back to some of my favorite stories from that time, most of them feature not humans, but animals (Frog and Toad are Friends, The Berenstain Bears, etc). What could books with animals rather than people have to teach me about my place in the world?

According to research from Janice McCabe, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, one lesson children’s books with animal characters reinforce is gender norms. A survey of children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 revealed that male animals were central characters in over three times as many books as female animals. The fact of the matter is, if the characters in these stories are animals, we really shouldn’t even be able to notice this imbalance.

Yet, what often happens with anthropomorphism – the attribution of human characteristics to an animal or object – is an application of gendered stereotypes. For example, if a pig with a pink bow appears on a page next to a dog with a top hat, most readers would ascertain that the pig is female and the dog is male. But how could one possibly make a distinction with such certainty based on such little descriptive information?

The issue is not just that female animal characters in books are depicted as essentially different and marked by a bow, dress, the color pink, or long hair, but that male animal characters often don’t come with these kind of gender markers at all. Yet, we still identify them as male, suggesting that the default for any sentient being is male, and it only becomes female when given some type of specified marker. Not only are book authors/illustrators/publishers responsible for this discrepancy, but so are adults who assign male pronouns to ungendered animals in books when they read aloud.

“When [my daughter] hears story after story in which everything from the skyscraper to the very hungry caterpillar is called ‘he,’ how can she help internalizing the idea that to be male is the rule and to be female is the exception?,” writes Jennie Yabroff, guest columnist for the Washington Post.

In my years of listening to bedtime stories from my parents, I never once questioned that pink or a bow meant a girl and any animal without such a distinction was male. These internalized gender stereotypes stayed with me throughout my childhood and often dictated the ways I saw not just the characters in my books, but also the way I perceived the behavior and appearance of others and myself.

Just think about the ways society encourages us to talk about women that don’t adhere to these types of stereotypical gender markers: tomboy, lesbian, and everything in between. In other words: a woman who doesn’t know her place and is unwilling to adhere to the idea that she is inherently lesser than and different from the “default” male distinction.

There is nothing inherent about the color pink or a bow that makes something feminine. Despite this fact, it is undeniable that these gender markers affect they the way children gather information about their place in the world.


McKenna is a junior majoring in journalism and Spanish.

Why Smoke is Worse than Fire

By Delaney Shiu

Everyone has been hearing about all the natural disasters occurring in the U.S. recently – historic flooding, major hurricanes, and unforgiving wildfires. We all have tendencies to focus on one major problem until the next one comes along, which is why everyone is talking about California wildfires right now instead of the problems that many people who live in Houston are still facing and will be faced with for years to come. In a few weeks, something else will happen, and we will move on from conversing about the wildfires, which is why I want to take the time while we’re all still focused on the topic to talk about how they might be causing more damage to the state than we can see.

Even though the fire itself is extremely destructive, the main problem that the Californians will be facing is the smoke, ash, and debris left over from the fire. Most people who are killed in wildfires die from smoke inhalation rather than from the fire itself. Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body’s oxygen supply, and even people who survive wildfires are often faced with health problems for years depending on how long they were breathing in the low-quality air. Most of the time, the people who develop prolonged health problems because of a fire are ones who are particularly sensitive to air quality, such as people with asthma or heart disease.

Right now, health officials are most concerned about the levels of PM2.5 in the air. PM2.5 is made up of very small pieces of liquids and solids that are no more than 2.5 micrometers across. Since PM2.5 particles are so small, they can be easily inhaled and transferred into the body’s bloodstream through the lungs and alveolar sacs. Good-quality air has no more than a dozen micrograms of PM2.5s per cubic meter of air. Once the level reaches about 55 PM2.5s per cubic meter, people with diseases such as asthma begin to notice, but most healthy people wouldn’t. Above 55 PM2.5s per cubic meter, anybody outside would begin to notice and breathing would become difficult. Once you reach the level of 100 PM2.5s per cubic meter, everybody outside would feel their eyes and throat sting as they walked around. Recently, there was a reading of about 137 PM2.5s per cubic meter in Californian air affected by the wildfires, and that was 50 miles away from the actual fire. Using this data, we can clearly see why the fire is causing more problems in California than just the destruction of property.

Unfortunately, since the majority of us reading this article are stuck in Waco, Texas, there isn’t anything we can physically go out and do to help the people who are suffering in California. However, there are other ways to help. The Salvation Army and American Red Cross are the two organizations that most often deal with natural disasters such as this one, and could always use monetary donations. There is also a GoFundMe page that is gaining popularity and is going towards helping the victims of the wildfires. Californian agencies such as the Napa Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Fire Fund are also accepting monetary donations and serve particular parts of California.

It is no secret that the state that contributes the most students to the Baylor community, other than Texas, is California. We hope that the wildfires come to an end soon and that the air quality continues to improve consistently so everyone is able to return home safely, whenever that may be.


Delaney Shiu is a freshman in the BIC.

A Visit to the Italian Senate

By Brittany Gamlen

This past summer I studied abroad in Italy with the Baylor in Italy program.  Besides eating too much gelato and pasta, I was lucky to have the privilege of visiting the Italian Parliament.  While eating breakfast in our hotel one morning I mentioned to Dr. Smith that I was interested in visiting parliament.  One phone call later, and Dr. Smith and I had an entire day booked with parliament, including a private lunch with a congressman.  It proved to be a whirlwind, but it was unlike anything I have experienced.

After taking an early morning train, Dr. Smith and I arrived in Rome at the Senate House.  We handed over our IDs in exchange for badges that granted us access to the Senate gallery.  After passing through metal detectors, we were admitted into the main hallway of the building.  The elevator brought us to the second floor, where we were greeted by two more guards.  The guards took our personal belongings, as the senate has a strict policy against taking any photos of the senate’s session.  We were briefed on the proper behavior for observing the senate; you must sit up straight, limit your talking and not show any emotion.  Once in the gallery, the guard sat behind us during our visit so he could ensure that we continued to follow the protocol.  Furthermore, if the senate were to go into a closed conference, we would have to leave the gallery until they were finished. A closed conference could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.  To our luck, we only had to leave the gallery once for about fifteen minutes during hour two-hour visit.

The Italian political system is much different than ours.  For starters, their Senate has 315 senators, their Chamber of Deputies (the equivalent of our House of Representatives) has 630 members, and there are twelve parties.  Thus, thinks are chaotic by nature.  Each party is too small to accomplish anything of its own, so parties get together to form coalitions.  There are two main coalitions in Italy, and they get into conflict with one another the way our parties do in the United States.  People often say that Congress can never get anything done, but I can assure you our Congress is nothing like the craziness of the Italian Senate.

The morning we visited, the Senate was arguing about the best way to solve the current banking crisis (or at least that is what Dr. Smith translated for me since my Italian skills end with “ciao”).  Many senators advocated for centralizing the banks, while many others were strongly against it, and the rhetoric became incredibly heated. At one point, a female senator began yelling violently, prompting several senators to run towards her.  A few guards rushed onto the floor and formed a circle around her, preventing her from being harmed.  Like I said, the disorder of our congress is nothing compared to that of the Italian Parliament.  Even so, there was some elements that were not so different from the United States.  The senators were unfocused on the speaker and instead were on the phone were their staff, away from their desks socializing with one another, or absent from the floor entirely.  When it was time to vote, the floor suddenly became full of senators sprinting to their desks.

Maybe politics is crazy everywhere, and we do not realize how much more efficient we can be in the United States (even if it might not always seem like it).  Regardless, things are not as rambunctious as they are in the Italian Senate.


Brittany Gamlen is a senior majoring in political science.

The Human Trafficking Crisis in Waco

By Katie Mendez


Normally, when we think of human trafficking, we think of the movie Taken—of people being sold overseas, of people in other countries. Rarely do we think of people in our country being trafficked—and, when we do, we usually think of Americans being sold to other countries, much like in the movie Taken.

In reality, human trafficking looks a little different. Human trafficking is not just an “overseas” problem. It also looks like Americans being sold to other Americans, foreigners being sold to Americans, and Americans traveling to other countries to partake in child sex tourism.

Many people are shocked to hear the extent and prevalence of human trafficking in the United States. Even more so, Texans are shocked to hear that the state holds 313,000 trafficking victims, of which 79,000 are minors being trafficked for sex.


Breaking Down “Human Trafficking”*

Human trafficking is the general term given to modern slavery that involves the sale and trade of human beings. There is, however, more than one type of human trafficking. The most common types of human trafficking—with simplified definitions—are:

labor trafficking: the selling of human beings for construction work, domestic labor, etc.;

sex trafficking: the selling of human beings into the commercial sex industry; and,

debt bondage: a type of labor trafficking in which the trafficker uses someone’s debt to hold them in slave labor.

*It is important to note that this is not a comprehensive breakdown of human trafficking, but an introduction to facilitate understanding of the rest of this blog article.

The two forms of human trafficking most seen in Texas are labor trafficking (234,000 people in Texas alone) and domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), where minors (anyone under the age of 18, therefore, anyone who cannot legally consent to sex) are sold into the commercial sex industry. In the past, many people referred to this as child prostitution, a misnomer, given that it is impossible for children to consent. Because children cannot legally consent, any act of “child prostitution” involves rape and immediately becomes sex trafficking once they’re sold.

Although Texas is the state with the second highest rate of human trafficking, the amount of services provided are limited. UnBound, an anti-trafficking nonprofit in Waco, provides great advocacy and education programs. The Advocacy Center provides great counseling resources and helps identify current trafficking victims, but is not equipped to shelter sex trafficking survivors. Likewise, the Family Abuse Center will house sex trafficking survivors when necessary, but is not equipped to provide case management specific to the needs of a sex trafficking survivor and is often at capacity for survivors of domestic violence.

Currently, there is no safe house dedicated to the needs of sex trafficking survivors, adult or minor, in central Texas. A two-page Google search will show six safe houses for survivors of human trafficking in the state, of which only one is tailored for survivors of DMST.  These safe houses are: Refuge of Light, Mosaic Services, Redeemed Ministries, The Refuge Ranch, Refuge City, and Freedom Place, which is the safe house for DMST survivors.

A safe house start-up in Waco, SHE is Freedom, is working to open a drop-in center for survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. While the organization has found a location, garnering financial support has been a challenge due to Waco’s economic hardships and lack of government aid.

According to the Texas government, the best method for providing aid to survivors of sex trafficking is to rely on the foster care system or to place young victims with families that volunteer to help. On the surface level, the government’s plan sounds logical—use existing state resources, such as the foster care system, or vetted volunteers outside of the foster care system, so that young victims have a supportive family unit. But this plan is better in theory than in action, according to studies conducted on the connection between the foster care system and human trafficking. One study found that “98% of children who are identified as survivors of sex trafficking had previous involvement with child welfare services, and many were legally in the care and custody of the state while they were being prostituted by traffickers.” Further, it would be incredibly difficult to find families willing to take in a traumatized, often drug addicted youth; most importantly, they would not have the training to ensure that they would not return to their trafficker. The amount of resources that would be required to train 79,000 families to handle sex trafficking survivors would be better spent in safe houses with people who are already trained by multiple nonprofits and universities.


How to Help

Donating and volunteering with anti-trafficking organizations and nonprofits is a great way to get involved. Many students volunteer with UnBound and help mentor at-risk youth. Advocacy is a very important step in prevention of human trafficking; but, we need to do more for those who have already been victimized and need to escape. We need to do more for children who are falling through the cracks of a system not built for their protection. In short, we need a safe house. We need a place tailored to provide the services, protection, and mentoring within a community of individuals who have been there, not just people who sympathize.

(If you want to donate to SHE is Freedom, the safe house start-up, you can visit sheisfreedom.org/give)

Communism as Critiqued by Marx–Part 2: Introduction and Overview

By Jake Hollis


Note: Communism and socialism are treated as synonymous in this article as they were by Marx and Engels. What is today termed ‘socialism’ (free healthcare, basic income, free education, and so on) will be called ‘social-democracy’ or ‘the welfare state.’


The title “Communism as Critiqued by Marx” may seem wrong—it is not. But shouldn’t it be like “Communism as an Idea from Marx”? Not at all. To use Marx’s own biting words against philosophers, Marx didn’t “have the solution of all riddles lying in [his desk], and the stupid, exoteric world had only to open its mouth for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into it” (Marx, 1843). On the contrary, communism was the emergent result of a “ruthless criticism of all that exists” (ibid.), including socialism.

The fundamental results of such criticism were laid out in an 1852 letter from Marx to a J. Weydemeyer, nine years after setting out on his “ruthless criticism”:

“… [A]s to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them… What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat [meaning the working class—JH], (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” (Marx, Marx to J. Weydemeyer, 1852)

What are the key ideas that stand out from Marx’s conclusions? In my reading, the fundamental line of continuity within these three conclusions is the notion of class society’s self-abolition: that capitalism, by its own laws, (1) exhausts its ability to continue profit-making, and (2) exponentially produces a mass of propertyless workers who seek to liberate themselves, a liberation which can only occur coinciding the abolition of capital and of all class systems (cf. Chapter 4 of The Holy Family and The Principles of Communism).

From here, it would help to refer ourselves to Marx and Engels’ The German Ideology, which decidedly states:

“Communism is, for us, not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” (Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845)

To reiterate this point, communism can express two things: either “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (the proletarian revolution against capital) or the subsequent mode of production which “[results] from the premises now in existence” (that which capitalism is leading to). We will see that these—the subjective factor of workers and the objective factor of capitalism’s self-destructive production—are one and the same later. For now, let us sketch out the path of inquiry Marx followed, that path which led him to his theories.

Throughout my personal readings of Marx and Engels’ works and with some guidance offered by Karl Korsch’s 1923 work, Marxism and Philosophy, I see it is best to give the following outline of Marx’s initial critiques:

  1. Marx followed Feuerbach’s trend of reversing Hegel’s notion of alienation;


  1. Marx critiqued Feuerbach’s materialism and unified critical theory and revolutionary practice (cf. Theses on Feuerbach);


  1. Marx discovered the proletariat as the rightful heirs of German Idealism (cf. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, The Holy Family, and The German Ideology); and


  1. Marx continued to dedicate his life to studying the class struggle, the result of which can only end in the victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie or barbarism (1845 and on).

Next, we will introduce Georg Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Marx’s relation to their philosophic systems, detailing points one and two.