Portfolio

Captain Kalsi's head-cover isn't going to destroy the military. | photo by Shaun Tanden
Captain Kalsi’s head-cover isn’t going to destroy the military. | photo by Shaun Tanden

Williamson Murray, a military historian and former Air Force officer, contributed a post bemoaning the current state of gender equality and political correctness in the United State military to the Hoover Institute’s  blog:

“The long and short of the increasing imposition of societal strictures, guided by the gated communities of the Beltway and the media, could well lead to a steady decline in the competence and military effectiveness of America’s military. Moreover, the military draws the great majority of its officers and enlisted personnel from parts of the United States that are far removed from the comfortable circumstances in which the American elite pursue their dreams of a comfortable, peaceful global community that has little relation to the harsh, brutal reality that characterizes much of the world outside the United States, Europe, and the island states of Asia. Should those parents of those outlier communities no longer be willing to send their sons and daughters to defend the interests of this great Republic, the nation will pay a terrible price.”

One can almost hear a ghostly finger scribbling these words upon Belshazzar’s wall.

I find many of Murray’s points ridiculous and disconnected from the current state of the U.S. armed forces, but the most troubling to me is his assumption that a division between the military and civilian spheres is a natural one. He isn’t alone in this belief. Many Americans (regardless of their partisan allegiances) tend to view the military an entity outside the rest of the nation’s polity. They view the military, and war-fighting more generally, as something that requires an expertise or knowledge that cannot be understood by civilians. Of course the military is a profession with it’s own jargon, confusing bureaucracy and idiosyncratic culture, but none of these are so alien or unique that a civilian cannot hope to understand them.

While we are troubled by the growing division between America’s civilian and military spheres, we also find comfort in the fact that we do not live in a military state. We celebrate the image of the volunteer citizen soldier fighting to protect their communities and nation, but we resist most attempts to engage with the military as an institution—especially if that engagement requires us to give up something like freedom or material comfort. The beauty of our military, we tell ourselves, is that it’s professional and politically disinterested. We like to envision it engaged in its strange art of national security alchemy in far away places, but we also like enjoy the fact that its wizards are essentially like us. It is this belief that the military is alien yet representative of American civilian life is what we believe separates us from the corrupt world of Latin American juntos and coups.

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Portfolio, Reviews

by Allan Branstiter

John Charles Frémont
John C. Frémont

In the end, you leave convinced that it is impossible to understand the Civil War without considering the history of the coinciding American settler colonial project in the West. . . . Empire and Liberty reminds visitors that the events of the nineteenth century did not occur in isolation.

The day I moved to Los Angeles from Mississippi I was greeted by an image of John C. Frémont near the summit of light pole outside my new apartment. Shaggy-haired and determined, the explorer was depicted in an old engraving of him mounting the Rockies, urging bearded youths westward towards opportunity, cheap land, and freedom. In 2015, I could understand the appeal. If only a starry-eyed and heroic candidate promised my generation autonomy, cheap rent, and inexpensive tuition, we might take up the torch and follow. For now, all Frémont had to offer was an exhibition about the West and the Civil War, as well as a respite from the bustle of the city. That’d have to be enough for now.

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College and Grad School, Portfolio

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Learning involves using effective strategies, putting aside time to do the work, and engaging in the process, all of which help you gradually increase your capacity for a topic.

One of the most common questions students ask me is “How should I study for this test?” or “How do I manage all this information and reading?” In most cases, they preface this with the fact that they were never taught how to read historical texts or analyze sources in high school. Several students told me that their previous history teachers told them to just copy down presentations and memorize their notes.

Joseph Stromberg over at Vox posted an article about studying more efficiently that’s worth covering here. In it he talked to Mark McDaniel (a Washington University psychologist who co-authored Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning with Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel) and derived “8 tips for studying smarter.” Using Stromberg’s eight tips, here’s some advice I’ve given students and—more importantly—some of the strategies I’ve seen my students use to get through tough sections of college history courses.

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Portfolio, Wrestling

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Traditional geek-fests are now becoming less male, less white, and less straight. Sure, increased inclusion and accessibility have opened fandoms up to the specter of “hipster” and “fake” fans—and perhaps most nefariously the dreaded “fan girl” with her lusty loins aflame with hysterical celeb thirst—but who honestly cares?

There’s been a lot of talk about how the WWE would be so much better if we could return to the “Attitude Era” and hardcore matches (read: Mick Foley hardcore, not the comedy that was the recent Ziggler v. Sandow Broadway Brawl). The Attitude Era brought us some really great moments, and hardcore has its appeals (well, at least some people think it does). Yet the nostalgic detractors of the so-called “PG Era”—a title I think is presumptuous and unsatisfying for many reasons—fail to recognize that the Attitude Era was a product of a very specific cultural moment. And what’s more, that specific time and place that cannot be replicated in 2014. Calling for the return of the Attitude Era is not only misguided, it’s also dangerous for professional wrestling as a business.

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