How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway…

How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Freedom is a huge theme in America and everyone always talks about what their rights are, and they are quick to speak up when their human rights are being abused.

Maybe I should learn to speak up, too. Let me try.

Spending ten days in Ohio, I’m here to report that I’ve seen many public signs that violate basic human rights found in the U.S. Constitution. Some of them are hilarious, if you ask me. The very first Amendment, for example, is breached in most libraries across the country. How can one exercise their right to free speech when they read signs that demand ‘Library Silence’. I was shushed at in a university library the other day when trying to express a scholarly thought – not only was my right of free speech violated but in the shock of the experience robbed me of my intellectual property – that’s a double right violation right there. See what I mean? And that’s not all.

Another set of signs that violates our basic human rights begins with signs prohibiting people from littering. Every time we are not allowed to throw our burger wrapper or coffee cup on the ground because there’s a sign saying ‘Do not litter. Use the bins provided.’ we are forced to go out of our way to dispose of our trash which takes away from our precious free time and wastes our energy that could be used for more productive activities like watching TV – this sounds very much like involuntary servitude, to which the only exception is as punishment for a crime. So if you’re not a criminal, you are being cheated out of yet another human right. I protest!

Finally, it is frustrating to see signs demanding that people wash their hands along with a description of how to do it – these signs that are seen most commonly in restaurants, schools and hospital bathrooms. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway. As if a bathroom door or mirror has any right to dictate any man, woman or child’s level of cleanliness. I protest again!

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t protest too much. After all, the second Amendment allows citizens to keep and bear arms…

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Asking Strangers Controversial Questions

I came to Cleveland with a very ambitious project in mind. I wanted to write a compelling article about abortion. By asking many different strangers questions about abortion, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the young college-aged students who I approach seemed very timid and closed-minded. On the other hand, those who I was the most nervous to approach, a local Catholic Church priest or an older Amish man were both happy to share their views and never once asked me about my religious views and showed no judgment towards me for asking this.

Asking Strangers Controversial Questions was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

I came to Cleveland with a very ambitious project in mind. I wanted to write a compelling article about abortion. I could already picture myself talking to pregnant girls who were considering abortion or those who had already had one. I thought I’d just ask one student and they’d give me several contacts willing to line up and tell me their personal life stories. A week and a half later and I only have three days left in Kent. Despite me trying really hard, I have found no one who has had or considered having an abortion.

I didn’t realize the cultural differences in openness about speaking about abortion. Everyone here is extremely friendly, but they need to be approached with care when it comes to such a sensitive topic. Many people who I approach won’t even utter the word ‘abortion’ or will say it in hushed tones. Sometimes their facial expression changes too – whether it’s in shock that I would ask a stranger such a delicate question or the amusement on a priests face when I ask for only 5 minutes of his time to explain the church’s complicated stance on this.

By asking many different strangers questions about abortion, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the young college-aged students who I approach seemed very timid and closed-minded. On the other hand, those who I was the most nervous to approach, a local Catholic Church priest or an older Amish man were both happy to share their views and never once asked me about my religious views and showed no judgment towards me for asking this.

Taking Iva’s advice, I have also learned to introduce myself in a way that will make people comfortable speaking to be, before busting out the big guns. Being raised in an Americanized International School gave me the false impression of understanding American culture. But I have realized that I am only now beginning to discover it. I hope to use what I’ve learned to gather more information so that I’m able to give my paper the justice that such a controversial and important topic deserves.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Guest Column: Remember May 4th, Support Ukraine

“Shame and tragedy in America; the photographs accuse; the crime in Kent remains unpunished…” Originally published by Izvestia, a Soviet newspaper, I saw this quote at the May 4th memorial at Kent State. I believe the above quote could be adopted by an American newspaper and replace “America” with “Ukraine,” and “Kent” with “Kiev”; it would make a perfect headline for the horrifying events of which my parents are part. Kent State and Maidan may be separated by over 5,000 miles, with different languages and cultures – but they are one in spirit. Every Kent State student has heard about the May 4th massacre, but few know Ukraine’s story…

“Shame and tragedy in America; the photographs accuse; the crime in Kent remains unpunished…” Originally published by Izvestia, a Soviet newspaper, I saw this quote at the May 4th memorial at Kent State. Being at the memorial and watching the video had a significant effect on me because my parents are currently in the middle of a controversial protest in which people are dying.

I believe the above quote could be adopted by an American newspaper and replace “America” with “Ukraine,” and “Kent” with “Kiev”; it would make a perfect headline for the horrifying events of which my parents are part. Kent State and Maidan may be separated by over 5,000 miles, with different languages and cultures – but they are one in spirit. Every Kent State student has heard about the May 4th massacre, but few know Ukraine’s story.

The original story is published here: http://www.kentwired.com/opinon/article_552eb45c-8880-11e3-a5fc-001a4bcf6878.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

 

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Remembering the Kent State Massacre – What is Freedom?

On Monday, May 4th in 1970 some students went out to gather by the bell despite the threat of tanks on their campus and being surrounded by the National Guard. They were asked to leave for their own safety, but they didn’t move until they were attacked with tear gas. They threw tear gas canisters as well as rocks back at the armed men that were advancing towards them. Once there, several of them got down and aimed their guns at those protesters who were the bravest and most vocal. The National Guard ended up the gathering and leaving and the students believed that they had won. They didn’t get a chance to celebrate for long, because out of nowhere a group of the guard looked back at the students, turned themselves around without provocation, and began to fire.

Are We Actually Free? was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Kent State University students thought they knew the answer to this question when they gathered on campus grounds to protest America expanding the Vietnam War to Cambodia on May 4, 1970. It was the promise and illusion of freedom that led them to fearlessly stand up to the National Guard and make demands to talk to the governor and to the president. But just like on the internet, not everything that you read on paper is 100 percent true, even when it’s written in the Constitution.

The students used their right to free speech and peaceful assembly as stated in the First Amendment as a shield against the government forces but this was not enough to protect them from tear gas and violence. The government wasn’t happy that these students, who were privileged enough to go to school on this beautiful government-funded campus, had the nerve to question and go against their political decisions.

Even though the protestors were facing violence and were treated unfairly and had their basic rights breached, they still believed that certain rights would hold up. On Monday, May 4th in 1970 some students went out to gather by the bell despite the threat of tanks on their campus and being surrounded by the National Guard. They were asked to leave for their own safety, but they didn’t move until they were attacked with tear gas.

Although the tear gas made them retreat they were not done protesting and they made this very clear. They threw tear gas canisters as well as rocks back at the armed men that were advancing towards them. The National Guard split up to chase all the students away from the grounds they had previously occupied and towards the parking lot. Once there, several of them got down and aimed their guns at those protesters who were the bravest and most vocal.

The students were taken back by such a display, but they continued protesting, believing that this was just a scare tactic and that the guns were not even loaded. The National Guard ended up the gathering and leaving and the students believed that they had won. They didn’t get a chance to celebrate for long, because out of nowhere a group of the guard looked back at the students, turned themselves around without provocation, and began to fire.

The students had no idea that the guns were loaded, and those who were too far to see and only heard had believed the sound to be of fireworks. But the sound was of death. Out of over seventy shots fired, thirteen hit victims – killing four, paralyzing one and injuring eight. None of them could have predicted that this would happen. They had false security from the words they read in their constitution and that they recited in their national anthem.

Forty years of so-called development later we see this sort of phenomenon repeat itself regularly worldwide. We hear the word democracy and we instantly feel safe without looking deeper into our situation. But we need to think and question to be able to decipher the truth. We need to be assertive individuals instead of a herd of sheep and only then will we have the ability to transform the system and create the ideal government. Freedom is more than just a state. It is ever changing and having freedom is an ongoing process that we must constantly work on in order to keep. The four students died in an attempt to regain their freedom for which we must commemorate them, and use them as inspiration to keep fighting so that we never lose ours.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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The Black Squirrels of Kent State University

Every time I step outside to walk through the Kent State University campus, I am on the lookout with my camera close by. In 1961 ten cages containing black squirrels from Ontario Park in London were brought to KSU. They were released on the campus and it became their home. The most unexpected thing was that the black squirrels could mate with the local gray squirrels and the black gene dominated which helped the population grow. The students and staff at the university took a liking to the cute black fur-balls right away and started the annual Black Squirrel Festival, the Black Squirrel Run, the Black Squirrel Radio and many more Black Squirrel Somethings.

Squirrel is the New Black – Since 1961 was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Being new to such a cold climate caused me to walk around campus at a quick pace and looking down to keep as warm as possible. It wasn’t until Candace Bowen pointed out that there were squirrels all over the place that made me decide to look up at a tree that I was passing and I saw one right away. This resulted in almost 20 minutes of me chasing squirrels from tree to tree trying to take a nice picture. At -18 Celsius this was not a good idea, but it wasn’t until my fingers were too cold to press the buttons on my camera that I realized that I was actually freezing and ran inside.

I have always been an animal lover and since there are no squirrels in Prague, I haven’t really gotten to see many of them. Now every time I step outside to walk through the Kent State University campus, I am on the lookout with my camera close by. It is amazing how many squirrels there are here, and that most of them are black. What’s even more amazing is the story of how they got here.

Speaking to the Dean of Communications and Information, Stanley Wearden, this morning I was told that there were ten cages containing black squirrels from Ontario Park in London. This was back in 1961. They were released on the campus and it became their home. Larry Wooddell and Biff Staples, the superintendent of Kent State’s land and a tree expert are the men responsible for this wonderful phenomenon. When the first release proved a success they went back for more cages. The most unexpected thing was that the black squirrels could mate with the local gray squirrels and the black gene dominated which helped the population grow.

The students and staff at the university took a liking to the cute black fur-balls right away and started the annual Black Squirrel Festival, the Black Squirrel Run, the Black Squirrel Radio and many more Black Squirrel Somethings. Three years ago, the squirrels celebrated their 50th anniversary at Kent, and they continue to live and thrive on the school’s campus. Hard to believe that Woodall’s “Operation Black Squirrel” turned into such a success. Walking around campus today you will find actual squirrels in almost every tree and running around leaving tracks in the snow – but you will also find black squirrel toys and other tokens of them on the desks of the university staff and in other unsuspecting places. I guess I’m not the only one who’s squirrel-crazed.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Are We There Yet? Prague – Ohio Delay

No one from our group of twelve had problems at any airport security checkpoints or got even close to being sent back to Prague on our long journey to Cleveland through London and Chicago. This was especially surprising seeing our diverse nationalities, religions, frustrating visa requirements or the confusing nature of our university trip that required a tourist visa rather than a student one. Many of us were sweating bullets over the possibility of having problems with our transit visa in London and about the intimidating officers at the U.S. passport control. Ironically enough, those were only parts of the entire journey that actually went through as planned.

Seeing Home Dried My Tears was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

No one from our group of twelve had problems at any airport security checkpoints or got even close to being sent back to Prague on our long journey to Cleveland through London and Chicago. This was especially surprising seeing our diverse nationalities, religions, frustrating visa requirements or the confusing nature of our university trip that required a tourist visa rather than a student one. Many of us were sweating bullets over the possibility of having problems with our transit visa in London and about the intimidating officers at the U.S. passport control. Ironically enough, those were only parts of the entire journey that actually went through as planned.

Everyone arrived at the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague on time and with as great an attitude as one could muster at 6:30 in the morning. No one forgot their passport, had an overweight bag or forgot to take their scissors out of their carry-ons. The flight itself was uneventful in a good way and they didn’t even check our transit visas at the passport control in Heathrow. The problems began as we sat by our gate waiting for boarding to start and our excited chatter was interrupted by a delay announcement due to technical problems. Half an hour of hopeful waiting turned into a four-hour delay during which our only compensation was a £5 food voucher. Unfortunately, airport food and £0.99 filtered coffee weren’t enough to prepare us for what was to come.

The flight from London to Chicago was long and traumatizing to some – including a very unhappy baby sitting near several unlucky members of our group. But the selection of movies and games in combination with the free beer and wine helped pass our time. However as much as the pilot tried to catch up on lost time, many passengers, us included, missed our connecting flights. Arriving in Chicago was chaotic as we were rushed towards passport control with our new boarding passes. There were no problems with our visas and not a single suitcase was left in Heathrow, but we weren’t all on the same flight to Cleveland. Half of us were scheduled to fly out on the first flight next morning instead of the last flight of the day.

Not wanting to split up the group, Bibiana and Iva used a combination of charm and (I assume) stern looks to persuade American Airlines to put us all on one flight. Since this was only possible for the 6:55AM flight we had to go out into the cold and squeeze into a small shuttle like cattle. The well-humored driver managed to make us all laugh at the silly situation and it wasn’t long until we reached our destination.

Westin was a pleasant surprise as the hotel was very nice and the beds very comfortable. We had to rush to dinner to get our $35 worth of food and drink. Steak was the most popular option at my table and we enjoyed our first proper meal in the U.S. while discussing politics, journalism and our life stories. After agreeing on a 4:45AM meeting time the following morning we went back to our rooms. After almost 17 hours of travel it was a relief that my last concern of the day was how to arrange the 6 pillows on my bed to get the best nights’ sleep.

Sleeping in a nice big bed and the promise of a short flight to Cleveland had us all in a good mood for our last bit of travel. Everything went smoothly at the airport and we got a chance to discover a bit of American culture while observing a young man wearing blue pajama pants tucked into his boots. His baggy green shirt attracted even more attention as he walked through security unaware that he was our first example of what we were warned about – the overly-casual dressed American. Before arriving at our gate I had also discovered that there are stores dedicated primarily to selling popcorn and that you could buy sim cards in pharmacies.

Our last flight was on the smallest plane that most of us had ever seen. My dilemma at take off and landing was whether to look left or right from my seat 10B which was an equal distance from both windows: the plane only had 3 seats in each row. After a short 45 minute flight we were finally in Cleveland surrounded by advertisements for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We had to rush to get our bags from taking another spin around the conveyor belt and were greeted by Candace Bowen. An hour later we finally arrived in Kent State Hotel, only 13 hours after our expected arrival. We were still excited about the last and best surprise of our long journey. Candace must have gotten a kick out of our reaction to seeing our ride from the airport – a large white limo that seemed bigger and much sturdier than the plane that we had just gotten off of.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

 

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Seeing Home Dried My Tears – Moving to Prague

Kicking and screaming on a cold winter’s day in 1996 was how I reacted when my parents first introduced me to Prague. The city looked no more appealing than an endless dark pit through my three-and-a-half-year-old eyes, and I feared that I would never stop falling. I missed Kiev and I cried through my several months at the Prague British School and then at a Czech School, and I didn’t stop until I walked through the doors of the rainbow-logoed International School of Prague in 1998. I became quiet as soon as I walked through the door, and left with a smile. I realized that I was finally home.

Seeing Home Dried My Tears was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Kicking and screaming on a cold winter’s day in 1996 was how I reacted when my parents first introduced me to Prague. The city looked no more appealing than an endless dark pit through my three-and-a-half-year-old eyes, and I feared that I would never stop falling. I missed Kiev and I cried through my several months at the Prague British School and then at a Czech School, and I didn’t stop until I walked through the doors of the rainbow-logoed International School of Prague in 1998. I became quiet as soon as I walked through the door, and left with a smile. I realized that I was finally home.

In my 13 years at the International School, I was plunged into a different world than I was used to. I started out as a girl who spoke one language and played with the kids who grew up in the same building as I did. The school and my life in Prague turned me into a multilingual individual surrounded by more nationalities, races and religions than my friends from back home could even imagine. I was exposed to a new culture on a practically weekly basis and my hobbies changed from playing dolls to traveling, collecting foreign coins and trinkets, and sampling new food – the more strange-looking, the better.

It wasn’t until middle school that I first lifted my head and looked up while walking through this city where I grew up. I was shocked to notice how unbelievably beautiful it was. I became as interested in exploring the city as I did to explore the rest of the world. Eighteen years later, and I’m still walking around in wonder snapping pictures. There is always something new left to uncover.

This time two years ago, I had a difficult decision to make when my parents told me they were finally going back to Kiev, wanting me to come with them. But Prague was now my home, and will forever be, and as hard as it was saying goodbye to them, I knew that the only way I would ever leave would be by force – kicking and screaming.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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