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By Marianne Lyons, VI Form
The Camp Fire Girls and the Appropriation of Native American Culture
American camping associations are iconic. The camping movement from its inception and in all its forms has shaped American culture. In fact, I have had the privilege of attending Wyonegonic Camps in Denmark, Maine for the past ten years.
This past year as a counselor, I had the opportunity to pass down traditions directly to my campers. As part of this, I once took my cabin to my camp’s cramped museum, which holds the artifacts of Wyonegonic’s 120-year history. My campers humored me by asking questions about the different songs and pictures that covered the walls.
One of my campers paused as her hand hovered over a blurry, black and white picture. She called me over, and I studied the image. It was dated 1919 and showed a small white girl in Native American traditional dress. I paused. I thought hard about what to do and what to say next. Native American dress, lore, and appropriation are integral to the long history of the American camping movement. I didn’t know how to summarize and convey that history to my wide-eyed ten-year-old camper, but I knew I had to explain. I called my cabin over to the picture and opened up a conversation. I covered why this photograph might be offensive and encouraged the girls to share their perspectives. This conversation wasn’t easy, but it was important for my campers to understand the complexities of our shared history.(more…)
By Ewan Leslie, VI Form
Joseph Stalin’s Purge of the Soviet Military and Its Subsequent Consequences
In November, 1935, the five Marshals of the Soviet Union, the highest military rank in the Red Army, posed for a photograph.2 These marshals made up a diverse group of military leadership. On the far left, 42 year old Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevksy was a young, innovative officer who was proposing groundbreaking military tactics.3 Next to him, Marshals Semyon Budyonny and Kliment Voroshilov were steady, veteran leaders who served in the Russian Civil War almost two decades earlier. On the far right, Marshals Vasily Blyukher and Alexander Yegorov served important positions within the Red Army hierarchy, mainly concerning the running of the Red Army apparatus and its various military fronts.4 With these five Marshals anchoring the Red Army leadership, the future of the Red Army and the Soviet Union seemed promising. However, Joseph Stalin, the dictatorial General Secretary of the Soviet Union, would disrupt this situation by instituting a series of purges that led to the executions of Marshals Tukhachevsky, Blyukher, and Yegorov, damaging the Red Army’s capabilities for years to come.
In February 1937, Stalin spoke to key government and military officials in a plenum of the Central Committee.5In his speech, Stalin addressed the impending danger to the Soviet Union posed by numerous counter-revolutionary groups who had supposedly infiltrated the Red Army. The rise of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in Europe had led to Soviet fears of fascists in the Red Army. Domestically, Stalin warned of the rise of a new and dangerous “fifth column,” a group made up of anyone who dared to oppose Stalin’s iron grip on power.6 Specifically, Stalin feared that his historic rival, Leon Trotsky, had gained substantial influence amongst both Soviet politicians and Red Army officers, and that now he threatened Stalin’s power. To combat this perceived threat (and to assuage his growing paranoia), Stalin advocated for and implemented a series of purges against various sectors of Soviet society, including the Red Army, trying to eliminate any potential threats to his regime. These purges are known collectively as the “Great Purge” and the “Great Terror,” and they led to the disgracement of over 25,000 Red Army officers, many of whom were executed or sent to the infamous Soviet Gulag work camps.7 The Great Purge also claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Soviet civilians who were deemed “counterrevolutionary”.(more…)
By Zimo Tang, VI Form
Democracy’s Dawn and Dusk: The Early Years of The Republic of China
On October 9, 2021, the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, gave a speech in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. After the applause faded, Xi began to speak:
One hundred and ten years ago, Chinese revolutionaries represented by Dr. Sun Yat-sen stunned the world when they launched the Revolution of 1911… This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911 and the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC)… We gather here to commemorate the historic exploits of revolutionary pioneers like Dr. Sun Yat-sen, to emulate and carry forward their lofty spirit of working with unshakable resolve to revitalize China, and to inspire and rally the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation at home and abroad to work together to realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.Jinping Xi, “Full Text of President XI’s Speech at Meeting Marking 1911 Revolution,” The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (Institute of Party History and Literature of the CPC Central Committee, October 13, 2021)
In this speech, Xi Jinping honored the works of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary leader who ended China’s last imperial dynasty. Xi emphasized the phrase “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” which he had adopted as his primary political motto during his term as the Chairman.
More specifically, Xi believes that the Chinese people have been moving beyond the humiliations China suffered at the hands of colonial powers during the late nineteenth century and Japanese invaders during WWII. Xi aims to continue China’s rapid economic development of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries because it is a sign of China’s revitalization from the past centuries’ humiliations. On this specific occasion, Xi drew inspiration from the Revolution of 1911 to inspire his colleagues as well as the Chinese people to reflect on past revolutions and connect them to the Communist Party’s contemporary mission of “building China into a great modern socialist country.”(more…)
By Julia Chamberlin, VI Form
The Third Reich Propoganda’s Effects on the Average German
We were pushed through to the main gate, and once we entered there we thought we’d entered hell. There were bodies everywhere, and there were these watchtowers with machine guns pointing at us…this terrible grey ash falling around us. There were the barking dogs, viciously walking around, there were loudspeakers always and these SS men walking around, with shiny boots and guns on their back. I mean, we were just frightened out of our wits… You couldn’t fight, because if you touched the guard you were shot—right in front of me I saw that. You couldn’t flee because if you touched the barbed wires, you were electrocuted. When we took a shower, we didn’t know whether gas is coming out of the water…I remember a young boy. I think he picked up a potato skin or something. Whenever there was a hanging, we were all called out to watch it, and I remember us shouting, ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’ A young boy hung because he picked some bit of food up.Sophia Hollander, “Auschwitz Survivors Recall Harrowing and Heroic Moments from the Death Camps,” History, last modified January 26, 2021, accessed January 11, 2022, https://www.history.com/news/auschwitz-holocaust-survivors-stories.
Five years. Six million Jews murdered. 232,000 children dead.Natasha Frost, “Horrors of Auschwitz: The Numbers behind WWII’s Deadliest Concentration Camp,” History, last modified January 5, 2022, accessed January 11, 2022, https://www.history.com/news/auschwitz-concentration-camp-numbers.
Those who implemented the Holocaust regarded Jews as less than human. Jews were transported in cattle cars and stripped of their names, clothes, hair, and any other remnants of their identity and humanity. Those in death camps endured unimaginable treatment, and survival was a game of luck. Nazis’ and SS officers’ cruelty was horrific and unimaginable. So how did this happen? The only explanation for a long time was “a few bad apples”; Hitler and his high-level subordinates were awful people capable of awful things, but it was just them, right?(more…)
By Thomas Li, VI Form
An Analysis of Modern Chinese Economic Policy Progression and Reform
In the fall of 1944, a boy was born in Guizhou, China, one of the most impoverished parts of the war-torn country. His father had secretly joined the Chinese Communist Party while in college. However, he worked in a Kuomintang (KMT), which was China’s ruling party before the communist takeover in 1949, enterprise in Nanjing before escaping to rural Guizhou due to KMT spies’ suspicions about his communist affiliation. In Guizhou, he became a math teacher and eventually a head of school. In 1958, the Great Leap Forward began. It was a political movement centered around economic collectivization, but it resulted in widespread famine. In the boy’s family of nine, his father strictly rationed food for every meal so that, although nobody was free from hunger, everybody survived. Things were so desperate that the boy and his siblings searched for tree bark and plant roots for the family to eat.
Relief finally came in 1963 when the boy, who did well in school, went off to study engineering in a Chongqing college. But this relief was short-lived. Upon the onset of the Cultural Revolution (an anti-capitalist political campaign), he received news that the Red Guards, a youth group that enforced the Cultural Revolution, searched his home and labeled his father a “capitalist-roader” due to his past KMT ties, despite seeing that the family was so impoverished that everyone slept on rice straw. The Red Guards paraded his father down the streets so people could publicly humiliate him. With colleges shutting down due to the Cultural Revolution, the boy, hoping to support his father in person, boarded a train back home. Yet, the Red Guards on the train ordered him off and had him walk back home simply because his father was a teacher–who had knowledge as opposed to the working class–thus a man with a “capitalist background.”(more…)
By Caroline Sullivan, VI Form
The American Eugenics Movement and its Influence on Nazi Germany
It’s the early 1930s. A young woman, twenty years old, is out to lunch with her mother when all of the sudden she feels sharp stomach pains tearing through her abdomen. She dismisses them as merely an upset stomach, but they grow worse. Her driver rushes her to a hospital. When she arrives at the hospital, the doctors barely examine her before diagnosing her with appendicitis. They inform her that she must undergo emergency surgery to remove her appendix before it ruptures. However, upon waking up from the surgery she notices that something was different. All around her, doctors were whispering and acting suspiciously. New doctors, ones that she had never seen before, were coming in to observe her as if she was a sort of experiment. Confused, the girl begins searching for answers as to what had happened during surgery. She listened and overheard the doctors calling her offensive names such as “dumb,” “feebleminded,” and “idiot.” Finally, she connected the dots. While in surgery, the doctors had sterilized her, stripping her of her right to have children.
It’s 1958, and the parents of a four-year-old child admit their son, Mark, to a mental hospital for Cerebral Palsy. His mother goes to the hospital every Wednesday to visit, but one week the hospital tells her she cannot come anymore. A few days later, the family receives a devastating call: their six-year-old boy has passed away. Upon requesting further information about his death, the hospital refuses to share anything. It even fails to provide a death certificate when the family asks for one. The family is destroyed, his parents lost a child, and his three sisters lost their little brother. Even worse, they struggle to find closure as the hospital gave them so little information about his death. Their quest for answers finally gets results decades later when the government declassifies records from the state hospital. The family is horrified to learn that their, innocent, six-year-old child died an excruciatingly painful death from radiation poisoning at the state hospital.
These two stories have more in common than their raw horror. They did not occur in some far away totalitarian country overseas. Instead, they took place within the United States, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. These tragedies occurred in the very country that idealizes its democracy, grounded in the ideal of freedom. These procedures were legal under the U.S. justice system, a system created to promote liberty. Instead, The Constitution allowed states to deprive the most vulnerable members of society of liberty under a program called eugenics.(more…)