The Unrest Surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline

Staff writer Juliana Perez ’17 breaks down the controversy surrounding the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and looks into the environmental, social justice and spiritual reasons that people are protesting. 

The Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company has two choices: they can either build a pipeline that stretches from North Dakota to Illinois in order to deliver hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day, or they can refrain from doing so, and protect, rather than destroy, the spiritual grounds of the North Dakota Native reservations.

It seems as though the company has chosen to do the latter, but the Native Americans of this region have not given up yet. This is a fight that has been going on since the beginning of 2016. The Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company designed this pipeline so that 400,000 barrels of oil per day can be transported, as opposed to 200,000 barrels that is transported daily by trucks and railways. The pipeline is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

While this pipeline sounds like the solution to transport more oil quickly, it will invade Native American reservations, specifically sacred sites and parts of the Missouri River where natives receive their drinking water.

Natives of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, other Native tribes, and non-Native American allies have together protested in hopes that the Dakota Access Pipeline project be terminated. On October 9th, 2016, a federal appeals court ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, allowing the pipeline project to continue, and predicted to be completed by the end of 2016. However, due to the court’s decision, protestors are still fighting until they no longer can.

Dating back to early American history, Native American reservations are pieces of land owned by Native Americans, meaning they have their own laws separate from the United States’ and they are sovereign regions within the country. U.S. citizens need to be granted access by tribes to enter reservations. Although the Dakota Access Pipeline is not directly on the reservation land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, it imposes nearby land where the tribe claims as sacred. Building the pipeline would disrespect ancestors that were buried beneath that land, and it would have the potential to pollute the water sites that the tribe uses as a drinking source. If the pipeline were to burst, which, according to Dr. Sally Humphrey of Pipeline and Gas Journal, is often the case after about 33 years, the oil would spill into the water and destroy sacred lands surrounding the reservation.

Protests against the pipeline have persisted, but they have also become more violent each time. Timothy McLaughlin of Reuters News stated that on October 28th, 140 protesters were arrested, and police “in riot gear used pepper spray” to “disperse an estimated 330 protesters.” Amy Goodman from Democracy Now attended one of the protests in North Dakota where she captured the protesters driving contractors off the land. Contractors in bulldozers trampled parts of the surrounding river land, leaving it in ruins. As protesters approached the contractors yelling at them to stop, contractors sprayed protestors with mace and used guard dogs to attack them, resulting in nasty, bloody bites. In acts of defense, protestors tackled the contractors and chased them off, forcing them to leave the site with their guard dogs.

U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, have also taken a stance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Together, they wrote a letter to President Barack Obama expressing that the pipeline “is not only a violation of tribal rights, but has the potential to cause more damage to sacred land.” Additionally, they expressed that the pipeline would not only destroy reservation land, but also have negative impacts to the climate in the future.

According to Bill McKibben of The New Yorker, the pipeline was originally supposed to be built right outside of a town near Bismarck, North Dakota. However, the people of Bismarck quickly reacted in protest, worried that an oil spill from the pipeline would ruin the state capital’s drinking water. As a result, the company relocated the pipeline to run through sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The demographic made up of the Bismarck area, where the pipeline was supposed to go through, is mostly wealthy and white, suggesting that their privilege from not only being a U.S. citizen, but also being white, assisted them with successfully protesting the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the Native protestors are determined to make the company respect their rights as it respected the rights of the people of Bismarck. The spirit of the protestors can be summarized by the words of Alexander Piechowski-Begay of the Lakota Tribe: “We’re still here, we’ll keep fighting the good fight, we’re beyond resilient. Nizhonigo K’eh bee ahil naanish (Working together in harmony).”


A Letter to the Trinity Community

November 10, 2016

To the Members of the Trinity Community:

During the past 48 hours, we have all felt a range of emotions. Surprise. Disappointment. Fear.  We worry for ourselves and our classmates, our friends and families, our nation and our future. For the past year, we have witnessed Donald Trump spew hate in an effort to campaign for the presidency. At the same time, we have watched Hillary Clinton, the first ever woman to run for president, promise us equality for all. Between building walls or making bridges, it seemed like an easy choice.

On November 8th, 2016, Americans chose a path that was very different from the one that we had hoped and planned for. We do not deny that, in this moment, the future feels bleak.

Friends, family—where do we go from here? Starting today, let us come together. Let this be our rallying cry. Let us remember that the man propped up in the White House was placed there by the people and thus, he answers to us. And let us not forget what is truly plaguing America: our division.    

As students, we came to Trinity with ambitions to learn, to expand our minds and to expose ourselves to new worldviews. Going forward, let us be students outside of the classroom. Let us listen to what has happened and why it has happened. Let us be teachers, too. Let us engage and discuss and fight for what is right and good and just.

We hope that none of you are so disheartened that you will shy away from politics, but rather that you are awakened, that you realize that our country needs us now more than ever. This country’s well being, its future, its success, its peace, is all in our hands. For the next four years and for the rest of our lives, we will reject any normalization of hate, any act of hate, any form of hate. We will listen and teach when there are chances to do so. We will fight.    

We will fight the walls that Trump has advocated for, because we believe in bridges. November 8th has taught us that those bridges are going to take a lot more work—but hard work has never scared us. It has never deterred us. We do not give up. We are resilient, we are fighters, and we are the strongest among the many because we are fighting for love.

Finally, for those of you who are a part of the LGBTQ community, for those of you who are undocumented, disabled, Muslim or have been victim to racism, sexism or police brutality—please, know that you are not alone. We stand beside you, in solidarity. We will fight every day, in every way that we can, together.

Today is not an end. It is a beginning. Let us never again stand divided, as we were on November 8th.


Emily Dowden and Alicia Abbaspour
Editors-in-Chief of The Beacon Newsmagazine

Editor-in-Chief Column: Art for Judgment’s Sake

Academics, scholars, artists, nerdy bookworms and English majors alike all anxiously awaited the results of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, only to discover on Oct. 13 that the prize would be awarded to none other than Bob Dylan. The decision was polarizing; the reaction was split. Some celebrated the expansion of the traditional category of literature tot now include songwriting; some thought the results surprising but not unfounded given that Bob Dylan has often been regarded as more than “just” a songwriter, but as a poet. Singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen saw the designation as redundant and unnecessary, likening it to awarding Mount Everest with a medal for tallest mountain; while novelist Rabih Alameddine expressed on Twitter how he saw the recognition as ridiculous, bringing up the time when Winston Churchill was also awarded a Novel Prize in Literature.

Others similarly were astonished, upset – even angry. My professor, who specializes in French literature, walked into class the morning of Oct. 13 and asked us exasperatedly how she was expected to justify studying the grand traditions of literature to her students if the very Nobel committee revealed its preference of popular songs. Never underestimate the fury of a bookworm – we are after all armed with weapons at our disposal: our big, heavy,  prestigious books.

Then, of course, there was the response from Dylan to the award – or more accurately, the lack of response. Never known for embracing the spotlight, Dylan repeatedly ignored attempts by the Nobel committee to respond. He held a concert the night of Oct. 13, without any mention of the award he had been bestowed with that very day. This only riled up the furies of the literary community of whom many already saw Dylan as undeserving, as one Nobel committee member reportedly stated that Dylan’s lack of response was “impolite and arrogant.”

Why is the literary community so up in arms about this decision? Why is Dylan unacceptable as a recipient of this award? Is this just a bunch of sensitive nerds clinging to their T.S. Eliot and Samuel Beckett and claiming that Dylan has no right to be in this category?

The debates around Dylan’s worthiness to be bestowed with the Nobel Prize for Literature are for the most part completely pointless. To sit and argue if Dylan deserved this award only leads one to opposing and subjective opinions, which point to a deeper issue at the bottom of this Nobel prize controversy.

The recent Nobel prize controversy brings to light a deep-seeded tension between artists and their respective judgment committees. “Judgement committees” sounds like some sort of circle of Dante’s inferno, but I’m simply referring to the various committees, like the Nobel committee, the Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations, whose purpose is to set standards in the art world and to tell the masses of peasants what they should and not like.

Essentially, it all boils down to: who, if anyone, has a right to judge art, and how seriously are we to take these judgments? Can art be rightfully judged?

This isn’t to say that critics, such as literary and film critics, produce widely unnecessary content. In fact, they arguably make art – all forms of it, from the high-brow, Ivy-educated writer to the reality show produced by Bravo – better, showing how art is not a passive display, but an invitation for further creation and engagement. In the words of Oscar Wilde, the criticism itself is an art, as it is independent and creative.

Thus, the issue is not with critics, but with the teams of critics, the committees who solidify their judgment into accolades.

Last year, the Internet was filled with memes and GIFs about the Academy robbing Leonardo Dicaprio of the Oscar for Best Actor year after year. Every award season brings its slew of articles about “Oscar snubs.” Each year, recipients of these awards are predicated, and a times, when predications are proven wrong, and suddenly backlash erupts.

When contemporary poet Rapi Kaur whose writing went viral thanks to her tumblr and Instagram platforms, she decided to self-publish her poetry. The literary world watched in horror – they have long decided that self-publishing is the kiss of the death to regarding a writer for any literary merit.

In an interview back in November of 2014 conducted by Bryony Gordon of The Telegraph, New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult revealed some of her grievances with the literary world. She indignantly claimed that her writing had been widely ignored by critics for a variety of reasons, but one of them being chiefly because she was a best-selling author. The other so-called kiss of death for “serious” writers? To be commercially successful.

So what is an artist to do when given a book of double of standards? Chuck it out the door.

In the face of shiny awards and prizes, certificates of honor and judging committees, artists should carry on civilly, coolly and largely unaffected. The recognition by one’s peers in a field is certainly a cause for celebration – but these flatteries should be taken with a grain of salt. That’s right – Dicaprio, I hope you didn’t spend any tears on all those Oscar snubs because quite frankly, who gives a damn.

Who does art belong to? Two people: the artist and the viewer, the reader, the art-appreciator. When reading, watching a film, listening to a song or viewing a painting, the process of engaging with the art begins and ends with the viewer. It is an active process, shaped by the perspective and experiences the viewer brings to the plate and the emotions and ideas that the artwork incites. Nothing can be a more intimate experience than that – and who in the hell is to determine whether one such experience is more valuable than the other?

So, fellow artists and art-appreciators carry on with your Tolstoy and Stephenie Meyer, your Bob Dylan and Jay-Z, your Robert Frost and Tyler Knott Gregson, and don’t you dare apologize.

Now Hiring: YouTube Careers

Staff writer Debbie Herrera ’18 takes a look at a new career path that until recently did not exist. What does it mean to be “employed” by YouTube?

Remember the days where YouTube was a simple video-sharing website filled with low quality videos filmed by a cheap, grainy webcam? That was only a decade ago.

Now, 11 years since one of the most used social platforms was created, YouTube has become a main source of income for some lucky and dedicated “YouTubers.” The idea of being able to quite literally quit your day job to instead devote your time to making YouTube videos and receive more than enough money from it to pay the bills was unfathomable over a decade ago.

During the summer of 2006, a little over a year after the website was created, YouTube was the fastest growing site online. According to data from Hitwise, a web measurement site, in July of 2006, YouTube was — and still is – the lead in video search with more than 100 million videos viewed per day and more than 65,000 videos uploaded daily at the time. These numbers, however, have increased astronomically since the last 10 years.

Due to YouTube’s fast-growing popularity and usefulness, it is not hard to believe that people would begin to think of ways to successfully make a revenue from it. Numerous videos from a wide range of categories can be found including beauty gurus, chefs, video game commentators, dancers and comedians of all different ages and backgrounds.

So how do YouTubers make money from simply filming and uploading a video? The money actually comes from the ads that we have to miserably sit through and watch while waiting for the actual video to start. Videos also make even more money when they are sponsored and YouTubers advertise or use a product that a company has given them.

However, just like any other job, some YouTubers are paid more than others depending on content and popularity. The amount of views a YouTuber gets per videos and the amount of subscribers they have affects how much they are paid. According to Maya Kachroo-Levine at Bustle, at least 1,000 views gets a YouTuber about $1.50.

Although this may seem like a very minimal amount, some YouTube stars are now becoming multimillionaires all before the age of 30. Many of the highest-paid YouTube stars are either video game commentators or players. In fact, YouTube’s highest paid star is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjelberg, better known by his YouTube name PewDiePie. Kjelberg is a Swedish video game commentator who has broken plenty of YouTube growth records with his fast-growing fan base.

With 23.9 million subscribers and 3.69 billion total views, Kjelberg has an estimated yearly income of $825,000-$8.47 million after YouTube’s 45 percent cut, according to Harrison Jacobs of Business Insider. Other YouTubers on the list of highest-paid YouTubers that Madeline Berg at Forbes compiled are Smosh, a comedy duo, who made $8.5 million in addition to a movie deal; Lindsey Stirling the dancing violinist who made $6 million and released two albums, has a book deal and is now developing a touring career; Michelle Phan, a beauty guru with her own makeup line and beauty subscription service, one of the more well known stars but at the lower end of the list making $3 million; and Rosanna Pansino, a self-trained pastry chef who made $2.5 million and has written a cookbook.

No, not every person who films themselves playing video games or doing their makeup instantly becomes famous, even though everyone secretly wish it could happen to them. Everyday, more and more people, particularly younger people, try to become the next YouTube sensation.

If Justin Bieber could do it, why can’t you? Although the details of a YouTube career do make you think: is this career path too good to be true? How long will it last in this ever-changing, social media and tech-ridden world?

By: Debbie Herrera ’18

The Forgotten Third Option in the American Presidential Election

Staff writer Brian Cieplicki ’19 argues against the typical mantra that this year’s presidential election will be a choice between the lesser of two evils. He urges voters to consider the third option: the libertarian candidate. 

If Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are stranded on an island together, who survives?America.

Needless to say, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history. You’ve probably heard multiple friends and colleagues say things along the lines of “I can’t believe these the best two options our country can find” or “I’m just going with the lesser of two evils”. As a passionate libertarian, such statements drive me absolutely crazy.

As American citizens, we are told to view our democracy as a system in which the people hold absolute power, meaning we decide for ourselves who we want to represent our interests in government. Through our education system, we are programmed to believe that we live in a free country, one where government exists to serve us, and we, as a group of citizens, are free to decide how we want that government to operate.

In theory, this American democracy sounds fantastic, but in practice, it does not live up to its promise. As citizens, we are a currently victims of an oppressive two party system that conveniently keeps all power and influence in the hands of the wealthy and powerful.

The flaws in our system are highlighted very clearly by the current presidential election. The two major party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both exceptionally disliked. Trump is an outspoken racist, egomaniac and pervert, and Clinton is a pathological liar, threat to national security, and has committed federal crimes that would have driven a lesser-known politician out of office and into jail. According to polls from The Huffington Post, both Trump and Clinton currently have an unfavorable rating of greater than 50 percent.

Given such terrifying candidates from the two major parties, we would expect in a democratic system that a third party candidate would gain popularity and force the other two candidates to get their acts together. This, unfortunately, is not the case.

Gary Johnson is the libertarian party’s candidate, and he is arguably the most viable option for a threat to the two major parties’ candidates. However, Johnson has failed to poll the required 15 percent average to earn himself a spot in the nationally televised debates. Given the current dissatisfaction amongst the leading two candidates, it is remarkable that Johnson is not closer in the running.

A recent article by The Huffington Post titled “Voters Have No Idea Who Gary Johnson Is” states that 66 percent of registered voters have never even heard of Gary Johnson. It also states that amongst voters who have heard of Johnson: 35 percent favor him, 36 percent do not favor him, and the remaining 29 percent are not sure. Johnson’s strong favorability relative to Clinton and Trump begs the question: “Why haven’t more people heard of this guy?”

This question can be answered very simply: money and media coverage.

According to the GDELT Project’s Campaign Television Tracker, on Oct. 4th, Donald Trump was mentioned 5,525 times on national television networks. Hillary Clinton was 2,918 times. Gary Johnson? 76 mentions. This trend holds for all days reflected on the chart for this election cycle.

According to a recent study by The Center for Responsive Politics, there is also a great disparity in the amount of funds that each candidate has to work with. This piece highlights that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has raised a total of $516,791,763 for this election, Donald Trump’s campaign has raised $205,860,765, and Gary Johnson’s campaign has raised a meager $7,821,273.

By being an anti-establishment politician who seeks to defend the people’s rights rather than perpetuate the people’s oppression, Johnson lacks the appeal to large spending donors that major party candidates possess.

With far less resources and media coverage than Clinton and Trump are handed, it is miraculous that Johnson is polling even as high as he is, around 10 percent. However, it is completely unfair to the American people to deny them an alternative voice — one that actually supports them — simply because those in power decide that it’s best not to give that voice a real chance in the election process.

By: Brian Cieplicki ’19

The Gender Loophole in the American Judicial System

Staff writer Eliza Petrie ’20 explores how most rapists are indicted – or rather, how most of them are not. 

After such a traumatic incident as rape, it is natural that one’s immediate instinct would be to wash his or her body and change his or her clothing. However, victims of rape are encouraged not to change their clothes, shower or bathe, use the restroom, or even brush their hair or teeth, maximizing the chance of preserving DNA evidence of the rapist.

Rape kits are extremely important tools for storing DNA evidence of the perpetrator. Rape kits include such bags and paper sheets for evidence collection, a comb, documentation forms, envelopes, instructions, materials for blood samples and swabs. Kits can include semen, hair, and skin cells from the attacker, all of which can be used to identify a suspect.

In most cases, DNA evidence must be collected within the first 72 hours after the incident. Although rape kits can be highly effective in identifying the criminal, they are often ignored and left untested. This really causes us to question why the criminal justice system is not prioritizing these atrocities.

There is great controversy over the use of rape kits, and the reliability and consistency of the criminal justice system in helping the victims of such assault. There have been numerous incidents of sexual assault and rape that have gone completely untested for multiple years on end. This unfortunate reality has caused many women and their families to sue the cities in which they were raped for their insufficient action in uncovering the truth about their assault and taking the proper measures to achieve justice.

One example of this issue is the story of Heather Marlowe, who was raped at a party in San Francisco in the May of 2010. She reported the assault and had the four-hour exam immediately following the rape, yet the kit was not tested for more than two years after the rape was committed. To this day, they have yet to identify her assaulter. According to Vice News, approximately 400,000 rape kits are left untested across the country, and many victims are turning to the government and suing the cities on the basis that ignoring their DNA evidence is a violation of their human rights. The law in the state of California states that DNA evidence must be tested within 14 days of the test, yet the City of San Francisco is arguing that Marlowe’s case should be thrown out.

The real problem? Patriarchal institutions in the U.S. prevent rapists from being prosecuted. Cases of rape are not sufficiently prioritized by the law. The city of San Francisco alone has had thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits from as far back as the 1980s. It is an equal protection violation that is occurring nationwide, based on a systemic gender bias.

Rape culture on college campuses is a product of the system of patriarchy in all institutions in America. In American culture, young men are taught to be tough, unemotional, and to treat women like objects. Women’s human rights are violated every day because our societies, and the systems and institutions in which we live, learn and interact value its men over women.

By: Eliza Petrie ’20

Is There a “Right” Way to Protest?

Copy Editor Mandi Paine ’18 argues that black athletes have every right to take a stance against systemic racism, and that their actions do not disrespect the American flag, but in fact, that the flag assures them this right.

To anyone who believes the action of black football players kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic, disrespectful, or a disgrace: that is both ignorant and a confirmation of the existence of systemic racism within the United States.

First, to give some context, beginning with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, several black professional football players have been kneeling during the national anthem in order to peacefully protest police brutality and mass incarceration of African-Americans. With regards to his protesting, Kaepernick stated that, “When there is a significant change, and I feel like that flag represents what it is supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to, then I’ll stand.”

It is incredibly easy as a white person in the United States to deny that the society we live in is racist. It’s easy to say that all lives matter, or blue lives matter, and refuse to believe that systemic racism is alive and well in the United States. To be frank: it exists. It’s real, and people of color are unjustly murdered every day because of it.

Many white people continuously make the argument that kneeling during the American national anthem is unpatriotic, and that the military fights hard to ensure that every American is free and possess unalienable rights.

That may be true, but it is important to make the distinction between possessing rights and having access to those rights. Black people are disadvantaged every day by a system of white supremacy that does not represent them on the very flag that we look up to during the national anthem at a professional football game. So, if the unpatriotic card wants to be played, then at the very least, that flag has given black football players the right to protest and kneel during the national anthem.

More and more football players have followed in Kaepernick’s footsteps, and even college players have joined in too. The Omaha Herald reported several Nebraska football players who knelt during the national anthem before a game. Steve Liewer and Emily Nohr from The Omaha Herald quoted Chris Berggren, a local veteran, saying, “I agree, we do have a race problem. With the political election, a lot of closet racists are coming out… I don’t know if that’s the right medium. I could never sit down during the national anthem”. To be clear, America does not have a race problem. It has a racism problem. That cannot be desensitized.

So, what is the right medium? When is the right time to protest police brutality against people of color?

The answer is that any time is the right time, and it is wrong to dismiss a peaceful protest as a “disgrace” or “unpatriotic.” Doing so simply reinforces systemic racism, and people who make such claims are quite honestly part of the problem. The fact is that black people in the United States, especially those living in poverty, are constantly subjected to white oppression and are not being adequately represented in the American flag at this point in time.

So, if Kaepernick and other black football players feel that kneeling during the national anthem is an important action in the fight to end police brutality and the mass incarceration of people of color, then they should continue to do so. That should not only be respected, but also embraced.

By: Mandi Paine ’18

When Stigma Assumes Accountability

Fact or fiction: does mental illness contribute to gun violence in the United States? 

There is an undoubted stigma toward mental illness in the United States. Americans who suffer from mental illnesses are treated by some as detriments to society and to the capitalist system. Although the United States has come a long way in terms of acceptance and treatment toward those with mental illnesses, there is still much that needs to be done, as people across the country struggle with their place in society and their own mental disabilities. What has allowed this stigma to continue for decades in the United States?

Some of the most prominent and heated debate related to mental illness in recent years is about its connection to gun violence. In an article by Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post, she writes that Republicans have often used the issue of mental health to focus the problems with gun violence on the individual, rather than the guns and a lack of gun control legislation. There has also been a fight to put more effort toward preventing potentially dangerous mentally ill citizens from obtaining guns.

In recent months, gun control legislation proposed by the Obama administration takes into account mental illness as a potential catalyst for gun violence, as it has called for for a stricter background check system and more than $500 million dollars to go towards mental health treatment.

While both sides of the aisle may disagree on the appropriate response to gun violence, how much does mental illness actually contribute to gun violence in the U.S.? According to research done by Jonathan Metzl,  a professor of Sociology and Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, not very much. Metzl found that from 2001-2010, less than 5% of gun-related murders were committed by an individual who suffered from a mental illness. In an article written by Tod Essig for Forbes, it is stated that mental illness contributes to only 4% of gun-related crimes, a number that Essig took from a quote by Jeffrey W. Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University. Yet despite numerous studies showing otherwise, mental illness is still used as a scapegoat for a purpose behind many gun-related crimes.

The decades of advocacy and work of thousands of Americans will only continue to weaken if politicians and the media continue to incorrectly blame certain acts of gun violence on mental illness. The importance of stricter gun control regulations is an important discussion for both citizens and politicians to have, but this discussion can not be properly conducted until those having it are properly informed on all aspects of the issue.

An understanding of mental illness, as well as an expansion of mental health treatment and awareness, is undoubtedly an important step for the United States; however, it should not only stop there. The distinct differences and separation between gun violence and mental illness only exemplifies the importance of educating people about mental illness and its significance across the United States.​

By: Brian Cieplicki ’19

EDITORIAL: Does the Pope Not Endorse Trump as a President or as a Christian?

An analysis of Pope Francis’ recent comment that Trump’s plan to build a wall is “not Christian.” 

IMG_3078 (1)
Editor-in-Chief: Emily Dowden ’18

In this highly unusual and hotly contested presidential election, there are very
few voters without opinions either for or against the new breed of anti-establishment candidates. Certainly, Donald Trump, who has made the controversial and outrageous the centerpieces of his campaign, is the best known and most polarizing member of this category. Indeed, his campaign to build a wall along the Mexican border, intended to exclude our neighbors to the South as well as to deport the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., is, to say the least, astonishing.

The prospect of seizing infants and children born outside of the United States for deportation, to countries as alien to them as to any American, is inhumane; and the rending of families by deporting parents, thus leaving the innocents without paternal support, guidance and protection, is similarly untenable. Of course, this is just a sampling of the consequences of Mr. Trump’s stated aspirations.

It should come as no surprise, then, that considerable outrage from both sides of the political aisle has been expressed against this policy that treats such a large swath of our society as pariahs.

Into this maelstrom landed Pope Francis, who, as reported by CNN among other networks, suggested that “[a] person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”

To many conservative political pundits, a new firestorm resulted. Their focus was no longer Donald Trump’s intentions, but rather the propriety of the perceived endorsement by the Holy Father of any presidential candidate other than Trump. These critics urged that no one can read the heart of another and that the comment was improperly intended to affect the outcome of our presidential election.

If such was actually the Pope’s intent, I would agree that the opinion was at cross purposes with the teachings of Jesus. Notably, there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that Jesus’ Church was Marxian in that He advocated for the salvation of humankind through governmental action. Rather, Jesus demonstrated that His Church was completely dissimilar and separate from the government when he rebuffed the Pharisees, stating, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.” Jesus demonstrated that the government, though an authority, was nevertheless secular and that He alone was the Light and the Way. In a sense, it was the original pronouncement of the separation of Church and state.

As a Catholic, who by definition must accept the infallibility of the Pope, I believe that I toil at checkers while the Pope plays chess. Thus, when I find myself at odds over the meanings of his words or actions, I am bound to give him the benefit of the doubt. Certainly, the meaning of the Pope’s statement appear plain, yet he denied it was intended as an endorsement or an effort to affect the outcome of the election. Reconciling this discrepancy begins by acknowledging that in Christianity, not all statements should be given their plain meanings. Jesus taught with parables, didactic stories which often imparted multiple lessons. While not strictly a parable, I accept the Pope’s comments as a non-endorsement, and instead read them as a word of caution, directed not to the voters, but to Mr. Trump directly.

Without doubt, the Pope’s gentle reproach to Mr. Trump was received, and hopefully, heeded.

I am not here to judge Mr. Trump’s standing as a Christian, but I do join the Pope in his heartfelt plea for Trump to reexamine his position on immigration. A careful study of that policy must include not just a recognition of the invaluable economic contributions made by that potential constituency, but an acknowledgment of the toll in human suffering that will be exacted when lives are cast into ruin by being displaced and the familial fabric, which is so often lauded by the republicans as the foundation of our society, is torn.

Like the current Pope, Senator Bernie Sanders, though through political means, yet embraces this goal of inclusion. Mr. Trump, a professed Christian who seeks evangelical support, would do well to do the same.

By: Emily Dowden ’18

Blog at

Up ↑