Category: OpEd

The Beauty of Trying Something New

By Noor Ibrahim

My journey at SMCC has been marvelous! I have learned many things and certainly have enjoyed the stunning scenery that surrounds the campus.

Because I’m a Liberal Studies major, I’m lucky enough to explore the many courses this school has to offer. Among the classes I have taken, there was one in particular that was life-changing; it was Metal Arts I. This class has many features that make it worth the effort.

In this class, the first thing you will learn is courage and attaining an adventurous spirit. Working with large and heavy equipment was new and scary for me. However, with practice, cutting, sanding, bending, melting, and welding metal in an artistic fashion was a thrill!

I have also found that because the course requires intense concentration (the machines are not toys and can be very dangerous), there is a therapeutic feel to it. It also helps with relieving stress, and is a good escape from other academic courses. The artistic part of this course can be quite challenging. You will be required to make three different projects for the final: cold form, hot form, and mixed media.

The most exciting project is the hot form. The reason is, it’s easier to melt than to bend. For me, I have crafted many form models for my final product. Many of them failed. I began to scrutinize the core issue and used my problem-solving skills to learn from my mistakes. It is crucial to plan ahead and trust your skills and vision, and to learn from failed works. This process is excellent for strengthening patience and confidence.

There is also the beauty of satisfaction in refining an (almost) raw material. The sanding belt will be your best friend if you like to make things shiny and smooth.

There will be many opportunities to learn ahead in this course to produce a well-crafted sculpture. This skill will become an automatic system little by little; however, it takes a good amount of passion and care to reach such a level of diligence.

To conclude, sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone will have many surprises to offer! I have learned many skills in this class, and most importantly, I feel more in control. Perspective is also important. If you are more of a technical person, you might construct functional objects instead of pure randomness put together and titled with the word “art.”


A metal sculpture created by the author. Photo by Noor Ibrahim


Happy Holidays, or Whatever

By Troy Hudson

The holidays are about nothing if not tradition. The anticipation that builds as the season draws near is a direct function of the cyclical nature of our shared cultural experience. Every year, we look forward (whether with joy or dread) to the return of the red and green, the gingerbread houses, the twinkling lights and wreaths adorning nearly every home and storefront. If you’re like most Americans, you probably rewatch the same holiday movies you did when you were little, and possibly the same ones your parents watched when they were little. December is the only time of year you’re as likely to hear a 75-year-old Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole recording on the radio as any Top 40 hit.

It’s probably safe to say there’s no more universal tradition in Western culture than celebrating Christmas. In 1914, it even inspired a temporary ceasefire between German and British soldiers on the Western Front in the First World War.

In America today, however, uttering the word “Christmas” has come to be viewed as a microaggression and is avoided at all costs by most major businesses and people wary of causing offense. In theory, I can support this polite consideration of other cultures and not assuming one’s own traditions are shared by others. I myself am not religious, so many Christmas traditions, like singing carols that celebrate “Christ the newborn king,” do feel inappropriate to me and I typically do not participate in them.

But Christmas, as we all know, is much more than a religious holiday. For better or worse, it has become a staple of American secular culture that is now as much about spending time with family and sharing our bounty with others as it is about the celebration of the Christian deity. It’s also, of course, the apex of consumer capitalism. It is a tradition that I grew up with, and it helps stoke my sense of community and family. I want to share this feeling with others, especially those who may not have experienced it in the past. I think this is natural, and I expect and hope to see members of other cultures openly celebrating their own traditions as well. This is why I object to the widespread cultural rejection of Christmas tropes during the holiday season.

In particular, the greeting “Merry Christmas” has become a cultural hot potato. Many people now believe the phrase is offensive and stick to “Happy Holidays.” Never mind the fact that for people who don’t celebrate anything during this season, even “Happy Holidays” is a misstep. The arguments for this are that not everyone celebrates Christmas, or that the holidays are a sad time for many people. These are both very true, and if you know for a fact that either applies to the person you’re talking to, then by all means offer something more appropriate. But if you want to wish a friend or stranger a Merry Christmas, you should go ahead without fear of causing offense.

Despite not being a Christian, if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” (or a “Happy Hanukkah,” or anything else) with good will and a smile, I say “Thanks, you too.” I find this honest response very easy to muster and I have never had heartburn from the exchange. I believe the warmth and joy of the greeting is what comes through, not the particular words used to express it. If “Happy Holidays” is your thing, then go for it. It’s a fine greeting. But if “Merry Christmas” happens to roll off the tongue a little easier for you, don’t worry that you may have committed a microaggression. Have a little trust in the understanding and graciousness of other people and enjoy the holiday season in whatever way seems right to you.

From the Desk of the Managing Editor

By Ben Riggleman

You’ve probably heard something about a tax bill in recent weeks. Congressional Republicans narrowly succeeded in passing different versions of a wide-ranging tax-reform bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate this past month, and are now meeting in a conference committee to put together a unified bill. The two houses of Congress are expected to vote on the final version of the bill before Dec. 22, and if they approve it, the President’s signature is assured. Sound boring? It shouldn’t, because this will affect all of us.

If you have any exposure to the liberal media, you’ve heard that this tax-reform scheme is pretty awful. Economists have almost universally come out against it — it stands to increase the federal debt by up to $1.5 trillion — and the New York Times’ editorial board called it “terrible.” You may have heard that the bill would offer huge breaks to the very wealthiest Americans while hurting the middle class in the long run, and that it could undermine the Affordable Care Act, causing up to 13 million people to lose health insurance.

But maybe all this doesn’t mean that much to you; you’re skeptical of the media establishment and academic talking heads. But please consider what college students like us stand to lose here.

The House bill is downright hostile to students. Most of us have taken out student loans. You may have been able to write off payments on student-loan interest when filing your taxes, if you earn under a certain level. But this deduction would be eliminated under the House’s version of the bill, according to USA Today. The bill would also take away a tax incentive that encourages employers to fund their workers’ continuing education. Employers will still be able to pay up to $5,250 per year of employees’ school expenses, but this money will now be taxed. So if your employer is now funding your studies at SMCC, that might not last.

As Troy Hudson reports on the front page of this issue, about 58 percent of SMCC students take classes part-time. Because the House bill would scrap the Lifetime Learning Credit program, many part-time students would lose eligibility for a tax credit of up to $2,000.

Finally, if you’re in the minority of SMCC students who plan on getting a graduate degree, you might want to think again. Most graduate students depend on stipends and tuition waivers they receive for teaching or doing research. The stipends are currently considered taxable income, but under the House plan, the reduced tuition would be, too. One graduate student wrote in the New York Times that this change “would make meeting living expenses nearly impossible, barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D.”

Republicans in the Senate seem to resent college students somewhat less than do their House colleagues. However, the final bill will be a compromise between the House and Senate versions; all the nasty stuff in the House bill still stands a good chance of making it into law.

About the only good news is that Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, has not promised her vote to the Republicans’ final product. (She did vote for the Senate tax bill, after receiving assurances that it would be changed.) Last week, she told a CNN affiliate, “I’m going to look at what comes out of the conference committee meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House bill. So, I won’t make a final decision until I see what that package is.” It is not too late to call Senator Collins, who has voted her conscience over her party before, and tell her how we feel about this incredibly bad deal. You can call her Portland office Monday through Friday at 207-780-3575.

In other news, this is the last column I’ll write as managing editor of The Beacon. I am stepping down after this semester to focus on my classes. It has been an honor to participate in keeping an SMCC tradition strong and helping student writers find their voice.

Religion: The Good and the Bad

By Johnny Morton

At the age of 10, I remember being forced in my Sunday’s best clothes (which were too stiff and uncomfortable) and sitting with my grandmother in St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church. I would daydream, and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I was bored, fidgeting, and couldn’t stand the barely lit room, the odd half-spoken/half-sung passages and the eerie, earthy incense smell. I had to be quiet and pretend to pray.

A year later, I wasn’t forced to go anymore. In years to come, I remember some friends of mine couldn’t always play or hang out on the weekends because they were going with their church group on a grand camping trip or to Funtown. Sometimes my friends would be talking about a huge picnic fun day at their church or a potluck with all this great food! Wait… what? Where is this great place and how do I get in?? I never did end up getting in, though I spent a few jealous weekends wishing I had. I wanted to be part of something big, part of a group of people who did fun things. Their church seemed nothing like my nana’s stiff, dark, smelly church. Years later, come to find out, one of the church leaders, one of the fun, field-trip-organizing, pot-luck-supper-planning church leaders, was called out and accused of molesting some of those boys… a few of whom were my buddies. This is how religion went for me my entire life, and it still does today at age 40.

There are many practicing religions in America today. I don’t know the ins and outs of every denomination. In fact, I never truly belonged to a single one; however, I have witnessed and somewhat partaken in some religious endeavors trying to find myself through finding God or a higher power. Religion is like a swinging door in America: It opens up and exposes you to many great things, but it also can swing back hard, knocking you down.

Religion has had (and still does have) many positive influences on American society. Religion gives one hope. Religion gives one faith. When all seems lost in the world and one feels utterly alone, most religions will welcome one with open arms and give one a feeling of love, belonging, support and community. There are so many great religious groups and churches that bring communities together and help victims of all sorts through difficult times. Whether a family whose home has been blown away in a tornado, or a single mom who can’t afford Christmas gifts for her children, or orphaned children whose parents died in a plane crash, so on and so on, many religious factors have come to the aid of many Americans, and have worked “miracles.” Churches have gone above and beyond being ethical and have had so many wonderful and numerous positive influences on so many in this great nation — and still do, on a day-to-day basis!
Here is where the “religious door” swings full force and slams you from behind: Many religious factors leave no room for diversity. Certain religious groups have publicly called out, shamed and protested against anyone who does not follow that religion perfectly, or may be a little different, or have somewhat different views or ideas than said religion. There is no “wiggle room” in one’s moral beliefs if those beliefs waver even just a bit. Certain religious groups have even turned to violent protests or violent acts against those who do not conform or fit with that religion’s agenda. Not only do they shun outsiders and turn to violence, certain religious groups, particularly the Roman Catholic faction, have been known for sexual abuse against young ones for years. These acts are unethical and definitely have negative impacts in America.

I can personally say I have experienced both the positive and the negative when it comes to religion. I was welcomed with open arms when I was at a very low point in my life. I met a bunch of great people who helped me out immensely, and I felt part of something special. Another time, I was told I was going straight to Hell because of my sexuality and unless I changed who I was and asked God for forgiveness, there was no hope for me. When it comes to religion, I live my life singing REM’s song “Losing my Religion.” I don’t know if I will ever find the right fit for me when it comes to joining any religious denomination, but for now, I pray and talk to God on my own terms, and take and make positive influences and changes. That is my religion.

What If…

By Lloyd Metcalf

Divide and conquer is more than a military strategy, it’s a political strategy, a business strategy, and one to which the American people have fallen victim.

What if the people embraced unity?

It used to be that people could have different religious and political affiliations and still be identified as American, or at least human. Now, if someone is not aligned to a political party as it relates to a point of view, they are immediately labeled un-American or inhuman. Atheists are accused of destroying the “American way of life” every year around the holidays, and it continues with other groups and affiliations daily in our media and discussions.

It may be time for a revolution, but not the revolution we envisioned in past decades. The greatest fear of our domineering government and giant corporations is unity among the people. If we set aside our political, religious and racial labels, we may begin to clearly see where we are being conquered… and it likely isn’t from our neighbors, friends, and family members with opposing views. We might decide that our enemies aren’t single parents who need some help or people with different political approaches, or people who want to come to our country from abroad. We might see that our lives and concerns are similar and that the gargantuan engines that we have allowed to take over our lives are only using our divided squabbling as fuel and to keep us from unifying.

AIG’s net worth is over $50 billion, the Catholic Church’s net worth (U.S. only) is $8-10 billion, Walmart’s is $180 billion, and our representatives are tossing around trillions with all these giants in the arena pushing and pulling them for things that favor their bottom lines. We shrug as if we can’t do anything about it. We go about our lives, get to our jobs within the conglomerate to try to survive and replicate some ideal of contentment or happiness. We are taxed, billed, worked, and used as fuel like microorganisms serving an entity.

We are constantly fed by the titans of our country with things to keep us on track, showing up for that job, quiet, and paying out en masse every day. While we concern ourselves with who was holding a door on “Game of Thrones,” or what a president tweeted, or if a single parent on food stamps purchased provolone or cheese-food-product, we are being ground into dust to serve the aggregate titan that is not concerned with any of the average individuals. In fact, they are likely in such a seat that we may no longer be visible to them at all.

By way of example, do you know the names:
– Peter Griffin
– Colin Kaepernick
– Tyrion Lannister
– Bruno Mars

And do you know the names:
– Cargill
– Sinopec
– Reyes
– State Grid

The first list contains things you look at to keep you from thinking too much about life, some maybe to keep you tweeting and Facebooking. The second list controls real aspects of our daily lives, and we don’t know who or what they are. (I admit, I had to google most of them myself).

Cargill is the largest privately held corporation in the country, and it has significant power when it comes to influencing politics and policy to aid its bottom line. Private corporations play by different rules than publicly traded ones. One single family of 6-8 people own 90% of Cargill.

Reyes Holdings likely controls a large part what food you see and get at your local grocery store. They also have an interest in legislation that regulates their activity in trading, profit and deals.

If we are more concerned with what fart joke Peter Griffin told, or whether or not a sports player took a knee this week than what tax legislation Cargill helped push through, it’s time for a revolution of unity.

No one notices a wasp making its way across the lawn, but if 323.95 million of them (the number of people in America) gather up and at least agree, “We are wasps and we have a problem.” They get some immediate attention. The dollar only has a value because we agree on what the piece of paper is worth. If, as a united people, we decided a clover plucked from the ground could be traded for goods at the same rate, the dollar would be useless.

If people embraced unity among themselves and embraced one another as humans, brothers, sisters and others, the titans would no longer remain in power. At least, like us running from 323 million wasps, they would have a new respect for what our issues are. A united people don’t need to agree on everything, they need to only agree on one thing. That one thing can be as simple as, “We should decide our own fate, not these machines that escaped our control.”

So, Democrat, Republican, Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish, socialist, Gen X, millennials, white, black, people who like ketchup on eggs, sports teams, and any other thing that we are told should divide us in some way; I invite you to ask What if?

What if this one dividing factor is only a simple line here and doesn’t divide us as human beings? Our differences were once thought to be our strengths as a nation, not our weaknesses. It can be difficult with issues that are important to us to look beyond this one line. This unity is what terrifies the machine that grinds us into powder. We need to be in control of our country, not victims of it.

What if the people embraced the idea of unity?

Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor,

I was given an assignment to write a letter to the editor of the Beacon on what we thought of the latest issue. I thought that the paper organised well and all the articles were written very nicely. I did have one thing about it that I thought was a little misleading. There was an article that was titled something like “Apples New 4K Apple TV” what I thought was a little misleading about it was that the Apple TV was only brought up once in the very first paragraph while the rest of the story piece talked about 4K TVs and what HDR meant. Other than that I felt the paper was pretty good so keep up the good work!

Cameron Fogg

Dear Editor,

I enjoyed reading Nicholas Saball’s article “What is the Internet of Things?” I also learned the new term IoT from the small article. The information provided in the article makes you wonder if there are soon to be over 35 million devices connected through the internet all sharing information, at the rate technology increases then there is the issue of AI gaining access to that information. Hacking and security is a big problem with all those devices even if they don’t have a screen they can still be hacked. AI is a threat some of the biggest tech giants have spoken of because of advancements in technology. The thought that AI could connect to the IoT and gain all of that knowledge is startling. As of now though there is not much of anything to worry about when it comes to AI.

As stated in the article our biggest threat right now would be the hackers. The article made me think more about the devices I would purchase because it spoke about how the more expensive more updated devices tend to be more secure which is very advantageous. I use my phone for everything from my banking, social media, recipes, and everything else. So I really enjoyed the article it made me think more about my decisions in the future about what I will and won’t be purchasing when it comes to technology.

Phuntira Tiparos

Dear Editor,

I am writing in regards to having recently read the Nov. 7, 2017 Volume 14, No. 5 issue of The Beacon during a class assignment for Huey’s Intro to Mass Communications course. It had been many months since I had sifted through a copy of the paper and I was heartened to find the overall readability of the product has improved. The quality of the writing seems better, from what I gleaned, and the general layout has a certain je ne sais quoi that feels a bit more polished. These small improvements haven’t drastically altered the feel of The Beacon, with many stylistic elements remaining consistent with previous issues, retaining the unified aesthetic and voice of the paper.

Having said those things, there are a few areas that I think could potentially be further improved upon, mostly regarding layout and editing. The first article on the front page, “Athletic Hall of Fame Inducts New Honorees” seems a bit niche to be the headline story. I feel that placing this article in the sports oriented section of the paper and using an article like the lower front page story, “Massive Wind Storm Uproots Historic Trees” would get more people to pick up the issue and generate more readers. That first article also has a couple of awkward and confusing hanging paragraphs that could have potentially been eliminated by shifting the photo up or down a bit. The article about the wind storm has a few pacing issues, as well, in that it is constantly referencing the reader to other articles within the paper, which distracts from itself and makes for a choppy, unfocused reading experience. Additionally, the pages that the article redirect the reader to do not seem to contain the correct articles being referenced. This seems to be a recurring problem in the issue, as it also occurs on the back page sports articles, which both attempt to redirect the reader to the page that they are on. One article appears to just end abruptly, without continuation at all. Lastly, the featured comic is serviceable as drawn piece, but the content is a bit perplexing, as if there is some context is missing. Perhaps, with its characters referring to spending money and apparently gambling with dice, it was meant to be on the same page as the “Gambling on an Empty Promise” article. Despite this, it does look good on the layout of the page.

I submit these critiques to you with the acknowledgement that endeavoring to publish a newspaper each month, especially while taking college courses, is not a cakewalk.
Overall, I am impressed with the product and it appears to be much closer to a professional level paper than previous issues I’ve read. The compositional aspects feel unified, even down to the advertisements feeling relevant to the pages they appear on.
Other standout features for me were the authentically written Thor: Ragnarok movie review and the eloquent culture pieces interweaved with current events reporting. With just a few tweaks to tighten everything up, I think The Beacon could become elevated to a professional quality product. Keep up the great work going into the new year!

My best,
Justin Brady

Dear Editor,

I found that your paper, once I picked it up had some great elements to it. The logo, darker columns on the sides and the small advertisement-like features made the newspaper stand out. An element’s I would like to suggest, may be beneficial to your growth. In this edition I read, the headliner felt like it could have been switched with the story below it to entice a larger group of people to pick up the paper and read it. The headliner in this edition was about hall of fame athletes or something… I don’t really remember because it didn’t pull me in as well as the second story on the page about the storm. I think that choosing a story about athletes for your cover page doesn’t include all audiences, thus resulting in a smaller amount of people initially picking up the piece in the first place. I suggest placing the athlete story in the sports section and a putting a more diverse piece, that will interest many audiences, on the cover. In this edition of the newspaper I really enjoyed the column on service and emotional support animals on campus. Informing students the difference between these types of animals was super helpful. I also enjoyed the section that talked about events happening on and around campus. Finding out that my favorite coffee shop, Omis, will be opening a second location 5 minutes away from campus, is something I appreciated from this edition. The “What If” section is also really interesting. Letting different students post their own what if stories is a wonderful concept and sparks creativity for the writers. I hope you found this letter helpful, thank you!

Mia Suarez