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Global Clinton Initiative Invitation

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Dear Maggie Nazer,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to attend CGI U 2014, taking place March 21-23, 2014 at Arizona State University. Image


Destination Recreation: Christmas Tree Farms

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Destination Recreation: Christmas Tree Farms.

Here I am on the Vermont WCAX TV Channel Check out the vid and don’t mind my hair! MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – WCAX

Whether it’s already cut and waiting or still hiding in the field, a tree farm can hold that perfect centerpiece for your holiday living room.

And at Werner Tree Farm in Middlebury, they say picking out your own tree at a farm is a traditional Vermont Christmas experience.

“I think in Vermont people are more willing to go out take a walk and cut their own tree down and get their hands a little bit dirty,” says manager Amanda Werner.

Most people make it a family outing, she says, getting outdoors and spending time together.

“Part of that is being able to come out and walk around the grounds and look at the trees. A lot of people, even the ones that end up getting a pre-cut tree, like to walk through the fields,” she says.

One visitor to the farm is Maggie Nazer, an exchange student at Middlebury College. She says in Bulgaria they bought their trees from vendors on the street. This is her first time to a tree farm, and she has friends to help her.

The group is learning a few things in the field, such as why it’s important to know the height of your ceiling before you get to the farm.

“A standard ceiling is about eight feet tall which means you might have to make it a little bit shorter. If you do, I’d suggest doing it from the bottom so you keep the shape of the tree intact,” Werner advises.

A few minutes later, they spot the one. Nazer gets to cut it down.

“Wow it smells so good,” she says.

Once the tree is brought out of the field they put netting around it and then tie it down to the car. This tree is headed to the Middlebury campus, where students will make ornaments for it.

“It’s amazing. It’s so much fun. I think it’s great just having this ritual and really be able to feel the Christmas spirit,” says Nazer.

She’s one of many getting her tree here. The farm says they sold 1,200 last year and expect to do even more this year as demand increases.


Affairs to remember

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Maggie NazerChurch, early on a Thanksgiving morning. I close my eyes to pray but the picture that flashes before my eyes is His being on top of me, kissing me. I’m not talking about Jesus, of course, and it’s not my imagination. “If love is a sin, I’m a sinner,” I comfort myself (with the lines of a song I had never heard) proudly as I whisper, “Amen.” I am thankful to remember last night precisely: our voices, the silence, the tension between our bodies, reading a book in bed together. No hangover, no doubt that it happened, no regret whatsoever.

Hooking up is so big in college that people have come so far as to call it a “culture.” Students are so busy, stressed and dedicated to succeed in the big world that hook-ups come in handy, within the strict time-frame of Saturday nights and with the helpful assistance of lots and lots of alcohol. Yet, what does it do for us? What are the needs we try to satisfy as we dress up, go partying, get drunk and take someone to bed? Is it about intimacy, or being with someone, or even simply receiving pleasure? And do we ever get what we want?

“Waking up on a Sunday morning is heavy-duty,” my friend tells me as we sit to have brunch together later that day. Coming to terms with last night’s outcomes must be, indeed, hard to swallow (no matter of our degree of mastery). With the ecstasy of being young, drunk and alive after yet another week of Middlebury academics, comes the natural need to perform in yet another discipline – sex. Yet, how do we prove we are the high-achievers we know ourselves to be?

We drink. We drink to relax ourselves, to get ourselves excited and excused… Drunkenness is the socially accepted apology for the lack of erection, for the abandonment of restrictions and the temporary display of amnesia when you meet your late-night companion(s) in the dining hall the following morning. Drinking is the confidence booster we need to silence our fear that we aren’t good enough, or interesting enough, or sexy enough, so that we go on stealing sex from each other uninterrupted by reality. We steal what we can steal, afraid we won’t be given anything otherwise.  It’s all good until you realize you can do better than that.

The sober seduction is the ultimate turn-on. There is power in vulnerability and beauty in the creation of proximity, be it even for a night. The more present I am, the more aroused. Only presence in the given moment provides passion with existence, because it exists solely here and now, and only then forever. Reduced to its mechanics, sex offers no pleasure. Eroticism is conceived by the consent and fullest participation of everyone involved in the sexual act. In the exchange of value we call “sex,” why do we rob each other of any meaning?

As I looked at the glowing stars stuck on the ceiling of my college dorm, lying sleepless in his arms, I asked myself why the need to forget. “Life is short”- everyone around me claims as a justification of everything we do in attempt to bring ourselves what we want, which most often results in the exact opposite of it. Yet if life is short why not live it to remember it? Should the affairs we remember be only the academic ones and do we have anything to feel good about once we put our clothes back on?

We all know that sex is no more a mere instrument to reproduction. But while we are among the luckiest people ever lived on the Earth to be able to create togetherness through sex without too much fear of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (if we are smart about it, of course!), we run away from truly being with each other afraid of its implications… As we confront our guilty consciousness after another naughty Saturday has passed, we have to accept that the most obvious consequences of our wasted hook-ups are the missed opportunities… If not for “true love”, than at least for human connection and warmth. And as we dare to open up and be with each other unmasked, naked and sober, we might find that someone would want to stay around not only for the night, but may be even after…

The article was first published in my very own “Love and sexuality” column in “The Middlebury Campus” newspaper- Vol. 112, NO. 11 from December 5, 2013; www.middleburycampus.com


Self-examination and its impact on society (Plato, Apology)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

 Plato’s dialogue “The Apology” presents us with the elaborate speech Socrates made to defend himself against the accusations of impiety and corrupting the youth. Within the speech Socrates details his method of self-examination which has proved to be his very instrument to guiding himself and the others to “perfection of the soul”. The increased self-awareness, in addition to the strong willingness to improve oneself and stay away from any wrongdoing, are all exhibited as qualities of the ideal citizen, obtained through the self-examination practice. Thus, the method that Socrates used to criticize both himself and the rest of the citizens of Athens is indeed a process that is beneficial both to the individual and the society.

            The first evidence that the Socratic method is profitable not only for the person engaged in it, but also for the state as a whole is found in the episodes in which Socrates examines the poets and artisans. After conversing with the poets, Socrates finds that they do not even understand the ideas they are delivering, yet they think highly of themselves for being praised by the people.  Under the same observation fall the artisans whose skills in craftsmanship foolishly lead them to think they are wise in all possible matters.

The two groups obviously fail to recognize their human limitations besides the way their wisdom manifests, which prevents them from seeing clearly themselves and being able to best use their skills. Socrates, on the other side, is well aware that his strength is to examine himself and others. Moreover, he recognizes his weaknesses, and while he goes deeper into practicing what he is best at, he is open and alert to the fact that he does not know everything and that there is always more to learn. Realizing where you stand at is of crucial importance as positively accepting ignorance leads to curiosity, innovation, exchange of ideas and practices- all vital factors for the health of a nation.

As a person examines himself actively and understands well himself, he frees himself of prejudices and is able to not only see what is best in his interest, but also in interest of the society. Once again, the best way to illustrate this is to look at the actions of Socrates himself: when he serves as a senator he repeatedly runs the risk of being killed for opposing the government: “I must run the risk to the end with law and justice on my side, rather than join with you when your wishes were unjust”. When Athens’ citizens decide to make an expedition to Sicily in 435BC in order to gain wealth, Socrates stands alone in opposition well aware of how dangerous this operation will be (as revealed in “Crito”), caring “for the state itself rather than its interests”. Therefore, when people treat themselves as their highest moral instance, they are more responsible, more fearless to make their voices heard and more actively pursuing the interests of the state.

Ultimately, when a person is constantly challenging his beliefs and improving himself, he comes to the realization that self-development is a process that can be undertaken by anyone willing to develop himself. This is primarily why Socrates takes the time to share his beliefs and educate his fellow citizens. Had he tought they were uneducable, he would neither devote his life to exposing and educating them, nor spend the time to defend himself in such a way: “For I tried to persuade each of you to care for himself and his own perfection in goodness and wisdom… and to follow the same method in his care for other things”. Such an attitude even if demonstrated by only a single individual cannot be without any impact on the society, because it is contagious and it spreads far and wide.

Challenging your beliefs and examining yourself is empowering. Not only it make you strive to learn more, develop yourself and become better, but it also helps you be an active citizen and contributor. The dream of Socrates and Plato of a better society based on self-responsibility, respect of the laws and zeal for inner and outer improvement is still alive, and dependent on each and every one of us.


Self-examination and its impact on society (Plato, “Apology”)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Plato’s dialogue “The Apology” presents us with the elaborate speech Socrates made to defend himself against the accusations of impiety and corrupting the youth. Within the speech Socrates details his method of self-examination which has proved to be his very instrument to guiding himself and the others to “perfection of the soul”. The increased self-awareness, in addition to the strong willingness to improve oneself and stay away from any wrongdoing, are all exhibited as qualities of the ideal citizen, obtained through the self-examination practice. Thus, the method that Socrates used to criticize both himself and the rest of the citizens of Athens is indeed a process that is beneficial both to the individual and the society.

            The first evidence that the Socratic method is profitable not only for the person engaged in it, but also for the state as a whole is found in the episodes in which Socrates examines the poets and artisans. After conversing with the poets, Socrates finds that they do not even understand the ideas they are delivering, yet they think highly of themselves for being praised by the people.  Under the same observation fall the artisans whose skills in craftsmanship foolishly lead them to think they are wise in all possible matters.

The two groups obviously fail to recognize their human limitations besides the way their wisdom manifests, which prevents them from seeing clearly themselves and being able to best use their skills. Socrates, on the other side, is well aware that his strength is to examine himself and others. Moreover, he recognizes his weaknesses, and while he goes deeper into practicing what he is best at, he is open and alert to the fact that he does not know everything and that there is always more to learn. Realizing where you stand at is of crucial importance as positively accepting ignorance leads to curiosity, innovation, exchange of ideas and practices- all vital factors for the health of a nation.

As a person examines himself actively and understands well himself, he frees himself of prejudices and is able to not only see what is best in his interest, but also in interest of the society. Once again, the best way to illustrate this is to look at the actions of Socrates himself: when he serves as a senator he repeatedly runs the risk of being killed for opposing the government: “I must run the risk to the end with law and justice on my side, rather than join with you when your wishes were unjust”. When Athens’ citizens decide to make an expedition to Sicily in 435BC in order to gain wealth, Socrates stands alone in opposition well aware of how dangerous this operation will be (as revealed in “Crito”), caring “for the state itself rather than its interests”. Therefore, when people treat themselves as their highest moral instance, they are more responsible, more fearless to make their voices heard and more actively pursuing the interests of the state.

Ultimately, when a person is constantly challenging his beliefs and improving himself, he comes to the realization that self-development is a process that can be undertaken by anyone willing to develop himself. This is primarily why Socrates takes the time to share his beliefs and educate his fellow citizens. Had he tought they were uneducable, he would neither devote his life to exposing and educating them, nor spend the time to defend himself in such a way: “For I tried to persuade each of you to care for himself and his own perfection in goodness and wisdom… and to follow the same method in his care for other things”. Such an attitude even if demonstrated by only a single individual cannot be without any impact on the society, because it is contagious and it spreads far and wide.

Challenging your beliefs and examining yourself is empowering. Not only it make you strive to learn more, develop yourself and become better, but it also helps you be an active citizen and contributor. The dream of Socrates and Plato of a better society based on self-responsibility, respect of the laws and zeal for inner and outer improvement is still alive, and dependent on each and every one of us.


Race in Sex

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Maggie Nazer“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” Oscar Wilde has got it right. Sex is a complex social issue which embodies layers of hard-to-handle gender and social status controversy. Adding politics of race in the equation only serves to further on heat up the already problematic topic of sexuality. Exploring how racial matters influence sexual perceptions, stereotypes and misconceptions, however, is more than needed. It is an eye-opening process that gives insight on the ways devaluation of people is done in present days, dating back to the slave era. Evidently, Afro-Americans and individuals from other racial and ethnic groups present in the States have gone a long way since the abolition of slavery. Yet sexuality is everything but “race-blind” as seen in both the prevalence of endogamous marriages and the “white-supremacist” nature of many interracial marriages; the objectification of both women and men of color in interracial sex and porn; and the domination of widely spread sexual stereotypes discriminating the same groups.  

Since in 1967 the US Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation laws (laws prohibiting individuals from different races to marry) unconstitutional, the public approval of interracial marriages has risen with eighty percent- a figure worth our admiration, yet failing to tell the whole truth about the persistent racial and racist issues affecting deeply the way people connect and build relationships within and outside their race. The 8,9% number of interracial marriages can be considered rather low for a country as multiethnic and diverse in population as the USA. While the popular modern trend of “cohabitation” should undoubtedly be considered, it is also an easy solution to the problem of dealing with the reaction of the society which respects the abstract idea of an “interracial marriage”, but is still immature as to how to react when faced with it.  Another example of racism in action in the context of intermarriages is the legal union between rich white men and poor women from developing countries or different racial backgrounds in general. Popular among American and European men this practice reinforces superiority claims from whites, while encouraging poor women to consider voluntary prostitution and arranged interracial marriages as tempting options to secure a living. “Bride-hunts” conducted by wealthy white men in countries like Thailand, for instance, or their respective parallels in one’s own country reinforce the racist stereotypes which often qualify women of color as the negative  “submissive, easy, pleasing” or even the positive “motherly, perfect- house-wives”, in addition to creating the contrasting image of white women depicted as “feminists and unsuitable for family life workaholics”. The case of “marriage squeeze” offers yet another opportunity to look at racial and sexual issues within out-marrying. “Marriage squeeze” stands for the trend executed by “well-educated”, “wealthy”, “desirable” Afro-Americans to marry white women rather than women from their own race because of the higher societal status white women inherit. Leaving more than 50% of Black women between 30-35 unmarried, this practice also contributes to the reinforcement of the racist perceptual superiority of white women.

The above examples illustrate not only the prevailing racist issues surrounding the practice of marrying outside of one’s race, but also the constantly occurring objectification of men and women of color within the context of interracial sex. Objectification is a philosophical term that stands for the treatment of people as things. It is exercised through the assumed ownership of humans, the denial of their autonomy and their treatment as interchangeable tools. The wide-spread modern myths of black men’s sexual prowess and black women’s submissiveness and sexual appetite are easy to name examples of racial and sexual objectification that are historical offspring of the slavery period in the US. Slave breeding practices and statutory rape laws both enhanced sexual debasement and cruelty against African-Americans who were considered moveable property across the United States. These inhumane practices led slaves to either confront their masters, and thus be beaten and tortured, or accept the savagery and use it as a way to secure protection. The English regulations executed in the colonies stated that “Indians and Blacks, as well as their children, were prohibited by law from defending themselves against abuse, sexual and otherwise, at the hands of Whites” (Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Failing Our Black Children: Statutory Rape Laws, Moral Reform and the Hypocrisy of Denial (2002)). Additionally, after the termination of the Atlantic slave trade slaveholders forced coerced sexual relations and reproduction between male and female slaves and favored Black female slaves who produced a lot of children. Since the laws declared that every child born by a slave mother became a slave, masters attempted to increase their profits by becoming “slave breeders” and reducing their costs on purchasing human labor. Exploited by their mistresses and used as walking “sperm banks”, male Afro-American slaves held a similar disadvantageous position: they did not own their bodies. Even worse: they were perceived as if they were only bodies.

Sadly, objectification of people is still prevailing. And despite no one is protected, marginalized racial groups are even more vulnerable to sexual stereotyping and dehumanization. While it is already hard to be a woman and not be perceived as powerless and submissive, imagine being an Asian, Latino, African-American or even an Eastern-European woman. It is important to note that stereotypes play a crucial role in sexuality and result in serious psychological and social repercussions which endanger the well-being of individuals within the society, create misunderstanding and disturb the natural processes of creating connectedness between humans. Stereotypes kill intimacy and establishes sex as a mere physical process in which people are reduced to their body parts and are limited to exhibit only certain sexual attitudes. When people are put in categories, rather than seen holistically, the relationships they create are castrated. Robbed of genuine appreciation for the uniqueness of the other person, they can only reach mediocre levels of substance, depth and, thus, satisfaction. Unfortunately, men and women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds not only suffer from sexual prejudices, but also reinforce them. Black men, for instance, are commonly described as very athletic, muscular and promiscuous, and often try to maintain these stereotypes through stylizing their bodies and adopting behaviors perpetuating the very same attitudes which are destructive and limiting to them.

In a world obsessed with sex, race is a factor which cannot be underestimated. Exploring race within the framework of sexuality reveals layers of unsettled social polemics and points at various challenges which are yet to be overcome on our way to becoming indiscriminate. Nevertheless, it serves as motivation to be more aware and mindful of the ways we objectify both ourselves, and others; more committed to being truly authentic and more sensitive to the factors which prevent us from creating valuable human connections.