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Popular Culture, History, and Current Events

Politics and Religion in a Secular State

By Bobbie Kirkhart

It is ironic that, as the world’s first secular democracy having scorned all state religion, we soon became and have remained, socially and politically, preoccupied with god. Campaign speeches end with “God bless you.” The song, “God Bless America,” which Irving Berlin wrote as a parody sung by a comically chauvinistic character, is now performed as a patriotic hymn.

“God Bless America” by Joelk75 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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In a trying political climate, look not towards what divides, but what unites Germany and the U.S.: Journalistic Excellence

By Mattheus Wee

Are German-American relations in a critical state? If public opinion surveys are anything to go by, perhaps so – at least according to Germans. While Americans generally still hold on to a positive image of Germany, the same cannot be said for the way most Germans view the United States. A jointly conducted poll by the Pew Research Center and the Körber-Stiftung revealed late last year that while “three-quarters of Americans see relations with Germany as good,” nearly “two-thirds of Germans (64%) see relations as bad.” More alarmingly, the New York Magazine quotes a survey conducted by YouGov revealing that Germans view President Trump as “a greater threat to world peace than any other head of state” – a noteworthy distinction, especially in light of the existence of other controversial leaders, such as the likes of Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.

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The Long March to Justice

By Bobbie Kirkhart

Photo Credit: “Miami Protest, June 7, 2020” by Mike Shaheen

When I was five years old, I announced my new discovery: “Negroes (the polite term at the time) are bad.” My parents tried to correct me, but I felt my logic was unshakable: When the radio reported a crime, the perpetrator was often black. They never said that a suspect was white. I didn’t know any black people in our segregated town, but I knew many white people, and none of them were criminals. This was an open-and-shut case in my five-year old’s mind.

A few weeks later, my father took me downtown to see a parade. He struck up a conversation with a black woman we were standing next to. She had a baby, who captured my interest, though I was more entranced by her Kraft Caramels (my favorite candy at the time) she shared generously with me. This, of course, completely shattered my baby bigotry.

When I was approaching middle age, I reflected on the incident. Only then did I realize that when I was young, parade-viewing areas – as well as everything else – were strictly segregated in Enid, Oklahoma. It must have taken some planning and more than a small amount of courage to arrange for us to stand in the “colored area” next to a friendly woman who just happened to have a cute baby and my favorite candies.

The issue of race did not come up often in our small, mostly white town (at least not in the white community), so I had little need to reflect on what I had learned until Emmett Till’s murder on August 28, 1955, made national news and provoked national outrage.

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Digital Age Ruminations: The U.S. Humanities and Employability Concerns

By Andrew Urie

As anyone who has scanned recent U.S. education headlines knows, the humanities face a crisis of legitimation amidst a tech-driven economy in which the mantra of ‘job preparedness’ seems to have trumped the traditional academic notion of humanist scholarly inquiry. Faced with the task of defending the relevance of their field of study, academics have justifiably cited the critical thinking skills that are gained via a humanities education.

Saint Anselm College, a traditional New England liberal arts college.

More often than not, however, many of these very same academics proceed to undermine this eminently legitimate point by claiming that a university education should bear no relation to vocational concerns. Indeed, whenever anyone parrots out this shaky line of reasoning, I find myself pondering the following question: In what sense has the American university ever stood entirely apart from concerns about employability?

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So much to stream, so little time? Netflix has a solution.

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Whether it’s the mo(u)rning routine of having to leave your beloved bed, or the deviously brilliant book that won’t let you stop turning pages while the digits relentlessly move towards 3 a.m. – there are quite a few occasions where having more time would come in handy.

I’ll spare you any more time-consuming passages of introduction and cut right to the chase:

Netflix is testing a feature that lets users accelerate playback speed up to 1.5 times the normal speed. Ever since the news went viral, Netflix was hit hard with backlashes from a number of moviemakers and actors. Netflix defended the choice by stating it’s been a “heavily requested feature from subscribers.”

It’s impossible for me to validate whether that’s true or not; what we do know is that as of now, Netflix is only testing the feature on a small fraction of their customers and only on Android devices. And even if this were to become a regular feature, as long as Netflix doesn’t force customers to indulge in streaming-quickies, it’s all fine, isn’t it?

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Can Artists Save Us?

By Jessica Müller

How much do celebrities, influencers, and social media actually impact us? The way we consume media has changed dramatically over the past decade, and while many of these changes come with a multitude of new challenges, social media has also enabled us to communicate on a global scale. Celebrities, influencers, artists and the work they promote and produce directly and indirectly influence our society and our behavior towards our planet.

A while back, rapper Lil Dickey released a song in collaboration with thirty famous artists and celebrities in order to raise awareness for the issue of climate change and the damages it produces. Lil Dickey’s song immediately went viral, and millions of people watched it. But what is this song actually good for? Will it change anything at all?

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