Kurt Vonnegut’s survival guide for these times

Kurt Vonnegut has been dead for nearly ten years now, but his legacy continues with a fresh generation of readers looking for guidance in an uncertain world. He was an outspoken critic of George W. Bush’s administration, and it isn’t difficult to imagine what his reaction would be toward our current political climate and treatment of refugees. If he were alive today, it’s likely he would spend a lot of time quoting himself, trying to get us to treat each other better.

“So it goes.”

Wikimedia Commons | Dresden, 1910 – before the fire bombing of the Second World War
Wikipedia | Dresden, 1945 – after Allied fire bombing

This oft-repeated statement from Slaughterhouse-Five is fatalistic, but it also leaves room for the continuation of life and, perhaps, hope. Consider KV’s message of peace and humanity by reflecting on this Aleppo-inspired installation erected in Dresden just before the 72nd anniversary of the city’s destruction by fire bombs, a tragedy he experienced firsthand. Vonnegut found it horrifying that civilians should be the targets of a major military operation, a concern many activists express about the conditions in Aleppo. You can express your outrage and compassion by donating herehere, or here.

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Raise your hand if you wish Kurt was your Valentine ✋✋✋✋

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Nothing says kindness like Kurt making eyes at you while reclining on his lawn in a fashionable loose-fitting sweater. Happy Valentine’s Day from the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library! Check the official site for events, and show your loved one you care by making a donation in their name.

“If this isn’t nice, what is?”

Life is full of uncertainty for the refugees in Australia, Greece, and Kenya, too. So while you lend a helping hand and follow KV’s advice to do good to one another, be sure to look around and find something you are thankful for. If you can’t, this might be a good place to start.

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Women’s Center discussion makes students aware of Syrian women’s struggles

Images of Syrian refugees have been strewn across the Internet for the past few months as the Middle Eastern county continues to face a civil war.

Those images, though stirring, seem far away to most Ohio University students, but an event Feb. 11 in the Women’s Center made the issue feel closer to home.

Ziad Abu-Rish, an OU associate professor of history, hosted a conversation about the challenges for Syrian refugee women as part of the Women’s Center’s “Brown Bag” discussion series.

Besides facing the hardship of leaving their native country, Syrian women also encounter a reversal of traditional gender roles and economic and food insecurity, among other issues.

“We don’t want to ignore the ways in which not only women’s roles are changing or conceptions of femininity are changing. Here women are becoming heads of household,” Abu-Rish said, explaining that oftentimes men are unable to leave with their families to other countries. “If we do the breakdown not by male and female, but we do the breakdown by men on the one hand and women and children on the other hand, we will see that three out of every five refugees or four out of every five refugees are women and children.”

A map Abu-Rish used to show the disbursement of Syrian refugees to surrounding countries in the Middle East. (Source: BBC)
A map Abu-Rish used to show the disbursement of Syrian refugees to surrounding countries in the Middle East. (Source: BBC)

In a map Abu-Rish showed during the discussion, the distribution of refugees across various Middle Eastern nations was visually represented. Of the countries accepting refugees in the region, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq have accepted the most individuals, but more than 4 million people have been displaced in total.

These displaced women, Abu-Rish said, often have little to no money and restrictive labor laws may keep them from finding employment. As a result, many women turn to sex work in exchange for money or goods. Young girls are also being married off to older men at a much higher rate than was traditionally done in Syrian culture.

“You are seeing some families who are choosing which kid to send to school because they are only accepting one kid from each family because there are limited resources available,” Abu-Rish said. Children, and especially young girls, who are not chosen to attend school are often the ones to be married off for financial reasons.

“Someone, and usually a girl marrying into a different family, will put her in a situation where she will be taken care off,” he said. “In the very real situation where staying with her mom might very well result in her not being able to eat some days not being able to get health care.”

Many of the approximately 25 students in attendance said the discussion was informative and taught them about issues they did not think were happening for Syrian refugees.

“I honestly don’t know a lot about it, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come,” said Mara Diaz, a sophomore studying communication studies and Spanish. “I definitely think these should be happening more, and I think they should be happening in classrooms.”

Brown Bag discussions are held every Thursday at noon in the Women’s Center in Baker University Center. The next event, on Feb. 18, will focus on healthy masculinities.

A great crowd for Dr. Abu-Rish's discussion on challenges for women Syrian refugees

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