“Modern Warfare’s” Lost Soul


Graphic by MEREK ALAM

What separates contemporary wars apart from the wars of our past? The easy answer would be a fun presentation about the ever-advancing technology that our soldiers use these days, while the hard answer would have to be a long discussion about the changing tactics and morality that our country is now constantly engaged with. How did the original Modern Warfare (2007) nail both easy and hard answers so well and why is the reboot, Modern Warfare (2019), struggling so hard to do the same?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) found itself being released four years into the Iraq War. What initially began as America’s short invasion meant to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power and find Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) turned into a drawn-out occupation turned aimless with the revelation that the Bush administration had most likely lied about the existence of WMDs in the first place (with the real reason probably related to securing rights to the oil in the region instead). Dissatisfaction over the war was so high that in 2006 midterm elections Democrats won both chambers of the house for the first time in twelve years.

As such, Modern Warfare opens with the rise to power of Khaled Al-Asad, a ruthless leader in a fictional “small but oil-rich” middle eastern country who is now unfavorable to American ideals. Unlike Saddam Hussein, the fictional Khaled Al-Asad really does have WMDs. Over the several hour long campaign, you play as Americans heroically securing control of the country block by block. But just as you have him backed into a corner, he detonates a nuclear bomb and wipes out the whole city. The game flashes a scrolling list of instantly killed American soldiers before forcing you to play as an Navy Seal who’s only able to crawl into a desolate street before staring up at the monstrous mushroom cloud and dying painfully in isolation.

The twist is a real gut punch for those who thought that they might get to play a more morally righteous version of the Iraq War but were instead treated to a story where the events turned out even worse. Infinity Ward, the developers behind the game, bluntly told us that we lived in an age where Americans trying to play the good guys would always lead to appalling unintended consequences. The glory days were over, and this was just the nature of modern warfare. The resonant political nature of Call of Duty 4 was what helped secure its status as an all-time classic video game. The sequel, Modern Warfare 2, took clear notice of this success and pushed the political themes even further by having the final bad guy be an American general who created a war in an effort to boost the powers of the military industrial complex.

Like any mediocre disaster, there were clear warning signs about the reboot of Modern Warfare’s campaign. Foremost was when the art director of the game claimed that the campaign was “a very relevant contemporary war story,” but when asked if the game was political said “no” and that “it seems insane to get political to me.”

Modern Warfare (2019) had just as much potential to say something daring like the original work did. They could have taken inspiration from the Abu Graib torture sites, the Obama administration’s disastrous intervention in the Libyan civil war, or the effects that American drone bombings and occupation had on middle eastern civilians. But in an effort to not seem “political” to an American audience the game disgustingly takes American atrocities like bombings and occupation and assigns the blame to Russian forces.

One sequence takes place on “The Highway of Death,” a highway littered with bombed out cars military vehicles that we’re told the Russians bombed while the middle eastern forces were in the process of retreating. The problem is that “The Highway of Death” was a real war crime, and was committed by the American military against retreating Iraqi forces which lead to the deaths of hundreds of real soldiers and refugees. The excuses that this is a fictional country and conflict don’t cut it. To use the name of an actual event and assign the blame to a different country is a prime example of what actual political correctness looks like, and how the government and media cover up or erase hard truths in an Orwellian manner when they get too hard to deal with. A player who has never heard of “The Highway of Death” will now associate it solely with the Modern Warfare (2019) level and the fictional Russian bad guys instead of being forced to question the idea of the American “good guy.”

This one instance of historical revisionism is only emblematic of the larger problems of timidity throughout the reboot. You can play with new weapons like white phosphorus in the multiplayer, but the game isn’t brave enough to question its usage like Spec Ops: The Line might. You can experience an interactive waterboarding scene, but because your assailant is a cartoonishly evil Russian commander instead of an American prison guard at Guantanamo Bay or soldier in Afghanistan, so you don’t really have to challenge your worldview. Even the most morally ambiguous scene only gets a quick “sometimes you have to the wrong thing for the greater good” quip before moving on, presented as an isolated incident instead of the result of any policy or institution.

There’s nothing “edgy” about the rebooted Modern Warfare campaign, instead the whole storyline reeks of cowardice. The reboot only really recreates what the original did at the most surface level, giving us the easy answer to “What does modern warfare entail?” by showing the advancing technology of warfare but refusing to say anything about the moral implications of it like the original would. Without the guts to be political, Modern Warfare (2019) is completely underserving of its legendary title.

Purple ties bring awareness


Every Friday throughout October, students and staff come together to wear purple ties, bringing awareness to Domestic Violence.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is defined as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another” according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

As part of bringing awareness to this issue this month, the Counseling and Wellness Center also participated in the Clothesline Project on Oct. 4. This project was started in Massachusetts in 1990 and has been a part of Alma’s campus since 1995.

“[It] was a non-government movement created to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women men and children,” says Linda Faust, a counselor at the Counseling and Wellness Center.

The shirts are a way for survivors and others to establish their stance against the violence and are displayed publicly. The shirts are decorated, and each color represents a different form a violence.  Examples include white for women who died from violence, yellow and beige for those who have been battered or assault, and red, pink and orange for those who survived rape and sexual assault.

The reasons for the annual Purple Tie Campaign is to bring awareness to Domestic Violence which is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States according to Faust.

While when it first began is unknown, the Purple Tie was started using a purple ribbon to symbolize courage, survival and dedication to ending domestic violence.

“It also serves as a way to remember those who have lost their lives at the hands of a person they once loved and trusted,” says Faust.  

People participate for different reasons, for example Faust participates to increase awareness of domestic violence as well as general violence toward others. Students participate for their own reasons.

“I feel that it’s a topic that is often swept under the rug and a lot of people don’t pay attention to it because of this fact. It is often stigmatized as well and a lot of victims are afraid to speak up,” says Emma Bolam (’22) in regards to why it is important on campus.

Laney Alvarado (’20), a volunteer at RISE advocacy, believes it is important to bring awareness to those on campus, so they know the signs are able to protect themselves as well as those they care about.

Alvarado and Bolam both acknowledge that there are misconceptions surrounding the topic on campus, so it is important to bring it up so survivors feel more comfortable speaking about it. It also allows other to learn about the topic to know the signs

“People have this idea in their minds that ‘this is what it is’ when in reality it is such a broader spectrum,” says Alvarado. “If you don’t know the signs it is very easy to fall into it without knowing.”

“It is important for the students to recognize and speak out against violence and to demonstrate that violence will not be tolerated on this campus,” says Faust.

HIV outbreak in Pakistan


Last Wednesday, Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro, a pediatrician, was suspended from his practice after accusations that his reuse of syringe needles caused an outbreak of H.I.V. in the small city of Ratodero, Pakistan. To date, there are around 1,200 known H.I.V. infections to have occurred among Ghangro’s patients, 900 of which are children.

H.I.V. is a virus that causes a drastic  weakening of the immune system. It is spread via contact with body fluids from an infected individual, or in this case, the reuse of hypodermic needles. In spite of being dangerous and harmful, the reuse of syringe needles occurs all over the world.

“The reuse of needles is very common in general, but actually not only in third-world countries. It happens in the United States as well. Thirty to forty percent of Hepatitis cases come from needle reuse, twenty percent of new HIV infections come from needle reuse.” said Dr. Hyun Kim, professor of Integrative Health & Physical Science.

This outbreak is not an isolated incident, and is the product of the drastically under-resourced healthcare system in Pakistan.

“Third-world healthcare needs to be improved. That depends not only upon the third-world countries, but also the first-world countries that need to step in and be good human beings and take care of other people.” said Brooke Longman (‘21).

There are many factors to consider when studying third-world healthcare systems and determining where they require resources. Some argue that a lack of health education is to blame.

“There might not be enough access to education for those who practice, and at the same time, not enough access to those who receive care.” said Dr. Kim.

In addition to a lack of education, many Pakistan civilians lack basic sanitation equipment, which causes detrimental effects to their health.

“There’s not a lot of awareness of basic healthcare essentials. It’s our responsibility to help them with that when they don’t have the knowledge or the resources available there to improve their healthcare system or basic hygiene practices” said Isabella Binkley (‘21).

In spite of all of the issues among the healthcare system in Pakistan, hasty intervention may be more detrimental than helpful. Intervening in healthcare affairs requires an approach of cultural relativity and willingness to understand the perspectives of healthcare providers.

“To improve the healthcare of third-world countries, we want to understand the religion and culture of the country as a whole so we can better communicate with their government to work on national healthcare policy.” said Dr. Kim.

Working with third-world legislators on creating national healthcare policy is vital to change among the failing healthcare systems. Without legislation and policy, any efforts made to improve the healthcare system might not be upheld.

“Pakistan has a lack of social support from the government. Until that changes, there will be a lack of healthcare service. There will still be a lack of infrastructure. If there’s no support from the government, the whole new system isn’t going to work, even though we’re trying to help them out.” said Dr. Kim.

In spite of the obstacles in place, assisting third-world countries in establishing national healthcare policy and improving health-related education available to both practitioners and civilians is vital.

“It’s our responsibility to help them with that when they don’t have the knowledge or the resources available there to improve their healthcare system or basic hygiene practices.” said Binkely.

Throwdown in A-Town kicks off winter



On Friday, Oct. 25, Alma athletics kicked off their winter sports season with the annual Throwdown in A-Town event. This event gathered all of Alma’s sports teams to come together for fun games and entertainment, while acknowledging the beginning of sports like Basketball, Swimming, Indoor Track and Field, STUNT and a few others.

Cheer and STUNT Coach Michelle Sabourin, who helped coordinate and advise the event, said, “Throwdown is the winter sports season kick-off. We started the event in 2013 as a way to bring a midnight madness type event to Alma College. We have since opened it up to be more of a pep-assembly event that brings all of athletics together.”

A-Town is a way to bring all of the sports teams closer. It not only gives students a break from the monotony of their school day, but is put on to teach athletes about each other’s sports and the differing teams on campus.

“Throwdown in A-Town is an event put on by Alma College SAAC (student athlete advisory council) and I [Sabourin] serve as one of the SAAC advisors,” said Sabourin.

SAAC hosts many events for students with A-Town being one of them. The purpose of these events typically centers around not just the students, who are all welcome to attend, even if they are not an athlete, but the relationship between the teams and coaches as well.

A-Town helps build unity among the college, teams and coaches. It involves numerous events and games for students and coaches to be involved in or entertained by.

“It brings athletics, Greek life and hopefully other members of the student body and community together for a fun night,” said Sabourin.

At this A-Town, students were treated to performances by the drum line from the Kiltie Marching Band, the Dance team, a free throw competition between the Men and Women’s basketball team and a dodgeball competition between the coaches as well as an opening performance from the Cheer and Stunt team.

These performances kick off their season and give the students a look at what each sport entails and as to what each team has been up to in their off season.

When asked why the Cheer and Stunt team love being a part of A-Town, Sabourin said, “As a sport where our result is based on strong performances, we love any opportunity to perform in front of a crowd!”

Besides these performances from the winter sports and coaches, other teams participated in the event as well.

Every year at A-Town, there is a tug of war challenge between the different sports seasons and Greek Life. This is where one member from each team participates in a game of tug of war to represent their team and season.

This year, winter sports went up against fall sports first and then went all the way to defeat Greek Life in the final and become the winner.

“My favorite part is the different contests because they’re pretty funny to watch,” said Jayce Kuehnlein (’22), a member of the Wrestling team.

Another challenge that happens every year is the “minute-to-win-it” challenge, where the winner gets their team and themselves VIP seats at the Scotty awards, another SAAC event for the athletes.

For this challenge, teams pick one player to represent their team. This player then had to hold a balloon with pencils while keeping their arms straight and only being able to grip the edge of the pencils.

When they got down to the finalists, they then had to hold the end of a pencil eraser between a stretched-out rubber band with their arms still remaining straight.

Amber Guyger on trial


In Sept. of 2018, fired Dallas police officer Amber Guyger entered the apartment of Botham Jean. She had mistaken Jean’s apartment for her own. Guyger assumed that Jean was an intruder, and fired two fatal shots into his chest.

A few days later, an arrest warrant was issued for the arrest of Guyger, where she was charged with manslaughter. Guyger was then released on a $300,000 bond and was put on administrative leave from her position with the Dallas Police Department.

Jean was an accountant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers and was described as church-going and hardworking. Several days after the incident, family and friends gathered at the church Jean attended.

“A nuke had been unleashed on our family by someone charged to protect and serve.” said Jean’s uncle.

Within a few weeks, Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall announced that Guyger had been fired from the police department after an internal affairs investigation revealed that Guyger “engaged in adverse conduct” when she administered the fatal shot.

In Nov. of 2018, Guyger was indicted on one account of murder, to which she plead not guilty. Her trial was set to begin in the fall of 2019.

Between her indictment and the beginning of Guyger’s trial, footage of both the 911 call Guyger made and of the scene immediately following the shooting were released, prompting controversy within the media.

On Sept. 23, 2019, Guyger’s trial began. Prosecuting attorneys asked the judge to convict Guyger of murder, stating claims that she gave Jean no time to de-escalate or to surrender. Guyger’s defense team said that these accusations turn an innocent accident into an evil act.

Jurors were then shown bodycam footage of the scene of the shooting that was taken once officers responded to Guyger’s 911 call. In one part of the video, officers are shown desperately trying to revive Jean while he lay unconscious on his living room floor.

Texas Ranger David Armstrong testified on behalf of Guyger, saying that he believes Guyger “did not commit a crime” based on evidence from the investigation. Armstrong believes that is was a “reasonable response to perceive Jean as a deadly threat”.

Three days after the initial trial, Guyger testified on behalf of herself, telling the jury the moment she noticed Jean was in what she thought was her apartment.

“I was scared to death,” she testified.

On Oct. 1, 2019, Amber Guyger was convicted of murder. Guyger was then sentenced to ten years in prison for the killing of Botham Jean. Prosecutors originally recommended 28 years sentencing, as that was the age Jean would have turned this year.

Jean’s mother said that Guyger’s sentence would give her time to reflect on and change her life for the better.

Guyger will be eligible for parole in five years.

The Beating Heart of Alma


There were smiles all around in Alma on Tuesday, Oct. 8, especially at the “cornerstone” of Alma. The people of Alma finally got to step inside the newly renovated Wright Leppien Opera House. The opening took place in Zimmerman Hall, named after late Alma College student, Joseph Zimmerman who graduated in 1961.

The building was built from 1877 tp 1880 by Ammi Wright and had been a place full of emotional memories for many people in the community.  The original design was only for a small store but the idea turned into something larger than expected and could then fit five stores and had the Opera House on top which was originally called Barton Hall.

The Opera House caught fire on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010 and luckily was able to be preserved.  Many people reminisced how they felt when the building was burning. John Leppein said, “I thought the smoke would never leave,” when referring to that dreaded night. Hearing the murmurs through the room, many were elated that the Opera House was “structurally sound” after the fire nearly ten years ago and could not wait for it to reopen. 

The gathering opened with Alma Choir’s own Pretty in Plaid and Scots on the Rocks performing a few songs, one being “Loch Lomond” which is sung at many different Alma College functions and is just an all-around favorite song.

Donors and members of the community gathered to see what the 140 year-old building now looks like. President Abernathy took the floor by thanking all the contributions, big and small.  A few key people on his long list of ‘thank you’s’ include the Leppien family, Mayor of Alma, Greg Mapes, Dr. Jeff Holmes and his wife Ginna and David McMacken. 

Chaplain Andrew Pomerville began his invocation by saying, “Today we are here to give thanks and recognize what has happened in this space that we are currently standing in and looking forward to in the future with so much joy and hope for all the new memories we will be making in this space.” The expressions of deep gratitude for the memories they have and will have on people’s faces in that very room. 

After all, according to the wall with the history of the building, in 1886, the establishment of Alma College was announced in the Opera House. Alma College took ownership of the Opera House in December 2017 and the plans for renovation were later announced in August 2018.  Forty-one donors and nine businesses provided over $6.5 million in philanthropic support on top of the $1.5 million grant from Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The Opera House ballroom once hosted events such as town meetings, theatrical

productions, public lectures, and concerts. The building houses 30 apartments and soon to be three small businesses along with having additional rooms insides such as the Hall.  According to Mayor Greg Mapes, three businesses are preparing to open on the ground floor. They businesses opening are an e-sports arena called “Block House,” a women’s boutique called “Show Ring Bling,” and Nutrition Club “Healthies of Mid-Mitten.”

Not long after the fire, the Opera House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. It truly is a historic landmark for Alma and will continue to be for the years to come, especially with the new renovations.  The building truly is “the heart of Alma.”

Student burnout on campus


There are 23 days of classes left before finals. Midterms have all wrapped up and students are back in the swing of things from fall break. However, students are still burnt-out from the long semester full of busy schedules and long days.

The National College Health Assessment found that stress negatively affects more than 30% of United States college students. This negative can also be described a burn out. Burnout is defined as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their performance.” Signs of this can be seen all over campus.

All over the place, you see students receding back to their room wearily after a long day to attempt to catch up on the sleep their missing, only to wake up early again the next day and start over again. “Senior year is especially stressful,” said Rachel Whipple (’20). “You are trying to focus on the classes you have right now but you are also trying to plan for your last semester.”

Students have responsibilities piling up and over lapping with each other making it difficult to get the proper rest they need to succeed. “I would say I am very burnt out,” said Chloe Sandborn (’22). “All of my school work and extracurricular activities are piling up which then makes it difficult to stay on top of everything that has to be done.”

Some students who are taking more than the normal amount of credits are also finding it hard to complete everything required of them. “I am currently enrolled in 18 credits and trying to raise my GPA,” said Makenzie Hemmer (’20). “I am also involved on campus with Active Minds, Resident Life and Advancement Office among other things and the demand is very high from everything tight now. Regardless of time management, it is still very mentally draining.”

Students all over campus are experiencing signs of burn out with no time in their busy schedule to do anything about it. There are six signs to look out for to detect if you may be suffering from burn out. First, constant exhaustion.

Exhaustion is the biggest sign, when you are exhausted you cannot properly focus on your school work and a lack of focus means a decline in performance or grades.  Secondly, you have a lack of motivation. Those who suffer from burn out are more likely to wind up sitting alone and saying no to things they would normally be on board with.

Third, you are constantly frustrated. Frustration is not something you are new to if you are burnt out. Fourth and fifth, you struggle to pay attention and your grades suffer. You cannot focus in class and therefore you grades start to decline. Finally you feel disengaged from your friends. You just don’t feel like you fit in with anything that’s happening and you tend to keep to yourself. If any of these six signs apply to you, you may be suffering from burn out.

But how do you fix it? How can you reengage for the last four weeks of school? The best way is to sleep. Do not over commit yourself. If there is an activity you do not have to partake in, don’t! Catch up on that sleep so when you have to get up early, you aren’t exhausted and make mistakes.

Additionally find a time when you can hit the off switch. There needs to be some time in the day that you dedicate to yourself. Turn school off and take some time for self-care. Whether that be going to a friends, going to sleep or simply playing on your phone, dedicate a few hours a day to doing nothing so your brain has time to recharge and cool down.

While you may feel like you are behind, just by admitting that you may be burnt out you are ahead of the problem. The earlier you can address that there is an issue, the easier it will be to solve or start to address.

California wildfires hit home


Southern California has seen multiple wildfires spread across counties for almost a month now that have yet to be one hundred percent contained. Of the thirteen largest active wildfires, the Kincade fire spans the largest amount of acreage.

The fire has burned seventy-seven thousand and seven hundred and fifty-eight acres so far since October 23rd as seen on an interactive wildfire map on The Los Angeles Times website. This fire is only sixty-eight percent contained. The most recent fire as of November 1st is the Sobrante fire which has burned thirty-five acres so far, with a containment level of zero percent.

The causes of the fires are from things such as downed power lines, controlled burns that quickly became uncontrolled or lightning strikes. For the past seventy-five years, the Smokey Bear campaign has pushed for careful watch against forest fires with its infamous slogan, “Remember. . .only YOU can prevent forest fires.” However, many have found the campaign to have been more detrimental than helpful to the environment.

Hank Wickley (‘20), a student who grew up in California, shared his thoughts concerning the old campaign. “The Smokey Bear campaign, while helpful and useful, has ultimately done more damage to forests because of its very nature . . . small fires are often essential and helpful for the health of the forest. By preventing the small ones, big ones happen more often because more forest needs to get burned,” he said.

A controlled burn helps weed out the weak and sick plant life, leaving room for the stronger and healthier flora that survive to grow. In the attempt to prevent any types of fires, many trees and other plants have died or become sick amongst the healthy, leaving far too much kindling for an accidental or even controlled fire.

The Smokey Bear campaign was set into motion in response to a fear of attacks on national forests on the West coast during World War II. Camera Stevens (‘21), an environmental studies major, stated that “the Smokey campaign has given people a guidance and a safety net but that safety net has some holes in it that people just don’t grasp. It’s deteriorated our forests and allowed for fires to be seen as an issue instead of something that can help our ecosystem.”

In terms of what can be done in response to it, Stevens said, “Knowledge and a change in policy needs to be addressed and shown before we can go forward.”

When asked what his thoughts were on what could be done to help, Wickley responded, “I think the biggest thing that would help . . . would obviously be more rain. That, however, is out of anyone’s control. One thing that could be done would simply be to let the little natural fires happen for the forest, but keep them maintained for safety purposes.”

Fires hit close to home for Wickley as he said, “The Kincade fire that is currently out of control in Sonoma County, California is happening in my old backyard. I grew up there and it is scary to see places I know up in flames. I have friends out there that are working to put out the fires and I just hope to see it all end safely.”


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