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June 2020 Issue

Colonial Remix

By Joseph Honeycutt, Sigma Chi Eta Zeta Chapter President

Songs of the American Revolution were engaging to colonists for some pretty profound reasons. Their songs represented the desire for independence from Great Britain and served to rally patriotism during times of war. I’ve recently learned the story behind the ever familiar “Yankee Doodle.” It was a popular tune sung during the era. Its meaning and significance is just as relevant now as it was then.

The song is a parody of an original tune sung by British military to mock colonists, whom they referred to as “yankees.” The song has an upbeat tempo and though it was originally performed on a fife, it is commonly whistled and easy to remember. For most Americans, the song can be recognized by the end of the first measure. The lyrics to the song are actually quite long however most people are only familiar with the first verse and chorus.

I never understood why sticking a feather in one’s hat could then be called macaroni. Apparently I must have missed macaroni wig as a vocabulary term in high school  history class as its reference in the song has nothing to do with the pasta. American colonists showed pride in their cultural differences from the British. The verse mocks British opinion of fashion in the New World. The British believed that the macaroni wigs worn by the colonists were gaudy and distasteful. 

It is said that the colonists ran the song in the ground. After the war, officers on both sides of the battlefield have been quoted detailing their utter disgust with the song.  One way colonists beat the dead horse was by once again recycling the melody of “Yankee Doodle” with the song “Battle of the Kegs.” The satirical song pokes fun at an incident in which British military, aboard ships on the Delaware River, were ordered to shoot any wood floating in the water. This was in response to a barrel loaded with gunpowder which sunk a British vessel killing four. I cannot help but laugh to myself thinking that these might be America’s first diss tracks.

Songs like these rallied colonists together and inspired hope to many that were facing death during times of war. The Revolutionary War was an act against oppression and the lack of freedom. Sadly, that battle has continued to be fought within our nation ever since. Perhaps now, more than ever, it is time our people put fresh words to the tune of “Yankee Doodle” to represent our cries for equality, freedom, and the embrace of cultural differences. Minus the noodles.

COVID-19 Affects Lives

By Jakari Forest, VP of Communication, Sigma Chi Eta Zeta Chapter

Covid-19 has affected everything in people's everyday lives from celebrating holidays and special occasions at a social distance, to laying many workers off because of the risk of employees getting sick. Many have wondered when things will be “back to normal”, but in all honesty people will have to get used to and ready to proceed in this state for a while. The economy has been the most affected by the virus, due to the halt in production of certain items, overseas trade being stopped completely and with many people not being able to work.

According to the Census Bureau, the COVID-19 pandemic has been limiting movement and disrupting economic activity. Retail sales dropped 8.7% from February to March ever since they began tracking how it has overall affected the economy. Overall retail sales, including food services such as restaurants, fell from $529.3 billion in February to $483.1 billion in March.

It’s still unclear what effect federal and local government actions will have on these declines. At the federal level, $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill had provisions aimed at encouraging consumer spending, increasing unemployment benefits and helping small businesses. These stimulus checks started being sent out in April and have helped the economy in a great way. Yet, it is not the perfect solution to bring economic peace back. Experts say that the full effect of the pandemic in the U.S. and on a global scale still remains unclear but expect the hit to produce lasting effects. The timing of the subsequent recovery remains uncertain.

In such a time of uncertainty, professionals around the world are trying to find a solution not only for the novel coronavirus, but the economy as well.

References:

USAFacts.org. “The $2 Trillion CARES Act, a Response to COVID-19, Is Equivalent to 45% of All 2019 Federal Spending.” USAFacts, USAFacts, 9 Apr. 2020, usafacts.org/articles/what-will-cares-act-and-other-congressional-coronavirus-bills-do-how-big-are-they/.

Menickella, Brian. “COVID-19 Worldwide: The Pandemic's Impact On The Economy And Markets.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 Apr. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/brianmenickella/2020/04/08/covid-19-worldwide-the-pandemics-impact-on-the-economy-and-markets/#4b913c6e28c3.

Duffin, Erin. “Topic: COVID-19: Impact on the Global Economy.” Statista, 4 June 2020, www.statista.com/topics/6139/covid-19-impact-on-the-global-economy/.

Tiger Blood on the Ground and it’s Not from Charlie Sheen

By Joseph Honeycutt, Sigma Chi Eta Zeta Chapter President

By now everyone has at least heard of the docuseries Tiger King. But for those not in the know, it is a limited series featured on Netflix about the rise and fall of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, tiger enthusiast and former owner of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. The show is obscene, unnerving, and so unpredictable that it’s difficult to not watch. Even for the easily offended. However, underneath the show’s sensationalism lies one common theme that drones through every episode: animal cruelty.

The disproportionate number of tigers (Panthera Tigris) living in captivity as opposed to in the wild is brought up several times throughout the series. In an article from National Geographic, it is stated there are approximately 3900 tigers living in their natural habitat and it is estimated that there are at least double that amount kept in the U.S. as pets or zoo attractions. This hardly makes sense considering the species has been listed as endangered for half of a century. Yet somehow tigers are still being distributed for public entertainment and as pets.

How easy is it to purchase a pet tiger? I reached out to an old friend who’s well connected in the exotic animal trade to find out. According to my source, it’s not that difficult nor is it as expensive as I had imagined. Big cat cubs such as tigers and jaguars can be acquired for a mere $2000. I’m told they’re most readily available online but can be found in states with fewer restrictions and monitoring. South Carolina is one such state and serves as a hub for exotic animal trading on the East Coast. Coincidentally, it is also home to Myrtle Beach Safari, owned by Bhagavan Antle, also featured in Tiger King. Shortly after the show’s premiere, Myrtle Beach Safari was put under investigation and his park raided by authorities. More information on this investigation can be found here.

When asked his thoughts on the keeping and breeding of endangered species, I was caught off by my source’s response, “you can’t keep a Diamondback Rattlesnake as a pet but it’s ok for people to kill them in their backyards.” At that moment I understood the rationale concerning the breeding practices of tigers in captivity, but I won’t say that I can agree wholeheartedly. It is a question as to which is the lesser of two evils: continue to breed and produce members of a species that cannot be introduced into the wild population or run the risk of extinction? Carole Baskin, animal rights activist and operator of Big Cat Rescue in Florida, believes she has the answer with her introduction of the H.R. 1380.

Better known as Big Cat Safety Act (BCSA), H.R. 1380 is a federal bill that, if passed, would not only end the owning of tigers as pets but also abolish the handling of tiger cubs and adults by anyone other than trained professionals and veterinarians. The bill was introduced February of 2019 and currently holds 230 cosponsors alongside primary sponsor Rep. Mike Quigley [D-IL-5]. This sounds all well and good in summary, but after closer investigation into the actual legislature and its primary advocate (Carole Baskin) some red flags soon appeared.

The bill’s purpose is to amend the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to clarify provisions enacted by Captive Wildlife Safety Act and covers all protected, not just big cats. However, articles and subsections exist within the bill that are entirely dedicated to big cats such as matters concerning who can have these animals in their possession and who is allowed to breed them. Per the bill, only State colleges, universities, licensed veterinarians, and wildlife sanctuaries (with limitations) can own and breed big cats. Again, all of this sounds pretty straightforward and in the right direction.

Where the problems begin to surface is in lack of clarity toward establishing breeding goals for conservation of species and designating officials to oversee the endeavor. In fact, no plan is formerly laid out within the bill. There is no population total goal and breeding frequency is outlined only as “what is appropriate for the species.” A total of six endangered big cat species are mentioned specifically in the bill to be covered by the additional provisions. There exists no mention of their current estimated population in or out of captivity nor how controlled breeding impacts conservation in the bill. As it stands, in the event that any one of the included species were to go extinct in the wild, the species would live on solely in the same way a majority do now: in captivity and on display. At least fifteen feet away from the public unless separated by a permanent barrier, i.e., glass.  

A big fear among current big cat owners is the threat of confiscation of their exotic pets. For the apparent many, they need not worry. Those in possession of prohibited wildlife species as defined in the legislature are protected so long as the animal was born before the date in which the bill becomes passed. Afterward, individuals will need to register their animals within 180 days of the enactment with the United States Fish and Wildlife service. Here too another hole is discovered as there is no clause ensuring unlicensed propagation of the species. It would make sense to have included something about mandatory spay and neutering which is not unheard of. Many governments on city and county levels have enacted similar laws targeting certain canine breeds. 

The integrity of the bill’s key promoter must be put into question as well. Carole Baskin is a self-proclaimed cat person since birth and was first introduced to big cats through her late husband, Jack “Don” Lewis. Their relationship began as an affair that developed into a marriage and business partnership as they founded Wildlife on Easy Street, now known as Big Cat Rescue. The organization now focuses only on the housing and caretaking of appropriated tigers and other big cat species, but this wasn’t always the case. While operating as Wildlife on Easy Street, the organization took part in breeding practices and commercial distribution of exotic feline species. On August 18, 1997, Don Lewis mysteriously went missing under suspicious circumstances. Many close to Lewis as well as the Tiger King himself Joseph Maldonado-Passage have implicated Baskin in his disappearance. Since the airing of the Netflix series, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department has issued public requests for new leads pertaining to the missing person/possible homicide case of Lewis led by Sheriff Chad Chronister. The sheriff’s original Twitter post requesting information can viewed here. Baskin has also been accused of forgery and fraud involving her late husband’s will along with other official documents. However, no charges have been formally filed against her.

Despite having some questionable moral values, Baskin’s heart is seemingly in the right place in regard to the tigers. There is a lot wrong with the current legislation in place that represents threatened and endangered species, especially tigers. Although the Big Cat Safety Act fails to present a clear and effective plan, it has publicly surfaced many of the issues contained within its text and offers at least a starting point for finding a proper course of action to combat the issues surrounding the possession of certain species. There’s tiger blood on the ground across America and as of now it is a battle no one is “winning.” Unless you’re Charlie Sheen, of course.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for 17 counts of animal abuse and 2 counts of murder for hire in which he sought the assassination of Carole Baskin.

The following links are reported cases involving abuse and mistreatment of big cats:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2003-04-24-0304240300-story.html

https://www.fws.gov/fieldnotes/regmap.cfm?arskey=8480

Why We Have a LGBT+ Pride Month and Parades

By Anna Jett, VP of Service, Sigma Chi Eta Zeta Chapter

The Stonewall Riots that occurred in 1969 are commemorated every June during Pride month, marking the start of victories within the communities. Officially in 1999, former President Bill Clinton declared that June is 'Gay and Lesbian' Pride month. Throughout the years, people have worked on gaining equality for members of the LGBT community in every aspect with things like marriage, getting and keeping jobs, and not facing discrimination in general.

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Even though now the LGBT community has the right to marry who they want, they can still face job, housing, and medical discrimination. Advocating for equal rights is important because right now according to USA Today, in 28 states, Alabama included, there are no laws protecting members of this community against discrimination for housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Events like Pride parades and protests are used to show that they are no different than anyone else besides what they identify themselves as and who they love. Pride Parades are considered safe spaces for members of this community.

Around the world, people are fighting to be heard and seen through all of the hate as actual people. It feels as if we as a society have come so far, but in reality, people are still being denied basic human rights, and are not seen as equal to heterosexuals or cisgender people. The fight is not over until everyone is seen as equal. 

Reference:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/08/lgbt-employment-discrimination-half-of-states-offer-no-protections/3837244002/