Conner Gordon

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Conner is a Graduate Fellow at the Prindle Institute and a 2016 graduate of DePauw University. Conner's writing focuses on memory, politics and culture. He also has interests in literature and photography.

"Sarah Toscano discusses an exhibition at PAAM with children participating in Children's Art Adventures" by Grace Ryder O'Malley is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: The Prindle Institute for Ethics, which hosts The Prindle Post, has recently been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the institute’s director has engaged in advocacy work for the National Humanities Alliance.

The logic of President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget has left even some of his supporters scratching their heads. First, there are the cuts to programs including the New York Police Department and airport security programs – proposals that are especially perplexing, given Trump’s longstanding emphasis on keeping America safe. Then there are cuts targeting programs widely seen as both uncontroversial and beneficial. Such programs include Meals on Wheels, an organization that delivers food to the elderly and the poor. While many expected Trump’s budget to reflect a hard-line conservative approach to federal spending, cutting programs like Meals on Wheels has taken even some GOP members of Congress aback.

"Crowd" by James Cridland is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

As the human population continues to grow, questions arise concerning how to deal with problems that are human in origin: problems like pollution and environmental degradation, resource depletion, and global food shortages.  The global population, which currently sits at over 7 billion, is expected to reach 10.9 billion by the end of the century.  

As populations increase, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions also increases.  Topsoil depletion that took place between the years 1900 and 2000 was equal to the depletion that took place in the 1000 years that preceded it.  As a result, land that is suitable for agriculture becomes more and more scarce and our ability to produce enough food for climbing populations is threatened.  

"Mike Pence" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

A little over a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, chaos continues to swirl around even the most basic of the administration’s operations. High profile controversies – most notably, the emerging details about Trump surrogates’ contact with members of the Russian government during the campaign – continue to roil the nascent administration. From within, leaks to the press abound, painting a portrait of a chaotic White House even more defined by power struggles and botched policy rollouts than usual. And all the while, Trump continues to make inflammatory statements, most recently asserting without evidence that then-President Barack Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

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A protester confronts a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest. Photos by Conner Gordon.

For many, the Women’s March on Washington began without climax. There was no unified call to action, no inspiring speech heard by all. Instead, the march began much as it had developed – somewhat haphazardly, brought on by the size of the crowd itself rather than unified action.

"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

It is a time-tested notion of politics that the delivery matters just as much as, perhaps more than, the message. It is also a notion that feels painfully appropriate to describe our current times, as the country prepares to inaugurate a former reality show star to its highest office. In light of Donald Trump’s ascendence, and in preparation for the days to come, those looking to rein in the President-elect’s most unethical tendencies are approaching this lesson with fresh eyes.

Image by Conner Gordon

Secret meetings in Moscow and Prague. Business leaders conducting sordid affairs with prostitutes. Russian intelligence services blackmailing the President of the United States.

The allegations sound like they found their way out of a political thriller. Yet they are all allegations leveled at Donald Trump and his presidential campaign in a dossier published in full yesterday by Buzzfeed. The report, formulated by a private intelligence firm during the 2016 election, was commissioned by Trump’s political opponents and details allegations that Russia has amassed embarrassing information to blackmail Trump once he becomes president. The dossier also alleges that surrogates for the Trump campaign met repeatedly with high-level Russian actors and discussed matters, including the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

"Bob Goodlatte" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

As Donald Trump prepares to assume the Presidency of the United States, many have speculated on whether the candidate will be constrained by the United States’ system of checks and balances. Some, such as Newsweek’s Stacy Hilliard, have assured concerned citizens that U.S. democratic institutions will function as designed, ultimately withstanding any single leader and keeping Trump in line. Writing just days after Trump’s victory, Hilliard argued that Congress would provide the strongest check on the President, noting that, “The legislative branch’s purpose is to be the voice of the people, and it historically does not like being dictated to from the White House.” Though Trump’s policies may be worrying, she argued, Congress would act to filter out the workable from the impractical, discriminatory and unconstitutional, constraining his presidency within the bounds of a long-stable governmental system.

"Comet Ping Pong Outside" by Elizabeth Murphy is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

On December 4th, North Carolina resident Edgar Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant, with an assault rifle strapped to his chest. Inside, he reportedly fired several shots and pointed his rifle at a Comet Ping Pong employee as the restaurant’s patrons scattered. No bystanders were injured, and once Welch failed to find what he came for, he surrendered to police.

This week, Welch will return to court in relation to the incident at Comet Ping Pong, a dramatic turn in what has become known as the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. For weeks prior to the attack, online conspiracy theorists had besieged the restaurant with baseless accusations that it has conspired with politicians like Hillary Clinton to traffic and abuse young children. Welch reportedly latched onto these conspiracies, ultimately deciding to take matters into his own hands through a vigilante “investigation.” While Welch’s legal guilt may seem straightforward, the ethical questions his case raises underscore the complexities of moral responsibility in the time of fake news.

"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Given the vitriolic tenor that has characterized the 2016 Presidential election, few expected it would end with such silence. By the end of Election Day, what few had expected became a national reality – despite losing the popular vote, Trump had secured the White House with a commanding lead in the Electoral College. What was once unthinkable for many had happened, leaving the country struggling to describe what they had witnessed.

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Photos: Conner Gordon

The Bellagio fountains go off four times an hour once sunset comes to the Las Vegas Strip. Each show is no doubt impressive, sending plumes of water spiraling into the air as echoes of pressurized cannons thunder through the plaza. Yet, by the third or fourth performance, the fountains begin to lose their luster. And after a few days of walking past them, they ultimately fade into the mundane, one of many once-in-a-lifetime spectacles vying for oxygen on the Strip.