The Oberlin Review

Liberal Activism Limited by Narrow Scope

CJ Blair, Columnist

December 9, 2016

As soon as I arrived at Oberlin my first year, I knew I had entered somewhere special. I was drawn to this school largely because of its activist culture and willingness to challenge the status quo. After three years, though, I’ve realized that while Oberlin students are earnest social activists, we still fall victim to hypocritical tendencies that keep us from extending our campaigns beyond campus. This liberal trend has been observed across the country, and has been the subject of recent media scrutiny. By no means should liberal activists give up their campaigns, but if we reframe our rhetoric to become more inclusive, we will be better prepared to promote change in spite of the challenges that will come with an emerging...

Election Results Challenge Language of Politics

CJ Blair, Columnist

November 11, 2016

In the three years that I have been writing this column, I’ve rarely discussed politics. I always found political op-eds to be pretentious and impersonal, as though the writer spent so long digging for facts that they never considered the emotional significance of their story. But now, in the wake of the most disturbing election in recent history, I find myself scrambling to make sense of what happened. This is a rare moment when words feel totally useless, when no amount of eloquence can explain what we’re seeing, much less its significance. It’s impossible to catalog the effects this will have on our future, but at a fundamental level, the election of Donald Trump has called into question our understanding of language. ...

Bob Dylan Showcases Radical Innovation in Art

CJ Blair, Columnist

October 28, 2016

It has long been rumored that Bob Dylan could win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but when the Nobel Committee announced his win two weeks ago, literature enthusiasts and laypeople alike were shocked. New York Times columnist Anna Smith wrote, “When the Nobel committee gives the literature prize to a musician, it misses the opportunity to honor a writer” (Oct. 13, 2016). In response to Dylan’s win, the poet Alex Dimitrov said, “Rock stars want to be poets. But sorry, not everyone is a poet.” Dylan’s victory renewed discussion about what constitutes literature, and has led many to question whether Dylan deserves a spot in the winners’ circle with literary giants like William Faulkner and Toni Morrison. ...

Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Mirror Oberlin’s Anti-Pipeline Campaign

CJ Blair, Contributing Writer

September 16, 2016

The federal government’s request to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was met by cheers from the thousands of Native people gathered in protest at Standing Rock last Friday. This order, however, coming on the heels of a ruling that dismissed the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s anti-pipeline injunction, was surely met with equal skepticism. The nearly two-year battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is far from over. Yet the crisis at Standing Rock has placed the anti-pipeline movement on the national stage, and its direct action approach to environmental justice provides an invaluable template for similar campaigns across the country, including the pipeline project currently facing opposition in Oberlin. Wh...

Lack of Hands-On Experience Stifles Activism

CJ Blair, Contributing Writer

September 2, 2016

When I landed a job catching butterflies with the Forest Service, I didn’t expect to fall in love with toads. Yet as I worked all summer to restore a butterfly habitat in Michigan, I found myself looking for them under every rock and at the bases of trees during long days in the field. While this summer deepened my fascination with butterflies, the challenge of learning when and where to find toads was so engrossing that I couldn’t stop. I realized that catching toads forced me to reconcile my preconceived ideas with what I learned through practice, and that this type of thinking could be valuable to Oberlin students whose activism and ideals can stray out of touch with reality. When I started my internship, I...

Video Journal a Chance for Reflection

CJ Blair, Columnist

May 6, 2016

When I left to go to college, my mom made a simple request. She told me to record a one second video on my phone every day and send it to her. She said these videos could be of absolutely anything, from the most exciting events to the most mundane. What mattered was that I sent them consistently so my family could get a glimpse of my life while I was away. I’d be lying if I said I’ve held up my end of the deal, but in failing to follow through with the videos, I came to understand the importance of making them. My choice to record or not record on a given day told me which parts of my life I wished to remember and which I wanted to forget. At first, I didn’t miss a single day. Whether it was starting my first ...

Adopting Realist Worldview Helps to Cope with Depression

CJ Blair, Columnist

April 8, 2016

Over the past year I’ve started to notice a feeling that I have never before experienced. It comes after periods of high stress or depressive episodes and disappears before I can make sense of it. It’s similar to the feeling I had while reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, a novel that I mostly hated but deeply moved me in its final pages. In the final chapter, the book shifts its focus from the narcissistic, bigoted minds of the Compson family to their benevolent housemaid Dilsey and suggests that kindness and humility can thrive even in a hostile environment. This optimism is exactly what I felt at the end of a difficult period, but I began to notice the danger of this sensation when I mistook it f...

Tinder’s Appeal Lies in Ambiguous Use

CJ Blair, Columnist

March 4, 2016

Nothing captures the vexing emotional landscape of college better than Tinder. It’s an app that’s elegant in its simplicity, but its effects are totally scattershot. It is awkwardly situated between the realms of online dating and hookup culture and it never settles on either side. Maybe this ambiguity is what draws over 50 million people to swipe left and right incessantly, looking for anything from gratification to a long-term relationship. Tinder’s wide range of purposes and the disparate goals of those who swipe ensure it stays an emblem of the millennial college experience. This, I believe, is what makes it so popular. Tinder is an app where you make a profile with several pictures of yourself and a short...

Poetry Promotes Honesty, Reveals Feelings

CJ Blair, Columnist

February 26, 2016

“Poetry is more than just words in a strange order, CJ.” These were the words of my uncle, a well-known poet in my hometown, after reading my earliest attempts at poetry. I had written a handful of poems in high school but didn’t start writing in earnest until I decided to try and enter Oberlin’s Creative Writing program. To prepare myself, I started reading and writing poems for at least an hour a day. I had no intention of liking poetry, but I found that practicing it necessitates a way of thinking that was more honest and sobering than any I had tried before. Because of this, I realized I had to keep writing poetry to better understand my emotions and myself. It makes sense that my uncle made the commen...

Expectations Prove Damaging to Emotional Health

CJ Blair, Columnist

February 12, 2016

Too often it’s easy to think that what you hope for and what will happen can be the same thing. Everyone is guilty of placing hope in a certain version of the future, expecting to make it real. Expectation sounds pretty ridiculous described this way, but somehow very few people see anything wrong with it. It is a form of selective blindness that can shatter a person’s emotional health, but somehow it’s never talked about, let alone confronted. I doubt many people share my hostility toward expectation, but I’m certain everyone has suffered its effects. The danger of expectation is that it elicits investment in things that aren’t real. It can make you mourn the loss of something you never had or take for ...

Self-Insight Can Be Gained from Solitude

CJ Blair, Columnist

February 5, 2016

Washington, D.C., is a metropolis of history, politics and tourism that has become one of the most popular residences of Oberlin alumni. Yet despite the draw that D.C. exerts on Obies, I felt out of place when I spent my Winter Term there studying invasive plants. While I left my internship with a wealth of knowledge about kudzu and honeysuckle, I found that I learned just as much outside the office on the weekends, when I explored the city on my own. It was in D.C.’s busy streets and museums that I began to understand how meaningful solitude can be in crowded places and decided that everyone should have the opportunity to try it. Since I would only be in the city for a month, I made a point to spend most of my da...

Naked Run Helps Students Face Insecurities

CJ Blair, Columnist

December 11, 2015

If there’s a better way to relieve the stress of finals than streaking through a library, I have yet to find it. Of all the strange traditions at Oberlin, the Naked Run is not only one of the most outrageous but also one of the most polarizing. This isn’t surprising, but those who say it’s too shocking or ridiculous to try may not realize its emotional benefits. The Naked Run is a rare opportunity for Oberlin students to confront insecurities about their body image, and in doing so, reject thoughts that prevent them from feeling confident. When I talk about the Naked Run, I’m speaking from experience. Every semester, at 10 p.m. on a night during reading period, over 100 Oberlin students crowd into the second...

Established 1874.