As the final issue of CPR was going to press, volcanic ash was still spewing out of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland and bringing much of our globalized world to a relative standstill. When I first heard the news, I couldn’t help but laugh. The idea of ash covering huge swathes of land was simply ludicrous to me. The idea conjured up paintings of Pompeii from my middle school Latin textbook. Seeing an eerily similar photograph grace the New York Times homepage, I felt a weird sense of déjà vu. At the same time, I thought to myself, “Oh, Iceland. Leave it up to that eccentric Nordic country to go officially bankrupt, to harness geothermal energy—and to give us Björk (in a ridiculous swan dress, no less).” The volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, whose name only added to the absurdity, was just another confirmation of my very simplified view of the country.
While time and again we fall into the essentialist trap, we still try to remain skeptical of our pre-conceptions, and rightly so. In our cover story (p. 6), Mark Hay brings to our attention the politico-religious situation in Somalia so that we might not relegate it to hopeless abandonment in our minds. He asks us to bring Somalia back onto our moral radars—not simply through images of Josh Hartnett in Black Hawk Down, but through a more nuanced understanding of its recent past. He urges the Obama administration not to engage Islam in Somalia as if it were a monolith. He suggests that, instead, the US government identify and begin to support (in a delicate fashion) the relatively liberal and popular clerics that do, in fact, exist.
In many ways, Mark’s article is written very much in the tenor and spirit of CPR. As much as possible, we try to fill a journalistic niche on this campus by bringing oft-ignored or Columbia-specific issues to the fore. While the surfeit of publications on campus can be overwhelming, we at CPR hope that this magazine serves as a unique forum for discussion among students—and maybe even a site of intellectual discovery. We hope that you continue to read CPR as it evolves under Mark Hay’s leadership next year. Please consider developing a piece of your very own over the summer (which is now so close you can smell it), and, while you’re at it, try pronouncing Eyjafjallajokull.