Another Few Reasons Why We’re Smiling: Dose of Dopamine Round 6

French election celebrations at the Louvre on May 7, 2017 (photo by Lorie Shaull)

Ignore the images of smiling white men in suits making decisions about women’s health and government officials literally hiding in bushes to avoid explaining their questionable actions. Shrug off that Tuesday morning matutolypea (I just learned that word, it’s awesome), go for a walk, take in the beautiful outdoors—that is, after you get your first dose of dopamine here.

In France Emmanuel Macron, a thirty-nine-year-old former investment banker defeated the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Le Pen’s Front National party represented a pseudo-Breitbart, ethno-nationalist agenda, with Le Pen herself taking up authoritarian rhetoric and policy positions. She vowed to leave the European Union, an international coalition that helped to maintain the peace in Europe following the devastation of two world wars. In the most recent election here in the United States, a slight majority of individuals aged 65+ voted for similar anti-democratic, anti-trade, and anti-globalist agenda. However, in France 70 percent of those aged sixty to sixty-nine voted for pro-democracy candidate Macron, and those seventy and above voted quite overwhelmingly (78 percent) for him. After the election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in the UK, fueled in large part by support from older voters, it’s refreshing to see the older generation in France opposing authoritarian rhetoric, especially when considering the unspeakable horrors they, or their parents, may have witnessed less than a century ago when an authoritarian swept the continent.

Stateside, in Michigan, a high school launched “13 Reasons Why Not” in response to the Netflix hit 13 Reasons Why. The Netflix series (based on the eponymous 2007 novel) is about a girl who commits suicide after leaving thirteen tapes for those who mistreated her. The Netflix show has garnered a fair amount of criticism for portraying suicide as a viable option, while others lament its “glorification” of ending one’s life. As everyone knows, high school can be a very difficult time, and it’s easy to overlook the struggles that your peers might be experiencing. But the “13 Reasons Why Not” project seeks to highlight the struggles of high schoolers. For thirteen days, students at Oxford High School will reveal over the intercom a problem they’re dealing with, and instead of blaming an individual for that problem, they will thank a classmate who helped them. The participating students are receiving an outpouring of support from the community and receiving texts from classmates they didn’t previously know.

Heading south and east, the University of Virginia named a new administrative building after a former slave, Peyton Skipwith. In the early 1800s Skipwith quarried stone for some of the early buildings on the school’s Charlottesville campus. After being released by his owner under the condition that he and his family move to Liberia, Skipwith wrote a series of letters back to Charlottesville that can be viewed in the university’s library. The naming ceremony was attended by roughly twenty-five of Skipwith’s descendants. After recent uproar in the south about “erasing” history, it’s uplifting to see that those who were never recognized, who quite literally created our celebrated institutions, finally be recognized over wealthy landowners.

Onto the finish line… Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez stepped on an IED while on tour in Afghanistan in 2011 and lost his leg. Just six years later, Sanchez burst through the finish line at the Boston Marathon, proudly waving an American flag and having finished in under six hours. Sanchez hoped that his willpower would be a message to servicemen and women everywhere. The flag he carried has special significance to Sanchez, a gift from his patrol unit when he was recovering from his ordeal.

Prosthetics aren’t just for those in the US army. Seven-year-old Ana in the UK had her leg amputated at birth. Following a £500,000 injection of pediatric prosthetic funding, children like Ana will receive high-functioning prosthetics that allow for them to play with their classmates. Children can be finicky at times but this priceless video shows her classmates inquisitively approaching her, stating their affection for her new leg, hugging her, and then running around the playground with her. Sometimes we humans really do get it right!