Love, Charlottesville

I have been a resident of Charlottesville, VA for almost 4 years to the day. This is the first city that I chose to be a resident of. It’s the city that gave me the independence I’ve always craved. Charlottesville gave me my first job, my first solo apartment, and some of the best people I’ll ever know.

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The events of this weekend have shaken me to my very core. I still can’t quite get over the fact the city I love has a cloud of hatred overhead. It seems impossible that the KKK and Nazi’s are still spreading their vitriol and vile hate speech through this country; it’s even more incomprehensible to witness the violence first hand. It’s incredulous that the President of this country refuses to call evil by its name. This isn’t something that occurred on ‘both sides’. It is ludicrous to consider the coalition of Nazis, KKK members, and white ‘nationalists’ to be a side. That is a group of hateful, evil people who are hellbent on destroying everything good and powerful within the United States. This was domestic terrorism. There are no shades of grey here.

A 31 year old woman was murdered. There is no way to make that okay. No words to wash away the fact that a life was taken. A life of someone who was standing strong in the face of evil. She refused to stay silent and let these vicious white supremacists spew their hate and threaten her community.  She was killed halfway between my office building and the studio I teach barre in. She was killed on a street I walk down every single day.  Her death needs to matter. Her death needs to outrage Americans everywhere. Her death needs to remind us all to be brave, to be strong, and to refuse to allow division and fear into our hearts.

This country is not perfect, we have a dark past and a dark present, but we also have strength, and we have the ability to change. Racism, sexism, and xenopobia cannot be tolerated. Senseless violence cannot be tolerated. People who thrive in the dark, sadistic corners of this country need to be brought into the light and held accountable for their words and actions. We all need to work together to champion our fellow citizens. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of ignorance and brutality. We cannot stay silent in the face of this disease spreading through our country.

The last 36 hours have been horrifying and tragic, but even in the midst of the crisis of humanity, I have been witness to hope. I spent last night under the stars with thousands of other Charlottesvillians listening to an 80’s cover band. I saw people of every color and every age brave the thunderstorms to stand together and remember that there is good in this world. The night closed with a cover of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and the spirit of hope and resilience was palpable in the air.

Charlottesville is not the city portrayed on the media yesterday. Charlottesville is a community that values equality and diversity. We are not a perfect city, and we still have a lot more to do, but we will not be defined by the spineless monsters who tried to plant seeds of violence and discord here. Charlottesville prides itself on working towards universal acceptance, unity, and liberty. 80% of the city voted for Hillary, our mayor is Jewish and our deputy mayor is Black. We pride ourselves on striving to be the type of community that values the strength of diversity and progress. That is why these pathetic, sad, and despicable alt-righters chose to make a stand. They thought they could break us, and send us back in times of mistrust and anger. They have slithered out of our city and back into their holes, and we are still here.  The Charlottesville that I know is already working on banding together and celebrating love and unity. So to you fascists who are not part of our community, continue to threaten and abuse what we stand for, we are more than you can even begin to understand.

And to those who are scared and worried about what the future holds, don’t stop believing.

 

Rage: The New Political Currency

It’s been 3 weeks since Donald Trump took office, and I confess myself exhausted. It seems like every day on the news there is some new ridiculous and horrible thing he and his administration have done to be outraged about. I, like a lot of people right now, am torn between the urge to be informed and the urge to bury my head in the sand for the next four years. In a previous post I touched on the dangers of the 24-hour news cycle, and how addicting it can be. I think the last few weeks have underscored the argument that this addiction to news is not healthy. But more than that, what has been made abundantly clear is that anger is dominating the political scene, on both sides of the spectrum. It is almost impossible to be politically well-informed and not be angry. It seems we are in a time when one must take sides. There is no gray area in many of the political issues we have been debating, and most people feel passionately one way or the other.

There has been a lot of speculation about how a man like Donald Trump rose to power. Most people acknowledge that he tapped in to the rage of the overlooked white working class, and harnessed that rage and turned it into a movement. It didn’t matter that he said little about policy and had no experience in the political realm. He manipulated and played into the fears of the masses, and his strategy was successful. Now he is our president and he is still playing into the irrational fears of the masses in villainizing immigrants and Democrats and anyone who opposes him or threatens his family wealth.

However, the difference now is the Democrats are beginning to play on the rage that has surfaced in opposition to Donald Trump. It’s no longer accurate to say that anger only characterizes Republicans and Trump supporters. Anger now characterizes almost everyone, regardless of party. Some of this anger is justified and productive. For example, the outrage sparked by the Muslim ban arguably played a large role in the temporary dismantling of it. This rage was useful. We were angry; we were defending human rights; and there was an end goal to our outrage. There is however, outrage that is not useful. There is outrage that will consume your life if you let it and does not actually achieve anything productive. Liberals have made a big stink about how Donald Trump supporters have allowed themselves to be pawns in Trump’s political agenda, but perhaps we need to consider the ways in which we ourselves have become pawns. There are plenty of Democrats who have dramatized and stoked our anger, and for us to pretend that they do so only for the greater good of what we are accomplishing is naïve. There are future elections to think about, and arguably there are plenty of politicians attempting to become the angry voice of the progressive left in efforts to bolster their own political aims.

I’m not presuming to know anyone’s motives in stoking outrage, but I am suggesting we not allow ourselves to be manipulated. If you are going to take up arms over every single ridiculous tweet that Donald sends out, you are only going to affect your own quality of life. If you allow yourself to be baited by every politically incorrect thing he says, you’re in for a long four years. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting we allow his outrageous actions to pass unnoticed or unopposed. I am just saying we should choose our battles. And we should keep in mind that this chaos and outrage is exactly what he wants. Yes, it is absolutely ridiculous and even unethical that the President of the United States is tweeting at Nordstrom, saying they are mean for no longer buying his daughter’s product. But is it really worth your outrage? At some point you have to decide that some of his actions are too stupid to even respond to. If we choose to respond to every provocation, it allows him to paint the progressive left as angry and irrational, the same way that the left has often painted the tea party and the far right. Fair or not, our anger can sometimes undermine us and strip us of credibility. We go from being well-informed rational people who can carefully and articulately defend our beliefs, to raging crazy people who are not to be taken seriously.  I think outrage can be useful when it has a clear end goal. We need to take a step back and realize that this outrage that follows the 24-hour news cycle is not accomplishing anything. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by anger, we not only will fail to achieve anything in the political sphere, but we most likely will make our own lives pretty miserable in the process. I physically can’t walk around being angry about Donald all the time. It’s not sustainable. So, I choose to save my anger and my strength for the outrages that really matter to me. You are no less informed or passionate about your causes because you chose not to think about them 24/7. It’s quality, not quantity, of your resistance that matters.

-S

Waiting for the Barbarians…or the Islamic Terrorists

The Muslim ban executive order signed into law by Donald Trump on Saturday has alarmed and enraged people all over the country over the past few days, myself included. Trump and his cronies of course have a problem with people calling this what it is and what it was intended to be: a Muslim ban. Of course we have plenty of reason to believe that a Muslim ban is exactly what this is, since a large part of Trump’s presidential platform was a ban on ALL Muslims entering the United States. And on Sunday he tweeted that we should be concerned about the Christians being killed in the Middle East, even though Muslims have been killed in far greater numbers. His order also gives preferential treatment to Christians attempting to enter the U.S. from these countries. There is also good reason to believe that the Muslim countries not included in the ban were excluded because of Trum’s business ties there. So let’s not beat around the bush: this is a Muslim ban.

Now that we have established that, the question is why is this happening? Why has Trump continually emphasized the danger that “radical Islamic terrorists” pose to this great free Christian nation? In thinking about this issue over the last year or so, I find myself drawing parallels to one of my favorite books, Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee. The book is about a great unnamed Empire threatened by an indigineous group of barbarians who are plotting to overthrow it. The barbarians are frequently painted as less than human, and though as a whole they demonstrate no ill-will towards the Empire, they are singled out as the enemy and the potential downfall of civilization. Of course, the Empire has actually invaded the natives’ land and attempted to force their culture and civilization on them. The Empire labels the natives as barbarians in order to justify their imperialism and to give its people a feeling of purpose and a common enemy.

It’s not hard to see the parallels here to the United State’s relationship to the Middle East. For decades we have invaded its lands, stripped these countries of their natural resources, overthrown their governments from the inside out, and attempted to force Western democracy on them. In doing so we have created terrorist organizations within the region whose main purpose is rebelling against Western influence and seizing power in instable countries that are vulnerable. Their aims have little to do with Islam, and much to do with the human instinct to seek and retain power. Make an entire region feel powerless and ruled by an alien external force for years and you are bound to create people whose sole aim is to take that power back and wield it with cruel intentions. Of course, I am oversimplifying the problems that have created so much instability within the Middle East. I couldn’t possibly write a post long enough to detail all the factors that have contributed to the instability in the region, and I don’t claim to be knowledgeable enough to do so. But, my point is that the U.S. has played a decisive hand in this instability and bears the responsibility for much of the chaos that is driving people to seek refugee status in more stable Western countries. Coincidentally the other day Trump said we should have kept the oil from Iraq after we withdrew our troops, because the oil was the only reason ISIS was able to financially support itself. He also suggested that the next time we invade a sovereign country, we will be sure to take all their resources so there is no wealth left to prop up any kind of a successful government or terrorist organization.

Now we have people fleeing from the terrorists that we created (and in some cases armed), and we will deny them access to our great free country because they pose a threat to it. And to top it off, rather than acknowledging the nuances of terrorism and its relationship to Islam, we now have a president and a large group of Americans who claim that the problem is Islam, not the terrorists who have corrupted it and twisted it to justify their actions. Muslims are being painted with a broad brush, as an enemy of Christian America, as people who seek to do us great harm. It seems to me to be no coincidence that after a particularly disastrous first week in the presidency, Trump attempted to draw our attention back to our common enemy: Muslims. In claiming that Muslims from this region pose a great threat to the safety of our country, Trump creates an atmosphere of fear, chaos and mistrust, primed for the consolidation of power and wide-spread approval of his actions that seek to “protect” America.

As in Waiting for the Barbarians, America is awaiting the barbarians that we believe to be Muslims to strike, only to find out that the barbarians are here, within our midst, masquerading as saviors. Make no mistake: turning our back on refugees fleeing the terrorism and instability that we helped to create, is barbaric. What we should have learned from ISIS and from the recent executive orders and from the entire history of war and persecution, is that cruelty and the seeking of power has nothing to do with religion. The dark side of human nature can flourish wherever there is suffering and chaos. Attrocities and injustice can be commited falsely under any God’s name, in the haze of fear and instability. Many attrocities have also been commited in the name of Christianity. The actions of few do not justify the condemnation and persecution of an entire group of people. Just as I hope that the rest of the world does not condemn all Americans for the actions of the ignorant, hateful demogauge that is currently running our country, I refuse to condemn all Muslims for the actions of a few. The act of pitting Americans against Muslims is nothing more than the desperate attempt to unite a fractured country and distract us from the real problems that we face such as poverty, climate change, gender inequality, racial ineqaulity, and the high cost and low coverage of our health care system. These are problems which this administration is unlikely to find solutions to, or to even address in any meaningful way, and they know this. So their solution is to distract us with fear and mistrust of foreigners and the rest of the world. It is important to note, that this tactic is not only manifested in this administration’s policies towards Muslims from the Middle East, but also in their policies towards Mexican immigrants. While we are waiting for the barbarians, our country is crumbling. How long will it take this country to realize that our threats come from the inside, not the outside?

-S

Is This What Great Looks Like?

Donald Trump has only been in power for 9 days, and I am already shaken to my core about his legacy. This goes so far beyond party lines and politics. Trump is attempting to change the very fabric of this nation. Do you feel great yet?

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If this is what ‘great’ looks like, I want no part of it. I am ashamed of this leader (it feels wrong to even call him a leader), and I am terrified about what the next 4 years are going to look like. I can’t quite process what I’m watching unfold, between the blatant lies (alternative facts are LIES), and the executive orders being passed, based purely on fear and hate (except the ones that benefit Trump’s business). The fact that his ban doesn’t include places where he has business ties should TERRIFY everyone. Clearly he is not using the Constitution of the United States as his key decision-making faculty, but rather his own self-interest. That’s also clear in his orders around the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipelines.

How dare he think he can stop 500,000 LEGAL residents from coming to this country. How dare the GOP not publicly condemn this. How can we be so scared, that we would position ourselves to repeat some of the worst human rights violations (take a look how Nazi- Germany came into power) of the western world? How can we, a country of immigrants, feel so removed from our roots and the world, that we think banning a religion is something to campaign on? How can we sleep at night? I want to make it clear that I do not share this view. In the fight against terrorism, we are far more powerful as a unit.

Trump tweeted, ‘Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!’… No, you numpty-headed, egotistical monster – people are being executed and suffering in large numbers. The second we start categorizing people into these groups we naturally start pitting ourselves against one another. We naturally start ranking groups in our ‘us vs. them’ mentality.  It’s why George Washington warned us against political parties, and it’s why we need to focus on the fact that we are all humans who value the same things (saftey, a strong future, the right to live free of discrimination) before we get lost in our differences, and allow them to divide us.

I have been slightly calmed by seeing the ‘resistance efforts’ spreading across the world. I am proud of the Americans who protested at airports, and the lawyers who fought through the night to protect legal residents of this country, I’m proud of the judges who are refusing to allow this executive order to stand as it is in direct opposition to what this country stands for, I’m proud of the men, women, and children who are marching. I’m proud of those with different beliefs than me, who are engaging in civil discourse to try and bridge the gap in this country. I’m proud of the foreign leaders who are taking a stand against Trump. Bullies only respond to strength, and we are getting a hell of a lot stronger each day.  Even as I find myself exausted by the state of the world, I know the only way to change it is to keep the fire in my eyes, and my heart as strong as possible. This knot in my stomach is more manageable when I’m taking action.  I know who I am, and I know what is right. I am prepared to do what I can to be on the right side of history. I want to be on the side of decency and support. I want to be on the side of love, not hate- the side of strength, not fear.

In the last few months, I’ve donated to the ACLU, PP, and the resistance at Standing Rock. I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m writing to my senators and representatives on a weekly basis. I’m trying to do as much as I can as a private citizen to make it clear that America is more than this vitrolic mess.

Trump has made it clear he thinks Lincoln was the pinnacle of presidental, so may I remind Trump what Lincoln said, ‘America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.’ 

I, for one, am not ready for that time to be now.

Be Vigilant, But Not Afraid

I’m not ashamed (in fact I’m kind of proud) to admit that I cried a few times during President Obama’s Farewell Address. It started simply with the crowd cheering for Obama, it got worse during his focus on resisting fascism and race relations, and it peaked during his gorgeous tribute to Michelle. To be fair, I did lose it in a fit of hysterical laughter when Joe Biden finger-gunned at the President (please don’t go, Joe!). Obama’s speech tonight was a fitting tribute to his legacy, it was inspirational and magnanimous. He was focused on the future and emboldening the youth of the nation and turning away from partisan politicking in favor of our shared values and history and goals.

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I wanted write about how moved I am by President Obama’s Address, and how while I haven’t agreed with every choice he has made as Commander in Chief, I have been proud to call him my President. I have been encouraged by what he has stood for.

As I am not the orator or the eloquent writer that Obama is, I thought I’d share my favorite  pieces of Obama’s final official speech as the President of the United States of America.

  • “So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.”
  • “Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours. But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works.  Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people.  Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”
  • “Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.  Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”
  • “So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.”
  • “Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.  So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.”

In closing, yes, we can. And yes we will. We will fight to continue to protect and improve this nation. We will not give into fear or hatred. We will work to continue to form a more perfect union. I dedicate myself to being the best citizen I can be, by holding the values of America in my heart, and by working to uphold those values in practice. I will not be discouraged, and I will participate in every way that I can to preserve and safeguard the America that has given me so much; I will stand up when I see that America threatened, and when I see citizens being deprived of their inalienable rights.

The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

Let’s Stand Together.

-K

 

 

Electoral Bondage?

Today is the day that the Electoral College officially votes on the next president of the United States of America. For those of you who skipped civics and refuse to watch the news, the Electoral College (E.C.) is what you actually are voting for on election day.  The E.C. consists of various individuals that have been nominated by political parties. When you cast your vote on election Tuesday, you are actually voting for the elector who is pledged to vote for the candidate of your choice.

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So why do we have this system? Well, during the founding of the nation, all kinds of election ‘types’ were considered (popular vote, congressional selection, state governor votes, etc.),  but the convention eventually settled on the E.C.. The ‘goal’ of the college was to allow for popular participation by the people, but also to give smaller states as much of a voice as larger states. The E.C. was also set up in hopes that it would act as a safeguard against the rise of a demagogue.

However there are also political theorists who think the E.C. was less about the balance of power between populous and less-populous states, and more about the slavery lines of the North and the South. When the popular vote was suggested as the process to elect a President, the South pushed back hard. Because slaves were disenfranchised, the North’s number of eligible voters massively outnumbered those in the South. A compromise was originally met which allowed the Southern States to count slave as 2/5’s a person, which dramatically increased the South’s share of electoral votes.

“If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.” – Akhil Reed Amar

Obviously, the 2/5 compromise is no longer valid, but the Electoral College is still a hotly debated topic today in American politics. While this election has generated A TON of publicity around the E.C., people on both sides of the aisle have raised complaints against it for years. (In fact, Donald Trump tweeted against the E.C. a few years back). The world has changed a lot since the late 1700’s, and the efficacy of the Electoral College seems to be limited.

While I would love to see the members of the Electoral College vote against a demagogue (in case you aren’t familiar with the term, a demagogue is  defined as ‘a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.’ i.e. Donald Trump), it is highly unlikely that will come to pass. Also, I would be terrified to see how Donald Trump would react to having the Presidency taken away from him. I imagine it would be similar to when you take a toy away from a toddler and then the toddler stabs you repeatedly…

While I would personally feel vindicated if the E.C. were to evaluate Trump off his actions as the President Elect (see below for a few in particular), I realize that is not realistic, nor what our nation was  founded on.

  • His cabinet appointments (alt-right, anti-environment, anti-the very organizations they are supposed to advocate for… it’s like the opposite of the Justice League)
  • His refusal to take security briefings
  • His international relations snafus (Taiwan/China, support for Assad, statements on Castro’s death, etc.)
    • Everything with Russia (when the CIA & FBI all agree something untoward happened, SOMETHING is off)
  • The incessant tweeting (I think we can likely all agree tweeting about SNL and Vanity Fair should NOT be our presidents priority)
  • His Carrier deal. (He promised to save 1,100 jobs that were being relocated to Mexico, and ended up saving around 800, but negotiated millions of dollars in tax breaks for Carrier & United- which sets a dangerous precedent.)

    “In exchange for downsizing its move south of the border, United Technologies would receive $7 million in tax credits from Indiana, to be paid in $700,000 installments each year for a decade. Carrier, meanwhile, agreed to invest $16 million in its Indiana operation. United Technologies still plans to send 700 factory jobs from Huntington, Ind., to Monterrey, Mexico.”- Danielle Paquette

However, the preservation of this nation should be the bottom line, and while I am terrified over a Trump Presidency, I understand that changing the system now would cause a massive reaction through the country, and those wounds would be deep.

With that said, I do feel that it is time for a change in our electoral structure. With the internet (even with all the fake news), the fear that the public doesn’t have the means to be informed are unfounded (even if a lot of Americans choose to remove themselves from political education). The popular vote should be the bottom line, not an outdated, messy system that most people don’t fully understand.

Something to think about…

 

 

 

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving, like New Years, acts as the perfect opportunity for some much needed introspection. I know that I am not the best at remembering to always have gratitude and to avoid taking things for granted, and I don’t think I’m alone in that shortcoming. It’s so much easier to bitch and moan than to consistently look for the silver lining. Complaining has an intoxicating quality it. There’s something validating in lamentation.  However, it’s not the best trait, and it really doesn’t solve anything.

I think a lot of our generation has a hard time taking a moment and remembering just how much there is to be grateful for. I also think the mainstream media spouting hate and thinly veiled divisive rhetoric conditions us to approach our lives that way. Society ingrains a lot of our tendencies to gripe and bellyache.  I also believe there is no time like the present to try and subvert those inclinations and focus on being grounded in gratitude. There is a lot to be thankful for, and by keeping those thoughts at the forefront of our minds, I believe our chances at contentment and happiness and at inner-peace increase dramatically.

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So, I want to take some time to really be thankful for my friends and family. For my glorious puppy. For having a job with some really great people. For opportunities to travel. For wine and good food. For some really fabulous clothes and shoes. For my health (even though my tonsils have to come out soon).

On a slightly different note, I’d be remiss not to make a plug for Standing Rock on Thanksgiving of all days. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline due to concerns over water contamination and the destruction of sacred lands since July. It is now winter in North Dakota and temperatures are dropping dramatically; these protesters are facing hypothermia (not helped by the water cannons and spraying various agents on the protesters). While you’re out doing your Black Friday shopping, consider donating to Standing Rock. Our country has a disgusting history when it comes to indigenous people, and I for one Stand with Standing Rock.

Read more on how to help here.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

“13th”

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As promised, some of this blog will contain light-hearted Netflix recommendations to break up the seriousness, except this one is not so light-hearted. A couple weeks ago I watched the Netflix documentary “13th” and was deeply moved by it. The documentary centers around the 13th amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The director, Ava DuVernay, focuses on the clause “except as punishment for a crime” in examining the ways that modern mass incarceration has been a continuation of slavery and free labor and has crippled the black community.

The documentary traces the history of black oppression post-slavery, from lynchings to the Jim Crow laws, to the war on drugs, to the documented police shootings of unarmed black men. Part of her argument surrounds the depiction of black people in post-slavery America as criminal and a threat to the safety of society. She examines the way that this implicit (or at times explicit) bias has played a part in political policy, laws and the enforcing of those laws.

I won’t outline point by point the brilliance of this documentary in this post. All I will say is, if you have ever doubted even for a second that racial oppression has been systematically and intentionally carried out in the last century in America, please watch this film. If you have ever believed that our justice system is colorblind and free of bias, please watch this film.

As a white person, racial inequality can be very difficult to talk about. I was hesitant to even write this post because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to strike the right tone. But this documentary shook me to my very core. And I think if we want to be people who fight for justice and equality, we have to allow ourselves to be so affected by things. And then we have to be brave enough to talk about them. In the film, they discuss effectiveness of videos of police shootings in bringing to light this oppression. This documentary serves the same purpose. It forces us to see injustice and challenges us not to look away. We can’t fight it if we refuse to see it. In summary, watch “13th” and other documentaries like it. Read articles that challenge your beliefs. Engage in dialogues that promote understanding and educate yourself every chance you get.

-S

Constitutional Awareness

I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the degree of emotions that have been rampant over social media this past week. In some ways, it is inspiring to see so many people galvanized on both sides of the aisle. People accuse millennials of being apathetic, but that has certainly not been my experience.

However, heightened emotions combined with times of uncertainty can breed some contentious discussions. Overall, I’ve been proud to see a lot of civil discourse from the people in my immediate life, again on both sides of the aisle. However, I have also seen a lot of conversations and opinion pieces that are worrisome.

I can really only comment on how I feel and how I see the world, so please don’t misunderstand and think I am trying to sanctimoniously shove my worldview down your throat. You chose to read this, so if you misinterpret me here, that’s on you. I certainly feel let down by the results of this election. I have concerns that the USA has elected a dangerous demagogue. I have concerns for civil rights and civil liberties, I have concerns for the environment, and for America’s place in the international arena, I have concerns for progress and safety. However, I am not naïve, and I realize that a large subset of Americans would have felt similar levels of discomfort, and potentially fear, had Hillary won. I understand that a large group of citizens have felt ignored by the government, and that those people made a stand on Tuesday.

I understand that people voted for Trump for a lot of different reasons, and that the majority of people who voted for him don’t share the racist, misogynistic, bigoted view of America he perpetrated during the election. But those people do exist, and some of them think that their hatred is now acceptable, and even supported. That is unacceptable. Obviously, President Trump hasn’t done anything yet, but the man Donald Trump has said quite a bit. None of us know what he actually thinks and believes (need I remind you that a decade ago he was a Democrat), but I think we all have the right to be worried and watchful of our government.

And that’s the one thing I want to impress upon as many people as I can. Whether you voted for Trump or not, let’s hold him accountable to us, and to the Constitution. Let’s fight to see one another as individuals, and not as simply party line liberals or conservatives. Let’s promote civility.

So educate yourselves on the issues that matter to you, and watch the government closely. Take the time to understand how our government works, and hold those elected accountable. Get involved. Whether or not you voted Trump for President, he is the President. The opening line of the Constitution says a lot, ‘we the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity’. Don’t forget what this country was built for.

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My News Addiction

This has been one hell of a week. Tuesday night around midnight after watching hours of CNN tracking the election results, I resigned myself to the fact that Hillary was going to lose. I went to bed, unable to watch any more. I had seen enough. And that sums up how I feel about this whole election season, and even beyond that about the whole past year or so of tragedy after tragedy on the news. Terrorism, racism, sexism, homophobia, genocide, xenophobia, the refugee crisis, poverty, mass shootings, shootings of unarmed black men, protests, climate change, weather disasters: it feels like the whole world is coming apart at the seams. And I’ve seen enough. And I’ve come to that conclusion many times in the past year. But I always continue to watch anyways, glued to my TV screen, computer screen or phone constantly hitting refresh to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I stumbled across a post on Medium the other day called “I Quit the News. Consider it Too.” My initial reaction was “Isn’t this just escapism and intentional ignorance masquerading as virtue?” But then I started to read it. And as the author recounted all the time he had spent consuming news about this election and how none of it mattered, I realized that I also had been completely consumed by it. I had obsessively gathered information thinking that somehow I was enriching myself. But really, I was distracting myself and feeding my overwhelming addiction to a continuous stream of content. I was buying what the media was selling: drama, heartache and a detachment from reality.

Contrary to how some people feel though, I don’t fault the news media, at least not entirely. I think it is impossible for them to deliver us what we demand and simultaneously produce good quality journalism. We demand 24-hour coverage. We demand all the information. We demand sensationalism, drama and enough doomsday content to satisfy our sick fascination with violence and misery. We demand to be entertained. And then we recoil in horror that a shallow, empty-headed reality TV star was able to rise to the highest office in our country, as though that is not perfectly representative of our culture and our illness. Are you not entertained America?

Let me be clear: I am not saying we deserve Donald Trump as our president. He exploited people’s fears and prejudices and party loyalty and used them to propel himself to power. And that must be condemned, in the loudest way and the most clear-cut terms. But if we don’t at least admit the part that we played in all of this then how can we ensure it will never happen again? How many of us secretly hoped he would run for president, just for the pleasure of seeing that spectacle and for the hope that he would crumble in front of our eyes?

I have felt my own addiction to the news and specifically to negative news becoming stronger in the last few years. I have felt myself cling to any and all information assuming that bad information was better than no information. I watched CNN’s election results coverage for 5 hours on Tuesday night. I literally sat there and watched John King draw inane circles all over the map like an elderly dementia patient trying to find Waldo for 5 hours. And for what? Why did I feel that I had to know the instant that anyone else did who won the election? And why after I knew the results the next day did I spend hours trying to find an article or a news piece or anything that would make me feel like I had some measure of control or understanding over the situation?

I’ve come to the conclusion that information is not always power. Being informed about what is happening in the world is important and it’s part of being a conscious citizen, but maybe we’ve taken it too far. Why does the media sensationalize the news and bombard us with horrific story after horrific story at all hours of the day? Because we keep reading and listening to it. And then we ask for more. We perpetuate the idea that when it comes to news we want quantity over quality, drama over reality and instant disembodied information over thoughtful analysis.

So I’m on a news hiatus until I feel I can consume the news responsibly again. When that time comes, I intend to read the news in the morning and then wait the agonizing 24 hours before I receive another piece of news. Just like the good old days.

-S (yeah I’m going to sign my posts S because I wish I lived in Gossip Girl)

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