S-Town Review: Indulging voyeurism or stoking empathy?

Note: BIG spoilers ahead. Stop reading if you haven’t listened to the podcast in its entirety and you intend to.

 

I recently finished listening to S-Town, a podcast by the creators of Serial and This American Life, and found myself with some very conflicting feelings about it. First and foremost, I think this podcast is rich, engaging, beautiful and heart-breaking. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. I came into it expecting something similar to Serial, and though I loved Serial, I was happily surprised to find something totally different.

After the first two episodes, the podcast wildly veered off the Serial course, breaking the true-crime narrative and diving into something much more interesting. For anyone who was hoping for a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, “who done it” crime thriller, they were sorely disappointed. S-Town was at some points extremely slow, but I think for those willing to stick with it, it was worth it in the end. After the initial addicting marathon listening sessions ended though, I was left wondering why I was so intrigued by this podcast, and whether there was something sinister about my interest in it.

The podcast begins with the investigation of the cover-up of an alleged murder, led by a tipster named John B. McElmore. Soon after the story begins though, it becomes clear that the evidence of the crime is lacking and eventually we find out that the alleged murder never happened. John’s tirades about his home, “Shittown,” Alabama dominate most of the narrative. It slowly becomes clear that the crime is not the story at all. John is eccentric, brilliant, unstable, funny and depressed. His views of Shittown and the state of the world are dark and apocalyptic, but also surprisingly astute and especially relevant given the ever-widening expanse between rural and urban America. During the second episode, the host, Brian Reed, gets a call from someone in S-Town: John has committed suicide. As I listened to this episode, headphones in, at my desk at work, my breath caught in my chest. I blinked away tears, hoping no one was looking at me, and felt this incredible weight of something I couldn’t put my finger on.

In some way I felt complicit; I had sat at my desk in the comfort of my cushy upper-class suburban life, eagerly hoping to hear my worst suspicions and stereotypes about Southern, rural, backwards, Trump-loving America confirmed. I sat, listening to the mad rantings of a man who so casually talked of his own suicide, just hoping to feel engaged.  I literally thought to myself at one point “man, I hope something more interesting is going to happen.” And in the midst of my pastime, a man had killed himself. And the most disturbing part is that the narrative foray into the life and secrets of a dead-man were about to be even more captivating than I could have hoped for. Indeed the episodes that followed poked and prodded through the life of a man with many complexities. As the podcast went on, the more I learned about John B. Mclemore, his secrets, his hopes and his struggles, the more I wanted to know. My curiosity couldn’t be satiated, and no matter how many private details I learned of this man’s life, it was never enough.

When I finished the podcast and took a step back, I was all the sudden struck by how invasive it all was. This wasn’t a man who had given his consent to his private life being exposed. And it struck me that maybe that’s why I was so interested. Because it was a raw glimpse into a person that wasn’t filtered by the way the person wanted to be perceived. Certainly the tragedy and sorrow of his life had something to do with my interest in it as well.  It’s human nature to be attracted to tragedy, to stare catastrophe in the face even when the decent thing to do is to look away. There’s a reason sensationalism is sweeping through U.S. media, as I mentioned in a previous post: because that’s what we want. The more shocking, the more depraved, the better. Privacy ceases to matter, boundaries cease to exist; the only thing that matters is that we get more information. The same was true of the life of John B. McLemore. The obsession over who he was and uncovering the secrets of his life was nothing short of voyeurism. In this case I use the word voyeur to mean a “prying observer who is usually seeking the sordid or the scandalous.”

So in this scenario, was listening to and engaging in this podcast indulging one of our worst human instincts of voyeurism? I think that for most people it probably was. However, I think the motivation for starting it is transcended by the sentiment that lingers after it ends.  Undoubtedly, a large part of the audience for this podcast (and really any podcast) is the liberal upper-middle/upper class. It’s impossible to listen to this story and not notice how contrasting the world of the rural south is with your own. At various times in the podcast, listeners were confronted with characters who out of context, might be considered contemptible. Yet something about this narrative humanized them. So that by the end of the podcast, it was almost impossible to characterize any of the people in it as good or bad. They were just people: flawed, full of contradictions, and products of their environment. And out of this realization came a deep sense of empathy specifically for John, a man that you had never met, the likes of which you may never meet. There are many things to dislike about John. He is arguably racist, sexist, masochistic and bleak. Had you just encountered him or any the other people in this story in a passing way, you would probably have written them off. But when you hear their stories something changes. They morph from caricatures to real people and all the stereotypes and judgment fall away. What’s left is empathy and compassion.

With all the divisiveness in the world today, I think that creating this kind of empathy is an admirable pursuit. In this case, the ends justify the means. Though what first draws people to these kinds of stories is voyeurism, if the ever-elusive empathy is the result, maybe the motive for listening in the first place doesn’t matter.

-S

Just Another Night…

Last night, I was out with a group of my friends having a great time. The night was winding to an end, when some random guy asked me if I wanted to dance. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t. I said, ‘thanks, but no thanks- I’m good’. In my head, that was a super normal, non-incendiary response. I didn’t say, ‘oh hell no’ or ‘you disgust me, get away you monster’ or ‘go fuck yourself’, just a simple ‘no’. This guy didn’t take that well.

He immediately started yelling at me- calling me a whore, ugly, a bitch, and a slut. I (shockingly) didn’t engage back. I just sat there while he verbally abused me for not wanted to dance with him. (Apparently you can be a whore for choosing to not engage with a random guy- who knew?!) At this point, a female friend of mine inserted herself between the guy and me- she told him to get away from me, and leave us alone. He then started screaming obscenities at  her- the same types of things- commenting that she was ugly and a slut (again- apparently defending your friend is slutty, but I digress) He was getting more and more irate when some of our male friends got in his way. They were very calm and told him to leave immediately, and that he was making an ass out of himself. He tried to get physical with them- granted, the three of them averaged 6’4, so it wasn’t the best call. Before things got too crazy, he got kicked out.

We all left the bar within the next 15 minutes or so and he was outside- still yelling about how awful, unattractive, and slutty I was. My female friend who initially stood up for me ended up having to be held back while he antagonized us further. People kept telling her to calm down, and that he wasn’t worth it. She replied with ‘if we don’t stand up for ourselves now, when will we?’. Everything ended up being okay- we all got home without any further incident, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I firstly want to thank my friends who took it upon themselves to block me from this guy. I really appreciate having people in my life who are willing to stand up for me. But all of this raises a lot of issues.

It just amazes me that this guy felt justified in verbally attacking me for choosing to not dance with him. I cannot imagine ever doing anything or saying anything like this guy was- it was disgusting and pathetic and really disheartening to think that he thought his actions were considered okay.Obviously this isn’t applicable to all guys, but I’m generalizing. I don’t understand the lack of respect so pervasive in our culture. I’ve had so many people make overtly sexist comments as well as more subtle remarks to me, and while sometimes its a joke, more often than not it’s a realistic glance into true opinions. Women are still getting paid less then men and are still 40% less likely to be in the workforce. The double standard among our culture is still in existence in a big way. The rules are different for each gender and it’s completely unfair. I just get so angry that guys have this power to make women feel so unsafe and objectified. What right do these guys have to make us feel cheap? It is sad and a complete waste that society has made it okay for men to be such assholes.

We all have our stories about times we were objectified, or threatened, or worse. In recent memory, I was in a bar with a friend of mine and she was assaulted by some creep- he felt it was okay to grab her by the crotch. I’m not super proud (I am a little proud), but I punched him in the face and had the bar staff drag him out. A little while after that some random guy tried to break into my apartment, and I managed to hit him in the head with the door and startle him enough to get the door closed and locked. Not too long after that a  random guy tried to lock me in a bathroom with him, but a friend of mine broke the door down and we got away safely. I’m saying all of this because I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve certainly encountered dangerous situations, but I’ve been able to avoid the worst outcome, and a lot of women aren’t as lucky. Which by the way, considering that a lucky outcome is fucking insane.  In a survey conducted a few years back, “nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked.” I personally know people that fall into those groups. These women are strong and smart and incredible, and it’s sick that they have to fight every day not to be defined by the actions of their attackers. These women aren’t victims, they are survivors.

And it breaks my heart. It’s horrifying that we live in a ‘modern society’, and that we consider ourselves enlightened and exceptional, when half of our citizens are demeaned on a consistent basis. It breaks my heart that it isn’t safe for women to walk alone at night without being scared.  It breaks my heart that women have to be on alert at all times. It breaks my heart that women who are survivors of violence have to fight to be believed when they come forward.

Women are conditioned from childhood to be constantly on alert for threats of this nature, but men are rarely conditioned from childhood to understand what is acceptable conduct in regards to women. Society has conditioned us with a “don’t get raped” mentality as opposed to a “don’t rape” mentality.  This is not okay. Boys don’t just get to be boys, while women have to live in an naturalized state of fear. Even when that fear isn’t overt, it’s always there.

We need to do better. We need to stand up for ourselves, and we need to have the tough conversations. We need to figure out the right way to talk to our children about these things. We need to make sure girls feel empowered and strong- not weak and victimized. We need to make sure that men respect women, and do not feel entitled to anything a woman isn’t willing to give- whether it’s just a dance or whether it’s her body. It’s her choice, and that the bottom line.

Freedom of the Press

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Constitution of United States of America

Image result for trump press  political cartoon

Can anyone guess what today’s topic is? That’s right- the media! Firstly, I wanted to define a couple terms:

  • News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events
  • Fake news: deliberately published hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news

Fake news is not a label to be thrown around lightly. Discrediting journalists and the media without a cause is dangerous (and, historically, has preceded dangerous times in our world, i.e. the Holocaust). Attacking the media because you don’t think they are treating you fairly is stupid, petulant, and insane. The President of the United States (especially when that President is a white male billionaire) doesn’t get to play the victim card. Remember when Trump was campaigning, and he said once he was in power he would act presidential?  LOL.

Part of the job of the President is to be held accountable by the media (and by extension, by the people). I get that the media is a super convenient target for someone like Trump- someone who is so egotistical, narcissistic and completely insecure. It feels like a SNL skit, considering how many blatant lies the Trump administration has told, and yet claims fake news is rampant and only being perpetuated by the media (the whole birther nonsense, the Bowling Green Massacre, the size of the inauguration crowds, Trump lying about how he supported the Iraq war, his fake standing ovation at the CIA HQ, VOTER FRAUD, his relationship with Russia, claiming the cancellation of the meeting with Mexican President Nieto was a mutual decision, honestly there are so many- I suggest you read more here).

It’s beyond hypocritical and completely unethical for Trump (and his team) to be perpetuating lies, and then attacking journalists for reporting the truth. When Fox and CNN are aligned, you know there is something seriously wrong in the world. Banning news outlets like CNN and the NY Times from press briefings is unacceptable, and it’s un-American. You don’t get to pick and choose who reports on you, especially when you are involved in some shady shit. It’s even more insane when you consider that Trump himself is one of the biggest bullies and trolls around.  It’s surreal that this is the state of the United States of America. It’s hard to reconcile the ‘greatest nation on earth’ with the fact that we are moving further and further from the Utopian democratic union we all pretend to be. We’ve literally been downgraded on the democracy scale to a ‘flawed democracy’. Is that what making America great again looks like? Flawed? Angry? Divided?

It’s easy for me to sit here and blame Trump for all of this (and trust me, I do), but this is bigger than just one man. We allowed this to happen. The media played a massive role in getting Trump elected, in fact, his presidential bid really only started after the media attacked him at the Media Correspondents Dinner years ago.  Sarah wrote about her issues with current state of the media a few months back- and it’s truer than ever. Yes, we need to demand accountability from the media and our elected officials, but we need to hold ourselves accountable too. We need to become a more active and engaged citizenry. We need to avoid letting anyone tell us ‘facts’ and we need to seek them out for ourselves. We the people, need to be an engaged populous. We need to be able to cut through the bullshit and rhetoric to find the truth. No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on (misleading the American people happens on the right and the left), informing yourself is a universal step in actually making America great. If we want to be a strong nation, we need to be a strong people. We need to be educated and informed on issues and the state of the world. We need to demand our government make information not only accessible, but digestible. You shouldn’t need an advanced degree to make sense of our legislature. We need to be better, our journalists need to be better, and our President needs to be better. However, we only have direct control over ourselves, so I am pledging to keep myself as engaged and aware as possible in regards to our government and place in the world.

Stay woke.

-Kate

 

 

 

 

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

One Nation Under…

Today is the day, people. Donald J. Trump is officially the 45th President of the United States of America. I obviously had a lot of feelings throughout the inauguration ceremony and Trump’s speech (wtf was that about discovering the ‘secrets of space’ and eradicating all disease in four years — good luck with that).  I was also taken back by the new White House website (which has some pretty interesting omissions – there is currently no mention of climate change, technology, or LGBTQ rights). BUT, what I want to write about doesn’t actually have anything to do with President Trump.

I want to talk about the role of Christianity in our government. Before I jump into my discussion, I want to lay a foundation about the make-up of this country. Despite shifting demographics, America is still home to more Christians than any other country in the world. According to Pew Research in 2014, 7/10 Americans identify themselves as some form of Christian (I’m including Catholics here, fyi).  Approximately 23% of American’s are not religiously affiliated (agnostic or atheist). The remainder identify with non-Christian faiths.

The founding of America  had a lot of roots in the Judeo-Christian faith. Well before the Revolution, the pilgrims colonized here to practice their Protestant faith free of persecution in 1620. The Spanish built missions and preached Catholicism up and down the West Coat, while the French established Catholic institutions in Louisiana.  The vast majority of our founding fathers were very active in their respective Churches.

However, many key founding fathers (Jefferson & Washington) tended towards Deism (basically God exists, but doesn’t get involved with humankind, with a big emphasis on  the importance of reason and logic). The Declaration of Independence uses religious references to justify the colonies right to self-govern free of Britain. The iconic ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ portion of the Declaration claims those rights are ours because they were ‘endowed [upon us] by the Creator’. While the  majority of that document was used to tear into King George, and list all the grievances of the colonies, Jefferson ties it back to be grounded in Christian roots.

The Declaration is obviously important in establishing America, but it is not a legal document, and the Constitution is. The only mention of religion in our Constitution (1778) is the ‘No Religious Test Clause’- ‘but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States’. Basically, you can’t be excluded from holding office in our government on the basis of religion. Three years after the original Constitution was ratified (1791), we amended it to include the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’  The first two pieces of the First Amendment prohibit the establishment of an official church, and protect citizen’s abilities to hold whatever faith they’d like. Additionally, in 1797, President Adams signed a treaty into law which contained the following, ‘As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion’. 

So why am I going on and on about the historic significance of religion in America? Maybe it’s because I classify myself in the 23% of non-religiously affiliated citizens, but it seems to me religious symbols are rampant in our Government. Obama’s farewell address ending with the following, ‘God bless you.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America,‘ while Trump said the following in his Inauguration Address, ‘The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.‘ The very nature of these statements promote exclusivity to anyone who doesn’t share belief in God or the Bible. These statements are meant in a positive way, I’m sure, but the role of the President and of the United States Government is not religious. The role of our government is ‘To form a more perfect Union; To establish Justice; To insure domestic Tranquility; To provide for the common defense; To promote the general Welfare, and To secure the Blessings of Liberty.’

Our Presidents are sworn into office on a Bible. This seems a little misleading to me. Why are we placing a religious text in this position in our government? Don’t get me wrong, I am not attacking religion or any private citizens right to practice their faith, and uphold those principles how they see fit. I am questioning why a public servant to the United States of America swears to uphold the principles of a secular country on a religious text. The oath of office states, ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ Why is that oath not being conducted with the Constitution or at least the American flag? Those are the symbols that matter in that moment, for that role, on that stage.

As the President (not as a private citizen), you are beholden to the Constitution of the United States above all else. It seems to me, that swearing to protect the Constitution on the Bible sends a mixed message. It seems to suggest Christianity is more important than the Constitution, and certainly more important that all other faiths. Which is not the most unifying message. That message is also at odds with the very fabric of what this country was set up to be. Symbols matter, and it’s my belief that we should use symbols in our most important ceremonial moments to reflect the role of Government.

So while we may not be one nation under God, we are one nation. We may not all be Christians, but we are all Americans.

-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.

Image result for electoral college cartoon

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.

Image result for gratitude quotes

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.

 

 

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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The Origin Story

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How this got started…

During the 2016 Presidential election, we started texting. Over the 24 hours following the announcement that Donald Trump was the President Elect, we were distraught, we were angry, we were catatonic. And then we were inspired.

During Hillary’s concession speech she thanked young women for allowing her to be their champion and she asked us to “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your own dreams.”

That message stuck. That message matters. And that is the message that led to us to start throwing the idea of a blog around. 

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What we want…

Our country is in a state. Some think it’s a state of despair, chaos, hate and pain. Some think it’s a state of transition to something new, to something better. A lot of us are scared, but hopeful. A lot of us feel alone.

You are not alone. You are not forgotten. Your voice matters.

This blog is meant to be somewhere for us to express our feelings, our inspirations, and our concerns about the world we live in, and the events we are facing as a nation and as individuals. Somewhere to promote civil discourse and community. We don’t want anyone to feel marginalized, even those with beliefs different from ours.

When I was ten, I wrote an essay on Gloria Steinem. The assignment was to write about one of our inspirations. That next year I did projects on Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, and Cleopatra- clearly women who were ‘before their time’ made an impression on me. When I was 20, I wrote my thesis for my Political Science degree on the treatment of women within the American workplace. And when I was 25, I tried to elect the first female leader of the free world. I am ready to stop having to refer to strong women who fight for equality and progress as ‘ahead of their time’. It’s been time for far too long. We can’t afford to wait for our rights to be given to us. It’s very clearly the time to fight, the time to stake a claim on who we are, and what we value.

As Gloria once said, “any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke … She will need her sisterhood.” So this is my rally cry to my fellow sisters, and brothers, and those who don’t identify with either, we’re all in this together. Let’s hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. 

Don’t let the muggles get you down.

-Kate