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

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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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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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