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

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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

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

 

 

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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