Book Review: Dog Walker by Jack McGuigan

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ben Carter walks dogs for a living, which makes the opening to this book appear rather mellow.  Sure, he might get attacked every once in a while, but the majority of his day appears to be picking up behind greyhounds with over-active bowels.

But things change rather quickly when he begins walking a little dog who goes by the name of Toby.

He’s quickly thrust into a world of demons and cultists and a luchador from Japan…

This book is completely ridiculous, but in a very good way.  Much like John Dies at the End, it strikes this incredibly irreverent tone while dealing with some deeply dark issues.  The amount of detail which is placed behind the world McGuigan can be easily overlooked amid Ben’s infatuation with a young hipster girl who turns out to be…well, let’s just say she plays a very integral role to the story Ben finds himself directly in the middle of.

In the end, this story is a great one revolving around developing responsibility and crafting courage to stand up for things, even if you find them absolutely insane.

And it’s a lot of fun.

If you like books like John Dies at the End, you’re certain to dig this light tale about a Dog Walker and his pet demon.

Buy it now!

 

Fat Mogul vs. Depression

TL:DR version (because this one’s mighty long):  I recently finished with a bad battle against my depression.  I wrote about depression while battling depression to share with you so you might be able to better understand depression.  Ultimately: Depression Sucks.

After-Depression Me: I’ve talked about depression on here a time or two, but never while I’m actually in the midst of a major bout of it.  Now, although I was in the midst of one at the time I wrote the majority of this article, I held off on releasing it until I was out the other end, so as to make sure that it wasn’t completely terrible or too dark or whatever.

This isn’t an attempt to garner sympathy for myself.  I generally manage my illness well.  This is about opening up the discussion about this disease.  To give those of you a glimpse into what it feels like on the inside of it.  There are many who suffer from this much worse than I do.  Many who take fatal action because they can’t cope.  My hope with this is to help you not only understand why they might take such action, but also so that those who know their friends/family/neighbors are suffering might have a bit better grasp at what’s going on so they can help them through it.

With the holiday season upon us, a common trigger for many who suffer from this disease, there couldn’t be a more important time to discuss this too regularly un-discussed topic.

Firstly, depression is different for everyone.  There really is no one way to describe it.  Secondly, I’m lucky to not suffer from an extremely bad or frequent case of it.

What this means is that, although I firmly believe that what I’m about to tell you is a fair approximation of most cases of depression, this is not a one-size-fits-all kind of disease.  It’s an incredibly personal one.  And one which takes a great deal of effort to even express.  By that, I mean that the below doesn’t even truly do what I’m going through at the moment justice.

The first matter of business here is to highlight how this is 100% a disease.  It’s not just purely moping around about something not going your way.  It’s not being sad about something sad that happened.  It’s an irrational outburst of emotions which may or may not have been triggered by something happening to the person.

It’s a complete and utter breakdown of your brain’s ability to think through items rationally.

It’s an emotional disorder.

To use a metaphor:  Depression is like when you have a cold and can’t stop coughing.  Except, instead of coughing, you’re crying (although maybe not on the outside).

This metaphor is useful for another reason.  You see, just like slapping a person who won’t stop coughing and telling them to “get over it” won’t have any positive effect on that person, neither will it on the person suffering from depression.

Another important item to consider right off the bat is that depression is not about any specific thought or event in a person’s life.  Again, these things could be the trigger to a bout of depression, but that’s not what it’s about.  They will most definitely be things which repeat endlessly inside their head while deep in the depths of their depression, but that’s not what it’s about.

It’s about an overwhelming emotion.  An emotion unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.  An emotion not well-described by saying they’re sad or mad.  It’s completely different.  If anything, the best word to describe it is despair.

And because I don’t think words alone could ever truly do this disease justice, I’m going to use another metaphor.  A scene from Silence of the Lambs.

Although the movie tends to focus primarily on the relationship between the characters played by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, there’s a guy named Buffalo Bill who brings these two together.  He’s a rather terrible human being.  Likes to kidnap women, put them in a hole in the ground in his basement, and have them lather themselves with lotion for an indetermined period of time until he finally skins them and makes their skin into things like lamp shades.

Depression is like being that girl at the bottom of the pit.  Except, she’s moved past the fear.  She’s given up hope.  She’s accepted her fate.  She knows there is no good left for her in her life.  All that’s left is Buffalo Bill and his damned lotion.

Depression hits you just like if Buffalo Bill grabbed you off the street and threw you right down into the bottom of that pit and you immediately accepted your fate.  One moment you’re just walking down the street happy as a clam and then, BOOM, you see nothing worthwhile left in your life.

You’re in a pit.  Alone.  And you can’t find any way out.

But here’s where the metaphor breaks down a bit.  Because unlike that girl, there are people walking by who could save you all the time.  They even see your plight and ask what’s wrong.

Imagine that girl, sitting at the bottom of that pit with Buffalo Bill looking down at her, grinning maniacally while sharpening his knives, having people walk by constantly, asking if there is anything they can do to help, only for her to respond with “Oh, I’m okay.  Just a little tired.”

It’s ridiculous.

Not only that, but she’s down there folding laundry, doing dishes, creating reports for work, performing brain surgery–she’s going about her daily life as if everything is completely normal.  While sitting at the bottom of that pit, completely alone, in utter despair.

If that girl’s really lucky, she may even have some people throw down a rope to her.  Try to help her out.  She’ll turn that down as well.  Assuring fully that she doesn’t need the help, that she’s completely fine.  She might even get mad at the offer. Although it’s obvious something is wrong, she wants you to know that she’s got it all under control.

That’s depression: Being alone, even when you’re not alone.

And the entire time the girl is down there, she’s saying to herself, “I wish someone would just come along and save me from this pit.  I wish there was anyone in my life who cared enough to come along and help.  Why do I have to be so alone?”

Because depression’s not rational.  It’s emotion.  And it’s devastatingly overwhelming.

And now, I’m going to do something that goes against every fiber of my being.  I’m going to give you a brief insight into my current situation.  Let you get a glimpse at what’s going on in my brain right this very moment.  Not because I want to.  But because I feel it’s necessary.  Because I feel that if more people just understood what depression is, we might be able to find better ways to help those who deal with it on a much more severe basis than I do.

Like I mentioned above, to get into a depressive bout, there is often a trigger.  However, a trigger isn’t necessary.  It can just as often come about for absolutely no reason.

(After-depression Me:  Although I mention a trigger in the following paragraph, the reality is that I was on the slope toward a depressive bout for days leading up to the moment I’m about to describe.  My “trigger” was actually much more a product of my depression, not what brought me there.)

For me this time, it was a dream.  I woke up from a dream feeling as though my wife were sharing her love with someone else.  There was no rational thought behind it.  No real reason to believe this to be true.  No minor indicators which would have caused me to believe this. I just suddenly woke up with this fear that my wife might leave me.

I knew from the start it was a stupid thought.  I attempted to brush it off as such, knowing that whatever had happened in the dream wasn’t a reflection of reality.  That my wife had done nothing to cause me to believe this to be true.  Nothing to betray my trust.  Nothing to even cause me to think she might have.  But my brain couldn’t let go of this feeling.  The emotion of it.

The emotion of being absolutely alone.

The trigger, for me, was my own damned brain.  A random series of images flashing through my REM sleep gave me an emotion.  And that emotion stuck.

That day I hid.  I couldn’t talk to anyone.  I couldn’t interact.  I couldn’t possibly even let my wife know what was going on.  Luckily for my need to hide during a depressive bout, my wife was aware of how I had woken up in the middle of the night and just assumed I was tired.

At first.

You see, I’m luckier than many.  I do have a wife I confide in.  She knows about my depression. And although she might not be able to “correct” it, she has gained an ability to identify when I get here.

Unfortunately, depression isn’t rational.  It’s savage.  There may be thoughts which you find to support the emotional state you’re in, but ultimately, it’s the emotion which feeds those thoughts, not the other way around.

And so, even though she was there, attempting to make me feel loved.  I sat alone, separating myself from her and everyone around me, feeling alone.

Just to make that last sentence completely clear, the base emotion of my depressive bouts is that I feel like I am completely alone.  Yet, when I get here, my reaction is to separate myself from everyone to make myself actually alone.

I stop talking.  I stop doing.  I just hide in a corner.  Incapable of responding.

After a day or so, the rawness of the emotion began to fade and I became slightly more capable.  I gained the ability to pretend everything was okay or at least I was able to do so better than I had at the start.  I could talk to people, sorta.

But the emotion still hangs on.  It informs my every thought.  It impacts my every action.

Just writing this right now is an act of sheer will.  I’ve attempted to write this several times over the past few days, only being able to get a few words out before giving up and shutting down once again. (After-Depression Me: This is very true.  The attempts were generally only a few sentences long each, very dark, and very very ugly.  Luckily for me, I hadn’t saved them at the time, so I don’t need an excuse to not share them with you now.)

Because this is the thing about depression, it completely overtakes you.  Consider the maddest you’ve ever been, or the saddest, or even the happiest.  Find a moment in your life where you lose complete control of your actions and thoughts because of an emotion.  That’s what depression is.  Except the emotion is…emptiness.

Worthlessness.

Despair.

That no one could ever love you.

It is the strongest and worst emotion I have ever experienced.

And it makes everything else fade to black.

So there you are, sitting at the bottom of a deep pit, feeling as though there is nothing left to live for (I promise I’m not the suicidal type, but the world can appear quite dark from down here).  You feel alone.  That no one can save you.

And honestly, that can be where you stay indefinitely.  Based on my experience, it is possible to just ride out a bout of depression.  You can just let it run it’s course.  It’s not pretty, but it is possible that it will fade.  The problem being, it could take years for that to happen.  You can find yourself coming out the other end with an entirely different life than you had when you went in.

You can also get medicated

(After-Depression Me: For the record, this is how I began the climb out, even if I sound somewhat against it in the following paragraph).

Modern medicine can do some amazing things when it comes to helping you get out of the pit.  But everything is muted.  You get rid of the lows, but you also get rid of the highs.  Those things you would latch on to in your darkest moments, the things you would try to remember in order to keep yourself from completely giving in to your depression–you can’t feel them anymore.  You just feel “okay”.  I’m not saying that medicine isn’t an important tool for anyone who suffers from depression to have in their arsenal.  But I am saying that for many, that tool has as many faults as it has strengths.

There is also therapy.  Talking to someone about your issues.  Someone who has tools at their disposal they can give you to help you strengthen yourself in your battle.  I’ve never been strong enough to put myself into the chair and talk about my depression, so I can’t talk about this first-hand.  Heck, even this post is unlikely to ever make it to print.  However, I do know that for many of my friends with similar issues, they consider it to be a life saver.

But still not the resolution.

In the end, there is no cure to depression.  It’s an ongoing battle.  And the only way you can come out on top is to decide you no longer want to allow the depression to win.  This is not in any way an easy prospect.  Because when you’re at the bottom of that hole, all you see is Buffalo Bill.  He’s your only option.

(After-Depression Me: I just want to note how amazingly hopeful I got in the following paragraphs.  Attempting to psyche myself up, apparently.  It took several days after this was written before I was, in any way, on the road to recovery.  And that was only due to medication.)

Yet, you have to choose to fight.  To climb out of the deep deep pit.  To struggle against the demons which plague you.  To use every ounce of willpower at your disposal to lift yourself up and find the light.

It’s not easy.  And you’ll falter along the way.  And every step of the way your depression will tell you it’s not worth it.  And the worst part about it all is that since you feel so absolutely alone, you don’t even know how to ask for the help to get out.

But it’s possible.

Those who suffer from depression don’t like to talk about it because it feels like a weakness.  Like an enormous vulnerability.  Yet the effort required to get yourself out of that pit is immeasurably large.  It’s fighting against every impulse of your brain to say that you want to survive.  To say that you want to continue.  To say that you WANT to believe you aren’t alone.

While irrationally certain none of that is possible for you.

And even if you find your way out and get back to normalcy, that pit is still there.  In the back of your mind.  Threatening to pull you in once again.  Beckoning you to come back to where you belong.

Depression is a constant battle against yourself to say that you ARE worthy.  To say that whether or not other people love you, you love yourself.  To choose to be strong when you are most weak.  To choose to win.

Light vs. Dark.  Good vs. Evil. It’s an eternal internal struggle.  And the only reason to keep fighting is because of how terrible it is when you allow yourself to lose any single battle.

I hate the pit.

I never want to be back here again.

And I will not put the lotion on the f*cking skin.

But unfortunately, I’m not out yet.

I’m not okay.

But, if you ask me…I’ll tell you I am.

(After-Depression Me: My thoughts on the above: I was obviously holding back.  Also, since I couldn’t write this during the early days, due to a complete and utter inability to exist, you definitely aren’t getting the full effect of what this can be on the brain.  The moment I wrote this was actually one of the better periods of time during the week I allowed myself to struggle.  From there I went into an even darker place, went back to hiding, spent a weekend just trying to not see or talk to anyone.  As a father of three kids, however, that wasn’t really possible.

The important thing to take from this incredibly long post is this: Depression eats away at you, it envelops your entire being.  Although you may be able to go through your daily routine, the world hides behind a hazy curtain of insecurity and/or self-loathing. 

I’m not suicidal when I get like this, but that’s purely because of years of managing my disease.  When you get into that state of utter despair, it is all too easy to just want to end it.  To just make the feeling go away.  To never have to be that way again.

But then, oddly enough, when you get out, the memory of the time in the pit fades–allowing you to forget how much you never want to allow yourself to get there again.

Bottom line: Hug everyone.  Every day.  If they’re in a depressive bout, it very well might make them feel loved.  If it doesn’t, it could at least cause them to part the curtain for a second to figure out what the heck just happened.

Addendum to the Bottom Line:  You should really probably only do this to people who you know don’t have issues with hugging…you know, like friends or family or whatever.  Consensual hugging is what I’m promoting here, folks.  Although I heartily wish I could just tell you to go out hugging without abandon, there are definitely those for which this could have an opposite effect.

Reminder, the above article was written in the past.  If you feel the need to ship sympathy my way, can I suggest, instead, you find a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and just shoot them a message of love? You never know.  It could save their life.)

The Bliss of Ignorance…

In my last post, Step 3, I suggested you try stepping into the shoes of those who are different than you, those who you disagree with, to truly and honestly attempt to figure out exactly what it is that guides their principles and opinions and leads them to the decisions they make.  To really attempt to figure out what informs their alliances and actions.

I’ve focused a lot on the political aspects of this discussion, but I honestly believe we need to do this for every one of our interactions with people we feel are “different” than us.  That we need to understand what makes up those differences.  That we need to see each other as equals, but with different life experiences.

Now you’ve gone through the first three steps and arrived at the moment where you know what informs the decisions of others, you’ve honestly reflected on the information you’ve received.  You really truly feel like you understand why they do the things they do.

Step Four is making an actual effort to separate the good from the bad.  To see people for who they are, and to apply your intolerance to those who truly deserve it.  The people who abuse others.  Those who create hate.  Pain.  Suffering.  The power hungry.

You may see one group as being evil, or dumb, or whatever, but more than likely, the majority of the people who are part of it, are unknowingly a part of an evil, dumb or whatever group.  In the case of politics, those folks on the ground level, your friends and neighbors, are probably not evil, probably not stupid, probably not Nazis or thieves.  They are probably just people who have become convinced for one reason or another, that their “team” is the good one and the other is the evil one.

Similarly, just because someone’s black, doesn’t mean that they’re going to mug you in the street.

Now, I know there’s a danger to be had creating correlations between racist stereotyping and political stereotyping.  Obviously the people in one of those groups can’t really help that they are part of the group their in.  They don’t make a conscious decision.  But both situations rely on one thing, defining the actions of a group based on the actions of some within that group.

You see, these steps, all four of them, are all about one thing: redirecting your intolerance toward the appropriate parties.  Don’t hate Muslims, hate the people who are crashing their planes into our buildings.

Just like you shouldn’t hate all Christians because some of them blow up abortion clinics.

We get mad at our friends and neighbors for being “ignorant”.  For not knowing how to express themselves correctly with regards to those of other races, creeds or whatever.  But what we should be doing with them is having helpful conversations where we can express to them how those words or actions may appear to others.

Now, to make an argument for ignorance here…

I used to fly a Confederate flag.

Well, fly’s not really the appropriate term.  I didn’t have a flag pole or anything.  I hung it up on the wall of my dorm room.  At the same time, I was also one who believed that the flag should stay on the top of the Capitol building in South Carolina.  I would have argued the case with you quite readily for it to stay.

That alone would make me appear to be a racist.  If I were running for President today, and a picture of me standing in front of that flag were to surface, it would define a great portion of the discussion for many.  There are those who sport the infamous rebel flag who have racist ideologies.

I was not one of them (And still am not, for the matter of record).

In that same hypothetical Presidential bid, here is the message that only my supporters would (unfortunately) hear in response.  The real, completely honest, no lies here reason why I had (and displayed) that flag.

I grew up in South Carolina.  I bought the flag when I moved to Wisconsin for school.  For me, at the time, it was a symbol of where I came from.  And although I knew the Civil War was a war at which slavery was a key debate topic, it also stood, in my mind, for a battle quite similar to the Revolutionary War.  The South had felt like their voice wasn’t being heard. They were losing representation of their ideas in the federal government (although, again, generally focused around the slavery topic).  They felt they were being oppressed.  That they were being taken advantage of.  That they no longer mattered to the rest of the country.

To me, at the time, The Confederate Flag stood as a symbol of standing up for yourself in the face of oppression.

The problem, of course, in this very real, completely 100% true scenario (outside of the Presidential bid metaphor) is that I never took the time to actually consider what message this flag might send to others.

The flag didn’t last long.  It maybe made it a year before I tucked it away into hiding, feeling embarrassed that I could have proudly stood behind a banner which, to many, appeared as a symbol of oppression.

The Civil War was such a nuanced conflict in my mind, but for so many others, it was simply a battle for White Supremacy.

I was ignorant.

But because I had so much extra knowledge behind it, since I was considering all the conflicts which led up to the Civil War, I couldn’t recognize it.  I was putting a great deal of knowledge behind my decision to fly the flag, how could I possibly have been the one who was being ignorant?

The answer, of course, is because I didn’t stop to recognize how others might perceive my display.  Just because I knew what I knew, and stood behind it for my own principles, didn’t mean that anyone else in the entire world had that same thought when they saw that flag.

It’s the same reason the swastika is not what we use for our peace sign today, even though it has thousands of years as a symbol for peace, and only a few decades as a symbol for hate.

The label of ignorance gets tossed around so much today, but with so much hate placed behind it.  Yet, the problem is, that by the very definition of the word ignorance, these people don’t know what you think they should know.  Or at the very least, don’t have the same perception you have regarding the topic.

Which is why we need to get out there and talk to our fellow men and women.  And do so honestly, diplomatically, and with a true attempt to be understanding.  Because when it comes down to it, they probably don’t realize that what they’re doing is hurting anyone.

And once you’ve cut out the ignorant.  Those who act not out of malicious intent, but simply due to a different worldview.  You can begin to focus on those who deserve your intolerance.

Those who would manipulate a country through fear in order to gain power.  Those who lead others to hate.  Those who oppress.

There are many in this country to be intolerant of.  We need to find them. Seek them out.  Stop them.

For those who oppress us, abuse us, or just plain discriminate against us, we must first let them know they are doing so.  After we’ve learned where they are coming from, it is our responsibility to help them understand the part of the equation they don’t know.  To them, it might be the equivalent of calling you Mr. instead of Mrs., in that, it was an honest mistake based on the information they had at the time.

But if that doesn’t work.  If they are willfully refusing to recognize how they have done these things.  This is when intolerance may be required.

But there’s one more piece required in identifying how to properly move forward with intolerance:

We need to stop villainizing groups, and begin villainizing people.  By calling all Republicans are bigots, you, yourself, are being bigoted.  If you think all Democrats are lazy, entitled millennial, you are being bigoted.

(Quick side note: I realize it’s easy to look at the above statements and declare that you realize there are exceptions to the “rule”.  I’m saying, toss out the “rule”.  Mass generalizations are dangerous.)

Don’t be bigoted. Be informed.  And inform your fellow man.

I’m going to end this series with another quote.  And just because I like to stir things up, I’m going to use a book which tends to sit in a very uncomfortable spot right in the middle of many of these debates….The Bible.

“If you sin without knowing what you are doing, God takes that into account.  But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely.” – Romans 2:12,

If God, the entity known for destroying entire cities based on their actions, can give ignorance a bit of a pass, then surely we can.

In summation:

Right now, we, not only the American people, but the people of the planet Earth, need to change the conversation.  By that, I mean we need to actually start having A conversation.  We must use compassion, not hate.  We must work to inform our friends and neighbors about the ideologies we hold dear which they disagree with, and do so with love, not with the need to win.  Not with the need to “correct” them.  But with compassion.

It’s time for us, as the American people, to stop thinking about each other in terms of groups.  We need to remove the labels.  We must begin thinking about each other as brothers and sisters in this life.

And save the hate, the intolerance, for those who truly deserve it.  Those who actively seek to hurt their fellow man, whether it’s through actions, words, legislation or other.

These steps, all of them, are incredibly personal.  They are steps which will change drastically depending on who follows them.  As such, the steps you take next will also be different for each person.

But the next steps are yours.  To work to actively seek to better our world.  To increase the love and cut out the hate (at least against those who may not be deserving).

And…although I’m reluctant to say it…to condemn people like Trump based on his actual actions, not purely because of what we fear he could be.  He IS our President now…or will be come January.  There’s very little we can do about that.  Starting out already by saying how he’s ruining our country could have a very terrible side effect.

Is Trump going to be a terrible President?  Only time will truly tell.  He’s not the kind of guy I want in office, but I can honestly say that I can’t predict what his administration will do to this country.

The problem is that by attacking those who voted for him today, you’re turning them away from hearing you about the things that need to be heard.

You’re turning them away from having a conversation about why you are hurting because he has been elected.

You’re turning them away from hearing you should he begin doing truly terrible things like opening up internment camps for Muslims (which, for the record, although it has been discussed by those in Trump’s administration, is not something Trump has publicly declared as an intention).

Trump’s election was a painful one for many.  He is a man who uses hate and fear to motivate his followers, and there have definitely been some who have used his platform of hate and fear to feel more empowered to act on their malicious ideologies.  The image of this man as a misogynistic bigot is one that caused many to fear that their own voice won’t be heard.

These are worthwhile fears.  America, although the land of the free, has a long history of oppressing minorities.  Of causing groups to feel like they no longer have a voice.

This is why we need a conversation.  To talk about these issues instead of yelling them at the top of our lungs.  So we can express our fears.  So people can hear them.

And then we stand up for our common man.  Those who are being oppressed.  Those who are being hurt.  Those who feel like they have lost their voice.  And if we’ve been having these conversations with our friends and family and neighbors, maybe, just maybe, they’ll join our side when we stand up for the things which truly matter.

We the people are strong.  Let’s focus on making US stronger so that we can stand against THEM together.

Martin Luther King Jr. once declared the danger of ignorance.  And he wasn’t wrong.  But the responsibility is on those who aren’t ignorant to inform the ones who are.  More than likely, that’s you.

 

A Matter of Perspective

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

I don’t generally like to rely on the quotes of others to make a point, but Sun Tzu makes my point for me.  These words are pretty much precisely what I’ve been getting at these past couple weeks, specifically with regard to my steps toward a New America.

Step One: Know thyself.

Step Two: Know thine enemy.

Now, although this quote one of the more oft-utilized passages from this highly-regarded piece of literature, it doesn’t really do the book itself justice.  Because Tzu spends much more time in the book talking about a third item.  Knowing Your Environment.

In a physical war, this mean things like finding the high ground or a narrow passageway or knowing where your enemy might be able to hide.  It means knowing all of your options, but also knowing all of those available to your enemy.

In the philosophical war, there’s a different type of environment.

The mind…or, more specifically, perspective.

And just like you would want to change your environment if it will improve your chances in overcoming the enemy, you might need to change your perspective if it is poor-equipped for the conversation we need to start today.

It’s incredibly easy to get stuck inside your own perspective in the modern world.  Although we are able to communicate with anyone across the globe at the touch of a smart phone, we tend to stay within our own safe little circles.

And I really can’t argue with the want to do that.  It’s far easier to surround ourselves with people we agree with.  It’s definitely much more pleasant.  Why go out of your way to interact purely with people you have a completely different perspective from?  It’s easy to feel as though you’re not even speaking the same language when interacting with people from different cultures, backgrounds, religions, races, income levels, et cetera.

The problem here is that when we only surround ourselves with like-minded people, it’s very easy to fall into the trap that those who disagree with you are wrong, purely on the fact that they are different.

But even if we allow that there could be a possibility that we might be in the wrong, that doesn’t necessarily remove the feelings that others are also in the wrong.  More often than not, we put them as being MORE in the wrong than us.

Steps One and Two seek to address this part of the issue.  To realize that we ourselves may be in the wrong, while also learning more about the perspective of those we believe to be wrong.

Step Three is the personal application of Steps One and Two.

While starting this post off with a quote from The Art of War might lead you to believe I’m suggesting you consider those you find “different” than you to be the enemy, I’m actually pressing for the opposite.

Step Three is about allowing our new-found knowledge to inform our conversation.  To allow it to change us, to inform our beliefs, to inform our decisions, and ultimately to change our perspective.

Now, I’m not suggesting that simply by talking to someone who has a different perspective than you, you should change “teams”.  But what I’m suggesting is that you might be able to realize where they’re coming from.

The important thing here is to take away your own perspective for a second, take away what you might think or know about the matter at hand entirely, so you can see exactly how a person from a different part of the conversation sees things.

You might still disagree, but you need to understand.  You must understand and recognize that there are reasons that person has taken up a different part of the argument and allow yourself to recognize that, at least to them, those reasons are completely valid.  Then you take that new knowledge and apply it to your own knowledge.

Your perspective on the topic itself might not change, but your perspective on your “enemy” should.

Now here’s the thing.  If you’ve changed your perspective.  If you’ve come to the understanding that those you disagree with actually possibly have reasons behind what they think outside of simply them being wrong, you now have new ammunition.  The conversation can change.

No longer does the conversation have to be as polarized as “Free Healthcare!”/”Socialism!”.  Maybe it can become more nuanced.  Maybe it can become a discussion about how health insurance, by its very nature, is a form of socialism.  That there are many reasons the system might work better, should everyone be required to have health insurance.  Or maybe not… Or, that if you take away the insurance company’s ability to preclude people from coverage because of pre-existing conditions, but don’t require them to have insurance, then they will only need to get insurance when they are ill or injured, meaning that health insurance will no longer be insurance, but an easy payout.

More importantly, this discussion about something as broken as the American health care industry (something a majority of Americans agree is broken) is much more intricate than simple ideals.

And you see, that’s the bigger issue at hand here.  The debate between Republicans and Democrats operates on a very black and white scale.  But the reality about running a government, about governing a country, is that there is a lot more gray involved.

Are there people on welfare and abusing it?  Certainly.

Are there people who rely on welfare due to means outside of their control?  Most definitely.

The answer then, is somewhere between where the conversation has been.  It’s not about one way or the other.  It’s about what’s best for the American people as a whole people.  About what we can do, together, to move forward.  To be stronger.  (And yes, I realize that sounds an awful lot like a certain Democrat’s campaign slogan, but I promise you this is not an advocation for Ms. Clinton).

Here’s the thing, folks.  We need to get outside of our comfort zones.  We need to see the rest of the world.  We need to know that what works best for us, might not be what works best for everyone.  We need to also know that what we think might work best for everyone, might not be what others think might work best for everyone.

We need to realize that the truth lies somewhere between conservatives and liberals.  That the truth lies with the people.

And we need to change our perspective to include as many different Americans as we can before we can say, definitively, that we have the only answers to “save our country”.

Because what America needs right now is a conversation.  Not tolerance.  But an outright realization that the primary thing which divides us is disagreement in how to best run this country.  This isn’t good verses evil, but a difference, primarily, in opinion.

(Before you get up in arms, yes, I realize that your side of the discussion may be based in facts, but the other side obviously doesn’t see it the same way as you…meaning not everyone agrees on these facts)

Of course…there are still moments where a conversation isn’t enough…but that’s Step Four.  Which just so happens to be the intended conclusion to this series…

The Formula for (In)Tolerance

In the wake of our most recent election, a time of great emotional upheaval for most of America on both sides of the election results, I’ve finally begun to make an effort to break down how I see the world today.

I began by talking about how this election should have never happened, followed it up by suggesting how it’s time for individuals to rise up.  I noted that a vote for a man who *might* be evil doesn’t make you evil yourself.  I even suggested Donald Trump *might* not be the worst outcome of this election.  And after a brief break to tell you how you shouldn’t get your hopes up, I finally came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t believe everything the news tells us about our politicians (I can’t help but noting that the Oxford Dictionary proclaimed post-truth as the word of the year the day AFTER I posted this one.)

This all, of course, was really just bits of background in order to lead up to the big item.  The Step One of beginning a New America.

The Self-Reflection.

The Apology.

Brief recap of that week’s worth of posts:

The most important first step each and every one of us can take in situations where we think the world has gone wrong, is to see if maybe we’re the ones at fault.

Now it’s time to begin Step Two.  Because an apology is never enough.  Just like when you were a little kid told to apologize, it is much more important for you to know WHY you are apologizing.

With all that lead in…I’d like to focus today’s article on a single word which is tossed around a lot today:

Tolerance.

Tolerance is a stupid word.  There is really very little difference between it and Intolerance, except that when you’re being tolerant, you’re being quiet about your intolerance.

I recently attended a presentation aimed at stopping prejudice in the workplace.  The lady in the video said, (paraphrased quote) “Sometimes you’re just prejudiced against some people, whether they’re black or white or have green mohawks.  But in the workplace, you have to own your prejudice.  Realize you just don’t like working with those people but do it anyways.  Get whatever needs to be done done, then go on your merry way.”

That’s tolerance.

And it’s not an acceptable way of dealing with prejudice.

If you applied this concept to the Civil Rights movement, this would be equivalent to saying, “Fine, you can use the same bathroom as me, but you’re still not worthy.”  It’s a version of “Let’s agree to disagree”, but being said about something that, in general, shouldn’t be disagreed about.

We should not simply tolerate women in the workplace, but know that they are equally skilled and as capable as men.  (Accounting for knowledge and education, I suppose.  I mean, I’ll admit a man with a medical degree is probably more suited to be my doctor than a woman who graduated as an Art History major…maybe.  The important part is that genitals shouldn’t be a part of this particular discussion.)

Tolerance is not a changing of the mind, but a changing of the actions.  A change of actions is definitely important, but until there is a change of the mind, of the heart, we’re never going to move forward as a nation…or as a world, for that matter.

However, there are times where intolerance might actually be necessary.  If, for instance, you have been wronged and can’t get anyone to listen.  Not only that, but everyone refuses to listen.  Then you must become intolerant.  You must speak out.  You must ensure you have been heard.

If the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s had not been intolerant of those who insisted they must drink from certain water fountains, they would probably still be drinking from those water fountains today.

But that intolerance came from intolerance.  Because hate breeds hate.

There is one more piece to take into consideration here.  Generally, people who are being intolerant are completely unaware of such.

So, I’ve developed a handy little formula which could assist you in determining whether you yourself have been or are being intolerant.

Ga != Gb = (In)Tolerance

Put into English, if you believe Group A is not equal to Group B, you are being (in)tolerant.

Now, I’ll admit, there could be some loose definition going on here.

For example: Based on this formula, one could determine that Packers and Vikings fans are intolerant of each other.  If you listen to the vitriol which crosses between these two groups, you might end up agreeing that these two groups honestly believe that the opposite group is not as great as they are.  That the group who supports the “right” team is better.

Actually, you could use this formula to apply to many of our daily interactions and personal thoughts.  I, for instance, really despise Apple consumers and Marvel fanboys.  They’re just so…self-assured and crap.  I mean, seriously, how can they honestly say that Captain America: Civil War is better than Batman v Superman?  Seriously!  Did they see the extended cut?!?  And shut up about Suicide Squad already.  It’s not like Iron Man 3 was all that great either!

Of course, the majority of these conversations between opposing fan bases are nothing but playful ribbing.  Packers and Vikings fans can watch the game together with rarely a scene.  There are infrequently words of true hate sputtered between DC and Marvel fans when they sit down after a movie screening to discuss the film.  For the majority of people connected to these examples, they’re friendly rivalries, not actual intolerance.

Not anywhere near what you would expect to see should a KKK member and a Blood sit in the same room.

Of course, for those two groups, intolerance would be a fairly petty word to attach to their emotions regarding the other party.

Getting away from the extremes, perhaps it would be best to look somewhere in the middle.

I think it’s fairly obvious that our current political climate has become quite intolerant.  With an election season where both parties were declaring the other evil, with the constant need to equate a politician to Hitler, with how often we’re just incapable of discussing “politics” with each other, even if we agree, without sounding like we’re arguing–  If there’s one thing politics is not best for, it’s polite conversation.

Which is, of course, where the old adage “Don’t talk politics or religion in mixed company” comes from.  Heck, today it gets difficult to talk it in non-mixed company.

That old adage was a promotion of tolerance.

And, like I said before.  Tolerance IS a stupid word.

We should not merely tolerate each other.  Republicans shouldn’t *tolerate* Democrats, nor vice versa.  But neither, do I believe, should they be intolerant of each other.  At least not with where the “conversation” is today.

You see, many of those who support either Republicans or Democrats, do so in a manner very similar to those who support the Packers or the Vikings.  It’s is a heartfelt dedication to the cause of those groups.  They have specific real reasons, definitely, but there is a certain home team spirit that comes long with it.

Yet, Republicans and Democrats can’t sit together and watch an election.  Not generally speaking anyways.  And definitely not with our most recent election.

Now, don’t think I don’t see the evil side of insert-evil-party-name-here.  I firmly believe insert-evil-party-name-here has some terrible policies they support.

But the question is, does insert-righteous-party-name-here have all perfect policies?  Is it possible that you’re willing to overlook some evil policies on your side of the debate while focusing solely on the evil ones across the aisle?

In other words, is it possible that insert-evil-party-name-here isn’t actually any more evil than insert-righteous-party-name-here?  Is it possible that those who support either party, at their heart, actually hope to achieve similar ends, although they might be through different means?

Obviously those questions are a great cause for debate.  I’m not looking to answer them here.  My point is, what if there are times where we become too quick to judge, simply because of the label attached to that group?

Sure, maybe insert-Hitler-esque-politician-name-here is going to destroy this nation, but maybe the reason his supporters follow him are for something completely different than we envision at the forefront.

Maybe all Republicans really are greedy power mongers and maybe all Democrats are truly sneaky thieves.  Or maybe, just maybe, we’re working against each other because we’re on different teams, but both actually want the same things to happen?

Maybe, because we’re stuck in a two party system, we only see the “other team” for the policies that aren’t so great, while being blind to the ones “our team” have that we also don’t agree with.

Maybe.

I’m not making conclusions here.  I’m asking questions.

What I am saying is that just like with racial/religious/gender prejudice, we need to seek out an understanding of the perception of those who think differently than us.  Because honestly, we are all the same.  We are not all Hitlers.  We are not all evil.

Now, I mean to apply this concept to all forms of intolerance, I really do.  And I highly suggest you review the above formula and following discussion for your interactions with any other groups.  But, since the series of posts I’m currently working on are focused on the concept of bringing together our incredible divided nation, I’m going to finish this by continuing with the example we’re already on.

Because the bipartisan process in America has made us completely incapable of discussing how to best move our country forward.  We have been taught to villainize one side or the other.  It’s not just that we disagree with the other team, it’s that they are evil, and so are all those who subscribe to their politics.

I’d like to offer an alternative perspective:

In this battle of conservatives vs. liberals, someone is winning.

And it’s not the American people.

It’s the politicians who pit us against each other.  The media who use such amazing feats of yellow journalism not seen since Pulitzer and Hearst.  It’s those men and women who are in power and want to stay in power, and will as long as we are busy fighting amongst ourselves and not requiring them to actually do something worthwhile.  Not requiring them to effect positive change.  Not requiring them to do anything else but “politics as usual”.

The number one thing keeping our country on its current path today is that we, as the American people, are incapable of working together to keep our politicians honest.  To keep them working toward the greater good.  To have them caring more about what the American people want than what the lobbyists want.

We’re can become so focused on this team mentality, that we often shut down the actions of the other team before even attempting to understand what they’re about.  What they might do. How we might be able to reach a compromise which could positively effect both sides of our divided nation.

And with all that being said, I now (finally) offer up Step 2 of creating a New America.

After you have used Step 1 (and the formula I provided today) to determine that you should be pointing at least one finger at yourself, then you need to actually strike up a conversation with someone from the group you identified as Group B.  Those you disagree with or think less of or maybe have uttered a phrase similar to “I just don’t understand how Group B can insert-action-here” to.

Facebook debates about who is right do not count here, folks.

By conversation, what I actually mean is that you need to get them to start talking about what they think about things and then LISTEN.

Listen to them about the things they feel most dearly about, about those things they are shouting about at the top of their lungs.  About those things that they think are wrong with this country or other people or whatever.

But don’t go into the conversation planning on pushing your side of the debate.

Even while they’re telling you how the Irish are what’s wrong with this country, you NEED to stay completely focused on what they’re saying.

Ask them follow up questions like, “Why the Irish?”, but don’t turn around and say, “Actually, if you look at the history books, you’ll find that the Italians are far more worse, or even the Polish.  The Irish are simply looking for food!”

Give them their opportunity to explain themselves fully.

Because this isn’t about proving them wrong.  This is about hearing them out.  About learning what makes them tick.  About getting an actual idea of what basis they have for the thoughts in their mind.  Even if the logic appears completely absurd to you, hear them.  Take it in.  Reflect on it later.

Don’t be prepared to berate them with your own thoughts on the topic.  Let them own the conversation.  If, perhaps, they finally say something along the lines of , “So, that about sums me up, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject”, even then don’t succumb.

They don’t need to come out of the conversation feeling right.  They just need to feel heard. And, more importantly, you need to have heard them.  To have fully attempted to understand what it is that causes them to be different.  To attempt to realize that maybe they actually aren’t.

Whether you’re intolerant of conservatives or liberals, people of color, Muslims, Christians, or Marvel fanboys, just for now, for this precise moment, let them tell you how they feel.

Let them have their say.

Be that listener.

For just this one moment.

It won’t be easy.  But I firmly believe it will be important.  Especially when it comes to Step 3.

 

To Heal a Country

Before I begin, I must give this incredibly important disclaimer.  I am a straight white male.  I can never do this topic true justice. 

Three years ago a movement began in response to the acquittal of a white man fatally shooting an unarmed black kid.  #BlackLivesMatter.  Shortly thereafter a new movement cropped up. #AllLivesMatter.

#BlackLivesMatter began as a way for a specific group of people to spread the word about a specific problem in this country. It wasn’t only Trayvon Martin’s death which brought this about, it was an ongoing issue people of a certain skin pigmentation felt existed with how they were treated, specifically by the police.  That last note is important, because George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon, was not a police officer.  He was simply a small part of a much larger problem.

The #AllLivesMatter response, which was intended to say that police die as well, ignored the very valid plight that #BlackLivesMatter highlighted.  Whether or not it was intended, #AllLivesMatter said, “So what?  Black people shoot cops sometimes, too!”

There is a very real issue to identify in that police officers put their lives on the line every day.  There are many men and women who put themselves out there and many who are killed while simply doing their jobs.  We should recognize the hard working men and women of the police forces for who they are.

But they choose to put themselves in danger.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize and remember their deaths.  But it’s not the right way to respond to a group of people alerting the world to the very real danger they feel they are  in every day by just being alive.  Not because of who they are or what they do, but by the color of their skin.

All lives definitely do matter.  But in this case, we responded to a call for help by saying, “We’ve all got problems.”

America is a country of an incredibly storied past.  Historically, we’ve actually been the country to break a lot of barriers first when it comes to acceptance of other people.  Heck, most of the people who first came over here from Europe came over because they weren’t accepted there.  We began as a country of outsiders.

But that doesn’t change our long history of oppressing people because of their skin or genitals or religion.  We are a country founded on freedom who didn’t allow those without penises to vote until almost (not quite yet) a hundred years ago.  Side note: Strom Thurmond was 18 years old at the time.

But we have come a long way since we became a country.  We can no longer own other people (at least not legally), we can no longer discriminate against other people based on race, age, or gender (again, not legally), and we’ve stopped that whole considering certain parts of the population to only be three fifths of a person each.

So when you, as a straight white American male, hear that people are still up in arms about racially insensitive conversations, perhaps you could be forgiven when you reply with “How long will I have to pay for people who looked like me owning people who looked you?”

The answer is…we haven’t actually started paying yet.

We still, today, continue fighting over some of the most basic rights for citizens.  But, considering those battles are still in progress and many of us may not realize what we’re doing, let’s look at recent history.

1964.  That’s when the Civil Rights Act came into play.  Until that point, we still had people drinking from different water fountains based on their skin tone, had to use different bathrooms, and–let’s just say that until the federal government forced this on America, things weren’t moving very quickly toward equality, even though the Emancipation Proclamation had happened over a hundred years prior.  Side note:  The Emancipation Proclamation is one of the few moments on this list where Strom Thurmond wasn’t alive.

We’re currently sitting at 52 years since our country officially said we’re all equal through its legislation (although there were still exceptions), finally matching the sentiment we used when we told England to suck it approximately 200 years prior.

1967 was when black and white people could finally, nationwide, get married to each other.

1974 was when credit card companies finally couldn’t make decisions based on your color or religion or genitals.

jumping forward a bit…skipping over a lot of history here to keep things short…

1996 (20 years ago, if you’re counting) was when women were finally allowed to attend school at The Citadel.

And 2003 is when Strom Thurmond, senator for South Carolina who wrote the initial draft to the Southern Manifesto (a document fighting the outcome of Brown v. The Board of Education), finally left politics.

Thirteen years ago is when one of the main political opponents to having black and white kids in the same school finally left office, not because he was voted out, but because he decided to finally not run for office any more and then died six months later.

I also feel the need to highlight the even more forgotten Native Americans, whose Civil Rights Act didn’t actually get put in place until 4 years after the actual Civil Rights Act.  Do you know what this provided? It consisted of our Bill of Rights…now applicable to *Indians* too!

Oh, and there’s that whole thing with the North Dakota pipeline that if you don’t already know about it…you probably should.  Seriously, just give those words a quick google.  I should probably note that this is current events, just to make my point clear.  Honestly, I should focus most of this article on the Native Americans, but I’ve only got so much space in which to make my point.

And we, the straight white males of America, have the audacity to whine about how long we’ve been “paying” for the crimes of the past.  We’re still oppressing everything.  Today.  Right now.

We’re still paid more for doing the same jobs as our non-white/non-male counterparts.  We’re still the ones holding most positions of power in most corporations around the world.  We still hold the money, the politics, and the all-around everything.

And we’re mad that people are mad at us?

We don’t understand how people can be outraged that a man like Donald Trump is elected into the highest political office, but the problem here is that the way he talks, the way he acts, the way he looks, is just like those same men who have held a majority of our nation back for its entire history.  The problem with Donald Trump isn’t as much that he’s an evil man as it is that he is a man who obviously does not understand the perspective of the minorities of this country.

We’re still “paying” for the slave owning white males of the past because the conversation hasn’t even come close to being over.  We’re still grasping wildly to our power, whether we realize it or not.  Just fifty years ago black people were not allowed to sit next to white people on a bus because we still saw them as something lessor.  And last week this was painted on a dugout in New York.

The signs of the inequality in our nation are blatantly obvious today.  This is why so many in our country are mad, sad, and/or angry at the results of this past week’s election.  Not because Hillary lost.  But because the man who won reminds them of the type of man who has oppressed so many for so long.  The type of man who doesn’t find himself responsible for the inequality in our nation because he employs people of non-white descent.

The type of man who doesn’t feel the need to say he is sorry.

And that’s something I  think needs to happen today.  Something that has yet to happen.  An outright admission of fault.

And I’m here to start.

Not purely because I’m a straight white male.  I can’t help that.  Being at fault simply because of my race, gender, or sexual preference does (as many straight white males like to point out) have the same problems of all racism.  It’s stereotyping based on things out of a person’s control.  I’m not at fault because I’m a straight white male.

I’m at fault because I have allowed for the system to continue to favor me over you.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for all the straight white men who have made you to feel anything less than an equal.

I’m sorry for all the straight white men who have raped you, have used insensitive and/or hateful language toward you, have profited off you, have abused you, have oppressed you, have used their power to gain something more than you simply because they are a straight white male.

And I’m sorry because as a straight white male, I have done nothing to correct this.

As a straight white male, I have profited through the acts of other straight white males.  I have been allowed a certain privilege because of their acts that I may or may not be deserving of otherwise.

And most importantly, as a straight white male, I have the power to do so much more.

And I haven’t.

And for that, I’m sorry.  Terribly sorry.

And I’m sorry because I know apologies aren’t enough.  Apologies don’t change history and they definitely don’t correct the path for the future.

It is simply a first step.

But after years of not taking any steps, I feel proud in making it.

And I assure you it won’t be the last.

The time is past for pointing fingers.  Now is the time to own up to what we’ve done.  All of us.  And only until we’ve done that can we truly move forward.  No longer should we be saying, “But they did it too!”, but simply, “I’m sorry.  How can I make it better?”

And then the next step, of course, is to actually work to make things better.

To work together.

As one people.

Equal.

 

How Terrible is Donald Trump?

Good vs. Evil.  That’s what our elections have become.  Every single one of them.  Republicans believe Democrats are the devil.  Democrats feel the same about Republicans.  And every new election becomes a new end of world scenario.  More important than the last.  Quite possibly the last.  VOTE OR DIE…(oh, wait…that was an actual get out the vote movement, wasn’t it…)

This rhetoric, obviously, has a danger of alienating voters who just don’t necessarily see either side as being all that great.  I mean, when the bad guys are telling you the other guys are the bad guys…how do you even respond to that?

Another big issue is that when one of the evil people get elected, all those who find him/her to be evil, freak the hell out.

As is quite apparent this year with the election of Donald Trump.

I mean, the emotional response to this election’s results are overwhelming.  They’re beginning to fade slightly as more and more people have made it through the five stages of grief attached to party politics, but the uproar is still loud.  And should Ms. Clinton have won, I guarantee you we’d still be having this precise conversation.

So, perhaps the next best thing to look at in this regard is whether or not it is warranted.  Obviously in a campaign season as filled with slander as this one was, there are certain expectations that many of the things said were said to win the game with very little fact behind them.

So the real question here is:  Is President-Elect Trump really as bad as we have been led to believe?

Now, when you’re dealing with someone who has been in the public eye for as long as Mr. Trump, you’re bound to have broken a few eggs.  When you are a business man who likes to make a scene, who likes to rile people up to get a response, that’s even more the case.  So, a lot of his issues may be easy for his supporters to brush off as simply the showmanship of a reality TV star/real estate mogul.  I want to talk about this as well, but for now, let’s simply focus on whether or not this man is evil.

And in the case of Donald J Trump, probably the most evil allegation behind him is the r word.

Republican.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Obviously I’m talking about the rape allegations against him.  Simply put, America cannot stand to put a rapist into office.  (Well, first, yes, I realize that some of the uproar following his election is that there are many who appear to support him as a rapist, at least based on the recent brash of assaults brought on in the name of Mr. Trump.  And, I also realize that we have most definitely had rapists in the Oval Office in the past.)

From what I can find on the topic, which is difficult to cut through all the fake news to get to the truth, Trump only currently has one rape charge levied against him.  Well, and technically, he’s not even facing rape charges at the moment, due to,  according to the victim, threats against her life.  Now, there are a whole lot of issues with this particular lawsuit, which Snopes has laid out quite well, but the allegation has not been dropped, even if there are a ton of fishy pieces to the puzzle right down to who the actual person behind the allegation is.

Honestly, this charge gets a little muddy, simply because the issues with the lawsuit itself could either derive from a witch hunt attempting to protect itself from being caught for outright lies, or because of a scared victim attempting to come forward while knowing that she could be in danger for her life.  And considering the charges aren’t just for rape, but for raping a 13 year old, this is a pretty serious allegation.

Is he a rapist?  Well, he’s not a convicted rapist, but this isn’t the first time he’s been charged as such.  His ex-wife Ivana at one point claimed to have been raped by him, only later amending that she didn’t find it to be in the criminal sense.

In other words, although the word has been attached to him, he has not been convicted.  And although we do live in a world where rape allegations are taken seriously from the moment they are laid down (and should be), there is still a certain amount of care we have to take in assigning guilt, considering America’s standard “guilty until proven innocent” is an important part of our democracy which has already suffered greatly at the hands of those in power in recent years.

But, allegations are something which might be easy to brush off, and I can definitely understand how, in an election season as heated as this one was, much of this could be taken as purely political warfare.  So, I happened upon this list from the Telegraph which labels itself the “Donald Trump Sexism Tracker“.

Now, even I’ll admit that many of these items appear quite tame (taking out the allegations and simply looking at items that are proven to be things he has said or done) when you think of how Trump is the owner of the world’s largest beauty pageant.  That he’s a reality TV star who is known for making a scene, because he wants to stay in the public eye.  Honestly, if you just thought about them as things being said by an old angry white businessman, you might not like them, but you’d also be likely to simply shrug and say, yep, sounds like something that asshole would say.  Or maybe you’d agree, even.  I mean, some of these are attacks on women who attacked him first.  It could be perceived as understandable to lash out in response.

If you’re Donald Trump.

But if you’re the President-elect of the US?

So, rapist?  Maybe not.

Sexist?  The deck is stacked well against him.

Presidential material?  I just can’t see it.

Next up: Bigot.  The word is intended to refer to someone who is intolerant of people who hold different opinions.

Sorry, the rhetoric and the full-on hate that has come out this election season across the party lines makes this term a little too easy to attach to anyone.   We, as a nation, have become so intolerant of what other people believe, think, or hold dear, that it’s one of the main reasons this election became what it was.

So maybe we have filter down a bit.  How about those who are intolerant of someone for things beyond that person’s control.  I’m including items such as religion and sexual status here, whether or not you believe them to be something someone can control.  I’m also going to (for the time being) exclude statements which could, in theory, fall in the line of ignorance/insensitivity.  Someone who says something unintentionally offensive or purely insensitive on a regular basis really isn’t someone we should have running this country, but the real danger is when someone is intentionally attacking someone because they are different.

So, things like the wall between us and Mexico: Obviously used as a primary example of xenophobia.  But you know what, I’m giving this one to him.  Trump’s policies regarding illegal immigration actually fall quite close to the Obama administration policies…with the addition of a wall.  However, just like current policy, the focus is on removing the criminals first.  There is one additional piece of defunding sanctuary cities, which, although somewhat heartless, does make some sense.  If the federal government has set down rules regarding immigration, there is a conflict when that government subsidizes something which appears to break those rules.

I’m not saying I’m in complete agreement with his policies here.  Just saying that I’m not sure we can directly label this as xenophobic or racist or hateful.

Honestly, the same thing can be said (to some degree) about the suspension of immigration from “terror-prone” countries.  It’s pretty common in wartime scenarios to close your borders entirely to the people you’re at war with.

Again, I may not entirely agree with the policy, but I get the basic reasoning behind it, and I don’t believe it can truly be labeled as strictly xenophobic or racist or hateful.

So, his actual policies, while perhaps insensitive to those in need from other countries, may not be outright racist or xenophobic, but the question still remains, is the man himself?  Considering, again, how this man has a long history of making enemies, as well as how much crap has been thrown into the mix this election season, I think it’s important to focus on things we can know he said through video or audio capture.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. ”

Which, on the surface definitely doesn’t send a solid message, but I can’t help but see that no matter how bad the wording might have been, he really just seems to be focusing on a very real issue that there is a criminal element crossing the border into our country.  It could have been worded much better, but I don’t see that this is him saying (as has been proposed) that all Mexicans are criminals.  Or even that Mexicans have a predisposition to perform illegal acts.  Just that he believes the country of Mexico is sending bad guys our way…which…really just seems like an interesting (conspiratorial) take on the government of Mexico’s involvement in our illegal immigration situation.

On the other hand, there are a lot of statements about Muslims being dangerous, which definitely falls along the xenophobic lines, but, unfortunately, has more to do with America’s understanding of the nation of Islam in general.  I’ll give points to xenophobia here, but only because of how rampant they are in his discussions.  Here’s a direct quote from him just to keep me honest:

“Bill O’Reilly asked me is there a Muslim problem? And I said absolutely, yes. In fact I went a step further. I said I didn’t see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center.”

Here he is stereotyping an entire group of people (23% of the global population belong to this, the second largest religion in the world), based on the actions of a few.  I’m not sure I can label it the hate-speak that is often attributed to him.  Things like shutting down the allowance of Muslims entering our country until the country can figure out what’s going on definitely walk that line, but this really reeks much more of complete ignorance of what those people stand for.  Is it hate speak?  Maybe…  It’s not a call to attack, but a fearful defensive response based on a lack of understanding of what’s actually happening.

It’s definitely not good and comments like that definitely make him xenophobic, but they fall more in line with an issue so many Americans seem to have today.  Not being able to separate the terrorists from the many people who belong to the nation of Islam.  A belief that the Qur’an itself calls for such activity.

Based on how often I’ve heard similar ideology from people of many different walks of life, this does put him in line with the voice of the American people, but the question is, is this the voice we want as our President?

Here’s the true issue with Trump, the real fear we can be certain to have.  Ignoring the allegations and the disputed statements, allowing for misspeak and alternative perspectives, taking away the people he allows himself to be seen consorting with, Trump is a man who appears incapable of showing respect to people who are different than him.  Statements like “I love the Hispanics” or “I have many black friends” are showing he’s not against using people to achieve his own means.

Is he an evil man?  You could probably make a case for it, but it’s not strictly black and white.

Whether or not he is a rapist, this is a man who has showcased his sexist attitude toward women time and again.  Half of our country had to come to the realization last week that there is now a man in power who does not respect them.

Whether or not he is a hate-filled racist, he is definitely a man who refuses to understand the background of people who are different than him and chooses, instead, to incriminate them entirely based on the acts of a few.

How will Prime Minister Netanyahu find his (alleged) comments about how he wishes his accountants wore yarmulkes instead of being blacks?

Or think of Chancellor Merkel finding a tweet sent at 3am referencing her time of the month.

But here’s the thing.  The actual things he has said and done, the items that can be proven, they aren’t things uncommon to the dialogue of America.

Which means that the real issue with Trump is an issue with America.  Recent years have brought back a resurgence of the concept of political correctness, something which many have used in opposition of the rhetoric levied against Trump, that we, as a country, have become too sensitive.  And, to be completely fair, I actually tend to agree that we have.

But that sensitivity comes from a wound that still hasn’t healed for many in this country, a wound that was caused by people like Donald Trump who didn’t/don’t care to know about the people they trample on to get to where they are.

The issue that we should be having with Donald Trump is not that he might be a rapist (although I’m not in any way supporting such things), or even that he might be a racist.  It’s that he is another indicator that America still hasn’t resolved its issues with prejudice.

But…I’m well past my word count for today…I’ve got the best words for you tomorrow though.  I promise!

 

America’s Fail-Safe

So, I may have been a little facetious at the end of my last post and suggested that the Electoral College could actually be a last chance for Trump to not actually be elected.  You see…that’s just not how things work.

The Electoral College.  The bane of every college student learning about elections and the pride of every election coverage night because it allows for points and point spreads and other words which sound more like a sporting even than the decision for who runs this country.

It’s problematic.  It’s confusing.  And when you first realize that you aren’t actually voting for the President, the one thing you’ve been growing up actually caring about voting for…well, it’s a little discouraging.

Because, you do realize that you aren’t actually voting for the President, right?  I really hope this isn’t news to you.  Well, I mean, technically you are, but, well…it’s not as confusing as you think, but it’s still fairly confusing.

Actually, the history of the Electoral College is quite interesting.  It often gets reduced down to a story of “Our Founding Fathers didn’t trust us to elect the right person to President, so we indirectly vote, through representatives.”  That’s not even all that accurate of a summary, but we’re going to ignore that for now.

So, pretty much every election nowadays we hear about how the Electors could “save the day”.  How they could vote against their designated vote.  One thing people tend to ignore is that those Electors, they’re chosen by the people who run the party who the Electors are supposed to vote for.  In other words, if the Republicans win a state, the Republicans choice of Electors will be the dudes placing the final vote.

You see, when we vote on Election Day, we are actually voting for our Electors.  Their names might not appear on the ballot, but that’s who we are voting for.  So, when you draw your little line next to Trump or Clinton or whoever, you’re actually voting for a group of people you’ve never heard of before and will more than likely never hear of, who were designated by whatever party your candidate is part of, so they can go out and vote for that candidate for you.

This, actually, goes a bit in the face of the original concept of the Electoral College, but, you know, considering how the whole thing feels in the first place, does it really matter?

Well, actually, yeah, it does kinda matter…a very tiny little bit, in this particular situation.

You see, because, the RNC has kinda shown they don’t really like Trump.  Many people within the RNC have shown that they really don’t like Trump.

And considering how invisible our electorate appears to be, there’s actually a totally real possibility that one of them is emboldened to vote against their party.  To vote against what they have been put in place to vote against.

Of course, Trump needs at least 21 of them to vote against him to not have the 270 votes required…and that’s not counting the other 16 votes he’s still got coming to him (at the time this was written).  That’s a lot of people hired by the RNC choosing to vote against the RNC.  Not to mention that Hillary would still have to get another 42 votes (38 if you count the 4 she’s going to get yet) to ensure the vote doesn’t go to the House.  If it goes to the House, they’re a Republican majority, which again puts you in an uphill battle to get them to vote against their party, which means, ultimately, this is an incredibly hopeful piece of nothing.  It could happen…it won’t.

Conversely, in a world where the Electorate is actually a group of unbiased individuals, purely put in their position as paragons of integrity to ensure that our country continues ticking along, yes, I do think that this could be one of those situations where they would choose to act.  Where you could actually see a change from who we believe to be the President-elect, to whom the Electorate actually elects.

But, if you stop and think about that for a moment, I think it’s pretty obvious a fail-safe measure like this can only be used once.  I mean, unless Trump goes absolutely crazy in the next couple weeks, causing the entirety of the American public and the RNC to change their minds and become frightened of what could happen should he be allowed the codes, then you’re going to have some amazing riots on your hands.  A failure of democracy!  A rigged system!

This fail-safe would work.  It would happen.  But the outcry from it would be so loud that it would require a change to the system.  The American people would only allow such a thing to happen once.  Because right now, even though we watch the scoreboard like any other sporting event, those points don’t mean much to the standard American. They’re numbers to define who is winning.  They’re not directly tied to an individual who will sit in a crowded room and wait until their name is called so they can shout the name they’ve been practicing over and over again in their hotel bathroom.

But suddenly they would be.

So, my fellow Americans, calm down about the Electoral College.  It’s a fail-safe system which was modified with a giant bypass switch.  It will not “save” you from Trump.

And, honestly, he’s only part of your worries.

But, what they could do…and here’s something interesting you don’t see talked about very often.  You see, they vote separately for both vice president and president.  In the past, they have given the runner up for President the position of vice-President.  The system has been modified since then to make that much more difficult, but they *could*…read, *could*,  as it’s also highly unlikely they would, but they *could* decide to change things up.  To give Trump the slightest amount of oversight.  To put a minor check and/or balance into the newly bloated system.  But voting in a Democrat VP to the Republican President…

And they could get away with it.  Because no one really voted for Pence.  No one could even see Pence beyond that orange face.

Of course, this won’t happen either.

But it could make things a lot more interesting.

In the end, what you’re looking at is that we do, in actuality, get the orange one for President.  Because: Democracy.

And should he be convicted on any of the charges he’s being investigated for, he *could* become impeached and then ultimately booted from his job.  That’s actually highly possible, although Presidents, historically, have very slick backs in situations like this.  And…if Trump is no longer President, you get Pence.  And Pence is much more likely to fall in line with party politics.  Which would mean that the only gatekeeper you have left in Donald Trump, is gone.

Which means, again, I have to reiterate, Donald Trump is the only thing which stands between us and free reign Republicans.

Not that this is a very comforting thought. Although some of his recent apparent backpedaling has caused many of those in opposition to him to shut up a bit.

 

Ultimately, we need to just come to terms with who we have as our next President.  But…maybe there are a few more things we need to understand a bit better before we’re quite ready to do that.

Time to Get Stronger Together

In my previous post, I may have gone with a bit of an extreme possibility scenario.  Although I don’t believe the suggestion that a government completely controlled by one of the political parties could go tyrannical on us is completely out of line, the likelihood is more along the lines that things will be a bit more business as usual.

Although, to be fair, there is a possibility that more things might get done.

I mean, when you don’t have anyone opposing your party’s positions in power anymore, what can’t you get done?

I also noted in my previous post how the last time the Republicans controlled this much of the government, we had the Great Depression as a follow up 8 months later.

And I also noted you shouldn’t directly correlate anything with the Republicans gaining power and the Depression happening soon after. The Depression was brought on by a decade of greed.  A decade of power-hungry people abusing a system until it finally collapsed in on itself.  Much like the housing market crisis of nearly a decade ago.  Or the coming education crisis or the coming healthcare crisis or…

The issue isn’t that the Republicans are in power, the issue is that the people are in power unopposed.  Although our bipartisan system may be terrible, it’s bureaucratic process of checks and balances slows things down enough that many things are given the opportunity to correct themselves before they completely break down.

Now, as was the case in 1928, anything can be thrown at the nation’s problems without spending much time considering whether or not the fix is worthwhile or will really fix anything.

You may have noticed the party message coming from the Democrats on Wednesday being one of reconciliation.  That everyone needed to look forward to working together with Donald and the RNC to craft a better future.

If you don’t snort-laugh at that, you’re missing what the actual message is.

When your party no longer has any political power in the House, Senate, or the Oval Office, there really only is one option left.  To reach across the aisle and hope that your new conservative overlords will keep you in consideration.

The message here is: “Get ready to beg”.

It’s at this point I feel I should note that I’m  generally something of an optimist when it comes to these types of things.  I may have my fears about what a Trump presidency could mean, but, there could be plenty of good things which could come out of this.

 

Look, I’m no Democrat, I’m no Republican.  I’ve often considered myself politically apathetic because I firmly believe these two parties have abused the system to a point of no return.  I’m only talking now because that abuse has reached the breaking point.  A point where one of these two parties has achieved (or very soon will have achieved) control over the three pieces of our government.

Our Founding Fathers could have never imagined that one organization would have grown into such a machine so as to be able to control our entire government, to be able to bypass the incredibly important checks and balances they had put in place.

Because whether it is the Democrats or Republicans, no one should have this much power.

And here’s where you’re going to get mad at me.  Here’s where you’re going to shout terrible obscenities.  Because no matter how much the following might be true, you don’t want to hear it.  I honestly don’t know how much I want to say it.

There is but one thing left to keep the Republicans in check.  One person who actually might be able to keep everything from going absolutely awry.  One single individual who has the power, who has exhibited that no one pulls his strings.

Donald Trump.

Yes, he’s terrible, yes he’s very conservative in a great many of his stated policies…but he’s also the man the RNC didn’t want in office.  He’s the man who was disowned by his own party more and more the closer he got to actually succeeding.

He’s the Republican Republicans don’t want.

Because no one trusts him to do what he said he was going to do.

Because no one actually has any clue of what this little tyrant of a man might be capable of.

Because this is not a man who feels beholdened to anyone.

I’m going to let you soak that up for a moment.  Because, honestly, unless you are a die hard Republican, and I mean, you would have to absolutely positively believe that the Republicans can and will only do good for this country, you should be afraid of the power they hold right now.  They can do pretty much whatever they want.

And the only person they know they can’t control, is the one man most of us don’t want to have in office.

Which…for the record…sounds like a pretty solid tagline for a really boring action movie.

Okay, you’re going to need some time to digest all of that, I get it.  I mean, I did just suggest that Donald Trump is America’s last hope. That’s a pretty big assertion, right?

Well, there is one other suggestion: that the American people finally band together like the “We the people” we are supposed to be.  That we put aside our petty differences and recognize each other for what we all are.  A people who have been used and abused.

So, those are your options, work together, or pray that Donald Trump isn’t quite as terrible of a person as he has made himself out to be.

Good luck, America!

Okay, well, actually…there is one more option, but it comes at a price.  We’ll talk about the Electoral College and all it could do next time.

In Defense of the Trump Supporter

Someone once said that you should hate the game, not the player.  Although I’d argue that you should probably hate both the game and  the player, I’d be quite inclined to add that you shouldn’t hate those who are being played.

You’re angry.  I get it.  I respect it.  I’ll admit I’m more than a little uncomfortable with the man we have just elected into office, to put things incredibly lightly.  But, part of the reason a man like him can be elected is because of how well our bipartisan system has divided our country.  Getting mad at those who fell on the other end of the dividing line is ignoring how they might have wound up there in the first place.

One of those reasons is the topic of abortion.  Now, ignoring how Trump has a long history of supporting the pro-choice movement, he stated many times on the campaign trail that he is completely pro-life.

The conversation about whether or not you agree with someone who is pro-life is not one I can resolve here, as is obvious from the decades long epic battle going on between the two factions.  But, to put it simply, people who follow the pro-life side of the battle, see abortion as murder.  Everyone agrees murder is wrong.  Therefore, for them, abortion is wrong.

I think if you allow yourself to change your perspective slightly, you might see where this could cause conflict for someone.  If babies were brought into this world only through test tubes, and having nothing to do with living inside a woman’s body for 9 months, pro-life advocates would still feel the same.  They aren’t on their side because they want to take away a woman’s rights, they’re there because they believe life is precious.

Of course, we still just put a bigoted rapist into office.  And that’s the primary battle cry against him, at least the one that doesn’t fall down party lines.  And it’s an incredibly valid one.  These are not words we want attached to the highest office in our country.  This is not what we want as a representation of us.  To many, to elect an alleged rapist into office is as good as saying “we’re cool with rape”.

Here’s something to consider when attacking your fellow man for voting a rapist into office:

Nearly 20 years ago, we had a different rapist in the Oval Office.  Sure, the conversation may have ended up revolving mostly around consensual extra-marital affairs, and actually, much more lamely, about perjury and obstruction of justice, but there were rape allegations in there.

Back then, the conversation about rape was far different.  If there wasn’t proof, it was as good as not happening.  And in a situation where the allegation was directed at a President, being led by witch hunters from the opposition, it was easy for many to brush off the allegations as nothing more than using rape as a political weapon.

But, in the 20 years since, the conversation has changed, and importantly so.  We now recognize that brushing off rape accusations in such a way not only causes victims to stay quiet, but emboldens rapists to continue on their path of being absolutely atrocious human beings.  Rape accusations are taken incredibly seriously today.  And they should be.  So, for an allegation to be placed against a presidential candidate today, we see things in a far different light.

Or at least those of us who are aware of the change in conversation.   Or are even aware of what’s going on amid all the yelling which has filled the airwaves these past few months.

In an election process as full of slander as the one which occurred this past week, from both sides, how does one choose which pieces of defamation to take as the truth.  Do the stories involving Hillary’s complicity in Bill’s rapes hold less consideration simply because they were originally brought forth 20 years ago?

I’m not saying that one man’s acts should cause us to ignore another’s.  But what I am saying is that this election revolved around the discussion of character.  Much was said on both sides.  Terrible evil things.  And at some point, those things all become white noise.  A hate-filled scream against the other team.  Where you saw rape, they saw a baby killer, where you saw a xenophobe, they saw a back-alley crook, where you saw a liar, they saw a liar.

And in all of this, we lost the discussion about policies.  Two of the three debates were about nothing more than character.

And this should be telling, folks, because that first one, the one where there was an actual attempt to discuss policy, Trump looked like an absolute idiot.

Because that was a slight misstep in a campaign which, I’m beginning to fear, may go down in history as the single most amazing feat in American politics.

Let’s start at the very end.  When the conversation was all about whether or not Mr. Trump would concede the election.  (Note: the conversation was about Trump…because it was always all about Trump)  Everyone thought he was going to lose and the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not he would throw a temper tantrum and choose to battle the election results.  His conversation leading up to the end was all about whether or not there were issues with the voting machines, issues with miscounts, and overall issues with abuses to the system caused by the Democrats.  He sounded like a spoiled brat who was going to throw a fit if he didn’t get his way.

So when he actually won, the losing side had already spent so much time villainizing someone who would argue the results that they couldn’t possibly do so…which might have been important in an election involving such amazing upsets as this one.

And if you look back, if you remember all the major narratives out of the campaign process, it’s always been about Trump.  From day one.

He owned the conversation.  He made it about him.  And a great moment to see how in control he was, is to look at one of the moments where he wasn’t.

That first debate.  It set the tone for the rest of the campaign.  Because Trump’s only response was to begin name calling.  And the entire nation joined in, from both sides, turning our election process, as well as the following debates, into nothing more than a big screaming match about who was the worst.

Which you can definitely see in the days leading up to the election itself…from both sides…where bullying was rampant in an attempt to cause people to literally feel like they are the worst on the planet, simply because they didn’t want to vote for either red-faced talking head.

The problem here is, in the battle of the red-faced talking heads, Donald Trump is king.  He will always be king.  That’s his damned brand, folks.

Donald Trump should have never made it past the primaries.  He should have not even made it to the primaries before being laughed out of the competition.  Throughout the majority of the campaign, he was considered, even by his peers, to be a laughingstock.  To be an impossible win.  To be the joke he was allowing us all to believe he is.

And every damned step of the way, he grew power.  He grew stronger and stronger, until, suddenly, shocking everyone, he won the election.

There are only two things that could allow this man to become President.

1. White Privilege.
2. Incredible Manipulation of the American People.

(technically there’s always the third of extreme voter fraud…which, with such a landslide loss by the democrats, probably shouldn’t be taken out of consideration…but again, considering how much time was spent before the election talking about how it couldn’t possibly happen…)

Now, I’m not going to take away the power of white privilege.  I’ve got a post I’ve been working on which focuses on how amazingly strong of a thing it is.  But white privilege wasn’t enough to work for John McCain or Mitt Romney.  President Obama is a very very different situation than Hillary Clinton, but still, Obama won twice, quite handily, over white candidates.

Trump is a man who shouldn’t have gotten anywhere, and he is being credited as the sole reason the Republicans now run the House, Senate, and the White House.  He may look like an idiot, but this is a man who has built his grandma’s little real estate business into a multi-billion dollar empire.  He’s a man who has lied, cheated, and (allegedly) stole time and again to achieve his end.  He’s a man who isn’t afraid of looking like a loser for the short term in order to win for the long term.

I’ll admit, even as I try to make a case for his brilliance, I can’t separate him from the oopma loompa looking idiot I’ve been seeing for years.  And that is, quite possibly, just how amazingly brilliant this whole thing was.

We were all played.  From day one, each and every one of us have been talking about Trump’s candidacy.  His name has been on our lips far more than Hillary’s.

Because that’s what he wanted.

And now, with things like the Patriot Act still in motion, as well as a Republican led House and Senate, and possibly soon to be a Republican-led Supreme Court, he has more power than any single President of our country has ever had before.  The closest we’ve seen would probably be in 1928 (right before The Great Depression…please be wary of making direct correlations).  However, this has the prospect of being far far worse than that.

You see, we handed over the keys for World War III to a man who has an obvious problem controlling his temper.

Don’t be mad at the people who elected him.  Be mad at the system we’ve allowed to become so broken that this amount of power could be held by any single individual.  Democrats are just as complicit as Republicans in this.

Which is why now, more than ever, we as a nation truly need to learn to come together.  We must stop allowing the bipartisan political machine to divide us into pointing fingers at our common man for things done by people backed by extreme amounts of power and money.

Should the dark days come, should Donald Trump and the new regime become the tyrannical dictatorship they now have the power to become, it will be up to us as an entire population to stand against them.  Because we’ve been so busy down here bitching about rapists and emails and character flaws, that we forgot to consider what these people can do outside of party politics.

You see, the civil rights movement shouldn’t be what we’re concerned about.  No, we’re talking about the straight up Bill of Rights.  Things like freedom of speech (which are already being stomped on), unlawful search and seizure (again, already an issue), freedom of religion (which, let’s be honest, Trump already announced his issues with this one), and, as we’ve already seen with things like Guantanamo, those ever-necessary fifth and sixth amendments could stop being able to protect us from being locked away forever just for speaking out against our government.

Because, let’s face it, even you who voted for him.  Donald is not a big fan of people who say bad things about him.

We are now living in a world where those checks and balances have been destroyed.  That one single organization holds all the power.  And they hold it through a man who got elected because he says what he thinks.  And those things he says…they’re filled with hate.

Be mad.  You deserve to be mad.

Then get prepared.  Because it’s quite probably that this conversation won’t be about Republicans vs Democrats for much longer.  It won’t be about rapists and baby-killers.  With very little effort, this conversation could become one of dictatorships vs. anarchy.

And if we come together as a people, it could be of oppression vs. revolution.

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