On Nazis and Free Speech…

August 19, 2017 12:29am
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So today’s humor column ended up being about Nazis.

I’ve been really flaky with my writing lately for a number of reasons, and the insanity of white supremacist sympathizers across one of our political parties certainly hasn’t helped matters any.

I would’ve never believed that we as a country could become so divided that conservatives would actually side with people waving Nazi flags before they could agree with liberals about the intensity of racism still brewing in our society, and how something as simple as a statue commemorating one of the leaders of the rebellion would still be given a pass when white people carrying torches see it as a symbol worth marching around while calling out for racial purity.

…and how it isn’t painfully clear that this incident was exactly what we feared from electing Donald Trump president, as he felt inclined in his first comments to point out that there were other people doing bad things in the crowd, too, and that there were probably some fine people on both sides of the issue.

Fine people and Nazis are two terms that never belong in the same sentence together.

I’ve seen people arguing for the free speech rights of the Nazis – which doesn’t technically exist if they were inciting violence … something that semi-automatic weapons and torches tend to imply, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve seen people arguing that the girl who died got what she deserved, whether she shouldn’t have been in the way of the car or shouldn’t have been protesting in the first place … which is just asinine.

I’ve seen people crying that “they don’t know what to say anymore without getting judged” while they constantly and consistently judge and marginalize minorities every other second of their day.

It’s utter madness, and it’s had me thinking a lot about free speech and whether the way we practice it is really in our best interests. I mean, the idea behind not wanting the government to pick and choose who gets to speak seems to be rooted namely under the worry of, “What if I’m next?!” but what if by not citing that certain types of speech are unacceptable under the guise of “freedom,” we’re actually signing our own fate by cultivating the types of thoughts that would take advantage of that freedom for the worse.

For example, hate speech and truly vile thoughts are perfectly protected until one suggests any form of violence, and as a result it gives those ideas the opportunity to manifest until they build numbers strong enough to go out like they did last weekend, and between their own aggressions and those who stood up to them, somebody ended up dying from it…

…and if you watched the special report that VICE did from Charlottesville, at least one of the key players involved didn’t really feel much remorse that it happened.

My point is, by not taking a stronger stance against white supremacy – even just like Germany and some of the neighboring countries did by banning display of any Nazi propaganda in public – is that enough of an open door for them to get their foot wedged in???

And the reason this all scares me is that I know that comparisons to Hitler are very much abused online, but in this case when actual Nazis marched in the streets of an American city, I feel that it’s relevant to bring up – when we see resemblances to Adolf Hitler in Donald Trump and the Republican Party and in these Nazi thugs gathering last weekend, we’re not comparing them to Hitler in his glory days when he was executing his Final Solution and trying to conquer the world, but instead we’re seeing similarities to the years leading up to Hitler’s rise.

Remember that Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force, but very much politically – even running for president, though he didn’t win – by bringing together people with the most extreme views. In Hitler’s case, it was his fellow antisemites and those who believed German blood to be the superior race, whereas since his election we’ve seen Trump propose a ban on Muslims, hostility towards immigrants – both illegal and inadvertently not, declare war against pretty much anyone who disagrees with him – especially the media, and inherently lead his supporters to breed this hatred of other people walking among them who he’s convinced have one way or another marginalized them.

Call them what they are, though they wear it as a badge of honor – by bringing together these deplorables, Trump has groomed himself a small and fiercely loyal group of followers who see him as the last saving grace, aside from the return of Jesus Christ himself, for America. And hence we’re in this bizarre light where nothing he can do is wrong to them – racist and sexist remarks, treasonous behavior, warmongering … and that’s scary when you consider how they all fit into the bigger picture…

  • You have a group of loyal believers to do his bidding.
  • You have a much larger group of complacent followers who hope for change and are willing to look the other way.
  • And you have the rest of us, who he’s essentially cast as the enemy because we believe in facts and education and reason, all of which have no place in his agenda that is based primarily on filtering money and power up to a mighty few business elites at the top of the chain – all else be damned.

I’d have had a little more respect for Donald Trump if he had done what any sensical leader would do and fiercely condemn any mention of Nazi beliefs from the first moment that they hit the airwaves, but instead he hemmed and hawed and rubbed his toe in the earth because as much of an idiot as Trump is, he no doubt realizes that those people are also Trump voters … and he needs them.

Ultimately for what, it makes me afraid to imagine.

I really liked this image I found on Facebook earlier today defining Gay Pride vs. Straight Pride because I’m sad to admit that I’ve had the “straight pride” argument with family members and some of them just really can’t seem to get beyond themselves to understand what the entire movement is actually about.

Gay people aren’t trying to flaunt their sexuality or push themselves upon you, but the fact that people are still uncomfortable by something as simple as gay people holding hands or kissing in public or wearing matching rainbow shirts is a great introduction to why this kind of thing is still necessary in the first place.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know a lot of gay people.

I know some, but the overwhelming majority are still straight, and yet LGBT rights are important to me because it sickens me that another couple could get harassed, threatened, or even killed walking down the street just holding hands or showing affection – the same as I do with my wife without a second thought.

And it really grinds my gears when people argue that gay rights isn’t something that affects them or that they don’t have time to worry about it because they’re trying to keep food on the table because as far as I’m concerned, if we’re not willing to stand up for equal rights in our country, none of the rest of it even matters.

Even if you live in a small town like I used to where the population is 99% white and 100% straight (or so you think…), gay rights matter because people are people, and nobody deserves to be treated like a second-class citizen because of who they love. If advocating for their equality bothers you, then you’re part of the problem.

I get that it’s challenging to understand how marginalized a group of people is if you’ve never felt that way yourself, but sometimes I feel like some people among us aren’t even trying.

Today I came across some outrage on Facebook about Harvard offering a black-only graduation ceremony to complement its traditional ceremony, which was of course interpreted as reverse racism because these African American students wished to have an event that specifically excluded white students…

…and mind you, that wasn’t exactly true

…but nonetheless, the misunderstanding of embracing one’s culture versus intentional segregation continues to leave a scathing mark on a white culture that still doesn’t seem to grasp how its own actions, both historical and up to the present, are what’s led us to this racial divide in the first place.

Actually pay attention to the news and make a tally of how many unarmed white children today are killed by police officers thinking they’re a threat to society. Look across your Facebook feed and see how many people are outraged by Kathy Griffin’s weird beheading photo shoot last week and then ask how many were equally outraged by all of the anti-black rhetoric aimed at President Obama during his presidency.

In my own world of writing and words, take a look at the most offensive word of all – the n-word – and acknowledge how unlike other words like fuck and cunt, we don’t even say the word because that’s how ugly of a history it has…

This is a group of people who haven’t had to deal with slavery and segregation directly, yet still feel its hateful burn a hundred years after the fact, and they have to cope with people who claim that racism isn’t even a problem in America anymore all the while banners of the confederacy still fly in some states, and marginalized glares are felt in neighborhoods across the country, and sometimes people hang nooses from trees … but it’s only a joke, so maybe they should just lighten up?!

Fuck that noise.

The difference between black people and white people celebrating their heritages and cultures is that, until the end of time, there will forever always be a scar on black heritage caused by a point in time where white people deemed them less than human, and it’s a scar that white people must work to mend every single today on behalf of our ancestors.

For some of us, this is less of a big deal than others and we welcome our African American friends with open arms, but others want to fight – everything has to be a fight … to slouch blame or to deny injustices that are still very present in our world because personally they’re not directly at fault.

Like many problems that face our society today, racism is complicated and it’s unpleasant to talk about, but every time a white person wants to fuss about how only minorities can celebrate their pride or how they’re not the ones who had slaves, they only serve to cement the issues deeper in modern times instead of actually acknowledging them and trying to move forward as best we can.

Whoever came up with the term reverse racism is living in denial of the actual origins of racism, and frankly I’m tired to having to explain injustice to smart people who are acting emotionally stupid about this issue that is way bigger than they think it to be.

Politics is so exhausting lately.

It seems like every. single. week. something new is being set ablaze – this week was the Paris Agreement and claiming that the U.N. owes us money for defense, last week was bragging about firing FBI director James Comey as a result of the Russian investigation, and before that we had a budget worthy to be aligned with the mega rich, questioning why the civil war happened, inviting the national treasure that is Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent – a guy who threatened to kill President Obama – into the White House for a photo op…

*sigh*

Seriously, is this how conservatives felt from 2009 – 2016 when President Obama was advocating for the Affordable Care Act, supporting same-sex marriage rights, and turning around the recession?

I feel like whereas most Republican issues circle around money and where we should and shouldn’t spend it, Democrats focus on more wholistic goals like protecting the environment and civil rights and keeping our economy afloat, and so now with this extreme conservative voice dominating the federal landscape, every action feels like a stab at something vital to who we are – whether it’s making it easier for Christians to discriminate against people they don’t like or cutting benefits that help the poor or trying to ban entrance to our country to people who did nothing wrong but be born in a country that bad people also happen to be from.

Those on the other side of the aisle will make it sound as if we’re taking it too personally, as if it’s completely normal to hack and dice the work of the previous party once the government changes sides, but that’s not how this should work.

The things that the GOP is so quick to dismantle are essential parts of the larger pie:

  • The American economy will flounder worse than it does today if we had over public education to the greedy hands of privatization.
  • Healthcare in the greatest country on Earth will be even more of a joke to the rest of the industrialized world than it is today if provisions aren’t protected for even the most basic of services and conditions.
  • Our position in the world community relies on America being an ally, not a bully for hire.
  • And of course, none of it will matter if we allow our industries to pollute and ravish our environment in the name of short term financial gains.

Following such numerous issues is a constant struggle and it seems like the previous isn’t even brought to close before a new problem comes over the horizon, yet at the same time despise extraordinary fatigue it feels almost un-American to turn a blind eye and ignore this reality as our country is transformed by the business man that some insisted upon instead of the patriotic leader that we really needed.

So I read a guest column in the Orlando Sentinel – a newspaper that I normally respect – that pitched this tired allegation once again that at the end of the day, Democrats are just sore losers who will stop at nothing to avoid admitting that we lost the election…

…even if it means taking down the president as a result…

And I can’t help but just laugh and laugh and laugh at that hypocritical perspective after all that we’ve endured from the Republican line during President Obama’s time in office:

  • Three years of demands to see Obama’s birth certificate, then his long form birth certificate, under allegations that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.
  • Three years and seven investigations into the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
  • Over 50 attempts by the House to repeal, dismantle, or otherwise defund the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010.

Just for the record, Donald Trump got elected 187 days ago and has now been in office for 113 days.

I won’t even argue with the merits of each of those efforts … except for the birther movement because that was just ridiculous … but for Benghazi and critiques over the ACA – fine. Republican representatives had concerns and were obligated by their constituents to see them through, albeit excessively, but still…

Three years to investigate an attack 8,000 miles away in which four Americans lost their lives.

Five years to fight a healthcare bill that has affected the lives of tens of millions of Americans, both for better and for worse.

But now it’s suddenly excessive to spend barely than six months looking into whether there was influence from another nation that compromised the election of the President of the United States?!

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it’s time for us to put this pettiness behind us and come together to support our President … who may have been installed by a foreign government, but probably wasn’t … we’ll just have to trust him despite not having given any reason to date why we actually should!

No. Just no.

You don’t get to dig in your heels for every passionate argument that your side had during the last eight years and then call the other side a bunch of crybabies when they raise question asking for a similar level of scrutiny. Especially after Donald Trump has done more to act suspicious – like firing the guy leading the investigation against him – than all of the “We need to pass the bill to know what’s in the bill!” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor!” you can throw at the Obama administration.

Just like you wanted to know whether those four lives in Benghazi were lost due to negligence, we want to know if Donald Trump is a legitimate president because for all of the talk the Republican party makes about concerns over voter fraud, they sure haven’t seemed too concerned with this notion that a foreign entity may have dipped its hands in our election.

Maybe they’re not so concerned because it resulted in their guy beating Hillary, but the integrity of our election should be worth more than either candidate.

So come back to me in 3 – 5 years if we’re still beating this drum and are just unwilling to accept the numerous facts laid out around us, but for now stop acting like a bunch of babies and let your president stand up to the level of scrutiny that ANYONE in the highest office in our nation should be able to handle.

one more thing…

May 10, 2017 6:19pm
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If anything, our current political climate – not even limited to President Trump, but considering the entire establishment as a whole – confirms that the United States desperately needs election reform. And fast.

Because it’s painful to see just how fragile the institution of our great electoral system really is…

  • Voter ID laws, cutbacks on early voting, and new voter registration rules being used to restrict access to voting.
  • Gerrymandering to guide regional votes in a particular direction.
  • The opinion of the people being so easily swayed by widespread information regardless of its accuracy.
  • Campaign finance abuse and corporations buying political favor.
  • Questions of the validity of the Electoral College 200+ years after its introduction.
  • Lackluster voter turnout in general

It’s clear that our current voting system isn’t electing the right people to these offices to actually drive meaningful governance in our country, and I’d like to think that these most recent allegations of foreign interference would lead us to take a step back and figure out what really needs to be done to fix the process from the top down. And it’s complicated because not only do we need a new election process, we also need better candidates that aren’t as dramatically tied to party lines and can help to bridge the nuance between the left and the right so that we can start making things better across the board.

I’d love to see these problems solved during my lifetime because they’re really vital to the core of our democracy, but it’s forever going to be a struggle if uprooting the existing system also means uprooting the politicians who’ve established their careers based on these antiquated systems…

A glimmer of hope…

May 10, 2017 5:38pm
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Maybe it’s still just wishful thinking at this point, but I can’t help but feel that Trump’s firing of the FBI director who was leading the investigation about his collusion with Russia has got to be the smoking gun that begins to sway the tides towards his inevitable impeachment.

I’ve always thought that ever since the election, Trump’s best bet politically would’ve been for him to tell Congress to organize an independent investigation right off the bat to prove to those against him as well as to protect the integrity of the American election – if he really had nothing to hide, it should’ve been an easy enough task and he could only come out at the top after the investigation had found that he’d done nothing wrong.

But of course, the high road is no match for Trump’s ego, and instead his administration has played the same unconvincing line of, “There’s nothing to see here, let’s move along…” that the rest of us have been right to question, and then he makes his most suspicious move to date.

At least his supporters were right in that he’s definitely not a politician because a politician would’ve played this whole thing way better! 😛

So the last month or two, I’ve seriously wondered if Trump will even make it through his entire first year in office, and in that direction I think this was a positive move because it’s getting harder and harder for even his most ardent of supporters to admit that something just doesn’t feel right. Boing Boing shared an interesting link today to a spreadsheet someone was compiling of responses on Twitter from every member of Congress about Comey’s firing and it’s very clear to look down party lines and see almost every Republican remaining silent on the matter, which to me is telling in that they’re not exactly jumping to Trump’s defense on the matter, either…

Now don’t get me wrong, as much as I’d like to see something concrete happen sooner than later, I don’t necessarily expect miracles anytime soon, and so I’m sure we’ll likely hear even more ramblings about fake news and paranoia and how everyone is out to get him, except the majority everyone who is still somehow supporting him? 😉

And even if/when he does get impeached, it’s still going to be rough waters because Mike Pence isn’t exactly a saint and Paul Ryan is kind of awful, too. The full line of succession is here – at least Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos are pretty far down on the list! But I think you’ve got to take on one demon at a time and hopefully an event as traumatic as the president leaving office would put the rest of our politicians on notice that it’s time for a REAL change.

We’ll see, and in the meantime I’m going to just soak up every glimmer of hope that I can scavenge as the Trump administration continues to dismantle our society with the remaining power that they’ve been granted. But I think their days are numbered … I’ve got to think that for my own sanity, anyways. We’ll see…

Healthcare By Any Other Name

May 6, 2017 6:33pm
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This article from a few years ago from the Huffington Post said it pretty well, but in reading all of the back and forth about the GOP’s new “healthcare” bill that passed the House the other day, I can’t for the life of me understand why everyone who supported it didn’t fight back hard on the simple use of referring to the Affordable Care Act by its formal name rather than the nickname it was given as a jab by its opposition.

By adopting the name Obamacare, it was basically giving the Republican party a free shot to take at the legislation that anyone who hated President Obama could easily get behind, regardless of actual content. We saw that last year when voters were quoted as not understanding that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were literally the same thing!

From politicians to the media, and trickling down to your average Joe on Facebook, this would’ve been such an easy perception to control if every time someone tried to call it Obamacare in discussion, the other party corrected them and called the law by its proper name. It was always meant to be a slam by the Republicans, so make them own it alone and separate the language from the president to better represent what the bill’s actual goal was all along – providing better access to healthcare for all Americans.

I only stumbled across the cult classic They Live a few years ago, but for some reason I just instantly fell in love with its quirky/creepy take on an alien invasion slowly overtaking mankind.

That said, I almost feel kind of stupid in hindsight because I never really made the connection between alien invasion and class warfare, but after watching this short video featuring interviews with John Carpenter and some of the other folks involved … it’s like seeing for the first time!

Just sleep. Obey. Make America Great Again.

Hits a little too close for home, but it just goes to show you how film can both carry entertainment value and include some pretty deep social commentary at the same time. Almost makes me want to sit down and watch it again just to see how many more GOP warning signs were baked into this movie from 30 years ago… 😉

Regulations and Buying a New Home

March 16, 2017 10:23pm
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I just read a post on Facebook bitching about how much regulations add to the cost of a new home in America…

You know, like the ones that require builders to be licensed professionals who are going to craft the place where your family lives.

The ones that require your home to be built to best practices so that it’s less likely to catch fire or collapse due to shoddy craftsmanship.

The ones that ensure access to utilities are properly installed and accessible throughout the neighborhood.

The ones that check to make sure that the other guy is legally allowed to sell you your new house before you give him a huge amount of money.

And even the ones that help to protect the banks from risk so that they’ll be willing to loan you the money to pay for your new home.

Regulations aren’t all bad, and in a greedy, capitalist society like ours has become, government regulations are the common man’s last defense between the good and the bad. At least if you prefer your house with four walls and a roof over your head.

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