Untitled by Andrew Freborg

For months now, I’ve been trying to express how I feel about the football kneeling scandal that has been in and out of the news. I saw this poem by Andrew Freborg online yesterday and can’t even begin to come close to expressing how I feel any better than he has in the following lines.

I stand to honor the promise the flag represents.

You kneel because that promise has been broken.

I stand to affirm my belief that all are created equal, and to fight alongside you for that promise.

You kneel because too few stand with you.

I stand because we can be better.

You kneel to remind us to be better.

I stand to honor all that have fought and died so that we may be free.

You kneel because not all of us are.

I stand because I can.

You kneel for those who can’t.

I stand to defend your right to kneel.

You kneel to defend my right to stand.

I stand because I love this country.

You kneel because you love it too.

 

 

The Tony’s and Donald Trump

Last night were the Tony Awards, the one night a year that I can revel in all things theater and satisfy my inner performing arts geek. Last night’s broadcast featured Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban as hosts. They were funny, relatable, and of course, their singing was phenomenal. Not that I’m a massive fan of them both or anything, so that opinion is strictly unbiased, lol. The night was magical, as most Tony Awards are, I love seeing performances from the nominated shows. It’s the only time I get to see the original Broadway casts of the popular shows. My favorite last night was from “Mean Girls,” I love the original movie and the show looks hilarious. My second favorite thing was the performance by members of the Drama Department from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. To see those students performing on the Tony stage so soon after surviving their horrific school shooting was so inspiring. As their teacher said those kids have found a safe haven and a way to express themselves through music and the performing arts. Overall the evening was a colorful display of inspiration, diversity, and just plain fun.

Then Robert De Niro came on the stage and said defiantly, “Fuck, Trump!” I cringed. The magic spell the evening had cast on me had been broken. The real world came storming back in and I didn’t want it to. Why did he have to choose that forum to say that? I wondered how many other people who were there and watching at home felt the same way. I feel like the standing ovation he received immediately after saying that was more of a knee-jerk reaction by the audience. That a few had stood up so others felt pressured to do the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the people who feel like people in the entertainment industry shouldn’t speak out about politics and other issues. Everyone has a right to their opinion. I just wish Mr. De Niro hadn’t chosen that moment to steal the spotlight and the magic of the evening.

I’m Finding My Way Politically

Last week I spoke about my apathy regarding politics. I’ve spent a great deal of time this week thinking about that and realized that the truth is I’m lost. I’ve been a Democrat for as long as I can remember but now the Democratic Party is backing issues that I don’t agree with. The most major of these is immigration. Members of the Democratic Party believe that illegal aliens who have been here for five years and who have remained out of trouble with the law should be allowed to follow a path to citizenship. I disagree with this stance. I don’t like painting such a complex issue with a broad brush and I realize there are numerous variables that play roles within immigration but I feel like there is a path to citizenship in place and that it should be followed. I would never dream of entering another county and just expect to become a citizen as soon as I cross the border. Why should they? But questioning my political leaning is becoming a crisis of who I am as a citizen. I know of people who are loyal to their political party to the bitter end, no matter how their party votes on issues. As political parties shift their issues from one extreme to another, isn’t it up to us to shift as well? Politics is always moving and changing, it is never stable. So why is our society so focused on having us choose one side or another and then pitting us against one another? This is why politics has become something not talked about. If you bring up politics with someone who associates with the “other side” there is an immediate sense of uncomfortableness that leads to a change of subject. The idea that we are all Americans, and we all want what is best for this country, is becoming buried in the “us” versus “them” mentality. I want what is best for this country and I know it means becoming comfortable and familiar with all the complex issues facing us as a nation. So, I’ve decided that if anyone should ask me what I am politically, I’m going to respond by saying I’m an American because that is what I am.

Two Sides of a Tragic Story

Today, I’m focusing on the two sides of the Parkland Shooting aftermath. On one side we have a group of survivors who organized and spearheaded the Marches for Our Lives which occurred all over the world yesterday. They have monopolized mainstream media for several weeks now: Jaclyn Corin, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind have been the most vocal about wanting gun control and have received the majority of media and social media attention. One name, however, hasn’t gotten as much attention and that is Kyle Kashuv, who is also a survivor of the Parkland shooting. He is experiencing the same thing as Corin, Gonzalez, Hogg, Kasky, and Wind but he is speaking out in support of the Second Amendment. Where the others are being supported by a wide section of society, Kashuv, I feel, has been largely ignored.

            “There were so many levels [in which] the government failed: the police force failed, the FBI failed. And simply representing this as the NRA issue is so counter-productive because we could be doing real legislation to make sure this won’t happen again,” Kashuv said in an interview with Fox News.

What he says here makes a lot of sense. The issue of school shootings doesn’t simply involve the stance of the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. This is a multi-level problem. And we need to work together to find common ground. However, this doesn’t fit with mainstream media who continue to tout an “us” versus “them” mentality. They divide Americans between those who want gun control and those who don’t and those who don’t are, to some respect, demonized. Although the NRA’s “the sky is falling” mentality is pretty extreme telling followers that the “other side” wants to take all their firearms. It’s just so divisive and would automatically put firearm owners in a strong defensive stance.  What needs to happen is for both sides of the issue to come together and just try to find common ground from which to build on. For example, we all want to keep our children safe in schools. Let’s start there and then find other issues we can agree on.  For me, I can see the need to ban assault rifles. Untrained civilians and those with a violent past or dangerous tendencies should not have access to military grade firearms, that’s just common sense in my mind. At the same time though, the right to bear arms is in the Constitution, it can’t just be done away with. It can, however, be amended to conform to modern day society. When our Founding Fathers wrote the 2nd Amendment, rifles took quite a while to reload, they couldn’t have imagined a world where firearms could fire multiple rounds per second. The 2nd Amendment was written for an 18th-century world, not a 21st-century one. But amending an amendment takes a great deal of effort and compromise.

The Students March

Students march in defiance of history.

Too many school shootings since Columbine.

Too many innocent people murdered

Students march in the wake of political apathy.

Tired of the knee-jerk “Thoughts and prayers”

But never any action to stop the violence.

Students march so their voices

Can be heard.

Adults try to stop them

To silence them.

But they won’t be.

We bear witness to

A movement.

That is only just

Getting started.

Adults have had endless chances

To make things right.

Now it’s the younger generation’s turn.

To make the change

That connects them all.

One dream.

One voice.

One message.

“Make Us Safe.”

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Others

A few weeks back I wrote my first article on the subject of civil discourse. This week I wanted to discuss a way I am working on improving my practice of the subject. One of the political podcasts I listen to asked a question that really resonated with me. They asked who we followed on social media. Did we follow anyone who disagreed with our political opinions or did we stay in a safe zone with friends who agreed with us. I realized that I wasn’t following anyone whose viewpoints were opposite mine, so I started seeking those people out. At first it felt very uncomfortable reading their opinions and posts because many are so hostile towards people who have similar views as I do. One person in particular tends to lump Democrats into a single group of Anti-American homophobes. His posts tend to bring out strong feelings in me because I’m not that way at all. But in thinking about it I started wondering what had happened in his life to make him feel this way. I continue to follow him because I want to learn more about his opinions. At first I didn’t comment on his posts because it felt too risky to draw attention to myself. But I’m getting braver and starting to challenge him on certain things. For example, a week or so ago he mentioned his belief that people who come to this country need to assimilate to “our culture.” So, I asked him what he saw as being “our culture”. I’m still waiting for a response I know I probably won’t get any time soon. But, as I’m figuring out, part of civil discourse is discussion, so I need to engage others in conversation about what their opinions are. That alone pushes me, an introvert, out of my comfort zone which is incredibly difficult. Will people challenge my beliefs and my opinions? I know they will and some might not be as “civil” about it as I will always try to be. But it’s all part of my education in learning about other viewpoints on subjects. And that’s what really matters to me.

Political Insults of the Past

Reading and hearing about US President Donald Trump’s almost daily insults of others got me wondering his schoolyard bullying tactics were something new or if political insults have always leaned more towards the childish. Turns out, in the past, political insults could really be quite poetic and eloquent. Below are a few gems that I mined from the Internet.

 

“Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm.”
– Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85), 18th American president, on James A. Garfield   (1831-81), 20th American president

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
– attorney John Bright on Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81)

He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.”
                          – Winston Churchill on Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947)

He slept more than any other president, whether by day or night. Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”
– H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) on Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)

“[His ideas of popular sovereignty are] as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

– Abraham Lincoln, on his political rival Senator Stephen Douglas.

“Take from him his sophisms, futilities, and incomprehesibilities and what remains? His foggy mind.”                                                                                                                                                                        -Thomas Jefferson, aiming high at Plato.

“McKinley has a chocolate eclair backbone.”

-Theodore Roosevelt on his predecessor William McKinley.

““That Washington is not a scholar is certain. That he is too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station is equally beyond dispute.”

– John Adams on George Washington

“His soul is poisoned with ambition.”

– John Adams on Thomas Jefferson

 “He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

– Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards on misstatements made by George Bush, Sr.

“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.” 

-President Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

Ahhhh, the good old days.  I would love to see this kind of writing in today’s political environment, it would be hilarious.