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I Paid Off My Entire Student Debt Years Ago, But I Gladly Support Student Debt Forgiveness

When I was in grade school, I got beaten up by a bully. It was painful, humiliating, and left lasting scars that I would not want anyone to experience.

When I was still in college, I tried to put together my first website that I hoped would help me make a few extra bucks on the side. I even paid for this service that was supposed to help get my site listed on major search engines at the time. That turned out to be a scam and I lost $150 at a time when I couldn’t afford to loes that kind of money. I don’t want anyone to experience that, either.

We all have experiences in our lives that we don’t wish for others to experience. It’s a big reason why parents strive to create better lives for their children, especially if they themselves had a difficult upbringing. I’ve known people who had horribly abusive parents, but they made it a point to ensure their children got the love and kindness that she never got.

This is an objectively good and moral thing. It’s something most are inclined to celebrate and support. So, with all that in mind, why should forgiving student loan debt be any different?

It had been talked about and entertained a great deal during the 2020 Presidential Election. Some candidates even made it a central part of their platform. But earlier this week, it became official. President Biden announced that a sizable chunk of student loan debt for millions of Americans would be forgiven.

USA Today: ‘Debt and no degree’: Biden cancels as much as $20K in student loan debt: Recap

Now, I understand there are a lot of political machinations behind moves like this, none of which I’m smart enough to make sense of, let alone articulate. I also understand there are some real, logistical reasons as to why forgiving student loan debt is difficult and will likely incur a greater cost in the near and far future. I’m sure I’ll notice that cost personally at some point.

All that being said, I still strongly support this. I would even support more student loan debt forgiveness, especially for those who were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn it triggered. And I say that as someone who paid off every penny of his debt back in 2011.

I know that makes me a bit of an anomaly, especially when compared to my peers in my graduating class. I knew some people who had taken out as much as $100,000 in loans in order to go to college. It wasn’t because they were reckless or stupid. They just came from families who could not afford to save money for college without starving. They also didn’t qualify for grants or scholarships.

And for the record, many of these peers were not majoring in “useless degrees.” I didn’t know a single person majoring in gender studies, philosophy, or underwater basket weaving. Most majored in things like engineering, medicine, and computer science. They were smart people who had the skills to get quality jobs as soon as they graduated. But not all of them were able to find jobs and even those that did still had what amounted to a mortgage payment cutting into their salary every month.

This is not a tenable system.

It’s also not how other industrialized countries do higher education.

In general, sending young people to college is an investment in people. We, the tax paying public, understand that there’s social and economic value in educating people at a high level. It’s a critical component for a functioning, prosperous society. And we don’t do that society any favors by shackling them with a massive amount of debt that they can’t get rid of, even in bankruptcy.

Looking back on it, I probably could’ve moved forward in my life much faster if I didn’t graduate with the debt I had. Granted, my debt was considerably smaller than most, but it still ensured I had to live at home a number of years and couldn’t afford any major investments, be it retirement or a car. I can only imagine how much further it held back peers with far bigger debts.

On top of that, the cost of college has gotten considerably more expensive since I graduated. I even went back and checked the tuition from my old school. Even with in-state benefits, I would’ve paid more than twice the amount I paid for the same degree. And the job market after I graduated would be nowhere near what it was years ago.

Despite these circumstances, as well as the undeniable burdens that come with being shackled with so much debt, I still here a common complaint from those who oppose student loan debt forgiveness. It has similar themes, but it usually boils down to comments like this.

“You took out a big loan? Too bad! Get a job and pay it back, you lazy moochers!”

“I paid back all my debt years ago. Why should you get to avoid paying yours?”

“It’s not fair! I didn’t even get to go to college because I was too poor. Why should I pay for your degree?”

Now, first off, if you’ve ever said something like this out loud to another human being who is currently struggling to keep up with loan payments in a terrible job market still recovering from a pandemic, I have one thing to say to you.

Fuck you.

Seriously, fuck all the way off.

Second, if your opposition boils down to all these young people getting an advantage you never got when you were that age, know that that’s a total bullshit reason. Even if you paid all your debts off by hard work and sacrifice, who are you to force millions of young people to do the same? Their situation is different. Times have changed a great deal since you were in college. They’ve changed a great deal in the past five years alone.

These aren’t all the self-entitled brats you hear Bill Maher and Tucker Carlson whining about every week. Those people do exist, but they’re an extreme minority who just happen to whine the loudest. Most of the millions of students who will benefit from this program are genuine, hard-working young people trying to build better lives. They just can’t do that when they’re shackled with this kind of debt.

To ignore their plight because you think it’s unfair to those who paid off their debts isn’t just a dick move. It makes no sense. Think back to those incidents I mentioned earlier about enduring a hardship that I wouldn’t wish on others. Dealing with student loans is a serious hardship. And even if you got out of it, why condemn others to suffer?

That’s akin to opposing polio vaccines, antibiotics, and lead free paint because you had to deal with the world before all these terrible things. So you want others to deal with it too. That’s not fair. That’s not just. That’s just you being a cruel, sadistic prick to millions of your fellow Americans.

Again, fuck you.

I don’t care that I paid off all my loans already. I don’t care that many young people will get to skip the hardships I endured when I was younger. If anything, I will gladly cheer on those who benefit from this act. You have an opportunity I never enjoyed. I sincerely hope to make the most of it.

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Filed under Current Events, political correctness, politics

Thoughts, Feelings, And (Dire) Predictions For The Future Of Abortion (And Many Other Rights)

Let me start by saying I had a sinking feeling I would have to write about this a while back when Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. I also want to make clear that I am very hesitant to give my opinions and feelings on topics like abortion and not just because I’m a man who will never know what it’s like to be pregnant.

However, I think this moment in history is worth talking about. It may very well mark a turning point for the United States and the western world in general with regard to abortion rights and human rights in general. And it’s a bad turning point, at that. That much, I am willing to say.

But there’s no getting around it anymore. Last week, the Supreme Court made it official. Roe vs. Wade is overturned and abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right in America. It is hard to overstate what a big deal this is for women, men, and children of every age. I honestly don’t think I can put into words what a monumental shift this is.

That’s why I gave myself a few days to process it before writing about it or mentioning it in any meaningful capacity. Like many others, I certainly had a knee-jerk response when the news came down. Even though I wasn’t surprised, it still had an impact once it became official. And it’s hard to know where we’ll go from here.

Even with that extra time, I do find myself settling into a certain resignation to what this means for the near and immediate future. And it’s here where I want to share some of my sentiments.

First off, let me just start by saying my usual hope and optimism that I’ve discussed in the past is pretty much dead. I made an effort to cling to hope and some general idea that the good of humanity will overcome the bad. Well, now I’m willing to say it outright.

I was wrong.

I still believe there are good people in this world and they vastly outnumber the bad people. But the bad people are the ones with the money, power, and influence. They’re the ones who spent years working behind the scenes, exploiting the system, and lying when they had to in order to make this happen.

You can’t appeal to their humanity.

You can’t reason with them.

You can’t even call them out on their hypocrisy and expect that to change anything.

These politicians, judges, religious zealots, and advocates are as bad as they come. But that doesn’t matter. Don’t expect them to lose a wink of sleep over any outrage or suffering this decision causes. They knew what they were doing. They just didn’t care. And there’s nothing anyone can do to make them feel guilty about it.

Secondly, I also want to make clear that I have no more respect for religious convictions. Usually, when I talk about religion, I make it a point to say I respect the sincerely held beliefs of others. I even acknowledge I have religious people in my family.

Well, I still love and respect those people. But I have absolutely no respect for their religious convictions anymore.

More than anything else, this ruling has proven once and for all that religiously motivated morality is dangerous, detrimental, and regressive. It’s not a coincidence that those on the Supreme Court who made this ruling are devout Catholics, a sect of Christianity that has always been vehemently anti-abortion.

Never mind the fact that the Catholic Church has been behind some pretty horrific crimes.

Never mind the fact that the Catholic Church is run by celibate priests who will never need abortions.

This brand of religiously-motivated morality had driven the anti-abortion movement since the rise of the religious right. They claim they’re trying to save babies, but the end result is micromanaging and criminalizing female sexual behavior. If you need any proof of this, just look at how the anti-abortion crowd criticizes contraception.

It’s not hypocrisy.

It’s just a means to an end.

It’s also why this ruling is just a first step.

Make no mistake. This same court and these same politicians will go after birth control next. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. They want an America where getting contraception is a crime, where any kind of pre-marital or extramarital sex is dangerous, and where women’s bodies can be controlled and managed by the state. Abortion and contraception are just obstacles and they’re going to keep attacking.

And lastly, here’s the final point I want to make.

These assholes are going to succeed.

I sincerely hope this post ages poorly, but give it another four years. I promise you that contraception is going to be the next thing on the chopping block. It won’t happen all at once, but it will happen. These people, who have ample access to oil money, religious organizations that don’t pay taxes, and a voting bloc that will never vote for another party, will keep pushing and they will push non-stop.

I’m sorry if that sounds dire or pessimistic, but this is where my broken spirit is right now. My faith in the future and in humanity’s ability to come together was already hit hard by COVID-19. Now, this is the final nail in the coffin.

It’s over now.

Evil didn’t win. Lying, cheating, power-hungry assholes won. And honestly, that’s worse.

Now, that they’re emboldened, they’re going to go after more rights. Losing a right like abortion and contraception access is just the beginning. It won’t be long before things like same-sex marriage, porn access, and voting rights are targeted. Yes, people will protest and voice their outrage. But that’s not going to change anything.

And here’s here where I’m going to make a few predictions. Granted, they’re very dire predictions and I hope I’m wrong about all of them. But having seen so many distressing trends in my adult life as an American, I think I’ve gotten a good feel for how our politics trend. So, this is what I expect to happen.

For the weeks and months after the ruling, there will be outrage and protests. It will garner quite a bit of media coverage. Abortion rights advocates will vehemently and passionately attempt to rally support.

But it won’t change a damn thing.

That’s because the people who make these laws and enforce them aren’t going to change their minds on anything unless it directly benefits them. Remember, they’re assholes. The most protests can do is mildly inconvenience them. Sure, you can try and commit to vote the anti-abortion people out of office, but because of gerrymandering and voter suppression laws, that’s not going to do much.

One way or another, these same politicians that fought to end abortion rights will keep winning elections. It’s not a matter of getting out the vote. It’s just a matter of them gaming the flaws in our election system to gain power and stay in power.

And don’t bother threatening them either. That’ll just get you arrested and allow them to paint your side as the violent radicals.

That’s no just me making an anti-violence disclaimer. Violence of any kind really won’t change anything with this issue either. The government has the soldiers, the guns, the military, and the drones. No matter how dedicated you are to fighting for abortion rights, anything you do to any authority figure will only mild inconvenience them and give them a perfect reason to put you in jail or worse.

With or without violence, the result will be the same. People will get bored of meaningless protesting and move on. Some other crazy news story will happen to draw everyone’s attention away from this issue, be it a celebrity scandal or some other political upheaval. And once the protests stop, it’s back to politics as usual.

By that, I mean that when November comes around, the republicans will win big because the democrats didn’t solve all the problems in America for the brief two years they had power. And once republicans get back into power, they will do anything and everything to ensure they can’t lose it ever again.

That means more restrictive voting laws and more efforts to ensure that their opponents can’t do anything to help anyone, ensuring they can paint them as ineffective in the next election.

Eventually, whether it’s in 2024 or 2028, there will be a situation where republicans control Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. When that happens, expect their control to be complete.

They won’t just take control. They’ll ensure that they never lose it again. That means they’ll be able to pass any law they want to end abortion access nationwide, ban all the books they don’t like, and make sure that everyone strives to live a life taken right out of a bland, boring 50s sitcom.

It’ll be a boring, repressive future in which women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community suffer horribly. But that’s where we’re heading. Baring a massive upheaval or an alien invasion, I don’t see this changing.

Again, I hope I’m wrong about all this. But this ruling has pretty much ended my remaining optimism for the future of America, the world, and human rights in general. This was just the first step towards a much larger regression. I wish I could say it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

But honestly, I don’t see that happening. Last week was a bad week, but make no mistake. The worst is yet to come.

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Filed under abortion, Current Events, politics, religion

Honest Question: Do Political Ads Convince Anyone Of Anything?

Political ads have little persuasive power | YaleNews

It’s that time of year again for my fellow Americans. It’s election season. Now granted, it’s not a Presidential election, which have a tendency to get messy, ugly, heated, and hostile. The last two Presidential elections have sadly demonstrated that. However, democracy is still an important part of the American tradition. That means we have elections every year.

Years like this are what we call “off-year elections.” We don’t elect a President, but we do elect senators, representatives, governors, and various other officials. It may not be as glamorous or high-stakes as a Presidential election, but it’s something I encourage every American to take seriously.

Even if you hate politics and politicians, you should still vote.

If you’re not sure how, depending on where you live, check out this website and follow the steps. It’s not just a civic duty. It’s the lifeblood of democracy.

That being said, I do have one major bone to pick with election season. It has to do with the political ads that seem to run every five minutes on every channel I watch, as well as every video I stream online. Chances are, my fellow Americans are seeing plenty of those ads too. I have a feeling they’re as sick of them as I am.

With that in mind, I have a simple question to those who make these ads, as well as those who can’t avoid seeing them.

Do these ads actually convince anyone of anything?

I promise I’m not being facetious. I’m asking an honest, sincere question.

Has anyone actually been swayed by these ads? Have they ever affected your voting habits in any meaningful way?

I know people tend to be exceedingly partisan about everything these days. There are people who will vote for alleged sexual predators over someone of the opposing party. I know people who are registered republicans or democrats. Their candidate could run over puppies in the street and they would still vote for them.

It’s sad, frustrating, and antithetical to core American principles, but that’s the current situation we live in. It also makes these political ads all the more irrelevant. Seriously, if people are this partisan and dogmatic about their political affiliations, is an ad going to change that? If not, why spend money on them in the first place?

It’s not an insignificant sum of money, either. Running ads on TV and online make up a sizable chunk of campaign costs for aspiring politicians and that cost is only increasing. If they don’t work, then why spend all that money in the first place? What’s the point if it doesn’t change a single voter’s mind?

I suspect that’s not entirely the point of these ads. It might just be the case that these ads are just reminders for people who planned to vote a certain way to get out there and vote. After all, voter turnout has been historically low in the Untied States. While I agree that’s an issue, are these ads really the best way to address it?

Again, it’s an honest question. I’m not trying to come off as jaded or cynical, although I don’t blame anyone for feeling this way after the past five years of American politics. If these ads aren’t helping, though, then I think these questions are still worth asking.

Jaded or not, I still fully intend to vote and I already know who I’m voting for. I encourage every registered voter in America to do the same. Try not to vote blindly, either. Look into each candidate. Get a feel for who they are and decide for yourself whether you want them representing you. It can be tedious, I know, but that’s how you do democracy. That’s how you preserve the core values that make the Untied State of America what it is. Put in that effort, even if you find these ads insufferably annoying.

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Filed under Current Events, politics

Was Socrates Right About Democracy?

Socrates - HISTORY

I am a proud American. I love my country, the ideals it espouses, and the vision it offers for freedom loving people. I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States. I understand that being an American comes with many benefits that millions of others cannot enjoy. For that, I am eternally grateful.

However, I do not deny that this country I love has flaws. I am a patriot, but I do not overlook or underscore some of the objectively terrible things the United States has done in its brief history. We shouldn’t ignore those flaws. Loving your country doesn’t mean always believing it’s right, good, and just. I know that’s not a popular sentiment among certain Americans, but that’s exactly why I value it.

That same misguided sentiment also has a significant impact on democracy, one of America’s highest ideals. Regardless of your political leanings, that’s the one tradition that America holds more dear. We embrace democracy and empower the people to pick their leaders. Considering how leaders have traditionally come to power throughout history, it’s an admirable institution.

At the same time, it’s not without its flaws. Democracy, in principle, is great. It empowers the people. It allows the people to set the standards by which a ruler is put into power. Given how often power has been abused by rulers, that’s critical for a stable, functional society.

Despite that strength, it’s still worth asking an important question.

What are the greatest flaws of democracy?

I know just asking that will put me at odds with many of my fellow Americans. Thankfully, I’m not the first one to ask that question. In fact, this is a question that has been contemplated since before America was ever a country.

Democracy itself is not an exclusively American invention. Most educated people know that it existed in various forms throughout history, most notably in Ancient Athens. However, even back then, there were some who had major criticisms of democracy, both in principle and in practice. One of the most vocal critics was the Father of Philosophy himself, Socrates.

Now, I’m not a philosophy buff. I couldn’t begin to properly break down all the concepts, principles, and contributions that Socrates made to philosophy and Western Civilization in general. So, I won’t bother trying. Instead, I’ll just focus on what he said about democracy and why he viewed it so unfavorably.

To that end, this video form the YouTube channel, The School of Life, does a nice rundown of Socrates’ biggest criticisms of democracy. Watch it and follow his ideas. You may or may not agree with them, but they’re still worth contemplating.

Again, this is just a brief summary. The nuts and bolts of Socrates’ ideas and principles are far greater in terms of breadth and concept. With respect to democracy, though, his criticisms are fairly concise.

Democracy, namely the kind in which too many uneducated people have a vote, tends to lead towards demagoguery. Instead of diligent, qualified, well-meaning leaders, people will simply elect those who are capable of winning people over with promises and rhetoric. It doesn’t matter if they’re aristocrats or con-men. They just need to sway 51 percent of the population into giving them the power they seek.

I hope I don’t need to cite an example of this happening in the real world. I also hope I don’t need to name names of those who have carried themselves like demagogues in the American political landscape. In fact, there has been a distressing trend of American’s actively seeking to put their favorite demagogues for positions of power.

These are not skilled ship captains or trained doctors, like what Socrates described in his video. These are people who are just capable of persuading a large mass of people that they should wield power. They didn’t train to wield power like a doctor trains to treat illness. They just say they’re capable and it’s up to the people to believe them.

It’s not an unreasonable criticism. Does that mean I agree with it completely? No, I do not.

Does that mean I think there’s real merit to these criticism? Yes, I absolutely do and I think there are ways to address them.

Socrates’ issue wasn’t just with democracy in principle. He was more concerned about uneducated people who don’t appreciate or care for wisdom making critical decisions, such as who should lead a country. Another great philosopher, George Carlin, put it even better.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

I think this sentiment is more relevant now, especially after last year’s Presidential Election and the horrors of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Me and my fellow Americans have never been more divided. As a proud American, this worries me a great deal.

I still love my country. I want it to be better. I want it to live up to its greatest ideals. However, I don’t think it can do so without taking the criticisms of someone like Socrates seriously.

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Filed under philosophy, politics, psychology

Dear America: Yesterday At The Capitol Was Awful (Do Better)

I love America.

I’m proud to be an American.

I believe in the ideals, values, and promise of America.

I don’t deny this country has flaws. No person is perfect, no group is perfect, and no society is perfect. We’re an imperfect species, by default.

All that being said, yesterday was a sad, pathetic day for America. This country that I love showed some of its ugliest blemishes for the world to see and it was objectively awful on every level. The protests at the Capitol were a terrible sight to behold. While this story is still ongoing, it’s safe to say it’s as bad as it looks and then some.

AP: Chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupies Congress

“Where are they?” a Trump supporter demanded in a crowd of dozens roaming the halls of the Capitol, bearing Trump flags and pounding on doors.

They — lawmakers, staff members and more — were hiding under tables, hunkered in lockdowns, saying prayers and seeing the fruits of the country’s divisions up close and violent.

Guns were drawn. A woman was shot and killed by police, and three others died in apparent medical emergencies. A Trump flag hung on the Capitol. The graceful Rotunda reeked of tear gas. Glass shattered.

On Wednesday, hallowed spaces of American democracy, one after another, yielded to the occupation of Congress.

In general, I try not to comment on news that’s still fresh. I also try to avoid getting too partisan when talking about hot button issues in American politics. I understand how this can bring out the worst in people. However, I have to make an exception for yesterday.

I won’t mention names. I won’t even mention public officials or candidates. What the people did at the Capitol the other day was both shameful and pathetic. It wasn’t enough to just disagree with how the election turned out. It wasn’t enough to be angry at the other side for daring to pitch an agenda they didn’t approve of. They had to do the national equivilent of flipping over the chess board in anger because they lost.

That’s not what civilized people do.

That’s what whiny children do.

I want to say you’re better than that, but actions speak too loudly in this case. You act like you’re the “real” Americans. You call yourself patriots, but you mock, whine, and desecrate the people and places that make America what it is. That’s not patriotism. That’s just being an asshole.

Be better than this.

Do better than this.

I know you’re capable of it. I still believe in America’s highest ideals. We’re not measuring up to them now and we just went way too far in the opposite direction.

We need to turn this around.

We must turn it around.

America deserves better than this, but it also needs to put in the work. So, let’s start today.

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Filed under Current Events, politics, rants

Post-Election Day PSA: Do NOT Trust Or Expect Politicians To Solve Your Problems

It’s over, my fellow Americans.

It’s finally over.

Election Day has come and gone. I won’t get into the drama leading up to it or the drama that’s still unfolding, as I write this. I just want to take a step back, catch my breath, and offer some perspective to those who will hear it.

I agree this was rough. I think most others will agree with me when I say this was the most chaotic, divisive, and downright stressful election in recent memory. I’ve spoken to relatives who voted for Kennedy in 1960. They agree that this year was, by far, the worst in terms of stakes, rhetoric, and tone.

That’s saying a lot, by the way.

However you feel about the candidates or who you voted for, I genuinely hope this election has been revealing, to a certain extent. It’s tempting to be cynical about it. I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling that way. At the same time, we should also take stock as to why this election was so harrowing, for lack of a better word.

The world is such a messed-up place right now. We’ve got wars, economic collapse, and a once-in-a-century pandemic has that killed over a million people in the span of nine months. Things are bad right now, more so than they’ve been at any point in my lifetime.

Most don’t question that, unless they’re rich and well-connected.

What I do question, however, is why people trust or even expect politicians to help solve these problems.

That’s a notion that, in my opinion, fuels stressful elections like this. An election is supposed to be a job interview for a position for a public-serving official. It’s not supposed to be some expensive spectacle in which we all get behind the candidate who says the right things to just enough people in a handful of swing states.

That’s not democracy.

That’s a bad reality TV show.

Now, it’s tempting to just blame the politicians and that’s understandable. Politicians are easy targets for mockery and they’ve no one to blame but themselves for that. We should criticize them. They are, after all, in positions of power and public trust. They should be held to a higher standard.

That standard, however, should not involve trusting them to fix everything that ails us, from the economy to who pays a fine for when a female nipple is shown during a halftime show. That’s not just asking too much of one person. It’s asinine.

It’s also self-defeating. Politicians make lots of promises and break plenty of them, but let’s not lay the blame entirely on their honesty or lack thereof. They’re only human. Even the most selfless, hard-working politician can only do so much to deliver on every promise. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough personnel to get it done.

That’s not even accounting for the times when politicians make objectively impossible promises. Certain policy pitches may sound like great slogans or taglines, but logistically speaking, they just cannot be done in the real world. It’s not that the sincerity isn’t there. There just isn’t enough people or resources.

Therein lies the source of the great cycle of toxic politics. It goes something like this.

Politician A makes a bold promise. People rally behind them. Politician A get elected.

Politician A cannot deliver on those promises. People turn against them.

Politician B comes along, offering new or better promises. People rally behind them. Politician B get elected.

Again, Politician B can’t deliver on all those promises. People turn against them.

Politician C comes along to make another set of promises and the cycle continues.

It goes beyond party affiliation, political systems, or shifts in power. It’s an unavoidable flaw in a democratic system. An election, by default, isn’t going to elect someone with the greatest governing skill. It can only elect someone with the skills to convince enough people that they can govern.

I won’t say it’s a terrible system. Compared to the alternatives, it’s probably the best we can manage right now in our current environment. However, it is not a system in which any politician, no matter how successful, can solve the problems we want them to solve. Even when the system is working at its best, it’s still limited.

That’s not to say politicians can’t be part of a solution. They definitely can be. A politician can be a facilitator of sorts, either by leadership or by policy. The specifics, though, are best left to people with the right drive, incentives, and know-how.

Whether it involves combating climate change, reducing poverty, or promoting public health, the bulk of the responsibility will still fall on the general public. We, as a people, have to collectively work on these issues together. That’s how any social species within a functional society adapts, grows, and prospers.

The role of government and politicians is always changing. The extent or details of that role depends heavily on the issue at hand. The Presidents we elect, as well as the various legislators and judges at all levels, will always have some impact on how we further our interests. The key is balancing that impact with actual, tangible efforts on our part.

The next four years are sure to be eventful. Hopefully, they’re eventful for all the right reasons. Whatever happens, use this past election as a teachable moment.

Politicians come and go.

Ambitious people will keep making bold promises and breaking them, either on purpose or through no fault of their own. At the end of the day, it all comes back to us. We have a part to play in making our world and our lives better. Let’s focus on doing ours before we trust anyone else to do it for us.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, media issues, political correctness, politics

A Message To America After Election 2020

It’s over, America. We did it. The election of 2020 has concluded. We now have a winner and, come January 20, 2021, there will be a new occupant of the White House. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate this. It is, after all, a cornerstone of American democracy.

We, the people, elect our leaders. We don’t always like who wins, but it’s still on us, as a people, to make that decision. I know that sounds cheesy, given these cynical times, but it’s still worth saying.

With those platitudes out of the way, I have another important message I’d like to share with my fellow Americans. It’s simple, succinct, and apolitical. It’s simply this.

Regardless of how you voted, let’s all make an effort to be kinder to one another.

It’s not a tall request. It’s not something that requires great sacrifice or rigor. It’s just a simple act that anyone can do, regardless of their affiliations or ideology.

It shouldn’t seem so daunting, but these past few years have made it difficult to grasp. I’m on the internet every day. I see plenty of instances of horrendous, unbridled hatred. It’s on social media, message boards, Reddit, and even text messages. I won’t offer examples because it’s just that disgusting.

It’s not always political, but for these past few years, politics has been a catalyst for such hatred. It’s no longer enough to simply disagree with someone on a particular issue. The default has become utter and complete hatred of anyone who disagrees with you.

Whether it’s on abortion, LGBTQ rights, party affiliation, or sexy characters in video games, there’s no room for understanding and nuance anymore. Either someone agrees with you or you hate them in the utmost.

That is not healthy.

That is not conducive to a functional society.

Moreover, that is not in keeping with the American spirit.

America was not founded on hatred. No society founded on hatred could ever become so strong and dominant. It takes people living, loving, and cooperating with one another, regardless of differences, to build what America has built.

Have we made mistakes? Absolutely, we have. Every country has, some more so than others.

We’re human. We have flaws. Hatred is one of our most egregious flaws, but it need not be our most defining.

So, with that made, I sincerely hope that my fellow Americans will use this recent election as a turning point. We don’t need to “own” our opponents to vindicate ourselves. We don’t need to hate each other to prove ourselves right. We just need to be kind and make the most of the lives we live, as Americans and as fellow humans.

To that end, I’ll end this message with one of my favorite quotes by John F. Kennedy.

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last.”

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Happy Election Day! Now Vote!

It’s Election Day here in the United States of America. I don’t know how many people have been following the news for the past four years, but even if you’ve somehow avoided it, I hope one thing is still abundantly clear.

This election is a big fucking deal.

Regardless of which party you’re affiliated with or which candidate you support, this is the day where the rubber meets the road for democracy. This is where citizens exercise the power granted to them by the constitution.

As such, I encourage everyone to use it.

I’ve got no larger point to make today. I’ve got no sexy twist to put on it or larger narrative to explore. I’m just going to say what so many others have been saying for months now.

Go out and vote!

Get out there early. Bring water, snacks, and a lawn chair if you must. Stand in line as long as necessary. Just make sure you vote.

This is America. We value democratic principles. Those principles don’t work if people don’t vote. So please, my fellow Americans. I’ll say it again.

Go out and vote!

America will be better because of it. Thank you.

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Has Tribalism And Ideology Supplanted Religion?

If you’re an American, chances are you’re painfully aware that 2020 is an election year. That means that, on top all the other awful crap that has transpired this year, we’re in the midst of a political firestorm that regularly brings out the worst in people. Trust me, my non-American audience. It’s even uglier than you think.

As proud as I am to be an American, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with politics and discourse. I know that’s not saying much. I didn’t live through the turbulent eras of the 60s and 70s. My parents have told me it has been very bad before, but even they admit that this year is a special case of awful. They almost long for the hippie-style protests of the 60s.

I won’t get into why things have become so contentious, although most people can probably discern the most noteworthy source. I don’t have the patience or the sanity to digest that. Instead, I want to offer an observation that I’ve noticed as this election drama has played out. It has to do with both politics and religion, two incredibly divisive forces with a strong basis in absurdities.

I’ve done plenty to highlight the flaws, failures, and outright atrocities that have been committed or justified in the name of religion. I’ve also touched on some of the frustrations and annoyances that manifest in politics. Together, both can be extremely damaging to people and society alike. History has proven that on multiple occasion.

Lately, however, I get the sense that a new kind of zealotry has taken hold. It’s not entirely political or entirely religious. It just take the most destructive elements in both and channels them in a way that inspires some objectively deplorable behavior.

In essence, the same dogmatic stubbornness that often fuels religious extremists has now been applied to someone’s political leanings. By that, I don’t just mean what party they belong to or who they voted for in the last election. I’m saying they now see their political affiliation in the same light some see their religious adherence.

To some extent, this makes sense. Organized religion, in general, has been in a steep decline for decades. The rise of the internet, as well as a more educated public, has significantly undermined religion’s ability to lock in adherents for generations. However, a lack of a religion doesn’t make someone any less inclined to believe absurd, misguided, or demonstrably false concepts.

The same tribalism that often fuels religious rhetoric is becoming a larger factor in politics. I won’t go so far as to say that political ideology is replacing organized religion outright. I just think that same tribalism is becoming a more prominent factor.

It often goes like this. In the past, I often saw discussions like this play out.

Liberal: I believe the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour.

Conservative: I respectfully disagree. I think a minimum wage ultimately harms the working poor by limiting the number of entry level jobs.

Liberal: I don’t think the data bears that out, but can we agree to disagree?

Conservative: Of course.

That’s fairly civil. Ideally, that’s how political debates should go. It’s not an argument about whose deity is better and who’s going to Hell when they die. It’s just a simple exchange of ideas to further a discussion about real-world issues. It can get ugly at times, but it rarely ventures into the same damaging extremism that often comes with religion.

That kind of civil exchange now feels so long ago. These days, you need only look at a comments section or a thread on social media to see how outrageous the discourse has become. It tends to go more like this.

Liberal: I believe the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour.

Conservative: You American-hating, baby-murdering, politically correct cuck! What kind of Marxist wannabe are you? Get the fuck out of this country! You don’t belong here!

Liberal: Fuck you! You’re a racist, sexist fascist, gay-bashing hypocrite! Go back to Nazi Germany and beat your women somewhere else! You’re destroying America!

Conservative: No, you’re destroying America!

Liberal: No, you are!

Conservative: Fuck you!

Liberal: Fuck you!

I admit, this is a generalization, but it’s not that far off. Between Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and 4chan, this kind of hateful rhetoric is fairly common. Even the street preachers who hold up signs, telling everyone that their deity wants to send them to Hell, isn’t nearly this vitriolic. Anyone who tries to be civil or inject some simple facts into the discussion is quickly drowned out by hateful dogma.

The internet and social media has acted as a catalyst, of sorts. It’s one thing to hold extreme, dogmatic political views. It’s quite another to share them in a community that constantly reinforces, reaffirms, and encourages those views. It’s become incredibly easy to exercise your own confirmation bias. If you have an opinion or want evidence for a crazy belief, chances are you can find it on some dark corner of the internet.

It’s at a point where if you try to criticize someone’s political leanings, it’s not just a point of disagreement. It’s treated as outright blasphemy. I’ve seen it on both sides, although I think those who lean right/conservative are worse offenders. Trying to convince any side that they’re wrong is akin to trying to convince a creationist or flat-Earther that they’re wrong. It just evokes more extremism.

This is not a healthy trend. Religious extremism is bad enough. Plenty of people have died because someone was convinced that a certain holy text was literally true and it was their duty to attack those who don’t agree. To religious zealots, the mere act of disagreeing and disbelieving as they do is seen as an insult, an affront, and an act of violence. That can’t be how we treat politics.

At the same time, the ugly forces of tribalism are still as strong as ever, if not more so in the age of the internet. Those influences aren’t going away anytime soon. Being part of a tribe or group is fine. We’re a very social species. It’s part of why we’re so successful. However, that same force that unites us can also inspire the ugliest kind of hate.

At its worst, it makes view anyone who disagrees with us as a non-person. They’re not sub-human, but they are someone we would rather not have in our domain. It’s not enough to disagree with them. We’d prefer they not even exist in any way that affects us.

It’s a special kind of dehumanizing and something religion has done for centuries, weaponizing the age-old us-versus-them mentality. We can only do so much to temper our tribal nature, but there comes a point where the line between differences and hatred become too blurred. We share this same planet. We also live in countries full of people who don’t agree with us.

That’s okay. We can still be friends with these people. We don’t have to hate, scold, insult, demean, or dehumanize them. That’s a conscious choice we make and, unlike religion, it requires little in terms of indoctrination. As society becomes less religious, it’s important to remember why we’re moving away from organized religion in the first place.

In the same way most religious people are decent, good people, most people of any political affiliation are the same. We’re still human at the end of the day, but I sincerely worry that the increasing ugliness of politics is making us forget that.

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The Fall (And Hypocrisy) Of Jerry Falwell Jr. And Why It’s Both Fitting And Infuriating

I don’t like talking about religion. I think I’ve made my opinion on organized religion and the extremists it enables very clear. Then, a story comes along that I find so distressing and infuriating that I just can’t in good conscious ignore it. That tends to happen when the same ugly religious extremism is mixed with outright hypocrisy. It’s happened before. It will happen again. That’s just the nature of organized religion.

This time, it involves Jerry Falwell Jr.

Now, if anyone follows religious hypocrisy as closely as I do, the name Falwell should be painfully familiar. Between this guy, and his grifting, theocracy-loving, power-hungry snob of a father, that name is associated with the worst parts of the religious right.

Think of the most regressive religious doctrines you can imagine. From killing homosexuals to subjugating women to racial discrimination to promoting creationism to draconian abortion restrictions, these people are for it. They see the repressive government in “The Handmaid’s Tale” with envy. There is really no difference between them and the Taliban.

They see religion and religious values as a means of gaining power and influence. They use it to the utmost and dare to claim they represent truth, virtue, and order. They are hypocrites and frauds of the highest order. I cannot belabor that enough.

If you are a Christian who sincerely believes in the values it preaches, you should be disgusted by the Falwells. They embody a form of Christianity that’s both perverse and backwards. They don’t value the poor. They don’t value truth. They don’t even believe in loving they neighbor if they don’t live, vote, and believe as they do. They couldn’t be more antithetical to Jesus’ teachings.

Now, Jerry Falwell Jr. is embroiled in a lurid sex scandal that forced him to resign from his position at the indoctrination center/college that his father founded, Liberty University. In terms of sex scandals, this is hardly the kinkiest. This doesn’t involve sex with gay prostitutes while on meth. It mostly involves extra-marital affairs with Jr. and his wife, along with some light voyeurism.

In terms of juiciness, this is pretty tame. That doesn’t make it any less hypocritical. Remember, this is a man who once ran a university that had strict rules against any kind of pre-marital or extra-marital activities. It was so repressive that they even had rules against extended hugging, R-rated movies, and dancing. Again, these aren’t that different from the rules the once Taliban enforced.

Falwell Jr. and his supporters all imposed these rules and enforced them, justifying their draconian nature with their religious dogma. It wasn’t just for show, either. I actually been to the Lynchburg area. I’ve met people who have attended the poorly-named Liberty University. These rules are taken seriously. They’re enforced, too. The only way to avoid them is to never get caught.

Well, Falwell Jr. couldn’t handle that last part. He committed the most egregious sin of the religious right, which is to get caught and exposed as a hypocrite. By day, he preached fire and brimstone for anyone who dared to have sex with anyone who wasn’t their Christian spouse, but put in the minimum effort to live by that same doctrine.

I want to say it’s fitting. This scandal did cost Falwell Jr. his job and his credibility among his theocracy-loving cohorts in the religious right. However, it’s hard to take much satisfaction in his downfall.

For one, he will not suffer significant consequences from this scandal. He won’t go to jail. He won’t pay any fines. In fact, by resigning from his indoctrination center/university, he received $10.5 million severance package. That’s right, this wannabe theocrat who protested and condemned any sexual relation outside a 1950s sitcom is getting $10 million to step away from his job.

Even if you consider yourself religious and a bible-believing Christian, how is this justified? How does anyone justify being rewarded for resigning from their job because they engaged in the same sexual relations they so gleefully condemned? Seriously, what kind of mental gymnastics does someone have to do in order to say that’s right on any level?

Now, if Falwell Jr. sincerely sought forgiveness, and I don’t think for a nanosecond he will, he’d donate every penny to charity. There are plenty of charities, both religious and secular, who could do plenty of good with that money. It would be the most Christian thing you can do, given how much Jesus himself preached helping the poor.

However, there’s no way Falwell Jr. will ever do something that virtuous. It’s just not his style, nor was it his father’s. He’s going to keep preaching the same dogma, pretending he was “sick with sin” and now he’s healed. He’ll probably fight even harder to promote a repressive worldview that would see homosexuals murdered, promiscuity punished, and abortion outlawed.

If that weren’t bad enough, the same people who made him resign will probably still embrace him. There will even be a large contingent of right-wing Christians who will eagerly overlook his transgressions because his name is so closely associated with their movement. He might not have the same authority he once did, but he’ll keep fighting for the same repressive world that is so antithetical to American values.

On top of all of that, he’ll do all of this while living comfortably and luxuriously on his $10.5 million nest egg. Keep that in mind if you have even a sliver of sympathy for the man. Jerry Falwell Jr. offers absolutely nothing of the sort. He’s still a perverse manifestation of the kind of people who use religion to seek power, influence, and authority. He’s just a hypocrite on top of all that.

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