The Hypocrisy of Today

White Americans, what, nothin’ better to do?
Why don’t you kick yourself out?
You’re an immigrant too.
Jack White

Despair

I’ve never understood it. Two human beings function in essentially the same manner; we eat, we shower, we shit, we sometimes get irritated by traffic or wake groggy to an early morning alarm. We pay taxes (or at least we should), we sometimes get distracted at work, we worry about how much money we earn. And yet, one human being will spend every day with genuine contempt, sometimes even hatred, for the other human being purely because they are of a different race, religion, or country of origin.

It seems to me that going through daily life with such a dark cloud around your heart would be particularly burdensome. I would think that their shoulders would slouch under the sheer weight of it, but that is not what happens; these racists and bigots wear this hatred as a point of pride, and very little can knock them off their pedestal of mental gymnastics. That is what confuses me more than anything.

In an act that spits in the face of every World War Two veteran, hundreds of cowardly white supremacists* marched with torches and Nazi flags on University of Virginia’s campus. I would be willing to bet that more than a few of the participants had relatives who fought against Hitler and his genocidal rise to power.

*Can we stop calling them the “alt-right” now? That kind of name just legitimizes their sham of a movement.

It’s a travesty that so many people have been brainwashed to this degree. I see no difference between white supremacists and ISIS. None. The sheer definition of terrorism is using violence and fear to get what they want, and that is exactly what these pale impotents have been doing for a long time; Nazi’s and their sympathizers are the longest-tenured terrorist group in the world, and I wish even one-tenth of the attention that we pay to stopping ISIS was paid to stopping them.

Heather Hayer, a 32-year old resident of Charlottesville, was killed when a white supremacist terrorist intentionally drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascism protestors. Her death is a tragedy; it would not have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.

All my life, I’ve believed in the power of words; I’ve believed they can change minds, fill hearts and educate. I’ve believed they can legislate, curate and create ideas that personify all of our instinctive resilience against evil, malfeasance and fear. The needs of many should always outweigh the wants of a few. In the past year, we have seen what happens when a country founded on racism elects a president who makes no qualms about his allegiance with the KKK.

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth… and I know that I might’ve been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

Lou Gehrig died a few short months after giving this speech. When one steps back to consider the gravity and brevity of these words in the face of a terminal illness, one cannot help but be left in awe of Gehrig’s conviction that he’s done, and will continue to do, the best he can.

I don’t believe in words anymore, which is a strange thing to say considering that I am typing so many here. I hope to one day regain this belief, but if someone who brags about sexual assault can be elected to the highest office in the land, then I’m not so sure words mean anything anymore. Donald Trump is the greatest fraud perpetrated on the American voter. He had 60 million of them convinced he was Christian, despite the fact that he had cheated on each of his three wives.*

*My God, can you imagine what people would have been saying about Hillary or President Obama if THEY were the ones who had five children from three different spouses?

He had 60 million of them convinced that he was a man of the people, despite his obsession with gold, including those of the parachute variety.

He had 60 million of them convinced that he was trustworthy, despite his decades-long reputation as a con artist of the filthiest degree.

Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all racists are Trump supporters.

It’s going to take decades to truly understand how and why a country decided to regress its progress by 100 years, but I think it comes down to fraud and laziness. He was elected on a mountain of lies. There is nothing redeemable about him, or his entire family, save for Barron, for whom I feel terrible. I can’t imagine being ten years old and having to endure what his father is doing.

I’m honestly not sure how long America, as a country and as an ideal, can keep going like this. I sincerely hope that truth, kindness and understanding will triumph over the tyrannical whims of our current president.

Hope

This is Heather Heyer. Her final Facebook post read, “If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.”

It’s the kids. The kids understand that this hatred and bigotry gets us no where. I know this because the reactions to such racism have been wonderful. They donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name, they emasculate the white supremacy effort by turning them into a meme, they show up in much larger crowds to celebrate peace and love amongst everyone.

I see no greater evidence of this than at the San Diego Pride Festival. There are times when I just want to find someone who has bigoted thoughts or actions and tell them to just watch. At the end of the day I would ask them one question: did you see anyone who wasn’t happy? My hope would be that they would stop, and think to themselves: no, I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t smiling. No, I didn’t see anyone who was talking about “ending white privilege.” No, I didn’t see anyone who was angry. I have no doubt the same can be said for Pride festivals all over the world.

It’s the creativity with which this new generation combats hate that gives me hope. I can freely admit that I do not have that creativity. I have anger. When I see a Muslim house of worship was bombed, or a police officer acquitted of charges after killing an unarmed black kid, or the proposed banning of transgender military members (I say “proposed” because I am certain that President Trump doesn’t know that policy is not made through a tweet) I feel nothing but anger and contempt toward such cowardice and small mindedness.

But this new generation kills it with kindness, humor and love. I know they feel anger as well, but they express it in a much more positive and progressive manner. I have hope because one day, my generation will be old, and these kids will be running the show; that’s something which I truly believe we will see one day.

One day, I hope racism and bigotry will be a nonstarter; I hope that the majority will see why Black Lives Matter, why marriage equality is crucial, and why universal healthcare is the only way we as humans can collectively live healthier and safer lives. One day, I hope bigoted white men will just grow the fuck up and stop blaming immigrants and black people for their problems.

One day, I hope there is a statue of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. I hope it serves as a representation of courage in the face of evil, and an inspiration to all of mankind that we should never stop trying to do better. Hate is easy; love takes work.

And we should never stop working.

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Do You Feel Safe Yet?

mr_donald_trump_new_hampshire_town_hall_on_august_19th_2015_at_pinkerton_academy_in_derry_nh_by_michael_vadon_07

I really don’t think there’s anyone left; Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, his staff, the media, other politicians; the man has made an enemy out of everyone he can. And I say good. Anyone who isn’t rich, white, heterosexual and/or a man can vote but allowing them other things like freedom of choice threatens our way of life. It’s frightening, though, how much resistance there has been to President Cheeto’s Trump’s executive orders and tweets, which clearly have the intention of keeping America safe.

The wall is supposed to keep out all those damn illegals. How dare the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country work hard, build our infrastructure, pay taxes and sacrifice their safety to be in a place that doesn’t want them and yet supposedly offers a dream. I know I don’t feel safe knowing my gardener is willing to do whatever it takes to live here and provide for his family back home.

However, it’s the ones who will do anything to get here that worry me the most. The travel ban was supposed to keep out those terrorists. And anyone who looks like them. If you believe that these refugees are just seeking refuge from the daily horror of walking into a store and potentially not coming out alive, I have some snake oil to sell you.

Speaking of bad salesmen, the media keeps reporting the truth, which coincidentally has always been Sun-Tan Tzu’s adversary, so they get the ax too. Well, just a few; the ones who write nice things get to stay. Honestly, how could anyone write bad things about him? It’s not like he ever questioned the birthplace and religion of a former President even though he has likely never voluntarily attended a Sunday service in his life if there weren’t cameras around.

All of these actions are supposed to keep us safe. Because please, for the love of God, won’t someone think of the children if we allow people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify? All those who are transgender are delinquent perverts after all. They should be tested for a mental illness; but it’s okay, even though Republicans think they’re mentally ill, they’d still be allowed to have a gun.

In fact, it’s clear that the only way to stop gun violence is by giving everyone guns. That’s Florida’s response to the shootings at Pulse in Orlando and the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I, for one, am all for it; everyone knows that a good guy can put all six bullets of a revolver right in the 10 range, but a bad guy who was able to get his hands on an AR-15 won’t hit the broad side of a barn. That’s just common sense. I see it in movies all the time.

Speaking of movies, they’ve become so tiresome. How dare these actors and actresses use the platform for which they’ve worked so hard to attain to push for some lame “agenda” like equal treatment or resisting bigotry? I’ll stay in reality thank you very much, because utopia is never going to happen; there are rules. They really don’t have a clue what they’re talking about anyway, so they should stay in their own lane.

Just like athletes should stick to sports. Can you believe Dexter Fowler saying it’s “unfortunate” that his wife’s sister can’t visit from Iran because of the travel ban? That’s plain un-American. If he doesn’t like it here, he should stay over there. I don’t want anything ruining my willful ignorance of another person’s feelings or my support of Busch Stadium hosting “Christian day.” I’m a claims adjuster and I’m allowed to tweet my political opinions to my 36 followers, but an athlete shouldn’t be allowed to express their concern about an issue of which they were asked a direct question.

We all know that Muslims are terrorists, and white guys with an affiliation to the KKK are just “lone wolves.” Sure, there’s been a few Tim McVeigh’s, Dylan Roof’s and Adam Purinton‘s over the years, but those have been so rare. I know the genuine and sincere “thoughts and prayers” of all politicians are with us in those trying times, because they tweet about it or release a statement. Never mind that they’ve introduced legislation to suppress black voters, deny the religious freedom of Muslims and force women to hold funerals for their fetuses in all circumstances; that guy who shot up the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs was a bad man, but he wasn’t a terrorist. He certainly didn’t commit that crime as a proponent of some archaic religious ideology.

I feel oppressed, because all of a sudden, it seems like there’s a War Against Christianity. Sure, there are close to 6 million Jewish people in this country, and Hanukkah may overlap with Christmas in most years, but that still doesn’t give them the right to force me to say, “happy holidays.” This country was founded on Christian principles, and by gum, it should stay that way. I’m allowed to wear jeans to church and eat whatever food I like, but the 0.9 percent of the U.S. population that is Muslim are taking over; Sharia Law is coming for us, and I can’t grow a beard.

For that matter, the hundreds of bomb threats faced by Jewish community centers and the desecration of dozens of Jewish cemeteries is totally, absolutely, in no way whatsoever the fault of the Trump administration. I mean, it’s not like the things he’s said over the past 18 months, and his election, have made incompetent, impotent, insecure white racist “Christians” feel like it’s okay to be racist again. Same thing with the rise in bullying and hate crimes. Definitely not the fault of our Orange Man in the High Chair.

If you were to ask any Republican what the best part of America is, they would probably say something about it being a land of opportunity; one that accepts differing ideas, opinions and people. Everyone is treated equally, and honestly, I see no irony in that thought. The overt racism, sexism and bigotry present in their rhetoric only applies to those damn illegals. Because they could absolutely tell two people – one an undocumented immigrant and the other a third generation American – apart just by looking at them. I don’t see any human rights, not to mention First Amendment rights, being violated at all.

Yes, I feel so safe right now. I’m so safe I feel like I’m being suffocated. Clearly the Immortan Don shares these feelings, which is why he’s cool with using the outdoor dining area at Mar-a-Lago as an open air situation room. He and his staff are discussing highly classified matters of national security in front of club members who don’t even have the clearance or wherewithal to view their internet history, but Hillary’s emails were definitely the real threat.

I don’t know why anyone would want to resist.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
–Martin Niemöller

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The Light Dims: Remembering Yordano Ventura

World Series - San Francisco Giants v Kansas City Royals - Game Two

It was easy to understand how fans of other teams found him, shall we say, egotistical. His fist pumps, his facial expressions, his arrogance even when he was getting beat; it all rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Perhaps there’s no greater evidence of this than the arguments he sparked with Mike Trout, Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, and that one time Manny Machado had to catch his breath while charging the mound after being drilled with one of his 100-mph heaters:

Here’s something you’ll notice, though: it’s arguable that, for every one of those confrontations, he was in the wrong. But every time, his teammates had his back.

Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic late Saturday night. Early reports indicate there was no alcohol or drugs present at the scene, but that he may not have been wearing his seat belt when he lost control of his car on a treacherous road. I cried, as many thousands of people did, when I first heard the news. Another shining, albeit misunderstood, beacon of baseball has been taken from us far earlier than is fair.

It will be heartbreaking when Spring Training commences in three weeks; none of this feels real. Jose Fernandez still doesn’t feel real, and Yordano Ventura certainly doesn’t. Two of baseballs brightest comets have been just that; passing by but for a moment to illuminate the night sky. It’s too early for reconciliation, it doesn’t even feel right to mourn; right now, a celebration of the things we witnessed is the only thing that seems prudent.

The Man Who Threw Fire

I was there for his major league debut; just another fan of the Royals in 2013 who was desperate for some wins and a reason to be hopeful. Yordano Ventura was that reason. The swagger, the confidence, the fastball. My God, the fastball. You don’t expect something like that to come out of someone not even six feet tall and who weighs a buck eighty soaking wet. But the power of that pitch, if properly harnessed, may have been able to light all of Kauffman Stadium. He sailed through five innings before yielding a couple runs in the sixth. He didn’t get the win that night, but everyone who witnessed his brilliance was talking about it at the water coolers the next day.

I was there for Game 2 of the 2014 World Series, which got off to an inauspicious start when Gregor Blanco crushed a Ventura fastball for a quick 1-0 lead. He settled down though, allowing only one more run on 7 more hits in 5 1/3 innings. After Omar Infante’s earth-shattering home run, it was all the Royals would need. Any rookie would be proud to hang their hat on that kind of effort in their first World Series appearance, but Ace Ventura was not done.

The Royals had their backs against the wall in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, and Yordano had a heavy heart; his friend Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident two nights prior. He inscribed, “RIP OT” on his hat to honor him. Starting this type of game is a lot to ask of a 23-year old rookie, but Yordano, as only Yordano could, put the team on his back and carried them through a seven-inning, three-hit shutout performance. It was when the world was introduced to the spectacle of a pitcher of whom Kansas City was already well aware.

Destiny was always greatness for Yordano Ventura. Crash Davis told Nuke LaLoosh to be, “cocky and arrogant, even when you’re getting beat.” Yordano had that invincibility about him. It didn’t matter what the scoreboard said, he was going to stare you down and not back away. I mentioned earlier that his teammates had his back; well that’s because he had his teammate’s. Everyone in that clubhouse considered each other family, and fans didn’t need to see their interactions every day to understand this truth. The way they spoke of each other, the genuine brotherly affection they showed night in and night out is what made Kansas City embrace these band of brothers as their own.

Wonder and Imagine

That’s the worst part. Perhaps myth is more interesting than reality; speculation is a topic most enjoyed by everyone, particularly sports fans. But this isn’t Bo Jackson suffering a hip injury or Barry Sanders retiring early; this is a cruel, tragic, abrupt ending to a career that was just beginning to blossom. Ace was our Number One; he was going to be an All-Star, a Cy Young winner, hell, maybe an MVP. There were more playoff appearances, more World Series victories and more champagne to flow in his wonderful career.

To truly understand Yordano was to look beneath the surface. Vahe Gregorian’s superb “Becoming Yordano” piece is tough to read right now, but it provides a glimpse into how Ventura become the pitcher of illumination in the American League. He quit school when he was 14 to work and provide for his family. He was signed for $28,000 at just 16 years old. He would eventually recover from allowing a 3-run homer in the 2014 Wild Card game and establish himself on a national stage.

His right arm was a lightning bolt. The thunder of the ball popping in the catcher’s glove was just the aftermath of the hair-raising, goosebump-inducing, jaw-dropping power that emanated from within him. He may let up seven runs, he may throw a no-hitter, but when you came to watch him pitch, you knew that no matter the outcome he was going to be one thing: electric.

*Header image from Flickr user Douglas LeMoine

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The 10 Most Fantastically Evil Songs Ever Created

It’s tough to know what to do right now. So many examples exist of the type of incompetent, petulant and inexperienced presidency we’ll have under he who shall not be named. Those who rely on Planned Parenthood for health screenings are worried it will no longer be available. Those who rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to afford cancer treatments are worried they’ll have to choose between medication and food. Those who are LGBT and are married are worried they’ll no longer have the legal right to do so. It’s trying times for everyone.

But no matter how depressing, hopeless or insurmountable these troubles seem to be, we cannot give in. We must keep fighting for equality, we must resist bigotry and we must stand up for our fellow humans. No one should have to walk down the street or enter a bathroom in fear. Let your voices be heard. Join that protest, call that representative, speak out against hate. The battle is lost, but the war rages on. And we cannot be implicit to tyranny.

I wanted to distract you today. Because sometimes distracting yourself with something that makes you feel good is okay. Getting so angry you want to punch a bag for an hour is okay too. Reading everything you can on a topic is good, paying attention is good, caring about who wins the Super Bowl is good.

We are humans, we can do more than one thing and feel more than one way at a time. It’s how we know we still have a pulse. It’s cathartic, it’s motivating, it inspires sympathy. All of it is good.

Anyway, here’s another music countdown for Stephen Lachky to enjoy.

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Some songs are just so raunchy, so groovy, so deliciously evil that you can’t help but bang your head, purse your lips and feel like you want to run through a damn brick wall. These are not songs that are necessarily violent in nature; “evil” in this context means I stood back from the speakers, said to myself, “whoa, what is this?” and relished in the malevolent guitar licks or passionate lyrics.

This is not a “they’re so bad, they’re good” song list, and none of these are of the death metal variety. Many of these songs make the list in part because you don’t expect the artist to be so sinister in their songwriting or their musical composition. The type of songs I looked for here are tough to describe. So it’s best to just let the music sing for itself.

10. Paint It Black – The Rolling Stones

The use of the sitar during the instrumental portions of the song is absolutely the best thing about it. It’s what gives the melody that malevolent feel (along with Mick Jagger’s humming at the end). “Paint It Black” has been used in a few war movies – most notably the end credits of Full Metal Jacket, which had it’s own symbolic oxymoron when the actors march through Vietnam singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song – and for good reason. The despair the lyrics describe contrast with the hypnotizing rhythm.

9. Politician – Cream

“Hey now baby, get into my big black car. I wanna just show ya, what my politics are.” I mean really, do I need to say more? That’s a lot of shadowy, creepy evil in one lyric. The riff is the perfect accompaniment.

8. April 29, 1992 – Sublime

I personally have never viewed this song as advocating violence; rather, it points out the hypocrisies which existed – and still exist today – when Rodney King was nearly beaten to death by four police officers, all of whom were acquitted. This sparked the Los Angeles riots, which claimed 55 lives and caused more than $1 billion in damage. It was a day when no one was in the right.

7. Bullet the Blue Sky – U2

It’s the bassline. Adam Clayton gives a thumping introduction to the Edge’s piercing guitar and Bono’s lyrics, which describe the cataclysmic violence of war and all the death it causes.

6. Achilles Last Stand – Led Zeppelin

John Bonham and Jimmy Page together are what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The explosion of sound runs for close to 10 minutes, enough to melt your face completely. I honestly have no idea what the song is about, but it sounds like they’re trying to escape something just as fast as those chasing them, which makes the drum breakdowns and Page’s guitar riff so exhausting.

5. Down Rodeo – Rage Against the Machine

Tom Morello, master of sinister guitar licks, pulls out all the stops here, as does lead singer Zach de la Rocha. The lyrics are rebellious (understatement of the year) and the guitar riff signals the doom sure to appear on the horizon should we fall back into the sins of our past.

4. Seeds – Bruce Springsteen

Nils Lofgren’s guitar serves as the perfect backdrop for the story of a man and his family struggling to escape poverty. “How many times can ya get up after you’ve been hit? Well I swear if I could spare the spit I’d lay one on your shiny clothes, and send you on your way back home.” I think there’s about 68 million people (at least) who feel this way about a certain someone.

3. Helter Skelter – The Beatles

As noted in my previous music post, this song was released before Charles Manson ran amok like Jake Torrance. Still, the intro guitar riff is merely foreshadowing the pure insanity that’s to follow for the next four minutes.

2. Halloween – Dave Matthews Band

The story is that Dave Matthews wrote this song about a woman who turned him down all four times he asked her to marry him. Love is but a cruel punch to the gut sometimes. Although that woman did inspire one of the most energetically angry songs I’ve ever heard. This song legit scared me the first time I heard it.

1. Welcome To the Machine – Pink Floyd

This is the Stranger Things of evil music. The Machine knows where you’ve been, it knows all your misgivings, and it can tell you what to dream. David Gilmour’s voice is positively haunting as the synthesizer plays lasers through you. My only wish is that the keyboard outro lasted longer.

Have any thoughts on this list? Let me know in the comments. A discussion of music is the perfect way to spend a day like today.

If I may be permitted one final word: thank you, President Obama. One day we’ll all realize that we took your grace, humility, integrity and devotion to the good of the people for granted.

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Guest Post: President Obama’s Farewell Address, and Hope the Best Is Yet To Come

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A good friend of mine will be attending President Barack Obama’s farewell address tonight in Chicago. She had a few thoughts about the finality of his presidency, surviving the next four years, and where we as a nation go from here. First, a word of advice from her:

“We all have a lot of work to do. In whatever way we help, there is something each of us can do to make a difference. We need to hold our officials accountable – now more than ever. Stay vigilant. Stay active. You don’t need a title to create change.”

Here are her thoughts in full, reprinted with her permission, and only minor formatting edits.

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Tonight Obama will deliver his farewell address. While I was so excited to have gotten a ticket, I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions since I picked it up on Saturday; well, since November 8th to be honest. Anticipating attending the speech made me pretty nostalgic.

I remember watching the ’04 DNC at home in Broken Arrow, OK as a young, ambitious, somewhat naive liberal in the reddest state in the country… not knowing how out of place I truly was. An up and coming young senator from Illinois took the stage and commanded a presence, even through the TV. While I listened to Obama speak that night, I sat up a little straighter, paid a little more attention and felt this rush of excitement well up inside me.

Reading the words of that speech now takes me right back to that moment but this time instead of the excited flutter, my throat tightens as I fight back tears. I never would have guessed how much that speech and that man would come to mean to me and this country. He spoke about hope and unity, he told us we could do better and while we’ve come a long way, there was a lot more work to do. I believed him. I had hope. So much in fact that I joined the almost nonexistent Young Democrats club at my high school, comprised of four students and our fateful pysch teacher. During one of our meetings some young volunteers came to talk to us about helping out with the Brad Carson for Senate campaign. Say no more; I’m there.

I drove almost an hour to downtown Tulsa after school for weeks to stuff envelopes, knock on doors and call voters. I was convinced Brad was the man for the job. He even stopped by the campaign headquarters one day to thank us personally. What a mensch. I knew he would win, I could feel it. Election night came and I sat on that same couch with hope in my heart and a big bowl of ice cream on my lap. The results started coming in. Brad was down, way down. Then he lost to Tom Coburn, who became one of the most conservative members in the Senate. I was devastated. Heartbroken. The hope that Obama inspired me to work towards slipped away.

My early intense love for politics simmered to a vague interest after that. I went to college, majored in pysch and went about my business. Then the ’08 election season started. There was a rather large pool of candidates and Hilary Clinton seemed to have a clear lead and major name recognition. But then that hopeful guy that sparked a love of politics in me and so many others a few years back started to gain.

I threw myself into his campaign. I felt that rush of excitement again. I was a part of not just a campaign, but a movement. I drove all over Kansas knocking on doors, getting chased by dogs, yelled at by retirees and the like.

I loved every minute of it. He was my guy, he was our guy. I worked at two of his rallies in Kansas and watched him wow the crowd with his youthful energy and bright ideas. After the 2nd rally, a group of us volunteers got a tip about which hotel he was staying at. We drove furiously in hopes of beating him there and lined up outside to welcome him.

He arrived, got out of the car and froze as that famous smile slowly appeared. He was genuinely shocked we had waited for so long just to see him. He walked up and down the line, shaking each of our hands, thanking us for our work and after a very long day gave us an impromptu pep talk. His hands were soft, his words were heartfelt and that hope felt so real. After that we all dug in to make sure he would be our next president.

In Kansas we do this wild thing during the primaries: we caucus. I was volunteering that night and my job was to count all our voters. No pressure…

Watching that evening unfold was one of the coolest experiences. It was literally democracy in action. People debated, tried to bribe others with homemade desserts, gave rallying speeches and tried their hardest to convince the undecideds to join them. After a few rounds and a very close count, Obama won our district’s primary and I got to deliver the results. I was overjoyed for our team and our candidate and confident he would go on to win the election. As they say – the rest is history.

I switched my major to PoliSci, worked as a community organizer in Chicago just like Obama and continued to watch his speeches just as I did on my couch back in Oklahoma with the same fluttering feeling.

I was in New York City on election night this past November, watching the results with friends, wearing our pantsuits with champagne at the ready. As the results came in, we switched from wine to vodka finally calling it a night around midnight. This haunting feeling came over me. I walked into the street in a daze, hopped in my Uber and back to my hotel where I switched back and forth from the results and my Twitter feed. During the wee hours of the night, they finally called it. I was stunned for a moment then burst into tears that turned into uncontrollable sobs as my mind spun out of control with disbelief, anger and fear. I stayed up until dawn watching the news trying to make sense of it all.

The next day New York was dark and gloomy. It felt like the city was in mourning. I fought back tears all day and my throat ached on the plane ride home as I tried to keep my composure. Everyone seemed quiet, looking down as if to apologize to one another and offer condolences. That hopeful feeling I held onto for so long, that Obama inspired within me and so many others, was nowhere to be found.

Last night as I scrolled through Facebook – avoiding the looming basket of laundry I needed to put away – I stumbled upon a post from R.T. Rybak, former Mayor of Minneapolis. He had just come back from the farewell party at the White House and recounted his feelings from that night and how they changed from hollowness to hopefulness after a conversation with Obama.

When asked what Obama would do after leaving the White House, he told R.T. about the work he will be doing with youth and families, on getting more people engaged in voting, on protecting liberties.

Then he said the words that meant the most to me: “The best is yet to come.”

After everything Obama’s been through, this country has been through and the world has been through, the man still has hope. Along with R.T., I needed to hear those words. Even if I can’t quite see Obama’s vision right now, I need to believe in those words and the ones I’m anxiously awaiting to hear tonight.

— by Ali Terkel

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Believe Nothing, But Believe In Something

You’ve likely seen it all over social media; for reasons personal, professional, public and political, 2016 has been the worst year in recent memory for many Americans. There has been no return to casual discourse, no sense of normalcy and no sense of pride. If one were to ask a single resident or group of them, it’s fair to say that they would likely be embarrassed about everything the country has endured in the previous 365 days.

The job of a voter this year was perhaps the most difficult (or the easiest, depending on your perspective) that it has ever been. Social media has many positives, but the negatives were never more apparent. Fake news, trolls and bots seemed to dominate the online landscape, and people appeared to be too apathetic or too lazy to do their homework. Perhaps never has a single person felt so helpless. After all, a man who has degraded, denounced and destroyed everything about the election process in which we used to believe was just bestowed the highest honor in the land. No doubt that he will not treat the position as such.

Believe Nothing

It’s tiring, but our job now is to believe absolutely nothing that we read or hear. Donald Trump is what happens when people take Twitter bots and Facebook memes at their word. That @Deplorables4Trump account and the shoddy statistics placard over the face of an immigrant which your racist uncle shared should not be argued, reasoned or negotiated with. I’ve seen it happen in real life; the worst thing for a troll to deal with is silence. Sure, they may try to keep yelling louder, but if they are continually ignored, eventually they will go away.

So what or whom can I trust, you may wonder? In this fashion, I am more than happy to be of service. It is my full time job to research, write and edit online content, and the company for whom I work (and our clients) will accept nothing less than information that is 100 percent verifiable. Breitbart does not qualify. Here is a list of sites that can help you delineate fact from fiction:

  • White House Press Briefings – Press Secretary Josh Earnest has an incredibly difficult job; provide as much information as he can while maintaining protocol. The White House Press Pool are astute, and they leave no stone unturned. The briefing from the day following Fidel Castro’s death is a perfect example of this. It would have been a big deal if the President had sent an official delegation to the funeral, and Earnest had to deflect and dispel that notion with civility. If you are wondering whether the President has a comment about anything, this is the first place to look. Do a simple Ctrl+F (or Command+F on a Mac) and search for your term; “Affordable Care Act” for example. The Press Secretary cannot and will not shield, hide or peddle false information, because if he does, the Press Pool will hound him relentlessly.
  • Politifact or FactCheck – Independently funded and devoid of special interest connections, these sites employ dozens of experienced and diligent fact-checkers who have the unenviable job of sifting through the bullshit. The problem isn’t that Trump feels like he can say that Hillary Clinton would allow 650 million illegal immigrants, it’s that people believed it when he said that. However, don’t just take the ratings of “mostly true” or “pants on fire” at face value. They provide context for their rankings, so read them. The one thing subjective about these sites is that they can say something is “half true” but you can determine it to be “mostly false.” You can email them too! Fact-checkers love to clarify things.
  • ProPublica and FiveThirtyEight – These sites are run by journalist’s who write for journalism’s sake. Statistics are pretty hard to argue against, and they back up their information by applying proper context to the situation. Of course there are newspapers that are reliable and do good work. Contrary to what a certain sentient Cheeto would have you believe, the New York Times is one of them. Relieve yourself of the 24-hour news cycle, and focus on the reporters who care about the facts.
  • GovTrack – Ever wondered exactly how your Senator or Congressperson voted on this bill or that ballot measure? You can find out! GovTrack’s site has the actual text of the bills as well. These are incredibly difficult things to read, and it won’t take long for your eyes to glaze over, but if you see an article which says a law up for vote will include a certain provision, you can use that handy Ctrl+F function to find it for sure.
  • Google – The search-engine uses an algorithm which can delineate something reliable from something which is the exact opposite. Sure, sometimes dishonest information can appear first, but usually the return presents trustworthy pages. But again, check that these pages corroborate their story with sources and data. Speaking of data though, it’s easy to manipulate. Politicians try this all the time, and one that comes immediately to mind is when a few tried to dispel job growth under Obama by saying that more than 90 million people are unemployed. If you count babies and retirees, yes, 90 million people are unemployed. But of those citizens who are actually eligible to work, that number is less than 10 million.

The easiest way to avoid being swindled is to continually ask yourself questions. Do not be scared into believing something, and for God’s sake whatever you do, don’t, under any circumstance, share an article upon reading just the headline. This is dangerous and misleading.

For example, you may have heard from plenty of politicians that it’s too easy for refugees to get across our borders. The first thing that should pop into your mind upon hearing this is, “is it really, though?” Get your answers from reliable places; all I had to do was Google search “refugee process” and the third result down is this page from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services which spells out in great detail every piece of the nearly TWO YEAR process necessary to be accepted as a refugee in this country. Let me say that again:

It takes, on average, anywhere from 18-24 months – TWO FULL YEARS – to be accepted as a refugee in this country. Think about that the next time you hear some politician threaten to revoke sanctuary cities or try to use refugees and immigrants as a scapegoat. If you want to kick them out, then kick yourself out, because you’re an immigrant too.

Believe In Something

I hope you’ve made it this far. I’m not arrogant enough to think any of the words here will change things, but I want to help you wade through everything; just like Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. It’s tiring – no, it’s downright exhausting – to keep up with the minutiae of everyday news and politics. But if you put in just a tiny bit of effort, you will feel so much more informed.

This is the part where I tell you to figure out what you believe in, and fight for it. You can call and write emails to your representatives, you can join a protest, you can write letters to the editor, you can just pay attention. Whatever you believe in, you can make sure that it stays the truth.

But some people believe that those who are LGBT should not be allowed to marry; some people believe that those who are not white are second-tier human beings; some people believe that those who are not Christian don’t deserve to safely practice their faith; some people believe that a woman should not be allowed to decide what she does with her own body; many people still voted for Trump despite what he said about the disabled, about women, about prisoners of war, about his opponents.

If you are one of those people, all I can say is: be better. The next time you see a protest, don’t just say “that’s not the right way to do that” or “the timing is wrong” because that’s dismissive. Listen to what the people are saying.

It’s a difficult job to be a voter, but the information I’ve provided here is not to help you vote; it’s to help you be a better person. If you understand the plight of another human being, then you can apply that knowledge to treat them equally. None of us will ever be perfect, but if we can just listen when another person is feeling like they have been disenfranchised, discriminated against or bullied, then we can make the world a better place. Disagreements will of course happen, but at least the discourse will be enlightened, rather than futile.

Change does not happen from the outside, it happens from within. There are a lot of bad people out there, but you don’t have to be one of them. Simply listening can go a long way to enacting positive change, and help the country as a whole strive forward rather than dig backwards.

Here is something to help you feel good. Happy Holidays everyone.

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Ken Griffey, Jr.: What ‘the Kid’ Meant To a Kid

Ken_Griffey_Jr._1997

I don’t recall the first time I heard of him, and I don’t recall when I decided that he was going to be my favorite player growing up; hell I don’t even remember much of anything from the first time I saw him play. But I’m fairly sure that my cognizant awareness of baseball coincided with that of Ken Griffey, Jr. The Royals were terrible and had no players I could grasp on to, aside from maybe Jeff Montgomery or Bob Hamelin. So Junior became my idol.

I did the things all other kids my age did. Even if we were right-handed, we had Griffey’s gorgeous left-handed swing down pat. That classic bat wiggle, the smooth stroke through the zone, and of course the one-handed finish with the left hand raised high in the air. I collected every card, pored over the box scores every morning before school to see how Griffey did the previous night, and donned his number 24 throughout my own playing career in elementary and middle school.

None of this is special; there were millions of other kids just like me who did the exact same thing. But that’s exactly what made Junior so special. For every curmudgeon who griped about his backwards hat, there were a million kids emulating his style. For every home run he hit, a million more would be brought to their feet, cheering at the television set. For every gravity-defying catch that he made, still a million more would marvel at that smile of his and try to bring that joy to their own games.

I think my favorite highlight of his comes from Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS, when the Mariners were playing the Yankees. Down by 1 in the bottom of the 11th, Griffey strode to the plate with Alex Cora on 1st base. Having already homered earlier in the game, I’m sure all Mariners fans had their hearts set on a walk-off. But Junior singled, which set the stage for Edgar Martinez. Brent Musberger’s call here gives me chills:

Have you ever seen anyone happier to be at the bottom of a dogpile? Scoring from 1st on a double to win a playoff series is the dream of a lot of ballplayers, purely because of the adrenaline rush; running 270 feet in a circle in an effort to score a game-winning run gets you on your PF Flyers, and nothing could have felt more satisfying for him than sliding safely into home.

I did see him hit a home run once, and contrary to what many of you might guess, no, it was not against the Royals. It was against South Korea in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The only highlight of this that I can find is actually in Korean:

Griffey and most of the crowd seemed to know it off the bat, despite the ball only carrying into the first row of seats. I remember kicking myself afterwards because I had the thought of going from our seats along the first base line to those in right field, just in case he hits one, but I decided against it.

Throughout the mid-2000s I was constantly defending Junior when he sustained a barrage of injuries (I think the best line I heard was from a friend of mine’s dad, who said, “Griffey was born with a pulled hamstring”). But no matter how prolonged his struggles were, no matter how long he was on the DL, he never stopped being, in my eyes, the greatest player to ever set foot on a ballfield.

That World Baseball Classic game I mentioned? That was during spring break of my senior year in high school. While just about everyone in my graduating class was on a cruise or in Mexico, I wanted to go with my Dad to LA and watch Junior play baseball. I was very fortunate to have parents who were able to take me on a weekend trip upon completion of middle school. They did this for my brothers as well. Did I want to go somewhere cool like New York? Nope, I wanted to go to Cincinnati to see Junior play baseball.

That’s what I’ll always remember about his career; that I never wanted to miss a minute of it. The effortless joy, charisma and swagger he brought to the game was beyond compare. I dearly wish I could be in Cooperstown today to watch him be inducted. I’ve never met him, but I hope one day I will. And when that day comes, I imagine the only thing I’ll be able to say is, “Thank you, Junior.”

*Featured image from clare_and_ben, via Wiki Commons

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