More Compassion and Joy Is Needed Today

dalai-lama-desmond-tutuThe holiday season should be a time to think about our common humanity.  This has been a really ugly year, and now is a good time to step back and to maintain our courage under fire.

My favorite book from this year was The Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.  These two men have faced harsh adversity in their lives and it was great to read their perspectives and advice on dealing with life’s struggles.

Desmond Tutu has been a role model to me for many years and I have had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times.  He is a true fighter and definitely someone that everyone should listen to when he speaks.

Make America Better Again

redbluestatesWhatever the problem, be the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. – Tina Fey

I know everyone or least half of America is angry with Donald Trump becoming the next the president. The stunning election has resulted in protests throughout the country and social media meltdowns by a lot of people like myself. No, the election wasn’t rigged, and Jill Stein and Gary Johnson didn’t spoil the race. Hillary Clinton just wasn’t popular enough and ran a shady, misguided campaign. Even I have said here multiple times that I wasn’t a staunch Hillary supporter and that I was only voting for her because she is the lesser of two evils.

However, I do think this should also be a time to reflect on what happened and how to use our energies towards making America better again.

It is time to have some real talk. This might offend some people… but, whatever…

  1. Get informed: I have mentioned here time and again that there is a basic civics deficit among the American citizenry. We can’t be surprised an ill-informed man just became president when many of the people voting for (and against) him are just as uninformed. The quality of the candidates that run for office today generally reflects the electorate.  It is seriously time for everyone to put down People magazine and turn off TMZ and start reading books, magazines, and newspapers that distribute real news and information. Only then can we make better, informed choices for the way our government is run.
  2. Stop sanitizing intolerance: A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the disgraceful effort by some people to try to sanitize slavery. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think racism is over and we should either just stop talking about it or try to whitewash or sanitize this intolerant history, like calling slaves “migrant workers.” The problem with this is that when we don’t talk about and truly understand the past, history has a way of repeating itself. Trump was elected partially because a lot of people just assumed someone like him couldn’t get elected because everyone is so tolerant in 2016. But in reality, this denial actually shows how intolerance works today. We just went from the first black president to a president endorsed by the KKK.
  3. Call out intolerance: If you see intolerance happening, do something about it. Tell that person why their bigotry is wrong. Sitting on the sidelines being silent doesn’t help.
  4. Practice nonviolence: Protesting is great and it is our first amendment right, but don’t turn your anger into physical violence. It doesn’t help and it’s uncivilized in a democracy.
  5. Vote: Voting is the only way in our democracy things get done. When you don’t vote, you are a part of the problem. A lof of people didn’t vote this cycle, including blacks and millennials. It is always interesting that the people who complain the loudest about societal ills don’t vote, like Colin Kaepernick and a lot of the protesters. When you are not part of the solution, no one will take you seriously. Also, not voting is a slap in the face of so many who came before us who struggled so we can all have the right to vote.
  6. Engage in local politics: I know it is more interesting to follow national politics, but participating in local politics is just as, if not more, important as what is going on in Washington. It was great to see a high turnout at my local voting precinct last week for the presidential election, but just two months ago, there were barely any people in the same precinct for local elections. Your city councilor, state representative, alderman, the mayor and other local elected officials have a greater impact on your day-to-day life. For instance, if you are a person of color, you should definitely care about who your local district attorney is, as that person will be in charge of making major life and death decisions about you if you get in trouble with the law.
  7. Volunteer in your community: Doing volunteer work for a local nonprofit is a great way to give back to your community. It also gives you better insight into the many challenges facing your community and how to make things better for everyone. I volunteer my time at my local library, supporting literacy issues, as well as work for my local economic development committee and mentor at-risk young women. I also “think globally and act locally” by doing a lot of international pro bono work including organizing fundraisers for humanitarian concerns in developing countries and provide media development and technical support to international journalists.
  8. Organize in your community: If there is an issue you care about and there isn’t a group for it yet, why not organize your own group! It is very easy today to organize. A couple of years ago a neighbor started up a group to better address pedestrian and walkability concerns in the community. Today the group has regular meetings with local politicians and are really making an impact on community relations by improving sidewalks, road crossings, and bike paths.
  9. Support organizations that do good work: If you don’t have the time to volunteer, provide support to organizations doing good work in other ways with monetary or in-kind donations.
  10. Talk to someone who is different from you: Yes, everyone would benefit from widening their social network to include all types of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, religion, geographic location and even political persuasion. I had a good, long conversation on Saturday with a very good friend of mine who is a Christian, white guy from rural Michigan about why he and others in his community voted for Trump. Even though we respectfully disagreed on many issues, it was good to talk out our differences and understand where each of us is coming from.
  11. Actually talk to someone in person: Social media and all the accessible technology we have today are great, but sometimes things that are said on these networks can get lost in translation. Also, it is easier to say hurtful or untrue things about people online than to a person’s face. The internet has become a cesspool for cyberbullying and bigoted vitriol. Instead of getting on Facebook, pick up the phone or better yet talk to people in person.
  12. Stop the empty gestures: I just started seeing people the other day wearing these safety pins as a way of showing they are “safe and welcoming” to marginalized groups such as people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women and LGBT folks. But in reality, these are just empty gestures that don’t mean anything if you are not actually doing something to create a safe and welcoming space. For many people, the safety pins give temporary satisfaction and the false illusion that you are doing something by wearing it when you are really not doing anything.  Instead of wearing safety pins, please do any of the above activities. Trust me, marginalized groups would prefer this.

The Case For Hillary Clinton

hillary-clinton-1754429_640Yes, I am very disappointed in the multiple email scandals Hillary Clinton has been involved in for the last few months and wished she had handled it differently. However, I am still voting for her because the alternative is worse. This country can’t afford to have an uninformed, bigoted, misogynistic buffoon like Donald Trump running the country.

If you need to be reminded of why she would be a better president, here are my reasons:

  1. She is smart and has over 40 years of public service experience.
  2. She has the right temperament and character to act appropriately as president.
  3. She would possibly be the most experienced president.
  4. She has in-depth foreign policy experience gained from being a state secretary. It also helps that she will form better relationships with other countries.
  5. She will appoint responsible, thoughtful judges to the Supreme Court.
  6. With firsthand experience dealing with her hacked emails, I would like to think she would now make cybersecurity a national priority.
  7. She will create better employment opportunities for ex-offenders.
  8. She’ll hold irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers fully accountable by repealing the gun industry’s unique immunity protection.
  9. She is not going to ban Muslims, or anyone else.
  10. She is not going to build a wall along the Mexican border. Immigration enforcement must be humane and targeted. Hillary will eliminate family detention and close private detention centers.
  11. She is pro-choice.
  12. She doesn’t call black people “the blacks” and doesn’t identify Hispanics with taco bowls.
  13. She wants to address police brutality.
  14. She wants to provide more funding to make sure body cameras are available to every police department across the country to increase accountability.
  15. She wants to address mental health care and drug addiction, especially in prisons.
  16. She believes we should use alternatives to prison for low-level, nonviolent marijuana users, and she will reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance.
  17. Hillary will invest in STEM and computer science education because we need to prepare our citizens to be more competitive in the global economy, something President Obama has already done well with doing.
  18. Hillary is the only candidate with a plan to expand opportunity in low-income communities and make housing more affordable.
  19. Unlike Trump, Hillary actually has plans for the country’s most pressing issues, such as the economy, terrorism, immigration, minimum sentencing, health care, and gun violence. Again, you may not agree with her plans, but at least she has plans.
  20. It’s about time America has a female president.

Another big complaint about Hillary by some Americans besides that she is corrupt and shady is that she is also cold and unfriendly. This is not a congeniality contest! You are not electing your next BFF. As Oprah said, you don’t even have to like her.  You might think that I am settling for the lesser of two evils by voting for Clinton over Trump.  The sad reality is that all politicians bring some kind of unwanted baggage with them, and in this case, Hillary has a bag of bad emails and Trump has a bag of deplorable behavior.   It’s a matter of how much baggage you are willing to deal with.  I am not a staunch Hillary supporter, but neither Jill Stein or Gary Johnson have proven that they are better alternatives to Trump.

This likeability issue is why George W. Bush was competitive back in 2000 (I say competitive, not elected because he stole the election…). People were saying that Bush was the kind of guy they would want to have a beer with, while Al Gore was robotic and boring because he only talked about lockboxes. If we could go back to the 2000 election knowing then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a need to recount Florida’s hanging chads because I bet everyone would vote for Gore. The simple fact here is that we need to elect someone to run the country with efficiency, logic and reason, not poor judgment, incompetence, and idiocy.

Let’s not make this same mistake again. Vote for Hillary Clinton.

On Civics and Presidential Politics

trump-supportersThe fact that Donald Trump is actually being considered as a serious candidate to be the next president of this country is so outrageous to me, but not surprising, based on the direction this country is going culturally.

Last March I wrote about the lack of civility in the presidential campaign. At that time, I was really hoping that the GOP would come to their senses and NOT allow Trump to become their nominee.

I guessed wrong, but, again, not surprising.  Low-information America has officially become mainstream and acceptable.

I wrote:

…Because [Trump] knows that many Americans today don’t invest in basic civics education and are not getting most of their news from anywhere beyond what they see on TMZ or People magazine, it seems like Trump is using this to his advantage to rally support.  This is most likely why when he is in debates or speaking at his rallies, his policy positions lack any substance.  I have even taken the time to read up on his policy “positions” on his website, which all look like smoke and mirrors.  Immigration: build a wall?  Terrorism: ban all Muslims?  Immigration, terrorism and a plethora of other pressing issues can’t be solved with simplistic solutions…

I am so glad I am not the only one who noticed this lack of civics education.  Foreign Policy writer Max Boot, who is a Republican, pointed out in a recent piece that the growing number of uninformed American voters can only have a negative impact on the future of this country’s democracy.

“…I now realize that I was being Pollyannaish. (For you recent graduates, that means “excessively optimistic.”) The longer this election season goes on, the more evidence we are seeing of the cost of the shocking ignorance inculcated by our system of schooling,” Boot says. “Late-night comedians have made a running joke out of this civic illiteracy with their ‘man on the street’ interviews with people who cannot, for example, identify pictures of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, or Jimmy Carter. Surveys show that such ignorance is not out of the norm… When a New York Times reporter asked one college student if he wasn’t worried about repeating the 2000 scenario when Ralph Nader siphoned critical votes from Al Gore in Florida, this young scholar replied: “Ralph who?…”

Boot doesn’t just come down on Trump; he also points out the ignorance of Libertarian nominee Gary “Where’s Aleppo” Johnson. While increased funding for STEM education is vital for this country’s global economic survival, the author suggests that more funding also be put towards civics education, as it is literally a question of our democratic and moral survival. Did you know the U.S. government only spends about $6 million a year on civics education funding? Yeah, only $6 million!

Furthermore, most people in other countries are not only more informed about important issues happening in their countries, but also a lot of them tend to know more about American civics than Americans!  I am always impressed by my many non-American friends and colleagues who can converse about many topics from history, government, politics, and other current events with ease.

You notice this quickly if you ever travel outside America.  I recently traveled to Canada and Spain on business and just watching the local TV news or picking up a local newspaper and you will see the stark difference.  Instead of a steady stream of useless, celebrity information about the Kardashians or “Brangelina,” journalism in these countries focus on real news that actually matters.  My point here is that when you are better informed, you make better decisions.

We seriously have to change this lack of civics literacy, or we will continue to have more Donald Trump type candidates in the near future.