The Youth of America

I look around, and I can’t help think… It’s a breaking system. Yet, time and again I see that as it continues to fail, someone starts picking up the pieces, putting them back together, and doing it better. And I’m heartened by that.

We’ve had two significant movements coalesce in the first fifteen months of the Trump Presidency: Me Too and Never Again. Two slogans, each started some time ago, but both with more traction now than had ever been seen.

I believe the older generations have grown complacent. Even the older millennials are guilty of this. We’ve been frogs slowly boiling in pots of water, watching the rise of the age of information, instant access to nearly everything, as well as the reduction of privacy. We’ve slowly been acclimated, so it’s not something we specifically noticed. By the time the heat is too high, it’s too late for us.

The country has made some frightening changes. Amid record levels of prosperity and renown from abroad, we’ve upended system after system. Healthcare. Education. Gun laws. Civil rights. Military service. Worker’s rights. Women’s rights.

And in 2016, it seems even Democracy itself. We Americans of an age 30 or older are in no real place to fix this. Though it’s not impossible, it certainly seems unlikely. We can’t seem to cooperate long enough to take a bathroom break, let alone try and fix the system.

In come the youths!

It’s the younger Americans, and youthful citizens around the world, who are seeing this and saying, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Something is wrong.” They’re taking up the causes, and will only continue to do so, and improve on it.

As education moves to more testing and less teaching, the students will find ways of educating themselves. Maybe even reinvent the system that is currently failing them.

As levels of debt increase in the Nation, the young Americans will get behind spending moratoriums. Pundits have decried the millennial non-interest in driving as laziness. Yet, maybe it is a subconscious, or inherent move against the rampant consumerism that faces this country. Why does a family need three or more cars? What’s wrong with public transportation? And, if living somewhere where public transportation does have something wrong with it (anywhere not heavily metropolitan and without significant investment), then they’re going to get busy fixing it!

As race relations seem to endlessly be a matter of debate (white vs. black; white vs. Latino; black vs. black; white vs. white; white vs. very nearly everyone it seems), students who were raised according to the golden rule (do unto others) or general codes of ethics (everyone deserves to be treated with respect) feel that their parents and grandparents are acting irrationally, either cussing Trump and the Republicans, the NRA and anti-choicers; or cussing Obama and the Democrats, gun control and pro-choice. (I’ll rarely use the term pro-life to describe the Conservative Christian side in this, for as long as you can support the death penalty, you have no right to call yourself pro-life. I know there are those who are completely pro-life, but not all who call themselves pro-life fit the title.)

Seeing this irrational behavior, the kids are crossing boundaries. They’re more likely to find friends of different races, religions and creeds. It’s the parents that are trying to instill fear into the children. “Watch out for people from X. They are the enemy.”

Kids know better.

We’re a young nation, struggling for identity. Struggling to see who it is we are. I’m for one optimistic about what our future looks like. Yes, it seems that we have some form of derailment every other day. Yes, we have racism and misogynistic behaviors still shaking us to our core. Economic inequality and mass hysteria brought on my faulty media sources (or sources claiming to be media). There are dangerous people and damaged people. And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s scary to be out among the Americans. But it also seems that we’re doing better, averaging in an upwards trend. And the youth are leading the charge.

We’re not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But each and every citizen, I believe, feels a desire to make the world a better place. And it is the youth of the Country that, I believe, hold the key to brushing off all the problems currently facing us, and moving us into the bright new future that is America.


A derailment of American Politics

I’ve been reading David McCullough’s American Spirit, a collection of speeches he’s given over the years. And it has me thinking.

We’re on the 115th Congress of these United States. The 45th President. A Nation that has been trucking along for 242 years, and doesn’t show any real sign of slowing down. Yet, all we talk about in the court of public opinion is how bad one side is doing compared to the other, or how bad both sides are doing.

Look, no one has the answer. If they try to sell you goods saying that it’s the only way, don’t believe them. There is no only way. But the level of discourse in this Country has spun sickeningly out of control.

So, what to do about it? I could cite a hundred news stories this week alone that are divisive, inflammatory and (sometimes) downright wrong. I’m being conservative estimating only a hundred.

I trust newspapers more than I do television, and I trust television more than I do the internet. It’s a matter of timing. If it takes longer to get a story to the public, it seems sensible enough that it will have had more fact checking involved.

When it comes to news, we should demand more fact checking.

But it’s cheaper to have the talking heads rehashing events, asking questions to avoid defaming someone, rather than reporting the news.

In Dan Brown’s Origin, protagonist Robert Langdon muses, and I paraphrase, “I remember when breaking news was printed in the newspaper delivered the next morning.”

News isn’t sensationalism. Yet that’s what the internet and even television provide. Sensationalist stories to grab viewer’s attention and entice advertisers with the eyeballs those stories can provide. So we get more President Trump, more heated rhetoric, and more of the things that I bet comedian George Carlin would find hysterically funny, were he still alive. (I think of the 7 Dirty Words all the time when watching the news.)

We’re getting less news. Less research, and less objective analysis. And we’re suffering as a Country because of it.

It’s all really a question

If I was to create my perfect society, it would be an imperfect society. Perfection is an ideal, not an actual. We come to these matters uniquely, and no two created societies would be identical. Millions upon millions of different ideas, goals, aspirations, longings, and we expect that a society that comprises all of these disparate personalities to function ideally – obviously we will fail.

But we can learn to fail better, as Pema Chödrön says. Learn from mistakes, lean in to the uncomfortable issues.

We criticize our elected officials for their inability to pass substantive legislation. Yet, as our population grows and the added opinions that growth equals means that keeping a population satisfied with job performance is impossible. Someone is going to be unhappy.

Now, at the point that government became a business we began losing ground as a Country. Members of Congress who find their retirement solution among the House or the Senate. Rich, old, white men who are out of touch with the heartbeat of America may not be the best ones to be leading the United States into the 21st Century. There are of course exceptions, and there are women, and racially diverse members of both parties in some form of leadership – though it’s not the norm.

In the House, there are 89 women and 348 men serving. Of the 437 members of the House of Representatives, 338 are white, roughly 3 out of 4. The other hundred or so are composed of Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American/Native Alaskan.

The Senate, and its one hundred members, is 22% female, just slightly better than the House’s 21.9% female. Women at 22, men at 78. Racially, the Senate is 92% white. That means there are 8 who identify as racially diverse in the Senate.

I don’t want to say that the majority of Americans would rather vote a white man into Congress than a woman or someone of color. But, and this seems like a pretty big but, somehow we’re allowing the nation’s Capital to be whitewashed.

Then there are all these stories saying that this is the most racially diverse Congress we’ve had: The Hill, Pew Research Center & Politifact. So, good on us.

Is it enough? That’s one of the millions of questions that makes America what it is. We are a Country of questions:

What are the unalienable rights?
What makes me an American?
What is the American dream?
Does that dream still exist?
Who really looks like me? Is it that we’re the same color on the outside? That we believe in the same God, deity, or scientific reason? Is it that we live in the same zip code, work in the same building, or have the same job title?
Who do want to lead us?

Though the answers to these questions are few and far between, that we get to ask them is, in my opinion, what makes us American.

Election day

For being the year after a presidential election, this past Tuesday was pretty hopping on the national political scale. Special elections and combative party politics left the people wondering if a message had been sent to the presidential administration or not. If you’re Republican, you’re probably thinking not (especially if you’re a Trump-supporting GOPer). If you’re Democrat, much of the day may have left you hopeful for next year’s midterms and the coming 2020 election.

But ultimately, what does it mean? When is our Country going to find its leadership again? The politicians fight and jockey for favorable position, seeming more interested in staying in power (or gaining more) than in fixing broken systems.

They call out to their prospective sides, bell ringing the “major issues”, and practically ignoring all others.

I heard a very interesting perspective the other day, regarding immigration. One person described it not as an issue of illegally crossing a border, but rather an economic issue. Here are people of South American cultures, growing up in tight-knit family units. The land they live on is fertile and usually quite gorgeous, and yet they can’t make a living wage working in that area. And that’s even taking into account the dramatic reduced cost of living in those areas.

So what option do they have to leave their homes, and their families, hoping to safely cross borders and make enough money to send back home, either to bring family here or to help them live down there? An issue of economics. Rather than increasing the money spent on detaining immigrants, on border patrol and on some kind of Great Wall of America, invest in means to provide South American countries to promote living wages.

Certainly there are those that would argue for the same in the US. And I agree. When families can’t afford to live by working full-time, the capitalist system is just as broken, especially when stocks markets continually break records, in earnings reports, valuations, and sales targets.

So many issues to tackle, and the nation’s leadership can’t seem to find ways to cooperate. Hell, we’re lucky when the majority of them are being civil.

What does it say about us as a country that erroneous stories can sway our opinions or, more accurately, reinforce the notions that we already have? Social media companies such as Facebook and a Twitter are under fire for their culpability in foreign agents interfering with the 2016 elections. President Trump routinely calls out “fake news media” for their production of stories critical of the Donald. Organizations such as Politifact provide truthfulness assessments of statements made in the political arena. 

Somewhere amid this cacophonous environment rests the average American. The average American, whose concerns are financial stability, work/life balance, and finding meaning in their own life. Most average Americans appear to be dissatisfied, and that dissatisfaction can be with their financial stability, their work/life balance, the seeming meaninglessness of it all, or even with the political arena at the local, national and international level. When a story comes along that reinforces our biases we say, “See. I knew they were out to screw us.”

And yet, day by day, we struggle along. A part of this nation, and the two hundred year old experiment. Finding our place, and hopefully a bit more. Why is it so easy for misinformation to affect us? Because we’re all constantly looking for something. 

How do we politicize everything?

Another week, another controversy (or three). Still we’re on the NFL players taking a knee. Still we’re seeing Puerto Rico suffering in the aftermath of the storm. White nationalist speaker at the University of Florida. President Trump’s seeming callousness in response to solders’ deaths overseas. 

The right is calling the left out of touch with America. The left is calling the right out of touch with American ideals. Both sides are calling the other elitist. Former presidents are critical of the current administration, and the current administration seems able to be critical of everything. 

Nothing can occur in this environment without someone taking issue, and sides forming, bolstering one or the other. I’ve imagined it would have come to a head already, but it seems to keep going.

This is the environment that has led me to investigate how I feel about politics. About what the nation is doing right, and wrong. The citizenry is on the whole disconnected from our elected officials, and in the highest echelons of the political spectrum, it seems that corporate interests have more sway than the common voter. 

We weren’t supposed to be this way. The American experiment is facing another critical moment, one of who knows how many in its 240 years, and there is nothing but the disconnect that seems to be guiding us. As I continue to write, post, and focus my thoughts into what I hope will be more informed (and better written) going forward, I fear that for the forseeable future we wlll have more controversy to cover. 

More on welfare

Here it is, Friday, and I’m finishing up a job. At least, finishing it for the week. After a contentious lunch, wherein the conversation at the table included someone saying that he wasn’t watching football anymore over the National Anthem debate (I’m keeping my mouth shut). He’s giving up drinking Pepsi, because they haven’t pulled sponsorship of the NFL (I’m keeping my mouth shut).

Now it’s the end of the day, I’ve got a date I’m excited to get to later that night, and it’s all going well. Then he brings up welfare, and people not wanting to work taking tax payer money (dammit, I am keeping my mouth shut!).  And finally, immigration.

“Don’t you think that we should keep the immigrants out?”

Well, shit. I’ve tried keeping my mouth shut, but now you’re asking me a direct question.

“No, actually. My grandparents were first generation Americans, and I think the backbone of the American system is immigration.”

“My ancestors were immigrants, too,” he says. “But I’m not talking about those.”

“Oh, you mean the Mexicans and the Muslims.”

This conversation goes on for a little while, back and forth, about whether welfare recipients are deserving, about legal vs. illegal immigration.

There is a cultural bias in this country, and it’s fragmenting how we view what’s happening around us, and around the world. This conversation was merely another example.