This Election Cycle Isn’t About Trump v. Clinton; It’s About Us.

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Bigot. Warmonger. Rapists and thieves. The 2016 election seems to have a very different tone than any election we have seen in our lifetime. While we like to think that much of this vitriol has to do with the behavior of one particular candidate, what is happening in our country is bigger than just Donald Trump.

Whether we like to admit it or not, this election (as the elections before it) is a mirror reflecting all that is good and bad about America. This quadrennial event acts as a sort of litmus test; attempting to place specific pH onto a nation that should arguably remain neutral. We have seen some troubling things thus far, but unfortunately, the troubling things we have seen seem to have some deeper cultural causes.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the motifs that have reoccurring throughout this election cycle and see what conclusions we can draw, shall we?

Racism: The most obvious recurring theme this election has been racism. Aside from all vulgar rhetoric on race we have seen from Trump, racism is taking on a bigger role in this election than it has in the past. What we are seeing in this election cycle, particularly from the right, is a change in demeanor. While the aging GOP establishment has consistently run on the precept that racism doesn’t exist anymore, the Tea Party right has changed the ball game.

Since the beginning of this election cycle, the tone regarding race has become incredibly volatile. We are seeing unabashed racism on all levels of government, and Trump has seemingly legitimized what had previously been taboo or “tongue in cheek” racism (for lack of a better term). Trump supporters, in many instances, predicate their political views on racist principles that are, like it or not, a part of the American political system. The GOP establishment is split on how to react in many cases, with some being silent, others backing Clinton, but this is a far cry from the GOP we saw unite just four years ago behind Mitt Romney.

From the legitimization of Islamophobia, to the recent criticism of 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and of course the consistent belittling of Mexico and Mexican immigrants to our country in the public sphere, America has learned this cycle just how racist we are. And if you need to know who in your circles is racist, all you need to do is just scroll down your Facebook feed and you can find out.

While we cannot and should make this sort of speech illegal (the first amendment is a sword that cuts both ways, after all), it is our job to create a social sphere where this behavior and language is not only unacceptable, but shamed. Let’s put this trash back underground where it belongs.

Ego: Speaking of your Facebook feed, have you noticed a change in the past year or so? It seems so strange that in a country filled with so many people that are obviously right that we would even have any sort of disagreements, right?

The absurdity of the social media realm has definitely had an enormous effect on the current political climate, but not in the most direct way. Social media is an enabler, of sorts: allowing individuals the ability to immerse themselves in things that feed their ego and bolster their own beliefs. It is very uncommon for people to “follow” or “like” pages with views that will conflict or challenge their own. Social media pages are becoming more and more personalized, and this creation of the “safe space” on the web is becoming dangerous to the American condition. Try taking a look at a friend’s social media feed from their POV (with permission, of course) and examine how truly different what you and your peers are exposed to can be.

In addition to our social presence stroking our ego, most of us get an affirmation of how right we are everyday when we drive to work. The car is another instance where we are given a false sense of entitlement; with “that guy” always being the asshole by cutting us off, or taking our parking spot. With the amount of work and fiscal investment we put into our cars, and the associated freedoms to move large distance, it is no surprise that many of us see the car as a sort of safe space and entitlement. But interestingly, with more and more of us driving solo, there has been an increase in the number of road rage incidents and they have grown more and more deadly.

These are only a few examples of how current societal trends have encumbered the growth of millions and millions of swollen egos. America is in danger of growing an even bigger head than it already has. Getting embroiled in countless debates on Facebook plays zero role in changing the outcome of the election or someone’s opinion, but is actually only an exercise of the throat. Far too often nowadays we drift away from Teddy Roosevelt’s principle of “speak softly and carry a large stick” and become the loud guy at the party that pulls his gun out to win an argument. We need more Teddy Roosevelts and less Yosemite Sam’s.

When we act citizens act this way, are we surprised that our two options for President are entitled, ego-driven narcissists? We are reaping what we’ve sewn.

Unpredictability: Aside from the parade of gaffes that seems to be this election, there is an air of mystery that still hovers and keeps us all on the edge of our toes. This cycle, polls have finally proven themselves useless. The Sanders primary win in Michigan was the nail in the coffin of traditional political polling. More and more, the medium of the poll has become the problem. With fewer citizens owning land line phones or willing to participate in surveys, pollsters have had issues for many years trying to paint an accurate picture of the political landscape. Now, it seems that perhaps “the jury may be back in”. Don’t be surprised when political pollsters continue to track and analyze your online behaviors in an attempt to keep themselves employed.

Additionally, it seems absolutely ridiculous to think that with as much as Americans talk about politics that only 9% of Americans chose one of the major parties’ nominees for President in the primaries, and even more absurd to think that less than 60% of Americans voted in the last Presidential election. The walkout of the “Bernie or Bust” caucus at the DNC, and the #NeverTrump campaign is a definite sign that those feeling disenfranchised may end up staying home in November or (*gulp*) vote for a third party. There is no doubt that the unpredictability that has haunted the primary season will continue into the general, and most likely, into the next four years in our country. A ruler without a mandate from the people cannot rule, and that’s just what we may have come January.

The Lesser of Two Evils: Americans on the whole continue to use the “lesser of two evils” argument, attempting to demonize Trump or Clinton, claiming there are no other viable candidates. This kind of two-party domination has been, and will continue to be, one of the biggest problems in the American political system.

While there are two other parties with candidates rallying many disenfranchised voters, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, neither party offers voters a candidate that could actually win. Gary Johnson is an extremely conservative political entity, who’s troubling remarks on the Joe Rogan podcast regarding a benevolent dictator and extreme positions on the role of government prove he is not ready to be taken seriously, and Dr. Jill Stein, who has only held one elected position before in the Lexington, MA Town Meeting (hardly a viable track record for someone who wants to be President). A vote for perennial candidate and satirist Vermin Supreme may be a better option than both.

What Americans are dying for is a chance to vote their conscience again; to vote for someone they like, rather than against someone they don’t. But until we break black-and-white paradigm that is now our political system, and continue to allow two private entities to control our government almost entirely, we will be left to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.

But therein lies the rub: how do we get someone with adequate experience into a position to run for president? Sadly, the answer is a boring one. We must groom them. We need a new generation of politicians that are unafraid to speak their mind, fight for what is right, and take on the two-party system and beat them at their own game.

These four symptoms of our social disease are but a small portion of the ways this election is the embodiment of American life. We owe it to ourselves to demand more from our government, and to help be a part of the change, and until we do, our elections will continue to get worse. After all, Kanye 2020 is only 4 years away.

Sean McGill (@seanMCthrill)

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Health Tips for the Protester on the Go…

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Fighting for your rights and those of your comrades can be hard work. During an average protest you could be on your feet for hours. Depending on what type of direct action you collectively decide to take on, you may find yourself physically in uncomfortable positions. There are weather concerns such as heat, cold, rain and snow. If things get a bit rowdy there is the very real risk of being tear gassed or having a police boot to the head. After everything is said and done, you might need to take some time for a little self care.

Jim Chambers, owner of the East Atlanta Barbell Club created these tips to keep you up on your feet and to fight another day:

1) Get these things into your body: Turmeric, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Glucosamine Chondroitin.
2) Bump up carb intake like crazy during the day, bump up fat intake at night.
3) Take contrast showers (super hot to super cold for 1-2min at a time, back and forth)
4) Ice your ankles, get on a foam roller, get your feet on a tennis ball.
5) Mild yoga poses, if you’re familiar with them.
6) Traction the low back.
7) Sleep when you can. Hard.
8) Drink EXCESSIVE, UNREASONABLE AMOUNTS OF WATER
9) Cannabis at night, for stress, sleep and muscle relaxation.

If you want to get more information about Jim Chambers or the East Atlanta Barbell Club feel free to contact them here or by phone at 470.242.1328.

Take care out there and remember that the arch of history is long but it bends towards justice.

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The Future of Bernie’s Movement

From June 17th through the 19th, Progressives of all stripes met in Chicago at the People’s Summit 2016. It was a wonderful event where organizations that are normally not associated together met to answer a common question. What’s next?

The Sanders campaign awaken the sleeping giant which is the American left. Now that it is stumbling about, how do we take this momentum and build something long lasting beyond this moment. The overall push to the meeting centered around activists getting involved in the political process, taking their socialist/green/progressive values with them into political office. Although I find this  an appealing development, is this the only answer?

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One would believe that all of the issues supported the United Nurses Union, the Democratic Socialist of America, the Green Party and others at event would still be the focal point of their activism. Will they have the collective power to change a corrupt system?

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Prince: The Love Symbol

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On April 21st, Prince Rogers Nelson left us in body but not in spirit. That afternoon, millions across the globe mourned his lost and celebrated his life. As I went through my day bearing witness to the various displays of emotions by almost everyone I encountered, one emotion that caught me off guard was gratitude.

I have been a Prince fan since the age of 10. That is when my step-mother made me a Prince mixtape after hearing me rave on about TLC’s cover of “If I was your Girlfriend”. The mixtape was heavy on songs from the Dirty Mind album, Purple Rain and Lovesexy. I was immediately hooked. Secretly, I was inspired to create some sort of music that smitten others has Prince’s music had done to me. Not so secretly, I became a unapologetic Prince junkie, spreading the gospel of Prince to anyone who would listen. When Prince passed, I felt a void somewhere. It was hard to understand. That was until I acknowledge how blessed I was to be on the same planet as he was.  I come to understand to what extent that I wasn’t alone.

On Facebook,  friends of mine, whom I may not have spoken to in years recounted their earliest Prince memories. They typically began as” I wasn’t a Prince fan until my friend, Brandon convinced me of how awesome he was”. Each message ended with a token of gratitude for having Prince in their life and for me introducing him to them. I took to heart a valuable lesson from Prince in his passing. We are defined by what we love.

Prince’s love for music and people transcended his immediate circle and touched the world. We will always remember him because of it. Prince will always be synonymous with music, his passion. I will be forever grateful if I am remembered by what and who I loved. That would be the Princely way to live.

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Why I am “Bernie or Bust”…

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I have been following the Presidential primary season like nobodies business. Seriously, I have to bring my phone into the restroom on primary Tuesday to check what the results in Wisconsin were with 47% of the precincts reporting. As Bernie Sanders rack up win after win, the corporate media continues the narrative that he is unelectable and he is delaying Clinton’s ability to pivot to the general election. This Clinton inevitability forced me to re-examine my thoughts on Hillary and the type of leader she would be. My conclusion was Bernie or bust.

I put aside Hillary’s vote on the Iraq war, her support of the Defense of Marriage Act, her support of NAFTA and TTP. I also put aside her comments concerning young black super predators and her coziness to Wall Street. All of the those distinctions alone would make her ineligible for my vote, however the most egregious thing she has done was deny all of those positions. She pretends she never supported any of those positions. Sexist Bernie Sanders has poisoned my mind against her. Hillary was the only candidate that had my back and she can get things done unlike her fake democratic opponent.

I cannot trust or support a liar. Hillary Clinton is by definition a liar. This is from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary

Liar: a person who tells lies

See, that is Hillary Clinton. If you don’t believe me click here!  I can’t vote for a liar in good conscience. I cannot strategically vote for her because I have no faith in what she believes in. As a democratic socialist, she offers nothing for me. If I was a liberal, I couldn’t trust her. This is why I am Bernie or bust.

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Girl Down!

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I want to talk to you guys about Big Freedia. If this name already means something to you, by all means just keep on reading. If it doesn’t, do yourself a favor and check out this…. and maybe this. And definitely this. All caught up? Ok, let’s keep this bouncing along then (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Big Freedia is an internationally-known artist and performer from New Orleans who recently made the news for pleading guilty to a federal theft charge. Basically, the feds are accusing Freedia of continuing to receive government assistance beyond the point that she qualified for it. Freedia did acknowledge in a statement on March 1 that she continued to receive aid after her financial situation changed, and has already begun to pay back more than $30,000. She also wanted to take place in an available pre-trial diversion program. Despite this, U.S District Judge Lance Africk emphasized in court that Freedia could possibly be sentenced to jail time, including the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

I won’t argue that Freedia didn’t need the money at the time the housing vouchers were used, but I do believe her assertion that her financial situation changed drastically, and she did not know the proper way to handle that. Without a doubt, this system is setup with the assumption that people will not earn themselves out of it, and there is a real knowledge gap for how to maintain and manage public assistance. Additionally, the income of an artist, even a successful one, is unpredictable at best. Given that it typically takes years to get approved for housing assistance, particularly in New Orleans, turning in paperwork to declare a change in economic status might mean being removed from that list, and then (when the success fades) having to start at the beginning all over again.

This recent article notes that:

“The situation with housing in New Orleans is pretty dire, specifically for the poorest residents, a high percentage of whom are black and have been living in New Orleans for generations. HANO (Housing Authority New Orleans) opened up their waitlist for the first time since 2009—for the past seven years, no one could apply.

Currently, there are 6,000 people on the waitlist.”

To me, the big show that is being made out of this case only serves to reinforce the idea that black and brown people, no matter what economic class they are in, are always either suspects or criminals. How else can we justify Wall Street “white collar” criminals going completely free from even the fear of jail time, while Freedia stands in court, chastised and threatened?

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Let’s Talk About the Westminster Dog Show

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Tuesday night was the 140th Westminster Dog Show and I could not help myself to feel that this was the same old, same old. Like every year, there was the usual drama of the most beautiful bitch in the room against a scrappy underdog. But not unlike the recent years, there was a strict adherence to the breed standard.

The breed standard has been defined as a set of guidelines covering specific externally observable qualities such as appearance, movement, and temperament for a dog breed. Breed standards are not scientific , but are written for each breed by hobbyist and their breed clubs for their own specific requirements.  These qualities are what breeders use to select and mold traits in their dogs. Essentially they are designing the ideal dog based not on science or the health of the creature but for cuteness and funzies!!

How would we feel if we had the same approach with humans? What would be the breed standard for the American Negro male? Would it be Cam Newton? Cam Newton has great hind quarters and smooth skin. Although fun loving, his temperament runs counter to the docile breed standard. Does he know any tricks? I will just check the NFL combine. Maybe we can breed him with a mate that has the proper temperament. I think Gabourey Sidibe would fit the bill? If not, Cam’s mother temperament is much more suitable and offspring between the two of them would ensure Cam’s physical attributes would be passed on.

There were a group of people whose approach to humans were similar. They were the Nazis.  It’s no coincidence that formation of the Nazis racial theories and the creation of the Westminster Kennel Club were around the same time. They both bought into the same psuedo-science of social Darwinism. So the question is , if we debunked these racial theories in humans why not dogs?

I am not advocating abolishing the dog show, but maybe doing away with the breed standard. The Miss America pageant doesn’t have a breed standard (that I know of) and its doing just well.

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I Want to Live in A David Bowie World…

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When I was in my early teens, I felt like I was the stinkiest, most awkward teen to walk the planet. Puberty was rough, and when you happen to grow from 5’9″ to 6’4″ you tend to stand out. It would be no surprise that I sought out individuals to who were not awkward themselves and had the capacity accept what is and change the world to what they envision. David Bowie fit that bill.

David Bowie, through all his changes as a cross dressing singer songwriter, androgynous, alien rock star, blue eyed soul singer, pop star and electronic music pioneer stood as an individual that understood that change was life.  By his example, millions of people like myself felt safe to live our lives according to who we are. David Bowie made western society a safer place for the LGBT community. David Bowie made it dangerous and sexy to be intellectual. David Bowie made it safe for musicians to explore theatrics. David Bowie made it safe for people to live an examined and expressed life.

Once I entered my early 20’s, my freak flag flew at full mast. I was proud of who I was despite not knowing the depths of what I was or who I was going to be. David Bowie’s music was the soundtrack of that era in my life. David Bowie, the man, proved that being free meant to stand up against injustice. When black artists on one hand were celebrated for their music but on the other hand screwed, David Bowie openly embraced his black influences while being a strong ally for equality in the media. Here’s an example of the latter .

As a man in my 30’s, Bowie made me comfortable with being myself. There is often a fear that comes with knowing that you are a socialist and wearing it on your sleeve. If I lived my life with half the courage of David Bowie, I would be able to die the bravest man alive.

Brandon Bowie

Happy May Day!!

Merry Corporate Christmas, Charlie Brown!!

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 It’s Christmas time in America!! That wonderful time of year where millions of Americans rush to the malls to aid their favorite retailers in maximizing profits in the fourth quarter.  From Thanksgiving to New Years, Americans shop ’til we drop. Once we are left with those Chewbacca slippers we thought needed, there’s no shame in passing them off as a present for Uncle Bill. That’s all good to me, however I wonder what would Charlie Brown do?

I recently re-watched  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and I realized I was not alone with my holiday blues. Charlie wasn’t mopey due to social isolation, as I thought he was when I was a child. He felt there was something missing in the way his peers celebrated Christmas. Throughout his experience as a Christmas Play director, the true meaning of Christmas was revealed to him:

“Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.”

 – Lucy Van Pelt

We are also reminded by Linus that Christmas has something to do Jesus’ birthday or something.

Towards the end of the program, the kids realized they were being assholes and pimped out Charlie’s Christmas trees. Thus ending the War on Christmas for another year. However in the real world, I am still stuck with the tensions created by Corporate Santas, Seasons greetings, new Star Wars toy on one side and a religious syncretization of Pagan practices and Christianity. The latter being inherently anti-Semitic (Remember Jews can’t celebrate Christmas). The saga continues.

Happy Holidays,

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Bernie on Democratic Socialism…

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Today at Georgetown University, Bernie Sanders gave his much anticipated speech on Democratic Socialism and what that means to him. He spent an hour or so speaking to the subject and then participated in a question and answer segment. The following is my interpretation on what went down.

Bernie started it out by pointing out that some of America’s most cherished government programs were socialist in nature. He then framed most of the following speech in the context of FDR’s proposed second Bill of Rights. For those of you unfamiliar, here they are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

He touched on most of these economic rights with rhetoric you would hear from his stump speech. He threw in some Black Lives Matters language and touched upon mass incarceration.  He also attempted to bridge the gap on his policies and his democratic socialist values.

I believe he achieved his goals and laid out a vision of a much more democratic  and fair society. I know the right wing might have something to say about it, but I don’t care about most of their criticisms because it has nothing to do with building a sustainable movement on the left. What I will say to my comrades on the left is to be happy.

The Left needs to be happy that we have a viable candidate that will stand up for our values and embraces being called a democratic socialist. Those that call him a Social Democrat are just being sectarian. Don’t be the person that is not happy until he hits and touches upon every  rhetorical lefty dog whistle. Sanders has laid out a clear vision for America.  Considering that there is no overwhelming consensus of what a democratic socialist society would look like, this is the best we got. Once we are there, we can build more upon this vision. But for now, quit bitching and start organizing.

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