Verrit Is A Mistake

Parody of verrit meme

Over the weekend I learned of Verrit. Created by Peter & Leela Daou, the site hopes to become a liberal echo chamber full of “verified” memes. These statements would promote Hillary Clinton’s message while relitigating the 2016 election.

When someone asked on Twitter to explain the concept to them, my response was “a bad idea.” But, I’m sure that over the coming months they’ll try to make it a thing and it might be tempting to talk about it. Don’t.

I wrote about Verrit so you don’t have to. I won’t write about Verrit after today, because it’s terrible and the less we talk about it, the better.

TL,DR: Verrit is bad and should be ignored.

What is Verrit

Verrit on MSM Bias
An Example “Verrit”

Verrit is a place for Hillary Clinton supporters. The site hosts quotes that they believe further Clinton’s vision. Right now, that mostly means quotes by Hillary, or commentary against Donald Trump. The creators of Verrit feel that discussing how unfair 2016 was is a discussion we should have. We shouldn’t.

What sets Verrit apart from IMGUR or Memeboard is the concept of “Verifying” their memes. Every image has a seven digit code on the bottom that give it authenticity. If someone wants to “fact check” that an image they see on social media is real, they can verify that serial number.

The site allows you to search for memes by this verification code, so if the code returns no hits, it’s fake. Mr. Daou feels that this will help separate “real” Verrits from any fake created on sites like 4Chan or Reddit.

This is a novel approach to the authenticity problem, but it’s doomed to failure. People don’t fact check memes they see on Facebook or Twitter, they share anything they agree with. Fake News exists because people won’t verify, not because there’s no way to verify.

Why It’s A Mistake

With the internet full of bad ideas, it’s easy to write off Verrit as just more of the same, but that would be a mistake. Verrit is dangerous to the causes they claim to support. Everything about the site plays into the worst stereotypes of progressives.

The Alt-Right couldn’t create a better parody of the Democrats if they tried. Verrit verifies progressivism at its worst, including:

  • Echo Chamber: Verrit creates memes for liberals by liberals. They will not challenge beliefs, only reinforce existing ones.
  • Pointless Purity: Some of the memes already take aim Bernie supporters. The demand to “fall in line” will only create further divides.
  • Focus Grouped to Death: Verrit feels like something designed by people who don’t know what Twitter is. I’m sure it tested well in that demographic, but not in the real world.
  • Presumption of Inevitability: When announced, Verrit assumed it was the idea everyone was asking for. It’s not. The founders respond to criticism by calling anyone against the idea as “haters.”
  • The Fellow Young Kids Problem: Verrit is a meme generator designed by people who don’t understand what a meme is. (See featured image)

Verrit proves almost all the worst stereotypes about the progressive movement. In particular, it paints Hillary Clinton supporters as a coalition of suburban white people. It’s not, and that’s what makes it dangerous. The platforms risks making that stereotype a reality. Every tone-deaf meme sends the message of “Fall in line, or leave.” This won’t get progressives who are to the left of Clinton engaged in the Democratic party, it will drive them away.

Look To The Future Not The Past

In the 2016 primary, I canvassed for Hillary and I endorsed her, for what little my words are worth. I don’t regret this, but Verrit is embarrassing, as is her endorsement of the service. The platform is desperately trying to rewrite an election that is already history.

Making some snappy image of a zinger Hillary Clinton said won’t help the Democrats. It won’t help them reclaim seats in congress in 2018 nor will it make challenging Donald Trump in 2020 easier. Verified memes won’t help local elections happening this year.

When candidates speak to their neighbors, verified memes won’t get people to the polls. These people are skeptical that the progressive movement cares about their problems. They want to know that Democrats are laser focused on finding solutions. Verrit won’t do this.

Verrit is a vanity project. The site builds on the wrong idea that looking backward has value over planning for the future. That is not progressivism.

We lost in 2016, in part, because we suck at messaging. We assumed that Trump was so bad that people couldn’t vote for him. The election of the first female president felt inevitable. We were wrong.

More importantly, that election was only one out of more than a thousand lost by Democrats. The party is in real trouble and it will need all the help it can get to reclaim some of the influence it lost. If we keep looking to the past and trying to figure out who to blame for why we lost, we continue losing.

We are better than Verrit. We have to believe that our message is bigger than some stupid memes, or we should just give up now.

Let Verrit die.

What Is The Future We Want

What future do you want? 

If you have children or wish to someday, what world do you want them to grow up in? What will it look like? Really think about it.

Now, what are you picturing? I’m guessing that you’re not seeing power point slides, white papers, or catchy slogans on bumper stickers. So, why do so many progressives fall back to these bullet points when asked what they believe? Chanting “Resist” might be important, but it’s not a plan for the future.

The Path Forward

 

I grew up listening to conservative talk radio and watching Fox News. For as long as I can remember, the GOP ran on a single, coherent message: The Democrats are trying to destroy America. This message resonated with their audience.

In the span of a few years, the GOP took more than 1,000 seats from Democrats nationwide. More importantly, the GOP that rose from this wave was one far more right-wing than the party had been in the past.

As the Democrats regroup from these losses, it’s natural for them to look at the Republicans and try and imitate the tactics they used to gain power so effectively. But what worked for the GOP won’t work for the DNC, because resistance is only about fighting in the present while progressives want a better future.

American Conservativism believes that America can be great again while American Progressivism holds that Americas greatest moments are yet to come. The best of us acknowledge the triumphs and darker moments of the past, always with the eye towards building a better future.

What’s happening in this country right now IS terrible. We must resist the attempts to roll back protections our ancestors fought and died to protect. The fight against repealing the ACA, the Women’s March, and the Indivisible movement are powerful and vital.

I don’t want to minimize the work these groups are doing. They can, and already have prevented backward laws from being passed. Groups like Black Lives Matter or the LGBTQ+ movement helped bring civil rights abuses into the national conversation and forced many to confront them for the first time. This is a groundswell of activism that cannot be ignored. But, when we are victorious, what then? As progressives, there is no good enough, because we believe that we can always be better.

Together, our voices can help stop terrible legislation from becoming law. Organizations like Swing Left might help win seats in congress, maybe even help take back the majority. But if we achieve that, then what? It’s not enough to take back power, we have to do something with it. Resistance is powerful, but you can’t build a future only by fighting the past. What’s next?

Authenticity Matters

Democrats came within striking distance of winning special elections in 2017, but they still lost every single one. The fact that these supposedly safe elections were so close cannot be overstated, but at the end of the day, losing by a hair is still losing.

The media is full of pundits offering opinions of positions the DNC should take if they want to “start winning again.” Some argue that the party needs to move further to the left while others advocate moving to the center. Some pundits claim that the party has to run in every district, or that they should focus their efforts on targeted swing districts.

I’m not going to argue for what strategy that I think is more valid than the others because I think that arguing strategy right now is the wrong way to fix the problem entirely.

A majority of Americans already agree with progressive positions. The problem is not getting people to adopt a progressive point of view. They already do, but too many don’t see the purpose in voting, or if they do, they don’t have faith in the Democratic Party.

The DNC has a well-deserved reputation for being calculating. They’ll hesitate to adopt a position, even on a civil right’s issue, until they think it’s “viable.” Then, once they feel an idea has a critical mass behind it, they’ll switch their platform and then chastise anyone who didn’t change before they did.

Think about how that looks from the outside. Yes, politicians have to win elections to pass laws, but the laws we want to pass shouldn’t just depend on what we think will get us elected. “We’ll say anything to win” is the slogan of populists, not reformers.

What is the Progressive Vision of the future? What are the core beliefs that guide it? Authenticity matters most for the disenfranchised. Democrats won’t get elected for witty tweetstorms, they’ll get elected because people think they’ll build a better future.

Start Talking About The Future Now

If Democrats are going to take back some seats in the house, let alone the 1,000+ they lost in state elections, they won’t do it because they have the best policy wonks, and they won’t win them all back on anger alone. The DNC has to give people a vision of the future to vote for instead of a resurgence of the past to prevent. What we need is more Hope, and less of stuff like this:

A Terrible DCCC Bumper Sticker
Someone thought this was a good idea.

 

Another often-valid criticism of the DNC is that they take many of their voters for granted. In an effort to shore up their base, the GOP adopted new policies that women, minorities, and many others, find offensive. To them, “Have you seen the other guys” reads as “What choice do you have?” It assumes the support of these Americans, not because the DNC represents their interests, but because at least they’re not the RNC. The attitude is offensive.

Being better than the alternative is not good enough, and progressives should know that better than anyone else. Democrats need to stop expecting support and show why they deserve it.

Well-meaning Democrats might have wildly different things they care about. Good. Then let them make their positive case for their future and put it against their companions and let the voters decide. I can’t guarantee that it will be enough to win every election, but I can promise you it will win more races than inauthentic platforming ever will.

What do you believe, and what is your vision of the future? Forget the slogans and bullet points. Show people what you think, what you know we can become.

Since the election, I’ve spent a lot of time in disbelief, anger, and frustration. I don’t think that these feelings will go away anytime soon, but I’m getting tired of only looking to prevent a return to the past. Let’s build a future worth aspiring to.

The Progressive Majority

A recent survey by ABC and The Washington Post found that 67% of Americans feel the Democratic party is out of touch with the concerns of the American People.

This shouldn’t be a surprising statistic, especially after the events of the 2016 election. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but in the presidential election the popular vote doesn’t matter and the worst time to litigate the merits of the Electoral College is when you’re out of power.

Democrats are out of power. Since the midterm elections in 2010, the Democrat Party lost seats in national, state, and local elections across the country. Barack Obama easily swept the presidential race in 2012, but after the midterms he found himself facing a hostile congress and fighting state legislatures where Republicans controlled both the state legislatures and governorships.

It’s easy to think of reasons why this happened. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and voter turnout are all serious issues, but they can’t explain every loss. Democrats need to admit that, from local elections to national ones, voters are not choosing them.

Progressives need to do more than protest, they need to put Democrats in office. But, how can they accomplish that when their message fails so spectacularly with voters? Some strategists suggest that to win, Democrats need to soften their position on controversial opinions to appeal to the “rural voters” who swung for Donald Trump in the last election.

They would be wrong.

Progressivism Is Popular

There is this myth that progressive ideas are unpopular and uncommon. After all, just look at how many seats Democrats lost. But a rejection of the DNC is not the same thing as a rejection of the ideals Democrats believe in. In fact, polls consistently find that progressive policies are not only popular but in many cases represent the majority opinion. Here’s what the American public thinks about some of the Democrat party’s most “controversial” opinions.

Increasing Minimum Wage

Increasing the minimum wage was one of the cornerstone positions Bernie Sanders ran on during the Democratic Primary, and the idea was so popular that a $15 minimum wage became an official position of Hillary Clinton’s during the general election, but how popular is it? While support for an increase above $15 is at 48% (HuffPost/YouGov), 59% believe it should be at least $12 an hour and 53% believe that increasing the minimum wage helps workers. Overall, only 18% of those polled felt that the minimum wage should be removed or kept where it is.

Source: YouGov.com

Support for the minimum wage is clearly not limited to college students, fast food employees, or millennials. In fact, the Washingon Post reported on a poll conducted by a conservative research group of more than 1,000 business executives. 80% of those who responded supported an increase to the minimum wage in some form. Business owners and employees both support paying employees more.

Healthcare Reform

With the Republicans controlling both the Whitehouse and Congress, one of their first attempts at legislation was to fulfill a seven-year promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Their first proposal didn’t even make it to the House floor for a vote and was one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation ever made.

The Affordable Care Act has substantial flaws, but what do voters feel the Government’s role should be in healthcare? A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 80% of Americans felt it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to make sure ALL Americans had health coverage. When asked about the Affordable Care Act specifically, 54% approve of the law the Republicans named Obamacare.

LGBTQ+ Rights

LGBTQ+ rights are one of the more controversial positions the Democratic Party has. Republicans accuse progressives of participating in “Identity politics” and forcing people to accept things like marriage equality and protections for Americans who identify as Transgender. What do survey’s say?

Source: Pewforum.org

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 55% of Americans supported Gay Marriage. A poll conducted by Gallup had better numbers: 61% supported gay marriage.

When asked about bathroom bills, non-partisan polling company PRRI found that 53% opposed laws that would require a transgender individual to use the bathroom that matched their gender at birth. 71% of those polled supported nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ+ individuals.

#BlackLivesMatter

The debate over police reform was one of the most contentious issues of the 2016 election, with Donald Trump defining himself as the “Law and order” candidate even as the Democrats invited the Mother’s of the Movement on stage. However, a recent poll conducted by PEW found that 60% of citizens felt that the deaths of African Americans by police officers were signs of a larger problem, not isolated incidents. Other polls find a sharp racial and political divide on this topic more than many others, but it is still a cause worth fighting for.

This isn’t every Democratic position, but healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, police reform, and the minimum wage were all “controversial” topics during the previous election when the data shows that they shouldn’t be. In most positions, progressives represent the majority opinion of the country.

We Need Voters Not Converts

Why doesn’t this popularity translate into more Democrats winning elections? I don’t have an easy answer to this, but I think part of the problem lies in how we discuss these topics. We don’t need to change our message, just how we position it.

This starts by taking back the conversation from conservatives.

One thing 2016 showed Democrats is that saying “we’re not Republicans” isn’t good enough. You don’t inspire support by making your rallying cry that you’re less terrible than everyone else.

I think the fatal mistake progressives makes when discussing their policy vision is that we focus too much on comparing our ideas to the conservative alternative. We are the majority, or at least the plurality on most, if not all of these supposedly controversial issues. This means that more people already agree with us than the GOP, so why play defense?

I hold the positions I do because I believe that they will create a better America, not just for me, but for everyone. So why don’t we advocate for our policies in a similar way? I support the minimum wage because I believe that it will protect the rights of employees, create real economic growth and give people the financial stability they need to attend school, grow their family, or try starting a business. 53% of people already agree with me.

We have a positive vision that we believe will improve America, a vision that Americans already share. In 2018 and beyond, it’s not the Democrats job to convince voters to change their position on anything. It is the party’s job to motivate the progressive majority to vote.

Thoughts On November 9th

Stone Harbor Beach

On November 8th, 2016, the United States elected Donald Trump to be the next president.

How do you follow that up? I’ve made it clear what I think of this terrible man, but in a few months, he’ll be my President.

I have friends who are saying that Trump is not their president, but I have to respectfully disagree. He is. He won the electoral college. There were no contested ballots, no signs of widespread fraud. No, he did not get the most votes, but that is how our system works. Yes, the electoral college is fucked up, but it’s also the law. We want differently we need to change it.

Donald Trump is my President. In the coming weeks, I must find some way to accept that. But accepting that doesn’t mean that I have to respect him. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I have to trust him. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I have to support him and give him a chance to be a good president. He does not deserve it.

I Take Trump At His Word

I’ll commonly hear from Trump Supporters about the “Media Spin” that tries to create controversies out of thin air. This is bullshit. I formed my opinions about Trump by listening to what he says when he speaks. When he listed his policies on his website or released his potential names for the supreme court, I read them.

When he says he want’s to do something, I assume he really wants to get it done and that he’ll honor his word and try to do it once he’s in office. Because after hearing what he wants to do, I sought out commentary from experts about what impact those policies would have. This included bipartisan organizations, conservative economists, libertarian think tanks, etc. Yes, I read Progressive sources as well, but I only as an additional source, never the primary.

I cannot respect Trump because of the things he himself says. I cannot respect a man who makes an anti-gay religious zealot his vice president when he says that he’ll respect and protect the interests of our LGBTQ+ community. I cannot respect someone who says they want to help the African American community when they advocate stop and frisk and put Steve Bannon (who managed a website with an entire section devoted to “Black Crime”) as the CEO of his campaign. I cannot respect a man who puts a climate change skeptic at the head of his transition team for the EPA.

I do not respect the media after this election cycle, but their reporting had absolutely no impact on what I think of Donald Trump as the man, and as a candidate. If you supported/support Trump and start saying that he doesn’t really mean what he said, then I’d suggest that it is perhaps you who let your own media influence your perceptions of him.

I Want Trump To Be A Good President

Yes. I’m serious. The President of the United States is one of the most powerful offices in the world, and he is capable of unilaterally changing not just our country, but the world. If President Trump is a terrible leader, everyone suffers. I do not want that. The desire to see an institution go up in flames consequences be damned is what got this man elected and I want no part of that.

But wanting Trump to be a good president and hoping he enacts the policies he campaigned on are mutually exclusive. For him to do the best for the country he can, he cannot be allowed to build his wall, gut our federal government, or roll out effective martial law into our communities nationwide.  Donald Trump doing what he said he would do would make him a bad president.

This alone is reason enough for me to not give him the benefit of the doubt. If he proposes a policy that will Truly help our country, I will support it. But I will not assume he has good intentions, he must prove that he does.

Donald Trump will be my next President, but I refuse to remain silent.

We need action. I don’t know what that action is, I don’t know what I can do yet. But this must be the last election where we let the darker aspects of our nature take control. I am ashamed of my country, but I will not abandon it. We must be better than this because any alternative is unacceptable.

Fine With Her

Hillary Clinton

I think I’m more nervous about writing this piece than I was talking about Donald Trump. I grew up watching Fox News, listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, and reading all about the President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. I knew the Clintons, or at least I thought I did.

I get the distrust, even the fear that I’ve heard some people express about Hillary Clinton because I used to feel it too. I know that, while a lot of people will understand why I don’t support Trump, many of them might not understand why I would say anything positive about Hillary Clinton.  That’s why I’m nervous. Giving reasons you don’t support someone is a lot easier than saying why you do.

I didn’t vote for Clinton in the Primaries, but once it was clear that Republican ticket would go to someone I could not support, I knew that I would likely vote for her in the general election. But a funny thing happened since then. The more time I spent researching her as a candidate, and not just the opposition to someone I hated more, the more I found myself starting to actively agree with her.

Hillary Clinton isn’t perfect, but I’m not voting just to stop Trump. Over the past election cycle, I’ve made the decision to vote for her.

On Her Husband

I think the fact that I even have to make a statement about Hillary Clinton’s husband says a lot about the lopsidedness of how we treat candidates based on gender, but I also know that it is one of the frequently cited examples for not supporting her, especially recently.

We know for a fact that he’s had multiple extramarital affairs, and he stands accused of doing some pretty terrible things. If the claims against him are true, I believe he should be held accountable for them.

I have not, and will not, make excuses for Bill Clinton’s behavior.  But Bill Clinton is not running for president, so his faults (or talents) should have no more bearing on this election than Melania Trump’s does.

Some criticize Hillary Clinton for how she treated her husband’s accusers, using this a proof that she’s anti-women, despite her political record and public statements. I disagree. I think that this shows that, like a lot of us, she’ll find herself doing something in the name of family that she’d never consider if it was for someone she didn’t know.

This does not excuse her behavior, but I think that calling her two-faced on her public stances because she acted differently when something impacted her personally. This is called being human.

If someone you loved was accused of something as terrible as sexual assault, how would you react if you lived in the public eye like a president’s family does? What you say to that person is one thing, what you say to the press is another. It doesn’t make your actions right, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason for them.

That’s the last time I’m going to talk about Bill Clinton or Melania Trump. They’re not running for president.

On Her History

Clinton seems to have new rumors made about her faster than anyone can take the time to research them. As someone who’s been in politics for more than three decades, she has a lot of history to dig through, and the Republican Party seemingly made it their mission to keep the Clinton family constantly invested in a scandal.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching the big scandals I grew up hearing about on talk radio and found that most of them had little but smoke behind them. I’ve read the DNC leaks, Podesta Leaks, and I’ve followed her email saga. An overwhelming majority of these recent controversies are either smoke, outright hoaxes, or they’re people highlighting sections of an email and praying that you don’t ask “what’s the context?”

If you want to discuss a specific issue, a single issue, I’ll be happy to. But until then let’s leave these rumors alone. I’m not saying I don’t have my reservations, but I think that most of the outright hatred of her is not warranted.

On the Issues

I don’t agree with her on everything, but there’s a lot that I do. More importantly, I’m convinced that, whatever her faults, she believes in things, she has goals. To paraphrase a line from “The Election of 1800” from the musical Hamilton: Clinton has opinions, Trump has none.

Education

One of the reasons I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary was his focus on education. One thing I’ve come to like about Clinton’s plan is that it’s not just about college. It’s about the entire education process. Our education system has a lot of issues, and our teachers work incredibly hard for salaries that most of us would balk at when we look at how much time they invest. We need to fix this.

Equality

This one is a big one for me. Racism, Sexism, LGB and Trans-Phobia are real issues that we can’t continue to ignore as a country. Some like pointing to Clinton’s previous positions on Gay Marriage and some other issues. But positions can change. I know mine did. In my research of Clinton and her campaign, I believe that her positions changed as well.

The Family

Of every position Hillary Clinton holds, her beliefs on the family, specifically for working mothers and young child education, seems to be the one she cares most deeply about. Having policies that benefit the modern family, the one that we have not the one that holds to some archaic ideal, is so important in early childhood development. I would put her position on Criminal Justice reform here as well, since it means keeping more fathers with their families, and making it easier for men to find employment without worrying about a felony record.

Clinton’s positions aren’t perfect. There are some things that I strongly disagree with. But I disagree with every candidate (major or minor) that is running. For me, Clinton’s campaign has a lot that I agree, and more importantly: I think that she has the capability to see some of those changes through. I can’t say that about anyone else running.

This is Not a Free Pass

The polls show Hillary Clinton up by a significant margin nationally, as well as in most swing states. It’s likely she could win the Whitehouse by a large margin, thanks in part to a growing support in two traditionally Republican sectors: white college-educated voters, and white suburban women.

But I think she’s smart enough to realize that this doesn’t give her a mandate.

A lot of this support, particularly in those two recent groups, comes because those voters made the decision that her opponent is unfit for the presidency. Even if Congressional Democrats pick up every contested seat, the majority they’ll have will be a slim one, and it’s unlikely that they’ll win every seat unless a lot of Republican voters choose straight ticket democrat. To get things done, she’ll need to work with people who don’t agree with her. She’s not going to get a free pass once she’s in power, from Congress or from the public.

Stronger Together

Even if she wins in a landslide, Hillary Clinton, and our country, have a lot of soul-searching to do. This election season highlighted just how divided we are. My vote for her does not mean I give up the right to be critical of her. But I’m going to do it as someone who wants to see her be better at her job, not as someone who simply wants to tear her down.

I’ve come to love the slogan “Stronger Together” because I believe in it. One of the things I hate most about our current political process is that we’ve turned the concept of compromise, of working together to find a solution, into a sign of weakness. No one is immune to blind spots. No one is immune to prejudice or irrational assumptions.

I believe that the best we can be looks a lot like diverse groups working together, even when we disagree. I don’t want every person to believe the same things I do. That is not America.

We are stronger together because we’re not the same.

Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate. In a lot of ways, she’s not even an ideal candidate. She has some pretty deep flaws, but at the end of the day, I’ve come to genuinely think that she wants to see the lives of others improve. I can work with that.

When The Enemy Looks Like US

In Kansas, the FBI completed an eight-month investigation into a terrorist cell, capturing the members before they were able to do any harm. This cell was in the process of gathering explosives and weapons, using social media to attempt to recruit others into their Crusade, hoping to strike the day after the election.

But there’s no 24/7 media coverage of these attackers. We’re not investigating why they were radicalized. In fact, there’s a good chance that this is the first you’ve heard of this planned. Because when they were arrested, they weren’t called terrorists. We called the militia. Because they’re white.

Some papers are now starting to call them terrorists, but they’re not getting the same coverage as the NYC bomber, or any other arrest that the media can tie to ISIL.

 

What Happened In Kansas

Three men purchased what they thought were functioning weapons from FBI agents. The FBI began investigating these men about 8 months ago, gathering information and trying to see how widespread the group was.

Their plan was brutally simple: They wanted to create four car bombs, similar to those used by Timothy McVeigh, and target an apartment complex because it was home to more than 200 Somali Muslim Immigrants as well as their Mosque. The vehicles would be placed at the four corners of the complex and set to go off in a massive explosion.

In addition to this large attack, they were also stockpiling weapons and ammunition, planning to send Crusaders, the term they used for their group, to the state border to keep refugees from crossing. At least one of the men brought up the idea of attacking any churches that supported immigrants or Muslims. To them, the only good Muslim was a dead Muslim. They were looking forward to killing them all, even if they were children.

Why November 9th? Because it is the day after the US Presidential elections, and they didn’t want their actions to potentially influence the vote. It’s not hard to guess which way they wanted that vote to go.

Facebook Post
Facebook post of one of the arrested suspects

Obviously, Trump didn’t tell them to do this. I think that his rhetoric contributed to this, but these sentiments existed long before he came into the public eye, and they’ll exist long after he fades from it. The problem is that we have people becoming radicalized in our country, and the only time it seems to be a problem is if the radical has brown skin.

 

The Myth Of The Lone Wolf

The Kansas terrorists aren’t unique. The man who shot three police officers in Baton Rouge this summer was a member of a Sovereign citizen movement, and the Dallas shooter who murdered 10 officers at a peaceful Black Lives Matter movement also had ties to a movement that closely resembles the Sovereign Citizens.

In Oregon, “Militia” took over a wildlife refuge, led by a man who declared himself part of the Sovereign Citizen movement. The Sovereign Citizen movement is highlighted by the FBI as a domestic terrorist threat and a study in 2014 identified them as the top perceived threat among law enforcement officers. But it’s unlikely you were aware of the movement before this summer, of before reading about them here. I know I didn’t know much about it until I followed the Oregon Standoff and heard the term mentioned there.

But these “Fringe” groups are not the only dangers out there.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are more than 276 anti-government armed militia groups in the United States. Maybe some of these are little more than glorified boys-clubs, where the goal is more the image than anything else, but there’s still a lot of violence.

In Texas, a 50-year-old man was arrested by the FBI for attempting to buy parts to make a bomb from an undercover agent. Last year, the FBI arrested three men in Virginia who were planning a series of shootings in African-American churches who hoped the murders would start a race war.

Each one of these incidents might be an example of someone “acting alone.” but they’re getting radicalized. They’re getting pushed to a point where they can justify killing others and can rationalize it. The number is growing. From militia’s having standoffs in the midwest to men murdering bystanders in a planned parenthood, calling these instances lone wolf attacks ignores the forest for the trees.

In Florida, Omar Mateen claimed “allegiance” to ISIL, but the government found no ties between him and the group. Despite this, our culture was quick to connect him to the group, based off of a single statement he made. For all we know, he was self-radicalized. A lone wolf. But we’ll never call him that.

 

When They Look Like Us

As a culture, we reserve the word “Terrorist” and only apply it to people we can call other. Muslims? Terrorists. BlackLivesMatter? A lot of people who look like me are ok with calling them terrorists as well.

But what if the terrorist looks like us? What if the shooters look like people we went to school with? Then, we start making excuses for their actions. We claim mental health or call them lone wolves. We say that they seemed like such nice people until they snapped. Everything carefully stated to try and make it clear that they do not represent “us.”

I think this is dangerous. If we don’t start looking about how these people are becoming radicalized, why the number of school shootings is up, it’s only going to get worse. We need to stop making excuses for this behavior. Calling them lone wolves is avoiding culpability, it’s claiming that there’s nothing really wrong, just some people went a little crazy. It’s saying that we can continue doing what we’re doing because they’re just outliers. 

We can’t continue this way.

Perhaps the only positive thing about this terrible election season is that it’s brought the topics of racism, class, and civil unrest into the national conversation. It’s not about the candidates. This election season might’ve given these groups some increased visibility, but long after the candidates turn the spotlights away from them, the problems will still remain. 

So now that we’re talking about it, let’s really TALK about it. Let’s stop ignoring evil simply because it’s uncomfortably similar to who we see in the mirror. We need to address the fact that sometimes terrorism isn’t some outside force. Sometimes it’s people who look like us. 

You and I would never consider the things that the three in Kansas did. But we’re responsible for finding a way to make sure that the people who do think like that never succeed and never find support.

Uncouth, Unfit, Unqualified

Donald Trump Yelling

When both parties chose their nominees, I made my choice of who I would vote for based on one simple question: who gets the nukes? At the time, I felt that I was possibly being overly dramatic. Sure, Trump was something not really seen in politics, but the threat of nuclear war seemed extreme, even for him.

I’m not sure I can say that anymore.

I’ve started and stopped this post at least a dozen times because I don’t know what I can add to the conversation about this dangerous man. It should be obvious that this man does not deserve our support, but every day I see people who I respect, who I think of as decent human beings, support someone that frequently violates basic human decency.

I grew up in a conservative home, attended a conservative church, and went to a conservative college. I don’t consider myself a conservative anymore, but I have a lot of respect for how I grew up, and for the people that helped raise me. I know that it’s possible to disagree with someone on a fundamental level and still consider them a decent human being.

That’s why I don’t understand the support for Trump. Everything I know about Conservative values, and everything I know about Christian values tells me that this man should not be anywhere near a position of power, let alone one that represents us. I think that’s the approach I need to take here.

I have a host of reasons for why I don’t support Donald Trump, but that’s not what I want to write about. Instead, I want to look at the reasons I’ve heard from conservatives, from Christians, from otherwise decent people why they might hold their nose and vote for someone who is counter to everything they stand for.

This man is not qualified to be President. Period.

 

On The Supreme Court

For many conservatives, particularly Christians, this is the most common argument I hear for why Trump should be President. Currently, there’s one post being held open by Congress. In the next 4-8 years, additional seats could be available and the President get’s to appoint the nominees.

Donald Trump knows that this is one of his strongest arguments to get hesitant conservatives to elect him, telling them that they have no choice but to vote for him since the Supreme Court is at stake. When Jerry Falwell Jr and his other Evangelical surrogates discuss why they support him, this is often their first and sometimes only reason.

In May, Donald Trump released a list (that he updated in September) of potential nominees for the Supreme Court. This was done to show “proof” that he was going to nominate pro-life conservatives (which most of the names are).

But the list doesn’t include the judges with the most experience arguing the Constitutional law, or those with experience on the high federal appellate courts. This isn’t to say that they are wholly unqualified, but that there are other judges, even other pro-life judges, that are better qualified. So, why did Donald Trump choose these names?

 Senator Mike Lee of Utah appears to only be added to the list in an attempt to get him to endorse Trump. The Senator said as much when asked why he thought his name was on the updated candidate list. Mike Lee has since disavowed Donald Trump, calling him unqualified. He said he wouldn’t accept the nomination, but now it’s almost certain he won’t receive it. 

Senator Lee’s name is telling. It shows that Trump is selecting people because of what they’ll do for him, and not necessarily those who are best for the job. Two months before he released his list initially, when asked who he’d nominate, Trump said that he would choose Judges who would look at Hillary Clinton’s Emails.

Whatever you think about the Email issue, it is not the primary role of a Supreme Court Justice to take a “hard look” at the issue, nor is it even clear what constitutional argument Donald Trump would make that would put the case before the Supreme Court. Furthermore, he was using his answer to attack his opponent in a political race, making an off the cuff remark about the topic that’s the one issue that he’s saying forces conservatives to vote for him. 

President Trump would nominate someone to the Supreme Court who would benefit Donald Trump and his interests. He would pick someone who would rule in his favor should the Trump University case get appealed there, or anything about the Trump Foundation or his other interests. He’s also expressed a desire to change our first amendment, and would look for judges that would help him do this.

If that person happened to be Pro-Life, it’s entirely possible Trump would pick them, but it’s not a guarantee. And more importantly, it’s almost a certainty that they won’t be the best person for that position.

 

On The Constitution

Another reason I often see to support Trump is that he will strengthen or, among his more optimistic supporters, restore the constitution by protecting the Bill of Rights, something that they say Hillary Clinton, or Democrats in general, are trying to do away with.

Donald Trump is on the record that if elected one of his goals is that he’ll open up the libel laws to make it easier to sue the media. No matter what you think about the political leanings of the Media, this is dangerous and anti-constitutional.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are two of the most powerful tools we have to hold the powerful, particularly the government, in check. If you allow someone to sue a paper because what they published was “bad” you silence speech.

The second amendment is also frequently brought up as a reason to support Trump. He is, after all, the candidate that was endorsed by the NRA. But Donald Trump supports banning people on the no-fly list from buying a weapon. You can get on this list without a court order, without due process, and when the Senate Democrats tried forcing a vote on this very law the NRA attacked it as anti-constitutional. This is one of the few times that many who call themselves progressive agreed with the NRA.

In addition to the no-fly list, Donald Trump wants to roll out New York’s version of “Stop and Frisk” nationwide with one of the stated goals of getting guns off the streets. Setting aside the constitutional issues with this policy, many states allow people to open carry, and several allow residents to concealed carry without requiring them to obtain a special permit. How long do you think it will be until legally obtained guns are being confiscated due to this policy?

But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some links to constitutional conservatives talking about their doubts about him:

 

On Keeping Him In Check

Some conservatives justify voting for Trump because of their believe that, even if his policies are unacceptable, Congress will keep him in check. After all, 1/5 of republican leaders said that they would not vote for Trump, so they would block any crazy ideas he tries to pass, right? Unfortunately, no. 

There is no reason to assume this to be true.

Donald Trump ran as a Republican, a party he had very little connection to before. He ran a campaign that ran counter to what the party expected. No one was able to prevent him from doing what he wanted. In fact, his campaign famously ran on the idea that they should “let Trump be Trump.”

Upon receiving the nomination, he continued running a campaign that was counter to Republican interests, no one could stop him. In fact, the GOP officially said that anyone who refused to back him risked consequences for doing so.

Throughout the campaign, and throughout his business Career, Donald Trump has a reputation for doing things his way, no matter what. At every step so far, the Republican party conceded to his demands. Why expect differently if he becomes the most powerful man in the world?

If Trump is elected president, it’s almost certain that the Republicans will control Congress.

It’s true that many congressional leaders have publicly denounced Trump this cycle, but one of the reasons they feel free in doing so is because he is currently trailing so far in the polls that they think the chance of him winning is unlikely. If he does win, it means that he has far more support than they assumed, support that they’ll have to rely on if they depend on re-election.

If they oppose President Trump, at best, they can assume that Donald Trump will tell his followers not to support them for their re-election campaign. Trump’s gone on the record as saying he is willing to use personal money to sponsor attack ads against Republicans who were not “loyal” to him during the primaries.

If Donald Trump is put in power, not only will the Republican Congress have a mandate from their voters to support him, but they have the very real prospect of a president from their party campaigning against them if they show anything less than complete loyalty. They will not prevent his policies from becoming law.

This campaign showed that the Republican party, even those in office, are unable to control Candidate Trump. There is no reason to expect President Trump would behave differently. 

 

The “But Hillary Is Worse” Argument

If you were looking for me to bring up Hillary Clinton, congratulations, you found it. If you scrolled all the way to this section, I ask that you read what I wrote above because I think it’s important. We need to stop judging Donald Trump on a curve because he does not align with Conservative values on a lot of points. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about Hillary Clinton here. I want to devote another post to this Hillary, but this is why I don’t think the argument against Clinton works as a reason to support Trump.

To start, I disagree that Hillary Clinton is worse. There are at least a few conservatives who agree with me. But that’s not the argument I want to make. Think about what I mentioned above, with keeping the President in check.

If Hillary Clinton wins, it’s increasingly likely, thanks to Trump’s war with the GOP, that she might have a slim Democratic Majority in Congress. But even if Democrats win the newly toss-up elections caused by Trump’s Campaign, the best they can hope for is a slim advantage.

More importantly, President Clinton wouldn’t have the mandate President Trump would have. Trump is a populist candidate, Hillary Clinton is not. The gains she’s seeing in polls recently are from voters who want to stop Trump more than they want to see her in the White House. Congress will know this and know that if they want to hold their seats, the best path isn’t to act as a rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton.

She’ll have an easier time passing laws with a Democratic Majority, it’s true, but it is by no means a sure thing. It’s also very unlikely that she’ll react in the way Donald Trump would if people oppose her, making it more likely that people will. One last thing to consider: Historically, the party that loses the presidential election has a high chance of retaking congress during mid-terms, which would be 2018.

That might lead to a gridlocked congress, which while not ideal, is far better than one that refuses to question the President.

 

Dump Donald Trump

The purpose of this argument is not to convince you to vote for Hillary Clinton but to hopefully get yourself to question why you would support a candidate that is against everything I understand Conservatism and Christianity to represent.

He is uncouth, unqualified, and unfit to hold office, let alone ascend to the presidency. 

You Still Only Have Two Choices

This election the major parties nominated two of the most unpopular candidates in history. While both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have people who are enthusiastic about voting for them, many citizens aren’t. Instead, they find themselves voting for someone just to keep the other candidate out of office, call it electing the lesser of two evils.

For someone who’s dissatisfied with both candidates, or they feel that both are “equally bad,” (I disagree, but that’s another discussion for another time), they start looking for options, any options. This year, for the first time in several election seasons, potentially millions of Americans are taking a hard look at third-party candidates who promise you the choice of a candidate who better aligns with your values. The Libertarian, Green, and other parties all want your vote, telling you that you don’t have to settle for just the lesser of two evils.

But if you want to elect the next president, you still only have two choices. I’m not going to tell you that you’re wasting your vote because I don’t think you are. But I do think that you should think carefully about voting third party, particularly if you live in a swing state.

 

270 To Win

The third parties do a good job of letting you know one of the reason’s it’s so hard for them to participate in the election: The election commission is not a neutral party. Yes, it’s non-partisan, but only in the sense that it’s made up of Republicans and Democrats, no third party’s need to apply. This commission determines who can participate in the debate, how difficult it will be to get your name on a state ballot, and a host of other issues. It is a real, valid concern and something that should be addressed.

But it’s not why you’re unlikely to ever see our government with more than two viable political parties. You can blame the Electoral College for that.

If you’ve spent any time studying American Presidential races, you know that the president isn’t elected by the popular vote. Instead, each state has a certain number of electoral college votes, and the candidate that wins the popular vote in that state takes all of the electoral college votes (with the exception of Nebraska and Main, who can split their votes). The first candidate to reach 270 electoral votes, which is just over 50% of the total 538, wins.

In general, the candidate who wins the popular vote wins the electoral college, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s theoretically possible to win the presidency with as little as 22% of the popular vote, though this is highly unlikely.

The electoral college is what makes is all but impossible for a viable three (or four) party system to function. To win a state, you need more than 50% of the popular vote. Even if Gary Johnson got 49.9999% of half the states in the country, he would end the election without a single electoral vote.

 

Not Wasted But Inefficient

This is why some people argue that you’re “wasting” your vote by voting third party. Since there’s no realistic way for them to win, you’re in a sense casting your ballot for someone you know will lose. But that’s not the only reason to vote for a third party.

If a candidate gets 5% of the popular vote, the next election their party is officially considered a “minor” party and they can access the matching fund set up by the Federal Election Campaigns act. This would give them a pretty substantial pool of cash to draw from, making it easier to get on the ballot and run advertising than if you had to fund the campaign on your own.

Voting for a third party also sends a message to the primary parties: the issues of that third party matter. If the GOP hopes to recapture a Libertarian voter, they might need to address small government or personal liberty a focus. A democrat courting Green Party voters will have to make environmental issues a cornerstone, not an afterthought, of their campaign.

Swing States & Third Parties

The “wasting your vote” language comes into play when you live in a swing state, such as Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania. In these elections, the electoral college votes can be decided by just a few thousand votes. The logic goes that if you vote for a Libertarian and the state goes to a Democrat, then you helped them win because, in general, a Libertarian would align themselves closer to the GOP than they would the DNC, so if you didn’t vote third party you might’ve helped the Republicans carry the state.

This assumption usually has data to back it up, since in previous elections voters who said they wanted to vote Libertarian voted Republican if they were only given two choices. There is, of course, nothing that forces you to vote for the GOP if you can’t vote Libertarian of vote Democrat if you can’t vote Green. You can choose to vote for the other party, choose not to vote, or cast the official “no vote” protest vote ballots have, signaling that you want “none of the above.”

This two party system is terrible, and it needs to end. But in my opinion, the way to do this isn’t by casting a single protest vote every four years. Libertarians, Greens, Constitution Party, Justice Party, and any other group that wants to change politics needs to start running locally.  

If you’re passionate about Libertarian causes, support someone running for local office (or do it yourself!). In general, getting on a local election ballot is easier than even running for a statewide office, and the more these parties are seen in their communities, the more it will normalize them.

We also need to push to change how elections are handled. This is another post entirely, and I’m not sure I know what the answer is, but the electoral college will continue to prevent viable third parties until we change it.

 

It Still Comes Down To Two Choices

So if you hate both candidates and think they’re both evil and you live in a swing state, you still only have two choices. If you haven’t, I highly encourage you to read up on the policies offered by not just the candidate you support, but the two main candidates you don’t. I’m not talking about the news, or hot takes, but read their policies, listen to their speeches. Then ask yourself if you truly, deeply believe that both of them would be equally as bad for most Americans, or America itself.

If you think that one candidate is better than the other, even if you still find them to be completely imperfect, I would strongly encourage you to consider still voting for them. I stand with you in changing the system 100%, but I don’t think that a vote for president will do it.

If, however, you feel that both candidates are 100% equally bad, that if given the choice between the two, you’d choose not voting, then on November 5th cast your ballot for your third party. I might not agree with you, I’d want to discuss this with you, but it is your right to cast your vote as you please and voting is never a waste. But when you cast your ballot, be sure to look at the other offices, such as senate, house, and local campaigns. These offices matter and too many people forget to cast the votes in them.

It’s always your choice. Choose wisely.

Black Lives Matter

fibonacciblue image black lives matter

I’ve been trying to find a way to process this week, to have it make sense, and I keep failing. Alton Sterling was shot multiple times in an altercation with the local police, because of an anonymous 911 call. Less than a day later, in a different state, Philando Castile was shot and left to bleed to death after a traffic stop.

In the days that followed, protests and marches began in cities around the country. These protests were overwhelmingly peaceful. In Dallas, a rally just ended when a gunman opened fire on the Dallas police. He killed five officers and wounded seven others. The officers that lost their lives were Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, and Brent Thompson.

The next day, at least two other officers were shot. One was attacked during a traffic stop in Missouri, while another answered a 911 burglary call in Georgia and then was ambushed when he responded.

The protests continue. The violence continues. This is sadly nothing new.

I don’t know how to process what’s going on. I’m not shocked anymore because I realized the other week whenever I see a non-famous person’s name, or a city, trending online I just assume it’s because someone died.

I’m sad. I’m sad because people are dying, because Tamir Rice, a child, was shot and killed for playing in a park with a toy gun and I remember spending hours in a park with my own as a child. I’m sad because John Crawford was shot and killed in a Walmart for walking around the store with a BB gun was killed when I remember countless men doing the same at my own store and allowed to live. I’m sad because a Eric Garner lost his life for not being licensed to sell cigarettes.

I’m confused because I don’t know how to respond when this happens. I’m angry because I know that I have the luxury of being able to decide how to respond. That I can choose to remain silent on the issue and realistically convince myself that I can do this because it doesn’t impact me. I’m disheartened because I see so many making this choice.

The protests continue. The violence continues. The centre cannot hold.

I don’t understand the problem. I don’t know if I ever can fully understand the problem because I am not black, I am not a police officer, I am not someone who was raised to fear police officers. But I know there is a problem, and I know that as long as there is a problem, people will continue to die because of it.

Police Brutality Is Real

After Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer, the federal government launched an investigation into the police department to see if they could find any evidence of systemic problems. The results are troubling.

The study found that person’s of color made up a disproportionate number of the arrests, and fines, given by the department. They found clear evidence of these disparities coming as the result of unlawful bias and stereotyping on behalf of the department.

In Chicago, the mayor said that the police were forced into a “fetal” position out of fear for unfairly becoming the center of media outrage. An independent audit of the force was completed, and the results are not surprising. You can read the whole report here.  Some of the key findings include:

  • Overwhelming Evidence of Racism or Racial Targeting
  • Random But Pervasive Physical and Verbal Abuse By the Police
  • Deprivation of Basic Human and Constitutional Rights
  • Lack of Individual and Systemic Accountability

They’re not unique. Nationwide, police departments paid out more than one billion dollars in police misconduct cases in the past five years.

A Lack Of Accountability

Police departments might pay out billions to settle claims, but in many cases the cops keep their jobs, and so the abuse continues to happen. This isn’t because people aren’t reporting these incidents when they occur. They are. But they’re being ignored and dismissed.

From 2012-2014, the Los Angeles Police Department received 1,356 complaints of bias. The department’s internal review board claimed that they could find no evidence of bias in any of the cases. The chances of this actually being the case are statistically zero.

In 2015, the Washington Post tried to investigate every case where someone was shot and killed by the police. One of the frustrating things about finding this information is that there is no nationwide database that you can search to find this information. The closest you have is the FBI database, which includes all deaths that are voluntarily reported. Less than half of the 18,000 police departments report their data to the agency. In the first year the Post kept their own records on officer-related homicides, their number was double what the FBI’s was.

By researching public court records, they discovered just 54 cases where police officers had to defend their actions in court. Not 54 convictions, 54 cases. Of these, just 11 cases resulted in convictions.  And this is just for shootings. The New York Times found that our legal system heavily favors law enforcement. In most cases, the trials never make it past the Grand Jury.

In practically every other type of case that goes before a Grand Jury, an overwhelming majority get approved for trial, but if the defendant is a cop, almost every case won’t go forward. While the number of indictments is increasing thanks to increased media scrutiny, the issue is nowhere near resolved. And these are just deaths, not misconduct as a whole.

On of the things that makes accountability so hard is that the few police officers who do come forward and point out wrongdoing are immediately seen as traitors. When a government official acknowledges racism, police officers will literally refuse to do their jobs.

The CATO institute operates a police misconduct tracker. On it, they provide a summary of every case that they can find where an officer is charged, or convicted of misconduct. They don’t do this because they hate cops. They do it because accountability and the rule of law should matter and apply to everyone.

Our Wrongheaded Response To Injustice

When someone is shot and killed by a police officer, or a video surfaces of someone being brutally assaulted, there’s understandably outrage from the community impacted. But unacceptably, there’s a lot of insensitive, and sometimes racist, response as well.

We Try To Justify The Shootings

When a person of color is assaulted or killed, we dig for dirt from their past. We’ll find a criminal record, or an incriminating Facebook photo or post and pass it around as “proof” that they were bad people. All the while we’ll ignore that according to the constitution, having a record does not mean that police are immediately allowed to murder them.

When someone dies in a mass shooting, we don’t dig through their past to see how they deserved it, we paint them as saints. When people are killed in a terrorist attack we call them heroes. When people of color die at the hands of police, we shrug and say they were bad people anyway, so we shouldn’t question how they died.

We Say They Had It Coming

Once we write them off because of their past, we’ll look at the issue at hand. We’ll tell people to “calm down” because we need to wait for an investigation before we know the facts. We’ll say this with a straight face because most of us never bothered to look at just how unlikely a real investigation is to occur.

We’ll excuse abject brutality with the catch-all “they were resisting arrest.” We’ll insist that if they were just respectful to the officer, if they did exactly as they were told, none of this would happen so obviously they did it. We always assume the officer innocent and the victim guilty. We ignore the fact that many of the people we’re telling to shut up and wait for the facts personally have negative experiences with law enforcement. If they don’t, they may know others who do.

But since WE can’t recall ever having a problem with the police, since we know that the rule of law exists, we can write off any claims of wrongdoing because officers just don’t do that stuff unless provoked.

We tell them that a broken taillight deserves a death sentence because the deceased obviously made the officer feel unsafe. We tell them that getting kicked repeatedly in the skull is an acceptable punishment for resisting arrest. We’re saying that the police are justified in using almost any actions they choose to, no matter what the victim did to “earn” it.

We Tell Them That All Lives Matter

When they shout that their lives matter, even if they’re black, we tell them they’re being selfish because they should really be saying “All Lives Matter.” We’ll pull up facts and figures about the number of white people that die to police, or mention Black on Black crime, or gang violence and tell them they should care about that instead, never actually listening to them and realizing that they do.

Tellingly, the only time we’ll talk about All Lives Matter, or inner city crime is when we’re trying to tell others that their grief and outrage are unwarranted. We won’t say “All lives matter” when Eric Garner has the life choked out of him in front of us. We pull up his prior history and write him off as a thug. We say that even though the officer used an illegal hold, banned by his office, he was right in doing so. 

We don’t decry inner city violence when we vote, time after time, to defund programs and initiatives that hope to fix it. We say all lives matter, but our actions show that we don’t believe it. 

I want Police To Be Safe Too

After the tragedy in Dallas protesters worked with the police to try and find the shooters. The Black Lives Matter movement came out and unequivocally condemned the shootings. Yes, some people online acted poorly, but the movement didn’t, even as many in the media and law enforcement called them the terrorist organization that caused this.

I know that most cops, an overwhelming majority of cops, are good people trying to protect their communities. The problem is, that for many person’s of color, they’re terrified of what will happen if the next time they’re pulled over, it’s not by one of those good cops.

Don Lemon, A CNN news anchor, said that the reason he complies with police as respectfully as he can whenever he’s stopped. He doesn’t do this out of respect, or because he’s trying to be nice. He does it because he’s afraid that if he doesn’t, he’ll be dead. In black communities, children are raised not to respect the police, but to fear them.

Fear doesn’t make cops safer.

I don’t want cops getting shot. I don’t want anyone to look at someone and judge them based on the uniform they wear. I don’t want communities to be hostile to them. I want them to get the training they need to de-escalate situations without feeling like their only only option is violence.

In 2015, of the nearly 1,000 people that died due to being shot by police, 250 of them were experiencing a mental or emotional break, something most officers do not know how to deal appropriately to someone in this situation. Our officers, that get put in harms way, don’t get the training they need. 

Because I don’t want innocent civilians getting shot, but I know far too many that find it acceptable. I don’t want anyone to look at another person and judge them because of the color of their skin, but I know they do. The centre cannot hold.

Black Lives Matter

That is why I say Black Lives Matter. Not because I don’t think that “all lives matter.” Of course they do. The fact that so many think that this is a point that needs to be stated is exactly the problem. All Lives Matter, but all lives should matter equally. Right now, for many in the Black community, they live in fear because their lives don’t.

I don’t know what it’s like to be persecuted for the color of my skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be followed by law enforcement just because they think I look suspicious. I’ve never had a neighbor call the cops on me because I was out at night so they assumed I was up to no good. That’s why I want to listen to those who do, because I want to make it stop.

Black Lives Matter

 

 

The Image for this post is by Fibonacci Blue. It is licensed under CC 2.0.

We Need To Stop Ignoring Our Culture Of Hate

Orlando Shooting Vigil

In Orlando, a man walked into a nightclub and killed or injured more than 100 people in one of the worst mass shootings our country ever experienced.

In the wake of the tragedy, the media tried pinning down the killer’s motive, with most reporting on the fact that the shooter was a Muslim, and apparently called 911 prior to the attack to claim allegiance to Dae’sh. A comparative few sources noted that the killer had a history of homophobic outbursts, and many politicians expressed sympathy to the victims of the attack without ever acknowledging that his victims were from the LGBTQ community.

If there’s anything positive to come out of this brutal attack, it’s knowing that it could’ve been a lot worse. Across the country, another would-be killer was arrested on his way to a gay pride parade armed with multiple weapons, and an explosive device.  This time, however, the attack wouldn’t be carried out by a Muslim, it wouldn’t be by someone claiming to support Dae’sh. It would be by a white teenage boy from Indiana.

It’s easy to try passing the blame for hatred off on the radicalization of Muslims because most of us don’t follow Islam. At best, what we know about it is what we hear on the news, often only the worst bits, from the most radical groups. But violent homophobia is not a trait you find only in radical Muslim communities, it’s something that’s part of our American culture.

Calling something out as wrong and demanding action is easy when the killer doesn’t look like us, but we rarely ask ourselves about our own culture, and how out own actions could make such crimes possible. What do we do when the hatred looks like us?

An American Response

In the wake of the attack, there was an outpouring of grief and horror.  Vigils occurred around the country, and around the world and the line for blood donations in Orlando went around the block with fundraisers appearing in the hours after the attack to raise money for the victims and families. In many ways, this is the American response we imagine happening after a terrorist attack, and I think it’s what Hillary Clinton said when she wanted to go back to the “attitudes of 9/12.”

Despite our differences, despite the divisiveness this year brought to us, when there is an attack on our soil, for most Americans, this is how we respond to tragedy, with outrage and many seek a way they can help.

Unfortunately, not everyone acted this way. For some, including those who proclaimed to be following the words of Christ, they responded with a perverse joy. Before his video was removed from YouTube, an Arizona pastor praised the killings.

To him, he said that the only people that died were pedophiles and sinners.  To him, they were not the children of grieving parents, or fellow murdered citizens, they were things he was happy to be rid of. In fact, the only concern he showed is because he felt that it would be used as an excuse to take his guns away.

I want to say that he’s an outlier here, but despite being far more outspoken than most, he wasn’t the only one cheering. The Westboro Baptist Church, a controversial cult-like church known for protesting the deaths of those victimized by hate crimes, also cheered and called it God’s judgement.

Most Christians will rightly point out to you that these hateful voices don’t speak for us, that they don’t hold opinions we share, and they’d be correct in doing so. But, we’re also ignoring a larger reality when we do this. It’s not just small fringe groups spewing this hatred, it’s pastors and organizations who have the ear of those seeking positions of power ,of “Christians” positioning themselves as figureheads of what they insist is a Christian Nation. Remember, Jerry Falwell, one of the countries most outspoken evangelicals, said that it was our tolerance of homosexuality that caused 9/11. This thinking is still present in the current day.

This video clip is from a speech by Kevin Swanson at his Freedom 2015 conference. In it, he says that both the Old and New Testament call for the death of anyone who practices homosexuality. This isn’t the first time Swanson made such arguments, he has a history of them. In fact, he has a radio program where he says that elements of modern culture, including the girl scouts and women’s soccer, are ‘turning our children gay.’ And that as Christian’s, we’re called to fight a culture war for their souls.

And we can’t write Swanson off as just a relatively unknown nut job. At his Freedom conference, three presidential candidates spoke. Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz all agreed to speak at his conference, presumably to try and gain the support of his followers who think that killing people because of who they’re attracted to is an acceptable punishment.

Kevin Swanson appears to have no love for Trump, but he says that Trump will be God’s tool to help prepare our country for its destruction.

These voices don’t represent the thoughts of most, or possibly even a substantial minority of Christians, but they do represent almost the only voices regularly speaking on the topics of Homosexuality. When the world asks what Christians think about LGBTQ rights, about treating others as human beings, these are the voices they hear.

Most moderate voices, those who will say that the extremists don’t speak for them, are silent, or worse, we’ll say something along the lines of “I believe that homosexuality is a sin, but I don’t think you should kill someone for being gay.” Or, put another way “I agree with the killer’s position, he just took it too far.”

If you’re more concerned about making sure victims still know you think they’re living in sin than you are about showing concern, you’re not showing the love of Christ. Muslim Iman’s around the world expressed outrage at these attacks, as they express outrage at every other act of terror. Most of them don’t use their speeches as a podium to talk about the morality of the victims. So why do Americans?

Seeking An Excuse For Our Behavior

There’s something terrible that happens when the killer is identified as Muslim, or black, an illegal immigrant, or some other group that we’ve decided to consider as “other.” We immediately use the crime as a reason to justify our distrust or discrimination of an entire group of largely innocent people. We call for every single member of that group, or anyone we can connect to them, to apologize for the actions of the killer.  At the same time, we link every action taken by that group that we disagree with as just another piece confirming our opinions of them.

Dinesh, a popular evangelical conservative, is linking the Murderer of 50 innocents to a curious teenager in Texas who was discriminated against because he made the mistake of doing science as a Muslim. To too many, the very act of being Muslim is enough to make them hate you, and every act that any Muslim commits helps them justify their irrationality.

Contrast this to how we treated the White Christian Nationalist Dylan Roof when we went into a church and committed an act of racially motivated terrorism, or when a militant pro-life supporter murdered innocents in a Planned Parenthood.  Or think about how we reacted when two gay men were viciously attacked in Philadelphia, or the everyday violence and discrimination that members of the LGBTQ community have to face just for existing.

Compare our response to the events in Orlando with how we treat the heinous murders committed by those who aren’t a member of a minority group or something we can label quickly as “Un-American”

We don’t have TV pundits calling on every single Christian to bear responsibility for the hatred that others commit in His name. We don’t link these events to part of any broader movement, in fact, we go to great lengths to try and write all of them off as merely isolated incidents. Because as a culture, we’ve conveniently defined hatred and terrorism as things only committed by people who don’t look like us.

Blinders That Harm

Just a few short weeks ago, one of the largest national debates was over where we’d allow people to go pee. You had elected officials insisting that unless we could physically check the genitals of children, we had to bar them from going where they felt most comfortable. South Carolina passed a law, with other states rushing to follow, that actively discriminated against a group that even the lawmakers admitted were innocent.

No, we passed a law that targeted one of the groups most targeted by hate crimes for additional discrimination and distrust, because we refuse to admit that our culture, OUR CULTURE has a problem with sexual assault.

Dae’sh is a terrible, terrifying organization that exists to spread their hatred as far they can, and the threat of them seducing others into their murderous crusade is something that we should take seriously. But looking at the events in Orlando purely as an act of “Islamic Terrorism” is a myth, something we’re desperately trying to perpetuate because we don’t want to admit that what Orlando really was: a hate crime against the LGBTQ community.

Because admitting this means admitting that we also are responsible. But no matter what fictions we choose to believe, the truth remains the same. We’re responsible for this hatred, and we need to do something to stop it.

Calling It Hate

What happened in Orlando was a hate crime. Period.  

Someone targeted members of the LGBTQ community and murdered them because they were members of the LGBTQ Community. The more we learn about the killer, the more complicated his apparent motives become, but what we have to admit to ourselves is that the killer’s hatred is not unique.

Like the almost-killer from Indiana, it appears like the Orlando Shooter had a conflicted relationship with their sexuality. But where the Orlando killer was labeled a terrorist as soon as police released his name, the almost attacker in LA is already having people try to say that this is just a “lone wolf” thing. They’re interviewing his friends and family to try to paint him as just another unbalanced person, and so we can avoid culpability again.

The hatred and fear of the LGBTQ community is not something you can pin on Muslims. The murderer was an American Citizen, born in New York. He grew up in our country, and what makes his act of violence unique isn’t his faith, it’s the severity. Hate crimes against people because of their sexual orientation is depressingly common, and the attacker is rarely someone who’s identified as a Muslim.

Trying to call this an act of “Islamic Terror” is an attempt to shift the blame, to justify our own prejudices and hate by insisting that “we’d” never go that far. We demand that everyone who worships Allah be held accountable for this murder, and in the same breath absolve every other American of culpability. It’s pathetic, shortsighted, and shameful.

I’m not trying to tell you how to believe about morality. I cannot tell you what to believe, but I am asking you to think about how you respond, how you treat others, even those you disagree with. Instead of having the loudest response from the Christian community be words of hatred, we need to be there to help them with their grief. The last thing they need is something like this:

“It’s really sickening that anyone would use the rainbow flag in the context of today’s tragedy,” Schwab wrote. “The victims of this horrific tragedy were sons and daughters of God. It is a disgrace to refer to them by a reductionist reference to their sexual attractions. The rainbow flag is propaganda for the false “gay” construct and lies that continue to oppress millions of people. It is [a] symbol of evil that destroys temporal and eternal life in the same way that this terrorist destroyed earthly life. BOTH are evil.”

Source

That speaker is Jeremy Schwab, a well-known “ex-gay” Christian activist that helped write a texas law legitimizing conversion therapy. Again, this is not just some fringe individual. He is not an outlier, he’s part of a pattern. More importantly, he represents a type of response that I’ve seen from many on social media. He strips the victims of their identity, removes the references to this being a hate crime, before he offers them any sympathy.

What I’m asking is before we let yet another hate crime get whitewashed and passed off as something we have no control over, we take a good hard look at the culture we participate and ask ourselves if we could see the same thing happening again. The answer, sadly, is yes.

It’s time to stop trying to pin this hate on some outside force and claim that we’re not responsible.  We are responsible. Calls to love one another don’t mean a damn unless we act on them.

Our culture is broken. Insisting that it’s some outside force corrupting us will only allow the cancer to consume us from within. We need to be better than the hatred, or it will continue to define us.

 

Image from Fibonacci Blue showing a vigil for the Orlando Shooting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Use with permission via the Creative Commons 2.0 License.  

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