July 13th: It’s Getting Coaled in Here

I don’t understand coal. Sure, I understand it is an energy source and a big provider of jobs for a large section of American workers in certain regions. I get that, as coal’s value on the global market decreases, life gets harder for those whose income is tied to it. I’m even on board with the idea that, as the industry changes, the American government has an obligation to ensuring that the people aren’t left hung out to dry.

What I don’t understand is the desire to preserve and prop up the coal industry that seems to be being left behind by the innovation of other fields. President Trump repeated promised during his campaign the support and stimulus of coal and its workers. It seems to be a common trope for Republicans. That, though, defies the logic of the conservative party’s stance on other, similar issues.

Why is it that a child born on the southside of Chicago doesn’t deserve federal funding for a better school while we’re supposed to help a coal miner keep his job in a dying field? If the answer is because one is contributing to the work force, then we have a very short-sighted view of our economic plan. What about a fast food worker who can’t make ends meet on a minimum wage? Why leave them to struggle in an industry doing fine for itself while an equally educated mine worker gets a helping hand? For the party that promotes capitalism and ignoring the plight of the “little guy” in favor of “fair” competition, this seems nonsensical.

The liberal thing to do in this situation would be to take the time and spend the money to retrain and educate coal workers for new, future proofed trades. Why not take those in an outdated field and push them toward technology and programming jobs, pushing for a more modern future and success for our nation? This is, of course, time consuming and expensive, but has the chance to solve the root of the issue, not just push it back until it can be another administration’s problem.

So the two options appear to be to either help job train for the future or to let them fight for themselves. Why is there so much noise for propping up a fading, environmentally taxing industry? Because coal miners vote, and it’s a great way to score easy points to promise job security and governmental support.

Nobody wants to hear that their work is losing value, especially when families have been in the business for generations. Nobody wants to have to learn a new craft, to start over again. And everyone wants to believe that politicians are personally concerned with their lives and the challenges they face.

Yet, at a certain point, we have to honestly grapple with the issue at hand. How do we, as a country, ensure our greatest success and stability moving forward? We have taken the coal industry and bought an extra large package of band-aids in the hopes of taking care of a case of cancer. Until we are honestly willing to look for legitimate, long-term solutions, we are going to have to continue to embrace the hypocrisy of a plan that doesn’t want to fix a problem, but rather to let it fester until we have a crisis.

June 1st: Losing Our Heads Over Things

Comedy only works when it is funny. This week, Kathy Griffin was not funny when she posted a photo of herself holding a prop that looked like Donald Trump’s severed head. It was over the top, it was crude, and it wasn’t the kind of thing we should be joking about in a country that has an evil streak of violence that we can’t seem to overcome.

She was swiftly fired by CNN, she apologized profusely, and she will, no doubt, go through a period of banishment from the spotlight. She is not the first person to do something stupid and wind up with a scandal, and she most certainly won’t be the last.

Kathy Griffin was wrong. She was thoughtless, she was over the top, and she did something that should have been comedy but instead was uncomfortable and offensive. The response by Donald Trump, though, was what caught my attention.

In a tweet to the public, as he likes to do, Trump said “Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

Now, he’s absolutely right. Kathy Griffin should be, and seems to be ashamed. And he’s also right: No child should be made fearful of their father’s safety and well-being in a terrible joke. But here’s where we run into a problem. Donald Trump attempted to spur up compassion for him and his family by claiming to be a victim, a poor soul who hasn’t done anything to deserve this.

Let’s shift that thinking for a moment. How does the President think an 11 year old with a parent with a pre-existing condition feel when Trump ensures that they will not be covered by insurance? How does the President think a transgender 11 year old feels when told that they have no place to use the bathroom in their school? How does the President think an 11 year old feels when the government puts forth legislation that makes it easier for people to get guns to bring to school, rather than harder for people to get guns? How does the President think an 11 year old child of immigrants feels knowing that their president considers them to be the enemy?

The argument that we should do anything with consideration for how this may affect those around Trump is no longer on the table. It is no longer viable to ask for compassion from the general public when it has been made perfectly clear that no compassion will be returned in exchange. If anything, Trump is now getting the chance to experience the kinds of questions and nightmares that parents all across the country have to quell every day. And not all problems are as easy to explain away as a comedian with an ill-considered joke.

Kathy Griffin did something that was disrespectful and inappropriate. She is being punished for it, and things will soon return to normal. But, we need to remind the President that while he absolutely shouldn’t be experiencing these kinds of things as a human being, he cannot cry unfair play simply because he now has to explain away the actions of an ignorant person who made the world seem scary. American parents have been having to do that for months already. Welcome to the Trump America, Mr. President.

May 25th: Balancing Our Mentality With Our Budget

In a satirical column in USA Today, I learned that Kentucky is the state that most depends on Federal assistance to run their operations. I also knew, based on this election and every one that came before it, that Kentucky tends to be one of the most Republican-friendly states on voting day.

This comes as a bit of a shock. How is it that a state that depends so much on the help from the national government can so regularly support the political party that wants a small central power, with the real strength being given to the states? If that was the case, Kentucky would be dooming itself by biting the hand that feeds it, in favor of being left to its own (rather poor) devices.

This kind of political dissonance is baffling to me, and begs to question: what is it that Republican voters like about their Republican candidates that they would be willing to sacrifice themselves in that way? We know there are pet projects that the Republican party supports that are hot-button issues in places like Kentucky: guns, abortion, same-sex marriage, and others. But, on the larger scale, these are small issues when confronted by the fact that, if all goes according to the Republicans’ plan, states like Kentucky will be left out to dry.

It makes very little sense that a state so dependent on the national government for support would be willing to so consistently vote for the party that seeks to make government “small enough to drown in the bathtub.” And it should be for even greater concern when we consider what would happen if the people of Kentucky actually got what they have been asking for.

May 24th: A Pain We Must Endure

I was listening to NPR today, and heard a report discussing the aftermath of the terror attack in Manchester. While comparing the incident to other examples of mass destruction in recent European history, the reporter mentioned that he was noticing less devastating grief, and more resigned sadness, as if the people of England have become desensitized to the terrible things of the world.

In that one instant, my heart broke. In discussing the death of dozens of young people at a concert, we are no longer shocked, horrified, or surprised. These kinds of incidents have become part of what it means to be a citizen of the world, as if terror is something that is natural and normal. Simply put, it isn’t, and we need to be reminded of that.

It is actually an incredibly human thing to desensitize ourselves to the horrors of the world. We wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we fell into devastation every time something bad happens in the world. Over time, we come to terms with the kind of things that we know are part of life. It’s why we ask “was he old?” when told of someone’s. Does it matter that he was old? Does that make it hurt less to a loved one? In a way, yes. We have programmed ourselves that the death of the old should be less sad than the death of a young person. It isn’t necessarily true; each individual gets to determine how they feel. But, in our subconscious, we insulate ourselves from losing ourselves in our grief.

Devastation and grief isn’t necessarily preferable. But the important thing we need to remind ourselves is that this isn’t how life is supposed to be. This isn’t normal, it isn’t natural, it isn’t something we need to learn to live with. A human being reached out and tore the life away from dozens of people, cutting their lives off entirely, and devastating the lives of countless others. Hate like that can never be made normal. Violence like that can never be allowed to become expected.

It is a terrible feeling to see the world falling apart and not know what to do about it. To get constant text messages and updates with acts of violence and not know how to help, how to make it better. But we need to live with that desperation, that passionate need for the world to be better than this. Because the other option is that the world continue as it is, and that simply isn’t acceptable. We have to be inspired to find a way to stop this hatred and this terror, and we aren’t going to be able to do that if we numb ourselves to the pain. The only way to make it hurt less is for us to figure out a way to happen less.

May 5th: Low Unemployment, High Expectations

This morning, the Labor Department released statistics regarding job growth and unemployment rates for the month of April. Job growth was up by 211,000 jobs last month, while unemployment dropped to 4.4 percent, the lowest it has been in nearly a decade.

While a low unemployment sounds like great news for the average American, and more jobs means more opportunities, the time is quickly upon us to begin to wonder what the ramifications are going to be for the citizens who used the November election to ensure that their voice was being heard. For many in this country, times have been hard, and a status quo wasn’t going to be acceptable for turning around the fortunes that left too many Americans struggling to make ends meet.

In an NPR report this morning, it was noted that growth in technology fields have helped to show that boost in the economy, while brick-and-mortar retail stores have been struggling to keep up with online sales. This demonstrates an opposite side to the coin, regarding average Americans. While growth is growth, and generally a positive, growth in the technology field tends to help the highly educated generally better-off in society, while retail opportunities generally tend to be the place where those in need of immediate help turn. In that regard, not all growth is considered equal, and results in a multitude of different ramifications, depending on who is being assisted in any given moment.

The public has been asking for the government to take interest in their affairs for a long time. They expect to see quick results, and an immediate impact on their own lives. While statistics like the ones released today spell an initial success for the job market and for the Department of Labor, it remains to be seen whether or not the day-to-day lives of Americans are going to be changed for the better.

 

April 19th: The O’Reilly Factor Has Been Subtracted

Well, it only took a month for Fox to figure out what most others have come to terms with years ago. Today, Fox news cut ties with host Bill O’Reilly, more than two weeks after a New York Times article showed a long history of litigation against the talk-show host accusing him of sexual harassment.

O’Reilly, the host of one of America’s most popular political talk shows, has had a long history of pushing the envelope. From arguing with guests on his show to a near constant attack on the Obama administration, O’Reilly has fed conservative America exactly what they have wanted, often at the expense of being entirely truthful.

What is of note particularly in this situation is the time it took for Fox to come to the decision, and what it means for political activism. Very little has changed in the two weeks following the release of allegations against O’Reilly. In fact, according to the New York Times, the report may not have even been news, as the claim was that Fox supported O’Reilly through his legal troubles. That being said, his firing indicates that either the claims against him had reached a particular critical mass, or that the desire of the American public had finally reached the ears of the all-too-often tone-deaf when it comes to sexual assault and sexism.

With characters like Bill O’Reilly and even Donald Trump piling up with a long history of sexist, degrading behavior (if not actually assaulting), the political right has had to find an answer to the moral question: how can we support or buy into the things these people say when their behavior is so detestable? This is a huge opportunity for Fox News to move in a direction of more respectable personalities, with the hopes of getting rid of the distractions that take away from the political opinions.

As someone who has never been a fan of Fox News, O’Reilly’s show has always been of particular concern to me, as it puts a morally bankrupt individual in control of spinning political realities for a public that needs to be given the information with a particular skew. The general public has hopefully learned through this situation that we are in a position to demand characters who will give us our news without the ethical issues that we have come to expect.

With the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Tomi Lahren both losing their jobs within weeks of one another, the faces of conservative television are changing. Whether they move forward or backward is still very much to be seen, but now is the time for the public to flex their muscles and demand a certain level of integrity that we haven’t been receiving to this point.

April 12th: It Isn’t What Sean Spicer Said, It’s What He Meant…and That’s Just As Scary

When Sean Spicer says something ridiculous, I’m usually fine to chock it up to an ignorant loudmouth who just can’t seem to help himself. This week, though, he officially crossed over into new territory, and not only profoundly messed up, but blundered every opportunity to fix it.

In a press conference earlier in the week, Spicer was discussing America’s use of force against Syria. He was talking about the atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad, and attempting to justify why America needed to get involved. To accomplish this, he made the statement that even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on his people. To which, of course, all American Jews said “of course he did, you epic moron.”

Now, it would have been one thing if he said that while he was swept up in the moment. But, one journalist gave him a chance to redeem himself, asking him to clarify what he meant. Spicer, realizing he had gotten himself into hot water, attempted to walk back his statements. In a later press release, he made the comment that Hitler had never used chemical weapons on HIS OWN people, but the atrocities of Hitler shouldn’t be undervalued, and it wasn’t what he meant. To make matters worse, he referred to concentration camps as “Holocaust Centers,” which sounds more like guest services at a tourist attraction than death camps where millions of Jews and other marginalized people were murdered en mass.

At first, his blunder could have been swept away as having been caught up in the moment and saying something foolish. That could have been forgotten, if not forgiven. When he had plenty of time to craft a response, clarify his point, and do what he could to mitigate the problem, he instead decided to say that Hitler hadn’t ever attacked his own people, implying that German Jews weren’t really Germans, and dehumanizing them in much the same way that Hitler had. Not only was Spicer dumb enough to use Hitler as his example, but in some ways he literally bought into the deranged and horrifying thinking of the Nazis.

The defense of Spicer will be that of course that wasn’t what he meant, and that we are all just being too sensitive. But, the reality is, Spicer WAS trying to insinuate that Assad’s actions were worse than Hitler’s. He was attempting to say that America did the right thing, because if we didn’t, it would get to THAT level of bad. By saying this, Spicer so entirely undervalues and disrespects the experience of the Holocaust, and directly attacks the Jewish community (and others) across the world who know all-too-well what “worse” looks like.

American Judaism has been under attack for months. We have been threatened, defaced, belittled, and marginalized. To this point, the White House hasn’t done nearly enough to protect or defend the rights of the Jewish community, and has demonstrated zero interest in making sure that the kind of anti-semitism of the the first half of the 20th century.

Now, the man who speaks with the voice of the White House has the audacity to belittle the Jewish experience during the Holocaust. In February, Trump failed to mention the Jews at all in connection to the Holocaust. Now, Spicer states directly that the Jews weren’t real Germans, so Hitler wasn’t killing “his own people.” We have now crossed a line from the blunders and goofs that we have come to expect from the Trump White House, and crossed into the kind of underhanded attacks that should never be taken out against a group of Americans in this country.

Hitler treated us like we weren’t real Germans. But Jews damn well are real Americans, and it’s about time that the office of the president treated us as such. Sean Spicer’s comments were ignorant, were stupid, were insensitive, and were wrong. And he must be dealt with appropriately. If he is not, than that is a not-so-subtle reflection of agreement from the President, something that cannot be ignored or overlooked.