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Playground Politics for the Trump Era

We should’ve seen it coming.

The moment Senate Republicans refused to hear Judge Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination—screaming “La La La” with their fingers jammed inside their ears, no doubt—our democracy transformed into the middle-aged, predominantly male version of Mean Girls.

“You can’t sit with us!”

Republicans were determined to attain ‘Queen Bee’ status no matter who got burned in their wake. Most didn’t seem to care how such actions might undermine democratic tradition, as they were merely out for revenge against President Obama. Garland’s credentials were hardly relevant—his bid floundered before it even had the chance to flourish.

But now, as Senate Republicans once again work to subvert our country’s founding principles by stealing health care from 22 million of Americas most vulnerable citizens behind closed doors, it’s clear to see that these behaviors weren’t the exception, but instead, the new rule.

Melodramatic as it may sound, Donald J. Trump’s fledgling presidency, and the contentious campaign on which it was built, exacerbates this trend toward infantile impulsivity. After all, those drafting the latest version of the health care bill essentially established an offshoot of the boys’ club we all know D.C. to be. At this point, it’s not even far fetched to imagine these 13 men congregating in some makeshift treehouse with a “No Girls Allowed” sign tacked to the door.

For modern Republicans, party “trumps” people, so to speak. Despite the fact that these elected officials were chosen to represent their constituents long before Trump moved into the neighborhood, they seem desperate to remain in the good graces of the curmudgeon-in-chief. Few have had the backbone thus far to speak out against Trump’s polarizing policies, not because they agree with his views necessarily, but because they don’t want to lose their seat at the lunch table.

Most Republicans are so unprepared to defend their actions, in fact, that they’ve actually tried (and failed) to curtail press freedoms within the halls of Congress. Let’s just say, these so-called leaders never would’ve survived my eighth grade history class. Our teacher, Mr. Finn, warned us that, if we crossed paths in the hallway outside our designated class time, we might still be subject to an on-site pop quiz. No one enjoys being caught off guard, but when your grade’s on the line, you’ve got to use any opportunity you can to excel.

Of course, we are talking about the party that used the national debate stage to argue about the implications of male hand size, so perhaps shining in the spotlight isn’t their strong suit.

But at the end of the day, the bell tolls for those who’ve compromised their dignity to appease the man who, judging by the true results of the 2016 election, wasn’t actually the most popular candidate in America. Delaying the vote on a bill that’s more reminiscent of a death sentence cannot and will not absolve this group of the guilt associated with their methods, either. Their colleagues—on both sides of the aisle—must hold them accountable for its content and its creation.

Trump himself deemed the bill “mean” in a private meeting with Senate Republicans—and he’s the Regina George of this entire mess, so that speaks volumes. Yet, even if the bill still isn’t as “kind” as he’d prefer, there’s no doubt that he’d sign it into law if it manages to pass. Like the rest of his cohorts, he’s determined to destroy Obama’s legacy by any means possible.

From climate change to Cuban relations, Trump will scribble his name on any executive order or piece of legislation that undoes Obama’s landmark achievements, even if it means compromising America’s future in the process. He’s all about spectacle, not substance. “Getting things done” means nothing if, in the end, everything’s come undone.

Maybe, if we promise to stick a gold star at the top of each document that crosses his desk, Trump will finally sign something that benefits the greater good.

 

Who Are You to Criticize Someone Else’s Happiness?

Every time tragedy strikes, celebrities and school choirs come together to sing “What the World Needs Now Is Love” in an effort to spread peace. When faced with immense sadness, we do everything in our power to emphasize the good and eliminate the bad. But the moment anyone expresses true happiness, it’s as if every Negative Nancy on the planet unites behind one giant megaphone to tout their disdain—those feelings of euphoria are clearly unfounded and they’re here to tell you why.

Last week, for instance, comedian Patton Oswalt and actress Meredith Salenger took to social media to confirm their engagement. While such announcements usually elicit an outpouring of “likes” and emoji-laced exclamations, Internet enthusiasts took the opportunity to hunker down behind their screens and anonymously expound their unsolicited opinions. You see, Mr. Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly in April 2016 and, because he’s been so honest and forthcoming about his ensuing grief, these commenters clearly deserve to voice their concerns before these two consenting adults proceed with their impending marriage.

For some reason, the Average Joe seems to think they’re entitled to rain on someone else’s parade just because the people in question happen to be celebrities. (Call me crazy, but living life in the limelight shouldn’t mean you must silently endure such abuse.) In this case, Mr. Oswalt’s critics chastised him for “moving on too quickly” after his wife’s death. Yet I can’t help but wonder—what constitutes “too soon” and who are these naysayers to judge?

There’s no doubt that Mr. Oswalt was crushed by the loss of his wife. His gut-wrenching Facebook posts and subsequent interviews are testament to his undying love for Ms. McNamara. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve this new love he’s found. Loving once doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to love again, timing be damned. His life was torn to shreds with no warning, so why would this man—this man who knows how precious every minute can be—wait for the rest of his life to begin just because complete strangers might not approve?

In this situation, the only other party besides Mr. Oswalt and Ms. Salenger who has any real right to their opinion would be Mr. Oswalt’s 8-year-old daughter, Alice. Judging by Ms. Salenger’s recent Instagram posts, however, she’s definitely onboard. Who are we to deny this young girl another person who loves her? More love doesn’t dilute the love that already exists. Instead, that love grows and expands until it consumes all those touched by its warmth and its light.

If you’re that interested in judging others, purchase a gavel—that way you can whack yourself across the knuckles every time you consider adding your two cents. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. No matter how transparent someone might seem online, you’ll likely never know the full story.

To put it simply, love and let love. After all, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

Images courtesy of Meredith Salenger’s Instagram

Trump’s War on Women Includes Mother Nature

Women’s bodies are always under public scrutiny. We’re on display from the moment we’re born. Why do you think so many of the naked babies featured in films and advertisements are clearly girls? Even before we learn to command our own bodily functions, our bodies are not our own.

And ever since Trump and his cohorts came to town, it seems almost illegal to inhabit the female form.

Sexual assault victims, as it stands, will soon be treated as accomplices of their own attack if the GOP has anything to say. Under Trumpcare, victims will no longer have access to safe abortion services, should the need arise, leading them to take matters into their own hands or carry the child to term—an alternative to the traditional life sentence. Because rape will soon count as a pre-existing condition, victims likely won’t be able to afford maternity care and mental health services either, forcing them to pay—both monetarily and emotionally—for the sins trespassed against them.

Of course, while women are nothing more than “second-class” citizens whose only crime was being born, Trump has chosen to tackle an even greater foe of the female variety—Mother Nature. By pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump has stripped Mother Nature of her rights. And she will not remain silent.

Source: kellybdc/Flickr

While women continue to speak out against the injustices we face, it’s easy for the predominantly white, male Republican Party to brush us off as nothing more than noise. But Mother Nature? No, she will never go quietly into the night. No matter how deep their denial flows, lawmakers cannot and will not put an end to climate change by pretending it doesn’t exist.

Because it does exist. Anyone with common sense and an eighth grade education will agree. We’ve failed our planet and, in response, our planet has begun to fail us. Why do you think the massive crack in Antarctica’s ice shelf grew 11 miles in only six days? Why do you think the once-vibrant Great Barrier Reef now suffers from coral bleaching and imminent death? Why do you think koalas, polar bears and countless other animal species are struggling to survive in their evolving habitats?

It’s downright preposterous that the political party that so closely associates with the pro-life movement continues to pursue policies that imperil the lives of those who are and those who will be. They might not live to experience the repercussions of their decisions, but their children and grandchildren certainly will. Even great wealth won’t save them from what’s to come.

Remember when Cal, played by Billy Zane, tries to bribe his way onto a lifeboat in Titanic? While Mr. Murdoch takes the money initially, he ultimately throws the stack back in Cal’s face as he says, “Your money can’t save you anymore than it can save me.” No amount of money will ever be able to reverse the damage Trump’s decision will inflict.

We are all in the same boat and everyone’s the captain—if the U.S. proves to be the iceberg that destroys the world’s environmental efforts, we’re all going to go down with the ship.

Government officials and their law enforcement lackeys can continue to treat women like one collective menace to society, but they cannot punish Mother Nature without being punished in return. Climate change will persist no matter how fervently the GOP resists. We might not be able to leave this planet in a better state than it was when we arrived, but we can do everything within our power to make the future brighter for those who don’t yet have a say.

In this instance, Trump shouldn’t be concerned with the people of Pittsburgh or Paris. When it comes to Mother Nature, he should focus solely on the children of tomorrow. He has an 11-year-old son, after all. Such disregard for science should be considered some form of negligence, if you think about it. In fact, it’s downright criminal.

 

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(This post originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine Blog.)

The Bill Paxton Effect

Despite our presumed differences, it’s safe to say that we’re all looking for that elusive “something” that makes us feel complete. Our specific pursuits are irrelevant when we stop to consider that, deep down, we’re all desperate to find meaning in a world that seems devoid of logic, especially now.

Film and television are notorious for bringing such feelings to light, for it’s in the eyes of the actors that we can see ourselves. Bill Paxton’s body of work—his characters, in particular—personifies our innate desire to seek what’s just out of reach. But if there’s one thing we can learn from what the beloved actor and director left behind, it’s that what we want and what we need don’t always align.

Source: CraveOnline

Source: CraveOnline

Paxton’s roles often looked to the outside world for direction. His unhinged persona in Frailty believed he was destined to rid the world of demons, for instance, while his adventurous alter ego in Twister unearthed renewed purpose when chasing tornadoes. But it was his turn as Brock Lovett in 1997’s Titanic that demonstrated how tunnel vision might distract us from the critical lessons of life.

“Three years, I’ve thought of nothing except Titanic, but I never got it. I never let it in.”

Spoken by Paxton’s Lovett at the end of the film, these words emphasize the character’s epiphany. While he’d spent years searching for the Heart of the Ocean, a rare diamond once worn by the now aging Rose Calvert, he neglected to explore the rich history buried deep within the ship’s wreckage. Lovett longed to find artifacts, forgetting that each item pulled from the ocean floor carried the stories of those lost and found. As he said, he never let the immensity of the disaster sink in, so to speak.

Source: CinemaBlend

Source: CinemaBlend

But isn’t that how most of us go about our daily lives? We are selfish. We rarely stop to observe what’s all around. We are oblivious to both the beauty and the injustice right before our eyes.

Though we live in an increasingly enlightened time—an era filled with activists who wish to fix the faults of our ailing society—many people opt to look the other way. Face forward and eyes down, they trudge through life with little regard for those who are suffering. If they stop to acknowledge these issues, they run the risk of derailing their own efforts. One step off the beaten path could mark the beginning of the end for their personal success.

Nowadays, we call that privilege. Historically, we call that ignorance.

But now, more than ever, we need to open our eyes and our ears. We must extend our hand and heart to our neighbor, both near and far. Local communities may be close-knit, but we’re all global citizens now. We owe to our people and our planet to seek solutions to the problems that affect everyone worldwide. We must spread the stories and amplify the voices of those in need to educate the selfish and encourage the selfless.

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

During an interview with “Film School Rejects” in 2014, Paxton expressed his boundless fascination with human-interest stories. “My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies. ‘Listen to what this guy did! Look what he said. Look how he started out.’”

Human-interest stories, those that truly touch our hearts and inspire change, are born from an interest in humans from all walks of life. But to learn the lessons our friends and strangers have to teach, we must commit to walking with them, hand-in-hand, even if only for a short while.

Fans will surely quote Paxton for generations: “Game over, man!” For those blessed with life, however, the game has only just begun.

But we’ve got to be in it to win it.

Let’s allow Paxton, the director, to call the next shot. Let’s show more interest in our fellow humans, for it’s in every human’s best interest to cultivate an overarching culture of curiosity and compassion. From this core value, we can achieve anything as long as we do so together.

Source: SunStar

Source: SunStar

We Must Spread Love, Now More Than Ever

Conversation hearts cannot inspire dialogue—at least not the sort we need right now. “Text Me” and “U R Cute” will merely leave a chalky taste on your tongue. But, as Valentine’s Day continues to evolve, it’s obvious that one day dedicated to cardboard cupids and heart-shaped chocolates will not spread enough love to sustain our increasingly difficult fight against hate.

In today’s volatile political climate, it’s easy to drown underneath waves of anger. Leaders on one end of the spectrum regularly infuriate those on the opposing side, sparking outrage that results in an epic game of emotional Ping-Pong. Those wishing to instill fear go to extremes to cultivate animosity, while those working to alleviate worries aim to promote unity.

635784119583194094-511247070_interracial-love-imgopt1000x70

Source: Getty Images

But on this, the greeting card holiday dedicated to love, we must look beyond romantic pursuits in order to show our affection for those who face undue persecution. Border walls and religious bans pollute the air where all the love’s supposed to be. We must treat this day as an opportunity to realign our own thought processes so we may continue to fight the good fight under the veil of justice, not disgust. If these destructive measures remain unchecked, our resistance also runs the risk of becoming disconnected from its primary purpose.

Going forward, we must pause frequently to reflect. We must collect our thoughts and reestablish our goals so we never lose sight of the love and togetherness on which this movement was built. We must commit to small actions and gestures every day so we never abandon the vital message behind our efforts.

Defend those who face unmerited hatred because their skin tone doesn’t match the winter snow. Black, Mexican, or Muslim—show these marginalized groups that their contributions to society cannot be overshadowed by the misdeeds of an extreme few. Pop that bubble you’ve been living in your entire life and engage those who don’t look or think like you. Despite popular belief, love isn’t blind. Instead, love grows from the willingness to open our hearts and minds to new people and possibilities.

But, above all else, we must not forget to love ourselves. Much of the anxiety plaguing our nation resides in the hearts of those who are unhappy with themselves. Insecure individuals project their internal doubts onto those who seem weak, punishing the innocent merely so they may reinforce their false confidence. They assert their supposed power by oppressing those who have very little power themselves.

We have the capacity to inspire revolutionary love—love that bonds people of all races, genders, and religions—but we’ve been complacent for far too long. Now’s the time to stand up for what we believe. Now’s the time to lend our voice to the voiceless. Now’s the time to spread love, not hate. Cupid doesn’t have enough arrows to take up arms against the foolish leaders of America. But if we, the people, march forth hand-in-hand, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together.

Source: Dreamy Addictions

Source: Dreamy Addictions

The 12 Pains of Business

Businesspeople forget that business sense doesn’t always translate into common sense. From the commute to the conference room, every component of the workday can spark intense frustration.

But what are the worst elements within the professional realm? Which social sins endlessly plague the working world? Count with me, if you will…

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

  1. Reading Comprehension

Bloggers constantly provide tips on how to hit ‘Inbox Zero’ before lunchtime. But I think I may have the solution. It may not wipe the slate clean, but it’ll certainly tidy things up. Ready?

Read your messages carefully the first time!

For instance, when making an appointment, one person may respond with specific date and time restrictions. Acknowledge that you’ve read the message by suggesting blocks that respect those parameters. Not only will you eliminate headaches, but you’ll also look like you mastered those reading comprehension skills they teach in second grade.

  1. Laziness

Nearly everyone you need to talk to during the workday sits within a 20-foot radius, give or take. Instead of emailing or calling, walk over to them. Because there’s nothing more irritating than hearing both ends of someone’s conversation when you know the parties involved haven’t moved an inch.

You could probably use the exercise, anyway. Maybe your FitBit will reward you with a badge applauding the fact that you’re still alive.

  1. Transportation Delays

Commuters often rely on public transportation (i.e. the bus) to travel from Point A to Point B and back again. Yet, while I understand that there may be the occasional hold-up, stopping to chat with acquaintances that wave from the sidewalk shouldn’t interfere. Bus drivers already have to deal with rude passengers on their route, and obvious disregard for people’s time will only make matters worse.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

  1. High Heels

For some reason, women still feel pressured to wear high heels. Many do so because they like the way they look, of course, but society continues to demonstrate that motivations aren’t always just personal—sometimes it’s business. Women feel compelled to maintain a certain appearance, but it’s their health that’s at stake.

Plus, in many situations, women simply can’t walk in the high heels they’ve chosen, opening up an entirely different world of dangers. Why adhere to some archaic standard when it’s our bodies that’ll pay the ultimate price?

  1. Inferior Technology

Most companies insist on providing employees with subpar computers that reduce efficiency and productivity. But cutting corners isn’t always cost-effective, especially when the entire office must wait 10 minutes or more for their machines to warm up.

Invest in quality products that promise the longevity necessary to propel your business into the future. Providing the best technology demonstrates that you care about your employees, too, as it signals that you understand their struggle and wish to see them succeed.

  1. Mistakes

Industry standards evolve at breakneck speed now, so mistakes are inevitable. It doesn’t indicate that you’re uneducated. It simply means you’re human and can’t possibly know everything about everything.

However, how you respond to these mistakes can reveal plenty about your character. Many don’t know how to accept blame or admit errors. Instead, they point the finger at someone else. Own up to what you’ve done, no matter the severity, and learn from the consequences.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

  1. Disrespect

Respect results from the summation of many factors. But those that fail to respect people’s time have yet to master any form of the concept. Such disregard often comes from those in charge, for they neglect to acknowledge the time and effort that goes into the various tasks at hand.

Instead of pushing employees to the brink of madness—and losing some of your best talent in the process—allow them to speak freely and listen to their frustrations when they do. Using such feedback to inform changes will further validate how much you care for your employees, boosting satisfaction and retention.

  1. Snap Judgment

Many people dress to impress. Others dress to express. Regardless, it’s impossible to judge someone by what they’re wearing, yet we do so regularly. But it only takes one train ride to learn that those in suits often act rude and entitled, while those in plain clothes are usually the most friendly. You don’t always have to dress the best to be the best, so don’t let their stares get you down.

  1. Assumptions

Preconceived notions hinder progress. Millennials can attest to this fact. No matter how hard this demographic works to prove naysayers wrong, Baby Boomers dismiss these efforts by sticking to their assumptions. Not only does this sort of thinking stifle the next generation, but it also impedes growth within the business realm. Don’t assess employees based on what you think you know. Base your evaluation on their performance alone.

  1. Jargon

Many talk in circles, using terms that nobody understands. Leaders pack sentences with buzzword after buzzword in an attempt to sound like they’re in step with what’s happening in their industry. Ultimately, however, it’s not how you convey your message; it’s what you share that’ll prove your expertise.

  1. Social Media

    Source: istockphoto

    Source: Getty Images

Quit obsessing over social media metrics! When you stop to consider how many companies are vying for the same audience’s attention, it’s easy to see that loyalty must be rooted in an effort to promote quality and consistency. If you constantly offer followers content that’s trustworthy and informative, they’ll return time and time again.

  1. Social Gatherings

Many companies try to force coworkers to bond by planning social gatherings that are supposed to promote togetherness. However, most fail to recognize that, for some, such situations have the opposite effect. For many, it’s downright uncomfortable. But, if you skip one too many of these get-togethers, people chastise you for your “anti-social” behavior.

Once again, people need to pause and look at the situation from the other person’s perspective. Perhaps if we did so more often, we’d improve our collective willingness to listen to and understand those who aren’t exactly like us.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Thanks, Obama: An Ode to the Best Bromance of Our Time

https://twitter.com/VP/status/761253705341480962 Screengrab of Joe Biden's Twitter post of obama's friendship bracelet he made him 8/5/16 Source: Joe Biden/Twitter

Source: Joe Biden/Twitter

Recently, The New York Times asked its readers to reflect upon President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. Motivated participants were encouraged to write letters regarding what they will remember most about President Obama’s historic role. Despite the unlikely chance of being published, I jumped at the occasion to praise our Commander in Chief.

Unfortunately, as predicted, my letter wasn’t chosen, but I can’t sit back and watch this “peaceful transition of power” unfold without sharing my thoughts on the current administration. Here’s my submission:

For many, strength can be defined by how well someone conceals his or her emotions. Crying indicates an underlying weakness. But, as President Barack Obama addressed the country after the Sandy Hook shooting, periodically pausing to wipe his eyes on national television, each tear demonstrated that true strength comes from loving your fellow man, especially during their time of need. His mouth may have been moving, but it was his heart that spoke that day.

George Washington will forever be the “Father of our Country” in the historical sense, of course, but in that moment President Obama became the father figure of our generation, for his composure and compassion pulled our entire nation through one of the darkest days since September 11.

His fatherly persona extends well beyond his comforting capabilities, however, as our pun-loving president takes pride in his “dad joke” tendencies. Personally, I’m honored to say he’s the first president I had the privilege of voting for, but I’m afraid we’ll never have another Commander in Chief who exhibits the same genuine love for humanity. He certainly embodies an innate zest for life, but his successors? Well, they are bound to be lemons.

Source: The Atlantic

Source: The Atlantic

Readers were limited to 200 words, but after eight years under the guidance of both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, words are simultaneously abundant and absent. It’s truly impossible to deliver an adequate ‘thank you’ when you consider what these gentlemen and their families have done, and will likely continue to do, for the United States of America.

Beyond the professional and the political, Obama and Biden make their work personal. Through their efforts to ensure policies reflect a government that’s run by the people and for the people, Obama and Biden repeatedly prove that they’re with the people, too. Their love for America cannot be feigned, for it shines bright in their affinity for children and their gratitude toward our troops. But most of all, love for their country comes through in the friendship they’ve nurtured during their time in office.

BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Century Village Clubhouse on September 28, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. Biden continues to campaign across the country before the general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Source: Getty Images

While President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama taught us the importance of partnership in both marriage and parenting, Vice President Biden showed us how to smile despite immense grief. From these foundations, our two exceptional leaders forged a bond that goes far beyond the scope of past presidential partnerships. They’re more than friends—they’re brothers. Yes, the Internet loves to poke fun at their so-called bromance. (There are enough memes floating around the Web to carry us all for another four years!) But, underneath all the jokes, we can see that they made our nation better just by loving each other.

We’ve seen them laugh together and cry together. Heck, we have even seen them eat ice cream together. Nevertheless, nothing will ever compare to President Obama’s parting gesture. When Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it was hard not to cry right along with them—not only because of the meaning behind the honor, but also because this ceremony served as one somber, sweet farewell to the administration overall.

(Watch the highlights of Obama’s announcement below, or watch the entire ceremony here.)

 

No administration will ever be able to replicate their devotion to the people, and their exit hurts more than any other transition because, for nearly a decade, they have been much more than the figureheads of our democracy. Through humor and honesty, Obama and Biden have become family—the father and uncle we can all depend upon when life gets rough.

Luckily for us, they aren’t simply characters on some TV show that’s been cancelled. They’re real, live human beings! Thus, while they won’t be at the center of our government anymore, they will still have the ability to empower citizens and inspire change. I’m curious to see how Obama and Biden will put their experiences to use in the coming years. I’m eager to watch First Lady Michelle Obama take her current initiatives to the next level. I’m excited to see what Malia and Sasha will accomplish as they emerge into this brave new world.

But, above all else, I’m incredibly grateful that President Obama and Vice President Biden were part of our lives, even if only for a short time. They taught us how to feel and they taught us how to fight. They taught us that love trumps hate. Despite the current state of affairs, I hope their words and actions will echo throughout the White House, Congress, and the country for decades to come.

landscape-1470348535-barack-obama-birthday-joe-biden

Source: Getty Images

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