Tuesday, November 15, 2016

And So It Begins

On the morning after Election Day my fourteen year old daughter woke up and, upon hearing Donald Trump was voted in as President, asked "Are we safe?". 

This is not supposed to be the response to a newly elected leader here in the United States - but this election was anything but normal. Donald Trump's campaign carried a tone that was simultaneously disrespectful and mean, while also being void of facts. In the wake of his election a majority of our media outlets have also forgotten how it was chock full of racism. 

Fortune magazine reported how, back in January, Trump re-tweeted a Nazi sympathizer, and then - a mere three weeks later - did it again. The same Fortune piece goes on to show how many within the Trump campaign either followed or re-tweeted white supremacists or Nazi sympathizers themselves.

In addition to the re-tweeting, Donal Trump's son, Donald Jr., appeared on a talk radio show with a white supremacist. In the wake of that interview, Jr. shook the blame off of himself and onto the "liberal media" claiming he wouldn't have made the appearance had he known about its racist affiliations. His excuse would've held up nicely except months later his brother, Eric Trump, appeared on the same radio program. All the while the Trump campaign feigned ignorance. This despite the fact that the now infamous white supremacist radio host received press credentials to a Trump campaign event. Said radio host has stated, amongst other things, that Martin Luther King Jr's. "dream is our nightmare" and "slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to" African-Americans. In all of these instances Trump either shifted the blame to people outside the campaign or went to the old faithful move of blaming the "liberal media" for changing the narrative.

Again, this would all hold up nicely except that Trump hired Steve Bannon onto his campaign staff. Bannon is the editor of the website Breitbart News which is the outpost for the ultra conservative/Alternative right/white supremacist movement. Bretibart has published headlines like: There's No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews; Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement's Human Shield; Teenage Boys With Tits: Here's My Problem With Ghostbusters; Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy....you get the idea. The Southern Poverty Law Center defined Breitbart as a "white neo-nationalist propaganda mill". To make this all worse, Trump just appointed Bannon as his Chief White House Strategist and senior counselor. The people most excited about Bannon's rise: white nationalists, American nazis, and former KKK imperial wizards

So, I am not surprised with my daughter's response. While this election has proven we are divided over many things, it has also shown we are willing, and able, to overlook flagrant hate. How is this going to play out? Well when your President elect selects an individual who once described himself as a "Leninist" who wants to "destroy the state" and "bring everything crashing down" as one of his closest advisors? You tell me.


Friday, May 27, 2016


Now that Donald Trump has secured enough delegates to get the Republican nomination this summer, we can all officially begin to panic.

The rise of Trump has proven to be extraordinarily frustrating while also being confounding to many. But let's face it: this is not a coincidence. Trump is the bi-product of a number of things that have been boiling up in the American culture for decades now. If you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention.

The rise of right wing talk radio (RWTR) has produced an ill-informed populace that would rather believe crazed talk show hosts and their demagoguery than believe actual fact. The Wall Street Journal published a piece back in 2015 showing how RWTR essentially dictated the GOP Primary results. Their messages of "anti-establishment" and constant Obama bashing not only make for great ratings, but have shown where a majority of GOP voters are getting their marching orders.

A significant number of people listen to RWTR religiously and don't treat it as a source of entertainment, but a legitimate source of news and information. These "sources" constantly remind them to not read or believe what the newspapers say; and to not watch or pay attention to any other "mainstream media" TV or radio outlets because they're all liberally biased

This message of supposed bias extends into our public school system and its teachers, as well as higher education. A recent piece reported on the Bill Moyers website, shows how the message of RWTR has begun to affect what gets funded and what doesn't at Colleges and Universities - especially at the state level. As far as most of these RWTR hosts are concerned - everyone is biased except them. 

This message has a majority of people doubting science; embracing intolerance, and believing an underlying message that America is "under siege" from outside forces - be they political, cultural, or religious. Some high ranking GOP members have seen enough of the ignorance, intolerance, and lack of common sense and have jumped ship to the Democratic party

This mindset brought us the first version of Trump: Sarah Palin. Ms. Palin further spread the gospel of not believing the "lame stream media" as well as not reading newspapers or...anything really, and made it a piece of our national narrative. She set the table for the rise of Trump by condemning truth, knowledge, and overall critical thought.

54% of Donald Trump supporters believe President Obama is a Muslim. What's even more frightening is 29% of Americans believe he is a Muslim. This is startling when you consider a.) he isn't and b.) he's proven it time and time again. But remember, we now live an in an age where ignorance is bliss and stupidity is the national mindset.

Even more frustrating is how the media has been treating Donald Trump. They treat him more like a reality show contestant, and less like the man who - if elected - will make policy decisions that will affect them, their children, their neighbor's children, the rest of the world and all of us. Instead of asking questions of substance, they insist on laughing along with his ignorance and carnival barker showmanship - thus playing further into his Barnumesque narrative and used car salesman winks and nods.

Donald Trump is not "cute". He's a cartoon character who recently responded to a question of who he's speaking with regarding foreign affairs by saying: "I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain, and I’ve said a lot of things.” 

What potential US President speaks like that? Seriously? To make this all worse, Trump announced yesterday that after his Presidency, he'd like to have a statue of himself in Washington DC that he'd share with Thomas Jefferson. Ahh yes, two great American thinkers sharing a single pedestal to remind of us of how far we've come.

Thomas Jefferson: a great thinker, innovator, and writer. Was he flawed? Yes, but not in the context of Donald J. Trump. Jefferson was a man of letters who built and lived on his estate Monticello. He was a voracious reader capable of critical thought, and progressive ideas regarding our democracy. He was an ardent Epicurean who constantly questioned the role of religious faith in government.

If given the chance, I would ask Trump if he's an Epicurean. I know he doesn't even know what that means - and why should he? He is, apparently, what we Americans want: a misinformed, narcissistic, nut job who is under the very false impression that running the greatest country in the world is just an extension of The Apprentice.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Make America Great Again

I have spent the last few years writing on this page about the state of inner-city schools, violence in schools, and race relations here in the United States. These topics are inspired by my teaching of inner-city, at-risk and special needs students. I've taught in schools where the entire population was African-American. I've taught in schools where the population was all African-American and Hispanic. I've been in schools where the entire population was autistic and/or physically disabled...in other words I've spent the last eleven years of my life working with kids of every age, ethnicity, culture, and ability or disability. 

We are in the midst of what can be defined as one of the more hate tinged presidential campaigns in our countries history. I've never seen anything like it in my life. Donald Trump has taken something initially seen as a joke and has become the Republican frontrunner. Now that he's won the primary elections in Florida, Illinois, and North Carolina he could very well be the GOP nominee.

Trump has managed to do this by pushing a rhetoric of racist, sexist, and xenophobic hate. He directly referenced the size of his penis in a presidential debate; called opponent Ted Cruz a "pussy"; acted like an eight year-old school boy when speaking of Hillary Clinton's bathroom break; and referenced menstruation when complaining about questions from Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly. This is in addition to countless Trump rallies that have been the scene of violence - specifically against African-Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims. 

At one rally, a Hispanic protester was spit on by a Trump supporter. A young black woman was being escorted out of a rally and was pushed, shoved (by a veteran) as well as called a "ni**er" and other things all while Trump bellowed "GET OUT!". At another rally a young black man was sucker punched in the face by a white man, yet the black man was arrested. The man who punched him was proud and also threatened "next time we see him, we might have to kill him". Trump responded by offering to pay the man's legal bills, and also told supporters to "punch" protesters, and promised to pay their legal bills as well.

In addition to all of this, Trump initially refused to condemn an endorsement from former KKK Grand Wizard, David Duke. He re-Tweets quotes from neo-Nazis and Mussolini. He doesn't condemn KKK leaders but he does condemn Mexicans and Muslims. 

At high school basketball games in Iowa and Indiana, teams that were heavily Latino were greeted with "Build The Wall!" and "Trump! Trump! Trump!" chants by opposing fans - who were mostly white. One of the those targeted was a Catholic school and the chants caused an outcry from the local Bishop. But guess what - people are not only voting for Donald Trump en masse - his polling numbers continue to go up - a phenomena that even seems to baffle Trump himself.

The worst part is, Evangelical "Christians" love Trump, and his messages of hate and intolerance. This baffles me. How can you classify yourself a "Christian" and respond overwhelmingly to hate and intolerance? How can you support a candidate who uses fowl and disgusting language? What is "Christian" about this man?

We are at a massive crossroads in America right now. The rise of Donald Trump is representative of something terrible in this country: A message of overwhelming hate and anger that's been in place since the election of Barak Obama. It's scary but worst of all, it's anything but "Christian".

Friday, January 8, 2016

Oh Yeah...Them.

These past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about our kids. It would seem we currently exist in a world where actions are taken, words are spoken, and deeds performed all without care or concern for the youngest members of our communities. We've seen mass shootings that resulted in the deaths of people while they attended church and the movies. Children have been killed in school. When the President recently spoke specifically of Newtown, CT he shed tears of sorrow and disgust. His tears were not viewed in the context of a father and husband, but as someone who was "weak". Some even suggested he was faking them.

The fate of the environment is being discussed, young black men continue to be the target of police; and one of the leading candidates for president says horrifically racist and xenophobic things - yet receives applause and rises in the polls.

I would love it if reporters, as well as regular folks, would ask presidential candidates about our children. Are any of their decisions or statements made with them in mind? The same goes for the world leaders and people who lobby for more guns. The two sided question What kind of world do you see for our children and how are we going to get there needs to be asked ad nauseam. I think it should be hammered at politicians. I also think it should be asked of pundits. I'd be curious to hear their answers.

Has anyone given any thought to the tone of our discourse and what our children think of it? As I wrote earlier, some pundits stated the President faked his tears when speaking of the tragedies in Newtown. A few weeks ago a retired US military officer went on national TV and referred to his Commander and Chief as a "pus*y" live on the air. I have seen friends and family pick that up and post it on social media with pride and endorsement. If you tune into talk radio all you hear is hate, anger, and vitriol.

The great writer Marilynne Robinson talks about how we need to find the aesthetics in our discourse. She called it "the beautiful argument". I love that. I think it's time we begin to speak with more aesthetic value instead of this disgraceful tone we've seemed to embrace. We are the country that gave the world Hemingway, Whitman, Emerson, Hughes, Thoreau, Plath, and Dickinson. Former political leaders like Jefferson, Franklin, and Lincoln expressed and wrote their thoughts more like poetry and prose. It's time to bring that back. Maybe beautiful arguments will lead to beautiful answers and a better world for the people who truly matter most: Our children.