It would be safest if you ran

It would be safest if you ran

There is a focus on borders and walls in these current times, and consequently, a rise in xenophobia. Or is it because of xenophobia that there is a focus on borders and walls? Populism has always been around, but the sentiments that elected the current administration are the result of a “chicken or egg” conundrum: Are people scared because the world is scary, or is the world scary because people are scared? The rhetoric itself has changed: The denial of the United States as a “country of immigrants” and open borders has been the guiding force behind recent policy in the White House. The conversation is not about coming together as much as it is keeping out (anything/something) unfamiliar. The notion of community becoming something more defined: who belongs, and who doesn’t. Perhaps it was always there, as has been suggested by the Washington Post’s America has always been hostile to immigrants, among others. The United States of America has always had a nativist streak – a populism as inward-looking as today’s “America First” mantra. But people can’t really be to blame for feeling scared, can they? When something terrible happens? When lives are lost? Especially when they feel powerless to do anything about it: As humans we pride ourselves on our autonomy; our ability to be in control, to conquer, to rise above. We are in control. We need to be in control. And when we can’t give the enemy a face… So, a face has been given: Muslims. Illegal Aliens and Welfare Queens. Them. It’s not an abstract problem, under Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s a tangible one, and there they are....
A festering past, unacknowledged wrongs, and our role at present

A festering past, unacknowledged wrongs, and our role at present

Born and raised in the United States. I learned quickly not to bring up subjects (past, present, future) that would cause strife at the dinner table. Not with my immediate family, where discussions, dissent, and even discord were welcomed as long as tones and topics remained respectable (and even that word “respectable” remained rather broad and undefined). I was raised into a family were the idea of talking about something/talking things out was the only way that they would/could actually get solved/be addressed. But almost everywhere else where I found this to be a problem: The holiday tables of grand and great-grandparents, and second-cousins. The unfamiliar homes of friends and their parents. The round tables of strangers and in the workplace. On public transportation and in the aisles of grocery stores. At communal cookouts, where everyone laughs and drinks beer but bite your tongue lest you incur the ire of the man who sometimes shovels your walk for you in the winter and is sure to remind you that he was the one who did it. I was born in Hackettstown, New Jersey, U.S.A.  After that, we lived in Alabama for a brief period before heading north to Minnesota. That was where my younger sister was born, Huntsville, Alabama. (This is being written in the time of Donald Trump and Judge Roy Moore. Roy Moore was recently defeated in the Alabama special election, arguably the largest shift of the tide since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in November of 2016. Moore, an accused sexual molester, at best, and the owner of such regressive philosophies as homosexuality...
Pics or it didn’t happen: Our obsession with permanence

Pics or it didn’t happen: Our obsession with permanence

Something happens. Something memorable, or kinda cool, or not really that interesting at all, but we take thirteen pics of it anyway. We have to take pictures; record it, show the world, share, for posterity’s sake. That we were there. That we are here, now. This is really nothing new. And this is nothing we would put on the shoulders of the Millenials (Gen Y) and Pivotals (Gen Z) who have had the luxury of social media basically since day one (and therefore the normality, and subsequent pressures, of performing online). It’s just the latest form/different version of the photo books mom/grandmom pull out every time you start dating someone new. It’s just the logical next step for a species that started in the dirt, moved on to cave paintings, invented the camera in 1888, and now has a tool to share who they are with the entire world in the blink of an eye. This is just progress. But why is it something so rooted into our DNA, or just our sense of identity? Why do we feel the need to capture everything and look at it over and over again? And for other people to do the same? Why, ultimately, do we feel like something isn’t really real, something didn’t really happen, something isn’t worth remembering, unless we have the physical photo of it to look back on and share with others? Memories There are countless studies (here’s one, for example: False memories in highly superior autobiographical memory individuals) that will tell you that many (most) of our organic memories are junk, and can be created from...
For the record, Antifa =/= Nazis

For the record, Antifa =/= Nazis

Antifa has been a much talked about group lately. The discussion started in earnest when they clashed with white supremacists, Nazis, and Confederate sympathizers in Charlottesville a few weeks back during the “Unite the Right” rally. President Trump struggled with the comparison, saying that both sides were at fault. Both sides were wrong. Both sides were morally reprehensible. Equally so. But after the recent violence in Berkeley, even Daily Show host Trevor Noah came out against Antifa’s more aggressive tendencies when battling Fascism (Antifa = Anti + Fascist). In general jargon, Antifa became associated with the left, and Nazis became (though, really, they always have been) associated with the right. But that shouldn’t be the discussion – it isn’t about “sides” as much as the president would like it to be. Nazism/Fascism is something that history has already thrown in the trash regardless of what the America political spectrum looks like today. It was defeated, both as a mantra/philosophy and as political movement. It has been soundly condemned as something awful and never to be repeated. Rightfully so. This goes without saying. Is Antifa a slightly more menacing and erratic, and perhaps less well-dressed, version of Indiana Jones? He punched Nazis too. Because they were Nazis. We’ve discussed the power of ideology (Don’t Kill Hitler), and we won’t say/we aren’t here to say that the approach that Antifa and other groups have taken to combat the recent rise in visible Nazism is pure and simple the “right” course – or necessarily the course of action that will help solve the problem in the long term. It’s not, and it won’t. As Berkeley...
Banksy fan? You can soon buy his artwork for cheap

Banksy fan? You can soon buy his artwork for cheap

Banksy is something of an enigma in the art world – and not just because no average Joe knows his true identity. His heavy-handed imagery and symbolism, and constant political/cultural commentary, have both thrilled and divided art enthusiasts from London to New York to China. He has a mission. He has a statement he’d like to make and he makes it, loud and clear and easy to understand, again and again. But this isn’t meant to be a review, or even a comment, on his art. Nor of his bravado. Nor is it really a discussion about the phenomenon that has led to Banksy’s art pieces selling for millions of dollars, “Save Banksy” campaigns (watch an example in the video below) and his rabid, cult-like following. We just wanted you to know that you will soon be able to own some of Banksy’s latest artwork at a much, much lower price point than the 6+ figures it has recently been selling for. If (and it’s a big “if”) you head to the West Bank, to Bethlehem. This is also where the artist’s controversial hotel stands. “The Walled Off Hotel,” as an apparent commentary on Israel and Palestine’s strained (to put it lightly) relationship, and the wall that splits the holiest of cities into two, offers the “Worst View in the World” (you can buy a t-shirt there that says so). The gift shop will be located at the back of the hotel (not to be confused with the Banksy-themed store that opened up across the street in an attempt to capitalize on the artist’s celebrity).   Interestingly, it stands in...
Trolling is too mainstream

Trolling is too mainstream

A trolling era People seem to think they’re sparking some sort of revolution by trolling; people who adhere to Milo Yiannoupolouos’ idea that trolls are the “only people that tell the the truth these days,” or  believe that trolling is an art. But you’ve got Time Magazine complaining how trolls are ruining the internet. And there’s even a book out on the subject: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. It’s just another tactic to try and exhibit power on the internet. Everyone is doing it now. And very poorly, usually. And, more importantly, as a result the average person is now less willing or able to be trolled. It’s lame. You’re a lame duck if you do it. Like the kid who thinks it’s still cool to pull on girls’ pigtails. Outdated. You and every other twelve year old can try and rile people up online. Lulz. But anyone with half a brain; anyone who knows two things about where the world is headed no longer falls for childish trickery. But that’s not the whole story. And it certainly doesn’t stop there.   So, what now? So where do the 4chan, 8chan, Breitbart trolls go when their caves have been raided? Where can they find darkness after being brought out into the light? To be fair, trolls are often nonpartisan. Like “Thor83” played by Patton Oswalt (amen.) trolling party invites in this Portlandia sketch.   But of course, when it’s not messing with people’s lives, it’s not really worth writing about or reporting on. So, especially on the sites just mentioned, the loudest and most obvious trolls, like Milo, have...