When people get mad about the protests … protest harder.

For decades to come, the prevailing image of Donald Trump’s first week in office will be defined by the thousands of people who came together throughout the country to voice their opposition.

The protesters.

Indeed, his inaugural weekend was deeply overshadowed by the Women’s March, mobilized by social media, which brought millions of people to the streets to advocate for various causes. These demonstrations occurred not only in all 50 states, but in all seven continents. It was a miraculous show of solidarity by people of extremely divergent ethnicities, cultures and religious ideologies.

It was an impactful display of humanity and compassion during a time of worldwide uncertainty. A display that empowered the disenfranchised and showed our nation’s most vulnerable people that they are not alone.

And while these imposing visuals, omnipresent across news stations and computer screens, are giving the indication that they represent the clear majority of Americans, it’s important to keep in mind how many people are not protesting.

Remember that 63 million people voted for Trump. And given that, for the most part, Trump’s executive orders have aligned with his campaign promises (as polarizing as they were), they probably are not too disappointed.

So while the political left has decried Trump’s nascent presidency as tyrannical and inhumane, the right have been voicing their approval of Trump’s stance on national security while taking aim at a new target: the protesters.

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Those very same people who have been beacons of hope to one half of the population have been castigated by the other half.

You’ve all seen it. It’s unavoidable.

They’re being called crybabies. Vagrants. ‘Libtards.’ Whatever that last one means.

But you know they’re so mad? Why the protestors are getting under their skin?

Because it’s working. They see the goodwill and the kinship and the amazing sense of unanimity, and they’re pissed off that such a successful demonstration is happening for reasons they disapprove of.

To protest is to evoke your fundamental and Constitutional rights as an American citizen. In cities far and wide throughout the U.S., there have been powerful displays of unity on extravagant scales. For many generations of people, demonstrations of this size are a brand-new sight.

Today’s youth are used to seeing advocacy on social media and nothing more. But to see people mobilize on the streets – and peacefully, with very few instances of violence – hearkens back our country’s most recent successful movements, for civil rights and for feminism.

It’s democracy in action.

And right now, people sure are galvanized.

The effectiveness of protests are certainly up for debate. But there’s also some things that can’t be denied. Courage is contagious. Seeing others on the street standing up for their beliefs will motivate others to do the same, even if they’ve never done it before.

The visuals of protestors standing together in solidarity will resonate across the world, and tell foreign citizens that not everybody supports this president and his xenophobic agenda.

It’s essential for officials of other countries, who have been insulted by this administration and are currently planning their next moves, to see that not all Americans agree with Trump’s actions.

The mass advocacy emboldens politicians and judges. It warms the hearts of the most vulnerable and defenseless people in our society.

Critics could groan. They could complain and ridicule. But they can’t stop the fire that has been lit for millions of people. It’s something they can’t take away, no matter how hard they try.

Alone, we are voiceless.

But together, we are deafening.

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Trump’s refugee ban: please let’s not let history repeat itself

On May 13, 1939, a German ship called the MS St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany to Havana, Cuba, carrying 937 passengers – nearly all of them Jewish refugees who were escaping persecution from the Nazi Party.

Most of the passengers were planning to stay in Cuba only until they could enter the United States, hoping for a better future. But when the ship arrived in Havana two weeks later, all but 28 passengers were turned away.

It then set sail for the United States.

In the wake of the Great Depression, which instilled a sense of xenophobia and nativism within many in the United States, most Americans were opposed to immigration. That sentiment, in addition to gains of the isolationist Republicans in the Congressional elections one year earlier, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make a drastic decision.

He turned the MS St. Louis away without allowing a single passenger to disembark.

It wasn’t an isolated decision. Three months earlier, the U.S. government failed to pass a bill that would have admitted 20,000 Jewish children from Germany.

The MS St. Louis returned to Europe, where the passengers were eventually settled into four different countries. According to historical records, 254 of them – more than 25% of the original manifest – died in the Holocaust.

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Until recently, this tragic tale served as a warning of what happens when we give in to prejudice. It reminded us of the importance of helping those in desperate need.

And because of it, the U.S. has served as a worldwide example of welcoming those who are escaping oppression and war. It’s the Statue of Liberty that is often the first thing immigrants and refugees see upon their arrival on our shores – the ultimate symbol that we are the home of the brave, and the land of the free.

Until now.

Donald Trump’s temporary ban on all refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, and permanent ban on Syrian refugees is the biggest test to American values, and the U.S. Constitution, since World War II.

Right now is when we learn exactly what type of country we are.

Oppressive and totalitarian regimes use the unwillingness of other nations to admit refugees to justify their actions. It’s up to other countries to step up and show where their values really lie, and to stand up to tyranny.

It’s a test that we ave now failed. And of all days, Trump signed the order on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Home of the brave?

Right now, we are the home of the cowards.

The outrage to Trump’s executive order – widely hailed as a discriminatory and unconstitutional ban on Muslims – has been immediate and widespread. Protests are popping up in cities and airports throughout the country.

And the ACLU has sprung into action, already earning a victory when a federal judge in Brooklyn forbade the deportation of foreigners who were being detained at the JFK airport in the hours following last Friday’s order.

The fight is only beginning.

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In America, we’re constitutionally forbidden to discriminate upon religion or ethnicity. Though Trump’s order never mentions Islam or Muslims, it’s clear who it is targeting, and Rudy Giuliani all but admitted on national TV that it is a Muslim ban.

Despite my strong opinions on this blog, I mostly refrain from discussing politics on Facebook. I simply view it as an inappropriate forum to discuss such polarizing topics, at risk of alienating people I know.

But the one instance during the 2016 election season that forced me to stand up for my beliefs was when Donald Trump first announced his desire to implement a Muslim ban. I personally know people who are Muslim, and they are just as peace-loving as anybody I know.

Even as that happened, Democrats viewed Trump’s words as empty rhetoric to appeal to his base, never believing it would be put into action.

The order is already having far-reaching consequences. Countries are planning retaliatory actions on the U.S. The order also punishes foreign citizens who have aided the U.S., including Iraqis who worked as interpreters for American troops.

After this action, why the hell would they want to help us anymore?

It bears repeating: this is a test to our democracy. What happens over the following days, months and years will determine how this period in our country is remembered in history books.

It’s already been stained, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be rewritten.

Remember the MS St. Louis.

We are closer to Doomsday. Literally.

Pretty much every day this week, I began each morning thinking that I would like to blog about something fun today. There is no shortage of Internet memes or mundane pop culture items-of-the-day to comment on.

But then, like, Trump did something. Each day. Usually multiple things. And it’s impossible to talk about anything else. Because every action Trump undertakes, every word he says, every character he freakin’ tweets, has legitimate real-world ramifications.

The entire world is on tenterhooks right now awaiting Trump’s next move. And I understand Trump wanted to hearken back to the Nixon days of unpredictability – the madman theory – but whereas Nixon had some semblance of a plan dealing with the North Vietnamese, it doesn’t appear that there is a method to Trump’s madness.

Just today, Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump following his reaffirmation to build a southern border wall.

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This is a major diplomatic failure in Trump’s first week of office. It demands attention.

Not even Trump’s biggest critics predicted things to go downhill this quickly.

But, somehow, I will digress. Though I do plan to circle back to this.

I would be remiss if I went this entire week without mentioning the passing of Mary Tyler Moore, the TV sensation who became a household name to future generations born long after she left the public eye, famous for her leading roles in the “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Her roles in those two enormously popular shows influenced and shaped the female lead in nearly all sitcoms to follow. Particularly her role in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” where she depicted a 30-year-old, independent, single working woman not obsessed with getting married, which was a refreshing departure from the contemporary reality of being a woman in the 1970s (as I am very familiar with).

mary-tyler-mooreSomething I did not know until reading her obituary was that her only son, Richard (from her first of three marriages), tragically died when he accidentally pulled the hair trigger of a sawed-off shotgun at age 24, shooting himself in the head. The gun model was later recalled from the market, and Mary Tyler Moore never had another child.

So that’s sad.

Sometimes it’s annoying when celebrities go by three names. But with Mary Tyler Moore it just fits. To commemorate her, I think all celebrities should henceforth only go by their first and last names, and nothing else. I’m looking at you, Bryce Dallas Howard. On this blog from now on, you’re Bryce Howard. Deal with it.

Transitioning to more cheerful news, I learned about Salt Bae this week, a Turkish butcher named Nusret Gökçe whose videos have become a social media phenomenon because of the sensual way he sprinkles salt onto meat. It has inspired a lot of memes, like this one including Super Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan.

If you’re wondering why this is a thing … you’re not alone.

Also in the news today, scientists have grown an embryo that is part-pig, part-human, the first demonstration that an interspecies organ transplant is possible.

So that sounds like something important. Or at the very least it will explain how CatDog works.

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But back to Trump, because as we know by now, all road leads to Trump.

Or rather, all roads lead to Doomsday.

Immediately following World War II, a team of Nobel laureates created a literal “Doomsay Clock” that they have been manually setting to reflect how close we are to global extinction. The group actually makes their determinations scientifically, based on global events and independent research.

The closest it came to Doomsday – midnight – was in 1953 when the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested nuclear weapons six months apart. At the time, we were two minutes to midnight.

The minute hand moved back in the early ‘60s as the nuclear threats of the Cold War began to dissipate, but then forward again in 1968 when France and China joined the arms race. In 1984, it was three minutes to midnight when Soviet-U.S. relations again worsened. But since then, it has stayed comfortably back since the end of the Cold War.

Until now.

As members of the organization who dictate the clock’s symbolic movements explained themselves, it is now two and one-half minutes to midnight.

While North Korean aggressiveness and deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations contributed to the new positioning, the major factor is the destabilizing statements and actions of Trump’s first week in office, most notably his indifference towards nuclear nonproliferation and climate change.

In other words, we’re screwed.

Have a great weekend!!

Oil and executive orders: Trump’s first week

It was July 21, 2016 when 225,000 liters of crude oil spilled from a pipeline into the North Saskatchewan River in Canada, contaminating the drinking water for two cities, and killing hundreds of wildlife. It took months for those residents to get back their primary source of water.

On Monday, it happened again. Another pipeline in Saskatchewan, managed by a different oil company, spilled some 200,000 liters into agricultural land on one of Canada’s First Nations.

Oil spills are inevitable side effects of economic development. While scientific discoveries continue to enlighten us on climate change and the dangers caused by excess carbon emissions released from burning oil and coal, and governments adapt by increasing emphasis on natural energy, the bottom line is that oil – and lots of it — is still necessary for civilizations to flourish.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a concerted effort to do better.

President Obama did more to protect the environment than any president in history. He placed moratoriums on coal production, limited offshore drilling, set regulations for carbon emissions, and protected national landmarks.

This, of course, was at the risk of eliminating jobs that come with the production of these resources, a fact that hurt his popularity in the Rust Belt states – a region that tilted the election towards Donald Trump this past November.

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Two signature and heavily symbolic decisions by the Obama administration was the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline and the curtailment of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a proposal that became the focus of protests from Native Americans, who said the oil would flow underneath sacred sites and, in the event of a leak (which are not uncommon — see above), would poison their drinking water.

The decisions were met with overwhelming praise from environmental activists and supporters of the Native American protesters. For once, the government acted in favor of our indigenous people, who, 200 years ago, we banished to the furthest depths of our country so we could take their land and use it for our own benefit.

On Tuesday, President Trump reversed both those decisions.

It was one memorandum signed by Trump in what has been a rampage of executive orders to undo the policies put into place by Obama, namely on healthcare, national security, immigration, foreign policy and now the environment. Heck, today he even ordered for funds to be put aside to build a border wall.

People said we should wait and see what Trump does before reacting.

This is what he is doing.

Executive orders only have so much pull. They are exactly that – an order. They aren’t law. But they set the tone and make clear what the administration wishes to accomplish. If you’ve been disenchanted by the political process and have stopped paying attention, then I advise you to tune back in. Because Trump is laying the groundwork for his presidency as we speak.

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And maybe you like what he’s doing. He’s certainly acting on his campaign promises. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada who became a close friend of Obama’s, supported Trump’s revival of the Keystone Pipeline.

Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders applauded Trump’s decision to reject the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that was central to Obama’s “pivot” to Asia.

But when people protested immediately after Nov. 8, they were criticized for their impatience for not waiting to let Trump do his job.

When they protested the day after his inauguration, critics still wondered why they weren’t giving him more time.

We are now past that. Trump is legislating. And for many, their worst fears are being realized.

No president has stoked people’s emotions more than Trump. Because of the discord he created, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when his actions are met with demonstrations and outcry.

People are passionate about what they believe in. And people will fight.

And Trump is giving them plenty of reason to fight.

I just hope nobody gets hurt.

Fake news and ‘alternative facts’ are threatening our democracy

Being a journalist is an extremely difficult and unforgiving job. I understand this firsthand because it was my profession for more than five years.

It’s called the ‘third estate’ for a reason. You serve as the objective storyteller. You hear both sides of the story, and then you report the facts and how both sides interpret it.

A journalist is not supposed to make friends. Indeed, if you’re doing your job correctly, you’re more likely to form enemies.

But what is expected between a journalist and the main entities it reports on is a mutual sense of respect and cooperation. An understanding that you’re doing your job and I’m doing my job. Sometimes our interests will align, and sometimes they will not. Nonetheless, we can maintain a professional relationship and treat each other cordially.

Journalism also carries a significant burden of responsibility. As the storyteller and purveyor of facts, you’re expected to present your information truthfully and objectively.

With your pen, you have the ability to shape public opinion. Thus, it is essential to get it right.

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It is fair to be skeptical of the media. One should always be vigilant of the truth and conduct their own research to verify facts, while double-checking sources that are listed in any given article or report.

But what you can not do is dismiss the press entirely. Because without it, democracy cannot prevail.

And right now, that very ingredient for democratic success — a free and open press — is under siege by the Trump administration.

On the stump, Trump pledged to “open up the libel laws,” a clear breach of First Amendment rights. While he’s toned down on that specific threat, the first few days of his administration have shown a clear agenda to undermine and discredit the press.

Two terms we’ve seen thrown around lately are things I’d never thought I’d hear associated with 21st century American politics: ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts.’

Fake news refers to deliberate attempts to publish stories to influence public opinion even though the writer knows the content to be false. The New York Times has done extensive reporting on this subject, actually interviewing people who have personally engaged in this nefarious enterprise.

Alternative facts is a term coined this past weekend by White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway to explain the conflicting data (proven to be false) used by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during his cantankerous first press briefing last weekend.

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Conservatives, emboldened by Trump, have begun using the “fake news” label incorrectly to slam stories that they don’t like, for instance, CNN’s reporting of the explosive yet unverified dossier compiled by a former British Spy regarding illicit personal and professional information Russia is harboring on Donald Trump.

Buzzfeed made the controversial decision to publish the dossier – which was brought to the attention of the FBI last summer, which, in turn, briefed Presidents Obama and Trump on it — in full, a decision that Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief defended a few days later.

As a result, Donald Trump called these two news organizations “fake news” and a “failing pile of garbage,” respectively.

Under this administration, the once stable line between fact and fiction has become blurred, and I don’t think people appreciate how dangerous this is.

It is a fundamental need for the electorate to be educated. In a republic, we are the ones who choose who represents us. And we need an observant and watchful press to get us the information we need.

Undermining and mocking the press is what dictators do. Spreading lies to hoodwink the public is what authoritarian regimes do.

This is not OK.

Now, more than ever, the press needs to be protected, not denigrated and antagonized.

You can follow Trump’s lead and trash journalists all you want. They’re still going do to their job and tell you what you need to know.

I advise you to listen.

And on the 21st of January, they marched.

To the National Mall in Washington, D.C., they marched.

Through the streets of Manhattan, they marched.

In cities in Illinois, California, Alaska, Kentucky and Texas, they marched.

In Paris, France, they marched.

In Nairobi Kenya, they marched.

They marched in Tel Aviv.

In Rome, Italy.

In Warsaw, Poland.

In Accra, Ghana.

In Macau.

In Antarctica.

In Chile.

In Libya.

In Thailand.

In Greece.

And in Iraq.

In all 50 states, in dozens of countries, in all seven continents, they marched.

What we witnessed on Saturday may have been the largest mass demonstration in United States history. They were joined by people all over the world.

Call them what you want. Protests. Demonstrations. Riots. Revolts. Rebellions.

What I saw was millions of unified people standing up for humanity.

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The unifying cause of the marches was women’s rights. And while that remained the central theme, millions marched for other causes: environmental protection; LGBT rights; healthcare; education; peace.

And most of all, they marched to show everyone that they care.

Obviously, there was the not-so-subtle elephant in the room serving as the backdrop of these marches: Donald Trump’s inauguration, which took place one day earlier.

There’s no doubting that the world’s problems — inequality, corporate greed, mass violence, human-accelerated climate change, etc. — existed long before Donald Trump. They existed during the early part of the 20th century, when women fought for equal rights. They existed in the middle of the century, when African-Americans fought for equal rights.

They continued into the turn of the 21st century. And yes, they lingered during the presidency of Barack Obama, even as his administration fought to protect civil rights.

But mobilizing people is not easy. People are passionate, no doubt, but it still takes a significant spark to get them out on the streets to stand up for what they believe in.

And there is little doubt that the catalyst of this march — the spark that ignited the flame — was Donald Trump. When you verbally denigrate and act dismissively towards minority groups for a year and a half, and suddenly find yourself in a position of power to advance your agenda — then you leave people no choice but to act. And that’s all on you.

But what was clearly obvious during these nonviolent protests was that the central theme was not hate — but love.

Human beings of all races, religions, ethnicities and cultures coming together and supporting one another is a pipe dream, the stuff of beauty pageant banter. It’s what everyone hopes for but knows can never come true.

Saturday, January 21 is the closest we may ever come to seeing it in our lifetimes.

At a time when populist leaders spouting xenophobic rhetoric are threatening to shape nations all over the world, how can these organic gatherings of unity be interpreted as anything but beautiful?

March on.

Inauguration 2017: just treat it like any ordinary day

It would have been easy to start today’s post with some type of apocalyptic joke, pretending that this is the last time I’ll ever be able to speak with you all.

Because by this time tomorrow, Trump will have clamped down on freedom of speech and dissidents would be targeted and jailed, forcing me to flee and live in a cave somewhere.

Meanwhile, his tyranny would lead to an uprising from his opponents and full-out civil war.

Trump, with his hands now on the nuclear codes, would threaten extinction unless he received full obedience from the American people.

One thing leads to another, and next thing you know, we’re North Korea.

Clearly, I’ve read too much apocalyptic literature in my life.

But as much as people like to act as if Trump will bring about the literal End of Days … he will not. The sun will still rise tomorrow and we’ll all go to work like any other Friday. Just when we go to sleep at the end of the day, we’ll have a different president.

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The divisiveness that reared its ugly head during the election will likely remain, and Trump will continue to make headlines of the likes that we’ve never seen before from an American president. But life will go on, and we can only hope that we continue to converse with one another in a thoughtful and united way, and that we learn our lesson moving forward.

In the grand scheme of things, Trump’s reign as president will simply be a blip on the radar in terms of American history. Even if we do need to live through it the next four years.

To quote Bette Davis is the classic 1960s film All About Eve, “Fasten your seat belts. it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Except in this instances, it will be a bumpy 1,461 nights. *Shudders*

So let’s save the dramatics and treat this blog post like it’s any normal day. What’s going on in the news?

It was pretty anticlimactic, but the international search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 was officially called off after three years on Tuesday. Unless new evidence surfaces, we may never locate it and find out what actually happened to the plane, which disappeared after it veered off course for several hours on March 8, 2014 and presumably crashed into the Indian Ocean.

The lack of interest in this story exemplifies people’s short attention spans. Most of the world was captivated by this missing flight three years ago, and with the announcement of the search’s end, this news is being less discussed than Wednesday night’s People’s Choice Awards.

Also, speaking of Trump, remember when he pledged to purge America of misbehaving unauthorized Mexicans?

Well, it turns out we’re doing the exact opposite and bringing one back in.

El Chapo, the deadly drug lord with the adorable name who made two Houdini-like escapes from high-security Mexican prisons, will be extradited to the United States, and face trial here.

Welcome to America, El Chapo. You’ve come at just the right time. We have a new president who will just love you.

And with that, my last post in the Obama era comes to an end.

I’ll see you all on the other side.