If MLK was alive today, what would he think of today’s politics?

In four days, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our nation’s 45th president.

We all know what’s happened for the past year a half. We all know how polarizing it’s been in this country.

A lot of people like to say that this election divided America. However, what I’ve realized is that these divisions were always there. This election just brought it out in the open.

If Hillary Clinton eked out an electoral victory, do you think that would have silenced the people who are fostering hate? Of course not. They’d still be there.

But Trump did win. And in four days, it becomes official.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s fair to wonder what he would think of today’s political climate were he alive today?

Call me crazy, but I think he’d be hopeful.

martin-luther-king

While it’s true that we are transferring power from our nation’s first African-American president to a man who is so culturally obtuse that his rallying cry to sway black people was asking them “What do you have to lose?” it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going backwards.

And yes, it’s true that a Trump administration won’t continue the progressive agenda that Barack Obama championed, and likely will even scale back some of the measures his predecessor implemented to protect civil rights.

But not even Trump can stop progress when our nation’s fought too hard to achieve it.

Since Nov. 8, people are more emboldened. They’re more likely to stand up for what they believe in. They’re more willing to become advocates.

Since Nov. 8, we are looking out for one another. We’re all making sure that the most vulnerable factions of are population are protected.

Since Nov. 8, we’re putting our money where are mouth is, donating in record numbers to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement never expected to end racism and discrimination in a day. They — like all visionaries — knew that progress would be slow and arduous, and that there would be many obstacles along the way.

But if you look at our country’s history, we’ve always shone the brightest after our darkest days.

What dreamers like Martin Luther King sought to achieve was to change the status quo. To convince people to have empathy for those who aren’t like them.

Changing the mind of one single person is one thing.

Changing the minds of millions is another.

Martin Luther King envisioned a world where love overpowers hate. Where helping each other is not a choice, but a responsibility. Where equality reigns free and we build bridges, not walls.

Forty-nine years after Martin Luther King’s assassination, millions upon millions of people view the world the same way he does. And millions more will follow.

One president can’t change that.

Happy MLK day, everyone.

Saying goodbye to an (even more) turbulent year

On the eve of the new year 12 months ago, I called 2015 a turbulent year. I was so young. So innocent. So naive.

If only I knew what was coming.

It’s only normal to recap a year and realize how crazy it was. But it’s safe to say that, even in decades from now, we’ll be looking back in time and remembering how extraordinarily bonkers 2016 was.

The celebrity deaths. The terrorist attacks. This freaking presidential election. And we didn’t even get a new Taylor Swift album to ease the pain.

Damn you 2016. Damn you to hell.

But before we finally turn the page in about 48 hours from now, let’s take a few minutes and reflect on the year that was. Remember, we must closely chart history so that we never make the same mistakes again. (Hint: vote differently in 2020, America.)

So what happened this year?

Well, the year began by giving us a new villain to hate: Ethan Couch, the spoiled 16-year-old brat from Texas who stole beer, then illegally drove drunk and killed four people, never saw jail time because of a bogus “Affluenza” defense, and then two years later in early 2016, he violated parole and fled to Mexico with his mom.

Then David Bowie died.

President Obama delivered his last State of the Union, seemingly unifying America for what only lasted for about an hour. Then Sean Penn somehow managed to interview El Chapo, one of the most wanted drug lords in the world who had magically escaped prison.

celebrity-deaths

Shortly after that, the Iowa caucuses began, giving us upset wins for Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. It was the start of a Bernie frenzy that, sadly, would not last. Fortunately, Ted Cruz’s presidential hopes met the same fate.

The threat of the Zika Virus emerged in South America and parts of the U.S. Hey, it’s a lot less scary then Ebola. So if that’s the worst we got, then I’ll take it!

In early February, the most overblown non-news event of the year happened when Beyonce horrified people to their core with her statement-making Superbowl halftime performance. (If only this stayed the most serious issue of 2016.)

An unofficial eighth Harry Potter book was announced, bringing us a nice distraction.

Then Antonin Scalia died, bringing us a months-long saga to fill his seat that still has not ended.

Next, the Apple vs. FBI showdown — deriving from the FBI’s request for Apple to open a locked phone — though it ultimately ended with a whimper.

But it was all OK, because Leo finally won an Oscar!

Erin Andrews won a ton in cash in her peephole lawsuit in March, the Pope joined Instagram, and President Obama became the first sitting president to visit Cuba in more than 60 years.

Brussels was attacked by terrorists on March 22. North Carolina then began its downward descent by limiting transgender rights, a legal mess that is still ensuing today.

April brought us a Villanova championship and the Panama Papers. Oh, and Kobe Bryant retired.

The wonder over who would go on the new $20 bill ended when the U.S. Treasury picked Harriet Tubman.

Then Prince died.

Puerto Rico went into debt, Canada went on fire, and London elected a Muslim mayor.

In late May, Harambe was killed in a Cincinnati, capturing the world’s attention until…

Muhammad Ali died.

Sexual assault on college campuses was brought to the nation’s attention like never before when a Stanford student was given a light sentence for a rape that was viewed by eye witnesses.

Maria Sharapova was suspended shortly after that for using an illegal drug. it made me sad. Later in the year, the suspension was shortened significantly. And I was happy!

simone-biles

In mid-June, tragically, 50 people were shot to death inside of a gay nightclub in Orlando. The mass shooting reignited the gun control debate in dramatic fashion, culminating with a sit-in on the Congressional floor. 

Lebron James gave us a nice distraction by bringing a title to Cleveland. But around the same time, a Member of the U.K. Parliament was murdered, underscoring the wild tension in the country surrounding Brexit, a vote that began a populist wave across western democracies.

Terrorism continued into the late summer, with suicide bombings in Turkey killing 42 people. Police shootings in Dallas followed.

But hey, in July, there was something fun! Pokemon Go excited us for like … two weeks.

The fun didn’t last long though with more police shootings in Baton Rouge. After that, there was a terrorist attack in Nice, France.

In my opinion, August brought us the happiest time of the year on an international level — the 2016 Summer Olympics. For two weeks, we were captivated by Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, a refugee team and the idiocy of Ryan Lochte. Just writing about it makes me nostalgic.

Politics and sports continued to coincide, as Colin Kaepernick’s knee received a lot of attention.

The protest over an oil pipeline at the Standing Rock Indian reservation finally gained national attention in September, and ultimately resulted in a positive verdict for the indigenous.

Self-driving cars got here a hell of a lot sooner than we all thought.

election

A terrorist attack that resulted in no casualties in New York City caught the nation’s eye, especially when the government made the unique move of sending a text message alert to residents to make them aware of a suspect at large.

Those presidential debates began, which, to this very day, make me cringe until my teeth hurt.

Brangelina split; Kim Kardashian was robbed; and creepy clowns invaded America in October.

Bob Dylan won a Nobel prize, but didn’t care at all. Alec Baldwin and Saturday Night Live entertained the hell out of us. The Chicago Cubs defied the laws of nature by winning the World Series in early November.

And on Nov. 8, NOTHING HAPPENED. I REPEAT: NOTHING. If you’re reading this in the future, carry on. Nothing to see here.

Fidel Castro died in late November, making us reflect on how the leader of a small island nation had such a big impact on the world for nearly 60 years.

And that brings us to where we are now. A few more deaths followed — John Glenn, Craig Sager, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds — and now we are two days away from this tumultuous year coming to an end.

Oh, and Russians hacked our elections.

I’m with you. 2016 sucked for the world. Can it get worse in 2017?

We will soon find out.

See y’all next year.

At last, it’s Christmastime.

I was having a sluggish day at work this past Tuesday. Not because anything was going wrong, but I just felt tired and lethargic. Basically, I felt how we all feel on a Tuesday afternoon.

So I decided to head to a nearby mall for pick-me-up beverage at Starbucks. Within minutes of being inside the mall, my mood instantly changed. Christmas reefs were hung all over the walls. Holiday music was playing. Santa was probably lurking somewhere. It was a very festive environment. And to top it off, I purchased a Gingerbread latte.

But I probably could’ve made it through the rest of the day without caffeine; Christmas spirit was the boost I needed to raise my energy level.

Even today, at work, while exiting my office I broke into an ear-to-ear grin when I saw our building super setting up the annual Christmas tree in our main lobby.

There’s just something about Christmas that makes me so happy. Because for one full month, we get to at least pretend that the world is one big happy place. That the snow globes you see, of glittering snow falling upon quaint little villages full of log cabins, is an actual reflection of what the world really is.

christmas-village

If there is ever going to be a real-life miracle that brings everyone together for the sake of hope and happiness, it will be during this month. And just sensing others share that same naive mindset is enough to make me a jolly man.

And mind you, I Identify myself as Jewish, but I stopped pretending years ago that Hanukkah even comes close to competing with Christmas.

Especially after this year’s election, Christmas offers us a time to finally take a deep breath and return to normalcy. Yes, Trump won, and there is a lot of uncertainty in our nation right now, but with Christmas comes a feeling of familiarity that we all crave.

And this holiday season, let’s challenge ourselves to retain these feelings of hope and optimism even after the calendar turns to 2017. And even after President Trump (it’s going to take a little bit of time to type that without gagging) is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Because after all, even though many of us share different ideologies and worldviews, we all have more similarities than we think, and what better time than Christmas to realize that? We all like having snowball fights. We all like the song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and we all like candy canes and Peppermint Mochas from Starbucks.

Let’s start there.

After Christmas is over, we don’t have to necessarily be best friends. But we could all coexist and be happy.

trevor-noah-tomi-lahren

If you are still skeptical, then take the time to watch a video that has been widely shared on social media today — an interview of Tomi Lahren, an ultra-conservative 24-year-old Hayden Panettiere lookalike who has gained a large following on the right-wing website The Blaze, and Trevor Noah, the liberal South African host of the Daily Show.

It’s easy to watch it and say Noah was by the far the most sensible person (which, he clearly was), but let’s also keep in mind that, as the interviewer, he was able to steer the conversation while being reaffirmed by his own audience.

But it really is a great and fascinating conversation between two people of completely different mindsets. And it should teach us that we all really need to get out of our own ideological bubbles and talk to people who think differently than us.

And as was the case with Noah and Lahren, you might still end up maintaining a cordial relationship with the person that you were just disagreeing with.

Just some food for thought.

Have a holly jolly Christmas everyone.

U.S. Congress, literally the worst people on Earth

Emotions were running high a week ago when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly. We’re in the middle of a crazy election. Partisanship was fashionable, and it’s understandable that U.S. Senators would be quick to react before really thinking things through.

But now that we’ve had about 10 days to let it all sink in, and to allow emotions to cool, we could expected our elected officials to start acting rationally, right?

Oh, how silly of me. I forgot. This is America.

Mitch McConnell and other prominent Senate Republicans held firm on their promise today to not even meet with any nomination President Obama makes to the Supreme Court, putting in motion a singular level of obstructionism that our country has never seen before.

Supreme Court.jpg

Any precedent that GOP lawmakers tried to use to justify their behavior has failed dismally, as John Oliver eloquently pointed out on the recent Last Week Tonight.

At this point, they’re just making it up as they go along.

The U.S. Constitution dictates that the sitting president fills any Supreme Court vacancies, with Senate approval. It’s well within the Senate’s right to decline a nomination. It happens often. But to overtly declare before the fact that you will not even consider any nominee put forth by the president is an egregious abdication of one’s civic responsibilities.

In what other position in America is it acceptable to refuse to do your job? And not just refuse to do it — but to tell everybody beforehand that you’re not going to do it?

A job, no less, that people pick you for out of confidence that you will perform it to the best of your abilities?

The Senate has never taken longer than 125 days to vote on a president’s Supreme Court nomination. Once Obama makes his choice, it will be more than 300 days until he leaves office.

If this isn’t evidence that our government’s two-part system is broken, I don’t know what is.

It is worth noting that at least two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, have broken ranks from their party in saying that they would vote on a nominee. It’s a stance that will make them unpopular within the establishment, but says plenty about their character and courage. Unfortunately, there are 52 others that probably do not feel the same way.

We elect Congressmen and women to make decisions. To represent their constituency. We don’t send them to Washington on our behalf to not do their job. How pathetic must we look in the eyes of other countries when our most powerful elected officials renounce their responsibilities?

I can’t speak for any one else, but obviously, this pisses me off. And if I lived in a state in which its Senator decided not to do their own job, then I sure as hell would not vote for them again.

If a Democrat wins the presidency and Republicans maintain the Senate, would they hold off on confirming a nominee for four more years? Eight years, even?

Honestly, nothing would surprise me anymore.

Peyton Manning’s last hurrah, Super Bowl Babies and Coldplay’s vanishing act

It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for me to sit and enjoy a game of football knowing what we know now about concussions and the damaging effect that repeated blows to the head has on player’s long-term sanity.

That being said … YESTERDAY WAS SUPER BOWL 50 PEOPLE. BREAK OUT THE HEAVY ARTILLERY AND CRUSH THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF THE OTHER TEAM AS HARD AS YOU CAN. BASH THEIR SKULLS AND SHOW NO MERCY! KILL KILL KILL.

Woah. Sorry about that. I don’t know what just happened.

On what has become the most American of nights, all of us, football lovers or not, sit on our couch on Super Bowl Sunday and ignore the fact that everyone we see on the screen will probably have early onset dementia in their 50s.

Super Bowl 50

But let me not get too preachy here. Football players know the risks. And with the knowledge that exists now, young people can at least make their own informed decisions as to whether they wish to pursue the sport.

Honestly, a better script couldn’t really have been written for the game. Peyton Manning, one of the most successful, well-liked and marketable players in the sport’s history, is now able to go out on top. It’s your classic storybook ending.

A defensive battle throughout, the game itself was actually pretty boring. None of the offenses never got in a groove. It doesn’t mean it was a bad game — it just wasn’t exciting.

And the commercials were not much better. The only one that actually made me laugh was a T-Mobile ad featuring Drake.

On the opposite end of the coin, the most cringeworthy commercial was one by the NFL itself, with its “Super Bowl Babies” campaign, which not-so-implicitly celebrated unprotected sex following two most likely drunk football fans immediately following their favorite team’s Super Bowl win. And for some reason, Seal was a part of it.

The commercial probably caused many people born in December to enter into a deep and horrifying trance as they pondered the reason and cause for their existence.

Super Bowl 50 halftime show.jpg
And finally, the halftime show. I know that Coldplay is not universally loved, but I’m a fan. They make pretty good music and who hasn’t blasted the song “Fix You” during a time in their life when they were in dire need of an emotional pick-me-up?

That being said, though Coldplay was featured as the headliner, they very clearly played second fiddle to Beyonce and Bruno Mars.

I have no problem with those two — in fact, they were pretty awesome on Sunday — but, if you’re going to announce a headlining act, shouldn’t they be the most prominently featured part of the performance? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, the halftime show needed more Coldplay.

And even when they re-entered the performance with a closing rendition of the aforementioned “Fix You,” the NFL missed a golden opportunity to let former NFL players with CTE sway arm-in-arm around the stage.

Oh well. Despite the savagery, the brain trauma and the NFL’s blatant disregard for their players’ safety, you know we will all be back, one year from now, for Super Bowl 51.

And nine months later will come the Super Bowl babies.

2016 takes another: Spread your wings, sweet Eagle

I was super ready to come back this week all happy and upbeat and move forward from the startling amount of deaths of iconic artists that have taken place in this young year.

And then, around midday on Monday, the news broke that Glenn Frey, the founding member of the Eagles, has died.

God freaking dammit. Come on. Like seriously. What gives?

Is this like some warped version of Final Destination? Are the heavens taking away every celebrity, one by one, until the line ends at Kevin Bacon, or something?

Because if that’s true, just take Kevin Bacon right now. Skip everyone else. I’m sorry, Kevin. I promise I’ll remember you fondly every time I eat a piece of bacon.

Glenn Frey EaglesIn all seriousness though, if you’ve never listened to the Eagles, drop what you’re doing right now and change that. You will never hear more smoother, melodic, effortless music in your life. Listening to the Eagles is the musical equivalent to running your hand over a velvet surface.

And next time you’re due for a lengthy road trip, just plug a few Eagles albums into your iPod, and it’ll pass the time so quickly that you could drive to Alaska without once becoming bored. Except maybe when you’re waiting in line at Customs to cross into Canada, and the border patrol agent makes you turn your music down and asks you trivial, superfluous questions to gauge your reaction and make sure you’re not smuggling drugs into the country.

Anyway, everyone knows “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” “Take it Easy” and “New Kid in Town,”  but try other some other stuff in the coming weeks. I recommend “Doolin-Dalton,” “Certain Kind of Fool,” and my personal favorite, “The Last Resort,” to get you started.

Heck, the last album the band released in 2007, “Long Road Out of Even,” is excellent from start to finish. That’s the true mark of a talented band. Even after 45+ years of making music, and spending much of that time apart to embark on solo careers, they can still reunite and make something spectacular.

Side note: I know there’s no “The” in front of the band name, but it just sounds so awkward to say it that way grammatically.

The beautiful thing about music is that, once it’s made, it’s not going anywhere. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a death to remind us about a good thing. But between David Bowie and Glenn Frey, their legacies left us enough music to keep us occupied for at least the first half of 2016.

Before I go, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s a time for us all to remember an American hero, to appreciate how one man, when fueled by determination, can make a difference, and to also consider how much progress our nation has made over the last several decades.

Or, in the mind of some in the movie industry, it provided a platform to blast the MLK.jpgAcademy Awards for its lack of recognition for black actors.

I’m referring to the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, and director Spike Lee, who each took to social media to make their point. Come on. I get that this is something that should be talked about, but is today really the day to do it?

Playing the race card to make people feel guilty is not the way to honor Martin Luther King. If he knew this was going to be taking place 48 years after his death, it would probably lead him to believe that we have made almost zero progression over that time.

And since when did the Oscars become a symbol of race relations? When it’s come to the point that we need Straight Outta Compton to be nominated for Best Picture to prove that our nation is making strides in racial equality, then we have a problem.

Instead, let’s talk about a proper way to honor MLK, like the words offered by President Obama on his Twitter account.

“It is our mission to fulfill his vision of a nation devoted to rejecting bigotry in all its forms.”

That I can jump on board with.

The Weinblog’s suggested New Year’s resolutions

It’s January 4th, meaning most of you have probably already failed to follow through on your New Year’s resolution.

But need not worry. Trying to decide on a realistic New Year’s resolution is like dropping a cookie on the floor for three seconds and still eating it.

You failed in your task, but it happened so fast you hope no one noticed, and you start anew.

In fact, let me simplify it for you and make a list of 10 possible New Year’s resolutions for 2016.

2016-Resolutions.jpgToo often, people aim to better themselves with their New Year’s goals. But in my opinion, that is only setting yourself up for disappointment.

Because for one, it implies that there’s something wrong with you. And then, when you don’t achieve it, you consider yourself a failure.

Why can’t New Year’s resolutions simply be more mundane, extracurricular activities that just offer something creative for you to engage in? It doesn’t have to be anything inspiring.

And most of all, let them be extremely random. Let me give you a few examples.

Go the entire year without saying “bae.”

I’ll let you say it once. Because once you read it, you feel the urge to say it aloud. Fine, one more time. But that’s it. You’re done for 2016.

Watch three minutes of the NBC show “Telenovela.”

It doesn’t deserve any more of your time than that.

Just decide that you are the fifth member of One Direction.

Don’t even tell any one about it or even attempt to ask the band if it’s OK. Just know that it’s the truth and act accordingly.

Open a Tinder conversation by reciting “Hotline Bling” in Haiku form.

I know when that hot
line bling. It can only mean
one thing. I know when.

View 26 Taylor Swift music videos in a single day.

And by doing so, you  can officially christen the word “Taylorthon.” This concept is also known to me as Sunday.

Tell somebody you wholeheartedly support the Iran nuclear agreement, and when they ask why, say “Just because” and then moonwalk away.

You’ll have won any political argument before it’s even begun.

Come November, write in Pepe Le Pew as your vote for president. Pepe Le Pew.jpg

Let’s face it, he’d do as good of a job as any one else running, even if he is a stinky candidate.

Write a 40,000-word missive declaring your fondness for Benedict Cumberbatch, and then submit it to your local newspaper for publication.

Trust me, as a former journalist, they will enjoy it.

Start a Reddit discussion asking people who they believe is the better lyricist: Pharrell Williams or Bob Dylan?

It’s a near guarantee to incite a lively debate and not anger any music fans at all.

Lose 15 pounds

LMAO. I’m just kidding on this one. Let’s not be silly.