Mike Pence’s night at the theater

Remember when I said I would stop talking about politics after Nov. 8? Well … yeah.

The election is still a bit on the forefront of people’s minds. And it may stay that way for another four years.

I’m not trying to be the voice of reason. I’m not pretending that I am more lucid on this subject than most other people. But what I am trying to do is think about what’s happening from a sensible perspective.

Because in the aftermath of this contentious and divisive election, I feel like that is something missing in the conversation: sense. People are so angry and so emotional that they are speaking from their heart and not from their brain.

“Not my president” is the common calling card among protesters and dissenters. Well, guess what? He is your president. Unless you relinquish your citizenship and take refuge in another country, then Donald Trump is the legitimate leader of the country that you live in. And we must all deal it. It might take a while, but that process begins with sensible conversation.

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And yet, at the same time, it boggles my mind that people fail to understand why others are so unhappy with the result. Donald Trump denigrated various minority groups for a year and a half. He emboldened people who previously hid their hatred to lay it out in the open. So how can people be so blind to not realize that our nation’s most vulnerable residents feel threatened?

Perspective is needed on both sides.

My recent travels have taken me to North Carolina and Florida in the past 10 days — two states that, had either of them voted differently, we may be talking about President Hillary Clinton right now.

Well, after spending some time down there, I’m happy to report one central conclusion — America is still America.

People were not waving confederate flags in the streets. There were no people pledging allegiance to a giant mural of Donald Trump in a public square.

Rather, the two Republican-leaning states consisted of regular, everyday people, just like you and I.

For now, let’s just take this one day at a time. Work hard during the week, and enjoy your nights out over the weekend. We can all go a weekend without discussing politics, right?

Like Mike Pence, who on last Friday night decided to enjoy a performance of the universally-acclaimed Broadway show, Hamilton.

And then the encore happened.

I honestly don’t know why people are surprised. Hamilton reinterpreted American history to highlight the fundamental contributions that immigrants have made on this country. So when the show hosted the vice president-elect whose legislative record has not shown support towards women, minorities or members of the LGBT community, and who is part of an administration that’s boasted widely anti-immigrant sentiment, how could they stay silent?

Their message was cordial and compassionate; pleading yet respectful. And eloquent.

It was the furthest thing from harassment — as our president-elect stated — and was spoken on behalf of immigrants across the nation.

I am not a big fan of the theater. But even I know that Broadway is a beacon of expression. It’s the world’s epicenter for the arts. It’s where our most animated and theatrical souls unite to emote and to vocalize.

If not in that location, at that play, then where else do we tell this administration that we expect equal and fair treatment for all of our residents?

And if people want to boycott the show, then be my guest.

Maybe a dude can finally score some tickets after all.

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What I learned from my Jamaican Uber driver

We are closing in on one week since Donald Trump became the president elect, and needless to say, I am still trying to wrap my head around how exactly how we got to this point.

It’s very easy to say right now that we made a mistake. It’s easy to joke about how terrible of a president Donald Trump will be. But by doing so, we are completely discrediting and ignoring the more than 60 million people who voted for him.

I understand that people are angry. I understand that people want to take to the streets to voice their disapproval of the ideologies that have been expressed by the man we elected.

But we also must be pragmatic. Protesting only deepens the divide that has already been exposed. And doing it violently only sends the opposite message of the cause you wish to further.

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Yes, we must remain vigilant. And yes, we must look out for each other — which has been nicely symbolized by people who are wearing safety pins on their shirts as an act of solidarity — but we also must understand one another.

Go home and talk to your family members. Talk to your friends. Talk to strangers on the street. And in my case, talk to your Uber drivers.

While visiting the swing state of North Carolina (which was a planned trip … I didn’t travel there post-election to yell at people for tilting the election), I was driven back to the airport on Sunday by a man who immigrated from Jamaica a few years ago. And for 15 minutes, we had a very thoughtful conversation about why so many people voted for Trump — and why so many chose not to vote at all.

Needless to say, this election has been a wake-up call for young white liberals. To us, Trump is the biggest threat to the ideologies that we want to see championed across the nation. And in our mostly privileged lives, it’s one of the first time we didn’t get our way.

But for young black voters, a Trump presidency is not an existential problem, especially when you consider how much hardship they have endured — and continued to endure — throughout their long history in this country. To them, Trump is simply another inconvenience towards their path to equality, and one of many.

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On a racism scale of 1 to 10, my Uber driver pegged Trump at “about a 3,” which caught me a bit by surprise. When I asked him to elaborate, he said Trump preaches the sentiments of most people who were born during the Baby Boomer era, who long for the good ole days days of their childhood when nationalism was high and, consequently, segregation was the status quo. Trump’s not trying to be racist, he told me, he just doesn’t know any better because he’s never associated with black people, like most Americans his age.

This was a very similar sentiment expressed by David Chappelle in his cuttingly poignant monologue on Saturday Night Live. “We’ve been here before,” Chappelle lamented. In other words, a roadblock towards progress for African-Americans is nothing new.

Systematic racism has always been there, my Uber driver told me, but now, with Trump as president, it’s more out in the open than ever before. We the people, as well as the media, are on high alert for bigotry. And that, he said, is a good thing.

In other words, it might have to get a little worse before it gets better.

Amazingly, this was the first time I had spoken to a non-white person about the election results. And it just showed me beneficial it is to gain different perspectives.

You can’t stand up for something until you fully understand what the problem is.

I am just as unhappy with this election result as the people who are out there protesting on the streets. You can say that racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hate won in the end.

But instead of simply accepting that and disregarding all other possibilities, I’d rather focus my energy on learning what cultivated the emotion that led to this result.

Until we understand one another, we’re not getting any better.

That Uber ride cost me $13.20.

But the life lessons I learned along the way were priceless.

The Day After: the people have spoken.

For many, the situation that America finds itself in right now was once an unfathomable thought.

After the unorthodox campaign Donald Trump had run, full of race-baiting and xenophobia while feeding off people’s fears and anger, the idea that he would be elected president was simply unthinkable.

Even when he became one of two candidates remaining. Still, there was no way.

And yet, here were are on, on Nov. 9, and Donald Trump is the president elect.

I said this would be a memorable election for the remainder of our lives. But I didn’t believe it would be for this reason.

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What we saw on Tuesday night was a revolution. This was a fervent repudiation of the establishment by working class white Americans. It was a rejection of the political elites, globalism, and a major blow to the legacy of Barack Obama.

And it continues a trend of a populist surge across western Democracies worldwide. First Brexit, now Trumpism, and countries like Germany and France may be next in their own upcoming elections.

But it has happened. And now we must deal with it.

I was anxious going into last night. As the results filtered in, my anxiety grew by the hour. Once Florida turned red and other swing states were not looking promising, I knew in my heart that it was over, and drifted into an uneasy sleep. The next morning, I reluctantly checked the results on my phone, my worst fears confirmed.

I then read through status after status of my Facebook friends who were basically standing on the ledge, as they voiced with disgust about how their lives will never be the same.

I then took a half-hour walk before leaving for work to do some soul searching. And that’s when it hit me: this country cannot be ruled by one man. It is still about us. If you’re unhappy with the result, then express it by being the best human that you can be. Respect and love for one another is, and always will be, the antidote to fear-mongering and hate.

As a straight, white male, I can’t really look at my friends who are gay, or female, or in the minority, and tell them that everything is going to be OK. And I saw that people were sharing this emotional reaction by CNN commentator Van Jones that basically expressed that very sentiment.

I know so many of us are shell-shocked. But what I can tell you with confidence is that we can make it through whatever comes next if we stick together.

Throughout this election, I preached all along that we must come together at the end, in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton win. So what kind of person would I be if I didn’t live up to my own words when the result didn’t go the way that I wanted it to?

As Hillary Clinton beautifully said during her concession speech, we owe it to the sanctity and posterity of our country to give Donald Trump an open mind. Let him prove to us that he can do the job.

And if he can’t — well, this is the age of activism. We’ll let him know. Our president and congress may belong to one party, but we, the people, will be the watchdog.

It was a day of reckoning, indeed, for America. We have sent shock waves throughout the entire world.

But this is still our country.

And I still believe in us.

Election Day 2016: The day of reckoning

In 2008, I was in one of the more unlikeliest of places when I learned that Barack Obama had been elected our 44th president.

I was a senior in college, at Binghamton University in central New York, and I was participating in a beer pong tournament in one of the most popular and notorious bars among students.

It was $3 pitcher night at the Rathskeller, which, in German, translates to “basement.” And it’s called that for good reason. The bar is located in the cellar of another bar.

It’s exactly what you’d expect it to look like. It’s dark, grimy, and the men’s bathroom comprises only troughs to relieve yourself in. It was a favorite among freshmen because the bar was lenient with checking IDs.

But it was there, while throwing a ping pong ball into a red Solo cup on a Tuesday night, where the emcee of the tournament informed us all that Barack Obama had officially won the 2008 presidential election. I believe I shrugged and continued on with my game.

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The next day, when visiting a professor for office hours, she talked jubilantly about how she’ll always remember where she was the moment she learned we had elected our first African-American president. When she asked where I was, I lied and said I had been sitting around a TV watching with friends.

In 2012, I was working in my third year as a journalist, covering local elections in Long Island for the majority of election night. It wasn’t until I got home, close to midnight, when I learned that Obama had defeated Mitt Romney to earn a second term. I was mildly more interested than I was four years ago.

In 2016, I am four years older, four years wiser, and infinitely more invested in who becomes the next president. The stakes are much higher than they’ve been in any of the last two elections, and like everyone else, I have been ridden with anxiety over who will win.

But at the same time, I am also appreciating the significance of the moment. You only liveelection-day-2016 through so many presidential elections in your life — and even less presidents — and we may never experience another contest that is crazier than this one. Furthermore, we quite possibly are on the verge of electing our first woman president.

I am not at a bar, and I am already home from work. I will be experiencing this election right here, at home, with my cat and all of you.

This will be an election season that we will be talking about for the rest of our lives. Its significance may fade over time, like everything does, but it will certainly never be forgotten.

One day, we may all be telling our grandkids about what it was like to live in America in 2016. And today is the culmination of that period.

So just savor it a little bit. It’s obviously a tense night, and we’re all feeling a little high-strung as we await the full results over the next few hours — but at the same time, try to appreciate the historical significance of what we are all currently experiencing.

And then tomorrow, we can focus ourselves on the day after. Because the real impact that will be felt from today’s results is how we react as a nation.

We have two options: stay divided or come together.

Which road we choose will determine how we will be remembered for generations to come.

Here’s hoping for a happy ending.

The worst part of this election is how nasty it’s made us

With six days to go until the election, we can at least distract ourselves this one night with Game 7 of the World Series.

As a sports fan, it’s what you live for. One game to take it all. This game will be recorded in history books until the end of time. It’s where sports heroes are made and legacies are forged. Just sit back and enjoy.

Now back to the election! Yay!

I found myself in an unexpected political debate earlier today while I was getting lunch with a coworker. I say ‘unexpected’ because it was a colleague who I hadn’t really even heard express any political opinion since I’ve known him.

But today he was voicing his deep vitriol for Hillary Clinton, and as someone who fully intends to vote for her, I found myself on the defense.

If nothing else, I pride myself in not being ignorant. Even if it’s not something I want to know, I try to make sure I  have a base knowledge of all the facts of the pertinent political story lines. And thus, the argument basically became us having a back-and-forth arguing which candidate is worse.

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Shockingly enough, the world did not stop spinning on its axis. After a few minutes, we both stopped and agreed that it’s a sad state in America when, one week before the election, we are basing our political arguments on who is less bad.

And it’s an offshoot of the negativity that’s surrounded the 2016 election. Rather than discussing which candidate can inspire and help more people, and how they can change America for the better, it’s become a debate about which one comes with the least amount of baggage.

I’m proud to report that our lunch then went about its usual course, and we gladly continued our days after that without thinking any less of each other. Which is how political arguments should be.

No matter what happens in this election, we’ve already shown the worst of ourselves. The divisiveness and bitterness that has spread like a disease throughout our country is completely out in the open. There’s no hiding from it anymore.

In other words, we have very little to be proud of after Nov. 8.

It doesn’t mean we’re a lost cause. But it certainly means that there is some healing that needs to take place. And weirdly enough, my cordial argument with my colleague today gave me hope that it can happen. Because it proved to me that two people with differing beliefs can have a disagreement and still coexist quite peacefully.

A lot of people are going to be unhappy after the vote. But this talk of refusing to accept the result, or of starting of a revolution — it needs to stop. We need to move on and do it as a united force.

I’m not going to say I’m confident it will happen. But I know we are at least capable of it.

Maybe one day we will all learn to put country over party. Like Bill Weld, the Libertarian vice presidential candidate, who during an interview with Rachel Maddow on Tuesday essentially advised people to vote for Hillary Clinton because, in his opinion, Donald Trump is not an option.

Perhaps we can follow Bill Weld’s lead and weld together as one.

#BillWeldPun

The email controversy is the worst political “scandal” of all time

I’d say happy Halloween everybody, but given the state of this presidential election, every day for the last several months has felt like Halloween.

And with just over a week to go, those who clung to the desperate hope that it would come to peaceful, amicable ending  were sadly, sadly mistaken.

It’s only fitting that this tumultuous presidential contest would have its most severe twist just days before the majority of voters head to the polls, when on Friday we learned that the FBI is once again looking into whether Hillary Clinton did indeed commit a crime by mishandling classified emails in relation to her private email server — an investigation that the bureau had already closed this summer.

Even typing that whole thing out sucked.

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There’s so much to unpack here.

FBI Director James Comey is under intense criticism from both sides of the aisle for his decision to notify Congressional leaders of the new developments so close to Election Day, when we don’t even know if the new trove of emails discovered carry any significance whatsoever.

Not only did Comey go against department policy, but he disregarded the recommendations from the Department of Justice, and is now being accused of breaking the law by his meddling in the election.

And that’s the whole absurdity of this new development. The FBI has admitted they do not know if these emails matter. Heck, we don’t know how many of them are new, or if any of them were even sent by Hillary Clinton.

So to reignite the email controversy less than two weeks before the election without any evidence of wrongdoing …. well, I’ll just let you form your own opinion. It remains to be seen how this may affect people’s votes on Nov. 8 … but my gut tells me that people have already made up their minds, and pending a bombshell revelation this week, that this won’t be enough to change enough people’s minds to affect the result.

We haven’t even gotten to the most ridiculous aspect of this yet. The emails were discovered not on Clinton’s server, not on Wikileaks, but on a laptop used by disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who the FBI was investigating for allegedly sending explicit photos to a 15-year-old girl.

The computer was found to have contained emails from Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s closest aides and Weiner’s estranged wife.

Let’s just say I share the same reaction that Joe Biden had when he first learned of Anthony Weiner’s involvement.

I can’t reiterate enough how inane this email controversy is. No one wanted to hear about it in the first place (including Bernie Sanders, who arguably had the most to gain by capitalizing on it), and we were all thrilled when it was over last July. And now it has been brought back for the dumbest of reasons.

If Hillary Clinton has knowingly put American lives at risk and jeopardized national security because of her careless use of an email server, then those headlines would be splashed across my television screen faster than the movie “Inferno” will be out of theaters.

Instead, we have emails about Hillary Clinton’s aides conversing about how they could get the upper hand in winning an election.

“Lock her up.”

Selfie takers, beware. You may be arrested on Nov. 8

My stance on selfies has evolved over the years. But it’s mainly because I’ve come to accept their universality in a smartphone-ubiquitous world rather than the fact that I now enjoy them.

They’re like mosquitoes. They’re annoying, responsible for killing people, but are never going to go away. So we might as well just live with it.

Thus, I don’t have a fervent hatred for them like I used to. My distaste for them was so great at one point, that if selfies were actually declared illegal, and people who took them were thrown in jail, I probably wouldn’t have even minded.

Little did I know, that may actually end up being the case in less than two weeks.

Millennials everywhere were put on high alert when news broke that Justin Timberlake may have broken a state law when he took a selfie of himself while casting his early ballot in this year’s presidential election.

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The Memphis-born singer-songwriter has a large presence on social media, and being an outspoken advocate for Hillary Clinton, obviously felt compelled to set an example to his followers of the importance of voting.

Instead, Timberlake highlighted the outdated nature of our current laws, which in some states, ban photography of any kind inside polling stations.

I say it’s outdated because these laws exist to protect people’s right to privacy while voting. But privacy doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone shares their political views on social media, so it really shouldn’t come as a secret to learn who is voting for who, whether it’s a friend of yours or a celebrity.

Heck, with Donald Trump continuously forewarning of a rigged election, maybe selfies are exactly what we need to shut him up. If everybody took a photo of themselves voting and posted it on social media, then we’d actually have a form of accountability of who voted.

Just in case you’re wondering, states that ban photography in the voting booth include Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

If you’re from the 33 other states, then selfie your heart out.

Amazingly, the D.A.’s office in the county where Timberlake cast his vote initially said they were going to review whether the musician broke the law.

Ultimately, the office said on Wednesday that they will not be investigating the matter, which could have carried a penalty of a $50 fine plus 30 days in jail. So Justin will not be thrown into the N’Clink.

The worst joke of all time? The worst joke of all time.

Another official from the D.A.’s office reportedly told the Associated Press that they were “thrilled Justin can’t stop the feeling.”

It’s too bad it wasn’t Nick Carter who was caught taking the ballot selfie.

Then that same official could have said that the need to vote is “larger than life.”