Trumpocalypse 2017: At least we’re not Turkey

When things feel like they are going bad in the U.S., what I like to do to make me feel better is look around the world to find a country that is having worse problems than we are.

Trust me, there are plenty.

Last time I did this, I talked about the power struggle in The Gambia, where the nation’s outgoing president refused to step down after he was democratically voted out of office. It was an episode that required military intervention from neighboring countries, and fortunately ended peacefully.

Today I’d like to discuss a country that’s northern half is part of Europe, and bottom half is part of Asia, and yet, neither continent probably wants any of it: Turkey.

Outside observers have long concluded that Turkey has been experiencing a democratic backslide under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and president after that.

The average person likely doesn’t know who Erdogan is. But you may have heard his name in a bizarre story that went viral in 2014 that underscores his perceived authoritarian rule. That involved a Turkish man who was arrested in 2014 after he compared Erdogan to Gollum on social media. Last year, the man was slapped with a one-year prison sentence.

Imagine that happening in America. If we locked up everyone who badmouthed Trump on social media, the only people left standing would be Sean Hannity and the entire state of Kentucky. And I would be in Guantanamo.

But those are the type of things that happen in Turkey. The country has been largely criticized in recent years for its tendency to turn a blind eye to ISIS fighters traveling through the country to get to other European nations.

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That being said, it certainly doesn’t diminish the fact that Turkey has also been victimized by deadly attacks from terrorists.

Erdogan’s regime has become even more oppressive since a surprise coup attempt last July, when members of the military organized overnight to – unsuccessfully – overthrow his regime.

Since then, his regime has suspended or fired more than 12,000 government employees, and arrested some 50,000 soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges, academics and lawmakers suspected of being dissidents.

Turkey also jailed more journalists than any other country in 2016, a number estimated to have reached greater than 150.

And it’s only getting worse. Earlier this year, the Turkish Parliament voted to allow a referendum that would give the president of the country – who happens to be Erdogan – greater power and authority. Historically in the country, the prime minister is the government chief and president is mostly a ceremonial role.

The vote in parliament was so contentious that one opposition lawmaker was sent to the hospital after having her prosthetic arm ripped off in a fistfight on the Parliament floor.

The referendum on the new Constitution is in April, and it’s actually led to international diplomatic disputes as Turkey has been seeking to campaign in countries where Turkish citizens live abroad.

But after Germany and the Netherlands refused to let Turkish officials in their country to do so, the Turkish government called the two countries “Nazis” and “fascists.”

So, as you can see, things are going awfully swell in Turkey.

Now this isn’t to say that we should observe the chaos happening abroad and consequently shrug off the problems happening here as trivial matters, but it does help to offer a little perspective.

Today, House Republicans postponed the vote on the new health care bill once they realized they didn’t have enough votes to approve it. But don’t celebrate … they will be back, and whatever they bring with them will not be good for lower-class Americans.

And with each passing day, the links between Trump associates and Russian officials continues to grow.

So things aren’t quite peachy here either.

But hey, at least we live in a country where I get to call our president Gollum, Sauron, Voldemort, Darth Vader, King Joffrey, Scar from the Lion King, the Wicked Witch, Cruella de Vil, Dr. Evil, Walter White, the Boogie Man and Donald Trump combined.

That’s right, I’m making a bold prediction that in 20 years from now, we’ll unanimously consider Donald Trump synonymous to a cartoon fictional villain.

Until then, we’ll keep trying him out as the top executive of the most powerful nation in the world.

Should go well.

The curious case of Tomi Lahren

For many millennials, this election season was a political awakening, and offered the prime opportunity to discover their voices.

I think it’s even fair to say that most people did know what they truly believed in — or their friends, for that matter — until this election kicked into high gear.

And that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to have beliefs and principles, as long as you don’t let it totally consume you in a fanatical way.

Most people learned exactly what their friends do think, as their Facebook pages become inundated with post after post about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, or any number of issues that came up in the exhausting 18-month campaign season.

I bet everyone reading this even blocked a “friend” or two whose opinion they simply couldn’t take anymore.

One millennial who found her voice in a big way is Tomi Lahren, who, in 2016, became something of a cult hero, particularly among young, conservative thinkers.

The fledgling political commentator, who hosts her own online show on the conservative website The Blaze, founded by Glenn Beck, became famous for her quick-talking, unapologetic rants about liberals.

What goes without saying is that she is a very pretty girl. It’s wrong and untrue to say that she became popular because of her looks, but it is no doubt part of her appeal. But what caused people to stick around and keep listening was the things that she said.

For liberals, who mostly avoid conservative websites like the plague, Tomi Lahren didn’t enter their consciousness until she was interviewed by Trevor Noah on the Daily Show last winter. I highlighted it when it happened because, although I almost fully disagreed with Lahren on everything she said, it was a positive example of how two people with very differing worldviews can sit down and have a conversation, and not yell and scream at one another.

Lahren has reaped the benefits of the added publicity from that appearance, appearing on Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” and more recently, on The View.

But it was her latter appearance that got her in trouble among conservatives.

Tomi Lahren

While pedaling her typical right-wing viewpoints, she blurted that she is pro-choice, going as far as saying the federal government can “stay out of my body.”

Even the hosts on the show were surprised, given that being pro-life is one of the hallmarks of the conservative doctrine.

Shortly after the appearance, and after significant conservative backlash, Lahren was suspended for one week by Glenn Beck, who accused her of being “intellectually dishonest” to her supporters, given that she’s expressed anti-abortion sentiment in the past. There’s speculation that her show may be canceled permanently.

Lahren subsequently defended herself on Twitter, calling herself an “independent thinker.”

Liberals, meanwhile, hailed the decision, having been long fed up with Lahren’s schtick.

But as much as I personally abhorred the drivel that frequently comes out of Lahren’s mouth, I find it very hypocritical for her detractors to celebrate this turn of events, especially considering she was punished for expressing a belief that the overwhelming majority on the left agree with.

To me, the story is this: Lahren, who is 24 and has more than 4 million followers on Facebook, became too popular too soon, and as a result, found herself in way over her head. Quite simply, she has not lived long enough to form fully composed, well-rounded ideologies. She’s getting there, as we all are, but she was given a platform before she could reach that point.

And as someone who is expected to give her opinion loudly and brashly, it was only a matter of time before she went ahead and contradicted herself.

So I have sympathy for Lahren. I really do.

When I was 24, I was still deciding whether I preferred Bud Light or Miller Lite, let alone liberal or conservative. And she’s doing it to an audience of millions.

At the end of the day, we’re all hypocritical. We all contradict ourselves. I’m sure you can find dozens of instances on this blog where I’ve said one thing and later said the opposite.

I applaud Lahren for taking a stance that she knew would be unpopular with her base, but I also hope that she learns a valuable lesson from this.

Her supporters and her critics, meanwhile, can learn something, too. We live in a country now where if you don’t subscribe to every single issue a certain way, then you are not considered a true conservative or liberal.

This is the fundamental problem underlying the divide that we find ourselves in right now as a nation.

Not only do pundits dictate how we should think, but we’re discouraged from thinking differently.

I say we organize an event where we gather Republicans and Democrats for a giant think tank session while blasting “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran the whole time.

It’s just a really good song.

Thank you, Barack Obama.

I started this blog as a bored, unmotivated college graduate in December 2009, as a means to relieve my daily musings about life, culture and entertainment from people’s Facebook feeds.

My life had little purpose and I was making practically no money, but I was blissfully unfettered from the obligations of having a full-time job, and I was almost completely disinterested in politics. A search in the archives of this blog’s early days will reveal virtually zero posts with a political agenda.

Indeed, in the blog’s first full year in 2010, I’d wager that “Snooki” appeared more times than “Obama.”

At the time, Barack Obama’s presidency was in its fledgling state. I probably never would have guessed that I’d still be blogging regularly more than seven years later, as his two-term presidency comes to an end.

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It wasn’t until the last few years when I really started to appreciate the significance of Obama and all that he has accomplished, and attempted to accomplish.

Without a doubt, it’s one of my biggest regrets that I wasn’t more politically conscious during Obama’s rise in 2008. The way he galvanized and captivated an entire nation is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and may never see again.

The nation was in trouble. We were mired in two bloody wars we had no business being involved in. The economy was on the verge of collapse. Belief in government was not high.

And then came Obama, a first-term junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, trying to achieve something that was once unthinkable – an African-American leading a country whose sustainability and subsequent emergence as a world power more than 200 years ago was reliant on slavery; a country that required a massive civil rights movement a mere five decades ago to squash the widespread remnants of inequality.

People looked at him to restore their faith in democracy.

“Yes We Can,” was his rallying cry. And he was elected.

Eight years later, It’s almost impossible to discuss Obama without it leading to a political argument. Liberal and Conservative ideologies have diverged so extravagantly that our natural instincts are to attack the other rather than to find common ground.

The political environment is so polarized that the accomplishments that Obama supporters praise are the very same things his critics name to lambaste him.

Obamacare. The Iran nuclear deal. Opening relations with Cuba. His stimulus and auto bailout to save the economy. His numerous environmental protections.

That doesn’t count the death of Osama Bin Laden and his support for marriage equality.

But there’s some things about Obama that can’t be denied, no matter how much others try to: his unrivaled orating skills and his unique ability to inspire; his inclination to always take the high road, even when others tried their hardest to bring him down; and the exemplary behavior he has displayed on an international stage as the top representative of our nation.

For eight years, Obama has acted how a president should. For eight years, he tried to help people the best way he can, with almost no support from Congress. And not some people — all people.

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And that’s one of the reasons it’s been so hard for some people to say goodbye.

Obama was more than a president. He was a symbol of how far we have come. Of how far we could still go. And he has done it with nothing but class for eight years.

Hate him or love him, Obama will be a name that will never be forgotten as long as America exists. Roads and schools will be named after him. Statues will be erected in his honor. One day, he may find himself on currency.

Only time will tell whether his legislative accomplishments truly set the country on a brighter path, and how much the next administration set in motion to derail it.

On a personal note, I will sincerely miss Obama. I am proud that he is my president, and that he has been the face of our country for eight years. I’m in awe of his endless optimism and determination, even in the face of adversity every single day.

And after watching him say goodbye on Tuesday night in Chicago, I couldn’t help but become emotional.

“Yes we can,” he concluded at his speech’s end, repeating his rallying cry from more than eight years ago — this time, with one final addendum.

“Yes we did.”

A love letter to America

Dear Americans,

We are better than this.

Too often, the vehicle that is our country’s driving force towards democracy — our elections — is the very same one that stalls us against one another.

It is the cornerstone of what makes us a free and sovereign nation, and yet, can also showcase the very worst in all of us.

While it’s far from uncommon for an election that determines a nation’s highest leader to become a bitter, partisan affair, this year, it’s sunk to new levels.

And it’s brought us to a place where we should never be.

We used to respect one another. We didn’t always agree, but we were at least willing to listen, understand each other’s viewpoint and attempt to find a common ground.

It’s the fundamental principle our nation was built on. Compromise.

We rose from oppression. We were ruled by a monarchy that didn’t give us a say. So we designed our government in a way that allows us to keep each other in check. Did it slow the legislative process? Yes. But it was supposed to. And it forced lawmakers and people of all ideologies to sit down at the table together to find a solution.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that. And it’s been happening for decades. But rather then confront the problem, we’ve turned a blind eye and pretended it wasn’t there.

Now we are dealing with the consequences of our own willful ignorance.

The rampant xenophobia, sexism and racism that has entered mainstream political discourse like never before has given the entire a world a glimpse into what our country has become. Our problems and shortcomings have been put under a spotlight. And there is no where to hide.

Rather than working to solve these issues, too many people are seizing the opportunity to blame and decry those who they believe are responsible for this mess.

As a result, it’s created a toxic political atmosphere and made us more divisive than ever.

We once cared about setting an example for the world. But instead we’ve become an ominous warning of what can happen when we  put ourselves ahead of each other. When we let fear dominate over hope. When we disregard ideas simply because they’re not how we want them to be.

This election season has been painful to digest. It’s agonizing to see people who harbored decades-old contempt suddenly feel emboldened to make their hate known.

As much as I’ve tried for the past year to shrug it off as an aberration that will normalize itself after Election Day, I’ve finally come to the realization that we cannot.

We must confront this. And it’s with this dispirited sense of acceptance that I have hope.

Because on November 9, we have the unique opportunity to shape where we go from here. We can continue the division along two separate paths, or we can come together and stand united like we have so many times before.

This is within our capabilities.

It won’t be easy. But if we strive to do it, then we can.

I will place my vote on Election Day. And whatever happens happens.

But I will control the one thing that is within my power: to be the best version of me that I possibly can. And to care and respect the people that I see every day.

Are you with me?

Sincerely,

The Weinblog.