Thursday, 29 September 2016

40 Days To Go

I'll be the first to admit that in my 48 years only a handful of things have mattered to me as much as this upcoming election. It's opened my eyes to many things that are wrong, things I didn't know or care about as recent as just a few years ago. It's opened my eyes to the fundamental differences in the way we think, what we feel, what we want, what we're frustrated with, and what's important to us. More importantly, it's the level of "personal" that's been spotlighted and made easier to witness thanks to social media. I think that for the longest time my scope was really, REALLY narrow. I had a job, I made money to survive and live, I had a roof over my head, food in my kitchen, I had medical insurance, I had a car, my parents were safe, my health was decent enough, I loved my family and I didn't think much about things outside of that immediate scope. Did I want more? Of course. The security that comes with a thriving savings account, money to blow, to not worry about utilities going up, or a minor disaster knocking me off course, sure that would have been made things easier, but on a day to day basis, I was happily plodding along with my blinders on. Things happened that would bump me off track. The Gulf War was probably the first time I found myself watching the evening news on a regular basis. Watching that unfold, trying to understand it, not having a clue, and feeling a bit shameful that I didn't have said clue. Then 9/11 occurred. That was probably the first time I felt shaken to the core, scared to the bone, all of the sudden. In my mind, it was out of nowhere because I had gotten complacent again, wasn't following world news and now it forced me to pay attention. It forced me to see outside the scope way more and I'll be honest, I didn't like it. I never really followed global politics. I mean, I knew Bush was pretty much an idiot. I knew he said stupid things and the media loved to have a laugh about it ("Fool me once....") and social media was picking up steam, more news, easier access to it with our fancy smartphones. Not to mention, growing up; more responsibilities, more concerns, and now, more questions. So, basically what I'm saying is a LOT has changed since the days of having a narrow scope.

So, for the last 8+ years, I think I've been more aware of what's going on around the world than I have ever been. Still, not in a "broad" scope kind of way, but having a LGBT-based podcast reporting on news that effects our community made me read, seek and research a lot of headlines about things I'd usually not actively look for, like our lack of legal rights. Legal HUMAN rights. For the longest time, flip-flopping around in relationships, no intentions of marrying, or reproducing, or buying property, stuff like that- those rights didn't mean much to me, personally. But my eyes were forced open by the friends I had made who DID want to marry their partners, who wanted that legal protection, who wanted to start families. Then I saw the activism. Seeing the tireless work being done to change laws on our behalf and it started to matter more. I was seeing worldwide LGBT problems, people dying because of who they loved, and young people taking their own lives because of bullying and shame. That's eye-opening stuff, right there. Slowly, what was happening was that not only was I starting to care more about what was going on, I was understanding what was important to other people, not just myself.

So, it's taken some time to get to where ALL of this "stuff" matters. The more I saw, the more frustrating it was, and at times, often painful to see and read about. Then it actually happened. When same-sex marriage became legal, when history was made, when voices were heard and laws were changed from DOMA, to the military, to marriage, it showed progressive and positive change was possible and it made quite an impact. Even though there is more work to be done, the thing to remember is that people are talking about it, openly, publicly, the discussions that used to be hushed or brushed off or that seemed so minor where now a major topic in the news, on the street and in Supreme Court.

I never knew much about the GOP, congress, the senate, the house, etc. Honestly, I don't know who I was passing notes to History class back then, or if I just didn't absorb it because I was so anxious to get to the mall or something, but it all went over my head and it wasn't anything that seemed to get discussed too much at home or anywhere else, for that matter, that I can remember. So, politics, government, world news, human rights.... not huge on my list back then.

Now, as an adult, I'm out there on my own having to do my own research and man, I'll say this, when your late to the game, you have a LOT of catching up to do. I think that's exactly what's happening to so many people my age. This is the first major election where so much is at stake because so much has happened, (and we've actually seen how far we can come) and we've been so exposed to everything because of the access we now have via social media, the internet and blessed are those of us who are now WAY more comfortable using it than we were 8, 9, 10 years ago. Well, now we have to use it to figure out who were going to vote for because this is too important to let go by all willy nilly.

So, I think we start by asking ourselves "what's important to me?" and then we get overwhelmed by just how much IS. My God, when someone says, "Think about what's important to you and then vote for the candidate you feel is best regarding those issues."  WHAT? Oh my God, where do I start? So many things are important to  I mean, from the local and state level, to the representation in the Senate, to the Supreme Court, to the President. It's ALL important to

The few things that used to be important were also pretty much secure (for lack of better word) a while ago. The housing market, the stock market, the FED, banks, the military, health insurance, our basic freedoms - never much to worry about. Now? Oh man, you bet you've worried. You saw your equity plummet, you saw interest rates skyrocket, you read about oil, gas prices as they slowly crept up, you worried about your job security, you got wrapped and squeezed by red tape when you tried to see a doctor, have a consultation, needed hospitalization, or when you needed a college loan for your kid, or to re-finance your mortgage. More and more things were effecting us on a personal level, things we were taking for granted, things we had taken our eye off, not knowing anyone had dropped the ball on, or were messing with are all fucked up! Your wallets, pay checks, savings, basically YOUR MONEY wasn't going as far and something was happening-things were all of the sudden stressful. Your family member, or a friend, or a friend of a friend was being deployed to Afghanistan or the middle east fighting terrorism. You or your child needed a prescription drug that was unaffordable even with insurance. Whatever was happening was right up in our faces now, at least that's how I felt. I had to start taking at look at what was going on. So, now we're talking about the "broad" scope. Why was congress stoping legislation on so many things that could help us? Why weren't banks and big corporations being held accountable for what they had done? What's the deal with big Pharma and the NRA and why wasn't more being done about justice, law enforcement and community issues? On a more grand scale, are we safe from terrorists? Why can they buy guns if they can't even fly? What is a No-Fly list, anyway? What's the hell is stopping things from getting fixed, or changed for the better? How did this happen?

So, here I am with more questions and concerns than I've ever had in my lifetime, and oh great, by the way, it's an election year.

I have got to weed out fact from fiction on my own and that means rolling up my sleeves and digging in on a level I've never experienced. In the last 8 months, I've stayed up until 5am at times watching interviews, political rallies, speeches, town hall meetings and political analysts on all different channels because I don't want to seem biased. I'm fact-gathering! I've read more news than I care to admit and as I'm doing so, I'm realizing that I've got to be the one to decide if what I see is true and that's not easy, especially with these two candidates. Up until two weeks ago, I even kept an eye on the Libertarian candidate on the off chance his ideas appealed to me, but sadly that stopped when he didn't know about Aleppo and then most recently couldn't name ONE foreign leader he'd like to talk to.

So, okay, I've eliminated that possibility and I'm left with the other two. When it comes to Hillary Clinton, I've dug hard and read, and scoured the internet for reports and tried to keep an open mind, which is hard when all you see is "Emails" and "Benghazi". So, I thought, "Let me go back further to try and piece together her history, her career" because honestly, all I really knew was that she was a democratic New York Senator,  First Lady for a period of time, and Secretary of State. I didn't know much else, nor did I care before. I did remember that she faced a lot humility in the press for standing by her husband during his plagued career in the White House. I didn't think less of her. I really just thought she was a mother and wife and whatever happened, her stance was to keep her family together at whatever cost and it actually seemed brave to me. I admired the decisions she made as Secretary of State and what that job meant; negotiations, compromises, listening, understanding foreign policies, finances, budgets, reading & absorbing reports and facts, all the while trying to please our President, our nation as well as our allies. But going further back, the dedication to serving the public and reading about where she came from, particularly (what her parents went through) and what's she's accomplished in face of constant and utter public scrutiny was, to put it mildly, impressive- and not because she's a woman, yes that alone speaks volumes, but because after a failure or a knock down, she kept going, kept getting things done, kept taking on more. Whether a man or a woman, her record of dedication and length of service stands to say a lot. It's not JUST about a woman breaking the glass ceiling to me, it goes beyond that. I'm quite certain that she knew running for President was going to put her in a hot seat over dozens of things that the public and media would latch onto from her past, and they would continue to dig and scrimp and spin to find anything that could be used against her, to disqualify her, to make her look like a villain, and by God they have. If there was something to uncover, to prosecute her for, to disqualify her for, wouldn't they have uncovered it? And, really, with her experience in politics, would she even run if that were a viable risk? Let's also get this straight: by experience, I mean just that. Having experience doesn't mean "four more years of the same", if anything it means, "I've watched, I've learned, I've failed, I've succeeded, I know what doesn't work, I know what NEEDS work, and I know between myself and the people I want on my committees and under me in office, we will get things done." Otherwise, why run? Because it's so fun? Because it's so awesome to be able to ring the White House staff and request some frozen yogurt at 2am if you want? Been there, done that, hasn't she? So... has to be more than the obvious.

The things I've come to learn about her negative headlines, especially about Benghazi, is that first off, anyone who takes a job at foreign embassy knows and understands the risks involved, and yes, of course they expect the utmost protection to be able to do their job and I'm certain they know that things can go downhill fast or even unexpectedly. I'm not dismissing the lives lost, but I have to wonder moving forward, for those still doing and working at foreign embassies, how safe are they going to feel knowing a hot headed, foul mouth candidate like Donald Trump could make it into office and say something offensive, some off the cuff remark that will spark unrest and jeopardize their safety in the foreign country their stationed at? After the amount of money and time, including the 11 hour congressional hearing that proved nothing, it's time for the GOP to focus on something else. It's not dismissing what happened. Lives lost, people effected, they won't forget it and they shouldn't have to and yes it would help to have someone accept responsibility and be held accountable, no doubt, because that's what needed for them to heal and changes to be made to ensure it wouldn't happen again in some other scenario but that falls on many people, not just one. So perhaps looking elsewhere could heal and help in the long run.

Secondly, this isn't the first "email scandal" to ever be reported. There were emails deleted and private servers being used by Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice before this and everyone is aware of that. The public doesn't get to decide that it was okay for them and not okay for her. Confidential and Classified are two very different things. You know what comes up marked "confidential" in my email? A sale from Lane Bryant Fashions because the word "account" was in the body of the email.

Look, I'm not trying to sway anyone's vote, or maybe I am, but I whole-heartedly admit that I know I won't, because I feel as much passion (in the opposite way) as a Trump supporter. But I will say this in the sincerest, most genuine, honest of ways: I don't understand the support for him. I don't understand how it can better to have a business man run the country. I don't understand it when someone says, "He made 650 million dollars this year alone, that's success!" What does that do for YOU? He didn't pay federal income taxes on it, but you paid yours and you made WAY less. How is that okay? Because he has lawyers scouring paperwork looking for loopholes not to? Because he lists his bullshit charitable donations that no one seems to be able to verify, as write offs to offset what he owes? The thing is, most importantly- I'm not reading some liberal or democratic made-up false headlines on the internet, I'm LISTENING to HIM as he says these things. I'm reading his tweets that he writes. I'm literally watching him hide his tax returns from the American public that he wants votes from. I'm listening to him admit he didn't pay workers, laborers, and small businesses who provided a service to him building his towers and businesses because "the work was unsatisfactory." Let me ask you, if you ordered a steak and it came out of the kitchen unsatisfactory, you took a bite, didn't like it...wouldn't you send it back? I mean, why not tell these companies he wanted it done better or differently, why WHY when you have as much money as God, would you just simply stiff them? Furthermore, why wouldn't you say, "That was a long time ago, I'll make it my mission to pay repay these hard working people, but let's move forward.."  ?? (Even if he had no intention!) Why go in front of 87 million viewers and act smug about it? And I'll go one better, when he's pressed about past settled lawsuits involving racially motivated, blatant discrimination on his company's behalf, he simply talks of more loopholes and settling "with no admission of guilt". I'm not reading something made up, I'm WATCHING AND LISTENING TO HIM SAY IT. I'm not deriving my opinion from non-credible sources. I'm listening to audio of him speaking. The awful things he says about women. I have given him the benefit of the doubt at times, thinking, "Well, that was a while ago." But, when they get brought up NOW, after having time to reflect, having time to grow as a person, perhaps? Nope- he doubles down. The ridiculous birther conspiracy, the fact that he's on his third marriage, cheated on two wives, bragged about it on Howard Stern's national radio show, and then wants to drag Bill Clinton, who ISN'T running for President into a national debate because of HIS past's like watching a 12 year old on the school playground. How is it that his own indiscretions don't apply?! We all know about those. Why are his acceptable? All right, okay. Let's take another approach. In my mind, I picture his advisors, maybe, taking him aside, and in some kind of well thought out ("how do I NOT upset him, but still let him know...") manner try to coach him on a few things that may not be coming across well with the public. Ya know? Like, "Mr. Trump, perhaps it would be a good idea to stick to things we discussed earlier, like staying on point, keeping with our message, NOT reacting...thinking before you speak...."  and I can see Donald, nodding, squinting, taking it in momentarily, maybe EVEN KNOWING its sound advice. Yet, he is absolutely and completely incapable of keeping his shit together. That's not the guy I want sitting at the next UN Security Council Meeting with other World Leaders, representing MY country.  There, I said it.

But, let's go back to policy and issues - he talks a lot money, about keeping big corporations here in America instead of them taking their business abroad and yet his own manufacturing companies are in China. He says Ford Motor Company is leaving, and Ford Motor Company responds saying, "No, we aren't." It doesn't phase him.  He talks of how he would have done things differently, like "taking the oil" from the Middle East and none of this ISIS stuff would be happening.  Even I know that there are sanctions in place and are regulated by NATO and you can't just "steal" another county's oil! I looked at his website, and I'm no pro, but his tax plan seems to only benefit the wealthiest percentage of the country. And yet it's the poorest people that seem to champion him. All I can think is that maybe they're just impressed by all his money. "He makes millions, he's got hundreds of businesses, he's a smart guy." Is he? Mark Cuban makes more and he's not thinking he can run the country. Why is Trump's money a factor? What's he done to help you? He actually hurt you in the process of making that money. And he publicly said the collapsed housing market helped him buy more properties. I don't want a guy that cheers that kind of thing because it's better for him. That's pretty mean. Right? But again, what's he done in his past that would make anyone think he's going to help this country? If he wanted to help he would have paid his taxes and kept his multi million dollar manufacturing business here in America and create some jobs. Am I wrong in my way of thinking?
Did he work for children and disabled people's rights? Did he serve any public office? Did he turn down big money to go fight for better schools for our countries kids?

Okay, okay. Moving on, he pledged his allegiance to the LGBT people, saying "I will protect you" and then promptly chose Mike Pence as a running mate, who opposes the same-sex marriage laws and exactly one month after the Pulse shooting, met with an anti-LGBT organization, quietly, in Orlando, a few miles from where the biggest mass shooting in the US happened (at a gay club). He insults the African American community on a regular basis, and he thinks he can get Mexico to pay for building a wall. He wants to ban an entire religion and he's using that fear we felt after 9/11 to propel his stance on immigration. Again, not reading made up stuff, just LISTENING to him. Even when I try really hard to see or understand what people are attracted to about his campaign, I can't find anything. If trust is such a major issue, how can people trust a guy that says "Not paying taxes makes me smart" in front a gazillion viewers, then less than an hour later says, "I didn't say that," because I know it wasn't just me who saw and heard that! How is trust the key component when just about every single news outlet including Fox News plays a video or an audio clip or posts a tweet of his that is a direct contradiction to something he's saying OUT LOUD, in front of people, in the media, at rallies, on TV, on radio, in print...? I'm not understanding why the word 'trust' is even associated with him? Is it because he DIDN'T delete any emails?

Why not try to find actual, doable solutions that bridge law enforcement and their communities? Why not advocate for better, more modern and forward thinking training for them instead or ordering them to "Stop and Frisk" people based on their appearance?

I watched President Obama's Town Hall meeting with our country's military and families from Fort Lee last night on CNN, and to hear him speak about Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Sunni's and Shiites, as well as our relations with Turkey, Russia and Syria, I just kept thinking to myself that I can't in the furthest stretches of my imagination see Donald Trump knowing or understanding the intricacies it takes to be a leader, make life/death decisions, listen to generals, joint chiefs of staff, commanders, and allies, to take under advisement their experiences, and knowledge and to stay on top of it all 24/7 while still dealing with the economy, the deficit, health care, transportation, immigration, education and his own family along with the nation's families and their concerns. We don't even know who Donald Trump would appoint to the positions in office because he hasn't revealed it. But we know that Hillary Clinton was surrounded by intelligent, capable people while serving as Secretary of State, we know she was in the Situation Room when Bin Laden was taken out. We know she worked on peace treaties and sat in on hearings and meetings and traveled to 112 different countries and met with more world leaders than Donald Trump can name.

Because leading a nation is not just "business". All Donald Trump knows is business and I'm not even convinced he knows all that much just because he's made some solid investments here and there, opening fancy, exclusive golf courses you'll never play on, or building luxury towers you'll never live in, bankrupting casinos and businesses because it was easier than paying back the foreign banks he borrowed money from.  He sense of reality is distorted in a such a way that he could never relate to your problems, or mine. His parents were wealthy, he never saw them struggle, HE'S never had to struggle, he didn't know what is was like to worry about rent or food. His parents didn't know. They gave him everything he could ever want. He never had to pay back a college loan. He didn't have to worry about getting a job out of school, put gas in his car, pay an overdue electric bill. The Clinton's did. The Obamas did.

So again, what I'm saying is I don't understand how a guy that has a mother, a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, can be okay with his President saying things like "Pregnancy is an inconvenience to business," or calling a Latina woman "Miss Piggy". I don't understand how a parent with a child who's gay or lesbian or trans would want a President that is not championing their human rights. I don't understand how someone who is worried about their son, or daughter or husband or wife who is serving in the military can vote for a guy that doesn't have a moral or ethical compass and wouldn't think twice putting them in harm's way on a whim. I don't understand how a person with a law-abiding, legal immigrant friend, or relative, who pays their taxes, works hard and has made a better life for himself and family here in America but prays to a different God, how can they be okay with President who wants to stop that someone seeking our same freedoms? How can someone who has seen or be a part of mugging, a robbery, a car jacking, been hurt or maybe has lost someone to gun violence want a guy in office who doesn't care about stronger background checks for gun sales? What is it that makes you want a man like this as our President? What world leader is going to take him seriously? What can he do for you? He took his companies that could have given Americans more jobs to CHINA. Why do you think he's not going to do that again? What's in this for you? I can't see anything in it for middle, working class you, your kids, your parents, your companies. I just don't get it.

Listen, I'm not saying that Hillary is standing in some rural Virginia-based McDonald's and throwing out $20 bills or even paying it forward in the Starbucks drive-thru line in D.C, but I feel like at least she's encouraging us and inspiring us, to be better, treat each other better, be kinder, be smarter and I believe it's because she truly believes that we can. I don't see that in Donald Trump. I see him riding on the backs of the little people, I see him flip-flopping, I hear him telling blatant lies, I see nothing honest about him from his personal life, to his public life to his business life. I don't see him trying to better OUR future, only his and that scares me more than anything.