Presenting a better alternative

While talking to scouts last night about respecting the American flag, some of their questions led to a great discussion about our American right to free speech — specifically how the government can’t prevent any citizen from expressing his or her ideas even when those ideas make us feel extremely uncomfortable or unwelcome. As long as the expression is not a direct threat to personal or public safety or inciting violence, it has as much right to the public square as ours do. The second we start to limit speech, we’ve sacrificed one of the greatest of our founding ideals.

The way to counter ideas we find reprehensible is not squelching or drowning them, but by presenting a better alternative.

Continue to show up

As I flew out of DC today and looked back down our National Mall, I imagined all the young people that would fill the spaces in between the monuments and buildings in the hours to come. I remembered how Marine One darted over my head by the Washington Monument yesterday, carrying the president to a Mar-A-Lago-bound Air Force One. It struck me that those who create a meaningful life are those who SHOW UP. Not just for the main event, but who continue to work, to learn, to improve themselves, and to give, day in and day out.

I applaud and am awed at all the young people who showed up in our capitol and around the country today. You showed up to the big event. Now continue to show up every day. In your classes. In your communities. In the voting booths. In your own hearts. In everything you do.

The perfect white guy

A while back when I was talking to a female friend (who’s an avowed progressive) about the possibility of running for office, she looked at me very seriously and said,

“You’re the perfect white guy.”

What she meant was that I did a reasonably good job of standing up for people that aren’t straight, white, and male while looking very much like I wouldn’t. A donkey in elephant’s clothing, I joked.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this since that day, and have realized that there are a lot of straight, white men just like me. We understand the advantage inherent in who we are. We welcome diversity of culture and opinion into our lives. We intervene when we see overt injustice.

But, yet, in today’s world, we’re also seen as the root of all problems. The oppressors, the 1%, the privileged. That creates an almost untenable conundrum in how to navigate our current progressive political culture.

I don’t intend this as any sort of sob fest for straight, white guys. Far from it. I know exactly how good I (and we) have it. It just makes me wonder how effective it is to amplify the far left’s “white male privilege is the root of all evil” mantra when there are plenty of white men who are standing squarely on the side of justice.

Perhaps it’s time we cool down the rhetoric and ideology and start engaging each other as individuals instead of labels.

Stepping off our ideological icebergs

If we spend too much time watching cable news and Twitter feeds, the world looks like a giant dumpster fire burning out of control.

Hate.

Outrage.

Pain.

Division.

A year ago, that’s all I saw. We were a week into a new presidency that I couldn’t stomach or even fathom, and all I saw was an impending war for the soul of our country. I had my pitchfork out, entrenched and ready to strike. I’ve read the Facebook posts I made a year ago, and many of them are filled with the same things I saw in the world. Hate. Outrage. Pain. Division. 

Continue reading Stepping off our ideological icebergs

Challenging power

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” — Lord Acton, 1887

When the collective we gives too much power to individuals through blind hero worship, that power is almost certainly going to corrupt. This is the case for athletes, celebrities, business leaders, and, most dangerously, politicians.

It’s time for us as individuals, the actors within the collective we, to chip away at and challenge that absolute power wherever it exists.

This isn’t about policy

What’s more important, what we achieve or how we achieve it? Do the ends justify the means?

Our country seems to have devolved into this be-right-at-all-costs mentality where civility, healthy discourse, and our founding principles have been compromised and discarded. Where are the truths that we hold as self-evident? Where are the rights we consider inalienable? Where are these things that formed the basis of our country?

I ask these questions because I can’t understand how anyone who holds sacred the principles of America can stand by idly while our president stomps on them and so many in leadership positions willingly participate or stand by in abject fear of the executive tweet. I can’t understand how average citizens look at our commander-in-chief and still give him full-throated support despite his ingrained and continuous stream of sexism, racism, and xenophobic actions devoid of a shred of empathy.

Continue reading This isn’t about policy

Privilege misunderstood

A new nationwide poll shows that 55% of white Americans feel they experience discrimination for being white. I’m trying to wrap my head around this one. Efforts to target opportunity for people of color are not discrimination against white people, who by and large already have these opportunities by default.

I can’t think of a single thing I’ve been denied based on the color of my skin.