A Scout Is…

One thing I have prided myself on throughout my life is the fact that I, alongside both of my younger brothers and in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, earned my Eagle Scout Award while in the Boy Scouts of America.  Twice, and only twice, have I had cause to regret my participation.  The first was over the BSA’s terrible handling of transgender scouts, and the second was just this week–when Donald Trump spoke at the 2017 National Jamboree in front of tens of thousands of Boy Scouts, and they chanted like he was a rock star.

I have two issues with this.  The first is a personal bias; I am politically opposite to Trump, and so I hate to see any organization I have supported stand behind this idiot of a man.  And I can admit that bias.  Could Trump have appeared at the Jamboree without me raising my voice?  Probably, had he avoided his Hitler Youth-esque charade.

The second issue is the more important one.  Boy Scouts are not supposed to be political. We are supposed to serve our country, regardless of who is in charge of it.  While in uniform, we are not to stand in front of one person, chanting their name, and place them above the country we love.  The Jamboree is a national gathering, a place for Scouts from all walks of life to come together and celebrate their shared interests.  It’s not a place to blindly follow one moronic “leader” into oblivion. That’s not what Scouting is about.  And I hope, I really hope, that the BSA can admit that they made a mistake and work to resolve this.

To help them with this, I’ve prepared a little guide for the BSA.  It may be a little familiar, though with recent events I have to wonder.

A Scout is Trustworthy

As a Boy Scout, I was taught to always tell the truth, even when–no, especially when— it was most difficult to do so.  Truth and trust are the foundation of good communication, whether it be with family, with church, or with the nation.  Without trust, without truth, a person or organization is left shouting into the wind.

Trump is an individual who engenders neither truth nor trust.  Almost everything that he says is, on some level, untrue, or designed to manipulate.  Despite speaking out against career politicians with his cries of “Drain the swamp!” and “Lock her up!”, Trump is just a continuation of the same dirty Washington business that we have always seen.  While it is his presidential right to appear and speak at the Jamboree, Scouts should not be supporting this hypocrite.

A Scout is Loyal

As I mentioned in my opening, Scouts are taught to be apolitical in uniform.  Our loyalty is to the country, not to the parties that govern the country.  Yes, we are taught to be good citizens, to do our civic duties by voting and participating in our community.  But when we are in uniform–that is, when we are in the role of a Boy Scout–we put aside our political leanings and band together for the greater good. Trump openly mocked this concept by giving a fired-up political speech to a group of teenagers.  He is pandering, and to a very wrong audience at that.

A Scout is Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, and Cheerful

Yes, I realize I’ve gone a little out of order, but this quintet of concepts go hand-in-hand with one another.  They teach a Scout how to treat other human beings–with kindness, acceptance, and understanding.  Scouts come in all shapes and sizes, with all manner of differences, whether in lifestyle choices, religion, or even in their families, and we are taught to treat one another with respect.

Trump demonstrates not one of these attributes.  He is, at best, remarkably silent when minority rights are trampled, and at worst, openly disrespectful of those he disagrees with.  His speech to the Scouts gathered at the Summit shows this clearly when he called Obama’s absence at the previous Jamborees to everyone’s attention.  First, it’s another of his little half-truths–Obama, a president who actually did things while in office and thus was very busy, did appear before the 2010 Jamboree through a pre-recorded video.  Additionally, Trump is only the eighth president to speak at the Jamboree since it began in 1937.

Secondly, regardless of the truth in his words, that is neither the time nor the place to be bashing a former political opponent.  Again, Scouts are an apolitical organization.  Trump is actively eroding these core values of the Boy Scouts of America.

A Scout is Obedient

Being obedient goes beyond just listening to Scout leaders and following directions.  This was actually a tenet I questioned while I was working on my Life Award (the penultimate rank in Scouting)–why, if we are being taught to be leaders, should we make an oath to be obedient.  My father, who at the time was our Troop master, explained that, for one, there would always be someone higher up the food chain, regardless of where I was in life, and I would need to be obedient to those individuals.  More importantly, though, he explained that a good leader is good because they listen to those they lead, and are obedient to them.  It’s what separates a boss from a leader.

I’m sure this is getting predictable at this point, but Trump does not understand the concept of obedience in any way, shape, or form.  He does not adhere to international policies that the US has agreed to (see: the Paris Agreements, NATO, literally anything that involves any countries other than America) and bullies those who disagree with him.  He does not listen to his advisers and lieutenants, and yet leaves everything to be done by someone else.

A Scout is Thrifty

The man wants to build a wall that will cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and racks up vacation spending bills left and right.  Need I say more?

A Scout is Brave

Bravery has a wide range of meanings, as we’re shown in Scouts.  It isn’t always as simple as standing up to a bully or facing our fears.  Sometimes it is a deeper sort of courage.  Sometimes we have to stand up for what is right in the face of what is easy.  A handful of Boy Scouts were the perfect example of this within the last few years, standing up to the BSA–the very organization that had taught us this trait–when the BSA actively discriminated against transgender youth.  And in the end, it was the brave who won.

Trump is a coward, plain and simple.  He acts brave by talking a big talk, saying that he will clear Washington of career politicians, that he will force companies to bring jobs back to America, or any of his “telling it like it is” lies, and yet, when he’s faced with actual consequences, he doubles back, lies, or does the exact opposite of what he says he will do.  BSA, is this the sort of man you want tomorrow’s leaders to be emulating?

A Scout is Clean and Reverent

I think this is the perfect opportunity to segue in another part of the Boy Scout doctrine–the Scout Oath:

On my honor, I will do my best;

To do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Morally straight.  Donald Trump has no morals.  He claims to be a Christian, and yet, does not portray one truly Christian quality.  He is a man who does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and damned be the consequences.  This is the man who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals, who mocked a disabled reporter on live television, and who verbally attacked the parents of a soldier who gave his life to defend this country.  This is a man who has barred “the poor, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, who has now banned transgender people from serving in the military.  Those are not the actions of a person that tens of thousands of today’s youth should be following, nor are they the actions of a true Christian.  They are the actions of a career sociopath, and have no place in the ideology of the Boy Scouts.

Do A Good Turn Daily

And here you thought I was done after the Scout Law!  But the Scout Motto is every bit as important.  We as Scouts are challenged to do a good turn daily, no matter how big or small the deed is.  So to that end, I issue the following challenges for today’s “good turns”:

To the Boy Scouts of America administration:

Do not stand idly by and allow Donald Trump’s image to ruin everything the Scouts have worked for over the past 107 years.  Issue a statement apologizing for this weekend’s debacle, and distance the organization from this megalomaniac.

To my fellow Boy Scouts:

Continue to demonstrate the qualities of the Law, the Oath, and the Motto, and let them guide your actions.  Do not let Donald Trump or his actions besmirch what we truly believe in.

Hold the BSA’s feet to the fire.  It needs to continue to grow as an organization, and can only do so with the support of good people.

Finally, to my fellow Eagles, remember: we are never done learning and growing.  Educate yourselves, learn, and pay attention.  We were taught to be leaders, and never have we needed leaders more than now.


A Thank You To My Father

It’s Father’s Day, so it is appropriate a day as any to do something I  don’t do often enough–to thank you, Dad.  Though saying “thank you” through a blog may seem like a little odd, I’m doing it for a reason. Almost every day, someone thanks me for helping them with something, and thank me for being who I am.  And I tell them that it is thanks to you and Mom that I am that person.  I want them to see what mean when I say that.  I want everyone to witness what an amazing man you are.  So here goes.

Dad. Father. Scoutmaster. Head Usher. Repairman. Teacher. Inspiration.  You’ve been a lot of things to me throughout my thirty years of life, and every single one of them has contributed to who I am today.  I say this from the bottom of my heart: Thank you.  And I have to throw an apology in here, because I don’t think I say that nearly often enough, so I’m sorry for that. That’s something I am working on changing.

I know we’ve not always gotten along, and sometimes we’re polar opposites, but as I’ve grown and matured (again, thanks to you and Mom), I’ve learned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I think the fact that we have different perspectives is one of the many things that has allowed me to grow further.  You’ve always been there to push me just a little harder, to go just one step further, to try just one more time, and I know in the past I’ve acted like I didn’t appreciate it, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is that your positive influence built me up into someone I like to think you can be proud of.

Let me give you an example.

When I was a young teenager, I was very active in Boy Scouts, and this was in no small part thanks to your encouragement.  Unfortunately, as I got a little older, being involved in Scouts became uncool; it took up too much of my precious time; it was a responsibility I had never asked for.  And I began to resent it.  I earned my Life Scout rank (for those unfamiliar with Boy Scouts, this is the step before becoming an Eagle Scout), and I decided that enough was enough.  I was out.  I wanted to focus on things I enjoyed doing instead of being the uncool kid in Scouts.

You didn’t let me.  And if we’re being totally honest, at that point, I did not like you one bit.  To my rebellious teen mind, you were the Man, forcing me to do something I didn’t want to do.  At that time, I couldn’t see your motivation–it wasn’t that you wanted me to be like you (as you are also an Eagle Scout).  I couldn’t see that you pushed me forward because of the love you bear for me.  You bargained and argued and threatened until you succeeded–at the age of sixteen, I became a third-generation Eagle Scout.  Soon after, both of my younger brothers followed suit.

Now, when I look back on those times, I can see something that took me a very long time to learn: You were right.

I’ll say that again, for the record: You were right to push me.

You saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at that time–a future.  I was too young to see that far forward, but you knew better, and you focused me.  And now I have a set of skills that are immeasurably useful in every aspect of my life.  And becoming an Eagle Scout is just one example of the wonderful ways you’ve helped me grow.

I think it’s amazingly ironic that one of your favourite things to do in life is gardening.  It’s something that I’ve always been a bit envious of, because I don’t have your natural talent for growing green things, but I’ve come to enjoy it as you’ve taught me.  You come home every day after work, and one of the first things you do is water your plants.  And when you spend hours in the garden, making sure your vegetables and flowers and trees are growing healthily.

And yet, your greatest crop was–is–the three amazing sons you’ve fed, watered, and cultivated.  You made sure that grew strong in the light, that we always had everything we needed, and you helped protect us from the weeds that life throws at us.  Most importantly, once we were able to grow on our own, you let us grow unaided.

But you are still there, ever the gardener, ready to help your sons’ growth in whatever what you can. As Ashley and I talk and plan our future, it is my greatest hope that I am able to channel everything you’ve taught me in teaching my own children.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, from a grateful son.  I love you.

Reduce, Reuse, Regress

Today, Donald Trump did something that surprised literally no one at this point: he has committed to pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2020.   If you have been living under a rock and are not familiar with the Paris Agreement, it is a unified effort by most of the world to reduce carbon emissions through a number of reasonable and achievable goals.  For the record, the U.S. is the single largest producer of carbon pollution ever, cumulatively speaking. This is the equivalent of your crappy neighbour walking over your lawn and dumping out his garbage, then walking away and leaving you to deal with the mess.

“But he’s only doing it because it would hurt American jobs,” you might defend his actions.  Or perhaps you fall back on the good ol’ “Climate change is a hoax perpetuated by China to reduce American manufacturing.”  Or for any of a million other reasons.

In any case, you’re wrong, for a number of reasons.  Let’s start with the most simple:

1. This isn’t Trump’s first attack on the environment.

Back in December of 2016, Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to head the EPA–that is, the Environmental Protection Agency.  The EPA has two jobs to do: to protect human health, and to protect the environment.  And yet, Mr. Pruitt is a well-known and -documented climate change denier.  He chooses not to believe the science that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that climate change is real, and is incredibly dangerous.  Specifically, Pruitt does not believe that man-made carbon dioxide is contributing the earth’s changing climates.  At the time of Pruitt’s nomination, the EPA’s official stance an carbon pollution was that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change”, according to their website.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This means that Trump nominated, and Congress then confirmed, a man who was on the record as being in disagreement with what the EPA stood for.  As Trump himself is a well-known climate change denier, this is as blatant an attack on the environment as DeVos was an attack on education or Carson was an attack on housing.

2. Pulling out of the Paris Agreement could actually damage American jobs.

Trump has long lambasted the Paris Agreement as being bad for American jobs, due to the additional restrictions that it places on companies–especially those in the manufacturing and automotive worlds.  The oft-quoted Heritage Foundation report on the economic impact of the Paris Agreement stated that, by 2040, America would lose around 400,000 jobs due to the new regulations.  What is inherently wrong with this report is that it spends absolutely no time whatsoever examining the industries that will grow up in place of those reduced by the Paris Agreement–solar and wind energy, and the study and application of renewable energy.

To date, the study and development of renewable energy, especially along the solar front, is one of the fastest growing industries in America.  Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement hinders that growth in America–ultimately, pulling out will cost jobs, rather than the other way around.  Bear in mind that most of the jobs Trump likes to hold up in defense of his retreat are coal-mining–jobs which are done mostly by machine in this new technological age.

In addition to this, America’s two most powerful global opponents are Russia and China, both of whom have chosen to remain in the Paris Agreement. The U.S. has pulled out alone (more on that in a moment), which strengths Russian and Chinese positions around the world, especially in manufacturing. Once more, Trump has stared out at the world’s leaders and given them the middle finger.

3. America is alone in it’s choice to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll likely be hearing conservatives throw around Nicaragua and Syria as other member states that are not willing to sign the Agreement in defense of America not signing the agreement.  Be sure to fact-check them through the nearest wall. Syria is not signing the Agreement because the country is currently in the middle of a six-year-long civil war; they are in no position to be thinking globally, at the moment.  And Nicaragua has chosen not to sign the Agreement  because they feel it doesn’t do enough to punish those who don’t follow it.  In other words, they feel the Paris Agreement is too softcore, and have vowed to be ninety percent renewable by 2020.

While Trump has always proclaimed “America First”, what is actually happening through his actions is “America Alone”.  With the world rapidly shrinking, and everything happening on a global stage–the economy, the environment, even human rights–being alone is not a safe place for us to be.  This is doubly true when one considers that Russia and China will be the leaders of this America-free pact.

4. Climate change is real, and it is terrifying.

For the last three years, the year was declared to be “the hottest on record“.  It started in 2014, continued in 2015, and was broken once again in 2016.  In addition, sixteen out of the seventeen hottest years on record have occurred only since 2000.   Time and time and time again, the Antarctic ice shelves have sloughed off into the ocean, reducing the size of the icy continent and raising sea levels around the world.

And as I’ve mentioned, climate change is like something out of a science fiction movie.  Here is what we can look forward to if we continue to abuse the environment as we are now doing:

  1. Severe weather patterns will become more and more prevalent around the globe, leading to more droughts, flooding, tornadoes, and significantly more intense heat waves.
  2. Oceans will acidify, which will in turn kill off much of the ocean’s life.  Sea levels will rise, again leading to flooding and setting the stage for future environmental woes.
  3. Climate change will disrupt and/or destroy a number of ecological systems.  Thousands (if not more) of plant and animal species will go extinct in a relatively short window of time.

Please understand, these are just the short-term ramifications of global climate change.  The long-term affects are considering scarier and more difficult to predict.

Why does this matter? What can we do?

To me, it matters for all of the reasons above and more.  I grew up in a family that spent a significant amount of time outdoors.  While most of my friends when to amusement parks or beaches for their summer vacations, my brothers and I were loaded into the minivan, and we traveled to whatever National Parks were available for camping.  We camped regularly with our Scout troops, and through church camp.  I even would up working at that same church camp, first as a lifeguard, but eventually as the camp naturalist.

To this day, I enjoy a small amount of gardening, and I love bird watching.  Nothing is more freeing to me than waking up in a tent in the woods and stepping out into fresh mountain air.

That is why this matters.  If we don’t start to do something now, my children won’t get to experience these moments.  Instead, they’ll be stuck inside where air conditioning makes the temperature tolerable and a filtration system removes the myriad toxins from that air.  They won’t get to fall in love with the gorges of New York, or the ravines of the Grand Canyon, or the towering giants of the Grand Tetons.  They will see only smog, and know only of beaches in myth.

Am I being hyperbolic?  Perhaps a little, but that is the future if we continue to do what we are currently doing–nothing. So here’s what you can do to fight climate change.

  • Get political.  Speak to your state and U.S. representatives.  Remember, you elected them, so they work for you.  Make your voice heard.
  • Get environmental.  Learn what best practices you can adopt in your own home.  It may seem tacky, but the old adage is a good one to follow: “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.”  If you can use it for something else, don’t throw it away.
  • Get smart.  Educate yourself.  Learn what is happening in the world around you.  Don’t be an ostrich, and even more importantly, call bullshit what it is.  If you hear someone say they are a climate change skeptic, don’t be afraid to correct them–they are climate change denier.
  • Get out.  Our world is changing, so be sure to cherish what we still have.  Go listen to the morning birdsong, take a swim in a lake, and plant a tree.

The Hypocrisy of the Trump Administration

Donald Trump is many things to many people. He’s a businessman or a bully; a father or a bigot; a president or a joke. But Trump is one thing above all others, and it’s hard to deny it–a hypocrite. Or a liar, whichever you prefer.

See, Donald has run a long con, and the American people (well, forty-six percent of them, anyway) were duped.  And while getting someone to admit they are wrong is a nigh-impossible task, here are a few reminders of policies that Trump ran on that don’t seem to matter now.

Presidential Disclosure

For years Trump raged on and on about President Obama’s birth certificates, backing the racist birther movement almost from the start. Here are a few tweets of his in case you’ve chosen to forget.

This was despite the fact that President Obama had, in fact, released his birth certificate not once, but twice–first via a short form in 2008 and again with the full, original certificate in 2011.

Fast forward to 2016, however, and the very moment Trump is asked to release a document that is vital to his campaign, he shuts right the hell up.  Trump, to this day, has not released his tax records, documents which could very possibly tie him to his varied and sundry conflicts of interest overseas. Even worse, he says that he’s not going to for the obviously-not-made-up reason that “people don’t care”. Mr. Trump, let me say this clearly–I care.  And I’m not alone.  If you’re so trustworthy, just release your tax records.

The Separation of Privacy

Many people will argue that one of the biggest downfalls of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was Trump’s insistence that she broke the law by keeping secure information on a private server. (Many others of us would tell you that it is her disconnect from the common American and the fact that she is representative of a status quo that we don’t support.) Time and time again he raised it as fact that Clinton had broken the law, despite the FBI clearing her name twice.

And now that the Donald sits in the Oval Office, it comes back around. Shortly after taking office, several of Trump’s most senior staff–including Bannon–were found to have private RNC accounts.  Now, this isn’t inherently illegal–as demonstrated by the FBI not finding fault in Clinton–but it causes us to raise our eyebrows in concern.  There is meant to be a clear separation between private and government e-mail accounts, as outlined in the “Disclosure Requirement for Official Business Conducted Using Electronic Messaging Accounts”.  And yet, immediately after being called to the carpet, e-mails belonging to Bannon, Kushner, and Conway were deleted.

One would think that, after slinging mud at Clinton for months over her use of a private server, Trump would have learned his lesson.  Instead, he comes off as a child, pushing Clinton’s face further into the mud.

Helping the Middle Class

One of Trump’s major running points was that he would help rebuild America’s middle class. He promised that he would do so by bringing jobs back into America, by cutting taxes on the middle class, and by focusing the economy on American jobs.

Sadly, this was little more than lip service from the Trumpster.

On literally his first day in office, Trump’s administration reversed a cut on mortgage insurance rates, which adds up to approximately $500 per year that America’s middle class is now looking at paying.

In addition to this, the proposed wall between Mexico and America that Trump has promised will cost between $15 billion and $20 billion USD.  Putting aside the fact that the majority of Americans oppose the wall, Trump has proclaimed time and time again that Mexico would pay for the wall.  After a failed conversation with Mexico’s President Nieto, it became clear that Mexico was, by no means, intending to pay for the wall.  And what was Donald’s brilliant solution? A 20% import tax on Mexican products. And guess who that import tax would most likely effect?

Give yourself a round of applause if you guessed “middle-class Americans”.

Finally–and probably most impactful on what is becoming rather like a war on the middle class–is Trump’s planned repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act.  The Act was a measure put into place in 2010 as a response to the financial collapse of 2008.  It regulated banks and made it more difficult for them to harm consumers.  Trump argues that it is an unfair law, as it disallows his friends from getting loans.  Don’t just take my word for it; here’s what Trump himself said: “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money.”

Bear in mind that most of Trump’s friends are A) multi-millionaires, and B) currently involved in American politics, either through backing of candidates, through lobbying, or by actually serving in office.  Which brings me to my next point…

Draining the Swamp

Aside from calls to “lock her up” or “build the wall”, Trump’s most famous call to action was to “drain the swamp”.  He argued (and rightly so, in this case) that Washington was filled to the brim with career politicians who were in it for the money, or those corrupted after working in a broken system.  Trump vowed that he would empty the mire and bring about a much-needed change in the heart of American politics.

Instead, he’s proven time and again that he’s looking out only for himself and those who have supported him–in most cases, these are fellow billionaires.

Take today’s big political news, for instance–Betsy DeVos was confirmed in her role as the Secretary of Education of the United States.  It is her job, now, to oversee the Department of Education in all that it handles, including setting policy for public schools, private schools, and post-secondary schools, as well as handling the trillions of dollars in student loans and grants.

And what experience does Ms. DeVos have to be the SecEd? Absolutely none.  So what does she have going for her? I’ll allow the following graphic to explain for me:

That’s right–she has money. Money is how she became involved with politics in the first place, and given her beliefs about the current education system, money is her goal moving forward.

And Betsy DeVos is just one example out of dozens of potentials.  Rex Tillerson is a fellow billionaire who is now the Secretary of State. Wilbur Ross, the Commerce nominee, is yet another billionaire.  Jeff Sessions, Steve Mnuchin, Tome Price, and Ben Carson are each worth multiple millions of dollars.

Does having money mean that these nominees are inherently bad choices for the positions? Not at all.  What I’m trying to point out is Trump’s hypocrisy at the insistence of draining a swamp which is only continuing to fill.

And yes, in DeVos’ case, having money makes her a bad choice.  Just saying.

Making America Great Again

Perhaps Trump’s greatest lie–his biggest con by far–is his campaign slogan: “Maker America Great Again”.

This is wrong on so many levels. Let me start with the simplest.

When did we suddenly stop being great? Seriously.  Can someone answer this?

I’m not saying we’ve been the greatest country in the world, but we were pretty fantastic in many cases.  We’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave.  And yes, we need to make a lot of changes, especially in regards to race, religion, and sexuality, but the fact that we can have an open discussion about the inequality is something that makes us great in the first place.

Do you know what else makes us great?

America has come to be a place of open tolerance, of acceptance of people simply for who they were.  If you don’t believe me, look at the sheer number of Super Bowl commercials that claimed “We accept you. Period.” And yes, this is pandering to the open mindset of modern America, but it works because of our open mindset.

And yet, the president of the United States is openly bullying immigrants coming to a country founded by immigrants.  That makes a lot of sense.

What makes it truly despicable is how downright unconstitutional Trump’s bullying is. It singles out seven Muslim-majority countries, and places higher allowances on Christian individuals. Fortunately, the ban has been blocked by a federal judge, and will be taken to court, where hopefully it will be smashed against the Constitution that it is doing nothing to uphold.

In Conclusion

I realise that what I’ve written may look like several pages’ worth of anti-Trump ranting, but it always comes back to one point: we the people have been lied to by the president.  Many of us have been conned, while some of us have been screaming “Liar!” all along.  Regardless of where you stood before, it’s time to open your eyes to the hypocrisy and lies that have come to define the forty-fifth president. Moving forward, I challenge you to find the truth behind the lies, to uncover fact and disbelieve fiction. Maybe then we can truly be great again–but not before.

Coming To America

This weekend has been a tumultuous one with Trump issuing his most controversial executive order yet–a ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. And his timing couldn’t have been more inappropriate, as it appeared on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that we as one people–not just as one country–remember the atrocities of the Nazi regime against those they found to be “inferior”. There was an immediate outcry from the public and the media–and rightly so! Trump’s latest executive order is, in fact, illegal, based on a law called the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. In a nutshell, the law disallows the banning of immigrants based on their national origin.

To me, however, the worst of this situation isn’t that Trump has (once again) moved illegally within his first one hundred days as president.  It isn’t that he is dividing the country. It isn’t that protests are forming as we speak to show immigrants to America that we are still a safe haven for them.

The worst is the total lack of empathy from an administration that claims to be working to restore faith to America–and if we’re being candid, let us admit that this only applies to the Christian faith.  No one should kid themselves that the GOP has any intention of giving Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other of the hundreds of world religions the same sort of political clout that Christianity has in America.

And yet, Trump’s actions stand in direct contradiction to those of whom Christianity was founded on–Christ.  When Jesus walked the earth, he gave us only two edicts: We are to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Nowhere in that does he say that “neighbour” only applies to fellow Christian, fellow whites, fellow men, or fellow rich people.  In fact, through more than one parable does Jesus explain that our neighbours especially include those that typically exist outside of what we consider familiar or comfortable. If you don’t believe me, read Luke 10, verses 25 through 37, and Matthew 15, verses 21 through 28. These are the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Faith of the Canaanite Woman, respectively.

I could go on and on, citing verse after verse that tells us, as Christians, to welcome and accept guests–even strangers–into our homes.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

“In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

“Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

There is no gray area here, no lack of clarity.  If we are to live in Christ’s image and do as we have been commanded, we are ordered by Christ to take these strangers (immigrants) into our home (America) and treat them with love, kindness, and peace.

If you side with Trump in this, you have an essential choice of faith to make.  On one side, you can continue to side with Trump and give up the pretense of being Christian.  If he and his administration continue to keep those fleeing war, famine, and persecution from entering our country, they are doing the work of the enemy.

On the other hand, you can do what Christ has asked us to do as Christian, and love our neighbours as we love ourselves; in other words, to give them the same freedom and opportunity that we have had, regardless of their faith, their skin colour, their sexual orientation, or any differing factor.

Again I will point out that in giving us the Golden Rule, Jesus did not specify to us that our neighbours only included the select few we choose to interact with.  A neighbour to a Christian is any fellow human being. And we are to do right by them. If we don’t, how can we call ourselves Christians any longer?

This Is What Fear Looks Like

Today I came home from a long but productive day of work and waited for my wife to get home, as we had dinner plans.  I work about five minutes from my home, whereas it takes Ashley nearly an hour to drive home.  Needless to say, even after taking our two pups outside and changing out of my work clothes, I had some time to kill.  So I did what so many others do and decided to get caught up on the news. As I said, today was quite busy, so I was a solid twelve hours out of the loop.

Oh how I wish I could take the decision to read the news back. It was just one piece of terrifying Trump news after another.

I’m not going to lie or hide the truth. By the end of the first of three articles I pulled up, I had tears in my eyes.  They were tears of anger, tears of sadness, and most of all, tears of fear. Over the last few weeks, I have had several friends and coworkers ask me why I seemed so anxious, so irritable or disorganised.

Trump is the reason.  He is the sum of all of my fears, come to life and sitting in the President’s chair.

Some of you choose to call me a “keyboard warrior”, saying that I’ve lived a privileged life–here you’re not wrong–and that I don’t understand the fear–here you’re quite wrong. I may not be the target of Trump’s administration, but my family is.  My friends are.  My colleague and peers and coworkers are.  Hell, the earth upon which I live is a target. I fear for these people and everyone in that angry orange’s path. It’s called empathy. If you can’t understand that, you may want to reexamine your own cause.

Since Trump has taken office, he has done nothing but ramp up his antagonistic warpath.  The truly ironic bit is how many of the things that he has done are things he promised he would or wouldn’t do during his campaign.  He has lied, time and time again, and a huge portion of the American people have bought into his lies.

Even worse, his presidency is beginning to read like a “How To” book on starting a fascist regime.  He started our small, with simple lies about helping the middle class–lies that helped him get into office.  Less than twenty-four hours after taking the oath, however, he passed a law that raises property mortgage insurance rate for millions of middle-class Americans and institutes a job freeze in the federal government.

Now in power, Trump has begun to step up his game.  We’re not even a week into the term and Trump has been handing out executive order after executive order and not a word has been raised against it from within his party, despite hounding the Obama administration for eight years due to its “executive overreach”. Worse yet is how all of his orders are designed to instill fear in certain groups of people.

We’ve seen Trump sign into law plans to move forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite tremendous outcry against these actions, and violating what is fairly clear property law.  We’ve seen him sign a law funding a wall between Mexico and the United States–almost 2,000 miles of concrete separating two ally countries.  At between six to eight million dollars per mile, this wall will cost the American taxpayer between $12B and $16B.  And don’t for one minute believe that Mexico is going to pay for the wall, despite all of Trump’s assurances that they will.  He has no plan to make them do so.

Trump’s administration is working to overturn healthcare for more than twenty million Americans with no plan to replace it. They have silenced the EPA and are now in the process of defunding public media and the arts.  Journalists are being arrested for simply covering riots against the Trump regime. He is putting into effect a law that will prevent immigrants fleeing wars in the Middle East, effectively banning Muslim entry into America.  He is reinstituting torture, which is a war crime under international law.

So far I’ve managed to avoid direct name-calling in my writings, but sometimes the shoe fits: Donald Trump is a monster.  And I don’t mean that metaphorically.  I’m not saying he’s some terrible human, because that’s an affront to humans everywhere.  He is a true, real, scaly monster in an orange human suit.

And he terrifies me, moreso after taking office than during his campaign.  Hopefully, he scares you as well.  His actions, again and again, have been those of a fascist. And historically speaking, fascist leaders do not lead to peace or prosperity for their countries.  They lead to war, economic depression, and civil oppression.

There are two things that offer me solace in my fear.

The first is an understanding of the motivation behind Trump’s actions, which is fairly simple: it’s fear.  He is afraid of what is different, and he is afraid of the voices that are raised against him. The difference is that his fear motivates him to hate, whereas I focus mine into activism.

The second is that there are people out there resisting. Fighting.  Not giving in to their fear.  Showing the rest of the world that we as a people are not entirely lost.

To the NPS Rogues and the Badasslands staff, to the 2.9 million Marchers, to Seattle and every other Welcome City, thank you. Fight the good fight. I’m with you.

If You’re Going To Fight, Do It With Honour

Donald Trump is the president of the United States, whether we like it or not. That means that a large number of us are unhappy with this change, and are resisting in areas that we are able to do so.  This means standing up to poor cabinet choices, calling the new administration out on its lies (I’m sorry, “alternative facts”), and making our voices heard with our representatives and senators.

Or as some folks are now demonstrating, apparently it means bullying a young child who has no voice for himself, nor does he have the ability to change his situation.

If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, several high-profile members of Hollywood have made some rather insensitive Tweets regarding Barron Trump, Donald Trump’s 10-year-old son. Katie Rich, a writer for SNL, made the comment that “Barron will be this country’s first home-school shooter.”

I’m all for the freedom of speech.  What Katie Rich and others have said violates no United States laws that I’m aware of. What is does violate is common human decency. Children have little or no voice of their own, and have no control over what their parents do and say.  Yes, it is my opinion that Donald Trump is not a good man, nor do I feel he will make a good president, but that has nothing to do with this child.

Michelle Obama once famously said, “When they go low, we go high” in response to political bullying and muck-raking. Where is that attitude now? Where is that air of righteous indignation, and when was it replaced by this stale, ignorant bullshit?

What does it matter if Barron Trump is not always present at his father’s events? What does it matter if he is, in fact, autistic? Why do people even feel the need to use that as an insult? One of my brothers is on the spectrum and he is one of the smartest, kindest, gentlest people that I know.

Our anger does not justify our misdeeds. Using past examples of children of the presidents being shamed does not justify our misdeeds. Our opponents misdeeds do not justify our misdeeds.

Instead, these things justify our positive actions.  They justify 2.9 million global citizens marching around the world in unity and solidarity.  They justify journalists and the media holding President Trump and his cabinet accountable.  They justify peacefully challenging the new order.

As Mrs. Obama went on to say in her speech, “With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us.”

Whenever you feel the need to poke fun at a child, remember that.  Remember that the youth of today are watching you.  Remember that what you’re doing is legitimizing bullying, and that our children will see it as okay. Remember that this is the exact attitude that we’re trying to fight against. Ignorance begets ignorance, oppression begets oppression, and pain begets pain. We need to learn from this cycle and break it.

It is still our right–and our duty, in my beliefs–that we fight against a lack of morality or ethics.  As Chelsea Clinton so eloquently defended young Trump yesterday, “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does–to be a kid. Standing up every kid also means opposing @POTUS policies that hurt kids.”

In other words, don’t become a part of the problem.  Fight the good fight, and do it with honour, lest we become what we are fighting against.

Why The Women’s March Mattered

Yesterday, history was made.  Across the country and the world, millions of women came together to march in Washington, D.C., in Seattle, in Boston, in Paris, in London, in Antarctica, and hundreds of other cities and towns.  They came together to make their voice heard and to say, quite clearly, that things are not okay.

I’m proud to say that my wife Ashley was among these empowered individuals, along with her sister, mother, and other family members.  She left Friday evening feeling excited but with a few fears. She was worried that someone may try to do something harmful to the movement, but she explained to me that, “the message of this movement outweighed the fear”.  She was also concerned that the March would not get the coverage it deserved and that the voice of the movement would once again be drowned out.

When she came home last night, she was exhausted, but burning with an energy I’ve not seen in her before.  More people turned out, she told me, than that had even dreamed would show–over twice the estimated amount.  The speakers energised her, and seeing so many like-minded people made her feel a hope she has not felt since before November ninth.  The March, it turned out, was an incredible success, and the first step in a greater process.

And yet, today, less than a day after this amazing feat of humanity and empathy, people are attacking and questioning the Marchers via social media and news outlets.  Just through Facebook alone I’ve seen a significant amount of negativity. My wife’s experience has been no different. People have asked her why she marched, or why it mattered, and when she answered, her responses were deleted.

So today I wanted to respond to each of the major criticisms or questions regarding the Women’s March. Not because I need to defend my wife–she needs no help from me–but because I believe in this cause, and I think folks need to hear how they sound.

“Non-peaceful protests are un-American.”

While America’s education system is lacking (something many of these women marched for, in fact), I always understood history was one that was pretty solid.  Just in case, though, let’s have a quick history lesson:

In the 1700s, the thirteen original colonies were ruled by Britain, and this included controlling their taxes.  Citizens of the colonies were unhappy that they were taxed but had no voice in British Parliament.  A number of protesters boarded cargo ships in Boston Harbor and dumped tea into the Harbor–a direct violation of the Tea Act. This became known as the Boston Tea Party, and was one of the events that lead to the American Revolution.

In other words, America was founded largely in part on a non-peaceful protest.

Beyond that, the Women’s March was actually an incredibly peaceful event.  There were, in fact, no arrests made throughout the entire event in D.C. What is being “reported” as violent protests at the Women’s March were in fact anarchic protests on the day of Trump’s inauguration. Ashley told me that one of the greatest parts of her experience was the feeling of friendship and unity that tied the Marchers together.  “Everybody cared about everyone else. We were brothers and sisters.”

“Get over it, he’s the president!”

This argument is an incredibly minimalising one.  It’s narrowing all of the reasons that people marched yesterday down to one, very specific reason, and it’s wrong.  The Marchers moved for countless reasons, and trimming them down to dissent over the president just propagates the issues that led us here in the first place.

With that being said, if someone marched in protest of his presidency, that is her or his right as an American citizen. I’m right there with them. Lest we forget, we have the right have our own opinions, and to share those opinions in peaceful manners.

“Trump’s only been president for 24 hours. You haven’t even given him a chance.”

I responded to this idea a little bit the other day.  We did give him a chance while he was on the campaign trail, and he ruined it discriminating against anyone who disagreed with him. More importantly, yes, he has been president for one a day.  And in that day, his only actions have been to increase the cost of mortgage insurance, and to continue his war with the press. He’s not acknowledging that there is an astounding amount of civil discord, and is continuing his history of ignorance.

“Obama’s opponents didn’t protest when he was elected.”

Yes, they absolutely did. In fact, members of Congress went on the record saying that they would fight Obama every step of the way.  People created papier-maché likenesses of Obama, then lynched them and lit them on fire.  Racist posts littered social media. The major difference here is that, while Obama’s opponents spoke out with hatred and ignorance, Trump’s opponents speak out with love and thought.  We all have the right to share our mind; the importance is in how we choose to do so.

“Trump got more fat women in one day to march than Michelle Obama did in eight years.”

The first time I saw this, I almost couldn’t believe it, and now it’s become a meme. It’s this kind of blatant disrespect, this exact ideology, that the Marchers are fighting against.  What’s truly ironic is the degree of hypocrisy here. People are posting filth like this and then in the next breath demanding respect for their agenda. After all, you have to give respect to get respect.

“If these people had gotten off their butts and voted, they wouldn’t have to march.”

They did.  Remember, Clinton won the popular vote. I’m not rehashing that whole argument, just pointing out that this line of thinking is lazy and factually inaccurate.

“The march didn’t matter.”

That’s exactly how people reacted to the March On Washington or the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.  But yesterday’s march does matter; women are using their voices and anyone that says the march didn’t matter is trying to suppress that beautiful sound. Try telling Ashley that it didn’t matter, and she’ll just laugh at you.  As I mentioned, she came back form the March feeling energised and with a renewed sense of hope.  If for no other reason than that, this March mattered.

“Where were these protests when [insert tragic event] happened?”

I’m not going to lie, some of us are late to the game.  There have been hundreds–thousands–of times that we should have organised and stepped up before.  Unfortunately, we didn’t then.  But we can and have now. We’re learning from our past mistakes, and taking action in ways that we’ve never done before. I’m not saying to forget the past, but instead let us learn from it and grow from it moving forward.

“Their reason got lost in translation.”

That’s because there wasn’t just one reason.  As at least one sign at the protest exclaimed, “Too many issues to fit on one sign”. That’s why this was such an important and historic event.  People across the world came together to say, “enough is enough” and to make their voices heard.  Remember, this wasn’t a celebration of human rights–it was a demand for them.

And so participants marched for dozens of reasons. They marched for women’s rights. They marched for immigration. They marched for wage equality. They marched for LGBQT+ rights. They marched for reform in education and the criminal justice system.  They marched for Muslim-Americans and Native Americans. They marched for those not able to do so on their own. They marched for the rights to their own bodies.  They marched for their family, for their friends, for respect, and to have a voice. But most importantly, they marched for a better future.

“What next?” or “Now what?”

Now we keep this momentum moving.  We don’t let the voices and issues that have been raised get quieted in the night.  We make efforts to educate ourselves, to learn about what is wrong, and to fix it.  We stop ignoring, covering up, or mansplaining the facts, and instead actually listen to what is being said. Already there is follow-up to the March, in the form of 10 Actions/100 Days, and a call to communicate to our senators and representatives. We need to let them know that things are wrong.

Above all else, we need to learn to be kind to one another and to accept each other’s differences.

And for me, personally, as I reflect on what I have seen and experienced, and as I listen to my wife’s experiences, it is a reminder to me that I will support my wife in whatever she does and with whatever she needs.

Special thanks to Ashley for sharing her experiences with me, and for allowing me to share them with the world!

Please Stop Telling Me To Give Trump A Chance

Today, President-Elect Donald Trump became plain old President Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America. For many people, this is a sign of change in an environment that they feel has not operated in their best interest for decades.

For the rest of us, today is the beginning of four difficult years.  Or, as Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted earlier this day, today is “a tough day”.

To illustrate my point, allow me to tell a short story.  Wednesday evening after work I stopped by a local store to pick up dog food for my pups.  The checkout long was fairly long, but I was in no rush.  A gentleman in front of me in line decided to make small talk, first by commenting on the wet weather, and then by turning to the topic on many Americans’ minds.

“So how about the inauguration on Friday?” he asked me.

My response was simple, but apparently very telling: “What about it?”

It didn’t come out sounding rude–nor was it intended to–but rather noncommittal. Still, he understood my meaning. He asked if I was planning to watch the event, to which I responded in the negative.  By this point, it was clear to both of us that we stood on opposite sides of the current political landscape.  This would have been fine, had the gentleman dropped it.  Instead, he decided to go on the offensive.

“I think people like you are un-American, not supporting the man that was elected to be your president.”

I bit back a number of responses–that he didn’t win by popular vote, that the fact that he was a man was what allowed him to win, that it was his job to win my support, not vice versa–and instead went with the simplest, truest answer I could give him.  I explained that it was my First Amendment right to support–or in this case not support–whomever I wanted, just as it was his to label me un-American.  I further explained that it is my feeling on the matter that, by standing up against a “leader” who I felt did not deserve that title, I was doing something that was utterly American.  Had our forefathers not had the prescience to speak out against the unfair rule of the British crown, we would have continued to be a group of colonies for decades to come.

And yes, that is hyperbole.  I am by no means trying to claim that my single act of defiance is equal to the beginnings of the American Revolution, but it shares a root hope–that by challenging a regime that is normalising behaviours that I find to be morally and ethically bankrupt, however small my challenge may be, I am showing my truest American nature.

In other words, Americans, by our simplest natures and our core values, resist that which we find objectionable.

And we should find no shame in this.  Challenging the establishment is what got Trump elected.  He stood on a platform of moving away from traditional politics–politics that have left many behind in the dust and rust–and promised to be different.  We should challenge that which we find intolerable; we should ask the hard questions; we should teach our children that it is alright disagree with that which attacks our morals. And fortunately, the founding fathers had the prescience to grant us those rights in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

To that end, I cannot “give Trump a chance”.  Or rather, I cannot give him a second chance.  The man had his chance while running for president.  During that time, he made quite clear his positions against immigrants to America, against the Muslim-American community, against the Hispanic community, against the LGBQT+ community, against people with disabilities, and against women. If you’re keeping score, that leaves very few people whom Trump has not targeted with his divisive hate speech. He has bullied, harassed, and in some cases downright threatened these groups of people and more.

I listened to him, speech after speech.  I heard him use words to attack and offend nearly every group of Americans under the Stars and Stripes. I paid attention as he mocked a reporter with arthrogryposis, as he argued with the parents of a fallen soldier, as he boasted about sexually assaulting women.  That was his chance. He blew it.  He doesn’t get another one.

I am fortunate in that I am a white, middle-class male. I’m not a target in Trump’s sites.

But my wife, as a woman, is.  My friends, as members of the LGBQT+, Hispanic, or Muslim-American communities, are. My family, some of whom struggle with disabilities, are. As a Christian who truly believes in the Golden Command, that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, I can not support a man who is as morally corrupt as Donald Trump. Therefore, I stand with my wife. I stand with my friends. I stand with my family, and with anyone else out there who has been the target of this campaign.

As Senator Sanders said in his tweet, “our response has to be not to throw up our hands in despair, not to give up. But in fact, to fight back as effectively and vigorously as we can”.

It is both our right and our civic duty to “fight back” against a system that belittles and disrespects so many people.  This is not what America has stood for in the past, and I don’t plan on letting that change.

So I issue to all Americans these challenges:

  1. Firstly, that we not object to one another’s rights and civil liberties as presented in the documents written by the founding fathers. If you support Donald Trump, that is your right, just as it is mine to not support him.
  2. Secondly, if you do not agree with something, use your voice.  Reach out to your representatives and make yourself heard.  Communication–tough communication that challenges this negative normalisiation–is the path to positive change.
  3. Thirdly, that no matter where we stand on issues, we understand that we are all Americans.  We are all brothers and sisters in this great nation, and at the end of the day, we must make peace with that.  I may not always agree with you–I may even disagree with you loudly–but I believe you still deserve respect until you don’t.