Move Over Old White Guys, Winter is Coming

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

On Tuesday, the country was in an uproar over the special election in peach-loving, Jesus-thumping, land of cotton and the Confederacy, Georgia, between Handel and Ossoff. Democrats heralded it as a referendum against Trump and Conservatives heralded it as a mandate for their policies. Before yesterday’s polls even opened, I saw disaster coming like a train through a pigeon.

The Democratic Party has a problem if their strategy to win the mid-term elections is to let the Republicans sh*t the bed and that be enough to win millennial voters. Yesterday was a clear example of how that strategy is going to lose miserably. Rather than the party standing for something, they are too busy standing against Republican policies. And just like Ossoff demonstrated yesterday, running as Republican-lite isn’t going to get you a clear majority. What will get you a clear majority? Courting millennial voters.

Millennial voters make up the same proportion of the U.S. voting population as did the Baby Boomers. If the powers that be continue to pat us on the head and say that we are everything that is wrong in the world, you are going to lose miserably. Millennials are hard-core liberals, possibly willing to take socialism out on a date and a drink and see where it goes. This is the reason Bernie was so popular and spawned the so-called Liberal Revolution if only the DNC had not gotten in the way of the will of the people.

Millennials are the most educated, hard-left politically, socially liberal generation yet to come and they have little tolerance for the hate-mongering rhetoric of the hard right. They are also open to the economic redistribution of wealth and universal health care that makes conservative voters gasp and swoon.  Millennial voters aren’t into this because they are lazy and not willing to work. It is because we would rather not work three jobs to make one wage that was so readily given to our grandparents and parents. We would like the same financial advantages our predecessors had and the scales have been tipped off balance to prevent us from doing so. In fact, we are on the hardest working generations because we have been financially screwed from day one. The multiple wars, the 2008 crash, crushing student loan debt to get a minimum wage job… any of this sound familiar?

America’s most impoverished, powerful and morally driven generation wants a seat at the table or we will just take it from you. This generation values authenticity and integrity over political experience any day. We are the generation of the selfies and showing the real you – not the fake corporate façade of the 80s and 90s. We see through carefully crafted messages and spin faster than you can spin it yourself. We are the opposite of everything our predecessors have told us to be and we are turning industries on its head. The revolution is coming and if the Democrats and Republicans can’t get with the program then they will be thrown out of power. Winter is coming and if the politicians cannot adapt to the winds of the change, then they will be left out in the cold.

Ask no questions and obey authority?

Anna Gwen, Contributor

Stanley Milgram, one of the most prominent social psychologists of the 20th century famously conducted some of the most well-known social experiments.  Many psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals still debate Milgram’s experiments as being psychologically traumatic, deceitful, and ethically wrong.  One experiment in particular has garnered this criticism, titled “Obedience to Authority.”  In this experiment, one participant was the “teacher” the other participant the “learner.”  If the learner could not recite back to the teacher, then the teacher would administer “shocks” to the “learner.” The experiment was already designed for it to be impossible for the “learner” to perform in order to avoid shocks.  The teacher and learner were both unaware of this.  Yet 85% of teachers administered lethal shocks.  In the world of ethical research, yes, one could certainly condemn the ethics of the experiment.  Yet shockingly (pun intended), the results speak for themselves:  85% of the participants all administered lethal shocks.  There were no biases with gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.

“So what?” you might ask.

Well, ‘so what?’ seems to be a mantra that so many Americans are using these days.  Milgram conducted this experiment in an attempt to understand why we do what we are told to do, regardless of the outcome.  In his analysis, Milgram referenced the behavior of Nazi Germany officials after WWII.  And they simply said “we did what we did because those were our orders.” Those orders being to torture and murder millions of innocent people. Well, if many continue to be either apathetic or close-minded, and simply “take orders without asking why, it’s conceivable that some people will likely say the same as the Nazi officials- we did it “because we were told to do so.”

This experiment can be taken as a political metaphor, as well.  For example, why do some people vote solely on the premise that of “well, they are my Party,” yet are openly deceived with false promises, blasphemy to their own religious affiliations, and then blame the other “Party” for all the problems in the United States and abroad.  It seems to be that one slogan can manipulate and convince individuals that a positive change is happening even when the reverse is actually occuring.  Well, here in Alabama, what are the positive changes in terms of social progress, social equality? A great example of questionable social and medical change is that of mental health.  Approximately, 1 in 4 adults are diagnosed with a mental illness in any given year, at any given time.  Approximately, 1 in 10 children and adolescents are diagnosed with a mental illness in any given year, at any given time.  And guess what? Those numbers are not declining.  Yet, the availability of reasonable treatment options and facilities are on a steep decline.  It’s baffling, but many people persist in the belief that mental illness is a myth.  They also believe that those who suffer should just be cast out or ostracized socially.  Put them in jail or prison!  Even if these ill-informed notions were true, the penal system in Alabama cannot accommodate most of the inmates that are mentally ill.  Prison system officials have even spoken out about the persistent problem of incarcerating the mentally ill.  Yet, despite hard evidence and facts, many still question the causes, reality, and implications of mental illness.

Milgram’s “Obedience to Authority” experiment is scarily becoming more and more relevant.  As Americans we need to start asking the right questions. We need to stop going along with “what we are told” just because someone in authority said to do it.  Blind obedience will have negative consequences for future generations. Without critical thinking and questioning authority, we may, indeed, end up with a “Big Brother” who is always watching and listening.

That’s scary.

To be a progressive society, we must ask questions, we must peacefully protest when necessary. We must protest based on facts and not based on media idiosyncrasies that only exist to get higher ratings.  Do you want to be a one of the 85% who obediently administered lethal shocks or one of the 15% that questioned authority?

It is up to you.

Alexa, please purchase Whole Foods.

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

In the acquisition heard round the world, Amazon acquired Whole Foods last Friday for $13.7B dollars and the internet went nuts. The jokes were endless with “Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck” jokes and many speculated that Bezos told Alexa to purchase Whole Foods accidently. Amazon has come a long way from its book seller roots to now permeating every aspect of our lives. But with this “prime” price tag, Amazon is positioned to give the online grocery market a run for its money.

This acquisition is the biggest Amazon acquisition to date and the damn thing paid for itself. Amazon’s market cap appreciated by $15.6B after the announcement which means they essentially got Whole Foods for free. And now are looking to transform the brand which has always struggled for its market share as they struggled to compete on price.

This is not the first foray into the produce world by Bezos. AmazonFresh was launched six years ago and with anemic success. It turns out that the general public still likes to inspect their produce before purchasing but Amazon is poised to integrate Whole Foods with their 460 existing distribution sites though I think they will need a few more to take this newly acquired spending power for a whirl.

This move is seen by analysts and those in the “know” as a power play against Walmart. With Walmart’s online grocery ordering as well their recent acquisitions of online retailers such as ModCloth (which I am still mourning), Amazon and Walmart are about to go head to head in an all-out e-commerce war. If Walmart wants to beat Amazon, they are going to have to work on their negative press to get anywhere with Millennials. Millennials want to say F*** you to the big box retailer and Walmart is paying that price. So with the victor go the spoils, may the best retailer win!

Climate change deniers are, well, bat shit crazy

Honestly, there’s just no other way to put it. Typically, we here at aren’t ones to use pejorative or demeaning terms to characterize an opinion contrary to our own. But folks, climate changes are real and the people who deny them probably still believe strongly in the Easter bunny, still write lengthy epistles to Santa Claus, and bemoan the loss of their youth because they’ve nothing to currently offer the Tooth Fairy.

There is global consensus amongst scientists that our current observation of climate change is anthropogenic, meaning it is caused primarily by human activity.

Conversely, morons and bat shit crazy people have reached a consensus that massive man-made pollution and the extinction of whole species just ain’t no big deal cuz that would mean you gotta bag your own groceries in your own re-usable bags and that’s proof enough that global warming is just nutty liberal hippie crap.

You don’t have to be a scientist to see the adverse effects of killing off millions of acres of forests or to see the direct correlation between fossil fuel consumption and the rise of atmospheric pollutants. It doesn’t take a degree to understand that when fracking started, so did the earthquakes and flammable tap water. You don’t have to be a genius to look at the great Pacific vortex of trash in our ocean to think that it might be really, really bad for aquatic wildlife.

However, if you think dumping toxic industrial chemicals in our streams is no big deal, then you’re quite literally bat shit crazy. If you think “clean coal” is the energy source of the future, then you may want to get that free check-up they’re offering just for you at the nearest mental health center. If you believe that God gave us this beautiful planet to use like a disposable Bic lighter, then please reconsider your choice to reproduce.

Having said that, we’re going to bring you news and opinions from the world of science, as much as we can, to help you convince the “Easter Bunny-Santa-Tooth Fairy Believing” folks in your world that this stuff is real and imminent. Of course, Kris Kringle famously said, “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” So, maybe skip the argument and figure out what you can personally do to save the only planet we have.

We can lead by example and we can educate each other. We can keep doing the things we know are right and do our best to leave a healthy planet for our children. If nothing else, we can quit filling up our landfills with plastic water bottles and those annoying little K-cup crappy latte containers. We can respect our planet and each other. We can begin to use renewable energy because it simply makes sense.

This is going to take some time, but “millennials” get it because they see the devastation that has been caused by unquenchable consumerism.

So, the next time you encounter a climate change denier just cut to the chase and feel free to tell them that they are simply bat shit crazy. If you really want to make them crazy, tell them you think you see a pink plastic egg in their yard and that someone told you there’s a tooth in it!

Until our next installment about climate change and the environment, figure out what to do with all those plastic bags you’ve been collecting under your sink and let us know what you came up with!

Franklin says he’s making a comforter… we’ll see how that turns out.

What it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ Community

Clete Wetli, Contributor

Many people have recently asked me why I feel so strongly about being an outspoken ally and activist for the LGBTQ community given that my identity is that of a cisgender, heterosexual, white, and middle-age male.  So, to explain my allegiance with the LGBTQ community, I believe it’s important to clarify some definitions and beliefs that I hold strongly.  Concepts like community, ally, inclusion, and diversity are more than literal definitions in that they are full of moral and social context and I hope that my interpretation and perceptions of these concepts will shed some light on why I have chosen to be an ally and an activist.

First, the concept of community is simply defined as a group of people that share similar characteristics and a sense of fellowship.  In the most basic sense, most people feel a sense of community when it is described as a group of individuals whose only shared characteristic may be being part of a nation, city, or neighborhood because they share a common geography, civic issues, and ritual celebrations.  Obviously, communities tend to share a variety of common characteristics and also decide what characteristics they will not abide or tolerate.  Arguably, community defies definition if it is bereft of social context and, in practice; communities are complex social tapestries that are often overlapping.  In our modern concept of community, as it pertains specifically to living in a democratic republic, we assume that all members of our community are given equal rights and equal opportunities to pursue their own idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  As an American, you are born part of a national community that assumes that equality is your constitutionally guaranteed birthright in spite any local, regional, or religious constructs that may claim otherwise.  Therefore, the LGBTQ community is inherently an American community which should, by default, enjoy the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities that are granted to every other type of community that exists within our nation.

However, there are some communities within our nation that believe that being part of the LGBTQ community is grounds for exclusion when it comes to participating in certain types of activities, such as marriage or the adoption of children. However, communities that take these exclusionary stances are often religious in nature and they defy the very definition of equality which is an integral, defining characteristic of our nation, even when it may not be a defining characteristic of religious communities.  Having said this, it is obvious that the LGBTQ community is part of our American community.  Equality applies to everyone, not just some communities while excluding others. Therefore, the LGBTQ community is part of my community.  Just as I will strongly defend my right to be treated equal, I must defend theirs because we are part of the same community.  To be an ally means to combine resources for a common purpose.  If my allegiance is to my community and to my nation, then my allegiance is also to the LGBTQ community which seeks nothing more than equality and equal opportunity just as it is, or should be, afforded to all other members of our community.

Next, there are the complementary concepts of inclusion and diversity.  For communities to thrive and prosper, they depend upon inclusion.  Again, they are built around shared characteristics and values. Yet, no matter how many things people have in common, it’s a fact that they will also have just as many differences.  These differences constitute the great splendor and spectrum of human diversity whether it is race, sex, religion, economic status, height, or any number of infinite factors that make us unique.  So, to seek inclusion there must be an acceptance of diversity because no two people are alike.  Inclusion and diversity makes communities stronger, more innovative, more exciting, and more enlightened.  Although, I may not share your experience or seek to live your lifestyle, I can respect your choices and learn from your experiences. As we share our diversity, we find common ground that is rooted deeply in our humanity.

I cannot watch members of my community be excluded because of who they choose to love. I cannot see members of my community denied the right to raise a child because someone doesn’t approve of their lifestyle. I will not stand by and do nothing when I see some people and some communities work to deny my LGBTQ friends their rights to equal treatment and equal opportunities.  Greater than our community bond that holds us together as a nation, is our inherent bond as humans who share the same earth and breathe the same air and share the same desires for freedom, acceptance, and existential fulfillment.  To take a neutral stance in the fight for equality is to be complicit with those who seek to discriminate and marginalize.  For me, I have no choice but to be an ally and to speak up for what is right and what is just.  I will not tolerate hatred, whether fueled by ignorance or sustained by the dark delusions of narcissism or the mirage of privileged entitlement.

I am an ally because with all of our many differences, it turns out that we‘re the same.

More shootings- just another day in America

Clete Wetli, Contributor

We’re so desensitized to the violence now.

Today, I was about to be the guest on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and Dale came running into the studio to interrupt Will Anderson’s show to announce breaking news because Congressman Mo Brooks had just messaged him that he was getting shot at during baseball practice. GOP House Whip Steve Scalise had been hit. The only reason there was a security detail present was because Scalise is in the line of succession to the president. Two Capitol policemen were shot. There were somewhere between fifty and one hundred rounds fired at the YMCA ball field in Virginia. The suspect was shot and died in custody.

I drove home after remarking on the bravery of Congressman Mo Brooks who used his belt as a tourniquet to help one of his fallen colleagues during the shooting. It was surreal. For years, I’ve been highly critical of Brooks’ policies and politics, but I was relieved that he was unharmed and proud of his courage and selflessness in that moment. I fought back tears as I drove and thought about the insanity of what had just taken place.

A few hours later, I took a break from my work and my writing. I checked the news. There was another shooting in San Francisco at a UPS facility. Three dead and then the gunmen killed himself.

Yesterday, at an apartment complex in Huntsville, where I live, there was an armed robbery and a man was pistol-whipped for cash. In my town, it’s not uncommon now to hear of gun violence, drive-by shootings, and murders. Usually, it’s the mass shootings that grab all the headlines.

No one here in Alabama wants to talk about gun control at all, ever. In fact, our legislators have been introducing bill after bill, despite the protests of law enforcement and citizens, to make it easier to carry weapons in public and to relax restrictions on concealed carry. The legislature fought to ensure that citizens could carry their guns in the local public library even though the library wanted to be designated as a “gun-free zone.”

In Alabama, our politicians make sure that their campaign ads show them firing high-powered rifles or hunting some living thing. It seems like it’s been made mandatory; like a picture of the candidate going to church or posing with an artificially, ethnically diverse group of children for no readily apparent reason.  Here, you’re either pro second amendment or your grits ain’t fully cooked, if y’all know what I mean. Here, every time there’s any kind of shooting then the answer is there should’ve been more heavily armed good guys around.

So, today there were more shootings on just another day in America. Soon, the politics will start and there will be calls for more gun control and there will be calls for everyone to arm themselves for protection. Then we’ll all pretend it never happened until the next one in a few days time.

What the hell are we going to do about this? How much blood needs to be spilled before we actually take this problem seriously? Do average citizens really need access to military assault-style weapons, enormous ammunition magazines, or semi-automatic, rapid fire weaponry?

The U.S. has the highest small arm ownership rate in the world and is only second to Iraq in the amount of homicides per 100,000 people and leads the world in gun-related suicides.

The debate over the second amendment shouldn’t be a zero-sum game. We can have our constitutional right to own a firearm, but maybe it doesn’t have to be a high-powered military assault rifle. Maybe, just maybe, we can agree on a better system to ensure that we keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business owning them.

Surely, we can find some new common ground because, right now, our common ground is stained with blood and littered with shell casings.

Cutting Funding to the Arts Will Not Silence Us

Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor

In a move that would make Nazi Germany proud, President Trump recently proposed a federal budget that would include a full and total cut to the arts. A general outcry arose amongst the art loving population. How could he cut the arts? How could he fire Elmo? It isn’t like Sesame Street parodied you for years… Grump Tower. Well, you have certainly stuck to the Big… Bird? Your vendetta is complete.  G-d forbid we have any of those free-thinking, out spoken liberal artist people running around infecting the masses with their progressive thoughts. I mean who needs art when each trip to Mar-a-Lago costs a whopping three million dollars per weekend or that your wife is spending $300 million per year just so she doesn’t have to live with you. The only art that should be celebrated is that of a painting of your Cheeto-loving-self illegally purchased by your own charity. Now that is some good art. The people do not need any culture other than that. Let them eat cake! This will fix ‘em. I mean all of the artists will collectively roll over and die just like the fake media. Right? Not so much.

What President Trump and his Republican, art-hating cronies don’t realize is that cutting the federal budget to the arts will not silence artists. For a millennia, the artists role in society has been not only to provide an aesthetic experience but also to help foster dialogue and bring important issues to the public eye. A role that will either celebrate an event in society or will call out the wrong-doing in a situation. A role becoming more crucial by the moment as our Twitler-In-Chief continues to fail in a spectacular fashion.

The artist has always understood their calling and role and have done so at great personal costs to themselves. Ever heard of starving artists? Monet and Van Gogh were one of the most famous examples of ear-munching artists in abject poverty and yet made art that is still cherished today. Banksy is a more modern example as he spends his time criticizing the world governments and he doesn’t even need to buy canvas. He just uses a random wall or two. Artists will create art whether the federal government gives them funding or not. In fact, the art may be better due to the lack of funding because great art usually comes out of great struggle. And the struggle is real. Art will be the voice of reason in this hate-mongering time.

So off with their heads! This will teach those liberal, gay-loving artists a thing or two. Marie Antoinette doesn’t provide an odious warning of what happens when wealth and spending run a muck at great cost to the people. And what will happen when this French-aristocratic philosophy gets painted in the worst of lights? We can only hope that the American People makes sure the next peaceful transfer of power transfers President Trump right out of the White House.