Tag Archives: current events

How The West Wing on Netflix Got Me Through the Election

west wing cast
Bring back President Bartlet!

It’s no secret the outcome of the presidential election was not to my liking. Which is an understated way of saying I was absolutely devastated in every way, shape, and form.

And when I’m upset, I binge-watch.

Netflix may not have started with therapeutic intentions, but I’m willing to bet it’s become that for millions of customers. And after it became clear I was going to have to raise my kids under President Donald Trump, I needed a distraction in a big way.

I needed The West Wing on Netflix.

It might seem strange to immediately watch a political show when politics is the cause of my stress in the first place. But after 15 months of watching Trump say horrifically ignorant things only to be rewarded with the highest office in the land, I needed the fictional White House of my dreams.

I wanted President Josiah Barlet’s steady hand and unmatched intellect. I craved Sam Seaborn’s unrelenting idealism and deep love for doing the right thing at all costs. I longed for Toby Ziegler’s stubbornness matched only by his ability to string together perfect words to form transcendent speeches in the loftiest of moments. And I marveled at Josh Lyman’s witty arrogance combined with his heartfelt dedication to the service of his country.

I’m of the opinion intelligence should be held in the highest esteem, and Aaron Sorkin writes brilliantly smart dialogue. The banter between cast members moves at light speed with expert precision, and the result is some truly memorable scenes that will forever stand out in your memory. Like this one.

I have re-watched the whole first season of West Wing since the election. Unfortunately, I fear it’s the only recourse I’ll have if I want to see an extraordinary intellectual painstakingly weigh crucial decisions of national importance instead of firing off an ill-advised tweet that seeks to strip Americans of their Constitutionally protected rights.

In a world turned temporarily insane, Netflix is my escape and my therapy. Let’s hope there’s four years worth of entertainment to keep us all occupied.


netflix stream team logo

I was compensated for writing this post, but all opinions are my own.

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Don’t Be a Dick

dont-be-a-dick

“Dad, what do we do now?”

That was the most pressing question my 8-year-old asked me in the wake of Trumpageddon. I was focusing on how did we get here, what went wrong, and how the hell can people be this stupid? But, as usual, my oldest son directed my attention to what’s really important — the “what now?”

You see, I spent most of this election telling my son Trump wouldn’t win. I told him that because I believed in this country’s common sense and ability to sniff out an obvious con-man who threatened the very foundation upon which the United States is built. I told him bullies don’t win in the end.

But the bully did win. Ignorance, hate, and divisiveness won. There’s nothing I can do about that now, so where do we go from here and how did I answer my son’s question? After some contemplation, I looked him straight in the eye and said the following:

“Just don’t be a dick.”

I didn’t make that up, I stole it from my friend Oren Miller. It was his one guiding principle when he started a dad blogger Facebook group that has swelled to more than 1,200 members. Cancer took him from us in 2015 but his painful absence doesn’t make the advice any less pertinent. Especially now.

Unfortunately the election is lost. Donald Trump will be our next President of the United State for at least four years. A lot of us don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. However, not being a dick is a great way to do our part to combat the dickishness in which our country is currently awash.

I told Will if he sees or hears bullies at school trashing people (especially minorities), step in and help. Because not taking action is still being a dick, and defending classmates lets them know they’re not alone.

Stumble upon some lily white morons telling kids who look different from them to go back where they came from? Breathing a sigh of relief just because they’re not picking on you is still being a dick, so put yourself in between the bullies and the bullied. I told Will as a white male, he’s got an easier time than most so he needs to make sure he’s got some skin in the game, because discrimination is never acceptable.

Hear someone telling a female classmate she can’t participate in something like science or sports just because she’s a girl? Don’t be a dick — shut that shit down immediately. Many women had hammers in hand to finally break through that glass ceiling, only to have the rug pulled out from under them at the eleventh hour. But this is not their fight, it’s our fight. All of us. You don’t need to rescue damsels in distress, you just need to stand up for what’s right and help your fellow people.

Don’t be a dick about refugees. The vast majority of refugees are not terrorists and are simply trying to keep their families alive. If that were me, I’d break every immigration rule possible if it meant keeping my family safe from the bombs raining down on them. Be empathetic and tell those who would rather build walls and deny entrance to our country based on religious discrimination that you’re not going to put up with that crap. I guarantee others will follow your lead.

Gay people just got the right to marry who they want, but now they’re facing an administration that openly hates them and is threatening to nominate Supreme Court judges who could potentially delegitimize their families. So don’t be a dick by calling people “faggots” and don’t let other people get away with slurs. You’ll be surrounded by kids who are gay but too afraid to come out, and even if they never thank you personally for standing up for them in public, they’ll feel less alone because you did. You never know what’s going to save someone from going over the edge, so be a stand-up guy instead of a dick.

And lastly, don’t listen to the people who will claim YOU are being a dick by speaking out against others. There’s a difference between basic political disagreements and standing up against racists, misogynists, and xenophobes. Trump is in the latter category and his supporters condoned those things by voting for him. Will, you can never be too intolerant of intolerance, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

This is a dark time, my boy. It’s also an exceedingly dangerous time because standards of decency are shifting. What should be unacceptable is now presidential, and normalizing our most fanatical and awful behaviors leads to the erosion of all things good and just. So don’t fall into that basket of deplorables.

Don’t be a dick, even if we just elected one.

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It’s Not About Politics

trump mocks disabled reporter

The people devastated about President-elect Donald Trump are not whining about petty politics. Because this isn’t about politics – it never has been.

I know empathy is not a trait in large supply among the largely under-educated, white, angry Trump base, but humor me in this little exercise. Your guy already won so why not, right?

Imagine just for a moment you’re a gay, married person in America right now. You have spent years trying to convince everyone your love is just as valid as everyone else’s. You have fought tirelessly, not for special treatment, but simply to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law. You have been berated by bigots, called every slur in the book, and been told your legal marriage to someone of the same sex would erode society’s values and represent an abomination in God’s eyes. But finally, through all that, you won. Love won. And now you’re free to marry who you want and enjoy all the rights that come with that.

Then you wake up on November 9 and find all of those gains threatened.

Donald Trump is against gay marriage. But even more troubling, vice president-elect Mike Pence is REALLY against it. Trump has vowed to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, which means there is a very real possibility gay marriage could be reversed, and gay people relegated to second-class citizenship once again.

That’s not being upset about politics, that’s abject and very legitimate fear that someone is actively threatening your family.

Now imagine you’re someone with a preexisting medical condition. This isn’t hard for me, since my wife is in this category. You struggled for years because no one would insure you and you paid exorbitant prices for treatment and medication. Your health suffered immensely. Your quality of life was significantly impacted. You lived in constant pain and fear of being able to afford to live.

Then came the ACA (ObamaCare) and suddenly your prayers were answered. Health insurance companies could no longer deny you because of a preexisting condition, and suddenly millions like you had access to quality, more affordable care. Your health improved, your quality of life improved, and even your mental state improved because you weren’t constantly worried about going broke just to stay alive.

Then comes news of President Trump, and what’s his first order of business? Repealing ObamaCare. And suddenly all that fear, pain, and uncertainty comes flooding back. Yesterday, my wife frantically made phone calls to move up a surgery because as of January, there’s a very real possibility it will no longer be covered if she’s dropped by her provider. The woman on the other end of the phone said “You’re not alone, we’re flooded with calls today.”

That’s not being upset about politics, that’s legitimate fear of no longer being able to afford medical care. It is, quite literally for many people, a matter of life and death.

Now picture yourself as a woman who is pregnant. It doesn’t matter the circumstances – planned, accident, rape, incest – because for whatever reason, you don’t want the baby anymore. It’s more than a little ridiculous that women had to go to court to be able to control their own bodies, but Roe vs Wade has been the law of the land for 40+ years giving you the option of ending the pregnancy if you wish.

But suddenly the man who vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices specifically to overturn that landmark case is elected president. Now you’re afraid your own personal medical decisions will no longer be guided by you and your doctor, but white, religious male politicians who value the collection of cells inside of you more than the living, breathing person housing them.

That’s not sour grapes about politics, it’s the very real fear that the government will soon dictate your reproductive health decisions and potentially force you to give birth against your will.

What Trump supporters don’t understand is this particular election of this particular candidate is a direct attack on non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual people.

Trump was heard advocating sexual assault and “grabbing women by the pussy” just weeks before the election. But instead of his campaign faltering, he seemed to get the push he needed to cross the finish line. Think about that. A man was rewarded with the presidency after bragging about sexual assault. If you’re wondering what people mean by “rape culture,” look no further.

The message that sent to women everywhere is “this is OK.” In fact, it’s presidential.

Let’s also not forget people of color. Although Trump didn’t receive many newspaper endorsements, he did receive one notable one. The KKK’s newspaper endorsed him, and known racist David Duke campaigned hard for Trump. Trump also re-tweeted white supremacists on Twitter dozens of times over the campaign, and it’s no secret he holds Black Lives Matter in very little regard.

With a large segment of supporters wielding Confederate flags and Trump only mentioning black people in conjunction with inner cities (not to mention Trump’s history of being sued by the DOJ for not renting his property to black people), how are people of color supposed to take this other than a direct insult and threat?

I think the real reason people are heartbroken is because we woke up in America we don’t recognize. For well-intentioned people with privilege (myself included) who gave this country the benefit of the doubt and 100% believed reasonable people would plainly see the danger Trump represents, this is nothing short of shocking. And for many who aren’t minorities, it’s the first realization that hate, anger, and fear might be the majority opinion.

Don’t think for a second that liberals have any less love for America simply because we don’t deck out our vehicles in American flag decals and NRA stickers. We love America deeply and passionately, just like you do. But we truly believed our America was one where bullies lose in the end and love trumps hate.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, and that crushes us.

I can only hope Donald Trump the President does not remotely resemble Donald Trump the campaigner. As a deeply patriotic person, I have no choice but to hope he surrounds himself with competent people not on the fringe, and to remember he lost the popular vote, which means a majority of US citizens did not choose him to lead us.

But if he does continue on the path he blazed during the campaign, it’s up to all of us to fight it. To unequivocally support those who will undoubtedly be more vulnerable than ever under President Trump. To stay, fight, and advocate for what we know to be right.

We wake up today in a place that looks familiar, yet is now unrecognizable. We mourn the country we thought we knew but ultimately didn’t, and we come to grips with how to love that country despite its choice to embrace hate and divisiveness.

We don’t know exactly what’s next, but we know one thing – it’s not about politics.

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The Letter Brock Turner’s Parents Should Have Written

brock turner

I am disgusted by the Brock Turner case. I’m appalled that he raped an unconscious woman, I’m aghast at his lack of remorse, and I’m furious about the far too lenient 6-month jail sentence (3 months with parole) he received from a judge who seemed more concerned with the perpetrator’s future than the victim’s suffering.

But with the exception of the rape itself, it’s the letters to the court from his mom and dad that have me feeling the biggest amount of white-hot rage.

Loving and supporting your son is expected. After all, they’re parents. You can’t just stop loving your kid, but failing to even acknowledge the victim while simultaneously painting a convicted rapist as the “real” victim?

Sickening. Reprehensible. Soulless.

It also perfectly illustrates the problem, and highlights the sense of entitlement that likely led to a 19-year-old Stanford swim star thinking there’s nothing wrong with taking what you want, simply because she wasn’t awake to say she didn’t want it.

No one can undo what happened to the poor victim or take back the egregiously slimy letters sent from the parents of her rapist. But there is one thing I’d like to do, and that’s write the kind of letter Brock Turner’s parents should have sent in the first place. Maybe there’s an off chance they’ll see it, and in turn, see where they went wrong.

**********************

Your Honor,

We’re sorry. So, so sorry.

No parent wants to believe their son is capable of a crime like this. We didn’t believe it at first. Hell, we still can’t believe it most days. How do you reconcile the memories of the sweet child you nurtured and raised, with the person found guilty of penetrating an unconscious woman? It really is unthinkable for us, and completely devastating.

But we realize this isn’t about us. It’s about the victim.

No one should have to endure a sexual assault. No matter how drunk or promiscuous, no one deserves to be dragged outside and violated while they’re not even awake. We’re so sorry for the young lady who has dealt with this pain, and will always deal with it, for the rest of her life.

And we’re sorry our son is the cause of it.

I can tell you countless stories about Brock that would, under different circumstances, make you smile. Maybe even warm your heart. I’ve seen him be genuinely kind, compassionate, and empathetic. I’ve seen him work unbelievably hard to achieve goals in the classroom and the swimming pool. I can tell you with complete certainty our son is not a monster.

However, it seems he’s done a monstrous thing. Witnesses saw him at the scene and a jury has found him guilty. It hurts to even type those words, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Truth be told, earlier versions of this letter looked much different. We regaled you with stories about Brock’s past to show how wonderful of a person he was. And we focused on how depressed he is now. How he can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Never smiles. We think of his future as a registered sex offender and how he won’t even be able to coach his future kids’ sports teams. But in the end, we erased it all. Why?

Because we looked at our daughter, and imagined how we’d feel if she were the victim of a similar crime.

No matter how much Brock suffers, we understand the victim here is the young woman who was raped. That’s not easy to say when realizing it means our son — who we love with all of our hearts — might end up in jail. But even though this is the only illegal act he’s ever committed in the past, we understand the seriousness of what happened. We realize the life-altering nature of it. And we can’t help but wonder if we’re partly responsible for raising someone who could do this.

We can’t say Brock doesn’t deserve jail time for what he’s done. But, as his parents, we also can’t stand by and do nothing as you potentially sentence him behind bars, where the same crime will likely be perpetrated on him. So we’re asking for mercy. Please don’t send our son to jail. We believe through counseling, registering as a sex offender, and listening to stories of rape victims while learning firsthand the horrors of what survivors go through, he can be better. We understand how it looks asking for mercy regarding a crime so heinous, but parents look out for their kids and we’re doing that now. No one is beyond saving, and that includes Brock.

We are eternally sorry for the heartbreak this has caused the victim and her family. We’re even more sorry our son is at the heart of it. We have a daughter too and we can’t pretend to even begin to imagine what it’s like going through all this. 

Brock made an unconscionable and indefensible decision that night that will impact everyone involved forever. It might be asking too much, but we’re hoping you can find a way to muster the compassion our son couldn’t conjure up that night. If you do, he will do better. We’ll do better. We will walk hand in hand with him to do advocacy work and try to prevent this from ever happening again. Because we are genuinely and terribly sorry for the pain that’s been inflicted during this time.

We acknowledge the terrible thing he did, but we will always love our son. We can’t help it — no parent can. But as parents, we are also forever scarred by what the victim has endured and thinking about what she and her parents are going through is bone-chilling. 

Thank you for this opportunity, and please consider a merciful sentence for Brock.

Dan and Carleen Turner

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Yes, Obama Cried. No, He’s Not Less of a Man

obamatears

“He looked like he was sleeping. But the reality of it was under the cloth he had covering his mouth there was no mouth left. His jaw was blown away. I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”
Veronique Pozner, mother of 6-year-old Noah, who was killed at Sandy Hook

President Barack Obama cried.

He did so while announcing a series of executive actions to make background checks mandatory for all gun sellers, pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the budget for increased mental health care access, and hire hundreds of additional agents to assist with background checks. The President was overcome with emotion while surrounded by parents, relatives, and friends of those lost to gun violence over the years. When forced to recall the 20 dead elementary school children in Newtown, CT, the President of the United States wept in public and on camera.

And for that display, this father of two girls earned a whole bunch of people mocking him. 

They called him a “pussy,” a “woman,” and a “fag.” President Sissypants, who needs to go home and cry to his mommy. They swore at him, derided him, and shouted from every rooftop that he’s weak. Soft. A crybaby ill-equipped to handle a job that clearly requires a “real man” at the helm.

But my concern isn’t with President Obama and his tears. It’s with anyone who thinks of the Sandy Hook shooting and doesn’t end up crying.

“As the pile got higher it appeared that there was a mad scramble to get into the bathroom, with people stepping on one another and climbing on top of each other. The teachers appeared to have been shepherding the children into the room and were then probably going to shut the door. They did not close and lock the door to the classroom for some reason and were interrupted by the shooter as they attempted to fill the bathroom with children. The shooter then opened fire on the mass of children and adults. As Sgt. Carrio got to the last bodies it was clear that no one had survived.” – incident report from the Newtown, CT Police Department

If you look at our tearful President — a father himself — and your first thought is to question his masculinity because he’s so upset, then I fear you’re broken. I worry you’re a shell of a human being, devoid of basic empathy and compassion. If a classroom of dead schoolchildren doesn’t move you to tears, I worry nothing will.

As the father of three boys, I’m also increasingly alarmed by how twisted the concept of masculinity has become in this country. Case in point:

First of all, calling someone a “woman” and using a pejorative term for female genitalia as an insult is ridiculous. And dumb. Women aren’t weak and using a colloquialism for vagina implies a lack of toughness, when nothing could be further from the truth. As a dad who has witnessed natural childbirth three times, I can personally attest to the power, wonder, toughness, and resiliency of said nether regions. It renders that particular misogynistic insult downright silly.

As for the crying, it’s a perfectly normal human response that in no way denotes a lack of strength.

I cried when I found out my wife was pregnant. I cried when my kids were born. I cried in uncertainty and fear when my middle child was in a Boston hospital at only 6 months old. I cried when my wife was in the throes of depression. Hell, I cry every time I watch the movie “Rudy.”

I damn sure cried when 20 children were viciously gunned down in their school. And you know what? I’ve cried every year since then. I tear up every single time I realize not even the most horrific thing imaginable — nearly two dozen innocent kids slaughtered in a classroom — was enough to spur action. I cry when it’s become apparent NRA rhetoric and guns are more important than children.

Forget for a second that no one is coming for anyone’s guns, and Obama’s executive actions are common sense restrictions that close loopholes and expand background checks — something a majority of Americans favor. Thinking this is a government conspiracy to confiscate guns is bad enough, but this crap about how men should truly act is just as damaging.

My three boys will damn sure know guns don’t make someone more of a man, and showing your feelings definitely doesn’t make you less of one. In fact, manhood has nothing to do with it. Expressing your feelings and showing empathy are signs of emotional intelligence and strength that know no gender. Being able to walk in someone else’s shoes is crucial, and when you’re the leader of the free world using your power to reduce the number of dead kids in classrooms even in the face of unadulterated hate? Well, that’s about the strongest thing I can think of.

Tears or no tears.

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