Fear and Hysteria in the “Two Americas”

As a child there are few things worse than watching your parents argue. I didn’t mind much if they argued with someone else, because I was clear on what side I was on, but when they argued with each other I couldn’t stand it.

As a paralegal working in family law I see the results of years and years of arguments and built up resentment. The situation blows up and the parties split. The house, cars, pensions are divvied between the two and they go their separate ways. That is easy to do with two people, but the process doesn’t translate to sovereign nations.

That’s currently how I feel right now, and how I have felt since January 20th – like I’m watching my parent’s argue over who forgot to take out the trash and I just want to get out of there as fast I can because the conversation is clearly disintegrating.

Prior to this presidential race, when people I spoke with divulged their political leanings they would say something like “well I’m socially a democrat, but fiscally conservative” or “I’m somewhere in the middle.”

Unfortunately for America, those sentiments have evaporated. People have floated to the extreme ends of the ideological spectrum and unapologetically dismantle anyone who expresses ideas that are to the right or left of where they stand.

Unlike marriage, when this conversation escalates and disintegrates, we cannot divorce the other side of the country, split our stuff, and go our separate ways. There are not “two America’s” and never have been. There is one America with millions of different people who come from all walks of life and hold different beliefs. We compromise and work together to get by. It seems we have traded that idea in for the divide and conquer rhetoric that has softly but persistently been in our ear.

We are currently in a crisis of hysteria, partially fueled by the media, a partisan institution that rarely reports news objectively. Part of this hysteria is the belief that people who voted differently from us must be fundamentally flawed as human beings. They aren’t just fellow countrymen who have differing political opinions, but instead are racists, sexists, and homophobes – words that have grave meaning, but are thrown around carelessly with no awareness of their actual definition.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for two years, spanning the entire presidential race, Trump’s inauguration, and his first weeks in office. Not once have I driven past a car with a Donald Trump bumper sticker on it. I have seen Hillary and Bernie bumpers stickers in every shape, size, color, and texture in every variety they are made, but not one Trump sticker. I think bumper stickers are tacky so I never thought much about it. But then the reason occurred to me – self-preservation. A city this big is sure to have its fair share of Trump supporters. But the lonely Trump supporter in Los Angeles doesn’t want his car keyed and windows smashed in.

I lean to the left politically, but I understand that person’s plight. I laugh at politically incorrect jokes under my breath, and keep my thoughts about my high taxes to myself for fear of the thought police jumping out of a palm tree to berate me.

The opposite can be said for the liberal outposts in red states and neither is right. The most attractive thing about America is freedom – freedom of speech, ideas, and the freedom to disagree with one another. We have strayed from that in a fit of hysteria.

The person I voted for on Election Day did not win. I am not thrilled with the president or the policies he has put forth, but believe that the people who did vote for him, did so based on reasons they felt were important or logical. That’s just the way it is in a free democratic country. Sometimes your guy wins, sometimes he doesn’t.

We can change our president every four years, our congressmen every two, but the us vs. them mindset is the drop of poison that can spoil the well permanently.

Technology & Young People: Catalysts for Future Change

Ray Kurzweil, a world renowned computer scientist and inventor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”

This is because technology advances at an exponential rate. Statistics like that are dizzying to look at, but in the day to day process of our lives we become accustomed to more advanced technology without giving it much thought.

Recently I was sitting around solving the problems of the world with one of my writing mentors when he said “There is nothing my generation can teach you guys.” This confused me. He is an experienced writer who I look up too, much older than me, currently twenty-four. He’s far more seasoned than I am at conquering problems the world has thrown at him.

I asked for further explanation of what he meant, to which he replied “Everything we have to teach you, you can find yourself, and much faster. Matter of fact you guys could probably teach my generation a lot.”

This statement often goes un-appreciated by me. To think of how much information is currently available via a simple Google search is akin to guessing how many grains of sand make up a beach. It’s a different world and my generation was the first to become immersed in it. We were the first to grow up with the internet, social media, cell phones, and all that comes with those things. We saw how they evolved from their primitive forms to what they currently are and we learned how to master them every step of the way.

As a result my generation shoulders much of the responsibility for how the future will look. We have endless information at our fingertips that was never accessible before the internet era. After 12 years of two wars and a major financial meltdown, our skepticism rivals that of the 1960’s youth, with even more ways of obtaining information and boiling the truth out of it.

Those who have ill intentions for the power they wield have to go to greater lengths to keep an informed population pacified; and they are. But with the technology available organizing in opposition to those efforts is much easier. It was widely reported that social media played a huge role in the organization efforts of the Ferguson protests as well as the Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Dakota Access Pipeline movements.

Times are more dire now than ever. The current administration has made it clear they regard the Constitution merely as a suggestive piece of literature. Our rights are no longer God given, but invoked as spoken rhetoric. We are told to wave the flag proudly, but not to inquire on what the flag actually represents.

Organization, protest, and keeping the government rigorously accountable are necessary to our way of life. There is no better tool for this than technology, and the people who must lead this movement are the ones who know how to manipulate technology best – young people.

Technology has been a wonderful catalyst for allowing us to accomplish those goals so far. Since the current administration took office there have been endless cycles of protest. The women’s march, which was the largest single day of protest in history, the Dakota Access Pipeline marches, and marches against the Muslim ban are testaments to that. One of the many things those protests have in common is they were all organized through social media.

The internet has also allowed us to hear the voices of millions of people who would otherwise be unheard. If you polled the columnists of this website alone, you would find many of us are lawyers, teachers, mechanics – working class people. Few of us make a living off of writing alone – I know I sure don’t. If it wasn’t for the internet, most of us would have no platform to get our points of view out to the world, and we are merely a drop in the ocean if you take a look at the number of blogs and websites available on the internet.

There are, of course, disadvantages to having so much information available at all times. We are bombarded by so much content that the important information can get lost in the static. There is such a thing as fake news, although it is not as mainstream as many would like to believe, and it can make deciphering truth from fiction difficult. But we can all agree these are minor setbacks that pale in comparison to the overwhelming advantages technology provides us as social activists. I am unaware of any movements attempting to roll back technology to what it was pre-1995.

The advantages technology provides us to obtain information, organize, and oppose corruption and tyranny are unprecedented. It is the responsibility of all Americans to keep our government accountable and to unite and organize when their agenda strays from ours. This responsibility is especially important to young Americans, for we are the ones who will carry the values of America into the future.

Redefining The Path To Success

The skyline of New York City is visible from every hill in my hometown, and stands tall over us as an ever present entity. All of the lights, bridges, and skyscrapers – constructs of concrete and steel – blend as one into the symbol of opportunity. As a kid I would often stare off into the distance at the skyline and imagine one day I would be working in one of those buildings – maybe the top floor of the Chrysler building, or a corner office of a Wall Street icon.

Like many other millennials my age, a corner office on Wall Street embodied the epitome of success. We were told to go college then become professionals, hedge fund managers, and nine to five office people. Growing up I was surrounded by doctors and lawyers, so the natural instinct and subsequent conditioning was to pick either one, go make a bunch of money, and live happily ever somewhere in suburbia.

Success was a well laid out path trudged by those before. The blueprint for us, used repeatedly for generations, was laid at our feet. Achieving success was as easy as following that blueprint.

The problem however, is that the antiquated blueprint has become obsolete in a world that vaguely resembles itself from a generation ago. Our generation has broken the mold, and cast the success blueprint into a pile next to the Compact Disc and VCR.

We are children born of the late ‘80’s and early ‘90s, products of the dotcom and tech boom. Entire frontiers of new industry and revolutionary ways to make an income are right in front of us. Techies in Silicon Valley have replaced Charlie Sheen from Wall Street, and entrepreneur has became a word that means more than someone who is too lazy to get a real job. It is a viable way to earn a living, avoid tuition debt, and make a name for yourself.

Another profound change my generation is experiencing is soaring tuitions of college and graduate school. My father graduated from Rutgers in 1968 and paid $400 for a semester of college. I paid much more than that for just a semester’s worth of books. Want to go to college, then law school today? $300,000 is roughly the price tag, and unless you come from money it will be a debt you will be paying off for the rest of your life.

That all but guarantees I will have to slave away in an office somewhere for the next forty years just to pay off that debt and support myself. I was always a creative type who was never interested in the corporate world. I like the idea of working for myself and being my own boss, master of my own destiny. I like writing, music, and art. But nonetheless, the blueprint to success was laid out for me. It was explained and passed down like any other cultural tradition, and so, I tried to follow it.

Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it just didn’t fit. I went to college, studied political science (I still question how much of a science it is), did well and graduated. I floundered on taking the LSATs because my heart was never in it in the first place. I worked a few internships, and hated every minute of the rigid structure, high stress, and corporate environment.

At twenty-two I decided to reject all of that and take the biggest risk of my life up until that point. While the blueprint for success changes, the American way of taking risks is timeless. I decided to follow my passion and become a writer. I endured the “that’s cute, you can write while you figure out what you want to do with your life” remarks at family functions and on bad dates. I often kept myself up at night wondering if I was making the biggest mistake of my life.

But I fell back on another truth as American as apple pie – perseverance. I started by getting one of my articles published in the Santa Monica Daily Press, a local newspaper. Then I got a weekly column for the Good Men Project. All the while I had been churning out short stories and poetry on my own time. “Just write, write, write” my mentor would tell me. That collection of short stories and poetry has turned into a finished book called Thoughts that will be published this February. I am currently working on the life story of Chris Luera, 3 time world champion fitness athlete, and have other book ideas in the works. I used to worry I was making the biggest mistake of my life, now I worry that I won’t be able to keep up with all the work I have on my plate.

Facebook and Microsoft weren’t built in corner offices of skyscrapers; they were built in garages and dorm rooms. Everything you need to be successful is at your fingertips. So to my frustrated millennial’s, who feel like square pegs in round holes, I say this: If doors aren’t opening for you, build your own damn door and walk through it. Find something you absolutely love to do, something you would gladly do for free, and go find a way to make money doing it. That’s the blueprint for freedom.