The millennial generation is labeled as lazy and entitled. We forego the American dream of marriage, two-story home with garage, and well paying nine to five jobs, to still live with our parents and pursue alternative career options.

I believe the generation that raised us, mostly baby boomers, taught us a solid work ethic and instilled core values into our fabric of being. The truth is we are not lazy or entitled; we are just different.  We were raised with the American values of hard work and perseverance, but the world has become less stable and full scale revolutions in the workplace from technology to manufacturing have taken place.

The financial crisis of 2008 left my generation with PTSD and a host of trust issues. The first wave of millennials were graduating college and prepping to enter the work force just as the economic infrastructure of the United States was failing. The housing market, which could be relied upon with the same certainty that the sun sets in the west, collapsed.

The waves of millennials graduating from college after the recession find that jobs paying a wage that justify the tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt are scarce. Slave labor has been repackaged as “unpaid internships”, promising to give college graduates who don’t know better a foot in the door. For entry level jobs, and jobs requiring a few years of experience, wages have remained stagnant; while rent and cost of living increases are swift.

The combining economic factors of cheap foreign labor and automation has shrunk the availability of work for millennials who decided not to go to college. This disproportionately affects millennial males. Women outnumber men in college enrollments, in 2012 by 10% with 71% of women enrolled in college compared to 61% of males.

Manufacturing, construction, and transportation were once reliable industries that non-college educated men could make a good living in. Humans have almost entirely been removed from manufacturing products, and automation is set to do the same in construction and transportation.

We were nurtured to play by rules that governed a different era, and nature has turned all of those ideas on their head. Staying true to biology, we have adapted as a generation – by becoming mobile, less committed, and more entrepreneurial than previous generations.

According to a new survey 43% of millennials moved away from their hometown and 44% said they moved to a more densely populated city than where they grew up. The most common response for moving was jobs, concentrated in big cities where tech industries have blossomed. Nearly half the respondents said they were likely to move in the next year.

As a generation of transients, commitment to a geographic area or city is not an ideal that has been successfully passed down. Millennials have a lower rate of home ownership than other generations did at the same age. The shift in our economy away from manufacturing towards technology has created a pivot in the geographic locale of labor demand; cities like Detroit and others of the rust belt have been traded for tech boomers like San Francisco and Atlanta.

Seventeen years into the twenty first century and it feels like we are closer to a world of the Jetsons than we are to the pre-internet era. The millennial generation is the great guinea pig of history bridging the gap between two periods of time that are as different as the dark ages and the renaissance, and will be studied by future historians as so. We struggle to stay true to the ideals of our forefathers while living in a world our forefathers couldn’t have imagined.

Pressed For Answers

I saw a news report earlier this week that almost compelled me to send my remote sailing through my television screen – not because of another falsity coming out of the white house – but because of how naïve the reporter claimed the press to be.

She said “and the reporters at these press conferences sit there with a puzzled look on their face trying to decipher whether what Spicer saying was true or false.” I was so puzzled by that statement I didn’t know whether to laugh in heartbroken cynicism or yell in confused anger.

The content of their discussion is irrelevant but I knew what Spicer said was false. I figured that out from my living room. Why can’t a room full of reporters put their heads together and come to that conclusion. Better yet, why are they not printing headlines that literally say “Trump lies again.”? I’m a big boy; I can handle that kind of the truth.

Trumps agenda of chaos is not accidental nor is it a result of his gross incompetence (they are two separate issues). What his administration is doing is cold and calculated. The technique of creating lies so grandiose that no one could believe someone would lie on such a large scale is straight out of Mein Kampf and the chaos by design agenda is an authoritarian technique that has been played out by dictators of every fare and flavor throughout history. All of this comes from the mind of Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Bannon said in an interview that he is a Leninist and that his goal is “to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of todays establishment.”

The destruction of America will not come from a foreign source, it will begin within the minds of Americans and if someone can destroy the press they win that battle.

But outright dismantling the press is ridiculous and would be as telegraphed as a quarterback staring down his target ten yards before throwing the pass.

Instead they take a more subtle approach and create so much chaos that the press wears out the public by following these absurdities down rabbit holes.

Here is a simple solution: tell it straight up and simple and call these stories for what they are: lies and propaganda. Print those words on the front page of every major and minor newspaper.

The press is like the pretty boy fighter that comes into the ring with perfect hair, a perfect tan, and a perfectly straight nose, fighting the brawler who likes to tie up and head butt his opponent or throw a low blow when the ref has his back turned.

The Trump administration has openly declared war on the press. Forget the gloves and ring, this fight is out in the parking lot, and as a citizen of this country it would be nice to see my press get some dirt on their uniform and start playing by the rules the Trump administration has declared.

“Falsehoods” are lies. Use language that is plain and direct, that every American can understand. Falsehood is a terrible word that is so soft it might wilt off of the page.

Russia didn’t just “influence” the election; they hijacked our democratic process. Even worse, Americans may have been colluding with Russia to win Trump the election, which is treason, a crime punishable by death in the United States.

Our constitution and democracy has been under attack for decades from the systematic dismantling of our rights through legislation, the militarization of the police force, and the censorship of thoughts and ideas behind the wall of political correctness; but the current state of affairs has us drifting out so far it might be difficult to find the shore again.

The responsibility to guide us back on course falls on the press and their ability to relentlessly dig up and disseminate the unfiltered truth to Americans as the truth continuously vanishes behind a thick fog of corruption and deceit.

Staying True To Who We Are In The Reality TV and Social Media Age.

Americans live in the wealthiest country in the world with the most opportunities at our fingertips, yet we are still unhappy. The 2016 World Happiness Index rated the U.S. the 13th happiest country. Out of the 12 that ranked higher, only Norway had a higher GDP per capita.

Unhappiness is a virus rapidly permeating every aspect of our lives. The television and the internet are the hosts for this type of virus. Turn on the news at any hour of the day and it is a relentless drip campaign of negativity, one fatal car crash after political scandal.

Our social media accounts are wonderful tools for observing others who are having more fun, making more money, and doing much better than we are. Instagram and Facebook are the highlight reels of everyone’s life. Everybody is posting their eighty-yard touchdowns and buzzer beating shots, never their fumbles on the goal line or game losing turnovers.

A study from 2016 surveyed 1,787 adults ages 19 to 32 and found that those who used social media the most were at the highest risk of being depressed.

The constant need to keep up appearances can be suffocating in today’s reality TV era of society, and losing the sense of who we are in the rat race is effortless.

This past weekend I got together with two friends I haven’t seen in a while. We convened at what others have raved as one of the hotspots in town, and walked through tables lined with pretty people all seeking something different yet specific, out to the patio, which held what we really desired – a wonderful view of Los Angeles. Smoke and laughter drifted by our table, and as we reminisced about past memories, our roaring laughs became a full-bodied contribution to the scene.

Stories of past events that are forever set in stone in our own personal history books were exchanged with more warmth and spirit than the obligatory chore of keeping up with our current situations.

Intermissions of these episodes were marked by a silence that would settle the mood, broken by one of us commenting on the surrealism of the whole setting. Acknowledgement of that comment didn’t have to be spoken; it was intuitive between the three of us. We knew where we had come from.

We all had our own struggles; I was out of college about a year and was using my degree to stock shelves at a Tilly’s. The job was seasonal and I was soon unemployed, there was little stability or certainty in any area of my life. Through perseverance, faith, and most of all the guidance of others, I found my way into writing, which is my passion.

But everyday I remember the emotions I felt when life was uncertain and somewhat grim. That is my truth, as much a part of who I am as my name and telephone number.

My greatest fear today is not losing what I have, but forgetting where I came from. When I remember those dark days of solitude, I have gratitude for everything in my life. If I forget, I could have all that I dream of, and not be able to enjoy any of it.

I am guilty of losing my way and deviating from my moral compass. I created a character I thought I was supposed to be in the world, and played that role until I had a moment of clarity where I realized how unfulfilling it was.

I looked at who I was, both good and bad attributes, and from that I saw an honest picture of who I was. If I want to be comfortable and truly happy I need to face both, and be willing to work on the latter.

The effects are immediate; it is amazing how many of our problems are solved just by simply identifying them. The more difficult aspects of ourselves take time to work on, but at least we have gained an awareness of them.

A big part of finding my truth and being aware of it was sitting in silence with myself, which is something I try to do on a daily basis. I completely disconnect from the world for a small amount of time each day, sometimes as little as ten minutes. I turn all the electronics off, leave my phone in the other room and sit in silence with myself. It was a strange experience at first, but it is one of the most significant practices I’ve come to rely on.

We can’t be anyone but ourselves, despite what society tells us who or what we ought to be.

My Debut Book Released!

My first book titled “Thoughts” has been published and released by Libero Media!  It is a book of short stories and life that commentate on the human condition and experience in contemporary society.  You can check it out via the link below.  I hope you enjoy it and appreciate all feedback!  Thanks

 

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.

Automation: The Real Killer of American Jobs – Part 2.

Part 2 of a 2 part series for the Good Men Project.

In Part 1 I stated that the real job killer of American manufacturing is robots, not the Chinese or Mexicans. Manufacturing is a good starting point to look at the impact of technology because manufacturing accounts for 12.5% of total U.S. GDP and nearly 9% of U.S. employment according to the most recent report from the Economic Policy Institute.

As innovation in automation and technology continue to develop, robotics will become cheaper, artificial intelligence will improve, and more sectors of our economy will experience similar transformations to those in manufacturing. A well-cited study from Oxford University analyzed how technology will affect the future of employment. The study found that 47% of all U.S. employment is at risk of being replaced due to technology.

Construction and Transportation are two of the largest industries that could be the next dominoes to fall to automation. Construction employs over 2 million Americans, while transportation employs 3 million. Both of these industries employ over 90% male workers and provide above average wages for workers without degrees or specific trade skills.

Uber’s self-driving freight truck and the Hadrian robotics system are two examples of recent technological leaps in transportation and construction. Far from just science fiction concepts, Uber and Fastbrick Robotics, manufacturer of the Hadrian, have already unveiled their self-driving semi truck and brick laying robot and plan to release them into the work force as early as this year.

A follow up Oxford University study showed which U.S. cities would be most and least impacted by automation. Out of the 11 cities that will be most affected by automation 7 were in rust belt states while out of the 11 to be least affected 8 were in Eastern or Western coastal states. It also stated that North America has the most to gain from automation, while China has the most to lose. Technology may entice companies to move factories back home, but that does not necessarily mean jobs for humans will follow.

While Trump pandered to the regions of the country most vulnerable to the changing economic landscape, I have yet to hear Trump put forth actual, tangible solutions to the difficulties technology has created. I have not heard anything more than grandiose, abstract claims about bringing jobs back to American shores.

What American workers need are policies that allow them to better compete in a changing global economy.

Where are the calls for job retraining programs for those workers replaced by technology? Better yet, will Trump protect workers, wages and unions? He recently nominated Andrew Puzder for labor secretary. Puzder is a fast food executive who has been outspoken against raising the minimum wage, and in March told Business Insider that he was actively investing in automation technology for the restaurant industry. That is a position contrary to the message of creating, and I fear the nomination will leave workers with fewer resources and advocates at the national level.

One of the safest ways to raise the quality of life and qualifications of the workforce is to invest in education. While automation is inevitable, humans will still need to research, develop, design, and manage those machines. Jobs will certainly be created by technology. Investment in all levels of education, making college affordable for more Americans, and investing in job retraining programs are policies that benefit everyone, and possibly the only way Trump can deliver on his campaign promise.

His message sounded good on the campaign trail, but it is not entirely practical or possible. What the working class people, the citizens in the rust belt, and all of America need to hear are Trump’s plans for investing in the future of the American work force and how he will protect workers and wages.

Automation: The Real Job Killer of American Manufacturing.

Part 1 of a 2 part series for the Good Men Project.

I am an optimistic believer in the possibility of an America which can move forward unified, despite the differences we have in race, class, education, the list goes on ad infinitum. But first, I need to try to understand the people who I did not agree with on Election Day. This section of the population I may have little in common with on a core issue that does not directly affect me. A healthy future depends on how well we try to understand one another regardless of our differences.

In this two part series I set out to explore job loss in the manufacturing industry; an industry which once provided good jobs with decent pay to many of the working class men in the rust belt and southern regions of the United States. A great deal of time and effort was devoted to this issue on the campaign trail and the debate became a hot button issue.

Like many other baffled Americans, I was fascinated with the passion and adoration Trump supporters had for him. Many of these supporters were white, working class males from the rust belt and southern states, a large and specific section of the population that feel forgotten by Washington D.C.

While the exit polls continued to roll out it didn’t take long after November 8th to figure out why this specific demographic had supported Trump with intensity and fervor. Trump’s message on the campaign trail and the lines of people who came out in droves to vote for him began to align as the whole picture came into focus.

Donald Trump’s campaign was built on the foundation of statements that were emotionally charging rather than factually accurate. One of his earliest claims that remain part of the bedrock of his platform is that China and Mexico are responsible for the massive hemorrhaging of U.S. manufacturing jobs. He claims that U.S. companies have opted out of the American labor force and have moved their plants overseas to take advantage of cheap labor.

Like much of what Trump says, this statement does not tell the complete story, nor is it beneficial to the millions of working class men once employed in manufacturing. On the contrary it serves as a war drum beat to rally support behind his agenda.

The real job killer of American manufacturing is automation. Robots, not the Chinese or Mexicans, are responsible for the shrinking of manufacturing jobs. These jobs are mostly in male dominated industries and were once a way for people who were not skilled workers or college educated to make a decent living with healthcare and benefits.

In the manufacturing industry, which has been decimated by automation, men hold 73% of factory jobs. In April of 2016 the Congressional Research Service, whose research influences many of the bills that pass through the Legislature, published their report “U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective.”

The report showed that the United State is second to only China in global manufacturing output, yet since 1990 U.S. employment in manufacturing is down 31%. The report also states “The United States saw a disproportionately large drop

between 2000 and 2010, but its decline in manufacturing employment since 1990

is in line with the changes in several European countries and Japan.” Shrinking of employment in manufacturing is a worldwide trend that is not exclusive to America.

The manufacturing industry in America is alive and well, we are producing more goods than ever before. Due to automation it is no longer necessary to employ thousands of factory workers to do the same job that a few robots can do. Not to mention those robots can work 24/7 without taking breaks, getting hurt, or requiring benefits. Technology is being used globally to increase productivity at the price of displacing workers.

As the tide of automation rises, as it has been for decades, more workers are laid off, houses are foreclosed, and the American dream becomes an abstract concept rather than a practical reality. It also leaves large numbers of mostly working class men justifiably angry and in need of a solution.

Per usual, politicians exploit the situation to capture power. They preach to the unemployed, disenfranchised, and the ones who feel left out by the current political system. Their illusion of a solution is to blame immigrants and foreigners; it’s much more emotional and dramatic than blaming the robots. More importantly it garners support, funds campaigns, and motivates millions to vote for them.

I can’t exclusively fault Trump for promoting this message. While the way in which he does it is highly unsettling, his exploitation of a vulnerable group and subsequent claim of a tangible solution is a tactic politicians on both sides of the aisle have been using since ink dried on the Constitution.

While the exploitations and false promises are not new trends in the world of politics, automation is a relatively new trend affecting employment. Next week I will take a look at the social implications and social support programs of those who are displaced by automation as well as what it means for the future of employment.

The Infrastructure of Tyranny.

The latest article in my column for the Good Men Project.

Most people I know are not strict ideologues of one set of ideas or another. People generally have beliefs that straddle party lines. I personally have some beliefs that align with the Republicans and others the Democrats. It’s been my experience and observation that the majority of people fall into the same category. But in our political system there are only two options, and people are forced to vote for one side or the other.

Today more than ever, we’re a divided nation. Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation are the major lines that come to mind.

There are many outside forces influencing and furthering those divides. The media, political parties, and corporations play a major part in the peddling of division amongst the people, each with their own motives for doing so.

I frequently read articles that discuss how alarming the current social and political climate is. The problem is not a well-hidden secret, we are all more or less in agreement of it. So then why do we continue to actively participate in our own division?

The answer appears clear to me. It is because we like to be right. Especially when discussing politics, it has now become more important to be right than to be effective.

In the past, the right brought ideas to the table, as did the left, and they compromised somewhere in the middle for the greater good of the nation. In the current state of politics in America, we have passed the tipping point where it is now more desirable to further ideology and partisan politics, than to compromise.

This problem is not a Republican or Democrat problem. Both parties are equally guilty of participating in this form of governing. Remember how Obama-care got passed? What about the several times the government was shutdown the last eight years?

The country is moving incrementally towards political extremes. The political parties have their own extreme factions, the tea party conservatives and the ultra progressive liberals. Both of which are now gaining power and influence. The right and left wings have their own media outlets, which push their agendas.

What most people don’t realize is that the political spectrum is not a line, but rather a circle, and by going too far in one direction you come out on the other side. The middle ground is at the bottom of the circle. Each side, right and left, gets more extreme until they meet at the top of the circle, where they become the same thing.

Far left ideology and far right ideology end with the same result for the people – oppression.

Whether it was Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or any number of the extreme right or left wing governments the world has seen come and go, the end result is always the same. The far right and left have wildly different ideologies but when they are implemented they produce similar outcomes. Nationalism, media control, and the role of the police state are all hallmarks of both.

But this is America, land of the free, none of that could happen here.

If we stay vigilant, well informed, and look out for one another than no, authoritarian oppression is highly doubtful.

But the infrastructure is in place. Lets take the first commonality, nationalism. Trump had a nationalist message. He created the idea that America had lost its grandiosity, mostly at the hands of foreign nations and immigrants, and that we have to take our country back and make it great again.

The increasing polarization of the media is another piece of that infrastructure. I ask many of my peers where they get their news. Depending on their political views I usually get Fox, MSNBC, or some other variation of either right or left wing news outlets.

At face value there is nothing wrong with either one of those news outlets. I watch both. The problem arises when that becomes the only source that people get their news from. Once again, depending on ideology people tend to exclusively watch one or the other. They tend to only listen to ideas that reinforce their own ideas, because at the end of the day we all want to be right.

As a result, many people live in an echo chamber, rarely hearing differing opinions or points of view from their own.

The most alarming commonality to me is the militarization of the police force. After the two wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had a huge military surplus. Countless humvees, armored vehicles, body armor, and military weapons were bought and paid for, sitting in warehouses.

What became of that military surplus? Cue your local police department.

In the post 9/11 America most towns, big or small have a SWAT team. Every police force is armed to the teeth with military style weapons that until recently were exclusively reserved for the battlefield.

I remember watching the Ferguson riots as they happened. The police response was more than just officers in riot equipment. Police were marching down the street in military formations behind the cover of armored vehicles. Images I was used to seeing in war footage from Iraq. The same is occurring right now at the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota

If you were to take pictures and footage from these two events and remove the police logos from the uniforms it would be easy to confuse them with an occupying military force. To me there is no difference in the military wearing green uniforms overseas, or blacks uniforms that say police here at home.

The insidious underlying thread that makes us lose all perspective and allow incremental extremism to protrude into our daily lives is fear. Take the most recent example of the proposed registry for Muslims. The fear that we do not know who is coming into our country, and that we are not safe allows us to lose logic and reason. Once policies like this are enacted, where do we draw the line? Is a gay registry next on the list, or a Jewish registry?

The logical answer is that anyone who comes to America, including refugees already are vetted. They don’t just show up here out of thin air.

The biggest lie of all is that the registry, militarization of police, and fear mongering is for our own safety. It’s not about safety and never was. It is and always has been about power and control.

As Americans we possess the inherit values of perseverance, healthy skepticism, and goodwill towards one another. Values we must keep in the forefront of our mind in these times of fear and division.