Say No to Trump

Donald Trump is everywhere. He’s YOOOOOGE… and inescapable. I turn on my television and there he is. And he wants to be president.

At first, I thought it was a joke. I know that many still don’t take him seriously. But guys? I’m starting to worry.

In the age of “going viral”, it’s certainly not unheard of to take a joke a little bit too far. Take the potato salad story. In 2014, a Columbus, Ohio man started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise money to make a potato salad. It was a joke, a prank, a gag. But somehow, it grabbed attention. People gave money, probably ironically at first. Who has spare cash to give away ironically? I don’t know. But apparently, there are more of them than you’d think. The guy who wanted to raise $10 to buy some potatoes and mayonnaise ended up pulling in over $55,000. Let me say that again. A month-long Kickstarter campaign meant mostly as a joke — meant to raise $10 at most — raised OVER FIFTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. To make potato salad.

Now, as pranks go, this one was by all accounts benign. Even beneficial — the man who started it all ended up organizing PotatoStock, a giant potato salad party with the proceeds going to benefit charities that help homeless and hungry people. That’s awesome, and the fact that something so incredible could come out of a joke is probably part of the reason why people are eager to hop on the bandwagon of new, exciting, internet-friendly viral ventures.

But there’s a darker side to this, and you can see it by looking at all of the instances of a popular internet thing going horribly wrong. An innocent student hounded because he was misidentified as the Boston Marathon bomber early on. Fake charities, fake pregnancies, and faked illnesses. Anonymous. GamerGate. Rebecca Black’s Friday.

And now, there’s Donald Trump.

I know, I know — he’s a businessman and would-be politician, not an internet sensation. But in many ways, Donald Trump is made for the internet. He’s an active Twitter user. That hair. He says pithy, easily meme-able things. That hair. He’s “not politically correct”. That hair. The reality shows and pageants. That hair.

And he’s caught on, in a big way. And I’m starting to really fear how far this joke might go.

I urge you, if you’re looking at Donald Trump as a serious solution to the nation’s problems, please stop and rethink. If you know someone who has jumped on the Donald Trump bandwagon, please urge them to stop and rethink.

A country is not a business, and being able to handle money as a business person (however arguable Trump’s ability to do that is) does not translate to an ability to handle our country’s money.

A man who thinks that politically correct is a bad thing to be shouldn’t be allowed near foreign policy decisions. Political correctness is another way of saying “respect for others”. Trump’s brashness will lose allies and could conceivably start wars.

A man who is too thin-skinned to handle debate questions from Fox reporters can’t possibly be trusted with the immense pressures of the nation’s highest office.

We’re a nation founded on immigration. Trump’s attitude toward immigrants is unconscionable in a country that claims to pride itself on welcoming “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

And… that hair. Do you really want to look at it for four straight years?

Donald Trump is massively entertaining for a real estate developer. I freely admit that. Give him a new reality show. A new pageant. A new book deal. Let him back in the WWE ring. But for the love of all things sane and good, do not give this man elected office. Especially not THIS elected office.

Some Thoughts on Mom of the Year

I almost hate to blog about Baltimore. For one thing, everybody is talking about Baltimore, and for another, I don’t know exactly what I can add to the conversation. I am probably the whitest white girl in existence, and if I try to talk about racism in the US or police violence against black men and women, I will probably get something wrong out of sheer lack of experience. For whatever it’s worth, my heart goes out to the families and communities of the people who have been victimized by the people that are supposed to be protecting our communities. I cannot imagine the heartbreak and anger they experience when again and again, our justice system minimizes and excuses these hateful and reprehensible crimes. I applaud them for the bravery they’ve shown in going out to protest these injustices. I don’t know if I could be that brave in the face of systemic oppression.

And that brings me to the woman who’s being referred to in the news and on social media as #momoftheyear.

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You can read the story anywhere on the internet right now. It boils down to this: that woman in yellow is the mother of the 16 year old child in the hood and mask up there. She spotted him in the thick of one of the riot that was occurring in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s funeral. She grabbed him, she yelled, she hit him in the head, and she sent him home. And now she’s an internet meme.

I’m seeing her pop up over and over again on Facebook, and all too often, the discussion turns into some sort of grotesque extension of the Mommy Wars. Proponents of corporal punishment applaud her, peaceful parenting advocates deride her. I think they’re both missing the point.

This is NOT a parenting debate, not should it be. This is only newsworthy because of the events that created the situation that prompted this photo op, and that should be the focus. Turning it into a debate between spankers and non-spankers diminishes the issue.

I do not know if that woman is normally in favor of corporal punishment or not, nor do I care. I do know that she loves her son. That she wanted him out of the streets that day. That she wanted him alive. For all I know, she saved his life.

I do not know how I would react if I were in her shoes. Maybe the same way, maybe not. I can’t even imagine it. I know that I love my sons intensely, and if I saw them putting themselves in harm’s way, I would probably react with panic and fury. As a white mother with a white son, I don’t typically worry that when my child is out walking the streets, he’s going to be harassed by the police or shot by either a policeman or some NRA member who’s memorized the text of the Stand Your Ground laws. This mother has to worry about that on a good day, which is a fucking shame in and of itself. I can’t even imagine how bad that must be, nevermind how much worse it would be to see your child in that place at that time in that context. The closest thing I can equate it to is seeing your toddler trying to dart into traffic on a busy road. At a minimum, you’d grab them, as hard as you had to to stop them before they got to the street, right? In the heat of the moment, you might even yell or shake them or spank them, if for no other reason than the hope that next time, they’d associate the busy road with the shock of a yell or a spank.

Is that the way you would normally handle a 16 year old? Of course not. Could she have handled it differently? I’m sure that’s possible. But I don’t think it’s fair to judge her for her actions in what must have been a terrifying moment for her. And I applaud her for recognizing her child and getting him out of there, however it happened. I actually don’t think hitting is the best parenting tool. I’m not saying that it was OK in this instance or that it was an exception, I’m saying that it simply doesn’t matter. It was one moment in their lives, and it was a highly charged and potentially dangerous moment. It doesn’t tell us anything about this woman, her parenting style, her son, or their overall life. Not one thing. in not a parenting issue. It’s one small snapshot of a moment that has a larger context.

That larger context is what’s important here. Why was that child out on that street with his hood and mask? Maybe out of anger, knowing that people his community were being mistreated and abused by the supposed keepers of the peace? Maybe out of fear and anger, feeling that the same thing thing could happen to him, and it’s better to strike before you’re struck? I don’t know what was in his mind specifically, but I know that riot, along with the peaceful protests, were happening for a reason. I think addressing that is more important than handing out parenting rewards or criticisms. This scene wouldn’t have happened if Freddie Gray were still alive, if the Baltimore police had a history of fairness, if the United States were a place without unaddressed racial tensions. Let’s keep that in mind, and not get distracted from the real issues at play here.

 

Diamonds in the Rough

“You have to give an editor something to change, or he gets frustrated. After he pees in it himself, he likes the flavor much better, so he buys it.”― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

Criticism may very well be the most difficult thing that a writer has to contend with. Some say that rejection is the worst thing, but I tend to disagree. When your work is rejected, you can tell yourself (whether it’s true or not) that the client just doesn’t recognize quality work. Or that your work, while good, simply doesn’t match the needs of that particular client. Both statements are true often enough in the writing world that these statements can insulate you against the pain of rejection.

Criticism is a whole different animal. When your work is sent back, not with a “sorry, we can’t use this,” but instead with a list of things to fix before it can be used, the message is clear and accusatory: “Your work isn’t good enough.”

The writer’s ego is a fragile thing. Even that of a lowly web content writer. The industry attracts passionate perfectionists — many of us are struggling to achieve publication in other forms — we want to be novelists, or to be published in academic journals, or to become popular snarky bloggers who can make an income from ad revenue on high traffic blogs. Some of us may even make it… eventually.

Because of our high aspirations, we take pride in our work, even when our work is a 200 word SEO article on plumbers that no one will ever actually read. Each piece of content that we generate is something that we put our hearts into. It hurts to have that work ripped to shreds by an editor, no matter how politely they do it.

Oddly, I’ve noticed that both criticism and praise seem to come in batches. One week, it will seem that I can do no wrong. I’ll end up with rave reviews for each submission, new jobs generated by word of mouth from satisfied private clients, new opportunities from content sites that are impressed with my work. As soon as I feel comfortable — as soon as I feel that I’ve hit my stride at last and it will be smooth sailing from here — I’ll get hit with a string of revision requests and critiques that make me question, once again, if I’m really good enough to do this job. This cycle from confidence and insecurity has been repeating for over a year now.

The trick to getting through it is simple, of course. At least, it sounds simple enough. Acknowledge that you’re not perfect. Make the corrections, and avoid those mistakes going forward. At the same time, remember that you wouldn’t be here doing this in the first place if you weren’t good at it. Freelance writing takes motivation and skill. Clients and content sites don’t simply hand out work to just anyone willy-nilly, so if you have the job, you’ve already proven yourself.

Even the best writers need editors and editing. Just ask Stephen King. Think of editorial criticism as a refining process, You’ve already provided the raw material, and it’s valuable — valuable enough to be worth taking the time to clean it off and shine it up. A diamond in the rough. Sure, it would be nice to produce only diamonds that are clean, shiny, and perfectly cut to boot right off the bat, but that’s a rare fluke, not the norm. It’s better to be grateful that you have the talent to produce even rough precious gems that are highly prized enough to be worth the trouble of cleaning up in the first place. That’s more than a lot of people can say.