The Pampered Voter

Cape Perpetua, Oregon

Living in Oregon, I’m a pampered voter. Ballots are lovingly gift-wrapped and placed on our doorsteps by county bell-hops with little hats. The foil-embossed voting card comes with an artisan cake: voter vanilla swirl, ballot buttercream caramel, or “choice is yours” chocolate. Later, friendly creatures of the forest retrieve the ballots and do a little dance for democracy when we submit our votes.

For real, though: not only do Oregonians have automatic voter registration at the DMV, but every state resident mails in their ballot and avoids the Election Day hullabaloo. Not surprisingly, we have one of the best voter turnouts in the country. Roughly 61.5 percent of eligible voters in Oregon came out in the 2018 midterms—the fifth-highest percentage of any state. And by extension, our elected leaders better reflect the interests of our people. 

If I were a non-voter, it actually would be difficult to avoid exercising my constitutional right in Oregon. The ballots arrive weeks in advance; if I don’t have a postage stamp, there are drop boxes everywhere; and our 2016 “Motor Voter Act” made it so we must opt out of automatic registration at the DMV. 

Sounds ideal, right? Like that type of responsive democracy we all learned about in grade school? 

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that strong, widely supported ideas should have power in determining our future. When voters show up, political candidates are forced to pay attention to their constituents’ demands.

There are several features of our nation’s “democracy” that have perverted the process. Recently—perhaps more than ever in the wake of the disastrous Citizens United decision—our policy-making has reflected the interests of a few greedy, mean-spirited donors. 

Here are examples of several recent changes which have been unpopular with a majority of Americans:

The immigrant internment camps, which have separated thousands of desperate children from their parents

  • The erosion of EPA measures protecting our clean air and water
  • The shrinking of national monuments to open them up to private development
  • The decision to make wildlife hunting trophies (e.g., lions, elephants) legal again
  • The watered-down “gun control” bill, which didn’t do anything about assault weapons 
  • The gutting of ethics rules in the House of Representatives 
  • The closing of women’s health clinics across the country

Garbage bills become law when wealthy political donors with cruel and unusual tastes are allowed to become kingmakers. 

Instead, let’s return our democracy to its purest form—one in which every eligible person gets a say so that the most widely supported ideas inform policies. 

I can already hear groans from my cynical friends: 

But Jocelyn, there’s too much entrenched power!

Why would politicians willingly adopt these policies when the broken system is already working for them?

You’re so naive. Don’t you know how politics works, darling? Nothing will ever change.

Tell that to my great-great-grandmother who couldn’t vote. Tell that to my grandmother who had to get her husband to co-sign a credit card even though she was a working nurse. Tell that to my close friend Derek who married his husband in 2014.

Everything changes.

Oregon isn’t perfect, but it’s a great template for increasing the number of eligible people who vote—the first step to strengthening our democracy. The second step is ensuring that our leaders are responsive to the needs of their constituents, which is difficult but not impossible. 

I’ve given this a lot of thought and here’s a casual roadmap to making those two changes:

The Pampered Voter’s Guide to American Democracy

Make voter registration automatic when you receive a license or ID card from the DMV. Similar to Oregon, this should be an opt-out system rather than opt-in.

Have everyone vote by mail and all states should offer same-day registration. Having mail-in ballots is another policy that has made Oregon such a strong voting state. It makes it easier, especially for people who live in more rural areas, have to work on Election Day, or have other commitments which make visiting a polling place cumbersome. For those without home addresses, there would be alternative arrangements. Having same-day registration is another policy that increased the 2018 voter turnout in seven of the top ten states. Also, cheers to Colorado, which enjoys both voting by mail and same-day registration. It had the second-highest voter turnout (63 percent) in 2018, just behind Minnesota (64 percent), which has SDR. Notably, none of the worst ten states for voter turnout have VBM or SDR.

Ensure that political districts are drawn by bipartisan committees—not the people currently in power. This is obvious and helps prevent partisan gerrymandering. (We’re looking at you North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia…)

Shorten the campaign cycle to twelve weeks. If it takes longer than twelve weeks for a candidate to tell people what they stand for, they probably won’t be an effective policymaker. Also, this allows our current leaders to actually govern rather than constantly worry about wooing enough campaign donors to get elected—not to mention the stress it removes from American citizens’ lives who are tired of the interminable election season.

Limit overall political contributions and limit the overall amount of money a candidate can spend. There are several countries with commonsense limits on how much money a candidate can receive and spend. These include Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, and South Korea. As it stands, wealth continues to dictate who runs for office and wins American elections. This does not lead to the best policies or to a democracy that provides what Americans need and want from their government. 

Presidents should be elected by the popular vote. The Electoral College is anti-democratic. It’s not fair that during presidential elections, the vote of a person in Wyoming is worth more than three times that of an average American. One person, one vote. 

Centralize all political campaign information by creating the “BetterBallot.” We have algorithms that match us with the people we marry. Why can’t we have a centralized system match Americans with local, state, and national politicians in the same way? 

I propose making a website (BetterBallot.gov) with an easy-to-follow questionnaire that takes 15 minutes to fill out. Each question would have two parts. For example:

Do you believe in banning assault weapons such as AR-15s and AK-47s?

O Yes

O  No

How important is this issue to you?

O Extremely important

O Very important

O Important

O Not that important

O Unimportant

Depending on a person’s responses to questions and the value they assign to each issue, they would be matched up with percentage scores with various candidates. There would be both an overall percentage match, as well as percentage matches with candidates on various issues, such as:

  • Public Healthcare
  • Environmental Protection
  • Public Education
  • Taxes
  • Gun Control

 This data-driven method has been used on the dating website OkCupid with great success. 

Having this information about political candidates also would help eliminate wasteful campaign spending and interminable fundraising—freeing up our country’s leaders to actually work rather than worry about raising enough money to get reelected. 

Furthermore, it would help cut down on negative campaigns. We should be voting according to how well our beliefs match with a prospective legislator—not how much we hate the other candidate.

I suspect some might see these proposals as too simple and unrealistic—that I’m waving my flimsy pen at a tidal wave of political tradition. But why can’t it be simple? And at earlier stages in history, weren’t many of the freedoms we now take for granted also “unrealistic?”

My Name is Jocelyn and I’m a Taskaholic

Hello, my name is Jocelyn and I’m a taskaholic. It’s been 14 hours since I wrote my last checklist. Even when I don’t have a list in front of me, I spend a lot of time mentally planning and checking off boxes. I’ve found that this behavior has turned even what I enjoy—including writing this blog—into a chore to be completed. I also find it difficult to be present when I’m always mentally planning three or ten steps ahead.

Hi Jocelyn…

This dude isn’t planning six steps ahead

Since I can remember, I’ve strived to optimize my time. I’ve been using Moleskine Weekly Notebooks for nearly 10 years. Every working day, I write a lengthy checklist of what I want to accomplish. This habit has served me well, keeping me organized and on-track in both my professional and personal lives. Since I work from home, I’m able to alternate my assignments and errands, punctuating the most labor-intensive endeavors (creating a 2020 content calendar) with less-demanding work (writing a letter to my grandparents).

I notice this tendency even when I’m away from my desk—a constant Mental Planner that applauds me for a day well-executed and rebukes me for suboptimal performance. 

For example, I live in a bike-friendly small city and I try and minimize how often I drive. If I set out to go to the dentist, my Planner ensures I make the most of the trip. It reminds me that I have clothes to donate to St. Vinnie’s; a birthday gift to pick up from Passionflower; and a leather purse to retrieve from the repair shop. I’ll set out in my car, optimize my route, and realize I forgot to grab a package for the post office. Dammnit. Despite the relative success of the day—dentist appointment attended, clothes donated, birthday gift purchased, leather purse retrieved—I’ll feel a twinge of regret that I didn’t score 100 percent on today’s drive.

My Mental Planner even lords over trips up and down my house’s stairs, making me more efficient. Full hands up (toilet paper refills, my new canvas and paints), full hands down (empty glasses, fresh dishtowels, the letter I wrote for my grandparents). Again, I’ll suffer a mild internal rebuke if I forget one of these items, even if it “throws off my day” by less than a minute. 

Is this a mundane mental illness—the constant configuring and optimizing of everything I do? Or is it a product of an educational system and country that values me for my ability to be productive? 

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz

In American culture, being productive is considered paramount to all other qualities. We are workers first, humans next. The success of the U.S. is measured by its economic growth, employment figures, inflation rates, stock indexes, and other metrics that reduce citizens to their ability to make money. We may hear murmurs about public health and quality of life, but these are eclipsed by financial considerations.

By illustration, our public education system is designed to build future workers. My mother and other school teachers have confirmed this. Common Core Standards and “No Child Left Behind” were drafted not to create civic-minded, well-rounded individuals, but rather to churn out a productive and unquestioning citizenry. Math, science, reading, and patriotism are the foundations of future cogs in our economic wheel. Art, music, civics, philosophy, and other courses have all but disappeared in cash-strapped schools across the country.

I was the valedictorian of my high school class. This didn’t mean that I was brilliant; this meant I was the most disciplined, the most obedient. I organized my time well and deferred gratification to do exactly what my teachers asked of me. Kids smarter than I was tended to color outside the lines because that’s what it takes to be extraordinary.

This emphasis on American productivity may have an even darker component. Some argue that the conservative push to control women’s reproduction is to create more fodder for the economy. Cynics in right-wing think tanks are looking at China’s large supply of disposable workers and realizing that our birth-rates just aren’t going to cut it. What better way to make more disenfranchised proles than forcing women to give birth to as many unwanted babies as possible?

And consider this: the social safety net—a given in most industrialized countries—is one of the most controversial issues in our society. Needing help just doesn’t jive with the American mindset. Here, you’re either financially independent or you’re ashamed, no matter what life throws at you. This is especially brutal considering that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Americans go bankrupt every year due to medical issues—not to mention the skyrocketing costs of higher education and housing, two of our basic necessities.

Being a chronic taskmaster has its upsides, sure: I am a productive person because I set clear daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. But as I mentioned before, this nagging orientation toward planning also can turn enjoyable tasks into chores. In other words, by reducing my hobbies—blogging, painting, reading, hiking, spending time with friends—to items on my checklist, everything begins to feel like work. 

This has some basis in psych research as well. My social psychology professor taught me that if a child likes doing a chore—let’s say she enjoys vacuuming—it would be very unwise to pay her. Because she is fond of vacuuming, she makes an internal attribution to justify her behavior (i.e., she does it because she likes it). If she begins to receive money for the same chore, she begins to make an external attribution. So when she subconsciously processes her reasons for vacuuming, she sees that she does it for the money, which dilutes her internal enjoyment of the task.

To avoid making everything feel like work, I’m learning to control that tyrannical Mental Planner and stop being so hard on myself. Despite my American upbringing, life is not a productivity competition or a race. It’s more of a steady hike up a tall mountain with incremental gains and occasional setbacks. I might sprain my ankle, but it will heal with time and patience. 

And on that mountain—with its gorgeous vistas and valleys, false summits and winding trails—I’ll acknowledge the fault-finding Mental Planner, let her pass by, and just feel present. Because in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “If I don’t stop and look around once in a while, I might miss it.”

From 90s Leo Mania to the March for Our Lives

When I was in seventh grade, every girl I knew (and probably some boys) swooned over Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. It wasn’t enough to see the movie just once in theaters: most of us had seen it three or four or seven times. From magazines and TV interviews to bedrooms and locker collages, it wasn’t possible to escape the Leo Mania of 1997. It was ubiquitous and all-consuming—a collective crush that transcended even the most rigid middle school social hierarchies. 

90s swoon-fest

Shared experiences and celebrity obsessions can unite generations, especially decades later in amused reflection. For people who grew up in the 90s, Britney Spears, Dr. Dre, Saved By the Bell, Dawson’s Creek, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had near-universal recognition. Our attention could still be held within the confines of a book, television set, movie screen, or magazine. There was little customization beyond the act of changing a channel, and little interactivity beyond writing a fan letter.

Today, people’s consumption of culture is personalized, controllable, and virtually limitless. I often wonder how this new God-like access to information—especially entertainment—has shaped Gen Z. 

For example, can they can be considered a generational cohort at all? Do they really have enough in common with one another? And what are those characteristics? 

And has the internet created a wider awareness of cultural icons (because information spreads so quickly and easily)? Or since cultural consumption is on-demand and individualized, are there multiple Gen Zs with non-overlapping preferences and qualities? In other words, does having absolute power over cultural exposure increase or decrease what’s universally shared? And how has the ever-greater menu of entertainment shaped young people’s cultural identities?

While video game consoles were widespread among my peers in the 90s, smartphones, Instagram, and internet porn were not. I reflect on how self-conscious and impressionable I was as an adolescent. Attending Thurston Middle School and later Laguna Beach High School offered plenty of painful opportunities for upward social comparisons;  it would have been devastating to not have a break from “thinspiration” at home. Girls today compare themselves to Facetuned influencers at all hours, which seems like its own special hell.

Internet porn also has created its own problems. In Peggy Orenstein’s book “Girls and Sex,” she reveals that many young men today—including middle-schoolers—expect blowjobs. Not just receive them … expect them. What’s sad is that many girls she interviewed complied in efforts to earn “social currency” among their peers.  One girl even compared a blowjob to “a very special handshake.” I assume this new expectation is shaped by increased access to porn—much of which warps men’s pleasure and perspective on sex.  

Of course, there is one commonality with the pre-internet days: discussions of women’s pleasure have always been missing from the American narrative, whether it’s porn or sex ed.  

But maybe I’m thinking about this all the wrong way. Cultural and generational identity is about so much more than sexuality, awareness of a TV show, or a shared celebrity crush. It’s a privilege that to me, the 90s felt so comfortable and carefree; if I could do it all over again, I would have spent less time pining after Leo and more time protesting the abuse of Rodney King, standing up for Monica Lewinsky, or questioning the spread of U.S. military bases all over the world. In a life untethered to smartphones, computers—and in my upbringing, even TV—ignorance was bliss. 

There has been one hopeful trend in this boundless media landscape for all generations: the rise in activism. The March for Our Lives, the Global Climate Strike, Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, and #MeToo have played prominent roles in our lives, wherever we fall on the issues. 

Women’s March 2017. The New York Times captured me and my man in DC.

Maybe these are the cultural touchstones which really count—the efforts to expose and uproot the shameful parts of our American identity: our racism, our sexism, our violence, our wasteful consumerism. As much as we bemoan our shortened attention spans and indulgent TV binges, technology has unshackled long-overdue social movements.

The question is: are enough young people engaged in these mass cultural shifts or are they choosing the easy indulgences? The sheer volume of mindless entertainment available can make us comfortably numb. Entrenched power is counting on us tuning out the growing drumbeat of progress. 

I always idealized the 60s for its raw revolutionary power. I thought it was all flowers, free love, defeating “isms,” and being kumbaya as fuck. I realize now that pushing for real social change was—and is—actually uncomfortable and violent. Fifty years ago, high-profile assassinations were rampant: MLK, Malcolm X, JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and others. Both then and today are eras marked by deep divisions within our citizenry and primal rage.

I might even thank Donald Trump—the exquisite embodiment of our worst traits—for making our path forward as clear as cubic zirconia. It’s a lot easier to fight bigotry and other fuckwittages when they’re out in the open. Consider how Trump’s overt racism and sexism have helped renew calls for reparations and the Equal Rights Amendment; look at how his greed-fueled denial of climate change has sparked a greater awareness of the issue. He also ushered in the most diverse Congress in U.S. history. This blue backlash could be considered a tribute to his perfect awfulness.

Do I look forward to a more boring 90s-like era of comfort? The return of mutual respect between liberals and conservatives? Absolutely. Life is hard enough without having a rapist and a liar as the most powerful man in the world. 

But I take comfort in one thing: this moment of history feels excruciating because it should—it’s the dizzying anxiety of justice deferred and now demanded. 

I remain hopeful that much-needed changes to American culture and legislation—strides in gun laws, climate action, sexism, racism, LGBTQ rights, and corruption—will rise from the ashes of this modern chaos. 

A few years from now, we’ll see how integral this turbulence has been for our society’s progress. 

Repeal The Eleventh Commandment

During the 1966 gubernatorial race in California, Ronald Reagan crafted the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. 

Can you imagine being part of a team—one that’s supposed to set a good example for the whole country—and not being able to hold anyone accountable for lying, cheating, violence, or bigotry? To have a loyalty so blind that you stand for nothing but winning? 

This bad faith is the rot at the center of the modern Republican Party. By illustration, today’s GOP stands united with: 

  • Rapists (Donald “Pussy Grabber” Trump)
  • Liars (Mitch “GOP Tax Cut Won’t Cost a Penny” McConnell)
  • Shameless racists (Steve “Calves Like Melons” King)
  • Tax cheats (Steve “Offshore Accounts” Mnuchin) 
  • Drug addicts leading the War on Drugs (Newt “I Like Pills” Gingrich)
  • Sexists (Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin)
  • Morons (Michelle “Lion King is Gay Propaganda” Bachmann)
  • Vote suppressors (Wilbur “Census Swindler” Ross)
  • Domestic abusers (Rob “Fist-Goes-Boom” Porter)
  • Religious looneys (Mike “Period-Tracking” Pence)
  • Xenophobic assholes and nefarious Disney villains (Stephen “I Hate Immigrants Because Nobody Will Sleep With Me” Miller)
We all know whom he votes for.

To stand silently with this party is to condone its toxic behavior. The very few conservatives who have spoken up either have defected from the party (Justin Amash, Andy McKean) or are continually harassed by Trump (Mitt Romney). Also, the countless GOP incumbents who aren’t seeking reelection in 2020 are shamefully quiet, even though they have nothing to lose.

Modern Democrats are better at enforcing codes of conduct—and certainly don’t tolerate criminal behavior within their ranks. Remember all of the times former Senator Al Franken played grab-ass during photo ops and was forced to resign? He was beloved, but he was held accountable for unacceptable behavior. 

It gives me hope that Democrats take sexual misconduct more seriously than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Bill Clinton, for example, would be unelectable in today’s post-#MeToo society.

Of course, there is one appalling behavior that southern politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to get away with: dressing up in blackface. Look at governors Ralph Northam (D-VA) and Kay Ivey (R-AL). This just shows how deeply American racism runs and how far we have to go to take it seriously. 

I wonder: are Republicans so cowardly because MAGAts consume Fox News and live with “alternate facts?” Are they afraid that the wealth gap, climate change, a more diverse citizenry, and the skyrocketing costs of college and healthcare are politically inconvenient for the GOP? 

Decades ago, at least Americans had an agreed-upon reality. There were a couple of news channels, but it was understood that you would be more-or-less informed after watching any of them. 

Screenshot from November 13, 2019: the first day of the impeachment hearings. The reason there is a picture of kittens is that I have the “Make America Kittens Again” browser tool, which turns all online photos of Trump into adorable cats. I highly recommend it.

That’s not the case today. Fox News—provably fictitious—manipulates millions of people with fear, hate, and outright lies. Growing up, I always thought that propaganda was a problem in distant dictatorships or monarchies, in places like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. It turns out that with enough money, you can buy your own self-serving “facts” and attractive dimwitted “journalists.” It’s infuriating that this garbage doesn’t come with a disclaimer. There is simply no progressive counterpart to Fox News, yet it is routinely compared to MSNBC or even CNN. That’s like comparing a light rain to Hurricane Harvey. Sure, they’re both technically “storms” and are watering our crops, but only one of them will tear down your fucking house.

I was also taught to believe that Republicans and Democrats have two equally valid ways of seeing the world. In 2019, that’s total horse shit. Doesn’t it at least feel weird to Republicans that their party lacks women and people of color, especially in their leadership? How do they explain that?

This is how I imagine it: one balding white man drinking a Bud Light says to another,  “You know, man: Latinos, blacks, and the other non-whites just don’t know their place. Trump is trying to make our country great, ya know? And to make it, like, great again.”

“Yeah, man. Those damn socialists want to take all of my guns and all of my money and pay for immigrant healthcare. Fucking commies.”

“Yeah, we’re the true American patriots. God bless this country’s whites.”

Or something like that… 

Even the bright conservatives don’t seem to understand what it means to be progressive: they assume that we’re against small businesses and taking personal responsibility. On the contrary, Democrats have become the only party of personal responsibility because we call out our own. Look at the clown car of assholes profiled above. None of them have been held accountable for criminal behavior and yet we’re presented with the false equivalency of left vs. right, liberals vs. conservatives.

There’s more to making a country great than cutting taxes or locking immigrant children in cages. Republicans need to call out the bad behavior on their side or history will consider them the party of greed, cruelty, misogyny, and white supremacy. I sure as hell do. 

Until they get rid of the Eleventh Commandment and start thinking as humans rather than as Republicans, the blind partisan loyalty will continue to make the GOP ruthless and despicable. 

The Beauty of Asking Your Enemy For a Favor

Do you remember your most stressful, thankless, low-paying job? The type of miserable work that felt as useless as polishing firewood and made you drink way too much cheap wine? I do. I worked as an addiction specialist in a San Francisco methadone clinic for two years.

When I first moved to the city, I was in my 20s, fresh out of four sublime years living abroad. I’d studied psychology and sociology and was interested in putting my education and international experience to good use. I had no idea that these weren’t the tools I needed to help people struggling with addictions.

I worked from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm on weekdays. Since the pay was low, the staff all clamored to work holidays and weekends for time-and-a-half. I had a caseload of over 50 clients. It was excruciating trying to get each of them to sit down for the state-mandated 90 minutes of counseling per month. 

“What do you know, blondie? You aint never been no addict,” an older client barked.

“My wife is jealous that I get to talk to you every month,” another sneered, licking his lips.

Of the 50, I had about 10 who were interested in detoxing. They would ask for city resources or want to talk about their difficult childhood, their service in Vietnam, or even Carlos Castaneda books. Others were still actively using and would sometimes come into my office completely out of their minds. 

One morning, my client—let’s call him Danny—came roaring into the clinic screaming obscenities and throwing whatever he could get his hands on. Other clients scattered as chairs, pamphlets, and our main bulletin board went flying. Dr. K (my boss) tried to calm Danny down. I was watching from my office doorway and could smell Danny’s soiled clothes from 15 feet away. His pupils had completely consumed his irises and his wild-eyes darted around the clinic. My knees began to shake and I avoided eye-contact.

Since we drug-tested clients regularly, I knew Danny was quite fond of speed, but it could have been any combination of drugs coursing through his veins, making him psychotic.

Dr. K and our security guard finally got Danny to leave, who bellowed his garbled intentions to exact revenge on us all. The staff and I breathed a sigh of relief and laughed uncomfortably at the lunacy of this job.

A couple of hours later, I took my lunch break and was walking north on quiet Steiner Street, trying to avoid the rush on Fillmore. Suddenly, I heard someone running up behind me with clumsy heavy steps.

Oh fuck, I thought. I know exactly who this is. Danny jogged up beside me, looking me up and down with his wild eyes. He had an open can of SpaghettiOs in his hand and was shoveling finger gouges of the thick red sauce into his mouth, which dribbled down his chin onto the front of his soiled jacket.

To my own surprise, I smiled at him and said, “Danny! Oh my God, thank you. I’m so grateful you’re here. This isn’t the best part of town. It’s kind of dangerous actually. Would you mind escorting me to the Walgreens on Fillmore?”

His eyes widened and he smiled with delight, putting down the half-empty can on the curb and licking his fingers.

He took his new security job very seriously. As we crossed Post Street, Danny sprinted out 20 feet in front of me, swiveling his head in search of cars and spreading his arms wide, shielding me from traffic.

“Come on, Jocelyn! It’s safe!”

As we got closer to our destination, he kicked some broken glass out of my footpath and indicated I should walk around it. When we got to Walgreens, I told him, “Danny, thank you so much. I was really worried about that stretch of Steiner and you made me feel safe. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

The beauty of this story is that even when we’re enraged or out of our minds, at our core, we just want to feel useful, loved, and connected to others. 

This reminds me of a theory I learned in one of my psychology classes: the “Benjamin Franklin Effect.” The basic idea is that if you want your enemy or opponent to like you, ask them for a favor. 

The story goes that Franklin had some political rival and wanted to thaw the relationship, so he asked the man if he could borrow a book. When the rival granted that favor, he felt a sense of usefulness and connection.  Although they’d been fierce opponents, after asking for a favor, the tension melted and they became friendly. 

Also, the rival’s kind behavior toward Franklin, a political enemy, produced cognitive dissonance—a mismatch between one’s behavior and emotions. The theory goes that it’s very uncomfortable to have a mismatch between one’s external and internal worlds, so we change one to fit the other. For the sake of internal harmony,  the man ditched his negative emotions toward Franklin to align with his positive prosocial behavior. 

Overall, when we treat people well and rely on them, they feel good about being needed and connected. 

So ask a favor of that awful coworker or your judgmental mother-in-law! You might develop a closer relationship. And at the very least, you’ll give them a raging case of cognitive dissonance.  

American Puritans: Stop Yucking Our Yums!

I know a young God-fearing man who waited until marriage to have sex. He was still in college and decided to propose to his girlfriend after less than a year. They fast-tracked the wedding and set the date for January… in Alaska. Nine or ten months after the sub-zero ceremony, they had their first child. Another came not too long afterwards—and the wife started an affair. The couple is still suffering a long and bitter divorce.

How common is this experience? How often does a pious religious couple wait until marriage to relieve the most primal of human urges? And how many of these young men and women—hormones raging—make a lifelong commitment just so they can finally have sex?

One of the most damaging forces in American culture is its continued puritanism. The rigid anti-sex and anti-drug undercurrents of our society are making people repressed, guilt-ridden, and judgmental of others. 

Let’s start with sexuality. Dating to our 17th century Protestant roots, men are assumed to be unchaste sinners by nature. Similar to the conservative branches of Islam and Orthodox Judaism, men simply cannot be trusted to control themselves and it falls to the women—ironically, the “original sinners”—to not tempt them. (Isn’t it strange how women get all of the blame but none of the leeway when it comes to sins? And don’t get me started on how women’s superpower, the ability to create other humans, was hijacked by male “creators” in the Bible. )

Conservative Christian women are told that their virginity is their virtue and their future currency in marriage. Their chastity must be protected with the utmost vigilance because only “bad women” have sex before marriage.  I mean, come on: conservatives can’t even admit that Mary fucked Joseph! And sexual pleasure? That’s completely absent from the traditional narrative of relationships. 

The pervasive American shame surrounding sexuality produces elevated rates of teenage pregnancy,  as well as rampant STDs and anti-LGBTQ views.  

Is it any surprise that the top five states for teenage pregnancy—Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Kentucky—are among the most religious? And rather than addressing the issue and giving young people access to contraception and safe abortions, God-blinded legislators are launching an all-out assault on Roe vs. Wade and closing healthcare clinics across the country. Furthermore, there’s a bill working its way through the Pennsylvania legislature—similar to a fucked-up bill in Mike Pence’s Indiana—which would mandate funeral services for miscarried fetuses. To put that into perspective, religious lunatics want women to pay for funerals commemorating non-viable human tissue even though there’s no law requiring funerals for dead full-grown human beings.

Also, in 2019, there have been 115,000 cases of syphilis, 580,000 cases of gonorrhea, and 1.7 million cases of chlamydia—a combined record high in our country. I blame abstinence-only education which does not respect our physiological reality: we are sexual creatures and should be taught about the human body and safe sex.

Another dangerous strain of American puritanism is its anti-drug mindset. Like sex, drugs and alcohol should not be treated as forbidden fruit in our culture—that only enhances their appeal and pushes their expression into a dangerous underground. I’d argue that with sex, repressed urges and ignorance can manifest as pedophilia, sex trafficking, and rape. And with drugs, that underground produces binge drinkers, addicts, and widespread deaths of despair. Let’s bring the conversation to the surface where people’s desires and curiosity can be explored in an informed way and in a safe environment.

To do this, we need to move beyond the assumption that all drugs are bad and talk about responsible use at an appropriate age. With more information about the actual effects of drugs, people can make decisions for themselves. Like having a martini, sometimes it’s fun for an adult to enjoy an altered state through the responsible consumption of cannabis, psilocybin, or LSD. 

For these three substances in particular, the evidence is mounting that they can even have beneficial effects. It’s no secret that cannabis is slowly becoming legal for recreational consumption, state by state. It has been used to treat varied medical conditions for decades. Also, microdoses of psychedelics such as mushrooms and acid are being used to combat depression and PTSD. 

What bothers me is that just as puritan anti-sex views have been used to target women and the LGBTQ community, anti-drug views have been used to oppress the poor and people of color. African Americans are incarcerated at much higher rates for the same non-violent “crimes” of substance use and distribution. And look at how differently Americans view the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s compared to the opioid crisis of today. It’s only considered a disease or misfortune when whites are most affected; otherwise, it’s considered a scourge.

In short, American puritanism is used to uphold the power of men, whites, and Christian conservatives. It applies rules disproportionately: 

  • It views gay sex as sinful.
  • It considers women children who are unable to make decisions about their own bodies.
  • It assumes that people of color should be incarcerated for drug use while heroin-addicted whites in West Virginia deserve sympathy and treatment for their disease.

American puritanism is the scourge—the noxious lens through which the same behaviors are viewed differently depending on the actor. And even the most privileged people in this system are denying basic aspects of their humanity: the mental and physical delight of new experiences. 

Why are Americans allergic to discussions of sexual or drug-related pleasure? In this public discourse, it’s assumed that our only indulgence can come from food—and look where that’s gotten us: we’re one of the fattest sickest countries in the world and spend ludicrous sums of money on healthcare. 

We need to amend these ancient currents of fanatical self-reproach and stupidity. If someone doesn’t want to have sex before marriage or experiment with drugs, that’s fine, but we shouldn’t yuck other people’s yums with a stodgy finger-wag—especially when the rules aren’t applied equally. It’s totally ok to:

  • Wait until sex and love to have a marriage.
  • Responsibly experiment with cannabis and psychedelics as an adult.
  • Stop judging and censoring people’s sensual gratification.

American zealots don’t have a monopoly on what’s moral and what’s good. Dusty black and white codes of conduct may be easier to teach for the church, but in many cases, the tight-laced rigidity is dividing us and denying us our very human need to explore.

So throw off that heavy prudish yoke and live in the gray area! There’s no shame in consensual curiosity. 

The Little Eugene, Oregon That Could

Oregon Country Fair

When I lived in San Francisco, I was a consumer of culture rather than a producer. I went to museums and live music shows regularly, soaking in some of the best talents in the city. Although I’d take pictures of paintings I admired or dance to funk and gypsy jazz, I was always one step removed from the artistic process—a respectful observer rather than a true participant. It never occurred to me to pick up my guitar and try to join a band, submit my own acrylic paintings to art galleries, or audition for a play; I was always more comfortable in an audience.

Eugene, OR has a much different relationship with creatives. If you have a desire to make something or perform—no matter how niche or obscure—you can find a loving supportive group of fellow enthusiasts. 

My husband, Jon, found a home in Star Trek Live Theater, a motley crew of Eugenians who looked up to the show’s trailblazing characters and utopian view of civilizations. Although I didn’t watch Star Trek growing up, the actors here bring a homespun tenderness to the stories. Since they’ve been performing together for years, it’s also a strong community of friends who see each other through life’s varied mountains and valleys—both the triumphant and the depressing moments outside of the stage.

Jon as Worf and the lovely local Slug Queen

Last Friday, on the invitation of the Star Trek Live sound engineer, Jon performed in the First Annual Edward Gorey Ball—a costumed celebration of dark art and poems. I hadn’t heard Gorey’s work until Jon would rehearse lines from “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” at home:

A is Alice, who fell down the stairs.

B is for Basil, assaulted by bears.

The ball was held at Spectrum, Eugene’s LGBTQ bar and one of the best spots for nightlife in the city. In addition to some readings and a bit of Gorey’s history, there were burlesque dancers, contortionists, and two cello players.

It was actually the juggler who inspired me to write this piece (for whom I’ll use the pronoun “they” to avoid assumptions about gender identity). Before their performance, they walked to the front row of the audience—long knives in hand—and warned the crowd that objects might come flying in their direction. The front row, bedazzled in black lace, dark sequins, and shiny leather, smiled and said it was cool.

The juggler took to the stage in a checkered harlequin costume. They began juggling three skulls to music. They dropped a skull once, twice—three times!—and every time, the spherical reminders of our mortality went bouncing into the front row as predicted. The juggler then picked up the knives and with great enthusiasm, tossed the blades into the air until one dropped and bounced into the front row. (Not to worry! Performance blades are dulled.)

What I noticed throughout this performance was how everyone cheered with loud encouragement every time the juggler made a mistake; it didn’t matter that skulls and long knives were literally bouncing into the shins of the audience. People just wanted the juggler to feel the love and keep trying.

That’s the creative lifeblood of this community—The Little Eugene That Could with her unflappable “I Think I Can” attitude. No matter your level of talent in any arena, there is a friendly audience waiting to cheer you on through your artistic process.

In addition to countless creative classes at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College, Eugene has: 

  • Open Mic Nights for comedy, poetry, music, and performing arts
  • Toastmasters (a group to improve one’s public speaking)
  • Danceability (dance classes for differently-abled people)
  • Pub Science Talks (scientists lecturing at a brewery on something cool)
  • Multiple not-for-profit community theaters 
  • Monday Improv (a beginning improv group that gathers weekly)
  • First Friday Art Walks (artists connecting with downtown businesses to put their work on display for the night)
  • The Saturday Market (the country’s longest-running weekly open-air market for artisans and farmers)
  • Sunday Learners Jam (an opportunity for beginning musicians to join a group at a local jazz club)

This list really only scratches the surface and a lot of these events are free or low-cost.

One thing I noticed about San Francisco was that the wealth had begun to stifle the local culture; not only had the city become unaffordable for teachers, social workers, and janitors, but it had pushed out a lot of musicians, painters, and performers as well. Some moved to Oakland—until that city also became out of reach—and now there’s a migration to midsize cities like Eugene, which has attracted many of Portland’s priced-out artists. 

What happens to communities when culture is forced to leave? Sure, apps and tech are cool, but so is thriving artistic energy. That old art collective suddenly becomes a tapas restaurant; that dive bar with weekly open mics makes way for a swanky cocktail joint; that family-owned bookstore turns into yet another coffee shop which charges $6.50 for a pour-over.

The point is that the free market is not a good arbiter of culture. It’s designed not to expand people’s minds, but rather to play to their baser instincts: greed, status, indulgence, intoxication. There are few companies that would truly put cultural value (not to mention environmental or public health) above their bottom line. It’s not their fault; that’s just the way the system works.

Good art and culture aren’t always comfortable. They force people to stretch their presumptions and make space for a new perspective. This makes people more empathetic and generous, more galvanized in the face of injustice. The free market doesn’t have those objectives, although some companies would like to think of themselves that way and commodify culture to increase their bottom line.

Overall, when everyone is too damn busy on the endless hamster wheel of modern work, a city begins to die a little. People stop looking you in the eye and step over unconscious bodies in SoMa; tent cities of the evicted and mentally ill take over once-peaceful blocks; deaths of despair skyrocket as the city becomes both glitzier and grimier. 

I’m grateful that Eugene has its heart in the right place. Many people who grow up here return after a few years living somewhere else. There’s just nowhere like it. Strong local leadership and shared values helped to steer Eugene toward embracing everything that makes life worth living: art, community, natural beauty, generosity, kindness, and simple pleasures.

Here, I won’t think twice about submitting my art to local galleries, picking up my guitar, or getting silly with an improv group. I Think I Can.

Not a Missile, Just a Zealous Kiss

Tamolitch Blue Pool (Central Oregon)

When I decided to get married, I wanted to ensure I was bringing the best version of myself into the partnership. During my bachelorette party, I asked my closest friends what personal flaws I should keep an eye on and try to improve. One of them pulled me aside and revealed that sometimes I take things too personally. I grimaced and recoiled from this revelation. I absolutely do take things personally and although I knew it, having one of my best friends point it out in a loving way helped to diminish my defensive impulses.

I grew up with a single mom school teacher and modeled myself after her diligence, conscientiousness, and a borderline-perfectionist orientation to detail. (Let me put it this way: if God Herself had a font, She would model it after the flawless lettering of Mary Minerman—both printing and cursive.) 

My desire to excel and improve myself was mainly good, but it did have its drawbacks; I once revealed to my fourth-grade teacher that my greatest fear was getting bad grades. I even remember the moment when I started thinking of myself as “the smart kid.” It was a year after we’d moved to Laguna Beach and we were learning fractions in Mrs. Clapp’s third-grade class. She wrote three figures on the board: 1/2, 2/3, and 3/4. Without sketching any handy pie charts, she asked us which of these was the largest.

The most popular girl in the class raised her hand and said one-half was the largest because halves were bigger than quarters or thirds. I raised my hand and said three-quarters was the largest, reasoning that while each fraction was missing only one of its pieces, a quarter was the smallest piece missing, and therefore it was a more complete pie. 

The teacher wrote our names next to our guesses and took a poll. Most of the class believed that the popular girl had the correct response. After all, a half is larger than a quarter. A few brave souls raised their hands in support of my reasoning. When Mrs. Clapp revealed that I—the new kid—had the correct response, I beamed with pride. More important than having the right answer was the fact that I’d finally found my place in the social hierarchy at Top of the World Elementary School: I would be “the smart kid” and I would work very hard to maintain that status.

I always thought I was pretty good at hiding my insecurities as a child, but I had my perfectionist tells. If I said something socially awkward, I would ball my fists and buckle my knees, as if this internal pressure would help diffuse the external tension. I usually would think of something more clever to say later and repeat it over and over to myself to ensure I wouldn’t make the same social miscalculation. Should that topic of conversation arise again, I would be ready with my immaculate line.

I think my tendency to take things personally arises from my self-imposed quest for perfection. If someone offers criticism, it makes me feel further away from my (admittedly impossible) ideal, but this is the wrong way to receive information from the world. Why can’t I accept legitimate feedback as a learning opportunity instead? 

When my friend told me I took things too personally, something changed. Now when I feel the sting of defensiveness rising in my throat or bringing a flush to my cheeks, I put my impulses in check.

Last week, I even came up with a little mantra. I was on a hike to Tamolitch Blue Pool along central Oregon’s McKenzie River. It was a clear fall day and the valleys were bursting into vibrant fiery shades of yellow, orange, and red. Although I normally hike with podcasts, the environment demanded the undivided attention of my senses and I went without headphones. As I rounded the corner toward the turquoise pool, a large insect flew hard straight into my face. 

“What the fuck? Why did that insect just try to kamikaze me?” I said indignantly, totally breaking my zen. I stewed for 30 seconds as I rounded the trail along the cliffs, climbing down toward the water’s edge. 

I sat down on a cool boulder and looked up at an amphitheater of fall color and down into the cerulean depths, where yellow reflections gently swayed. I thought to myself, Wait a second. What if that insect was just trying to give me a hello? Slamming into my face is its only way to get my attention. It wasn’t a missile; it was just a zealous kiss.

This new perspective has implications beyond the aggressive insect, of course. What if I viewed all of life’s misgivings, errors, and difficult lessons as zealous kisses rather than missiles? I no longer have to take something personally if I assume the best intentions of others or accept the message as a benign teaching moment.

Thinking that my new mantra was brilliant, I shared the story with my husband.

He asked me earnestly, “Don’t you think that mantra is a little rapey? I mean, a zealous kiss?” 

Ugh, “rapey?” What the fuck. Why can’t he just appreciate my mantra? I took his feedback as a benign teaching moment and laughed to myself: I like the way “zealous kiss” rolls of the tongue, even in this post-#MeToo world. Bless his heart for having that reaction.

After all, my husband’s perspective wasn’t a missile; it just was a zealous kiss.

Forget Grad School in Your 20s and Go Work Abroad

View from Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo, the highest peak in Malaysia

After finishing undergrad at Berkeley in 2006, I felt that graduate school was inevitable. Many of my peers had secured spots in law school, medical school, and various master’s degree programs at coveted universities across the country. It wasn’t a matter of if Cal students were attending graduate school; it was treated as a matter of when.  

I looked at my fellow 22-year-olds and admired how they seemed to have everything figured out. There were some students with finance and business backgrounds who even scored six-figure salaries as consultants fresh out of their undergraduate programs. (Of course, little did they know that they would be the first to be taken to the chopping block in the Great Recession of 2008.)

Rather than joining this flock down the well-worn paths of graduate school or the U.S. job market, I decided to take a chance. I went to the on-campus travel agency and discussed my desire to live abroad with a young clerk. She showed me some flyers about various European and Latin American countries, but when she mentioned the three-week Trans-Mongolian Railroad trip across Asia, my eyes lit up. I put down a deposit for the following May. I planned to bounce around Europe for a year before catching my train in Moscow all the way to Beijing. 

I didn’t realize that I’d just made a decision that would determine the next four years of my life.

I asked the agent about securing work in Europe; I was lucky enough to have full-tuition scholarships and worked as an RA to pay for my room and board, but I was cash-poor. The agent told me about the British BUNAC program for recent college graduates, which would allow me a six-month work visa. I applied and picked up my documents later that week.

Shortly before my graduation ceremony, I met with my friend Ivan at a restaurant on Telegraph Avenue for lunch. I asked him to choose a number between 1 and 30. He chose 15, so later that day I bought a one-way ticket to London for June 15th.

That was 13 years ago and I never looked back. One week after I landed in London, I’d secured a flat, a job, and even a Dutch boyfriend who introduced me to a nice group of friends. For six months, I worked as a waitress at Hard Rock Cafe—the first one in the world—and as an editor for a small record label, helping them create the liner notes for their CDs. I met all sorts of new friends—a music professor from Syracuse, a South African martial arts instructor, and an Eton graduate turned punk rocker who attended classes with Prince William.

I didn’t know anyone in London when I bought that one-way ticket; I just jumped with an open heart and an open mind. The experience of moving abroad alone into an unknown future was challenging and humbling, but it was also integral to building my confidence as an adult; if I could land in a world-class city with nothing—no place to live, no job, no friends—and build a life for myself, I could do anything. 

With the deadline approaching for my British work visa, I applied for a teaching position at an eikaiwa (a private English conversation school) in Japan, hoping I could defer my start-date until after my Trans-Mongolian trip. Unfortunately, they wanted me to start in February after a training program in Tokyo, so I never did take that train across Asia, but I did live in Niigata City, Japan for over two years.

Ohanami party in spring (Niigata City)

Niigata is known for having the best rice and sake in the world. It’s relatively rural, although my city had over one million inhabitants. My students and the small group of gaikokojin (foreigners) were very welcoming. My company had arranged my housing and helped out with navigating municipal bureaucracies. For example, there were 7 regular types of trash, plus several more categories for uncommon items such as used batteries. They all had inscrutable labels, but learning that trash sorting system actually opened my eyes to how wasteful we are in the U.S.

 I also admired how orderly Japanese homes and customs were, how graffiti was non-existent, and how even the (very few) homeless lived in immaculately constructed box homes with sliding doors and a mat to keep one’s shoes. 

Japanese society is communal-minded, while Americans’ me-first mentality is reflected in our disrespect for public property, littering, and crumbling local transportation. We prioritize individuals over the group and although I’d learned about these two types of societies in college classes, experiencing them first-hand was transformative for my thinking. One of my favorite parts of living abroad was cultivating a new basis of comparison for everything I took for granted about people and societies.

In Niigata, I met my boyfriend Paulo, a Brazilian post-doc and oral-maxillofacial surgeon. He was also a talented musician and had learned much of his English from Bob Marley and Pearl Jam. He was finishing his program and heading back to Porto Alegre, Brazil. 

 I’d spent my last few months in Japan learning how to speak Portuguese so I could communicate with Paulo’s family, but before following him to South America, I wanted to explore Nepal and Southeast Asia with some of the money I’d earned. It had been years since I’d taken any serious time off of work or school and there’s a special pleasure that comes with full-time immersive travel with no definitive end. 

I planned most of the trip on the fly and I’d recommend that others do the same. Being comfortable with the unknown and refusing to overplan my travel came with great rewards. The internet can only take you so far with the way it privileges certain content; for the best recommendations, it’s always better to ask around. For example:

  • I had no idea that my new friends on Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit would recommend a multiday trip down the Mekong River. 
  • I had no idea my new friends in northern Thailand would recommend the Gibbon Experience, a series of ziplines between treehouses in the deep jungle and a non-profit that defends forests from slash-and-burn policies.
  • I had no idea my new friends in Angkor would recommend Malaysia’s gorgeous Perhentian Islands.

After this unforgettable trip, I set off for Brazil and traveled widely for many months while working remotely as a ghostwriter. Although that relationship didn’t work out, I was beaming with confidence after several years of living and traveling abroad. 

Lençóis Maranhenses, where hundreds of miles of snaking crystalline dunes collect fresh rainwater you can drink (northeastern Brazil)

In early 2010, I moved to my favorite U.S. city where most of my closest college friends had been working since graduation: San Francisco.

At that time, I worried that I’d forfeited several years of career growth for travel and it would take me a long time to catch up. And at first, this was true. For several weeks I slept on a friend’s couch until I found a waitressing job at a nice restaurant to get on my feet. A couple of months later, I found a job as an addiction specialist in a non-profit clinic, where I worked unhappily for a couple of years—underpaid and overstressed. 

But then it happened: I secured a position as a managing editor at a Silicon Valley tech company and “caught up” to where I would have been career-wise if I hadn’t traveled at all. I’d kept up my paid and unpaid writing over the years and essentially was hired on my Twitter feed, blog, and ghostwriting samples.

That was seven years ago and I’m now the chief content officer of a company started by the same director who first hired me in the Bay Area. I work remotely, so while continuing to develop my career, I lived in Argentina for ten months and took a one-year road trip all over the U.S. with my now-husband to figure out where we wanted to settle down. (We bought a house in Eugene, Oregon a few years ago and still love it here.) 

If I hadn’t traveled after my undergrad, I wouldn’t have developed the language skills, resilience, adaptability, deep knowledge of other cultures, creativity, conscientiousness, and professional confidence I have today. If I had jumped straight into graduate school, I would have developed an expertise, but having a niche—not to mention crippling student debt—would have only constricted my choices. For example, I’ve observed that many of my friends with PhDs end up taking positions in Bumblefuck, Nowhere (NO) for tenure-track positions. Nobody wants to live in Bumblefuck.

I encourage everyone—especially in their 20s—to work abroad and travel with abandon as much as possible before settling into a more typical path. It’s harder to wander in your thirties when parts of life have already ossified. That house, career, family, and graduate school can wait.

You’ll be much richer the experience because if I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: ditching life’s little road map shapes extraordinary people. 

Sahalie Falls, close to my home in Eugene, Oregon

The American Cheaters Who Prosper

Isn’t it suspect that one political party systematically needs to cheat in order to maintain power?  

  • In North Carolina, the Cheaters collect absentee ballots in African American neighborhoods and throw them into the trash. 
  • In Texas (and many other states), the Cheaters draw serpentine districts to limit the number of legislators their opponents can elect.
  • In Oregon, the Cheaters flee the state rather than hold a vote on a carbon tax where their opponents hold a legislative supermajority. 
  • In Georgia, the Cheaters insist that their gubernatorial candidate, the acting Secretary of State, should remain the top elections official of his own race. His team then improperly purges 340,000 voters from the rolls and delays 53,000 voter registrations—80 percent of them were people of color. 
  • In Arizona, the Cheaters close 70 percent of polling sites in Phoenix’s Maricopa County and tens of thousands of people wait in line for hours to cast ballots. 
  • In Florida, the Governor—a Cheater—puts his state’s voter registration site “under maintenance” during Voter Registration Week. 

And this is only the past two years. 

Across the country, the Cheaters try to purge American voters from registries using the error-prone “Crosscheck” system.  Fair Fight 2020 found that 1.6 million people were removed from the voter rolls between 2010 and 2018. 

In the Senate, the Cheaters don’t hold votes for any legislation that might make their opponents look good. Rather than doing their jobs, they worked tirelessly to make President Obama look ineffective, denying him a Supreme Court appointment and repeatedly attacking the Affordable Care Act—one middle finger to Americans’ healthcare access and the other middle finger to wasted taxpayer dollars. 

In the House of Representatives, the Cheaters voted to gut the ethics committee. They have no problem deregulating codes of conduct or the corporations which poison our air and water, but yet they want full control over American women’s reproductive health.

In that vein, the Cheaters are the ultimate hypocrites. They contend that they’re “pro-life,” but they refuse to ban assault weapons, strike down capital punishment, improve the lives of the most vulnerable among us, or even make basic birth control readily available. 

They are also hypocrites when it comes to government spending. A few years ago when Obama was in office, the Tea Party Wing of the Cheaters was very upset about the federal deficit and national debt. But recently, the Cheaters passed a fat tax cut for the rich, which the CBO projects will add $1.9 trillion to deficits over 10 years. Federal spending also hit a new record ($3.7 trillion) and deficits are only projected to climb through the end of 2019. Of course, the Cheaters are now silent about our country’s fiscal health, as they are when our astronomical military budget climbs ever-higher. (The U.S. spends $649 billion annually—more than the next seven countries combined.) 

The Cheaters also say they love small businesses but they refuse to support our most entrepreneurial group of citizens: immigrants. On the contrary, they prefer to lock up Latino children in concentration camps to please the rabidly racist contingent of their party—red meat to feed the MAGAts. The racism stoked by Cheaters actually helps them maintain power through fear; it’s one of their most effective tools. 

The Cheaters get very upset when you call them racist, but they refuse to condemn the Supreme Cheater who (in reference to Haiti and African countries) bemoaned “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” The Supreme Cheater also stated that people from Haiti “all have AIDS” and empathized with white supremacists after their Charlottesville rally, which killed one counter-protester.

Worst of all, when the Cheaters hear a fact they don’t like, they brand it with the scarlet letter of “fake news” and treat it as a matter of partisan opinion.

How can Non-cheaters—the people who act with integrity—defeat the party of bad faith who will lie and steal to maintain power? As children, we’re taught that good people win in the end, but we’ve witnessed too many Cheaters seizing control of the American government, fueled by unlimited campaign donations and the popularity of their trusty propaganda network, Fox News.

I feel alienated from people who support the Cheaters and assume that those voters are one of three things: greedy, dumb, or complicit. The greedy ones—the Money-grubbers—support the Cheaters for their economic views and celebrate when funds for education, healthcare, and basic social services are slashed for tax cuts that will never “trickle down.” The Money-grubbers divert those funds into their offshore accounts or into the Cheater campaign coffers. 

The dwindling federal budget for education has helped create the second Cheater subgroup: the Fools. These people believe that humans don’t cause climate change; that brown people are coming to steal their jobs; that immigrant children should be locked in cages; that women should stop invading the workplace and shouldn’t have access to reproductive healthcare; that Christianity is superior to other religions and Islam is bad; and that the USA is better than all other countries and should be able to play by different rules. 

All of these views are destructive and dumb. Perhaps the feeble-minded are hypnotized by middle-aged white male anger or blonde Fox News hosts’ bare legs. They take the Cheaters’ bullshit hook-line-and-sinker and relish in “owning the libs.” (For the record, blowing out our candle isn’t going to make yours burn any brighter, morons.)

The third subgroup is waiting for the Cheaters to wind back the clock and stop being so uncouth. These are the Enablers, otherwise decent people with their heads in the sand. What they don’t understand is that this is not their white grandfather’s political party. There’s no going back from “grab ‘em by the pussy,” creating Latino concentration camps, or the Muslim Ban. 

And most recently, the Supreme Cheater—again, a man who cheats on his taxes, at golf, and on his wife with a porn star—asked the Ukrainian President for the “favor” of investigating his political rivals’ family. Knowing this conversation was damning, the Cheaters tried to bury the notes about it in a separate computer server used for sensitive information—exactly the behavior that had them chanting through frothing mouths “Lock her up! Lock her up!” More MAGAts feasting on red meat.

The Non-cheaters lack a backbone, but the Cheaters lack a soul. The Money-grubbers, Fools, and Enablers are everything we were taught as children not to be: intolerant, hateful, manipulative, dishonest, self-centered. 

What kind of example are we setting to the next generation and to the rest of the world when we elect Cheaters? It’s not a good look. 

Impeach the Supreme Cheater and VOTE. THE REST. OUT.