One Democracy, Please

He talks in his Democratic National Committee voice as if he still writes press releases for the Governor of New York.

“Our Candidate…” he keeps repeating, referring to Hillary Clinton.

“What about Bernie?” I ask.

He scoffs. He says he doesn’t have a chance. Hillary has the money and the establishment support.

My Dad has worked in politics, public and private sector, for over 25 years. In November, he came to New Zealand to visit me. The sandflies are nipping at our ankles as we drink beer and wine at a campsite in Marahau after hiking a portion of Abel Tasman track.

“But the only thing that matter is who gets the most votes,” I say. “We live in a democracy. It doesn’t matter who has the most money.”

His experience tells him otherwise.

My idealism and optimism in young Americans gives me confidence.

Bernie doesn’t exist in his mind. Just as he doesn’t exist in the minds of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the 359 superdelegates, according to the AP, already pledged to Hillary.

A few days before the Iowa Caucus, Serena and I are taking a luxury day away from the free campsite — where you have to bring your own toilet paper — to shower and use power, Internet and the kitchen at the Queenstown Holiday Park.

I’m devouring the New York Times. I try to explain what it all means and how Iowa is the first state to hold a primary, but it’s not a primary it’s a caucus and it makes no sense and Iowa is not a representative sample of America so why does it matter anyway.

Trump leads the polls amongst the Republicans. Hillary is ahead of Bernie by just a few points. I pull up Real Clear Politics and see that Hillary’s lead has been shrinking over the past week.

She doesn’t understand.

“So Bernie and Hillary are in the same party?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“Do they like…” she can’t find the words.

“Work together?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says.

“Not really. They have really different ideas,” I say.

She doesn’t understand.

She explains the party system In Ireland. If you vote for a politician you basically vote for their political party. She supports Sinn Fein, which just recently became a feasible political party and is overcoming its status as a terrorist group and IRA connections. It’s funny how the world is changing. With Justin Trudeau recently winning in Canada and Jeremy Corbyn winning in the UK

“Well there are only two political parties in America,” I say.

She is shocked.

As she should be. As we all should be.

New Zealand is where we met for the first time as equals. I am no longer the son who he kicked out of his house and he is no longer the father that I depend on. We are two free men talking and drinking and enjoying each other’s company.

“I like talking about this with you because I have ideas, but you have a lifetime of experience,” I say.

He tells me Obama lost all credibility in his first 18 months in office. He didn’t fight hard enough. Too many concessions to the Republicans who only had one word to say: No.

He says we need a new leader in the next few years. Obama destroyed the Democratic Party.

What he doesn’t understand is that the “new” leader we need is a 74-year-old socialist from Brooklyn.

Hillary says she will protect and continue Obama’s legacy.

Why?

What was Obama’s campaign all about? Change. Why would he want his predecessor to stop the change? I want us to go further. We can’t stay like this.

The United States of America is not a democracy.

When one is elected as President of the United States that should be taken as a referendum. Take the power and do something with it.

(President George W. Bush doesn’t count. He didn’t win the popular vote. And, wow, that brings me to another point. I have to distinguish which President Bush I am referring to. I don’t want to have to distinguish which President Clinton I am referring to. I don’t want dynasties in America. Two families shouldn’t be President for 24 plus years. Didn’t we, like, fight really hard to separate ourselves from Kings and Queens and ruling families?)

I don’t like the status quo. I want more change. Let’s keep going.

Why don’t we spend more money on education and health care than we do on “defense” which is code for pouring endless money into the wallets of private contractors who benefit from the military industrial complex? And I’m really tired of reading about drone strikes killing civilians.

I want money spent at home so Americans aren’t living in poverty. I don’t want money spent on the latest technology that kills people who have brown skin and live in deserts in the Middle East. Sorry, I mean protecting democracy around the world and keeping Americans safe. Silly me.

And it’s all in the name of fighting terrorism. Who is the terrorist in this scenario? The poor teenager who’s village was bombed and his family killed and then joins a group of “freedom fighters” who drive up in a pick-up truck and offer him a new life? Is he a terrorist? Or is the terrorist the most powerful country in the world that makes innocent people live in fear and if they die they are deemed enemy combatants because history is written by those who have power.

No more of this bullshit.

Hillary is a hawk. I want a dove. I want peace and prosperity for Americans.

Phew. Sorry about that. Where was I?

I can’t help thinking about the conversation I had with my father as I am hitting refresh on my laptop watching the Iowa Caucus results trickle in at the Queenstown Public Library.

Bernie didn’t win. Hillary has 49.9 percent to Bernie’s 49.6. Hillary didn’t win.

They both leave Iowa with the same number of delegates. Iowa is not a winner-takes-all state. What a strange system.

Now the establishment Democrats are scared. Even though it’s just Iowa, they see that Bernie has people power. The most important type of power in what is supposed to be a democracy.

I check Reddit and read about Iowans saying their precincts ran out of voter registration forms. New voters means Bernie wins. Young voters means Bernie wins.

From my years as a Political Science student, writing research papers and opinion columns for the school paper, reading news, watching news, working as a Congressional intern, a media watchdog intern, trade association intern, think tank communications temp, and working on the campaign of the Governor of Virginia, I’ve learned that enthusiasm determines elections.

Certain people — older, whiter, and more conservative — always vote. Other people — younger, darker, and more liberal — usually don’t vote.

Obama won his elections because young people and minorities were very enthusiastic about this intelligent and charismatic young black man who was running for President. He was different and exciting.

Right now in America, young people are excited about Bernie Sanders. They are excited because he has a lot of revolutionary ideas that will take America away from being owned by the moneyed interests and instead transform the country into a beautiful thing: A True Democracy.

That’s what socialism is. Democracy. It means people working together instead of competing against each other. In unchecked capitalism, there are winners — which we always hear about — but there are many more losers. We don’t talk about the losers.

How strange this must be to Australians who are required to vote or else face a fine.

The United States of America is not a democracy.

Republicans want to take us even further away from democracy. They call for voter ID laws and scream and yell baseless claims of voter fraud on their media outlets. And more furtively they disenfranchise voters via redistricting and gerrymandering.

Oh look. Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus. That doesn’t mean anything. He can’t win a general election. We have come too far. He wants to shut down the government. He wants to have a 10 percent flat tax rate and he wants to abolish the IRS and make everyone pay taxes on a postcard.

Wow, so simple!

Is it any surprise that people who don’t have a college education are more likely to support Ted Cruz? Of course uneducated people are going to vote for Ted Cruz. All they know is their own insulated existence and they don’t have the critical thinking abilities to filter out what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh spouts from their spitting, seething, hate filled lips.

When they hear a 10 percent flat tax rate they think they will save a few thousand dollars every year. But what they might not understand is that the top marginal tax rate used to be 94 percent in 1944 and then down to a comfortable 70 percent until 1981. After deductions the millionaires and billionaires would pay a much lower rate but that shows how much we have changed since Reagan began to deregulate and favor the rich.

If the super-rich pay a 10 percent tax rate, then United States of America would lose an incredible amount of revenue. We can’t just cut spending. America is people. Some people are poor. Some people can’t support themselves because the system is rigged.

I understand that a lot of people out there like Hillary and don’t appreciate this divisive Democratic Party that is similar to the debate between the Tea Party Republicans and Chamber of Commerce Republicans.

Yes, I read, An All-Caps Explosion of Feelings Regarding the Liberal Backlash Against Hillary Clinton, which several of my female Facebook friends have shared.

You say that Hillary has to be a part of the establishment because she’s a woman and she has no choice. I don’t care. This isn’t about Hillary. I don’t care about Hillary or your feelings, even if you are yelling.

I care about America. I care about the future of America and I know that Bernie Sanders has the ideas that will take us in the right direction.

I’m voting for the candidate who represents my beliefs. I don’t care how hard Hillary has worked to be here or how she has to act a certain way because she’s a woman. I agree with Bernie much, much more often than I agree with Hillary.

And I really don’t give a fuck about what the media and the establishment tells us is possible.

Let us decide what is possible. Let young people decide what is possible. Let the voters decide what is possible.

This is a democracy, right?

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A Night Out in Nelson

I had no interest in drinking with the kids at the hostel on a Saturday night, so I set off into town with my backpack and camera, not knowing what to expect.

Invisible cars.
Invisible cars.

The city of Nelson was quiet at 9 pm. I heard live music and headed in that direction. All of the sudden I see hand painted signs, tents, a circle of camp chairs, raggedy people standing around wrapped in blankets and a guy playing Neil Young on his acoustic guitar.

“Hello!” one of the white-haired ladies called out. “We’re protesting the TPPA.”

After a momentary hesitation, I realize this is the place I need to be tonight.

I take a seat and ask the woman who greeted me, “So why are you against the TPPA? Gimme your spiel.”

She began to answer and I interrupted, “You don’t want to give up your sovereignty.”

“Yes, exactly,” she said.

I think some of the protesters thought I was homeless because everyone asked me where I am staying. Don’t worry, guys, I’m staying at a hostel and I’m not crazy. I’m from D.C. and I understand politics and I just want to talk to you all.

I was introduced to Graeme, the organizer for the event. On August 16, New Zealanders all over the country protested the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Nelson had a strong turnout of about 750, according to the NelsonMail. This Occupy Nelson protest was a continuation of those protests, to show that support is still strong.

Earlier in the day, several protesters dressed up in Kiwi — not Kiwifruit — masks with Uncle Sam whipping them into line while he led Prime Minister John key on a leash.

I must say, these Kiwis certainly earn extra points for enthusiasm and creativity.

They proceeded to mob their Member of Parliament, Nick Smith.

By the time I arrived, there were 12 protesters at the Occupy site drinking tea, having pumpkin soup, and dancing to the music. Roughly half of them camped out overnight.

The problem with the TPPA, Graeme explained, is that we don’t know what’s in the agreement. It is a secret document, and more importantly it is above the high courts of the undersigned nations. It would be above the Supreme Court of the United States of America and the Supreme Court of New Zealand. What?

If passed, it would cede power to the rich assholes who run the big asshole corporations that are raping the Earth. That’s not democracy.

With an ominous red and white striped flag hanging over the stage and the Uncle Sam imagery from earlier, it is obvious that these New Zealanders are largely protesting America. But Graeme said they like regular Americans like me.

I laid it out like this: There’s the American citizen, then there’s the American government, and then there are the large corporations who have the real power.

Just take a look at TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, signed by President Bush in 2008. Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone, wrote in 2013, “the bailouts were pushed through Congress with a series of threats and promises that ranged from the merely ridiculous to the outright deceptive.”

Congress didn’t really have a choice. The reckless investment bankers who got us into this mess were now telling the elected representatives of the United States that they have to pass these bailouts, or else something very bad will happen.

This is the same issue with the TPPA. It’s not only encouraging this type of behavior, it is making it legal and unable to be stopped by the established courts and political structures in the twelve countries involved. It’s the age old problem of money overpowering politics.

One of the occupiers asked me if I was involved in any protests back home. I said all of the support today is behind Bernie Sanders. He is the chosen one. He will save the world. My generation is looking around and saying, Nah, I don’t like this. Let’s change it. Bernie has the answers and we have the votes.

Just watch a video of Bernie.

Bernie speaks with passion. The middle class is dying, people working full-time shouldn’t be poor, healthcare is a fundamental right, income inequality is destroying the country, cut military spending and put it into education, let’s make college tuition free. He drives his point forward and he makes you think, Well, yeah, this is obvious why haven’t we always done this? I trust him to take us in the right direction.

Now watch a video from the Hillary campaign.

I was waiting for the ad to end and then I realized there is no ad. That’s how the Hillary campaign feels. It’s fake and forced. I cringe listening to Hillary. She has no passion and frankly, I don’t trust her. Bernie is genuine and Hillary is so very scripted and focus-grouped.

I told a protester, you want to know the difference between Bernie and Hillary? Look at their donors. Follow the money.

And don’t trust some bullshit blog for these numbers, go to OpenSecrets.

Hillary’s Career Donors

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.33.05 AM
https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cycle=Career&cid=n00000019&type=I

Bernie’s Career Donors

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.33.12 AM
https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00000528&type=I

Hillary is the establishment candidate of banks and law firms. Money. Bernie is the candidate of the worker. Humans.

Bernie has refused to accept money from Super PACs and the average donor gives $31.30, according to campaign officials. People like me support Bernie. I’ve always donated my time to the Democrats — but I can’t do that if I’m in New Zealand — so I donated $10 to his campaign. It’s not much money, but if one million young people can give $5 or $10, that really adds up.

An all too common problem with American elections is that people think who ever raises the most money will win. While money is a huge advantage needed to buy advertisements and have a strong ground game to Get Out The Vote, it doesn’t decide the outcome. The only thing that matters is which candidate gets the most votes.

And fortunately, Bernie doesn’t need to spend money buying TV advertisements because young people —  the group who we actually need to get to the polls — don’t watch TV, and if they do, they DVR and skip the commercials. C’mon, it’s 2015.

Young people use social media and the Internet. They watch Netflix. As The Guardian puts it, Bernie is the king of social media. Young people are advertising Bernie on their own. Every election now is a new normal. It’s constantly evolving with technology and enthusiasm.

Yeah, I preached the Gospel of Bernie to these TPPA protesters. I preached hard.

Events like this always attract unique people. The litmus test is their response to the question, “What do you do?”

I asked Jonny the routine question and he said, “I am a child of God.”

I raised an eyebrow. “No, seriously,” he assured me.

As a boy he was sent out to live in the wilderness with a shovel. He dug out rabbit holes with the shovel, killed the rabbits with the shovel, and cooked the rabbits on the shovel.

As a teenager, he relied on trapping possums, hunting, fishing and bartering with the bounty the land provided. He later realized that instead of bartering, it is more efficient to develop skills. Now in his thirties, he writes Children’s books that teach children to never underestimate their own power. He is one quarter Maori and a spiritual guide.

As he explained how he lives in balance with the world, I said, “It’s permaculture.”

“Yes,” he cocked his head and looked at me with a bit of surprise. “That’s a very powerful word.”

I told him I read about permaculture in A Greener Life, the book the English hippies left in the van they sold me. Jonny, of course, was familiar with it.

During my visit to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, I thought of permaculture when I was learning about the Maori lunar calendar. There is a natural cycle that they have used for generations. The moon tells us when to plant crops, when to hunt, when to fish and when to let the sea urchins and fish grow fat. It means adjusting human life to the natural order instead of making nature change for us.

He told me of a meeting of the Nelson Science Society when one of the presenters wrote two equations on the white board:

1+1=2   1+1=1

He said he came into the lecture hall and saw these two equations and thought, there’s one equation and one unification. Everything works together. He said if you show people a picture of a landscape with trees, lakes and mountains and ask what they see, most people might pick out a few of of the individual objects.

“I see life,” Jonny said.

Jonny is like Ono, they are enlightened. You can feel it as you talk to them. They are on a higher plane of spiritual existence. They aren’t bothered by the day to day troubles, they see the bigger picture in every aspect of life.

I left the Occupy Protest and walked back to the hostel through town. The bars were overflowing with chaos and cigarette smoke. No thanks.

A Plea for Sanity from an American Abroad

Dear America,

You’re making it very difficult for me to be the American Ambassador in rural New Zealand. Whenever I meet someone new, I have to answer the same routine questions. Whereabouts in the States are you from? Virginia. Where’s that? Middle of the east coast. What’s up with Donald Trump? I don’t know. Don’t blame me, please!

The presidential election is more than 14 months away but you guys already have a debilitating case of Trump fever.

I’ve seen the Fox News debate with Mr. Trump front and center, I’ve seen the poll numbers, but for some reason I didn’t believe it was real. Like a holocaust denier, I refused to face the truth. It finally hit me when I read this Think Progress article about his recent “Pep Rally” in Alabama. I can’t deny the pictures. My god. The pictures.

These are the first images I’ve seen of actual living, breathing, sentient — maybe — supporters of Mr. Trump. They have t-shirts! And signs! What the fuck is going on over there, guys??

He doesn’t have a platform. Instead, he uses his skills from years behind the camera of reality TV shows to spew racist rhetoric and propaganda about how he’s sick of political correctness.

America is already filled to the brim with fear, hatred an resentment. We don’t need anymore, thanks. My heart goes out to the Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, who are terrified of living in America. They just want a better life for their families. I used to work a day labor job installing office furniture and cubicles. Two Mexicans worked with my friend Juan, who is Ecuadorian, and I on a Saturday. They said they have full time work during the week but they can’t take a day off. I spent the wad of twenties I earned on pot and beer and went back to my comfortable suburban home, they took the money home to feed their children.

Meanwhile, the shrinking middle class of blue-collar, god-fearing white people throw their support behind the rich asshole who tells them to blame the poor, hard-working immigrants for their financial woes, when it’s actually the rich asshole’s fault. It’s a classic scapegoat technique. Hitler used it. Stalin used it. Now Trump is using it. They gobble it up like Big Macs and Super Double Big Gulps because they can’t think for themselves because the Bible is the only book they need and because the schools are constantly being defunded by the rich assholes. Add the toxic right-wing media and you have a never ending shit-storm of ignorance and deception. Everyone loses. Except the rich assholes.

Please, I beg you, stop this madness. I know, you feel like you need to “take your country back” and “make America great again,” but this is not the way forward. A President Trump would be a worldwide embarrassment. I know many of you simple Christian Right Americans don’t travel much — you live paycheck to paycheck because of the tax-evading, deregulating rich assholes — and often stay in the small town you grew up in, but please consider the rest of the world when you vote.

I’m getting really tired of explaining the GOP reality show circus to these New Zealanders who are just as baffled a I am.

Sincerely,

Sean Dolan

Meet the Crazies

I never expected to encounter religious zealots or political conservatives in Australia and New Zealand. I thought they could only be found in the wilds of America. But somehow they always manage to find me.

Josh and I weren’t prepared for the cold and wet of the Adelaide hills. We had been living in the desert for months, where the perpetual dry heat makes life easy. We sought refuge at a holiday park to dry our clothes and gear. I made the short walk to the facilities to put in a load of laundry.

“Good morning! Where are you from?” a middle-aged woman immediately asks me, as if she has been waiting for someone to talk to.

I say the States and she says that’s amazing. She spent time with some ranchers in Oklahoma and loved it. I try to shake her off and get back to my washing, but she appears to be brainwashed or maybe she is a robot because her wide eyes seem blank and her smile is way too big.

Yeah, I love America,” she continues, deadpan. “The only problem is that the military is controlled by the devil.”

The crazy inside of her is no longer able to contain itself and I take that as my invitation to stop giving her my time. I tell her to have a great day as I walk back to the site with a great story to tell Josh.

Then there was the old man in the Auckland CBD who found me on a cold Monday morning. It was my third day in New Zealand and I was sitting on a bench smoking a rollie and drinking a flat white between opening a bank account, registering for a tax number and applying for my driver’s license.

“Mind if I join you?” he asks.

I always welcome a random conversation, so I invite him to take a seat. He hears my accent and tells me I must be an American. He says he’s a born again Christian. I get really excited and tell him I’ve studied you, what do you have to say?

I have something very bad to tell you about America,” he tells me, grimly.

Great! Lay it on me. I realize he isn’t the type of person to be straightforward as he begins his exposition. He says in the New Testament, there is a story of the sign of the devil, 666, marked on the right hand of sinners. I finish my cigarette and become impatient. He produces a small copy of the New Testament full of dog-eared pages and annotations and tells me to read the line he is referring to. I finish my coffee. Yeah, that’s great, man. What is this terrible thing you have to say about America?

He reaches into his coat pocket again and gives me a printed off article about Obamacare. It’s from some religious blog and it says as part of Obamacare, all Americans will be required to have a tiny microchip implanted in their right hand. And there you have it, folks, certified proof that Obama is the devil. But he’s not done yet. He tells me Obama is a Muslim at heart and there it is again, my queue to leave.

Looking back on these interactions, it would have been much more fun and interesting if I egged them on agreed with them. I should have taken it further, donned my tin foil hat and thought up some ridiculous conspiracy theory that would make them uncomfortable.

Now I’m in a rural farming town in New Zealand where Christian Farmers don’t pay any taxes and racism toward the Māori, Chinese and Indians is casual. And conservatism is king. Digger’s Father stopped by the farm yesterday morning and we had a little chat.

So, Sean, who do you have for President?” the typical American question.

The first thing I have to say is how the Republican race is a reality show with Donald Trump fear-mongering to get the support of angry old white people. Then I say I’m not a big fan of Hillary, she is too establishment and too boring. I don’t trust her. I’m a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. I’ve been a fan of his for a while now but I never expected him to blow up like this. He is the first politician I’ve ever seen who actually tells the truth and focuses on people, not money.

We talk about this for a bit and he asks me what I want to do when I go back to the states. I tell him I want to be a journalist. I want to talk to people and ask questions and write. That’s the dream, for now.

He says all of the journalists here in New Zealand and way too far to the left. It takes me back to the days of Sarah Palin repeating the words “lame-stream media” on Fox News. I nod and think about how I’ve fallen in love with Susie Fergusen, host of Radio NZ’s Morning Report, and the way she ruthlessly attacks politicians and speaks truth to power. I don’t think of her as liberal. I think of her as trustworthy.

This is the way I see it: It is the job of the journalist to seek out the truth. If the majority of journalism is “liberal,” does that mean that journalists have a liberal bias or does it mean that the truth has a liberal bias?

Next we arrive on the issue of climate change. First it was global warming, now it’s climate change, now they say we are going into another ice age.

I don’t buy it.”

He has read a lot about the issue and looked at it from both sides and decided that it’s all a bunch of bullshit from the UN and Obama to make money. He mentions a guy from NASA who retired and wasn’t on the payroll anymore so he could finally write about how climate change isn’t manmade, it’s just nature. I nod my head and remain silent but what I really want to do is yell in his face.

Then it’s on to Labor Unions, which are huge in New Zealand. Digger’s Dad is an engineer and was on a job one day with a truck driving union member. The union guy assumed they were both on the same page and brought up some recent issue. He said he wasn’t a union supporter.

“Well, what would you do if you thought you weren’t getting paid enough?” the truck driver asked.

“I would talk to my boss and tell him to pay me more. If he disagreed, I would go find another job,” he replied.

That shut him up.”

I think to myself, Wow, what a ridiculous oversimplification of the role of unions. What if you can’t just go to the job store and pick out a new job? And of course Digger was sitting there agreeing with everything his Dad said.

It doesn’t matter what country you are in. People in rural, less educated areas will mostly be conservative. Digger has often told me that he didn’t get into farming because he was good at school. They resent the big university boys from Auckland and Wellington who never worked a “real” job, who take their hard-earned money and give it to the Māori and the other dole bludgers. There are often racist undertones to their political thoughts.

On my first night drinking with real Kiwis around a giant bon fire, these white farmer guys and girls kept talking about Niggers. I had to stop to ask, who are the Niggers? The Māori.

I have heard jokes like: “What’s the best place to hide a Māori’s dole check? Under his work boot.” Māori’s can often earn more on the dole than they can working, which creates a lot of resentment, but calling them Niggers seems a bit extreme. That word has a lot of history to it.

I thought I was traveling through one of the the more enlightened areas of the world, but I guess there are different types of people everywhere. I’m kind of glad though, it keeps things interesting.

American Loathing

I felt a terrible gut-wrenching pain while watching the Fox News Republican Presidential Debate after being away from American conservative extremism for the past year and two months. That feeling returned the next morning while I was listening to New Zealand public radio on my tractor run. Radio NZ’s short coverage consisted of one outrageous Donald Trump quote. He said moderator Megyn Kelly, “had blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

This is the one small piece of American news many people across the world heard today. How sad is that?

It’s not surprising though. The first Republican debate is always a race to the bottom to see who is best at pandering to their conservative base. All 10 candidates came in with carefully crafted one-liners intended to garner the most tweets and shares and likes. It’s a popularity contest. It’s the result of the dumbing down of journalism and online media. Click bait. You’ll never believe what Donald Trump just said. It’s not about the truth anymore, it’s about getting the most page views. It’s all fake. America.

The first debate is always moderated by Fox News, and all of the candidates are chosen by Fox News. They set the agenda. If you aren’t a Christian and don’t believe in God, then don’t even try running as a Republican. These candidates are expected to fit into a tiny box created by Fox News, the Republican Party and the Christian Right. They are all one and the same. The holy trinity.

The status quo of the debate scares me. The way the words “terrorist” and “freedom” and thrown around like they actually mean something. The complete rejection of abortion in all cases. The way God and religion are completely intertwined in a country where separation of church and state is the law.

Credit to Fox News Channel.
If you have, please consult a psychiatrist. (Screenshot credit to Fox News Channel.)

I’ve studied the Christian Right and I wrote my senior thesis about their education policy. It all stems from biblical inerency, that the Bible is completely without error and contains all answers to life’s complexities. Everything is black and white. They are simplistic and can’t comprehend that, hey, maybe if a pregnant woman’s life is in danger, or if a young girl was raped or a victim of incest, maybe it would be OK if she had an abortion.

Nope. Not to Fox News.

The Republican status quo on abortion is that life starts at the exact moment when the sperm fertilizes the egg. From that point, the tiny fetus is an American citizen with all of the protections of the constitution. If you are a gay fetus, however, just stay in the womb. You have more rights there.

Megyn Kelly turns to Marco Rubio and says he has favored rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans. She asks, “If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?”

RUBIO: Well, Megyn, first of all, I’m not sure that that’s a correct assessment of my record. I would go on to add that I believe all–

KELLY: You don’t favor a rape and incest exception?

RUBIO: I have never said that. And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection.

In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: And let me go further. I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not. Whether they can speak or not. Whether they can hire a lawyer or not. Whether they have a birth certificate or not. And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.

Great job, Rubio, if you want a crowd reaction just namedrop the constitution. No matter what position he has taken in the past, he has to say he was never in favor of any abortion exceptions if he wants to remain in the competition. All of these candidates have to pander to their conservative base and double down on the extremism. But as soon as one of them wins the bid, they turn into a different candidate so they can gather a wider audience.

“Alright, gentlemen,” says moderator Kelly. “We’re gonna switch topics now and talk a bit about terror and national security.”

Chris Christie says the NSA should be able to run bulk collection of Americans’ home phone records, while Rand Paul says we should only collect information from terrorists.

CHRISTIE: And — and, Megyn? Megyn, that’s a — that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know, Megyn?

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!

CHRISTIE: What are you supposed to…

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment!

CHRISTIE: …how are you supposed to — no, I’ll tell you how you, look…

PAUL: Get a warrant!

CHRISTIE: Let me tell you something, you go…

PAUL: Get a judge to sign the warrant!

CHRISTIE: When you — you know, senator…

(CROSSTALK)

They skate to center ice and throw a few punches before the referees break it up.

The word “terrorist” bothers me. There are definitely terrible people in the world who are committing terrible acts of torture and violence. But there is a serious problem with using the word so casually and frequently. It’s a great strategy, though, if the intention is to keep Americans afraid of a straw man and let their rights slowly be dismantled.

Think of it from all perspectives. If a strong global power illegally invades countries and kills an estimated 210,000 civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, who is the terrorist? It can’t be the Americans, because we are fighting a war on terror, so we are incapable of committing any acts of terrorism.

Americans are extremely self-centered. We are the best country in the world and we are the global police force and it is totally justified to have military personnel in 130 countries and over 900 overseas bases. If we have an ideological (read: economic) difference with a country, we need to invade to protect our diplomatic (read: monetary) interests.

The system is genius. Everything is so well-thought out and the propaganda is so subtly-incorporated into society. The goal is to keep a large class of misinformed, uneducated, poor workers who are passive consumers of media and merchandise on the bottom and a rich, powerful ruling class on top. It’s all good though because this is America, where even if your father was a mailman or a bartender — as Kasich and Rubio were so eager to share — you can still be a presidential candidate. This is America, where there is less social mobility than Canada and Western Europe, I mean, wait… What happened to the American dream? Oh yeah, Reagan killed it with deregulation and lowering taxes on the rich.

The joining of the Republican Party and evangelical churches streamlined this system and changed American politics forever. Now, everyone in the Republican Party is assumed to be a devout Christian.

Credit to Fox News Channel.
You can’t force me to serve a gay person at my restaurant, I might get cooties! (Screenshot Credit to Fox News Channel.)

This makes me feel so helplessly sad. That there are actually people, lots of them, who think like this. My gut reaction is to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and make them travel the world and try to talk like that in any other country in the world and see what happens.

Carol Fox brings up the same self-centered worldview I mentioned earlier. White, heterosexual, God-fearing, Bible-thumping, gun-owning Americans are the most important people in the world. We shouldn’t worry about the possibility of gay people being “prosecuted” and discriminated against, we should be worrying about the Real Americans who don’t like these faggots being allowed to have the same rights that I enjoy. I mean, for heaven’s sake, how am I supposed to explain two men kissing to my five-year-old daughter?

Watching the Fox News debate at a time when the only other American media I have recently consumed is the new season of Rick and Morty is like only watching Damo and Darren videos to understand contemporary social issues of Australia. I can’t imagine a politician from New Zealand saying Scott Walker’s quote: “I’m certainly an imperfect man. And it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins.” I know this debate is extreme and it doesn’t accurately characterize what America is all about.

I actually have a lot of hope for America. Future generations won’t look at us as baby killing barbarians as Rubio predicts. They will wonder why we didn’t legalize gay marriage and allow women to have control over their bodies earlier.

Historians are going to look back on the Obama years as a transformative time for America. He will be remembered as one of the best Presidents of modern history. He is the first African-American president, elected a short 50 years after the Civil Rights movement. He passed comprehensive health care reform resulting in millions of Americans having access to affordable health insurance. He ended one inherited war and scaled down another. Gay marriage was legalized under his term. Recreational marijuana was passed in three states.

America is changing and it is only going to get better. We are becoming more diverse and our national skin color is getting darker. We are changing our minds on social issues and economic justice is becoming an issue that cannot be avoided. It doesn’t matter what Donald Trump said today. What matters is how he will be remembered: as a gigantic asshole.