The Thing With the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Whatever side of this you're on, the rhetoric we use to talk about these people who risk their lives... so their kids have a chance at not being dead makes it sound like we're talking about scraping gum off our shoes.

I’m starting off with this: I have absolutely no idea what I think should be done about the Syrian refugee crisis. I tend to have a politicly big mouth, but with this one… I can’t seem to make words. On the one hand, national security is of utmost importance and I’m perfectly aware that one of the Paris bombers got into the EU via a Syrian refugee program; but on the other, this massive humanitarian crisis is pulling at my merciful little heart.

(That said, you, dear reader, most likely don’t know what to do about the Syrian refugee crisis, either, whether you’re willing to admit it or not. In fact, most folks really don’t.)

The only thing I’m really confident in here is that we have got to change the rhetoric with which we’re speaking about these people — yes! people! — and remember that we all ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of humans trying to live freely and in peace. Whether their policy proposals are correct or  not, I’m disappointed at the way a lot of the country’s leaders are talking about the refugees.

This isn’t because I think we should admit them (but I’m not sure we should, either!). It’s because none of them are acknowledging that it is a tragedy that these people are displaced. It is a tragedy that our nation is having this debate at all. Deciding not to accept Syrian refugees might end up being the best possible decision (or it might not), but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t still be a tragedy. Where is the agony and heartbreak over deciding to turn them away? Where is the humanity?

Nothing explains this situation better than my spirit TV show character, Maggie Jordan of The Newsroom. In this scene she’s actually talking about undocumented immigrants and the passage of Arizona’s immigration bill SB 1070, but I think the sentiment is exactly the same. There’s a clip right here, and you can fast-forward to 3:17 if you want to skip Maggie and Jim’s adorable argumentative banter (but like, seriously why would you want to?):

Why A Vote For Clinton Isn’t Necessarily A Vote For Feminism

girl-voting-i-votedIn this 2016 Presidential Primary Season, there are obviously a ton of jokes going around – Kanye for President, Deez Nuts for President, Donald Trump for President (awk when not everyone thinks this is a joke)… And all of these jokes do a pretty good job of making me laugh.

You know what joke doesn’t make me laugh? The joke of women’s issues being taken seriously. Honestly, I’m sick of the fact that the most we talk about women’s rights – you know, the rights of approximately 50 percent of the voter population – is when a male candidate makes some unfortunate and probably offensive gaffe. We should be better than that, America. We should be discussing more than Donald Trump making insensitive period remarks and bringing to the forefront some of the more prominent women’s issues.

And one of the biggest issues I can think of right now is the fact that someone thinks they can tell you that you don’t support women’s rights if you don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina. Let me repeat that:

A vote for Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina isn’t necessarily a vote for feminism (but it could be).

One of the coolest parts of America’s democracy is that we as voters are empowered to pick whoever we want. There are no tests, no requirements, no bare minimum knowledge about the issues that you need to demonstrate – you simply need to be eighteen and you can sign up. Which is why I’m thinking it’s so f*cked up that people are saying that feminists vote for women, and everyone else votes for the other guys.

Because seriously guys, how anti-feminist is it to say you’re going to vote for someone simply because of their gender? How is that different from saying, “oh hey, yeah, I don’t want a woman in office so even though I’m totes team Carly Fiorina, I’m throwing my ballot to Ben Carson because he’s a dude.” I think the problem with that statement (or it’s inverse) is that it neglects to acknowledge that feminism is essentially gender equality. Saying you’re going to vote for one person just because of their gender (or race, or religion) is the minority really isn’t promoting equality.

I totally get it. A lot of women like Clinton and Fiorina because they want to see someone who has similar struggles and similar needs as them in the White House. Those ladies are getting a huge female vote because women want to see female representation in the presidency. But isn’t our end goal to live in a world where the gender of a candidate doesn’t even cross our minds? Don’t we want gender to be a total non-issue?

You know what? I’m a woman, I want equality, and I’m not going to vote for either of those women (or maybe I am. It’s not really anybody’s business who anyone else is voting for).  Being a woman and being empowered means taking the initiative to educate yourself on the issues, developing a standpoint, and choosing the candidate whose plan matches yours the most.

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really respect these women, and I understand the great step forward they’re making for womankind by putting themselves out there and running to be the first female to lead in the Oval Office. But I also respect the women all over the nation who don’t plan on voting for them. I respect their intelligence, I respect their instincts, and most importantly, I respect their autonomy as women to check of whichever box on a ballot they damn well please.

Featured image via flickr

In a World Where Journalists Aren’t Safe: Reflections on the WDBJ Shooting

Despite everything,I still believe people

“What does democracy mean to you?”

I was 17, a senior in high school, when a civics teacher asked me that. After a semester of Democracy and Media Literacy with her, I’d realize that the answer to that question is pretty much absolutely everything.

I’m not one of those super rebellious liberals who “isn’t sure they believe in democracy.” I don’t know man. That just seems a little drastic for me. Sure, I lean super far left and I’m not afraid to admit it (who is these days?), but I think saying that I don’t believe in democracy anymore might be a little bit of a copout. Do I think democracy means something different in our 21st century world than it did in our fore fathers’ 18th century world? Well, yes. Do I think the way we’re adapting it to modernity isn’t quite what our Athenian friends were thinking of when they invented the whole concept? Probably not. But I still believe in it. I still think it’s worth working for. I still think that democracy is the best thing for freedom, and I think a well-informed electorate is the best thing for democracy. I believe in democracy, and I believe in the news.

I consume the news like an addict looking for her next fix. I refresh my Twitter newsfeed with a twitching finger. I worship at the altar of Cronkite and Murrow in the church of CNN. I sit, I read, I think, I discuss, I think harder, and I vote. And I can honestly tell you that no other practice makes me feel more American, more democratic, than that.

Which is why Wednesday, when I learned of the massacre of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, my stomach lurched in pain. This has brought to the forefront talks of gun control policy and mental healthcare reform, and I’m so glad we’re having those necessary discussions. But the pain I felt was a far more visceral one—this felt like an attack on journalism, an affront on the news.

I think a lot of people are (sadly) conditioned to the dangers that lay ahead for journalists internationally; in the past year ISIS has been responsible for the beheadings of over 60 journalists. And America only really reports on the Western journalists. But the other day… I don’t know. This wasn’t supposed to happen in our country. Journalists are supposed to be safe here. I don’t know if, as an American, as a person who loves democracy, I feel safe in a place where journalists aren’t safe. Isn’t journalism, the news, the very thing which is supposed to feed our democracy? Yesterday I was deeply saddened.

But something that I think makes journalists, and writers in general, special is that we pick up all of these demons, cover these exceptionally upsetting stories and discuss these deeply disturbing problems, but we wake up the next day all the more filled with hope.

On Wednesday, I posted a graphic with the quote “despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart.” And I do. I do believe Miss Frank’s words, because if she can believe them, who can’t? But yesterday they were harder to type out. I’m glad I did, though, if only to remind myself for later. If only to try and keep this thing we have going in America moving forward.