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Deep Thoughts about the Presidential Election

Good afternoon, everybody except Pat McCrory:

I’m here with 18 deep thoughts about all three presidential debates and the general election, because sometimes 140 characters won’t cut it. Also I was on a flight during the debate, and I didn’t have the chance to grace the Internet with a live feed of my opinions, so here is my offering of afterthoughts:

  • University of Nevada at Las Vegas is the same institution where Tomi Lahren earned bachelor’s degrees in bigotry and yelling; so if that’s what you’re into, I have two words for you: “microphones” and “micro-aggressions.” They’re both real. Learn about them.
  • Heads: Hillary. Are we really using a coin toss to decide who leads a televised political discourse? Ohhhhhh, I get it; we’re just trying to emulate George Washington rolling over in his grave after warning against a two-party system. “I think they get the point,” his metallic profile screams as his forehead smacks the back of Martha Raddatz’s unwavering hand. Really, though—a coin toss seems to be pretty juvenile; what is this, a locker room? Oh wait.
  • Somewhere in America, Trump and Brock Turner are hanging out in a locker room, snapping a sweaty towel at some poor kid’s ass, while Pat McCrory waits by the door checking birth certificates and hall passes. This kind of behavior isn’t just an affront to women, or athletes, or coaches who have valiantly defended the sanctity of their locker rooms: it’s sexual harassment and a violation of civil rights. Billy Bush lost his job over it—why hasn’t Trump?
  • Politicians withdrew their support from Trump after the audio leak, citing legal relationships to women as their reasoning. Oh, so now you want to be a decent human being? Then just be one, regardless of whom files taxes as your dependent. Wake the hell up—you don’t need a wife or a kid or a sister to have a moral compass.
  • Hillary is literally me every time someone asks me a question they could have looked up. She is so over having to fact check everything for you. “Google Donald Trump Iraq.” Okay, okay, geez.
  • We never found all the remains of Malaysian Flight MH370, but CNN found living, breathing undecided voters? If the media is rigging the election (it’s not), it’s because CNN harbored them in an underground lab with no Wi-Fi, and then brought them above ground to ask pre-written questions at the second debate. How else would you explain that before election season, this was Ken Bone’s only tweet?

kenbonetweet

  • If you’re an uncommitted voter asking a question that you’ve practiced a zillion times in the mirror, how do you even stand the pressure? Do you picture everyone naked, or do you blackout, like in a high school project presentation? Need to know.
  • I do not envy the moderators in the slightest, but I do think they should teach a class on crisis communication, considering that’s where we are at this point in the campaign.
  • Clinton was just dubbed a nasty woman by someone who also claimed, “nobody respects women more than I do.” Not going to name names.
  • Three a.m. tweets follow the same rules as three a.m. drinks: nothing good can happen. Adults need curfews too.
  • Trump says Muslims have to fight Islamophobia themselves via “see something, say something,” which basically makes him an 8th grade gym teacher who says, “a little bullying is good for ya!”
  • Okay, let’s play charades: one word, six letters—it’s the largest city in Syria. Still no idea? Here’s a hint: Gary Johnson doesn’t know either. It’s Aleppo. If you don’t know, now you know, but you might still have an extremely minimal grasp on American foreign policy as it relates to one of the largest security threats and saturated discussions currently on the political stage. BFD, I didn’t know either, says every 39-year-old Facebook user from the safety of his mother’s basement. Yeah, well, you’re not on the ballot for POTUS.
  • What even is on the ballot? Progress and democracy, according to the latest Hillary ad featuring Obama as her BFFL. “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t count,” says POTUS. Also, state and local elections are happening. Learn about them; vote for them—they influence a lot more of your day-to-day life than a president ever will (See also: Pat McCrory’s track record).
  • Alright, this post has been pretty anti-Trump, so for the sake of journalism, I’ll offer up a criticism to Queen Hillz: Stop giving in to Trump’s antics. You are better than this and you know it! You won’t get votes from slamming other candidates. That’s Twitter’s job, and they’re doing alright—the debate emoji even looks like a toilet. Keep doing the homework and winning the coin toss, but stay on the high road (and I’ll meet you there for #HillHal2032).
  • A lot of Americans don’t want to vote for either of these candidates, but they don’t realize that this is the most dangerous decision of all. You, one of the 324 million Americans can vote. You know who can’t? Prisoners, undocumented immigrants, refugees, unregistered voters. That’s a lot of people. You have a privilege. Use it.
  • Here is a list of things that are treated like partisan issues that should be bipartisan (aka: this shit matters; your political party doesn’t): women’s rights, child nutrition, affordable health care, safe housing, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ inclusivity, climate change, minority rights, homelessness, Black Lives Matter, maternal health, veteran suicide rates, the presidential election.
  • Trump won’t reveal whether he’ll accept the results of the election, which means he still thinks he’s on reality TV, and we’re all puppets at this point. Seriously though, what other choice does he have?

TL;DR: Vote for someone who cares about human quality of live.

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Why Your Criticism of Saint Teresa Doesn’t Matter

Let me start off by saying that I am not Catholic, and in no way am I commenting on practices validated by the Church. I have been to Mass exactly one time, and I was berated for trying to eat a package of Oreos out of my purse.

My experience with the Church has been minimal, and my behavior frowned upon, but I feel wildly compelled to discuss the backlash that ensued after Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016.

The Pope, in an effort that may have unintentionally internationalized Labor Day, celebrated one of the most revered figures in human history, known universally for her influential labors of love.

Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, is now to be eternally remembered as Saint Teresaexcept for the 42,000 tweets (and counting!) that declared her a fraud. To them I say:

First of all, how dare you?

Critics are questioning the validity of her miracles, accumulation of funds, implementations of medical care, emphasis on human suffering and motivations for conversion. Do they not realize what the purpose of missionary work is? This is not news.

Getting canonized is no easy feat. Saint Teresa did not sit around posting indignant comments advocating for social justice; she physically did something about ita lot of things, in fact.

She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created,” said Pope Francis during her canonization.

Regardless of your agreements with the Church or her interpretation of Christianity, it is impossible to ignore her bravery, humility or perpetual state of service.

And yet, the Internet could only manage to focus on the controversy over whether she actually cured the cancer of a woman who claims to be the recipient of Saint Teresa’s famous miracle.

People are so quick to take down historical do-gooders: founding fathers who also owned slaves, the Gandhi everyone loves to hate. Yes, all of these humans had flaws, even when accounting for what practices were socially acceptable and which resources were publicly available during their lifetimes. However, they still created change, and left legacies that inspired humanitarian works well beyond the date of their death.

Your tweets cannot change this, which brings me to my second point:

Who the hell do you think you are?

We ask millennials this question a lot. And though the entire demographic lacks a cohesive answer, they are quick to organize a chorus of indignant complaints (see also: me, every time I have to do adult things like pay bills/reschedule canceled flights/etc). I’m not immune to the adversity of adulthood, but I recognize the appropriate time and place for respect and reveriei.e. the canonization of Mother Teresa.

Have we really settled on complaining as a coping mechanism? I would like to re-introduce a narrative that has plagued the self-worth of millennials across the world: this isn’t about you. If you are not the Pope, or a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (that’s right, I googled Catholicism, and there definitely isn’t any literature prohibiting Oreos), then do yourself a favor and find a real hobbyrunning a Facebook discussion thread doesn’t count.

Just like many states require a primary form of photo ID to cast your vote, I hereby declare that you must present a solution if you’re going to cast your opinion (or at least that will be my first executive order when I am president in 2028). Sound unfair? You’re not the only ones to noticeget in line.

There is work to be done, but there is also limitless inspiration, not to mention proof that dedication pays off. Yes, this is a tall order, but if you’re reading this right now, you’re way ahead of the 781 million adults in the world who cannot read or write. You actually don’t have an excuse.

I’m not saying we have to pursue works that get us canonized. I’m telling you to pursue something that matters to you. Critics never die (seriously, Ann Coulter, take a hint), but good works can live forever.

No one can fault you for making an effort toward something you genuinely believe in.

Don’t have something that matters to you? You’re not looking hard enough. And if you can’t see beyond a person’s faults to the impact of her life’s work in charity and human relief, then you need to get your eyes checked.

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Class of 2016: Graduation as a State of Mind

I cannot overstate the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m ready to graduate.

On paper, it’s all there.

I have taken all the required hours, I have passed all the right classes, I have ordered my cap and gown.

Once I’ve turned in all my final projects on Tuesday, I’ll be home free until graduation.

Except I’m still not ready.

I’m not ready to stop having the mental solace of being surrounded by thousands of other twenty-somethings who are equally accepting of sleeping and crying in the library. I’m not ready to stop pretending I’m a freshman when visitors ask me for directions on Carolina’s campus. I’m not ready to stop filing as a student on my taxes.

Let’s be honest, I’m not ready to start filing my taxes regardless.

I am also not ready to let go of the identity that comes from being a student. I’ve never not been a student. What other identity do I have?

There is no way I could accurately describe the sheer terror I feel as I stare into the black hole of what appears to be my future after May 8. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.

I am smart enough to know that I cannot articulate this feeling any better than those who’ve come before me. Maybe I should make this a post of inspirational lyrics from Prince songs that could apply to graduating seniors. Maybe I should list advice from my parents and famous graduation speeches. Maybe I should share a series of anecdotes that illustrate the trials and triumphs of being a Carolina student.

I could do any of those things, but instead I’m going to quote Amy Poehler from her book Yes Please!, because I think she’s a kick-ass human with valuable ideas and incomparable delivery. And also because I have seen the entire series of Parks and Recreation so many times that I feel I know her personally and I like to think she said this to me, and only me, as a friend and life-long companion:

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”

Carolina has become my comfort zone. Leaving feels comparable to a death sentence, though I know that’s just my genetic pre-disposal to melodrama.

There exists a very intangible kind of togetherness in this zip code, on every college campus. A sense of belonging to this campus, with one another, to one another, for one another. This accountability, this encouragement, this comfort that we find in each other comes from the webs we create through dance clubs, honor societies, campus ministries, sports teams, a cappella groups. It is the knowledge that we are all on the same team.

Over the course of the next few months, our lives will look very different than they do right now. My friends will not climb into my bed every Sunday morning to discuss “what the hell happened last night?” We won’t live in the same house. We won’t be studying for exams. We won’t get the “ALL CLEAR” from Alert Carolina at 4 a.m.

We will no longer have these little webs of people to reach into whether we need a buddy for a McDonald’s run, or we just want to feel less alone.

I’m not ready to leave that comfort quite yet, but I don’t think we have to. Graduating is not synonymous with leaving it behind.

As the late Marina Keegan said in The Opposite of Loneliness, “the best years of our lives are not behind us, they are part of us.”

Holding tightly to my college experience is not going to make me live in the past, but harnessing the steadfast love and community and celebration of youth is going to prepare me for what lies ahead.

As I look back at what the past four years have brought me in adventure, academics and altruism, I feel as though I am about to be a real-world freshman, which brings me comfort as a status I have held many times before.

Graduating from college is just like every experience that scared me in the past. I never felt ready, but I have always been thankful that I did it anyway (and I’m always glad that my parents made me do it).

Great people do things before they are ready. They do things before they know they can do it, whether it comes from faith, or confidence, or obliviousness to the risks. They beat on, boats against the current, as Fitzgerald famously said.

Graduating is not a death sentence, it is a life sentence, and I don’t mean the kind with the orange jumpsuits. Perhaps a pantsuit, or a birthday suit, depending on your skills and career path. But a suit we have been prepared for either way, by our parents, professors and peers.

It is a life sentence of which Carolina is but a semicolon – the punctuation that bridges the gap between one wholesome, invigorating, magical experience to another.

So let’s go, let’s do it. Let’s step into life, let’s bridge the gap between what we think we can do and what we actually can do. Let’s say yes, even when we don’t want to, even when we don’t know all the risks, even when we don’t think we have the courage.

Say yes. Go now. Be great.

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Born, Bred, Dead: Stages of an NCAA Championship Loss

 

It’s 11:37 a.m. and I’m waiting for the bus at the edge of campus. I’m still wearing last night’s clothes; my hair is in an unforgiving knot on the crown of my head and my makeup is smeared from a long night of tears after a Tar Heel loss.

My current physical state mimics the emotional state of every single person who passes me on the sidewalk.

The briskness of the late morning sends a shiver up my spine, a reminder that even God Himself is weeping with us in this incomparably depressed, heavy-hearted zip code. The bus arrives with a slow, screeching halt, and I board quickly, in an effort to get out of the cold and away from the painful gloom of Carolina’s campus.

It’s mostly empty inside. I sit at the front near two older men, one with unkempt curls falling over a faded windbreaker, the other with a Walkman and headphones that sat atop his ears, just high enough for his music to be heard throughout the otherwise silent bus.

They turn to me and say, almost in unison, “you must be cold.” I smile and reply that I had not expected the weather to be as heartbreaking as last night’s game, which is met with a few quiet chuckles, followed by a symphony of sad sighs.

I rest my head on the window above my seat asI  think back to the night before:

It was an emotional rollercoaster to rival all others, glorified by the sheer nirvana that came out of Marcus Paige’s last basket, only to be derailed by the crushing reality of Villanova’s last basket.

It was all over.

I had never actually experienced the feeling of my heart sinking all the way down to the floor. But there I was, among the other tens of thousands of students and fans, milling around Franklin street because my feet literally did not know where else to take me.

It was post-apocalyptic. Men cried in the arms of other men as He’s Not Here dismantled the overhead projector in their courtyard. A line of tortured fans formed around the block below Top of the Hill, expecting to drown their sorrows. The streets were flooded with grief.

No burning couches, no brave pole-climbers, even the police officers on duty expressed their desolation.

And yet, just ten minutes earlier, we had lost our voices to the utter astonishment of being tied with four seconds left. None of us even had our phones out to document it. That’s how invested we were in this moment. God forbid we get distracted by a text and miss the last few seconds.

Anything can happen in a few seconds. Anything.

The best advice I had ever gotten about moments like this was from the youth pastor at my home church, Reverend Susan Norman Vickers: a trusted leader and a loyal follower, a faithful friend and a vicious foe in a heated game of Spoons, a rare Duke and UNC fan. She seemed to have all the answers, but assured that she, too, was always learning.

Every time we had a lot of people together, whether it was a service project or group dinner, a church service or a casual moment fellowship, she would say, “take a minute to look around the room. Never again in your life will you be with these people, in this room, at this time, for this reason. It won’t ever happen again. Not like this, not exactly.”

There have been many times in my life that I have thought back to her instructions, that I tried to share it with others, but it was during this game that I finally understood the gravity of her advice.

Looking around the room, I considered how temporary this moment would be, how fleeting the fellowship was, regardless of the outcome of the game. Every single one of my people was huddled around a TV and a bowl of buffalo chicken dip, cheering on our alleged close personal friends playing their hearts out on a court down in Houston, during the most important, anxiety-inducing, enthralling basketball game of their college careers.It won’t ever happen again. Not like this, not exactly.

To have hundreds of thousands of people across the globe watching you put your heart on the line is something I will likely never experience. But to experience even a fraction of the passion, the perseverance, the pride despite the loss, I could not have been happier to be a Tar Heel born and bred.

Though this morning I surely feel Tar Heel dead, it is worth all of the fellowship of the past four years; it is worth the victories and the losses; it is worth the tiny infinity of our last basket during the 2016 NCAA National Championship game.

No three-pointer could take that away from any of us. Not even Nova’s.

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A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg Dies at 45

When was the last time you heard a funky diabetic?

Probably the most recent instance that you let the celebrated 90s rap trio, A Tribe Called Quest, flow through your speakers.

Slick, jazzy samples from Ali Shaheed Muhammad and innovative lyrics from Phife Dawg and Q-Tip created the imaginative beats that blazed the alternative hip-hop trail and inspired other rap artists to think outside box.

That self-proclaimed “funky diabetic” known as Phife Dawg, was one half of the ingenious lyrical tag-team of ATCQ. Born as Malik Taylor, Phife battled diabetes throughout his rise to hip-hop fame. “I was in denial. I had to have my sugar,” he claimed in the group’s documentary.

“You have to accept it,” Phife warned. “If you don’t accept it, it’s going to kick your ass.”

At the age of 45, Phife died late at night Tuesday, March 22, from complications with his diabetic condition, according to a statement by the family.

While the world grieves in the face of losing this lyrical genius and “rap word warrior,” we must also celebrate the incomparable progressive contributions made by Phife to the hip-hop industry, which wouldn’t be where it is today without A Tribe Called Quest.

As a part of ATCQ, Phife pioneered the genre of alternative hip-hop through the early 90s. After their first album, The People’s Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm in 1990, and the subsequent departure of the group’s original fourth member, Jarobi White, the group released four lengthy albums and appeared on countless others. Commercial success landed each album within the top eight slots of the Billboard 200 before they disbanded in 1998.

Back by popular demand, the members reunited for a tour in 2006 and starred as themselves in Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, the 2011 Sony Pictures documentary about the group’s history. As part of a reissue campaign, ATCQ rereleased People’s Instinctive celebrating its 25th anniversary in late 2015, which features remixes from artists like Pharrell, Cee-Lo Green and J. Cole.

Though the late MC was known most famously for his success with ATCQ, Phife went on to pursue a solo career, releasing Ventilation: Da LP in 2000, and appearing in several films and albums over the next decade.

Despite how the group matured and evolved over time, the Phife kept his youthful posture as the creative, witty “Five Foot Assassin,” standing 5 foot 3 inches tall. Phife’s lyrical finesse and quick wit outstood his size, as he emerged from his underrated stature as the trio’s beloved kid brother to one of the most celebrated voices in hip-hop history. “The Trini-gladiator, the anti-hesitator,” Phife was the most relatable of the three Tribe personas with his brutally honest humor and political transparency.

As prayers of love and support for Phife’s family, friends and industry peers reverberate throughout the media, there is sure to be an influx of speakers bumping “Can I Kick It?” and other highly-exalted hits. Lifetime listeners and newfound fans are coming together around the sound of socially conscious rhymes with innovative beats, just as Phife would have wanted.

One thing is for sure: When I die, I hope I get to heaven, because I’ll be anxious to see what Phife is working on up there.

Rest in peace, Phife Dawg.

 

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A Guide to Celebrating International Women’s Day

You’ve probably heard that tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day, but have you ever actually celebrated it? How do you celebrate it anyway?

Maybe it’s like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day; it’s surely highlighting a practice we should be observing on a daily basis. Maybe corporate America is going to profit from human tendencies to make up for what we forgot to do all year long. Except it’s not.

Drug stores haven’t preemptively arranged tables of commercialized gifts for the “special woman in your life.” The floral industry isn’t rushing to jack up the prices of rose bouquets. Children aren’t bringing their mothers breakfast in bed. There won’t be any clearance holiday items at the grocery store tomorrow.

No one is capitalizing off International Women’s Day. Not even women.

In 1908, the first International Women’s Day was observed as 15,000 women marched in the streets of New York City, demanding equal pay, better working conditions and voting rights. More than 100 years later, women still don’t have equal pay and recognition in the workplace.

What we do have, as women, is a day dedicated to our achievements, a recognition of our victories, a celebration of our centuries-long struggle to prove something we shouldn’t have to prove: International Women’s Day is observed in 27 countries around the world, and the United States even designates the entire month of March as Women’s History month.

So how are we using it?

The 2016 International Women’s Day campaign is centered on #GenderParity.

Why, you ask?

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the human population, we still fail to account for a proportionate amount of political, social and economic power across the globe.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that actual gender equality would not be reached until 2095. A year later, they adjusted their estimation such that this golden year would not arrive until 2133. (a moment of silence, please)

If we can’t move toward equality faster than a glacial pace, let’s hope that some woman somewhere invents a cure for mortality.

If you’d like to see change from somewhere other than beyond the grave, consider taking any of these steps to celebrate the women in your life:

  1. Call your mom, or someone who has been a mother to you. Chances are, you didn’t get to where you are today without the help of at least one woman (ex: your birth).
  2. Vote! Women fought long and hard for the right to vote, so don’t let it go to waste! The more women vote, the better representation we will have in political office. Don’t know when your state’s primary is? Click here to find out!

Side note for any time-travelers who have come back specifically to 2016 to change whatever historical events are about to happen this year: please vote. Now is your time. We’re begging you.

  1. Be a leader! If you don’t like the leaders in your community, become a better one! Take a pledge, join a club, run for office, start a petition. Any leadership role is a step toward equal representation for women.
  2. Go global! Check out all the opportunities on the International Women’s Day website, or visit Now.org to find resources to support women in communities beyond American borders.
  3. Bask in female creativity! Women contribute socially, culturally, artistically, academically and professionally to the content we consume every day – cherish it! Go to an art gallery, read a book, watch a TedTalk, do something to foster appreciation for the work that women do every day.

The point is, there are an infinite number of ways to celebrate. However, the biggest obstacle to celebrating International Women’s Day is awareness. The best thing you can do to celebrate is starting a conversation. You might not know everything about the day, but you sure as hell know at least one woman. Show her some appreciation today! If you’re a woman, show yourself some appreciation! What better reason to treat yourself (all month long!)?

Did I miss something? Let me know how you’re celebrating International Women’s Day in the comments below!

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Not-So-Super Tuesday

As the polls come to a close this Tuesday night, our 70-and-sunny streak has suddenly been eclipsed by a hot-headed, ill-spoken, pseudo-politician.

Donald J. Trump, that is.

Or Drumpf, as John Oliver revealed to us on Last Week Tonight.

Trump is winning the Republican primary in more states than we’d like to admit, as we book flights to move to Canada by the end of 2016.

Some of us are afraid of living in an America run by Trump’s administration, but we should really be afraid of living in an America populated by his supporters.

See, Trump isn’t winning because he’s rich or powerful or “telling it like it is.” He’s winning because Americans are supporting him.

We are not being Punk’d. Trump’s success is not a passing fad, it is (likely) not a conspiracy, it is not a cruel joke.

It is an epidemic. But he is not the root cause. The voters are.

On this not-so-Super Tuesday, real people are casting real votes in the real primary. They’re going home to their loved ones in their neighborhoods in their parts of town, and somehow sleeping at night, between sheets woven of racism and ignorance.

Trump might be a bigot, but he is not the only one. He did not make it cool, or appealing or popular.

He just made it publicly acceptable for people to admit that they, too, are ignorant bigots. He never would have resonated with voters if they had not already harbored hate and aggression so rampant that they support a person who openly advocated the oppression of Muslims or joked about a shooting spree on Fifth Avenue.

If Trump can be accountable for his racism, elitism and political incorrectness, then Americans must be accountable for their votes.

Oliver urged viewers to imagine what a Trump presidency would look like, but we should really think about what Americans would look like during his administration. The truth is, we would look the same as we do now. The Americans who would support his administrative policies are the same Americans who currently live in our neighborhoods, go to our schools, contribute to our communities.

Are we okay with that?

The point is not to create an “us” versus “them” approach, but rather “us” versus “Trump.” We, as Americans, have the power to choose our own leader, but we aren’t making great use of it just by touting our views on social media. Actually sitting and talking to each other is going to make a difference. It’s hard to talk politics with those we know have opposing views. We shy away from confrontation, from dissonance, from awkward lulls in dinner conversations gone wrong. We don’t want to talk about this, but at this point, we have to.

This emotional appeal that Trump abuses is the same tool we have to educate each other.

Chances are, this blog post won’t change anyone’s mind. I’m looking to change hearts.

Trump doesn’t just represent what is wrong with Americans, he has given them an outlet. He has provided a venue to spread hate, and ignorance and oppression. We deserve better than this.

But in order to get better, we have to vote better, learn better, act better. We have to be better.

We can make America great again, but we have to do it without Trump. We have to do it in spite of him.

 

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