Thursday, August 17, 2017

Responsibilities of a Self Appointed Ally

ally - a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose
In social justice circles, an ally is better explained as an advocate who agrees to stand up against discrimination at the discretion of those in which they intend to defend. But I believe it is more. Allies are also responsible for bridging learning gaps. Not everyone is granted higher education on  race, gender, sexuality, disability, and religious studies. In fact, a lot of people are (innocently) ignorant on the subjects including our Nation’s history. I believe it is also the duty of allies to teach the willing about such matters in hopes of making them future allies. I believe that it is more an ally’s responsibility to teach than the person experiencing the discrimination. Allies are in a much better (more privileged) position to do so.

Taking on the unenlightened is not without risk, however. There are those who I like to call willfully-ignorant. These people do not want enlightened and will fight back in hurtful ways. Allies have to be cautious when engaging for our own safety. But we must also be brave because not everyone is willfully-ignorant. And those who are not will be new allies some day. Perhaps sooner than we think.

I recently experienced a situation where allies turned against each other because of an innocent ignorant person. In this case, the person had said something insensitive on social media that reflected ignorance toward a particular discrimination issue. Instead of attempting to teach, however, the allies used shaming tactics and eventually drove the person away. Later, they pulled in another ally who had not seen any of the activity (the social media post had since been deleted) and questioned them about the person. When the ally expressed shock about the person’s behavior the allies berated them for not using language that immediately denounced the person. They went as far to say the ally must be a “sympathizer” with known hate groups. I was reminded of the phrase “if you are not with us, you are against us.” It was a very sad state of affairs. Not only had they alienated an ally, they missed a chance to convert someone over to the good side.

Where do we think potential allies will go when they are berated by the supposed “side of reason?” Of course, they will turn to the other side who is always ready and waiting for angry, hateful cast-outs. 

It seems like some allies may be forgetting our purpose – to support and fight for the people who have less power than ourselves. It may very well be that some have taken on a victim role and become indignant about fighting for the cause. We, allies, need to remember our place.

Monday, June 26, 2017

$ It's All About the Money $

On the first day Donald Trump sat in the oval office as POTUS, whitehouse.gov was scrubbed of all things related to disability. Though this wasn't the only civil rights issue removed from the site, it sent a very powerful message to the disability community; you do not matter to this administration.

Few were terribly surprised after having seen this man ridicule a  disabled reporter on national television. But many had hoped his rhetoric on the campaign trail would be restrained once he was done rallying his legion of supporters. Sadly, this was not to be the case. 

It seems crystal clear now that this administration and the GOP in general, do not look kindly upon those with disabilities. Take a look for a moment, at the current push to eliminate Medicaid, a life sustaining safeguard for those with disabilities. And then take a closer look at how this administration treats those with disabilities when they attempt to peacefully protest against taking away their chance for independence and health.

For more information on these outstanding advocates,
visit ADAPT's website or Facebook.

Eliminating health care safeguards for those with disabilities ensures they will not be able to remain in their homes and communities thus forcing them into nursing homes and other similar institutions. Not only does this decrease quality of life, it is extremely expensive and significantly more costly than providing care and supports to keep people in their homes and communities. It also takes people with disabilities out of contributing to the workforce and society, in general. This seems like a no-win situation for everyone - increased costs, reduced productivity, and poor life conditions.

So why then would POTUS and his GOP lackeys want to pursue something that seems to benefit no one? One potential answer is terrifying and it includes eugenics and euthanasia. The likely answer is less sensational, though no less diabolical, and it looks a lot like the failed "War on Drugs" also being revived. This administration exploits those with extensive needs for profit. Privatized institutions stand to profit significantly from those who fill their rooms and cells. It seems the new American motto is:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me" so that I can profit greatly from thee.
Follow the money trail with this administration. Always.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

ac·cept·ance

ac·cept·ance
əkˈseptəns/
noun: acceptance; plural noun: acceptances

the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.


“you must wait for acceptance into the club”

For a long time, disabled people have been waiting for this club acceptance. Some have been granted honorary membership in the club over the years. Those who can pass as “nearly normal” and seemingly have fewer needs can gain entry some of the time. Most of the time though, they are only accepted as temporary members and really have to work hard pretending not to be disabled. The minute their wheelchair or service animal causes an inconvenience to the club, they are cast out.

Autistic people are no exception to this club instability. Those who learn to keep their disability hidden sometimes can sneak in unnoticed. Soon, however, autistic behaviors arise and they too are cast out of the club. Does it matter that the autistic person’s behavior is often more mature or empathetic than that of their peers? No. The only thing that seems to matter is assimilation - not appearing disabled in any way.

Organizations have sprung up over the years to enforce this club membership. Oh they don’t tell you that is their goal; instead they tell you they are there to spread “awareness” and help fund “research for cures.” Both of these activities directly enforce strict regulation on club membership criteria, however. Awareness campaigns do so by pointing out and emphasizing people’s differences. By emphasizing an Autistic person’s behavior as different or unusual the idea that autistic people are “not like the other club members” is reinforced. That is, they do not belong in the club.

Then there is the “cure.” When an autistic person speaks out against curing themselves, organizations - especially those who want you to “Light it up Blue” or “Talk about Curing Autism,” tell club members that this is a testimony to how very ill the autistic person is. They use the autistic person’s disability against them by discounting their words and desires as irrelevant due to being disabled. These organizations talk about how very difficult autism is on club members as reason enough to eradicate autistic people. They do not want autistic people to exist because they believe autistic people are a burden to the club. They believe that autistic people are too different. Accepting diversity into a rigid group like this can be challenging. So all of this is for the convenience of the current club members; none of this is for autistic people. And none of this truly benefits the club in the long run.

The club sounds like a really awful group but it is one from which most cannot escape. It is society. And it is time that we remove the exclusivity from its membership criteria. It is time we stop determining who is worthy. And it is high time we stop holding “awareness” campaigns that stigmatize people based on their differences.

In honor of my son, my Prince, I celebrate Autism Acceptance. I do so not just this April, but everyday and will so for the rest of my life.

More on Autism Acceptance:
https://autismacceptanceday.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/events/228087247600054/
http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Progressive People Revise Beliefs

Progressive people are willing to revise beliefs. What does this mean? Revising beliefs means being able to critically analyze and challenge ones own assumptions as new information becomes available. When this happens, progressive people make adjustments to their belief system to incorporate new information. It works something like this:

Jane believes all donuts taste alike because so far this has been her experience. But one day, Jane is approached by The Best Donuts in the World salesman who offers her a free sample.
Jane is certain it will be no better than every other donut but politely agrees to try the sample. She puts it in her mouth. What happens next is crucial. Jane could reject the delectable morsel that is tantalizing her taste buds by finding things that are wrong with it (not her favorite flavor, not her favorite type of donut, it’s an exception – it’s good but could never be reproduced, etc.). This by far is the easiest route to take. It requires no critical thinking on Jane’s part. Jane is able to thank the nice salesman for the free sample and tell herself she has had better. In this case, she walks away fooling herself and missing out on really awesome donuts. Worse, she has helped stifle The Best Donuts in the World from becoming a huge success all because she didn’t want to change her view. Alternatively, Jane could critically analyze her own schema (what she knows about donuts so far) and incorporate this new information – not all donuts are alike. Critical analysis takes a lot more courage because she must challenge her own assumptions and admit to herself that she has been wrong all along. If Jane is a true progressive thinker, she will take the second option and challenge her assumptions, walking away with a dozen or so of scrumptious confectioneries and a new adjusted belief system. The change may be modest: “most donuts are alike but The Best Donuts in the World are significantly better.” Or it may be extreme: “you cannot judge a donut by its sprinkles.” Either way, Jane will have shown critical thinking; she is able to take in new information that contradicts her prior belief system. This is how progress actually happens.

Imagine a world where no one took on any new information that contradicted their prior belief system. Copernicus would refuse to believe the planets rotated around our sun and therefore not bother to investigate. Edward Jenner would have watched his family and many more die of smallpox. Marie Curie would have never discovered radiation and x-rays or cancer treatments might be mythology today. These are just but a few major discoveries that have positively affected our lives on planet Earth. Progress means we must challenge assumptions including our own.

Refusing to accept new information about issues sounds an awful lot like what progressives are fighting against in political circles. Global climate change, gender inequality, racial inequality, disability rights and inequality – to name a few, are things that the more conservative politicians seemingly refuse to believe are problems at all. It seems easy to find examples of the conservative side not taking in new information. But what about when it is the self-proclaimed progressive side?

There is much to be learned from groups not like ourselves. Today, it is easier to hear from these groups thanks to social media. Sadly, however, I do not see critical thinking happening from the progressive side in many cases. Instead, old ideals are firmly rooted and seemingly not modifiable. New ideas that contradict old thinking are dismissed as anomalies or flat out ignored. Take if you will, the recent controversy over the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Gun Database Rule. This rule was put in place during the Obama administration and was vehemently opposed by disability rights activists. It was opposed not because these groups are pro-NRA or even pro-gun rights. It was opposed because “the proposed rule is the product of a tendency in our society to link disability and violence despite a wealth of scientific evidence showing that there is no link between the two” (ASAN, 2016). Opposing this rule, however, seemingly went against the status quo - that progressives are for strict gun control. But when one critically analyzes the situation it is recognized that the problem is not about gun control. Rather it is about labeling an already disenfranchised group as potentially dangerous adding more stigma to that of which is already an enormous problem. It is really about using people as a scapegoat instead of addressing the real problem. Data does not support that this group as dangerous though you will hear tons of anecdotes from the progressives to support this weak argument. Just because something seems like it should be true, doesn’t mean it actually is, however. People with serious mental health disabilities are no more likely to commit violent acts than the next person (Fazel et al, 2009; Fazel et al, 2010). And though it takes some courage to change this schema, doing so is critical thinking.

Today the world is much smaller than it ever has been. The Internet has brought us close and has given a voice to many disenfranchised groups. Progressive organizations and the people within need to recognize this and critically analyze their prior schemas. Until they do, I have little hope that our society will actually progress past the mess in which we are currently living. Changing beliefs to incorporate new information will not be painless; but I promise it will be progressive.

 


ASAN (2016). ASAN Statement on SSA Representative Payee Gun Database Rule. At http://autisticadvocacy.org/2016/05/asan-statement-on-ssa-representative-payee-gun-database-rule/
Fazel S, Gulati G, Linsell L, Geddes JR, & Grann M (2009). Schizophrenia and violence: Systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine, 6, e1000120.
Fazel, S., Lichtenstein, P., Grann, M., Goodwin, G. M., & Langstrom, N. (2010). Bipolar disorder and violent crime: new evidence from population-based longitudinal studies and systematic review. Archives of General Psychiatry,67, 931-938.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why I Hated “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

I am a true Star Wars geek. I saw the original 1977 release in 1977. Twice. I have since seen every movie released in the theater and own them all on some form of media. I can pretty much quote all the lines from Episode IV-VI and even watched the prequels more than once. The Force Awakens renewed my excitement over the franchise and so it was with a heavy heart that I walked out of the theater hating Rogue One. Even Lucas’s prequels did not leave me in such despair (though in my mind, I have attempted to make Anakin 14 in Episode I and remove Jar Jar from existence). Why did I hate the movie that others are touting as “the best ever?” There are reasons. And I think other fans will see those same reasons when they dig deeper.

Major Spoilers Alert.
If you did not see this movie and still
intend to, do not read further. 

The story line – the good.

The over all story was really good. In fact, it explained the womp rat sized flaw that allowed Luke to skillfully blow up the Death Star in Episode IV. And though many seem confused about who stole the original Death Star plans (Bothans stole the second Death Star plans pre-Return of the Jedi), everything about the story seemed fairly water-tight with the original trilogy. Big thumbs up on the story. This is where the good stuff stops, however.

The Characters – the bad.

Where to begin? The acting was good but the actors had little to go on. Character development was seriously lacking to non-existent.

The main character Jyn Erso is exposed to serious trauma as young child. She is abandoned until taken under a stranger’s wing who apparently exploits her as a soldier and later discards her as well. She should be a very complex character but is not. She does not have any convictions which does make some sense until…Ta-Da...they need a rogue leader. She literally goes from not caring about the politics of Star Wars to leading a rag-tag team of rebels who save the Universe. Not only does this change happen within minutes of the movie, but she actually delivers a speech worthy of the patriotic address by the President in the movie Independence Day. This was less believable to me than a 10 year old Anakin Skywalker in Episode I.

Cassian Andor is the supporting male lead who is so unlikable it is maddening. We never get any back story. All we know is he is a miserable soul who apparently hates his rebel job. He kills other rebels we presume as collateral damage. We are led to believe he is used by the Rebel Alliance as a mercenary and he is not really very happy about any of it. In desperation for substance, I tried to read all sorts of between the lines on this guy and came up empty. I actually hated him.

K-2SO is an android. C-3PO he is not and boy did I wish he was. K-2SO did have some humorous quips, but he was not an android in terms of personality. He is an Imperial droid that has been reprogrammed, one presumes, with a sarcasm module. For all the fun we’ve had watching androids like C-3PO and Data from Star Trek TNG, this droid might as well have been a human sidekick named Bill. He was some of the only comic relief in the entire movie and it wasn’t really all that comical. R2-D2’s bleeps and bloops are much funnier and well, believable. K-2SO did not seem like a droid at all. I found myself looking at him like he was a guy in a robot suit.

Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus were presumably our Han Solo and Chewbacca replacements. Okay so they weren’t a space-cowboy and a Wookie but they were close. We figure out pretty quickly that Chirrut is Jedi (who are in hiding now) and Baze, well we are never quite sure his story. He’s probably force sensitive or...something. Who knows? Maybe he’s Chirrut’s life partner? Again, I found myself trying to fill in the characters’ back-stories to make the movie work. These two did add some humor and were a welcome pair to an otherwise complete drab and depressing portrayal.

Bad guy Orson Krennic was probably the least objectionable character. I actually hated him for the right reasons. As the orchestrator of the Death star, he was well developed into an opportunistic bad guy. He schmoozed and connived his way to get what he wanted and gets what he deserves in the end. So yay, for this one.

Honorable mention to character Bodhi Rook. I wanted to know this pilot who was so very dedicated to the cause. He was a hero yet we never really knew him. He was likeable, if not lovable. For shame to the production staff for not giving this character more of a story-line.

There are obviously many more characters whom are never developed. Some are those we already know from previous movies, however. Darth Vader gets a small, very violent (and unnecessary) cameo toward the end of the film (We already know he is a disturbed individual. We saw Anakin turn to the Dark side in Episode III and then cut off his kid’s hand in V. We really didn’t need to see this additional violence). Bail Organa, Princess Leia’s adopted dad also makes a cameo as a member of the Rebel Alliance and we get to find out how Leia gets the stolen plans. There is also some fancy CGA going on with a cameo from a very young Leia from Episode IV. This part was actually kind of cool because it tied the movies all together.


The Delivery – the ugly.

Sitting in the high backed stadium seating with 3D glasses on I anxiously awaited the start. Most of us never noticed, the old 20th Century Fox fanfare had been replaced years ago with a slick version by John Williams and I waited for this intrinsic anthem to begin. Cue the lights. Wait. No fanfare? Okay…that was odd. How about the classic “Dun-Dah?” Nope. Not there either. Well, they at least wouldn’t forgo the quintessential opening scrawl that has been in every.single.movie. Oh yes they did. The movie just started like any other Hollywood action flick. No fanfare. No classic opening music. No Star Wars scrawl. What the heck was this?

Deep breaths. Maybe it was budget. My son leans over and tells me John Williams did not do the soundtrack. Does anyone have a paper bag I can breath into?

Cue the violence. Off the bat we are thrown into the most graphic violence of any Star Wars movie to date. We see a child’s mother shot point blank and killed. We see a rebel shoot and kill another rebel because he’s disabled and cannot climb to escape. Soon we are tossed into the streets that resemble realistic war zones where terrorist cells are attacking with grenades and assault style weapons. This is no longer the battles of laser guns knocking down storm troopers. This is realistic war scenes with graphic violence. At one point, we see a very young child in the middle of the street screaming while bombs and gunfire surround them. One can imagine the terror of Syria right now. This is disturbing stuff and it does not stop at any point in the movie. In fact, it gets worse as time goes on.

As the movie progresses, it seems as though the director’s intent was to show us that the rebels were not so noble as we’d come to believe in the past. In fact, they are painted as politicians not much different than that of the original senate from which they came (which makes no sense since Mon Mothma and Bail Organa broke away from the senate for these reasons). They seem to view their rebel soldiers as instruments for their cause rather than people. There is also a new element added that has not been in any other of the Star Wars movies or series – Rebel Extremists. Theses rebels apparently broke free of the main alliance because they did not like the politics of playing nice. These are the ones carrying out the terrorist attacks in the streets. We are to understand there are blurred lines between who is good and evil in the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. This sounds a little too much like real life and it is not what made the original Star Wars universe so great. The original trilogy success was credited with using the aspects of various movie elements. “Star Wars is a Western. Star Wars is a samurai movie. Star Wars is a space opera. Star Wars is a war film. Star Wars is a fairy tale” (Wickman, 2015). While there is an element of war in all Star Wars movies, it is certainly not the only focus. Rogue One does try to incorporate some samurai elements but they are weak and the other elements are sadly missing.

So it seems, this director wanted to put the WAR emphasis into his Star Wars. One shouldn’t be surprised. Hollywood action flicks sell. One can presume money is what this was all about. Or perhaps this director was never a true fan and wanted to change the formula. Either way, it was an epic fail for this epic tale. Say what you will about the prequels, but at least George Lucas did not change the formula.


The Ending – the really, really F-ugly.

So let’s just say you got past the all the rest of the bad and ugly above. The end of this movie just kills it. Literally. Everyone dies and when they did I felt like I was watching an SNL spoof. The cliché death scenes were happening so ridiculously that it would have been laughable had it not been so damn depressing. The only thing missing was some slow-motion camera angles and stereotypical opera music playing. It was just so very awful.

This movie seems to have been made for people who thought the old Star Wars was too unrealistic and campy (what part of fantasy don't you understand?) and just not sensational enough (think Armageddon, the movie). My advice to them is to go see something else. There are plenty of realistic and Hollywoodized action flicks out there. Leave the Star Wars universe alone.

I’m going to file Rogue One: A Star Wars Story under something-that-never-happened.


Wickman, F. (2015). Yes, Star Wars Is the Original Action Blockbuster. It’s Also a Postmodern Masterpiece. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/cover_story/2015/12/star_wars_is_a_pastiche_how_george_lucas_combined_flash_gordon_westerns.html

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Consequences

When I was a child, I was taught that if a friend was about to commit a wrong, I was to try and stop them or turn them in (by telling an adult). No matter which I chose, my actions or lack thereof provided me with consequences. If I tried to stop my friend, they might become angry and belittle me. If I turned them in, I would probably lose a friend and perhaps more once word got around. Neither of these consequences were particularly pleasant and so it took a lot of courage to follow through. If I did nothing, however, I was an accomplice; for just idly standing by, I was guilty of indifference. This consequence brought guilt and shame.

Guilt and shame are often blamed on others. “That person is making me feel guilty.” “This person is shaming me.” That isn’t to say that abusive people do not use guilt and shaming tactics. There are manipulative people who purposely use strategies that invoke guilt and shame in others. But that is not the type guilt and shame I am addressing. I am talking about the kind of shame we feel when we have made choices as demonstrated by my childhood scenario. That guilt and shame is ours to own. We made the choice and now we must deal with the consequences. Psychology often refers to cognitive dissonance theory to explain how we cope with the consequences of our behavior.

During his US Election campaign, President elect, Donald Trump was exposed as having made many troubling statements and he continued to behave in a manner for which as a child, I would have been compelled to tell an adult. These are the kind of statements that most people I know would not tolerate in their own lives. Here are just a few examples.

On Women

"You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything." –Donald Trump

"Women: You have to treat them like s--t." –Donald Trump

"You know, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass." –Donald Trump

On Violence

"If she gets to pick her judges – nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know." –Donald Trump

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible." –Donald Trump

"I love the old days, you know? You know what I hate? There's a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we're not allowed punch back anymore. ... I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell ya." –Donald Trump

On Minorities

“Now, the poor guy — you've got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don't know what I said! I don't remember!'" –Donald Trump, mocking New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a physical disability

"Look at my African American over here!" –Donald Trump

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists." –Donald Trump

Behavior brings consequences good and bad. An onlooker not involved in the media saturation of the US Election might think that the statements and actions of Mr. Trump would bring negative consequences – a huge loss of votes. However, something very odd happened instead. People came out in droves to support a man whose behavior, by most ethical standards, is abominable. I have no doubt that today, there is much cognitive dissonance among many who voted him into office. In fact, I’ve seen it in the form of “Give it to g-d” or “Let it go” and “Can we please stop talking about politics?”

Some supporters are no doubt racists, sexists, nationalists, antisemites, eugenicists, and bigots in general. These folks are not feeling any dissonance; they are probably feeling empowered. But I am also sure there are those that tuned out the media noise and simply voted status quo along party lines. And there are likely folks who only tuned into outlets that preached to their particular choir. In this case, opposing viewpoints would have been dismissed and horrendous behaviors and quotes explained away. I imagine these are the folks feeling the bite of guilt and shame now as they see it directly affecting people they care about. Some attempt to blame the media, but it does little to absolve them from their own guilt. They know they had a personal responsibility to critically analyze what was presented before them.

Those who voted for Trump now have to deal with the consequences of their actions. The shame or guilt they feel is not imposed by those protesting; it is their own. Much like that of the child who allowed a friend to shoplift and did nothing, they are feeling negative emotions when they hear how the election has affected others. These emotions are consequences. 

Shame and guilt are emotional consequences we all face when we do something for which we regret. As children we are taught to stop our peers from wrongdoing or turn them in – not to help them commit the crime. Unfortunately in the case of the 2016 Presidential Election, not only did many supporters do nothing to denounce Trump's wrongdoing, they helped promote his and others' repulsive behavior and then provided a get-away-car.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

♫ Back in the ̶U̶S̶S̶...USA?

I'm moving away from a disability-centric topic today, though this topic is inclusive of issues that directly and probably disproportionately affect the disabled. There is something much more pressing on my mind that stands to potentially eliminate Constitutional Rights in the United States. And while I typically stay away from fear-based, catastrophic political rhetoric, today I am no longer looking at things with my rose-colored-lenses; the proverbial crap is getting real.

On June 3, the New York Times published a piece that we all should critically analyze. The headline: “Donald Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say.” For those who do not speak “lawyer,” rule of law basically means everyone is accountable under the law including citizens, government, and leaders (World Justice Project, 2016). Just taking in the headline, one can surmise threatening this rule is not good. Read the article. It gets worse.

Picture is of a bust of Joseph Stalin
in front of a brick wall that is
partially obstructed by an evergreen tree

Highly respected and conservative law professors are alluding that Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric (his promises to “make America great again”) are signs of a forthcoming plan for a dictatorship. That means, goodbye democracy – hello Joseph-Stalin-America [Trump has even complimented Russia's current dictator, Putin and wants to work with North Korea's Kim Yong-un] (CNN, 2016). This means, goodbye to the Bill of Rights and all the Amendments thereafter. Goodbye freedom, hello police state.

Okay, stop rolling your eyes. “He wouldn't go that far,” “No one could actually pull that off with our military,” “the US is too stable for a dictator to take over,” etc. etc.. True? A little civics lesson.

The US Government was set up with checks and balances. We have the Executive Branch (President, Vice President, and the Cabinet), Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court). Each branch has some power over the other. Congress and the Executive Branch are supposed to keep each other's power in check. This is not always the case, however. The real glaring problematic issue is that the Executive Branch (which includes the cabinet handpicked by the President) holds all the power of the military; the President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces. The President may not have the power to declare war, but the President can instruct the military.Worse, the constitution allows for the President or Congress to declare martial law which means they don't have to agree.

I'm looking at the headlines every week that includes gems such as “Violence flares at Trump rallies.” Trump has been caught inciting the violence. During some of the rallies he has made comments to his supporters and even threatened protesters:
I'll beat the crap out of you.”
Part of the problem ... is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.” 
If you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them.”
I love the old days—you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.
(Mashable, 2016; Slate.com, 2016). 
This guy obviously has no problem with using violence to get what he wants. As President, he would be in charge of the US military. 

“ As President, he would be in
charge of the US military.

Are you sure that the US checks and balances system could keep Trump in check?

Now, you might be parroting the terms of the trade: “liberal media,” “biased news,” ad nauseam… Some of the news sites might have something to gain by dissing a conservative candidate like Trump, right? Well, here's where I think it gets real.

Ilya Shapiro, David Post, Randy E. Barnett, and Richard Epstein are the contributors to The Times story and they just all happen to work for the CATO Institute. The CATO Institute defines itself as “...a public policy research organization — a think tank — dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” Libertarian to a “T.” If you read through some of the work they do, it is not hard to see they align with small government and other tenets of Libertarianism. Look at some of their individual writing and you will really get a taste.

So that brings me to my point. Trump is not a joke. This isn't reality TV where we get to vote and wait 'til next season for the another exciting episode. Voting for him could mean the end of your rights as a citizen. Using your vote to “shake up the government” because you are angry or dissatisfied might actually destroy a nation. And while you may not like your options, voting in the Presidential election isn't the answer in the first place. If you want change, you need to vote in EVERY election. We need to make change in every branch of government – not just the big one that comes every 4-8 years.

Picture displays Roman ruins with five steps up to a platform
where a piece of column has fallen and is laying sideways.
The US is facing its first major challenge to the Constitution in many years. And while it seems an impossibility that our nation could collapse, our complacency might be our demise. Lest we forget that robust and large empires have collapsed in history. Rome did eventually fall. 








References
http://www.cato.org/about

http://worldjusticeproject.org/what-rule-law

https://www.usa.gov/branches-of-government

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/martial_law.aspx 

www.politico.com/gallery/2016/06/donald-trump-violence-rallies-002268?slide=0

http://mashable.com/2016/03/12/trump-rally-incite-violence/#Hi2__8sc7iqx

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2016/03/is_donald_trump_inciting_violence_he_might_be.html

http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/18/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-bromance/

http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/