Jon Stewart Signs Off

Jon Stewart Signs Off

A Mensch to the End
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Seven minutes past midnight on August 7, Jon Stewart rolled away from the desk at the Daily Show on Comedy Central for the last time. The familiar face of integrity and truth, the companion of frustrated Americans since before I could tie my own shoes, has retired from skewering the idiocy of America and its politics. The man himself let the audience know this is not the last we have heard of him, but simply a pause in the conversation.

Coinciding with the FOX News coverage of the GOP debate, Stewart’s final performance as the host of the Daily Show delivered something important. Those who tuned in witnessed the portrait of a man who mattered in a very real way. Selfless until the end, he spent his final show highlighting others, like correspondents old and new, or a short video featuring the staff who work to make the Daily Show possible. He showered gratitude upon every soul involved or affected in the time of his tenure, even Arby’s. Quietly pleading to avoid the spotlight, Stewart surrendered his attempt to escape into the second commercial break, conceding the moment to his protégé, Stephen Colbert. Unscripted and stripped of any insincerity, Colbert expressed exactly what needed to be said about the man next to him, as Stewart did his best to smile away the waterworks:

“Here’s the thing, Jon. You said to me and to many other people here years ago never to thank you, because we owe you nothing. It is one of the few times I have known you to be dead wrong. We owe you, and not just what you did for our careers by employing us to come work on this tremendous show that you made. We owe you because we learned from you. We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect. You are infuriatingly good at your job[...]okay, so Jon, and it’s almost over, I know you are not asking for this, but on behalf of so many people whose lives you changed over the past sixteen years, thank you. And now, I believe your line—and correct me if I’m wrong—is ‘We’ll be right back.’”

Before the camera cut away, the crowd erupted and all of the guests who had appeared earlier in the show mobbed the little man’s desk chair, crushing him from view with a great big bear hug, jumping up and down with gratitude.

When it came time to end the final episode, for the first and only time in sixteen years, Stewart signed off the Daily Show by saying, "And now, my moment of Zen." Stage right, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band belted a moving rendition of "Land of Hope and Dreams," followed by the bittersweet last stanza of "Born to Run." It was a joyous conclusion, a performance which was paid forward long ago, but not with cash.

Chris Hardwick began his show @Midnight with a few respectful words as the "Daily Show" credits on the left-hand side of the screen rolled out the end of an era. I sat stunned in a dark room, processing. There was a lot to digest, but I was struck by the ultimate value of one small man’s influence in the lives of so many others. His standard of giving is one thing every person is capable of achieving. Stewart cared so much: about the well-being of America and its citizens, and about the lives of those who worked with him and knew him. It matters to mean something to others. As Colbert pinpointed, it is not just what Stewart did for their careers, but what he did for them as people, how he helped them grow, and the opportunities he extended to them, opening the same door someone showed him when he was still kicking around searching for the right avenue for his talents.

The faith I share with Stewart holds the Talmudic idea of Tzedakah (TSEH-dah-KAH) in the highest regard. Roughly translated, Tzedakah means charity, but it is far more than giving to others, and it applies to Jews and Gentiles alike. Tzedakah manifests itself in various ways, each with a different level of merit. The lowest form is to give begrudgingly to another. Jon Stewart was a man who gave selflessly when and where he could, and asked for nothing in return. Countless times, he performed the most meritorious Tzedakah, which is to enable another to become self-reliant. I realize what I saw was a spirited offering of heartfelt recognition to the man who asked for none. Thank you Jon Stewart, talk to you soon.

Cover Image Credit: People Magazine

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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To Fix Taxes, We Have To Rethink 'Wealthy'

"Wealthy" doesn't mean the same for everyone.

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When discussing taxes today, so many politicians are quick to rush to the adage "tax the rich." Bernie Sanders has called for the rich to be taxed higher to pay for Medicare for All. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for a 70% tax on the wealthy.

However, all of these proposals are missing a key thing: a true definition of rich.

When thinking about what counts as rich, it is important to distinguish between the "working wealthy" and the "investment wealthy."

The working wealthy are the people in society that get paid highly because they have a high skill set and provide an extremely valuable service that they deserve just compensation for. This class is made up of professionals like lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. In addition, the working wealthy are characterized by another crucial aspect: over a long term calculation of their earned income over time, they don't come out as prosperous as their annual incomes would seem to suggest. This is because this set of the wealthy has to plunge into student debt for degrees that take years to acquire. These jobs generally also require a huge amount of time invested in lower-paying positions, apprenticeships, and internships before the big-money starts coming in.

On the other hand, the investment wealthy is completely different. These are the people that merely sit back and manipulate money without truly contributing to anything in society. A vast majority of this class is born into money and they use investments into stocks and bonds as well as tax loopholes to generate their money without actually contributing much to society as a whole.

What makes the investment wealthy so different from the working wealthy is their ability to use manipulative techniques to avoid paying taxes. While the working wealthy are rich, they do not have AS many resources or connections to manipulate tax laws the way that the investment wealthy can. The investment wealthy has access to overseas banking accounts to wash money though. The investment wealthy can afford lawyers to comb over tax laws and find loopholes for ridiculous prices. This is tax evasion that the working wealthy simply does not have access to.

That is why it is so incredibly important to make sure that we distinguish between the two when discussing tax policy. When we use blanket statements like "tax the rich," we forget the real reasons that the investment wealthy are able to pay such low taxes now. Imposing a larger marginal tax rate will only give them more incentive to move around taxes while squeezing the working wealthy even more.

Because of this, in our taxation discourse, we need to focus first on making sure people pay their taxes, to begin with. Things like a tax of Wall Street speculation, capital gains taxes, a closing of loopholes, and a simplification of the tax code. These things will have a marked improvement in making sure that the investment wealthy actually pays the taxes we already expect of them now. If we stick to the same message, the only thing we will be changing is the rate that the uber-wealthy are avoiding.

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