#ThisIsNotUs Is Unquestionably The Wrong Response To Charlottesville

#ThisIsNotUs Is Unquestionably The Wrong Response To Charlottesville

The only appropriate response is outrage.

After the disgusting and egregious display of racism, hatred and bigotry in Charlottesville this past week, a large portion of the response was a possibly well-meaning hashtag saying #ThisIsNotUS.

This is not who we are. This is not who the US is. This is simply a blip on the radar.

And, despite the objective falsity of that statement, we have to ask ourselves a question: In the face of such a horrifying demonstration fueled solely by hate, how is our first reaction to attempt to absolve this country of blame? How is our first reaction justification? How is our first reaction not outrage, anger and every other negatively-connotated synonym? How can we see Nazi and Confederate flags waving through the air in the hands of a bunch of white supremacists and not immediately condemn, not immediately voice our anger? Because first and foremost, it doesn't matter if this wasn't us in the past. Now it is.

Here's the thing: This level of hatred may be on a larger and louder scale than others in this nation, so maybe it isn't entirely ignorant to believe that, largely, this isn't us. But the overarching truth is that it absolutely, unquestionably, does not matter. Regardless of if our country, before this week, had been a wholly non-racist, peaceful nation filled with absolutely nothing but kindness, love and equality, once the white supremacists started parading our streets wielding tiki torches and chanting Nazi slogans, we lost all of that.

To say #ThisIsNotUs might be a well-meaning hashtag, but in the end, it is just people trying to

a) absolve the US as a whole of blame

b) convince themselves that this isn't the US now, or both.

Because this IS the United States. It is happening here. It doesn't matter how you contrast America pre-Nazi rally with America post-Nazi rally: This now has to be taken into consideration when defining who America is.

SEE ALSO: If Your Reaction To Charlottesville Is '#NotAllWhitePeople,' You're Part Of The Problem

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that America was not the aforementioned "wholly non-racist, peaceful nation filled with absolutely nothing but kindness, love and equality" before this happened.

This did not come out of nowhere, though it could seem so.

Regardless, regardless, of Trump's true feelings (although we could take a pretty accurate stab at what those are), his rhetoric throughout the campaign trail and in office have awoken the closeted racists and allowed them to be racist in broad daylight. It turned the anonymous, racist Twitter troll into a swastika-sporting, screaming white supremacist protestor. It turned the person who kept his opinions to himself to a person vocally supporting the rally. Trump's rhetoric has given those who felt their racist, bigoted beliefs were shameful, (or at the very least worth disaffiliating from publicly) a platform to share their views with the support of the most powerful man in the world.

Now, we won't pretend that all of our problems in this country stemmed from electing a racist, misogynist, every-negative-ist-word-you-can-think-of president into office.

The police brutality against unarmed black men and women outdates Trump's inauguration.

The wage gap between men and women, between white women and black women, between men and Hispanic men outdates Trump's inauguration.

Misogyny, racism, etc. weren't born from a Trump presidency: It just gave more merit to those who believed the systems of inequality and oppression should remain in place.

But let's go back even further. Back before what many of us haven't experienced in our lifetimes. Let's go back to slavery. Let's go back to Japanese Internment Camps. Hell, let's go back to the civil rights movement. And largely, these "blips on the radar" are the biggest problem with the widespread use of the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs: Our next generation will be taught that it was not. It will be taught the same way these other subjects were taught:

A weeklong unit on slavery, somehow majority focusing on the kindness of white people in the Underground Railroad and ending with a "things are better now" spiel.

A fleeting class period discussing Japanese Internment camps, somehow absolving the US of all blame.

A movie about Martin Luther King, Jr., focusing on the strides we have now made as a nation against racism and oppression.

All of these are more than blips on the radar. These are sonic booms on the radar. But we are taught to hear, "Ah, slavery happened but it's over now!" and "Yeah, but we all drink out of the same drinking fountain now!" And more than likely, that is what this will be, too. It'll be a 2-page spread in the middle of a history textbook, and the lesson plan will revolve around how this wasn't the United States at this time. We were a nearly entirely peaceful, non-racist nation that focused on equality and kindness, and this came out of nowhere. Never mind the other overt acts of racism happening at the time. Never mind the overtly racist comments coming from the mouth of our president. Never mind, never mind, never mind. Just a blip, right?

Using the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs is dangerous. It is the first step to this being forgotten, for this being seen as just a small piece of history that doesn't define our nation. I'm sorry, but if Nazi demonstrators with tiki torches in the street who murdered somebody... Actually, let me rephrase: If a fatal domestic terror attack (with minimal and forced condemnation from our commander in chief) doesn't define our nation, what will? We can't just ride on the coattails of giving black people and women voting rights and argue that makes us a fair, just and equal society forever. We aren't as far from separate drinking fountains as we were brought up to believe.

Unfortunately, THIS IS US.

This is the United States right now, and convincing yourself otherwise is counterproductive. Until all are willing to admit that this is less of a hashtaggable fluke and more of a demonstration of what our country is turning into, progress will not be made. Writing this off as just one fault in an otherwise perfect nation is at best not beneficial and at worst, incredibly dangerous.

This is America right now. And if you don't like that, instead of pretending that it isn't with #ThisIsNotUS, speak up. Loudly condemn the hatred you see. Admit to yourself that there is a problem, and vocally attempt to do all you can to chip away at fixing it rather than attempting to convince yourself nothing is wrong. If you truly love your country, and if you don't want this to define it, absolving it of any and all blame will do nothing, but speaking up might.

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Lenard Twitter

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Evidence, The Most Important Foundation

A real world example of why data rather than emotion should be used in an argument

As I was thinking of relevant topics to write about, I figured this is one of the most controversial as it is so necessary, yet it is not used to the degree we need to. Of course, one could claim that as I am someone studying the sciences; I have a bias and what I say in this article should be taken with a grain of sand. In an effort to show that evidence really is an unbiased issue, I will provide real life examples.

Within the last year and a half or so, during Trump’s presidency, Kellyanne Conway referenced “Alternative Facts” while discussing a topic of importance. This quickly became a fast spreading joke as people recognized the foolishness that is no two opposing statements can really be true in light of facts. This was laughed off, but it really shows the state of where we are as a society. Regardless of the evidence that provides truth, people still hold on to their beliefs. They even cite examples of exceptions as a reason to disprove an entire argument. Let me provide a crystal clear example of why that is not an acceptable retort. Gravity is something we experience all the time. It is what keeps us on the ground and ensures that we will not float into space where we would simultaneously freeze and burn at the same time. However, one of the most well known exceptions to the rule is helium. Helium is less dense than air and because of that, it floats to the top of the substance that is more dense - air. Now, because the balloon filled helium does not mean that the entire law of gravity is wrong. It simply means that other scientific forces create that exception to the law. This same logic, for example, applies to the immigrant/DACA/Dreamer issue today. Now, I am not going to go into explicit detail, but I will provide references below. Broadly speaking, those part of the Republican party and the President believe that immigrants simply come into the country to kill, steal, and “mooch” off of our welfare system. Data shows the opposite of those claims, however. Those in the DACA program, for example, actually contribute quite a bit to the economy. Greater than 90% in the program actually have jobs and there are immigrants that have become military members to fight for the country they seek refuge in. Now I am sure there are exceptions to those rules such as Mexicans who are part of the drug cartel or even people who come from countries of muslim origin who commit terrorist attacks. The reality is much different in that there have been significantly more domestic terror attacks by whites in this country than people of color. A person is actually more likely to be killed by a falling vending machine, shark, or even falling down stairs than being killed in a foreign terror attack. This relates back to the Law of Gravity example because even though there are exceptions to the reasons to the (primarily democrat) effort to keep immigrants safe in the country, that is not a viable reason to enact such radical policies to keep them out. Now of course, the issue of illegal immigrants is certainly prominent but arguably that is more a problem with the system itself and many of those people have been proving immigration policies futile. I am not saying I think illegal immigration is justified, but I think the data needs to be looked at and incorporated into any future improved policies.

The real point of this article is to tell people of this country that before you decide to get into a debate over a controversial topic, think about the facts first before letting your emotions guide your argument. Evidence has done wonders for the field of science ( science, engineering, mathematics, astronomy, etc.) and has gotten us where we are today. Try using it in your everyday life instead of reacting with emotion to something. Who knows, you may just change your position on an issue.

Cover Image Credit: les Inrockuptibles

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Forget Professional Neutrality: It's Time to Post Politics

When we're walking the wire, it's not unprofessional to tweet politics - it's necessary citizenship.

For those of us that grew up in the information age, the memory of someone in our lives warning of the dangers of speaking your mind too freely online isn't too distant. Now more than ever, our social media has become self-branding, networking, proof of our relevance and ability to behave with tact in an adjacent public sphere, and an archive for which others can do quiet research on us with or without our full knowledge.

As a result, teachers, advisers, and guidance counselors tell us to keep vulgarity and base humor out of the picture and follow the rules of "polite company": if you won't say it around children or in front of your grandmother, keep it off public profiles. The idea is our social queues of whose immediately present don't extend into an entire friend's list past, present, and future anymore than it covers the college applications, interviewers, or even future in-laws that might be scouring the web for an insight into you as a human being. There are real-life consequences for slipping up - missing out on a scholarship, losing a job, or even offending a potential friend or networking contact without realizing the first thing that comes up with your name on Google is a heinous tweet from 2010 or a less-flattering photo that you should have never been tagged in. What's appropriate on a Saturday night with peers might not be so great at 9am on a Monday in an office when an assistant does a quick reputation-check before your meeting with a hiring manager. Or how a revenge post of intimate photos from your ex can turn into a career-ruining nightmare.

When posting, many of us know better than to post without considering the broadest possible audience that could potentially see it. When thinking of this "polite company" rule, however, does it extend into all social graces? What about the controversies your mother begs you to dodge at family reunions, like politics and religion?

I've personally given this consideration a great deal of thought this past year. All of my core values, personal research, sense of humanity and ethics, ideological views, and belief in human decency feel strongly opposed to the Trump administration. As a man proud of prejudice, a long history of mistreating people, and the ability to make absolutely anything and everything extremely personal (one look at his Twitter account makes it clear his world is distorted into an extreme worship-Trump or "losers-that-despise-Trump" binary), he brings up more than traditional platform debates. Is it talking politics to say "grab them by the p****" is offensive, predatory, evidence that counts towards a horrifying amount of sexual assault accusations, and misogynistic? Is it talking politics to say that his first campaign speech was full of unfounded racism? Is it talking politics to say we should be horrified that he is stealing national money to fund golf trips and keep his wife living in partially-estranged luxury in New York City? Is it talking politics to say that him insulting another nation for whom we have been on the brink of nuclear war for decades is terrifying, dangerous, and one of many acts of a mad man?

If he himself refuses to behave with professionalism and the usual boundaries of political rhetoric, and as I would argue, refuses to act presidential while being entirely unfit for office, is it talking politics to return that same lack of decorum?

After a certain point, is it even ethical that I'm concerned about retweeting a damning post from a meaningful and qualified contributor because I'm a senior wondering if a potential future employer will like Trump, or the absence of objectivity will harm a chance at professional or graduate-study journalistic pursuits? Is that not selling out? When is it bad judgement or poor manners to speak your mind, and when does it become blatantly unethical not to?

Well, now. We've crossed that line.

The amount of tongue-biting it takes to be polite and professional, particularly online, is more difficult some nights more than others under this administration for me. The State of the Union address was one of them.

It is a national tragedy is that I'm a 20-something studying in nowhere, Massachusetts with no presently immediate impact on global affairs and I have exerted more self-control and impulse-tweet-filtering in the last 24 hours than POTUS during his entire campaign.

Which is saying a great deal, because about 3 hours ago the words "orange devil" (only a conservative step down from my usual quip of 'cheeto demon' and some timely Oscar Wilde quotes) found their way to a Facebook post. It's not as though I slipped on my keyboard - creativity is coping, and disoriented rage is the fallback for those of us running on fumes. Presuming we survive the next three years and find a replacement that doesn't continue the constant threat of an impending reign of terror (I'll take anything closer to 44 than 45 at this point), the nation will need a time of healing and rest after. (Not to mention, the challenges ahead for presidential predecessors in damage repair are mounting daily.)

It's alarmingly easy to open-mouth-insert-foot in the land of eternal records, where history cannot die - only haunt you - and everything you say lasts forever: the internet. Sometimes, though, you have to say something. Sometimes the world is too strange, extreme, and exaggerated for satire to wrap its mind around, and our traditional civility is bought out, chewed up, or banned from the White House press room. There's a call to action and the rules don't apply as they used to.

Tweets. Picketing. Marching. Praying. Donating. Something to speak up and speak out. It's a moral imperative, a personal compulsion, and a coping mechanism - a matter of sanity,a question of the right side of history, and a need those of us staring in horror to have a solidarity as a band aid restoration over lost faith in humanity.

It's why we're all asking the same questions:

Anyone else seeing this? Anyone else HEARING this?

Anyone else crossing themselves every time they update themselves on breaking news and the global state of the affairs?

It's not just me right?

Is existential dread just a sign of the times?

If it feels like you're on thin ice, can we really afford not to be deliberately political? We're living in slippery-slope times where everything we say and do and are becomes inherently political. Some people are more conscious of this designation than others - particularly those whose personal lives can be destroyed, frayed, threatened, or even ended because of a powerful rich stranger's opinions - the kind that become legislation - on their rights to live and exist.

We can't be distant from politics now, even those of us who don't feel wired for those conversations and lack general interest. Those with certain privileges have the luxury of being theoretical about it - they live bulletproof lives and can walk through political battlefields unscathed, treating policy like hobbyist ideology with nothing on the line. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should ignore what's happening and affecting those around you. Just because you're here doesn't mean you relate to drafted boots on the ground.

Refusing to make a meaningful, ethical contradiction to the world you don't want to see isn't just keeping your head down or not taking a stand -- it's pure complacency. If you don't understand now, after all this time, why that's the most dangerous thing you can do, take a walk to the library. Pick up Elie Wiesel.

Cover Image Credit: pixabay.com

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