Friday, April 15, 2016

Trump is not the Problem, We are

I remember first hearing about yet another attempt from Donald Drumpf to run for President the summer of 2015, while working as a tour guide abroad. My employer was a company whom catered to high school youth who come from very, very privileged backgrounds. The students in my group, luckily, had an intelligence and understanding level that rivaled their immense privilege. That can’t normally be said for three differing sets of kids, totaling to about 40 overall. This bright bunch was eager to learn about everything, with topics including love, how people like myself and my co-lead survive in a vagabond lifestyle, and, of course, politics.

At this juncture, Drumpf had barely begun his unwarranted, media onslaught. I had not given a thought to candidates, as our current president still had nearly half of his second-term left to serve. One of my students brought up the name Drumpf, and without second thought, I went into a tirade, albeit a watered-down, age-appropriate one, about how even in the worst of times, no one in the US would be naive enough to fall for such ridiculous antics. I am lucky I kept it PG and not laden with my true beliefs, because it turns out my student was family friends with good ole’ Drumpfy pants (and I don’t need a lawsuit coming my way for my opinions, because that is now possible in our homeland!). I thought that would be the end of hearing about him, that he would flame out like elections past. How wrong I was, and how quickly I became the naive one. 

There is no point in explaining what we’ve seen occur over this stupidly long election season. We all have television, radio, internet, and most likely the ability to have dialogue with other human beings. Drumpf is here to stay. As much as I want to be angry and point my finger any which way, the truth of the matter is Drumpf isn’t the real problem. We are.

We can blame politicians, the system, and the other side's policy as much as we want, but the truth is we allow this to happen. We are the ones who tune into CNN, Fox, BBC, etc. for 2 years of campaigning. We are the ones who fund and fuel campaigns. We are the ones who talk about primaries and caucuses without actually understanding how those votes work, spending our precious time to give power to delegates and super delegates who aren’t actually bound to the candidate we voted for. We are the ones who consume these reality TV shows faster than processed food. We are the ones who allow “news sources,” to put words such as “Global famine,” in the same headlines as “Kardashian-West.” We allow polarized politics to keep us fighting one another; the people actually affected by the system. 

If we are truly outraged, it isn’t Drump we need to be going after. Or, if you are associate with the other side of the pie, the Bern, Hill Dog, and Obama shouldn't be your target either. We should be going after ourselves. We should be angry with ourselves for being swindled by the media. We should be angry at ourselves for being swindled by the system. We should be angry at ourselves for forgetting in this country we are granted rights that allow us to stand up in the face of injustice. 

If we are outraged and want to make a difference, what we need to do is boycott the primary and caucus system. You can pump the need to vote all you want but I am certain that in this pre-election time what we need to do is turn off our TVs. By making the choice to vote in the primaries and participate in our convoluted system, we are creating a political climate where we can only have two parties. By making the election last literally years, we foster an environment where only multi-millionaires and billionaires have the means to run. This action waters down our own pool of candidates. We are the only "advanced" nation who has an election that last months, let alone years, and spends billions of dollars doing it. Other “advanced” countries have election that last around 6-weeks, and cost a fraction of what we spend in the US. This results in less headaches, more efficient elections, and ballots that actually represent multiple parties offering a diverse set of beliefs, ideologies, and policies.

While we have been told that the best way to change the system is to get out and vote, I’m telling you that this is false. Though the ship may have already sailed this season, the answer is don't vote. Don’t fund candidates. Don’t watch debates, and don’t listen to the news. If we want better candidates, we need to expand the ability of who can be a candidate. To do so, to actually live in a multiparty, democratic nation, we the citizens, the voters, the constituents, need to stand up and change the system. If we are truly outraged by the politicians we see today, we need to make the change, and not wait for them to throw us scraps from their gluttonous plates.

Photos courtesy of Twitter, Upvoted

Thursday, April 14, 2016

1/8: Revisiting the Waters that Last Saw my Uncle's Face

On Airlie Beach in northern Queensland, Australia, life is normally very calm. The weather is fantastic (save for monsoon season), and the beaches are beautiful. While most visitors use this area as a jump off point to visit the remarkable Whitsunday Islands, my visit packed a different purpose. In fact, though my Dad and I found ourselves enjoying all the area had to offer, the reason we decided to visit Airlie was seemingly different than our backpacking and vacationing counterparts. Our mission was to pay tribute to an uncle I never knew. Our purpose was to try and understand more what happened to him and his fellow, fallen classmates aboard their Whaler style sailboat on October 17th, 1963. 

To give a small explanation of our history, my Uncle was lost at sea during a non-conflict, sailing exercise for the Australian Navy in the 60’s. His ship, which consisted of himself, 3 naval academy graduates from his class, as well as an officer, lost course while navigating around Hook Island in northern Queensland. Two bodies (not my uncle) and the ship were found 4 days after the accident, but the remaining three were never found. 12 days after the incident, a life vest and non-floating naval torch were found 93 miles west of Hook Island on Cape Bowling Green. Beyond speculation, no clear-cut explanation was given to the families of the boys. To say that our desire to visit Airlie Beach was purely for fun would definitely be an understatement. 

In both an act of tribute, as well as to gain a better understanding of what Peter and his fellow midshipmen faced, Dam Dog and I sailed from Abell Marina through the Whitsunday Passage, and up through Hook Passage, along the same line that last saw Peter and the Whaler before they were lost at sea. Here is my journal entry after returning from our 12-hour excursion on the water...

4/14- Yesterday was a truly impactful day for Dam dog and I. We hopped on a sailboat from Abell Marina, which traveled through Whitsundays Passage, up through Hook Passage, all the way to Whitehaven Beach. While actual time spent sailing, as opposed to using the onboard motor, was minuscule, and we were on a tourist boat, yesterday was far from a walk in the park. The open water after Hook Passage was where the Whaler began to go off course. So, as history tells it, once the ship passed through the protected passage, meeting open water with Hook Island to its port, the Whaler was flying. The crew was trying to cut further away from shore to offset the counter tides running towards land. This decision, only to be exacerbated by overlooked weather reports and mast-high waves, was a fatal one. Once the passage was run, the open water became an unrelenting yolk which never released.  Navigating this area, though controlled to the fullest human extent, was uncanny for me. With inclimate weather greeting us, I was terrified. I became drenched in rain, sea water, and thoughts of what had elapsed to my family in these parts. I saw unfortunate poetic justice in my father flying halfway around the world to finally visit where his brother was lost, only to meet the same fate. Myself, artistic collateral damage as barring my uncle’s namesake (Christopher Peter). Of course, though, we made it. Our captain and his underpaid, overqualified whipping boy (a 36-year-old vagabond who sailed here growing up, only to find his hours were now considered redundant), made it possible. 

As we hit the open water, in contrast to the Whaler, we felt a calm come over us. As if God had written the screenplay, once we navigated through the passage, the winds died down, and the clouds opened ever so slightly, reuniting us with a glimmer of the sun’s warm embrace. Seeing this area of historical importance to our family; feeling, to a small extent, what Peter felt on board his ship that fell to the will of the erratic weather; seeing my dad try to process what happened here, pondering how this incredibly beautiful, lush, colorful part of the globe, in conjunction with executive negligence and naive over-zealousness, could absolutely change the course of our family’s history: the entire experience was stimulating and draining.

After the passage, the rest of the day teetered and tottered between fun and fear. We held on white-knuckle to the boat as the rains and winds met us quickly, only to dissipate slowly, smoothly. We used our time as we snorkeled and saw one of the most pristine beaches my eyes have ever rested upon, to digest what we had experienced.

The climax, of course, was navigating the final squall, only a few knots away from shore. The rains and winds were heaviest with this one. At first it felt angry. The work of a long, dormant spirit now disturbed from it’s perennial rest. The rain came fast and strong as the wind howled, bringing along with it clouds obscuring any view of the surrounding land. As night had already fallen, the lights from our not-to-distant fruition in Airlie’s welcoming shore disappeared. In this chaos, though, the storm transmuted from anger to what felt like tears falling from the heavens. The first drops were that of sadness, of reawaking to a fate one would hope was a bad dream. Then came those of acceptance. Joy followed. The final droplets where of release. No artistic license was needed to doctor the ending of this story, as the torrential weather elapsed when we made it to harbor. My father and I decide to walk back to our hotel, while the other guests on board, whom didn’t have the same ties we did to Hook Island, stormed off deck exhausted. Some were sore, some angry, some swore off sailing forever. Our itinerary boasted an easy 8 hours, backed with clear skys, sun, and beautiful beachers. After a tumultuous 12-hour affair, who could really blame them?