The world is not our safe space

You probably heard about the men who recently intervened between a man and two women he was verbally “racially harassing” (one of the women was black, the other was wearing a hijab). Three men intervened and two ended up being killed. The other was injured.

In response, Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler has been addressing free speech on his Facebook page. He addressed the people behind two unrelated upcoming events (Trump Free Speech Rally and March Against Sharia):

I am appealing to the organizers of the alt-right demonstrations to CANCEL the events they have scheduled . . . I urge them to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.

Now hopefully any reasonable person would agree that harassment, murder, bigotry, racism, and hatred are all terrible things. There’s no place for those anywhere. I have no idea what the purpose of those two events is, or if they plan to be peaceful. A more recent posting in reference to the event says:

We need to reckon with the fact that racist attitudes lead to racist words, and that racist words lead to violence. And we need to decide what we’re going to do about it.

What are we going to do about it? There’s this growing idea that to prevent violence, we have to prevent people from holding and expressing certain ideas and attitudes. Now, we can agree that certain things are always wrong and terrible to even think.

But what do we do when the thought police go after people with opposing views who are reasonable and not murderers? When we get to ideas and attitudes, who gets to decide which ones we’re allowed to have?

In comment sections, articles, and everywhere on social media, I see people saying it’s “hate speech” to believe in traditional marriage or be against abortion. To some, it’s not just a personal or religious belief. Those are beliefs that personally offend other people, and they want to get rid of that uncomfortable reality by getting rid of your idea.

I think it says a lot about us when we’ve become so sensitive to differing viewpoints that we want to remove those people from our communities instead of attempting to live in peaceful disagreement.

This is not about murder and racism and violent, terrible crimes. This is about the thought police trying to appease people who disagree by silencing the people they disagree with.

I’d like to ask such individuals when we started thinking the whole world was our safe space.

Because it’s not.

When we walk out the doors or connect to the internet or have contact with another human being, we are going to encounter people who think differently than us. Of course we all think some people hold ridiculous opinions and beliefs. I’m Catholic, so I think people who are Atheist are wrong about God. I think people who are pro-choice are wrong about abortion. I think people against the right to bear arms are wrong about gun control. I think Scientology is creepy and that some animal rights activists need to chill.

But you know what?

Here in America, we are free to express and live out our beliefs, no matter how wrong we may be (as long as it doesn’t hurt people). None of us are entitled to lives without having our ideas questioned or opposed.

If you are after an eternal safe space, I’d recommend never getting on the internet or leaving your home, because there probably isn’t anyone you agree with 100%. We can’t deny that and try to live in a bubble by ostracizing people we think are wrong or ruining their livelihood.

We can disagree. We should shut crime down. But free speech is something I hold dear as an American, and infringement on that has got to go. If my ideas bother you, great. I’m glad that you have an idea too. Let’s talk and see if we can figure out what’s right. Or if it doesn’t matter. Ideas exist to be debated and researched and challenged and embraced. We can’t do that if we ignore or purposefully stifle ideas different than our own.

To Life,

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Judging people vs ideas

We hear it in the media, our cultural sensitivity training, and even from the Pope: who am I to judge?

Tolerance, open-mindedness, and understanding of people with different beliefs is the anthem of the correct, the battle cry of those fighting for the love and acceptance we all long for (right?).

But there’s something about this 100% acceptance rate that bothers me: we forget to differentiate between people and ideas.

We can probably agree that the appropriate attitude toward people is love. Sometimes love challenges and confronts, because it cares for the good of the other, right? It can call people out and change us. Love doesn’t stay the same. Think about a marriage or good friendship. Do you stay on the same level forever? No. The relationship grows and stretches with highs and lows. And that’s beautiful. We sacrifice and do hard things when we love people. We accept and love people because they are people, whether or not we agree with what they think and believe.

Now, we might disagree on how to handle ideas. I think we have a major problem when we treat ideas the same way as people. Ideas are concepts that we should examine, not accept because of what they are. We need to think deeply about and ask ourselves if it is true. Ideas can be wrong or disordered or stupid, and it’s okay to recognize that. Many people, I think, have lost this distinction, and assume that if you hold a disagreeing belief you must be the thing that is stupid, not your idea.

I recently made the mistake of entering a comment box regarding the redirection of funds away from Planned Parenthood. I replied to some (false and stupid) ideas in the comment section with facts and sources, explaining my belief and backing it up. I had to laugh at some point about the replies, because they were absurd.

For example, people assumed I was a mean-spirited Republican who voted for Trump, just trying to defend my stupid political affiliation. I am not a Republican and did not vote for Trump. But even if I did, that wouldn’t make me stupid. It’s the same concept about how we tell kids nowadays “that was a bad choice” and not “you are bad”. There’s a difference.

According to those people, I am an “embarrassment to intelligent women” because I have a belief different than theirs. But that thought out position of mine is on an issue I have researched and continue to read about extensively. I’m happy to talk about it. And I understand why people think differently. So let’s talk about and see what’s right.

When we put up walls between us and people we disagree with, we can’t talk about the issue we’re facing. We’re not going to get anywhere except our own heads, which are already filled with ideas we think are right. But what if we’re not right? If our idea is wrong, and we believe things that aren’t true, we’re never going to realize that if we stay stuck in a bubble. And doesn’t that matter?

I will listen to you and your story. I will love you and try to understand you. I might call you out if you have a stupid idea too. And you know what? I hate being told I’m wrong, but I’d want to know. It’s important to judge whether or not our ideas are right, or we’ll be stuck in our own heads forever.

Who am I to judge?

I’m a person who wants to know the truth.

So I’m going to keep researching and judging ideas in order to reach the truth.

Recognizing truth and providing evidence to support your belief isn’t an accusation of your being stupid. It’s an invitation into debate and truth-seeking that is only possible if we admit we might be wrong.

May we all increase our ability to admit that.

To Life,

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P. P.S. Have you been judged to be a stupid person because of a belief? Did you do that to someone else? Please share in the comments and let’s chat! Even if we disagree 😉

Planned Parenthood is scared of 40 Days for Life

Do you know something kinda fun? Being on Planned Parenthood’s email lists.

They’re feeling very defensive right now (obviously, they’re going to be funded!), and are constantly asking for money. I found this email today a bit hilarious, but also sad: they feel threatened by 40 Days for Life.

If you don’t already know, 40 Days for Life is a pro-life campaign that happens twice a year where people commit to prayer and fasting, holding vigil outside abortion facilities, and community outreach for that time period. People literally stand outside praying, holding signs, or offering life-affirming resources (or a combination of those). It’s peaceful and prayerful if you’re into that.

I find it lame that they use scare quotes around this legitimate organization’s name. They can’t even give 40DFL the dignity of calling them by name. Their contempt for this peaceful, prayerful, campaign goes to show how deeply wrong they are about how we should approach this issue. Shouldn’t women be treated with this peace and understanding and empathy instead of these hideous and tiresome fundraising emails? What speaks to the heart of who we are as people? Yeah, not the emails.

Also, wow. Totally makes me want to back off from ending abortion when they use this campaign to raise $5,000. (LOL, nope, I’m not intimidated either.)

They are correct that this isn’t letting up, though.

Planned Parenthood is going to be defunded, I hope very soon. And we’re not going to rest until then, and until abortion becomes unthinkable. This is not an attack on women’s health, but our desire to see human rights for all – and BETTER healthcare that doesn’t kill people and lie to women. You want to know what good healthcare looks like? Check out The Guiding Star Project. I’ve known about them for a while, but was so impressed and inspired listening to their founder Leah Jacobson in this podcast yesterday. I’ll definitely be writing more about some things she said.

Also, peaceful, prayerful, vigil isn’t harassment.

Get yo facts straight, PP. Anyway, I just popped on to talk about this because I don’t want PP to keep doing what they’re doing without being called out. I see them. I see you. And together, we’re bringing down this lying Goliath one step at a time.

To Life,

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P.P.S. In case you’re wondering, I’m not affiliated with 40 Days for Life, though I have participated in the campaigns in the past.

On defunding Planned Parenthood

Leading up to the nationwide Protest Planned Parenthood rallies (which occurred last Saturday), I spoke with a reporter about why I am one of many people who support stripping the group of federal funding. I appreciated being able discuss my position, one that many people in my local vicinity would consider ridiculous. And I truly respect journalists who take time to listen and include both sides of the issues they cover. But when the article came out, the pro-life position was sorely misrepresented and under-represented.

So here’s my response.

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There seems to be this prevailing mindset in America that Planned Parenthood is the primary healthcare provider for low-income women. It’s true that according to PP, 60% of their patients rely on programs such as Medicaid to receive services. And I want to be clear that my goal is not to take away ethical and needed medical care from anyone. Quite the opposite, I am in full support of resources such as the developing app Help Assist Her, which will make affordable healthcare resources more easily accessible. But most of the arguments, if you can call them that, coming from Planned Parenthood supporters center on this point.

There are several problems with this narrative:

Relatively speaking, Planned Parenthood sees a minuscule number of Americans. Out of ~320 million citizens, they see about 2.5 million/year, so about .7%. Saying millions of women will lose their healthcare is at best a gross exaggeration. Of course some people have had cancer detected and STD’s caught at PP clinics. That’s not what I’m talking about though.

People need far more comprehensive healthcare than what Planned Parenthood offers. We know from recent videos released from Live Action that Planned Parenthood is dishonest about many of their services. Most recently, we’ve realized how they’ve exaggerated the prenatal care only a few of their clinics offer. Most facilities will only see pregnant women who are seeking an abortion. It’s no surprise, then, that abortion equals about 94% of pregnancy outcomes for PP patients.

We also know that Planned Parenthood has been involved in extensive Medicaid fraud. See results of recent audits starting on page 311 of this document. Shouldn’t this be part of the conversation? Especially since a LOT of their funding comes from Medicaid reimbursements, I think we need to be honest about how the funding they receive is billed and used.

One of THE most important parts of this conversation, I think, is that while abortion, sterilization, and contraceptive services have been increasing in number over the last several years, PP’s other (less controversial) services such as prenatal care, STD tests, breast exams, etc.) have steadily been decreasing (details). If we want to have a logical conversation about policy and federal funding, then I need to know why our government should fund an organization so focused on a limited number of controversial services.

And finally, if serving women and families and impoverished individuals is a priority for Planned Parenthood, wouldn’t they find a way to do so without federal funding? This is how many non-profits work. They depend on people who believe in their mission to keep the doors open. So why is PP an exception? Why would federal funding being taken away from PP stop them from seeing the patients they care so much about? You see, it wouldn’t. They’d just have to do it on their own dime, not mine. That’s obviously a scary thought to an entity whose budget is funded over 40% by our government.

This issue is about so much more than abortion. Yes, Planned Parenthood is America’s largest abortion provider. But this is also about people being able to find good healthcare from ethical and responsible providers. It’s about being able to voice where my tax money should and shouldn’t be spent.

There are a number of perfectly reasonable reasons I support redirecting federal funding from Planned Parenthood to Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers. My voice matters. Yours does too. And it’s time reporters and the media started listening to people like me and including us in the conversation.

To LIFE,

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Thoughts on Trump’s refugee order

You’ve probably heard by now of Trump’s Executive Order on a seriously controversial issue:

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THE NERVE.

Okay, but in all honesty, my head hurts from all the conversations and fact-digging and thinking about Friday’s EO regarding refugees. Talking about controversial issues is one of my favorite things to do. But this area of dealing with refugees (also immigrants and illegal immigrants) is one I find particularly challenging. There’s so much being said about this, and I’ve been trying to piece together as much as I can in the last couple days. This is my attempt at adding some sort of reasonable voice to the conversation.

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We’ve all seen the photo of Omran, right? He’s the little boy sitting in the back of an ambulance after being pulled from bombed rubble in Syria. We’ve seen the videos of people looking for their relatives in makeshift hospitals after bombs were dropped. We’ve heard the stories of people losing family members and fleeing violence that is unspeakable. I’m fairly certain that any reasonable person with a heart finds those types of situations heartbreaking and horrible. So I don’t think this discussion is about are they suffering, or do they need help, or should we help – but about what our policies and procedures should look like.

Living during this time of constantly new and changing news is, I think, a huge challenge when it comes to issues like this. I started learning about this EO from friend’s posts on social media. What I heard at first pulled at my heartstrings and led me to read up on this. I’m no expert, but after a few days of clarifying information, I realize that most of what I saw others assume at first, and what many reasonable people would emotionally respond to, was actually wrong.

I’m not going to go through the text of the order line by line. But here are some of the key issues and/or objections I’ve seen:

How does a President have the power to just issue this?

Well, I thought it was kind of weird at first too. But he’s got the power. According to US law,  “whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” Scroll almost halfway down this page to see that part of the law. So yes, it’s legal. And not rare. President Obama used the same means of establishing temporary restrictions on visas and travel during his time in office. It’s apparently just what presidents do. And Trump was very clear where he stands throughout his campaign.

Trump selectively chose countries to ban people from where he doesn’t have business connections.

Honestly, where did this come from? Do we just assume he has business connections in every country? This list originated from a list of countries needing “further travel restriction”, per the Obama administration.

Trump is just trigger-happy issuing all these orders.

Did you know Obama issued his first EO the day after he took office? It’s apparently one of the most widely-know presidential actions. This is a really interesting table showing how many each president has issued.

Look at all the US citizens and green card holders being held up and not allowed to travel!

Yes, there was a lot of confusion about this. I was flabbergasted why, even if refugees were going to be paused, why on earth citizens and green card holders would be. Apparently the departments who enforce this kind of thing weren’t given much warning, so nobody was entirely clear on who and where people were being stopped from traveling. There were apparently 109 people detained at airports for further questioning, most of who were quickly released. This was, as far as I know, resolved the next day. It does not apply to green card holders. In fact, the order allows for people to still be cleared on a case-by-case basis.

This is just Trump being afraid of people who are Muslim. Stop the ban!

If this were an across-the-board ban on Muslims entering the US, wouldn’t that have been clear? Wouldn’t he have banned all people from all Muslim majority nations for an indefinite period? This is a temporary pause to evaluate screening methods. So this argument really doesn’t stand. I absolutely think we should allow peaceful people who are Muslim in our country. Nobody’s arguing that a peaceful person who wants to come here and has no ill intention toward the US (and happens to be Muslim) should be turned away.

Okay, actually, some people think all Muslims should be banned because of their adherence to Sharia law.

True. I think we can agree that Sharia law is incompatible with US values and government. After all, it’s a religious set of laws. Some of them are highly problematic and contrary to human dignity and free will. BUT, in a country without a national religion where we’re allowed to practice what we believe, I have a hard time believing allowing Muslims here would mean Sharia law will soon become law of the land. So while I don’t want that to happen, I don’t think it’s a good argument.

So how do we cope with this?

My greatest challenge personally is that I want to help people. I see the pain and violence and it’s horrific. I don’t know that as someone living in a non-violent part of the world, I can truly appreciate the gravity and terror of living in the Middle East right now. I firmly believe we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters throughout the world. I believe that as a rich nation (guess that’s debatable) who is also powerful, we must help the less fortunate.

What that looks like is up for debate.

It makes sense to me that we would take some time to evaluate our current processes. We should ensure, to the best of our ability, that we are keeping our country safe, right? I do think the abrupt nature of this EO’s implementation could have been far better. But overall, as I learn more and more about what’s going on, I am agreeing more and more with it. Perhaps we can find ways to aid our brothers and sisters from afar during this pause.

How are you coping with this? Did I leave out a point you think is important to discuss? I would love to hear your thoughts.

To Life,

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Why Planned Parenthood Shouldn’t be Federally Funded

Planned Parenthood is at risk of loosing their federal funding, and people are losing their minds. People with lower incomes won’t be able to access healthcare, right? I agree that we shouldn’t take healthcare away from people. But I also think Planned Parenthood’s impact is thoroughly overrated. So, in no particular order, here’s why I think it’s a sensible decision to redirect PP’d federal funding to other healthcare providers.

why

1. The healthcare they provide is extremely limited. They’ll provide a pregnancy test, pap smear, morning after pill, STD test, abortion, sterilization, manual breast exam (which you can do yourself), and contraception. As far as healthcare goes, that’s a small scope of care. Saying people will lose “healthcare” without PP is grossly inaccurate, because PP doesn’t provide a comprehensive scope of care.

2. They aren’t actually the primary healthcare provider for many people. The self-reported number of patients they see in a year? 2.5 million. Out of somewhere near 320 million Americans, that’s . . . not very many. If you want to know the exact number, that’s .7% of Americans who go to PP in a given year. So will “millions” of people lose their care? No.

3. According to their annual reports, their abortion, sterilization, and contraceptive services have consistently been increasing over the last 10 years. All of their non-controversial services (STD tests, breast exams, etc.) have been steadily decreasing. [see info] I think this shows a significant bias. And I think taxpayers have every right to demand our hard earned money isn’t going toward biased and controversial organizations.

4. As they’ve proven recently, PP supporters are quite capable of financially supporting the organization themselves. Why force taxpayers to fund a controversial organization when they have supporters to keep doors open? I think if they tightened their budget a little and didn’t spend $30 million on trying to get Hillary Clinton elected, they might be able to survive just like any other nonprofit: with private donations.

5. They’ve over billed Medicaid and financially benefited from the program by over $8.5 MILLION. And that’s a conservative estimate. See section starting on page 311 of this report. Since much of their government funding comes from Medicaid reimbursements, I think we need to get real about how much they’ve abused that program.

6. There are thousands of federally qualified healthcare centers to help people facing low incomes. Actually, there are 20 for every PP facility. If funds are redirected from Planned Parenthood to these centers, lower income individuals will have more access to more comprehensive care. So to say people will not have access to healthcare is a blatant lie.  Take a look at this map from the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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But what is a Federally Qualified Health Center? It’s a healthcare provider that “must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, have an ongoing quality assurance program, and have a governing board of directors”. By meeting these requirements, the center qualifies for federal funding. Is that what everyone wants?

Looking at this information, I don’t see a logical objection to redirecting money from Planned Parenthood to Federally Qualified Health Centers. There are thousands more FQHC’s, which makes them more accessible. They provide a much more comprehensive scope of care, so we’re giving people better care. And they come without the controversy of being America’s #1 abortion provider (who’s been referred to the FBI for possible prosecution and found to be guilty of many crimes). This looks like a win-win situation to me.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let’s talk in the comments!

To LIFE,

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What we can take from the Hatmaker situation

In case you haven’t heard, one of evangelical Protestantism’s most well known leaders, Jen Hatmaker, recently announced her support of gay marriage.

Her belief was revealed in this interview, where she agreed that “any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love”, and that a LGBTQ relationship can be “holy”. She came to this conclusion after a few years of study, her husband said in a follow-up Facebook post.

*SIGH*

It’s disheartening, but not surprising. In reading about this, there are a few valuable things we can take away, I think:

1. If you study the Bible to figure something out, and your conclusion doesn’t match thousands of years of Biblical tradition, you’re probably the one who’s wrong.

It’s good and beautiful to know the Bible. But you know what? It can be confusing. False conclusions can be drawn. And I think it’s important to look beyond words on a page into the historical context, word meaning, and traditions surrounding any teaching. You can pray and research yourself into perfect heresy, and you might not even know it: a good reason to look at what’s been consistently taught over time and not try to twist scripture to mean what you want it to.

2. This is why I’m grateful to be Catholic.

You see, problems happen when everything is open to interpretation. That’s what you get with sola scriptura. It must be difficult to feel the weight of having to figure everything out yourself! I consider it such a gift to be be Catholic. I don’t have to figure out everything myself, and can trust the well educated explanations of thousands of saints, philosophers, bishops, theologians, popes, and doctors of the church who came before me. They’re not perfect. But they’re smarter than me and can help me understand issues I might not agree with.

3. We do need to talk about how we treat people who struggle with homosexual tendencies.

This, I think, is actually my biggest takeaway. I think Jen is right that we need to be sensitive to people. But she’s wrong that treating people better involves acquiescing to sin.

We can and should welcome people into our families, workplaces, and churches regardless of what sin they have, are, or will commit. We’re all sinners after all. This is part of what I think Jen was getting at, probably because some people still have a stone the gay people attitude. I hope it’s obvious that stoning people is wrong, as is wishing them ill will. That’s not a good way to love people.

Loving people means we do what is best for them. And since marriage-like relationships with people of the same gender violate how we were created to express our complementary sexuality as men and women, that’s not loving people right. Neither is it loving to endorse things like pornography, incest, or polygamy. Even if people want it. I don’t care if it’s consensual. Can we please agree on that? We can’t base our decisions on what people want because, let’s face it, we all want things that are bad for us sometimes. What we can do is treat people with respect, even when we disagree with them. The answer is not to endorse the sin, but to embrace the sinner. 

If we base our “love” for others on satisfying what they want, regardless of if it’s good for them, how on earth is that loving? You tell me.

To Life,

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Why I’m not voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton

What’s more lighthearted and joyful to talk about than politics nowadays?

Lots of things, Laura. LOTS of things.

But talk about it we shall. It’s been hard to figure out this election cycle, so here’s how I’m approaching it.

Why I'm not voting for Hilary or Trump at A Drorp in the Ocean

The first thing I consider when voting for a candidate for any position is whether or not they respect the dignity of the human person. If the person in question supports direct attacks on human life, they automatically don’t get my vote. I don’t care if they have a stellar economic vision if they can’t respect everyone’s right to life. #SorryNotSorry

If the candidate passes that basic test, I will look at their stance on a variety on social issues. Then I will move to economic strategies, foreign policy, and the list goes on. But let’s be real. Most politicians don’t get that far in my process.

Because this is my process, Hillary Clinton never was and never will be someone I vote for (barring a major conversion). She is in favor of abortion on demand and shares Planned Parenthood’s worldview that some people are not as important as others. She’s also a criminal, so there’s that. Not voting for her was an easy decision.

Now the harder part. Long before the candidates were official, I seriously wondered if Trump running for president was a joke. I mean, what filthy rich business honcho runs for president? Apparently he does.

When I realized he would be the republican nominee, I lost what little faith I had in our political system. And I decided to eventually drop my affiliation with the republican party. The two party system doesn’t make sense to me at this point in history, because I think it divides us against each other when we need to work on electing people who will unite as many people as possible. Even though this means I won’t be able to vote for republican candidates in future primaries as a Californian, I’m just not willing to be affiliated with a group of people I don’t belong with.

Anyway.

The obvious decision would be to vote for Trump then, right?

Not for me.

I understand the reasoning some people are using to justify voting for Trump:

  • they’re sticking it to the establishment (by voting for the establishment…wut? I’m really not sure how someone like Trump isn’t part of this alleged establishment.)
  • they like that he’s not a career politician (which makes him a great politician. How is this a good qualification for being President?)
  • they hate Hillary so much they’d vote for the other person regardless of who it is because the republican is going to be more moral than the democrat (This is just bad logic because being republican doesn’t make you a saint.)
  • he is unabashedly not politically correct (Have you noticed this was more before he had advisers? His changing his voice makes me think he’s too easily manipulated.)
  • they think he will follow through on his promise to elect good people to SCOTUS (Good luck with that)
  • they agree with his stances (in which case, let’s talk about those)
  • or he’s the “lesser” of two evils in this case (debatable)

I just don’t buy it. So I’m not voting for Trump. I’m not voting for Trump because it’s never okay to do something bad for a good result. Ever. It’s not because I’m naive enough to think a perfect candidate exists. But I cannot in good conscience violate my conscience by voting for either of our major candidates.

I will not endorse deporting people who allegedly don’t belong here.

I will not endorse building a wall to keep people out.

I will not endorse nuking people nonchalantly.

I will not endorse killing the innocent wives and families of terrorists.

I will not endorse flipflopping on the issues most important to me.

Even if endorsing these things meant changing SCOTUS to be more in favor of my moral beliefs, I won’t vote for someone so reprehensibly against what I stand for to get one good thing.

It’s hard. I get it.

Many people I know are deciding what to do. Some will not vote. And some, like me, will write in a candidate as a protest vote. I’m not sure who yet (feel free to recommend people in the comments), but that’s what I’m doing.

Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear how you vote. Tell me I’m wrong, tell me who you’re voting for, let me hear it!

To Life,

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Restaurant owner in deep water for discrimination

Shamash’s Delicatessen is a quaint corner hot spot for lunch in Manhattan, but things are about to get ugly for owner Shneur Berkovitz, who objects to a new bill that was recently passed.

Shady Business in New York

Berkovitz, an Orthodox Jew, serves a limited number of traditional Jewish dishes alongside more widely known dishes seen in mainstream American restaurants. The name of his restaurant, the décor, and the Jewish heritage proudly shared on the menu have led Manhattan natives to believe that Berkovitz was running a legitimate Jewish business. They streamed in by the dozens every day for lunch.

That is, until earlier this year.

When Manhattan residents discovered that Berkovitz does not allow pork to be served under any circumstance, they were horrified.

“Without pork on the menu, I am prohibited from exercising my constitutional right to freedom of dinner choice,” said local food blogger Sara Adams. “Frankly, it’s unconstitutional to prohibit diners from choosing from a full range of dinner options.” Sen. Rob McIngle (D, NY) added.

Berkovitz appeared stunned in a local news broadcast as he shook his head. “I’m Jewish. Pork isn’t something we eat. Why would I serve it in my restaurant?” he asked.

Food activists were angry, but they didn’t stop there. They discovered that Shamash’s is not a licensed vendor with Jewish Foods International, which may be another sign that Berkovitz is running a shady business. If his establishment was a true Jewish restaurant, it would be licensed as a Jewish Food Provider, meaning it was qualified to provide a wide range of Jewish dishes. But supporters claim that the limited Jewish dishes available are so easy anybody can make them, so they think being licensed is not important. Opponents beg to differ, and say that Berkovitz is misleading customers. On top of that, he is limiting the choices of his patrons, and should at least refer diners to where they could find the best local pork. Refusing to tell people about their options is manipulative and deceptive, Manhattan regulars are saying.

Locals brought it to the authorities, and have been successful in passing a bill that will affect all restaurants similar to Shamash’s which are unlicensed as Jewish Food Providers. This bill, christened the Pork FACT Act by supporters, requires that Berkovitz now informs diners of his lack of credible food service by posting this statement in the area by the hostess waiting area:

“This facility is not licensed as a Jewish Food Provider facility by the State of New York and has no licensed Jewish food provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of Jewish dishes.”

This statement is required to be on the menu and any marketing materials including, but not limited to, commercials, billboards, brochures, and websites affiliated with this business. In addition, this bill mandates that the hostess greet every patron with these words:

“Hello, and welcome to Shamash’s! Before you sit down to eat, we want you to know that New York has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive pork dishes (including all FDA-approved methods of smoked ham), pulled pork, and pork sausage, for eligible people. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social food services office at 1-800-YAY-PORK.”

Sue Burke, an attorney representing the people of Manhattan, stated that “New York has been a national leader in promoting and protecting equal access to the full range of options for pork products. The Pork FACT Act will ensure that people who eat are empowered to make informed and timely decisions about their health and their bodies.”

Mike Hugo, Director of Logistics for the annual “We

Berkovitz, still dazed at the news of what his restaurant is mandated to do, remains incredulous. “All I want to do is cook food for people who come here. If you want pork, okay. Go somewhere else. But don’t make me help you find something I am against.”

An owner of a local business who wished to remain anonymous said: “It’s about time Berkovitz got into some trouble. People think he’s running an authentic Jewish establishment. I mean, look at the signs! The hostess even looks Jewish! But it’s not licensed, so it’s not legitimate. And he is discriminating against his patrons by refusing to serve them pork. If he shuts down, I’ll be happy. And we’ll have taken a step toward true freedom of dinner choice.”

* In case it’s unclear, this is a satire piece meant to serve as an analogy to the recent passing of AB 775 in California. This bill forces life-affirming pregnancy centers to give statements similar to the ones in this article, referring women to where they can procure abortions. Names and business names are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or businesses is unintentional.

I’m the boss, so ya’ll can just shut up

Have you seen stuff going around in the last couple months about bossy little girls? This quote definitely had it’s moment in the spotlight getting passed around on social media:

By Sheryl Sandberg

* Cue dramatic music and smiling faces of sassy little girls after reading that quote *

Aren’t you so inspired?

I mean, every little girl who is bossy is obviously a budding leader-in-training! We should encourage them to be the boss and follow their dreams! They should stand up for themselves and take charge! Be ambitious! Be loud and in charge!

Grumpy Cat says it best. When I first started hearing about this whole idea of encouraging bossy girls to embrace their innate leadership capabilities, I was like:

“Why?” you ask. Let’s first take a look at what bossy means:

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Being bossy means I don’t care about about your opinion. It means telling you to do something right this second with no ifs, ands, or buts. It may mean raising my voice to get my point across. It means being powerful in a way, because I can control you. You have no say. It’s treating you as a means to get something done, without respecting your dignity as a person.

And that, my friends, is not okay.

From personal experience (as a person who can be bossy), I can tell you that it hurts people. Everyone deserves to be listened to, and being bossy is the opposite of that by definition. My leadership skills are at their worst when I’m bossy, because it means resorting to my position of authority to get people to do things. But leadership is so much more than that. Having a title is the least important aspect of being a leader, and it becomes wholly unimportant to people who have great leadership capabilities.

Leadership is about being someone people follow – not because they are docile little lambs to fetch you grapes and Italian olives from Venice, but because you have a message they are invested in. You have something to say, maybe something you’re fighting for, and people who have similar motivations are going to join forces with you if you show the ability to take your cause to the next level. Leadership is making a difference and having people lend a hand because they want to, not because you guilt-tripped them into coming, or bribed them with cookies. Believe me, I’ve done that. And it doesn’t work too well because it coerces people to come. It doesn’t empower people to be an integral part of your mission.

When we tell our little princesses that being bossy is okay because it’s just their leadership shining through, we’re telling them a lie. Because, quite frankly, the “light” from bossy people is burning my freaking face off.

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People deserve to be listened to. If I’ve learned anything over the last 1.5 years serving on the leadership team of Ravens Respect Life, this is it (and yes, a lot more). I used to go auto-pilot into “let’s get this done ASAP and since I don’t trust anyone else to do it right I shall do it myself” mode. Nobody told me blatantly to knock it off. Nobody told me it was annoying in all the years of “leadership” throughout high school.

I wish they had.

For years I’ve been a person who doesn’t wait for other people to get things done. Some people would call that ambition or me being a “go-getter”. I certainly am ambitious, but in the last months I’ve realized how messed up this idea of being my big, bad empowered self is. Why? It’s important to make sure people know you value their opinions. Even if you do have the final say, leaders have to let other people contribute to the cause. If they don’t, it becomes a dictatorship: you controlling people, not building a movement together. That doesn’t value other people. It doesn’t build trust. And it certainly doesn’t make anyone a skilled leader.

A skilled leader listens to followers, and you know what? They have amazing ideas . . . things I could never have thought up. They have skills and abilities you are not good at. They just might blow your mind.

The people I’ve worked with have taught me this, and I am so thankful. It’s humbling, and a constant reminder that I am not the boss. And I really don’t want you to shut up. I want to hear your ideas and work with you to make the world a better place. You have ideas I don’t have, and together we can do more than if we went our separate ways.

So, what are we to do about this bossy phenomenon? Instead of praising this attitude of bossiness, let’s teach each other how to value each other (and the people who follow us or we are followers of). Listen. Don’t interrupt. Work together. Read about real leadership: the power to influence other people. Learn how to tell good stories which will inspire people. Be able to empower people to contribute to your cause.

Being a real leader is better than bossing people around. It’s so much more.

To Life,

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