What does the Oregon School Shooting Mean for Us?

Yesterday was a tough day for America, and particularly Oregon. A shooter opened fire on Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Oregon. 10 people are dead, including the shooter. It is a tragedy whenever there is a wrongful death, but especially a mass shooting to add to the list. The fact that there is a list is already disconcerting enough.

Help and prayers are pouring into this small community south of Portland, and the rest of America mourns along with them. The victims will be remembered in a montage on the morning news, with their smiles faces plastered across the T.V. as family and friends talk about their hopes and dreams and the impact they had on the world. This will last for a few days, maybe a week, as more information is released from law enforcement and we collectively shake our heads as we learn more about this senseless tragedy.

As friends and family start the path toward healing, the dialogue for the rest of the country changes. I hate to mix politics with a crime of this magnitude, but unfortunately that’s the script Americans follow. Soon panelists will begin arguing about gun control on every news channel, and guest psychologists will make an appearance to give their two cents about the “why;” why the gunman did what he did, why this campus, what happened in his life that led him to this?

This opens up a bigger, broader conversation that undoubtedly comes in the weeks following a mass shooting- how can we prevent this from happening again? Some say gun control is to blame. We need to have stricter regulations for weapons. Some even suggest making guns illegal. Why do regular citizens need guns anyway?

I honestly don’t think gun control is the problem. After all, drugs are illegal. Does that stop people from doing them? Robbery is illegal, and so is murder. Yet we have robberies and murders. If someone is bad, they aren’t going to begin following the letter of the law. So gun control won’t help. It might put up a slight road block, but it wouldn’t make it impossible.

We haven’t heard much about this shooter yet. Actually, we haven’t heard anything. The most we know is maybe his name, and that he is 26 years old. I think this is a purposeful omission so the focus isn’t taken off of the victims. We will begin talking about him, though, and when we do, it will sound familiar.

“He was always withdrawn.”

“He had a few incidents before this.”

“He said some questionable things on social media.”

There always seem to be a sign. I can’t think of a mass shooting that didn’t involve a shooter who turned out to be showing troublesome signs very early on. Yet no one ever speaks up. They just assume nothing will come of it. At least until it does.

I think mental illness should be the focus. Our country’s view of mental illness is highly skewed. Those with mental illness aren’t treated the same as someone with a physical illness. Why is that? In many cases, their untreated mental illness can end up hurting innocent people.

Now I’m not saying mental illness is a scape goat to commit heinous crimes, because it certainly isn’t; but maybe the stigma surrounding it should change.

This won’t fix all of our problems, but if our attitude about mental illness changes, there’s a possibility we can prevent this in the future.

Kim is back, back again

Well, we can’t seem to escape Kim Davis. At this point, she’s practically a household name. Either she’s spoken about with disdain or celebrated for her stance against “the man.” If you’re wracking your brain trying to remember who she is, I’ll give you a quick recap.

Kim Davis is a Kentucky county clerk who is responsible for issuing marriage licenses to happy couples getting ready to say “I do.” Kim Davis is a Christian, and she believes same-sex marriage is wrong and a sin against God. Up until a few months ago, this fact didn’t interfere with her day to day duties as a county clerk; that is, until same-sex marriage was legalized across the United States and she was brought face-to-face with a same-sex couple looking to get their marriage license. She refused to issue them a license because of her beliefs, which spiraled into the side-show act that we now have in our midst. Many conservatives rallied behind her, including GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and she was even jailed for refusing to do her job. She was released from jail after a few days and went right back to her post, where she passed off the marriage license duty to her office minions and holed up in her office, away from cameras and press.

She was fading from the spotlight, but now she’s back and she’s been touched by the Pope. No, really, she actually hugged him. During Pope Francis’ visit in the United States last week, he had a secret meeting with Davis and her husband. We only heard about this today, from Davis and her legal counsel. For a while, the Vatican didn’t make a comment in any direction, and then, all of a sudden, they confirmed that the meeting did take place. I know, pictures or it didn’t happen. According to the Vatican, a photographer was on hand along with the Pope’s security and official photos will be released by the Vatican at some point. The Vatican hasn’t said much else.

According to Davis, during their meeting, the Pope embraced her and asked her to pray for him, and commended her for standing her ground. Their meeting lasted about 15 minutes and he even gave Davis rosary beads for her Catholic parents.

So what’s the deal? This pope has been hailed as the “cool pope.” He seemed progressive and understanding and loving of all people. On the same hand, he is still a Roman Catholic individual, and those ideals are firm, especially for the Pope. But why go out of his way to meet with Davis, especially in secret? This makes it more disconcerting. I think the pope’s time could have better been served meeting with those less fortunate (which he did make some time for), or even kids in hospitals fighting for their lives. Why Kim Davis? Maybe we’ll never know.

Why Did Walker Drop Out?

It’s been a busy week for the GOP. First, Scott Walker drops out of the run for president. A few days later John Boehner announces he will be resigning as Speaker of the House, right on the tails of the Pope’s visit to Congress.

What exactly is going on in the Tea Party? Why are two notable figures stepping out of the spotlight?

In Scott Walker’s case, Donald Trump is a large part of his reason for dropping out. Well, at least that’s part of his remarks when he made the announcement that he will be gracefully bowing out of the run for the White House. In the same breath, he urged most of the other candidates to do the same so that they could rally behind the second strongest candidate to more successfully take on Trump. Trump’s tactics are unheard of, even in politics, and other Republicans look at him as an antiestablishment knuckle-head who isn’t serious about foreign policy or many of the key issues plaguing America. Walker’s remarks aren’t surprising considering the other candidates have become more vocal about their disdain for Trump. It doesn’t make it any less surprising that he would suddenly give up.

Aside from hoping to unite the other candidates against the Big Bad Wolf, Walker was also dropping in the polls. At the start of campaign season, Walker was widely considered as a serious contender for the White House; but this was before the Trump Show started airing. Since then, Walker has trouble finding his footing and making his voice heard. He was drowned out by Trump’s one liners about Mexicans and women, and overshadowed by the momentum of fresh faces like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. I would even venture to say that most Americans wouldn’t be able to pick Walker out of a line-up.

Then there were his debate performances. Walker missed opportunities to make a point on key issues that would hit the press by sunrise. Instead, Trump, Bush, Carson, Fiorina, and Rubio were the widely talked about candidates, with a sprinkling of Chris Christie. These were two missed opportunities for Walker and the polling numbers reflected that.

Trump still has the top spot, with Fiorina and Carson neck in neck and gaining rapidly. Walker is being reasonable and must have started to realize that his chances of occupying the Oval Office were fading away.

Who will be next? Only time can tell, but I would predict that one by one, the other candidates who aren’t in the top 5 will begin dropping like flies as time wares on and we inch closer to choosing one candidate to represent our party. Except, maybe, for Rand Paul. He might go kicking and screaming.

The Pope Lands in America

Yesterday marked the Pope’s first visit to the United States. Pope Francis has already spoken in Washington D.C., and tomorrow he will address Congress before visiting New York City and Philadelphia.

The last time a Pope visited was in 2008, but things are a bit different this time. While the Pope’s visit has always been a revered occasion, Pope Francis brings a breath of fresh air with him, and Catholics and non-Catholics alike are marking the monumental occasion.

Pope Francis has been received as the peoples’ Pope. He lives with very little mean for a Pope, can be seen shopping for eyeglasses like the average human, and even rides around in a smart car. He carries his own luggage. He isn’t afraid to mingle with the people and doesn’t hold himself in a higher regard than the rest of the Catholic world. As a Cardinal before he was elected as the Pope, he would ride public transportation to and from work, and wasn’t afraid to serve the most dangerous and impoverished communities.

Pope Francis even stopped his motorcade in order to get out of his car and bless a disabled child. While the blessing isn’t a new move for a pope, putting the people before himself with disregard for his own well-being is a new step for a pope.

It’s not just his personality that has everyone won over, but his morals. He’s seen as a progressive Pope, speaking for the masses and swaying from well-known Catholic values. While Pope Francis doesn’t necessarily condone actions that are against the teachings of the Bible, he is adamant to point out that there can always be progress and a new way to do things. When asked about same-sex marriage, he pointed out that God loves everyone.

Now in Washington D.C, Pope Francis addressed 15,000 people in front of the White House, and even addressed political issues.

“During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.”

He also spoke about “one of America’s most precious possessions,” religious freedom.

He spoke on climate change, urging Americans as well as the rest of the world to take a stand to correct the problem before it is too late.

Pope Francis will speak more during his visit to the US, but most notably will be his speech to Congress tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Highlights from the GOP Debate

The GOP debate last night was a lot to digest. We had a much better understanding of the candidates going into this debate than we did the first time, and we were on the lookout for notable responses to actions that have been making headlines.

We heard tales from candidates past, strong stances on the Iran deal and Kim Davis, insults about appearance, and much more. Last night’s debate was chaos overall. Not because of the candidates, but because of the moderators. CNN hosted the debate this time around, and did a poor job of keeping the candidates on track and reducing the immature mudslinging. It felt all over the place, with lack of direction, and it took over a half hour before questions were posed about real issues facing our country.

The beginning of the debate was the Trump show. Candidates were asked if they agreed or disagreed with Trump’s comments, and if they thought Trump would be able to control the nuclear weapons. It felt more like The Donald debate rather than the GOP debate. Luckily, John Kasich couldn’t take it anymore either and pointed out that voters are more interested in hearing the candidates’ stances on key issues. He’s right, we are. Whew.

Carly Fiorina was an addition to this debate, and with good reason. She was the breakout star of the early debate the first time around, and she more than earned a spot with the top tier candidates. It’s not necessarily that Fiorina has extremely opposing views to the other candidates, but rather her conviction and execution. She was able to take on Trump without stooping to his level, and perfectly articulated her stances, views, and ideas if she were president. She also rattled off key players in Iran and Russia and showcased an advanced understanding in foreign policy. As we remember from Trump’s radio interview last week, this is his biggest weakness. Fiorina was the clear standout of this debate.

Donald Trump did what he does best. He insulted candidates based on their appearances, accused them of being controlled by the money, and talked about his vast wealth. He has low lows and high highs. In response to Fiorina calling out his previous comments about her looks, he retorted but saying she is beautiful, a move that was surprising for him. He had some back and forth with Rand Paul and pointed out that he never attacked Paul on his looks, even though there was “a lot of subject matter to work with.” He was largely silent during the discussions about foreign policy, and didn’t chime in for about 30 minutes. Trump isn’t comfortable talking about anything other than immigration. His debate performance probably won’t hurt him in the polls though; his supporters seem loyal to a fault.

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush stood out as front-runners of the debate. Rubio’s charisma and stern stance on policies helps him every time. He is a strong speaker and commands the room. Bush came back from a lackluster first debate, and was more prepared and pointed with his responses and answers to key questions voters have about electing another Bush. He stood out from his brother and father, and had a few standout moments.

Chris Christie did far better in this debate than the last. Last time, he staggered and left voters unsure of his stances on key issues. This time, Christie positioned himself as the adult on the stage, and the voice of the middle class. He articulated his positions much more clearly, which voters appreciate.

Ben Carson remained himself but staying out of the back and forth unfolding around him, and only spoke when completely necessary. He might have missed a few good opportunities for pointed words against Trump and other candidates, but he never took the bait. This could either help or hurt him. He could be overshadowed, or he can continue to climb towards Trump as his supporters appreciate his unorthodox approach to politics.

I think Rand Paul has to be crowned the loser in this debate. In his typical fashion, he came off as a schoolyard bully, attacking Trump every chance he could, but never took the opportunity to point out his own strengths. At this point, Paul comes off as the fly you continuously swat away from the pie but won’t give up.

What you need to know about tonight’s CNN GOP debate

Tonight is the second GOP Debate (Republican Presidential debate) and it will be airing prime-time from sunny California and will feature 11 of the top candidates, this time including Carly Fiorina who has been making more of a name for herself since the first debate. Let’s take a look at what to expect tonight and see where our candidates stand.

Donald Trump is still leading in every poll and has been the talk of the town since announcing his candidacy. He continues to speak in front of hundreds or thousands of supporters, and hasn’t bitten his tongue when it comes to immigration or any other hot topic issues. Nothing seems to be slowing Trump down, even disparaging comments about women or Mexicans don’t seem to lower his numbers. Trump’s biggest problem is his understanding of facts. When questioned further about foreign policy, he stammered and confused key players in the world political field.

Ben Carson is climbing steadily in the polls and seems to be the biggest threat to Donald Trump. He is merely a few points behind Trump in key states and has garnered support from unlikely places for a GOP candidate, including a mostly blue California. Carson is very intelligent and perfectly articulates his views and ideas. What seems to be Carson’s main problem is his quiet demeanor, and Trump has already been on the attack saying that he lacks energy, also adding that the president would need to be more forceful.

Jeb Bush is experienced and yet he is struggling in this campaign. He is walking the line between ignoring Trump and using Trump’s tactics against him. Bush’s poll numbers are lower than initially expected, and he has shifted his image since his campaign began, to more directly fire back at Trump and to show more of his personality. Bush’s new campaign video features him speaking Spanish and showcases a rare appearance from his wife, who is a Mexican immigrant. This could be the key to helping Bush gain Latino votes as Trump has been vocal about his disdain for Mexicans.

Carly Fiorina will get her opportunity to face Trump tonight at the debate for the first time. Trump has already lashed out against Fiorina by attacking her looks. Fiorina has exceeded expectation so far, but has plateaued in the polls. Tonight could make or break her campaign.

Marco Rubio hasn’t been too vocal on the campaign trail lately, but is still considered a viable contender for the GOP bid. Rubio’s background and his charisma are what has helped him gain thus far, but he has struggled to break out from under the shadow Donald Trump has been casting on the other candidates. His performance tonight can help him get better footing in this race.

The CNN Republican Primary Debate will air tonight at 8 p.m. ET on CNN. The first round debate that will feature the remaining candidates who have at least 1% in the polls will air at 6 p.m. ET.

Why does Kim Davis still have a job?

Today, Kim Davis returned to work. You might remember Kim Davis as the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses because it is against her religion. Her tantrum landed her in jail for five days for refusing to do her job. Makes sense. She is a worker of the court and cannot impress her views on others, especially by refusing to do her job.

But now she is back at work. She spent all of Monday in her office with the door closed and the blinds drawn, only after making a statement to the press of course. Christian conservatives have called Davis a “hero” for standing up for her beliefs.

And that’s great. We live in a country that allows us to believe in whatever we would like, and say whatever we want. But this isn’t just another opinionated citizen. She is refusing to do her job.

In her statement Monday morning before retreating to her office for the day, she said,

“I want the whole world to know … If any [deputy clerk] feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice, and I will take no action against them. However, any unauthorized license that they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order. I don’t want to have this conflict. I don’t want to be in the spotlight, and I certainly don’t want to be a whipping post; I am no hero. I just want to serve my neighbors quietly without violating my conscience. And so this morning, I am forced to fashion a remedy that reconciles my conscience with Judge Bunning’s orders. Effective immediately and until an accommodation is provided by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage license issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me.”

This is the part that gets me. She is returning to work, and will be paid, but is still not doing her job.

As anyone who has ever held a job knows, if you refuse to do your job, you would be terminated. This is like ordering a burger at a restaurant and being told you can’t have a burger because your server is a vegetarian. It’s not about religious beliefs or political views. It’s about doing your job.

So why is Kim Davis is still employed? Is it because she has become somewhat of a martyr? Only time will tell.

Never Forget

Never forget September 11, 2001. A day that is hard for anyone in the country, and even some others, to erase from their memory. It is a day that feels different from the rest of the week even these 14 years later. The air seems to feel heavier and still. You’re greeted by strangers whose faces are the look of dismay. Everyone has the same look in their eyes. Thoughtfulness, confusion, sadness. It seems like everyone is walking around in a fog. Those who lost a loved on that day reflect on their lives and post memories on social media. Scrolling through my newsfeed is like a time machine filled with “never forgets” and fuzzy pictures.

Everyone remembers where they were on that day 14 years ago. It’s hard to forget, no matter how young you were. Even the vaguest memory is filled with confusion and chaos.

I was in 6th grade Science class. The teacher instructed us not to turn on the TV. But she wasn’t going to be giving us a lesson that day. “Just talk amongst yourselves.” She flew in and out of the classroom. I could see through the window in the door that my other teachers were huddled out there together. Whispering, exchanging worried glances. Some of their eyes filled with tears. But back in the classroom, all the students were normal. I knew something was wrong, but I certainly didn’t have any idea what I was going to learn.

The phone rang and it sounded like it was off the hook. My teacher ran into the classroom and grabbed the phone, slamming it down in a fervor a moment later. It was for me, and my mom was here to pick me up from school early. I gathered my things and proceeded to my locker. I remember thinking how weird it was that I was being picked up early and worried one of my grandparents was in the hospital.

When I got to the front lobby, I was stunned. It was packed full of parents who all seemed to be over talking one another. It was loud. But it felt weird. I pushed through the crowd looking for my mom. A girl I knew walked toward her mom asking, “Where is dad?” When I finally reached my mom she grabbed me and rushed us to the car.

I don’t really remember the car ride to our house. It was only 10 minutes but it felt like a lifetime. She told me what had happened. I worried about family in New York. Thankfully, my family was spared on that day.

Many weren’t so lucky. 3,000 lives were lost that day, and countless others in the aftermath. On this day we are full of pride. We are proud to be Americans. We are happy to dedicate the day to those who are gone, and we stand as one country. Why does it take a tragedy to bring our country together? Come tomorrow, things will be back to normal. The memorials will be over. I wish that just one time, Americans could still feel proud and united even after the day has passed. If we can come together in the face of adversity, why can’t we come together otherwise?

What is the line between religion and law?

There are a couple of platforms that the Republican Party takes that doesn’t bode well with voters. Same-sex marriage, birth control, abortions, religion, and the like. Right now I want to focus on same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide. Many Republican politicians were supportive of the court’s ruling and offered vague words of support. But some others were vocal about their dismay. They are religious and firm in their beliefs, and they believe that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, and that homosexuality is a sin.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. We were built on the freedom of our country, and are fortunate enough to be afforded our opinions and beliefs and are able to share them with fellow citizens. So where is the line drawn between religious beliefs and the law?

Enter Kim Davis. Kim Davis is a Kentucky county clerk who is firm in her religious beliefs. Same-sex marriage is wrong. She began refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. After back and forth with the federal court and the threat that she could be thrown in jail, she was. Davis remains in jail and has become something of a martyr for other conservatives who agree with her position. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been especially vocal about his beliefs and stands behind Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Regardless of your beliefs, Kim Davis broke the law. What she did is equivalent to not letting someone sit at the counter of a bar because they are black. The law isn’t up for interpretation, no matter what an individual might think about said law.

This is where Republicans lose voters, mostly young voters. Are progressive Republicans a thing? I think they are. I personally am a registered Republican. I believe in their fiscal positions, even though I don’t believe with the social ones. I can get past the fact that I don’t agree with every position they have. Some young voters can’t.

Same-sex marriage shouldn’t be a hot topic platform now. It’s legal, the court has made that ruling already. There’s no need to continue the discussion. Some candidates have recognized that and if asked about same-sex marriage, offer up vague, polite words that say they believe in the law and that’s the way it is. Sometimes they add that people are equal no matter what.

What will happen to Kim Davis? Will they let her out of jail even if she continues to refuse to issue same-sex licenses? After all, it is the law.

Does Black Lives Matter mean those are the only lives that matter?

Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Freddie Gray. You’re familiar with these names, right? They’re the names of young black men who were killed by white men, sometimes cops. Their deaths started a new movement in America. Black Lives Matter. You’ve seen the hashtags, the videos, and the never ending commentary. You’ve watched President Obama get on national television and declare that these boys could easily be his son, and call for a change.

Bryon Dickson. Charles Gliniewicz. Sonny Kim. Do you recognize these names? You probably don’t these are the names of just a few officers who were killed in the line of duty. Not just killed, but gunned down. If you’re wondering if you missed Obama’s press conference about these brave men, don’t worry, you didn’t. There never was one.

I’m not sure if this is just about race, or maybe it’s about police officers. There certainly is a lot of hate being spewed around the country towards police officers. The same people who wake up every single day ready to protect and serve the same people who bash them. Stories and videos of heroism by these fine men and women aren’t shared, hardly at all. A few bad eggs or bad situations have been put in the spotlight, and as a result a stigma has been cast upon every fellow American in blue.

Lt. Charles Gliniewicz was a military veteran who continued to serve our country as a police officer in Illinois. He was married with four children. Yesterday he was killed while in pursuit of 3 suspects, all of whom are still fleeing police. A manhunt is underway to find Lt. Gliniewicz’s killers.

Obama is in Alaska taping a special for the survival show “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” He has not made a comment. He has not called a press conference.

So why are only some lives important? The focus the past year or so has been on black lives because of a few incidents that have been slapped in front of our eyes and made the only focus in the news. I’m not saying their lives don’t matter, all lives matter. A death is tragic no matter the circumstances. But what about the other deaths? Are they less important because they don’t fuel a movement?

It’s becoming increasingly disturbing to me why police lives aren’t deemed important enough to be mourned or to start a movement, but rather they are looked at as the enemy.

I have to fuel my argument with some statistics. Black Americans commit over half of the homicides in the country. Black Americans commit eight times more crimes against white Americans than vice-versa. About 1,000 more white Americans were killed by police than black Americans.

The sole point of the Black Lives Matter movement is that black Americans are the victims. They are discriminated against, therefore they are killed. These statistics show otherwise.

I think Ben Carson is onto something when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, that we need to focus on crime in general, especially in bad neighborhoods, and not single out any one race.