John Patrick

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Political expo promotes discussion between political parties

Left to right: Malik Alim, Robin Hayes, Ray McKinnon, and Stephen Kent. Photo by Chimena Ihebuzor.

Charlotte’s first ever political expo took place April 5 as participants with different political leanings all came together to share a dialogue. The event was comprised of a panel of four guests representing a lineup of political and civic organizations with a moderator facilitating the discussion. The panelists conferred over a number of topics that are pertinent to today. The event took place in the Lucas room inside Cone.

Dr. Gregory Weeks, chair of the political science department, served as the moderator. He began the expo by stating “tonight’s event is a first step in what we hope are more events these young leaders will organize that bring people together.” From there, he asked the speakers a series of questions that were to be answered round robin style. After giving their perspectives, he asked follow-up questions or allowed the panelists to expand upon their initial statements. The issues included gun control, immigration, race relations and political polarization.

The representatives for each organization included the Illinois organizer for the Roosevelt Institute Malik Alim, former U.S representative from North Carolina’s 8th congressional district Robin Hayes and chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party Ray McKinnon and the spokesperson for Young Voices and a libertarian activist Stephen Kent. They each represented the Roosevelt Institute, College Republicans, College Democrats and Young Americans for Liberty.

The Student Government Association (SGA) and National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) sanctioned and hosted the event. The initial idea to put on the expo was originated by NSLS president Elijah Acosta, who helped spearhead the process.

The central theme was to promote discussion and not debate. As such, there were a few ground rules to follow to allow a smooth flow of ideas. Assume good faith on the part of others, assert your own views without disparaging and listen to other’s views so as to see more clearly what our main points of disagreement are and therefore perhaps how to “bridge the gap,” were among those rules.

While the viewpoints and opinions of the participants might have differed, the general accord shared by both audience and panelist was that the conversation was unabated yet civil. Each panelist discussed their preferred policy position (which may have reflected upon their own organizations) and their sense of how those who share their views can contribute to moving toward consensus. What are productive ways of moving forward?

One of the more poignant moments of the event was toward the conclusion, when the topic of political polarization was brought up during a time of great divide and virulence in our country. McKinnon, a pastor at a local United Methodist Church in Charlotte, said that the best thing to happen to his career, as a self-identified liberal, was to lead a service of mostly conservative congregants, because it forced him not to caricature those he disagrees with; It allowed him to listen and get to know one another sans the labels.

Political organizations make history, sign first-ever campus Political Expo into order

President of College Democrats Matthew Washington (left), President of the National Society of Leadership and Success Elijah Acosta (center) and President College Republicans Keith Maples (right). Photo courtesy of Acosta.

A number of prominent UNC Charlotte student organizations met this past Thursday to officially codify a political Expo into order by rule of pen. Through this seal of approval, the signees — represented by four civically-oriented university programs — formally commemorated the landmark accord that is to serve as a platform for public discourse. The Political Expo is slated to convene on Thursday, April 5.

The signing of such a charter is monumental in that it is the first of its kind to take place on Charlotte’s campus.

The objective of the Political Expo is to break bread among bodies of students who, while holding differing views on controversial subjects, are nonetheless open to honest dialogue and healthy conference. The producers of the Expo seek to foster a sense of unity and freely welcome an exchange of diversity of thought. A number of talks and panel-discussions are scheduled for April 5.

“When we first heard the idea, we looked at it more so about 49ers coming together, no matter the political affiliation,” Tracey Allsbrook, student body president, said regarding the event. “In today’s world, there’s so much division that it’s hard just to be in the room with one another. The expo is allowing that to take place and for voices to be heard”.

The event is sanctioned and supported by the Student Government Association.

The four campus organizations represented at the signing ceremony were the College Democrats, College Republicans, Young American’s for Liberty and the Roosevelt Institute. Their delegates included president Matthew Washington, president Keith Maples, president Ben Waldman, and vice president Kiley Murray.

The document is worded in such a way as to promote fellowship and to assign each organization equitable stake and responsibility to carry out the duties of the Expo.

The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), an Honor Society dedicated to developing the next generation of leaders, is responsible for coordinating the joint venture.

The president of NSLS and chief architect of the Expo’s birth, Elijah Acosta, helped broker the facilitation of the aforementioned organizations and presided over the singing of the charter.

“Though we are a small collection of college students coming into partnership with one another, the message of what we have done this evening is far greater than could be imagined,” he said. “That despite our differences and disagreements, we can come together, we can work together, we can bridge the factional gap.”

It’s worth mentioning that this form of multi-partisan communion can serve as a noble stepping stone on which future compromises emanate. To a greater extent, Vi Lyles, Charlotte’s Democratic mayor, is currently in the bidding process for the city to host the Republican National Convention in 2020.

The defining moment of the evening was when the presidents of the College Democrats and College Republicans shook hands to symbolically seal the agreement, ushering in a newfound alliance and willingness for prospective collaboration.

Satire: The Light Rail that Thinks it Can

Scenes from light rail construction August 2015. Photo by Aleena Oliveira.

A couple of weeks ago, the Niner Times reported that the light-rail connecting Uptown Charlotte to the University campus will be postponed. The opening, scheduled for August of 2017, will now be held, God willing, in March of 2018.

However, this mostly went in one ear and out the other. The overwhelming consensus of the student body was the light-rail was already postponed permanently. Or that it would go live when pigs began flying, whichever came last. Most students were surprised come to find out that the delay was an actual thing. People really thought it was over.

The company, Middle Finger Corp., contracted by the city government to construct the light-rail, seems, at least on the outside, to be in no rush.

To provide my readership cutting-edge, transparent journalism, I snuck into a Middle Finger Corp. shareholders meeting to get the scoop.

“Where is the narrative! Where is the Narrative! No, seriously, can someone please help me find the blue-print for the light-rail, it seems I’ve misplaced it,” Ben Dover, the lead architect, said at the meeting, sweating profusely. “We’re pretty sure we know the direction and endgame of the light-rail, but at the same time, we entirely have no clue where it could go. “It might end up some place, it might not, without the blue-print there is no telling,” a flustered Dover finished.

The owner, founder, Chief Executive Officer, President, and General Manager of Middle Finger Corp., Hugh Jass Moneybags, was very much indifferent to the delay. Moneybags, who made his fortunate as a shipping titan transporting livestock from farm to slaughterhouse, had this to say, “I love government contracts, because I can milk every dime from the public through incompetency and ‘red-tape’ and still make a bundle. Seriously, where else can I profit off inadequacy?”.

“I made my billions shipping livestock- beef cattle, pork, chickens and sheep- from one place to another place. I started to notice something strange- the livestock reminded me of people, especially the people. Then it hit me: I could enter the market of shipping people!” Moneybags continued. He went further on to discuss the similarities, but made a distinction that at least the livestock had the good sense not to actually pay to ride the rail, like the humans do. “You could kind of say, after I made the venture into an emerging market, that people flocked to the idea.”

I laughed.

The announcement to further delay the light-rail, running its route on North Tryon, will continue stifling businesses along the track and no doubt exacerbate traffic to worsening sorts. No place has suffered such casualties to the light-rail constructions leisurely outlook on urgency than a beloved off-campus institution: Cook-Out. The cherished fast foot joint, famous for their fast food and diet water, is not an easy convenience like it once was. No, unfortunately, late night fast food types must make a rather sobering pilgrimage if they are to consume their precious fast food. It’s always worth it, though. Totally worth it.

With an estimated year to go until completion, there’s nothing much to do but cross our fingers in a hoping attempt that we will see the light-rail bear fruit. We were going to hold our breaths, but given the duration, I don’t think that is a good idea.

Satire: New Forms of Student Identification

University officials have decided (effective immediately) that students will be issued campus-mandated Rubik’s Cubes as a new form of student identification. This ruling, made by a group of administrators behind closed doors — the famed “UNC Charlotte Illuminati” — is in response to the mass confusion taking place campus-wide regarding the appropriate instrument for the job of student tracking. After long deliberation and much consideration, the bureaucrats charged with puppeteering our institution thought it best to change the medium for student identification… again.

Historically, the campus has employed the iconic green and flat student ID cards that the students have grown to love. Adorned with the student’s campus number and the eroded smile of each respective student’s face, these cards were a campus mainstay. They swiped with style. Then, recently and seemingly out of nowhere, the administration changed the functionality of the cards from a swiping motion to a chipping motion through the advent of a chip-reader.

Per a source, the University wanted to stray away from the action of “swiping” because they believed it posed too great a threat for the student body. The school officially condemns violence. Additionally, the school wants to shy away from another variation of the term, “stripping”, because it suggests promiscuity.

Rather, these tenured academics who have never actually held a job save for the realm of education, changed the mechanism to chipping so that anytime a student wants access to their dormitories, or to expense a meal from their dining account, they would simply insert the card into a chip-reader and wait sheepishly.

That all changed this week. And this drastic “switcheroo” is not short of controversy.

One of the school officials, Mike Hunt, who championed for the new Rubik’s Cube mode of identification, did so in order to make higher education less accessible. “I wanted a way to create a dynamic of pure intellectualism and theoretical development. Forcing students to solve a clunky, difficult puzzle just to achieve the most meaningless and simple task — like checking out a book at the library or purchasing items at the school store — will help restore the vision of educational exceptionalism”, Hunt said.

Others have been less open-minded about the new change. Lou Sassle, a security guard responsible for monitoring student security for on-campus housing, said the new change has already put a dent in the ebb and flow of traffic going in and out of the dorms. “Every time a freshman tries to get inside the dorms, the poor sucker has to solve a riddle. It used to be so easy; all they had to do was swipe. Then it was to chip. Now I let half of them in because I feel so bad. Bring back disco, man.” Sassle told the Niner Times he has even seen students go as far as furiously swipe and chip at dormant card readers in desperation to get in. In the weather months, this could get ugly.

Conspiracy theorists have surmised that this change is the result of globalist overlords. Perhaps it’s the new world order, they offered, though they don’t want to get ahead of themselves.

School-wide protests erupted in the wake of the transferal of school-sponsored identification. However, like most protests, absolutely nothing happened. Like nothing. I literally cannot stress how much of a non-factor these protests were. One sign read “I’m so pissed off I made a sign.”

Op-Ed: A Republican’s Olive Branch

If the Democratic party honestly wants to see the office of the presidency again, including the Congressional and Senatorial seats open in 2018, I would suggest they stop taking everything for granted. Trump won 2,622 counties out of the 3,112 counties for which there was collectible data in the United States; Hillary won 490. Trump poached 220 counties that voted for President Obama — I dare liberals call such counties ‘racist’ — to Clinton’s 17 counties that voted for Romney in 2012.

Hillary beat Trump in the popular vote by about 3 million. That means, within those same 490 counties mentioned above (only15.7% of the available counties), Hillary managed to gather millions more than Trump by the popular vote. Such counties are undeniably more densely populated, therefore watering down the potential pool of votes as democratic. More preposterously disproportionable, however, is that 1.5 million of Clinton’s popular vote came from the five counties that make up New York City.

Goodness.

I am not a democrat, but I do not wish to live in a world where I must passionately despise the party I do not belong to, which I’m afraid is beginning to happen — or has already begun. The founders wanted a two-party system and damned if we don’t give them one. If we are going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place anyway, its best, I think, to get along.

This is not to say I am a moderate. I’m far from a centrist. But even the late Antonin Scalia said you can hate ideas, but not people. Unfortunately, now we have petty partisanship and contesting factions of Americans that absolutely abhor their opposites.

So, for the sake of making American politics more genteel and humanely pragmatic, I must start with the party that has quite possibly fumbled in the most blundering, elephantine kind of way imaginable. I say this because the Republican party currently holds the executive and its administration, the Senate and the House and an overwhelming majority of the state governorships as well as the state general assemblies.

Forget the name-calling. Don’t get caught up with the insistent labeling of those you do not agree with as ‘racist, sexist, bigoted,’ and so on (that’s just to save time, the list is much, much longer). Seriously. The more hysterical you get compounds the effect of name-calling like the boy who cried wolf did when he, well, cried wolf.  Even if they truly are those bad words, undermine them with knowledge and not simple words or phrases that do nothing.

Ignore elitism. The Democratic party, after 8 years of strong-arming the executive, has gotten extremely lethargic and complacent. They have, by virtue, become the vaunted and often disliked “establishment” if you will. America has an interesting, though quite active, history of retaliating against its authority; even when that authority becomes herself. No matter how much it may irritate the academic cultural Marxists centered around an urban periphery, it is best not to act snobbish and entitled to the votes of middle America; or to belittle their background or way of life.

Fight political radicalization. Obviously states like Massachusetts and California will have their far-left progressives, but the Democratic party must understand that such views are not necessarily compatible in every state. A rural miner in Pennsylvania will not appreciate the delirium of being a cis-gender white male who hates the environment if it means he cannot provide food for his family (in reference to Clinton’s declaration of war against coal). Shifts along the political spectrum are mostly stagnant and if they do occur, are likely small. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take nothing away from Bernie Sanders and the movement of young, passionate progressives, however; but don’t splinter the party.

Grow thicker-skin. I am not advocating for an anarchic, wild-west sling fest of offensive and derogatory verbiage, only a proponent of not getting so worked up about things that do not matter. When people as a whole keep getting chastised for saying something not up to par for your feelings, that will translate come election. Simply put, people will have differences of opinions regardless if you want them to or not; free speech is the bee’s knees, even if you dislike what is being said. Diversity [of thought] is the spice of life.

Look, I’m a fairly self-aware person — I understand that I am a political gadfly when it comes to anything revolving, you guessed it, politics. I know this. I know which side of the aisle I stand on. Even so, I truly want a stronger, more united Democratic party. The better the Democratic party becomes the more it will challenge the views of the Republicans, which, naturally, will bolster our party’s strength and acumen. Rivals play at the level of their competition.

We’re all under one flag anyway, best to get along.

American flags waved at a Hillary Clinton election night watch party in New York City. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

Alternate Take: Bullying… An American Tradition

Isn’t America just the best? I think so. It’s the greatest county on the planet. Hell, it’s the only country on the planet if you ask me. I honestly can’t even name another country that exists, much less a relevant one. I guess when you’re up this high, everybody on the ground just looks like ants.

I mean, seriously, America is top-notch. Grade-A. We singlehandedly invented the most innovative and cutting-edge advancements that human beings have ever witnessed. We brought forth the English language (the American version, not the tea and crumpets kind), Hooters, NASCAR, Meat-lovers pizza and Ric Flair. We won back to back world wars. We are UNDEFEATED in the world series. Shooters shoot, winner’s attitudes only baby.

America is really good at breeding winners. George Washington, Tom Brady and, yes, Donald Trump.

Last week, the paper ran a story titled “No ban, no wall, no alt-facts”, which, using context clues, did not portray the President in a positive light. There was an analogy in the article wherein Trump was likened to an elementary school bully, the classroom was the United States and the well-intentioned teacher, while not specifically analogized, was perhaps the former administration, or the government? I am not entirely sure, though as a Trump supporter I will even concede and agree that Trump is a bully. Let us not forget, that at the pinnacle of Obama’s political success he was once a bully, too. (he quite literally warned the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address not to declare the ACA unconstitutional).

But you know what?

Bullies win. They are winners.

Trump bullied Jeb Bush. He bullied Marco Rubio. He bested a polished and groomed class of Republican candidates during the primaries. More dramatically, he bullied Hillary Clinton and won the presidency. There was virtue in bullying in this election, not pearl-clutching.

Perhaps he does bully the media. While I will not go as far as to compare the Trump administrations relation to the media as akin to North Korea or Cuba, as the author of the article suggested, Trump has zero tolerance for incompetence. And when the media of today has devolved from Truth seeking to narrative spinning, I can understand the pragmatism of his no holds barred approach.

There is no denying that Trump has a “yuge” ego, however to convince yourself that the wall and the ban is a result of his insecurities and pride is foolish. But hey, whatever lets you sleep at night. I am not quite as cynical and instead understand the recent executive orders as filling a void. Borders are the most theoretical and abstract topic when you merely think about them and unless you delineate such with a physical obstruction they are rather flimsy in their persuasion.

This anecdote that bolstering national security somehow stokes the flames of our enemies is a weak argument, literally. It’s the same take someone who enjoys getting bullied would have. Rather than stand firm and assertive, they would rather bend over and be submissive. I am fortunate I have a bull-dog of a bully doing America’s bidding than a door mat. Remember: as feel-good and sappy as an appeal to emotion is, citizens of other nations do not have an inherent right to American citizenship.

America bullied the Native-Americans through manifest destiny. America bullied the confederacy into submission. Hell, even the very nature of America’s founding came about because we were sick and tired of being the conquered, and much preferred the act of the conqueror.

Love it or hate it, life is unfair. Those at the top of the food chain are there for a reason. They bully, but they win. Winner’s win.

Trump is a winner. I must give credit where credit is due — Obama is a winner as well.

And if Trump is the kindergarten bully, I do wonder who Clinton’s elementary counterpart is. Probably the weird girl in the back, with boogers and glue stuck in her hair that nobody actually liked.

From the large, statewide #NoBanNoWall rally in Raleigh. Photo by Pooja Pasupula.

Op-Ed: One Thing Leads to Another

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

I am not here to gloat, nor do I have time to say “I told ya so”. Nothing positive can be gained by suggesting the tables have turned after eight years of being in your shoes. I only wish to highlight a simple inquiry for my liberal friends to ponder over: how embarrassing must it feel?

I mean that as unironically and genuinely as I can. Again, I am not here to belittle. This question is not in reference to Hillary Clinton losing the presidency, but, rather, who was the president prior to Donald Trump taking office.

Just think about it.

A man, who had a video of him saying “grab her by the p%$^@” leaked a month before the election, was elected chief leader of the free world.

A man, who had the brashness to post a picture of him on Cinco De Mayo with the caption that read “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower grill. I love Hispanics.” A man who in that photo was posing with a taco bowl — the most bastardized American version of Mexican cuisine, mind you — is now an acting president. Cinco De Mayo is the celebration of the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla and as we all know, Hispanics are not limited singularly though Mexican heritage, which makes his post all the more ridiculous and insincere.

A man, who said “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10”, is married to the current-First Lady of the United States.

And finally, a man that actually uttered the words “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” during the campaign now has access to our nuclear codes.

This brings me back to my original question.

If, as a liberal, you adored former President Barack Obama, but loathe President Trump, how truly embarrassing must you feel knowing that Trump was a direct result of Obama?

Let that sink in.

Stare right into that looking glass-mirror and take the time to think before you call Trump a racist again or burn another American flag.

Because make no mistake, the law of cause and effect quietly set it and the dominos fell easily into their place. Eight years of unbridled deficiency, failure to build a consensus and ruling through the executive served as a good enough catalyst for a wrecking-ball candidate like Trump to take the reins and win.

I’m well aware that politics is mostly cyclical and Clinton was not short of flaws herself, but that doesn’t change the fact that Obama was the 44 president, and consequently, Trump is the 45 president. The entrenchment of the establishment, ringing celebrity endorsements and the over-saturation of being insulted by the most trivial of matters did not cut it this go round, though.

Even now, if you despise Trump’s policies — what with the immigration ban, his wall at the Southern U.S-Mexico border, and scaling back parts of Obamacare — it must be apparent that such drastic measures did not simply populate overnight. Trump understood the dissatisfaction and frustration that so many citizens in middle America felt and used the void to advance his message. He seized the opportunity that former President Obama handedly gave him.

Let this serve as a warning. Reflect, cry even, just understand the administration obsessed with endless virtue-signaling and legacy-seeking bears some responsibility for the prevailing current of today.

Much caution should be yielded on my side, too. Trump won, okay, we get it. We cannot rest in complacency through the luxury that our side finally won. It is not enough to say “sore losers lose sorely”, or “get over it”, because it didn’t feel that great when it happened to us eight years ago.

At this point, there’s nothing to do but smile and unity, John. Just smile, wave and unity.

Op-Ed: A Conservative’s Report from D.C.

I voted for Donald Trump. I know, I know — I’m the worst — but you can hate me later.

I recently visited Washington D.C. to witness the historic inauguration of President Donald Trump. I stayed with one of my friends who attends school in D.C.; the university will remain nameless, but I can assure you that the entire student body is completely polarized to the left.

I quickly realized that Washington D.C. is a capitol in more ways than one — D.C. is also the hub of the very metropolitan, millennial crowd divinely endowed with their own reverent virtuosity. Pompous patrons of progressive politics.

The diversity left much to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, they all kinda sorta looked different — a few cliques of different backgrounds strewn around — but they all dressed in that same boujee ensemble so often worn by the urban elite. However, what set them together and homogenous was that they all shared similar ideas. Just because they ‘looked’ different, didn’t mean they thought differently. They were all drinking the same soy-based, kale-infused, fair-trade guaranteed proverbial kool-aid.

My friend showed me around campus and his neighborhood and damned if I wasn’t a leper. Everyone could tell I was in town for the inauguration. They just could. I can’t explain it, maybe it was the clothes I was wearing or my meat-’n’-potatoes frame, but something must have screamed nonbeliever. Twice I was singled-out by the volition of my apparent abhorred disposition. And yet the world’s smallest violin began to play, is what these Triggly-Puff SJW’s would say had I told them I was being discriminated against.

My friends’ roommates were of the fervent persuasion that if they protested the inauguration hard enough, they might just block Trump’s presidency. It was the weekend, so they had no classes to attend, and short of employment themselves, they tried their darndest but ultimately came up short at the hands of a Democratic-Republic. Sad!

They did have plenty of questions for me, as I was no doubt the only Trump supporter within miles of their bastion of liberal conformity. They wanted to sit down and have a conversation.

In practice, this turned out to be an inquisition: a three against one witch trial. Off the bat they told me I was a sexist pig (which, to be fair, is not altogether that untrue). I was called a white-supremacist for supporting the Pipeline, never mind the fact that the friend I was staying with is black; making me a rather misinformed white supremacist. I had to look up what exactly a “cisgender white male” meant after being called one, and realized instantly that the English language is quite voluminous, though even more petty in its meticulousness; an awful vocabulary to waste, which these enlightened folks proved wrong. When I mentioned I like Toby Keith, who played at the inaugural concert, I was pegged a white-nationalist. They asked about my opinion of science, and understanding that it really could get that ridiculous, I told them that the process entirely is a myth. They didn’t get the joke.

Don’t get me wrong, I love debating and arguing.  Especially when it gets ugly. I thrive in these conditions. But I was the guest. I was outnumbered. They cut me off and called me a bad name instead of letting me finish speaking. They didn’t have a conversation, they threw a hissy fit.

That wasn’t even the worst part. One of the roommates from Los Angeles had the gall to ask me if I had ever eaten at Chick-fil-a when suggesting places to eat. I was far more insulted by that question than any of their actual insults.

I guess since this is the opinion section, and not a sporadic journal entry of my trips, I should give an opinion here. I really don’t have anything other than wwwooowww is D.C. a cult. That, and it was disheartening to see so many people — who claimed to be open-minded and tolerant — act bitter and regressive toward open dialogue. Labeling me as sexist and racist does more to exonerate people who actually share bigoted ideologies than it does convincing me that I am wrong.

This is all to say that both sides, because Lord knows my side has room for improvement, should trade the characterizations for ideas.

U.S. President Donald Trump, center, shakes hands with James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during an Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Harrer/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, shakes hands with James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during an Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Harrer/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)

Op-Ed: On Apathy and Social Media Politics

Don’t you just hate it when you’re scrolling through social media and you don’t see people arguing over politics?

That really grinds my gears, man. All I see is doltish clips of dogs behaving whimsically, maybe a cat mixed in every now and then. My timeline is littered with those bland, thoughtless videos of food production; labeled, rather boorishly, as “tasty”, or “yummy.” Mentions saturated by links of gauche articles compiling “facts” (read: opinions) into lists to a yawning effect.

I suppose the only politically-charged posts I see on social media is various memes undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the Vice-President of the United States.

But void are offerings of controversial and touchy subjects.

Where’s the fire?

Where’s the gumption?

Is everyone really that thin-skinned?

Delicate fairies, triggered snowflakes if you ask me.

I want scorched-earth warfare. I want that open-minded cousin from Portland and that intolerant Aunt from Dumpsville to rip into each other: he says she’s Caitlyn Jenner and she says he’s Bruce Jenner. I want entire posts the length of novels devoted to why Colin Kaepernick is a hero, or why he’s the devil. Abortion? Please, I am begging for digital dialogue. I implore you to explain to me, even after a free and fair democratic election, why he’s still ‘#notyourpresdient’. I gotta know your opinion of President Barack Obama. Gotta have it, can’t get enough of it.

I don’t merely want this, I need this.

Cursing and name-calling is not only allowed, it is encouraged.

Everyone is bush-league. Wine-and-cheese fans sitting on their hands during the game. I need passions flaring. Bigotry begetting tolerance, diversity inciting prejudice.

I want this agglomeration of opinioned content to reach such a peak that if you don’t post something cringe-worthy I will have no choice but to unfollow/unfriend you. I am fully prepared to lose as many friends as necessary in the process.

And believe me, my closest friends have threatened to unfollow me if I continued this pattern. They say that they’re above it all. That they’re too darling and nonchalant to give into the brutality of expressing political reservations; virtuous, even. They chastise my use of social media as an avenue to vocalize my thoughts. They do so much as call it a faux-paus.

Then, indifferent to irony, they’ll go on to share a life hack or invite me to candy crush. They’ll post selfies, post humblebrags, and start a poking war, but damned if they don’t share anything polarizing.

I much prefer the clashing of passionate opinions – irrelevant if I agree with them or not – than the agonizing monotony of pious trends and humdrum click bait.

A happy teenage girl and her grandparents using a laptop. (Dreamstime/TNS)
A happy teenage girl and her grandparents using a laptop. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Op-Ed: NERF Control

The phenomena occurs at the convenience of Murphy’s Law, always unexpected, but mostly when the daily bustling crowds of studious students subsides and dusk caresses the campus with its gentle curtains. Teams of students, literally armed with Nerf guns and colored flags delineating loyalty, go at it like the armies of old. Hoards, clans, cults of rag-tag militia vying to vanquish their Hasbro and Co. sworn enemy.

I’ve been caught up in a hail storm of foam bullets and plastic toy blasters- territorial skirmishes – many a time, and it has got to stop. We need Nerf Gun Control, and we need it now. I cannot begin to fathom how the University has continuously turned a blind eye to the utter violence and bestiality that mars this campus with its unconditional relaying of softie projectiles.

How many people have to be bothered before the administration wakes up and realizes how harmful and destructive an artificial apparatus is? Regardless of whether or not it can be used for the defense of oneself in situations of self-preservation, or the fact that it cannot be powered or shot by its own free will but by the actions of people, these weapons are mildly dangerous, deadly (eh, sort of) and must be confiscated then banned on university property.

Because those Nerf guns are scary. They’re warlike, forged with the oversight and foresight of the destructiveness to come. I contain absolutely zero knowledge regarding these tools; only that they are scary. I cannot speak in verity of their intent and disposition. But I nonetheless feel obliged to make an opinion of the matter and see fit that I push my convictions onto others; be it damned if actually applicable or not. Even if you are a safe and responsible practitioner of Nerf guns, the void of security and comfort zone I feel should certainly allow me to dictate what’s best for you. Because those Nerf guns are scary.

I should forget thoughts that I have actually never been maimed by these Nerf guns, or any Nerf guns really. I should neglect numerous cases in which no one succumbed to an injury by their usage, or much less, became affected whatsoever by their discharge. I should also fail to place weight to the absurdity that these Nerf guns are not my interest and therefore none of my concern, but yet I am compelled enough to make it apparent of their regulated absence. It is after all for the sympathy of the ‘greater good’ I am safeguarding, minus naturally, the few who take part in this societal realm, as they do not count and whose deprivation bolsters safety.

If nothing gets done at this level of civic engagement, I have little choice but to take it to the courts and zealously sue the Hasbro Corporation for manufacturing a privatized product solely commercialized for personal use. Because those Nerf guns are scary and my deficiency of their nature, mixed with fear-mongering tendencies, warrants legal action. Some vague, faint stance of the general welfare substantiates this claim, of course.

So throw out those warnings brought to you by those tired and dated men responsible for the very system of government that has remained standing for hundreds of years, the stern message about forgoing both liberty and security when the former is infringed. Because those Nerf guns are scary. In times where I intimately feel threatened it must be okay to use security as a ploy in order to trample personal freedom, because any defense of such freedoms and rights stem from a dusty, outdated composition that is anything but in vogue and contemporary. Obsolete was totally last year; seriously ew, like gross.

And rather than become fully acquainted with the situation or look into the facts so as to make a conscious, educated decision, those Nerf guns are scary and it is the government’s duty to coddle of me.

Or is it?

 

Intern Cullen Walsh looks for battle with his Nerf gun at Facebook's office in Seattle, Washington. (Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT)
Intern Cullen Walsh looks for battle with his Nerf gun at Facebook’s office in Seattle, Washington. (Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT)

Op-Ed: Where have all the characters gone?

Ron Howard on stage for an Andy Griffith tribute at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 23, 2012, at Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, in Los Angeles, California. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Ron Howard on stage for an Andy Griffith tribute at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 23, 2012, at Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, in Los Angeles, California. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

“He danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs, throughout the south,” an act perpetrated by none other than that of Mr. Bojangles himself, rang through my head while listening to Jerry Jeff Walker’s greatest hits (Walker is Texas’ answer to Jimmy Buffett, for the unaware). It then occurred to me that we – the millennial generation – don’t have a Mr. Bojangles of our own. Sure, we have asses and trolls, Clintons and Trumps, but there is not a true character amongst our midst that can transcend controversy and unify the whole with that certain charm and fallible charisma necessary in doing so. This is a pity.

I am not talking about being bohemian for the sake of being bohemian, nonconforming just to tell somebody you experienced how it felt. No, I’m talking about an utter, unapologetically original person – devoid from much of reality – who we can all admire from a distance and say, “Ah, now that’s a character.” Or perhaps “Bless their heart.” Someone who can elicit this kind of positive response while simultaneously deserving admittance to the loony bin.

If you’re looking for contrarian conformity, head for Portland or Asheville; I’ve heard they needed a few good hipsters to strengthen the lot. If you’re looking to be annoying, gaudy, unrelentingly obnoxious, all in your face and what not, head for San Fransisco. You want to keep Austin Weird? How gutlessly unoriginal, let’s market it on a T-shirt for corporate profit; at least it’s got a bizarre font though.

The fact that I cannot even suggest examples of jovial personalities because it would be missed by our generation is sad. For instance, I’m doubtful Don Knotts or Earnest T. Bass really had to get into character for The Andy Griffith Show, as they merely played themselves affront a camera. Or Ignatius J. Reilly, the gluttonous, one-of-a-kind protagonist/anti-protagonist in the book, A Confederacy of Dunces, who was based off the novelist who authored the epic comedy.  However, I’d make the claim today’s generation is not particularly concerned with these works because they’ve passed in time. They truly don’t write them like they used to.

The adamant, verbally cruel Evangelical pastor who shouts expletives at passing students, speaking about eternal damnation is a good starting point. Sure, he may say some impolite words, but sticks and stones break bones, and not displeasing hot air. I mean, it takes a significant amount of resolve and thick skin to tell someone in a dress they’re going to hell; someone with grit. Someone alone in their own world. Maybe even a character.

It starts with a cause, or a belief – no matter how illogical or preposterous – and from there, passion and tenacious will-power is added. They have to care, and I mean like REALLY care about whatever it is that they do, or are. In fact, it’s even difficult outlining the parameters because doing so defeats the very purpose of being a character; characters solely are themselves.

The bright side is, based off of a statistic I duly created in my mind, there has got to be a few remaining characters left. Probability speaking, the species altogether is not entirely extinct, only very much endangered. I just need to find a handful of characters and display them in public to make a mockery out of both the establishment, tidy-towners as well as the anti-establishment. Everyone.

Because at the end of the day, we should all adhere to the principles of a character himself, Buffett, who said “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”.

Op-Ed: The first First Husband

Truly, I am a Republican who wants to see Hillary Clinton in the office of the presidency. No, not because I admire the cruel smugness she wears like a shroud. Nor can it be found in the politics she endorses, which I cannot agree with. It is also not out of a longing to finally see a woman as the president. How about her tenacious un-authenticity and insincerity, could that be it? Think again.

If not for her distasteful politics or her negligence in being genuine, then what? What possible reason would I have in supporting a candidate I normally wouldn’t back? The answer is simple: Bill Clinton. So then you may ask, am I supporter of Bill? Could my fandom of his terms be the reason? No, far from it.

While I believe Hillary in office would be detrimental to the American health, I find sanctuary in a final silver lining. Her greatest redeeming trait is not from efforts of her own doing, but by the grace of her husband. Wouldn’t it be a grand spectacle to witness the absolute indulgence and amusement if ‘slick Willy’ becomes the first First Husband? That right there should compel every American to go out to the booths and pencil in a vote for Hillary.

Beyond the supposed irony of Bill heading back to the White House to supplant his wife’s former title, just for a moment begin to imagine the merriment that would inevitably ensue. Political Galas with anyone who knows anyone in attendance would not be the same if Bill can somehow manage to work his way back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Important national meetings with worldly leaders might start after a session of chilling and grilling with the 42 President of the United States; after all, mixing business and pleasure is only customary and polite for foreign dignitaries.

Admit it, we all kinda-sorta want to see Bill as the first First Husband. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, to finally give in to the carnal desire of Bill’s second coming. Best not to lie to yourself, like I did for the longest time, but to embrace it as is. I’m so exasperated and perturbed by the sorry state of affairs constantly revolving around politics, that’s its only alleviating for Bill to go back to where he belongs and run amuck. The chance to truly spoof politics the way it deserves is near; to fully put the context of our dissatisfaction into a specific aim of unmitigated parody.

Of course, Bill would take the back-burner to Hillary’s spotlight in the event the pair becomes officially welcomed back to the White House. The occasion will live in history as the first time a woman is elected president, but neglecting the true spectacle of the entire ordeal: Bill giving absolutely zero s%#$ about what he does when staying in a rent-free, publically-funded mansion with all the bells and whistles. Michelle Obama has been much too ardent and idealistic with her tenure as First Lady, trying so enthusiastically to push healthy initiatives onto the public. With Bill, I’m confident I won’t have to feel guilty about gorging myself with gluttonous foods. Slick Willy has other priorities.     

Whether Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or hybrid of ideological pluralism, we are all secretly pulling for a Clinton win if nothing else to feast our eyes on a free lampoon. Because isn’t that what politics is all about? And perhaps with the capture of yet again four more years of Bill into the White House will bring with it more contestation in the legislature, you know, for sanity’s sake.

Op-Ed: A farewell to arbitrary

Montalvin Manor Elementary School fourth-grader Jose Anaya works on a math problem in Beth Levine's class at the school in San Pablo, Calif., Oct. 15, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group/MCT)
Montalvin Manor Elementary School fourth-grader Jose Anaya works on a math problem in Beth Levine’s class at the school in San Pablo, Calif., Oct. 15, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

As students employed under the red-tape of higher learning, we all know the hardships attributed to performing well. Tests, quizzes, homework and projects are all met accordingly in the library, as we strenuously work towards good grades. Deadlines are sought after, but sometimes the perplexities of life prohibit a planned paradigm and cramming wins out. Installed in every student though is a chance for success, an opportunity to work hard and see fit that the materialization of our efforts pays off in a quantifiable manner.

Sometimes, we are faced with obstacles that, on the outside, appear conquerable, but in reality are beleaguered to the institution it encompasses. I cannot think of anything that embodies this belief in such a pertinent way as standardized, multiple-choice tests.  Standardized tests are one of these mechanisms that does an excellent job at weeding out those who picked afoul. They’re sole purpose is to test student’s knowledge of the curriculum, in that a student’s test grade somehow miraculously corresponds to their competence in that subject. I find this exemplar to be an insult to the very intelligence it sets to assess.

To be fair, standardized tests are the most convenient way to administer academic evaluations to the masses. They can be sent to the scantron machine for a quick check, assigning grades on the basis of correct percentage and correct percentage alone. It’s easy. Far be it for me to suggest that the best way to oversee education is not by mere ease. I will never see the utility in replacing quality with quantity, no matter how timely or user-friendly it may seem. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, but what can be said about a system that perpetuates the exile of true knowledge if doing so cozies up a better grade?

Take a trip down memory lane and recall any standardized test you have done throughout your tenure in education. Can you tell me anything about the subject matter? Days, weeks, months, even years after taking that test, have you retained any of the information? Are you confident enough in yourself to be tested again? The answer to all these questions is D. Oh wait, I forgot that assigning a letter from the alphabet to a set of answers is just a valiant effort to test the fallacy of mankind. But congratulations, you passed the test with a B! Forget that you can’t remember limits or the Constitution or the periodic tables but damned if you didn’t earn that B on your test.

I believe in Mark Twain’s take that schooling should not interfere with your education. Similarly, why let the administration of a malignant standardized score reflect your worth when we should be focused on actually learning the material as a whole? Conversely, what’s to say you have no idea of the material at hand and by sheer guesses, aided with dumb luck, get an attractive grade? Clothed with nothing more than artificial intellect and fake acumen, the gleaning opportunity to learn will be missed, but the reward of passing granted.

There is nothing more detrimental to academic health than arbitrarily bubbling ‘all of the above’. Standardized tests kill brain cells who are under the impression they have an incentive to prove the grasp contained in their inhabitancy. Its prey fall victim to an apathetic foundation eternalized by an abyss of blank bubbles and petty eraser marks. The only redeeming factor is to throw out bemused notions of test scores for the sake of test scores and replace it with a yearning for knowledge. Once you can separate fact from fiction, prioritize learning over passing, the grades will come.

Op-Ed: Level, Flatten, and Roll

Levine Hall under construction. Photo by Erin Cortez.
Levine Hall under construction. Photo by Erin Cortez.

Man, is UNC Charlotte going places. This notion is an ever constant one, a belief that refuses to depart the minds of students frenziedly caught up in the rat race of achieving and achieving well. A bulwark for science and engineering, along with other blue-chip institutions like business and nursing, Charlotte is filled to the brim with potential at-large. To illustrate just how straight the compass of success points, look around campus and take in every construction project taking place.

Honestly it’s impossible to ignore. The Craver Road and Bridge development project is finished, thankfully lessening the traffic it created when the build was first underway. The city’s vaunted light rail system is, for lack of better words, making ‘progresses’ connecting to the school. Just because it’s not happening at the rate we would like, I can at least say it’s not going backwards- I’ll extend them that much credit. With the persuasion of a 90 million dollar science building after the education bond was approved in the primaries, to be built on campus, there is no denying UNCC’s real acronym: Under New Construction Constantly.

I feel compelled to say I should be grateful for all this investment to the school. I should embrace the change and look forward to the completed product, because it’s for the betterment of everyone. This sentiment of collective coalescence warrants group hugs in the quad, hand-holding and kumbaya singing at the union. Togetherness under materialistic things!

Instead, rather, I feel strongly compelled to allocate all the time and investment – including the newly bestowed 90 million – to one goal and one goal only: flattening out campus. Seriously, why must my calves cry, wince in pain when the petty act of walking to class turns into a strenuous trek not unlike hiking the Himalayas or the Andes. These boots weren’t meant for walking, just looking really, really cool.

Also, I happen to be the best person I know at sweating. Just ask anyone who knows me. I do it extremely well, sometimes without even trying and it intensifies when grueling hills must be conquered whilst the sun beats down on my back. I would still sweat profusely if the school was leveled to a comfortable 180 degrees, though I’m not sure my spare clothes would be needed to change into before class.

My idea will never be put into fruition, however. It’s unfortunate, because unlike science buildings or that weird-looking art sculpture just finished, a flat campus is something everybody will use. Think of it as the greatest, truest form of a public good ever conceptualized by the human spirit. This is not to endorse public funding for the leveling, I’m against that, but if money is going to be spent, it might as well be spent wisely.

Frankly, I just don’t like exerting physical exercise. I’m probably undermining a few benefits that development incites, but marching is a bore. Best to remove the spatial and physical obstacles obscuring progress, like the countless stairs and hills, so we can all get to where we are going with more brisk convenience. Because if Charlotte’s campus were to be flattened out, man would it make going places easier.