The Hog and the Lion

Le cochon. French: pig, hog, swine.

Respectful. Honest. Insightful. These are words I wish I could use to describe my governor. Unfortunately, they do not at the moment, and they may not for another two years. While most Mainers are already on the same page about LePage, this had to be begrudgingly written for the rest of the world.

Painstakingly, I have observed and shared the most magnificent parts of our beautiful forested state. Now one man threatens to destroy that work single handedly. See, in Maine we know our governor is a bit of a shit-head. He belches out whatever split-second half-thought that manages to avoid the few filters he has. As far as I am concerned they are the last snorts of fascism in Maine. Desperate, racist and dwindling.

However, the rest of the world has now seen our leader standing up on some enchanted hate inspired soap box that can be seen from the Belgrade lakes to Belgrade, Serbia. Some of these people reading about him are hearing about Maine for the first time. As if I didn’t already have enough bad first impressions in my life. This insane sensationalism over hate speech has just got to stop. Apparently Donald Drumpf is not enough for the hate crazed media outlets.

We have already tried to impeach LePage, and perhaps next time we will make it happen. Any lost time we can get back from him would be for the better. The man has stood against real progressive change in this state for too long, from action to curb climate change to forgetting to vote for his own racist bills. However, there is no reason to show the rest of the world and the nation a man who does not even come close to representing anything about us or our state. He is our problem and we can more than handle it.

There are two lessons here.

First lesson; implement Ranked Choice Voting (Yes on 5). This will save us a lot of hassle in the future and avoid Vote Splitting (an electoral effect in which the distribution of votes among multiple similar candidates reduces the chance of winning for any of the similar candidates, and increases the chance of winning for a dissimilar candidate). There is no reason for an elected official to win because he just happens to be the only guy standing there with something different to say. Especially when that something different is ignorant and racist. This is the important lesson Maine has to offer the nation this November 2016.

Second lesson; the media has failed in their news coverage. It is not just enough to check the centers of power. Alternatives and movements against outrageous and completely inappropriate behavior also deserve coverage. However, the BBC had an article titled “Black people are the ‘enemy’ – US governor”. Clickbait if I ever heard of such a thing. It was at the top of their US news list when I saw it August 27th. When all those people clicked on it they saw which state’s governor that was. Unfortunately, the title did not read ‘Local American Non-profit keeps governor in check’. The Maine People’s Alliance is already working to put progressive democrats into office in Maine to counter the governor’s nonsense.

Then there is Comedy Central with their over-analyzing of every stupid thing that comes out of that Orange-blur of a maw. Yes, we need to be aware of clear and present dangers. But we do not want to blow it so far out of proportion. Collectively they have given him so much free press and probably a good many more votes. The more you attack and belittle him the more they love him and the deeper their Ostrich ears go into the sand. They will shout; the liberal media is on the attack again! It is the ultimate get out of using logic free card. What we need to be covering is the complete opposite. I want to see more articles about the women and men who stand up to counter such arrogant and exclusive acts.

For example, now that I have tricked you into reading a bit further with a trail of genuine and deserving insults for our blubbering governor you will get to learn about someone more deserving of attention in Maine. The world needs to know that our state is not going to be famous for having a racist governor, but for having an inclusive and fair society. So instead of swinging the camera at the guy with the hate slogans, let us focus on a more respectable up and coming Maine politician.

This November Pious Ali will be running for Portland City Council in Maine. Originally from Ghana, he moved to the United States in 2000 and has been in Portland for the past decade. He has continued to work within the Portland community to bring down barriers separating people economically, socially, and religiously. His civic engagement has been an inspiration for many and it even got him a seat on the Portland Board of Public Education in 2013. This is a man who understands how important education is to public society and for kids to be successful in their lives.

When I first met Pious Ali it was at a camping trip for the Maine Irish Children’s Program. The organization aimed to bring youths of the two conflicting communities in Northern Ireland to Maine for the summer to help build bridges and break down walls. For the American youths it was eye-opening just to realize an almost entirely white community would be at odds in Northern Ireland. To give us a bit more perspective we had a few lecturers and field trips, including a synagogue. It was up to Pious Ali though to teach us about Islam. This was a lecture I will always remember and appreciate. It was 2009 and for some reason Fox News wasn’t giving us any hints at what the Five Pillars of Islam might be. Living in a small coastal town in Maine there also were not too many Mosques around. I remember Pious being very calm, explaining things clearly and taking questions from some of us. He handled what was usually a pretty rowdy group of teens with ease. This is the kind community engagement I want to see an elected official be a part of. Not like some others.

On his website he advocates strong neighborhood schools, quality and affordable housing, and livable wages for a livable city. I definitely recommend checking out his profile even if you are not voting in Portland, as it may give you a better idea of what your local representatives could be saying and doing. This is exactly the kind of progressive and forward thinking policy I want to hear more about going forward and less about the other more boisterous politicians and their bizzaro-world blame game. Solutions work if we work on them together. When bi-polar party politics get in the way we all lose out so that two ideological organizational structures can simply continue to exist.

The point I am very simply trying to make here is for people to focus on the good and the positive. The more we focus on the bad the more it will seem normal until our entire community is so desensitized to hate and violence we just continue to let it happen. The other point I am trying to make is that Maine is not a state for hate. It is time we paid attention to the efforts and to those people who keep our community healthy, educated, together and safe.

One Maine family has already shared a video of their opposing views to LePage’s racism. They are asking others to do the same. Thanks to them we will hopefully be able to save some face and not have our state become a poster child for intolerance.

While many people are viewing his actions as nothing new, many still think that he has crossed a line this time. Both with threatening another politician with violence and claiming that people of color are the enemy. Some have become desensitized to his words of violence. They may think his words don’t really mean anything and he is just blowing hot air. Either way we cannot sit idly by. And while I am appalled that national media outlets would use his words as a catch line for more hits and views, it would be worse to ignore him. I sincerely hope Maine Democrats can do everything they can to get him out of office. We will not let his behavior become the norm in Maine.

People of planet earth, fear not Le Cochon of Maine. He will be gone soon. Perhaps sooner than we thought.  Maine is still a place where all are welcome to visit, join and participate.

But leave the hate at the gate.

 

 

 

Mozart, Mountains, and Hemp: Welcome to Grastria

It was a cloudy morning in Vienna, stoners, metal heads, vegans, punks, mothers, fathers, children, handicapped, old, young, foreign and native had gathered outside the Westbahnhof on May 2nd 2015. An insane collection of diverse people came together to protest the decades old prohibition of cannabis this month with Hans Söllner and band giving a free performance at the beginning. The march was part of a Global Cannabis March with millions of people from over 250 cities taking part. For these people Grass is normal. It is drinking a coffee, having a beer or taking vitamins in the morning. For more still it is more similar to going to church, praying five times a day or reflecting and meditating on one’s own life.

Unfortunately, the Hanf Wandertags organized in Vienna over the past few years has yet to receive recognition in the form of new public policy from political representatives. The curious case of cannabis has for years remained underground. Now it is slowly but surely coming out and into the light. Grow shops, activists, artists and many more passed out fliers and information about the medicinal benefits of the plant. The sun then finally came out as those participating in the march waved flags and danced along to DJ trucks on their way to Heldenplatz. Many even smoked while hiking through the Vienna streets with police just meters away. Lucky the police did not want to turn a peaceful demonstration into a hash filled riot.

Some local grow shops passed out free smoking supplies and small cannabis plants (stecklinge). Lawyers also passed out advertisements in the form of smoking supplies with their names and information written on them. Organizations supplied leaflets, showing that the march isn’t just about encouraging a new industry, it is about education too.

As the crowd moved through the city many people came out of storefronts and windows to take pictures and see what all the commotion was about, some even danced along and cheered. The protest had an over all positive atmosphere. Although none of the major political parties dared to join or show support the Austrian Greens, KPÖ, PiratenPartei und Plattform der Unabhängigen made an appearance. At the end of the day the question is; what does the Austrian government really fear about legalizing Cannabis? There seem to be a lot of misconceptions surrounding the substance.

While humans have used Cannabis for centuries it was only very recently that it has been prohibited. The tide certainly turned for legal cannabis advocates with the allowance for medicinal use of the substance. When people started to realize that the plant had medicinal qualities suddenly everything that had been said about it the past came into question. Synthetic medicinal Marijuana is sold regularly in Austria with a physician’s prescription. Even seeds and stecklinge can be purchased in shops. However, the sale of THC is still strictly prohibited.

Although research over the years has been severely blocked we still know quite a lot about it. Cannabis contains psychotic and anti-psychotic compounds, THC and CBD. They work to subtly change the effects and balance each other out. The reason cannabis works so well is because of the similarities it shares with our own natural neurotransmitters. The dosage is also an important factor to consider. All drugs influence maximally at small dosages, while too much can produce an opposite effect. Without this information widely and easily available to the public, how can anyone be expected to use any substance responsibly or as a medicine?

In 1970 Richard Nixon ratified the Controlled Substances Act in the United States. Many of America’s allies at the time followed this strategy of prohibition despite contradictory evidence. Nixon stood politically to the right and this put him in direct opposition to certain grass roots movements that were developing at the time. The prohibition of cannabis was a cold and politically calculated move that actually had less to do with the plant and more to do with who was associated with it. This included pacifists against the Vietnam War, people against nuclear proliferation, people against racial and sexual discrimination and censorship. The rest of the world, including Western Europe, simply had to play along with the Cold War game.

The Cold War eventually ended and the wall came down. Now many world leaders are speaking out against the classification of Cannabis as a dangerous drug. Several world leaders gathered this September with the Global Commission on Drug Policy to announce a new approach called Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work. They call for a move toward public health and social investment and away from criminalization. This comes with the understanding that to actually stop addiction abusers need treatment not punishment.  Death and prison sentences for minor drug abuse in this perspective are essentially human rights violations. The idea now is that drugs become more dangerous when they are illegal. The government, not criminals, should control drugs with a more sophisticated regulation system. This can reduce the power that black market organizations have. The solution calls for regulation and responsible institutions. While many claim this is an unrealistic plan the Commission maintains that an evidence and fact based policy is feasible and necessary.

The important part in attempting to legalize this drug is moderation and information. We need to explain to teens that both cannabis and alcohol can harm the brain during development. We also need to make sure companies do not take advantage of legalization and try to market cannabis to children. It should be legal for any citizen to grow their own so that patients who use cannabis will not be reliant upon a firm or distributer. A black market for cannabis and many other substances will always exist. After years of failed prohibition, providing the public with real information on substances and not propaganda is a better solution.

There have been many regions around the world that have legalized Cannabis and they have yet to see negative results. In Switzerland possession of less than 10 grams has been decriminalized. Most German Bundesländer from Berlin down to Bayern also allow for possession of small amounts without jail time. The Czech Republic has recently allowed for limited medical marijuana. In Spain growing for personal use has been legalized, while possession in public and sale are still illegal. Spain also has around 500 Cannabis Clubs where one must be a member to smoke, 200 of these clubs are in Barcelona. The Netherlands is the most liberal with their cannabis laws. Coffee shops are legal to smoke in but not legal to sell from, though this is not strongly enforced. These are just examples from Europe. Many States in the USA have adopted medicinal marijuana and several states and cities have legalized possession and sale. In South America many states are pushing for legalization of cannabis to lessen the revenue of organized gangs. Uruguay has gone so far as to legalize cannabis nationwide. Austria can learn a lot from these countries and maybe even look to them as models for the future of legal Cannabis.

In Austria it is still illegal and can possibly result in jail time for possession and sharing, though consumption is actually legal. It is now time for the country to push for legalization and have a nationwide conversation on how this will be done. What kind of Cannabis policy could be acceptable? The Czech model, with decriminalization and medicinal access for patients who could use a healthier and cheaper alternative to prescription drugs that can be more dangerous, could be an option. Or perhaps Austria might want to increase tourism through legalization; instead of Dutch coffee shops there could be Cannabis Jägerhutte. Or if a more secure method of access is wanted Cannabis Social clubs may be the answer. In the end we may see an entirely new Austrian model for legalization. Needless to say the conversation needs to come out into the main stream. While some political parties have cautiously voiced the need for reform it is nowhere near enough. It is time to stop whispering and start talking.

Let Boycotts Be Buycotts

Let Boycotts Be Buycotts

Another record breaking summer of heat this 2016 and the northeast of America is facing a drought. Unfortunately, since our less than lovely governor here in Maine, or notre cochon du fascism (our fascist pig), signed off on a 45-year contract with Nestle and Poland Spring, Mainers around the Fryeburg area have been seeing their wells drying up while water continues to be pumped out of the ground, shipped, sold, sucked, guzzled, and spat. Mainers, including myself, are fed up with having a local public resource being stolen for profit and sold back to us, as if we were being done a favor by Nestle and their global enterprise. However, there is not much one can do outside of spreading the good word and participating in a good old fashion boycott of all products Nestle. (Which means giving up Nerds and Nerds rope as well). As time went on I started to form reservations. Was not buying Poland Spring and yammering on about Nestle doing any good at all? So I took a half-hazard glance into what boycotting was all about and how it works as a tool for activists across the globe.

As it turns out Boycott is actually some poor British bastard’s last name. Forever will he be immortalized for his attempts to ignore altruism and basic human dignity. A cosmic irony if there ever was one, seeing as his name is now used to attempt to defeat such practices. Anyway, this Charles Boycott was a British land owner who treated his Irish workers so poorly that they began to do the most unthinkable disastrous thing any group of workers could ever do. They organized, forming the Irish Land League to help poor tenant farmers. They promoted the three Fs; Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure, and Free Sale. They then withheld their labor from Boycott in an effort to regain some dignity in their working situation. Now, of course, there have been actions of similar fashion before the 19th century, but for whatever reason this was the one that stuck and became a staple word in the English language that we continue to use today. In the end the British and loyalist Orangemen came to the rescue of Boycott and provided the lacking labor to harvest 500 pounds’ worth of food to the expense of 10,000 pounds’. While the Irish Land Leagues actions may have substantially set their British landowners back financially Britain would remain a powerful force on the Island, as we know now, well into the 21st century. So was the boycott successful? At the time it must have brought some degree of relief for the tenants. However, it surely did not bring about the desired goal of having workers be treated equally and not as second class citizens. It seems that, while an effective activist method, boycotting is not a cure all.

Since Charles Boycott’s landlording mishap, boycotts have been used by the Nazis against Jewish businesses, as well as the other way around. The American Jewish Congress also boycotted Nazi Germany in answer to the horrific treatment of the Jewish population there. The practice is clearly a go to political tool to achieve one’s goals. However, throughout our brief yet interesting human history boycotts have come and go and have all had varying degrees of success. While some faded away into obscurity others, like the S-Bahn train system boycott in Berlin, saw some results. This action was called on by unions and politicians to protest the construction of the Berlin wall and brought about a significant number of passengers opting out of the local subway and train service. However, it was not that action alone that would bring down the wall.

In the world we live in today the internet of things has transformed how we communicate and express ourselves. And in so doing it has transformed how we communicate and express our political desires. The internet has significantly augmented the way people can boycott. Now with the click of a button and a few search bars one can find a relatively good amount of information on the products and producers around the world. For example, a UK website, called the Ethical Consumer, has a list of 66 on going progressive boycotts across the globe. On the list are a few of the usual suspects; Wal-mart, British Petroleum, and Coca-cola. However, some of the companies on here were surprising. Bacardi has apparently been using the Cuban origins card in advertising while simultaneously lobbying the US government against lifting the embargo. Another surprising addition was Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. This is a Vermont company known very well for their fair business practices and community work. They make the list due to just one affiliation and one movement; the BDS. The company apparently sells ice cream to an Israeli franchise that has business in recently made settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement is a group working hard against Israeli colonialism and apartheid and working toward justice and equality for Palestinians.

The list of 66 is just a taste of the current working boycotts. Many more still exist and not always for progressive action. In an article by the Guardian entitled “Do boycotts really work?” it is pointed out that “…a seemingly endless list of companies, movies, TV programs, actors, business executives and events are being shunned by consumers for some reason or another” (Watson, 2015). Out of the ongoing boycotts some have been around for decades. Since 1977, Nestle has been boycotted over their promotion of their own milk product over natural breast feeding. As time went on the company expanded their resume of shady dealings and human rights abuses. Recently, Nestle was involved in, not one, but two separate slavery charges. In Thailand they admitted to have found forced labor practices but at the same time they are fighting a child labor lawsuit in the Ivory Coast (Kelly, 2016). Consumers around the world will continue to buy their water and the chocolate and some cat food without a single thought of the consequences.

Another well aged boycott is not on a company but on a country. Since the Jewish State came into existence in 1948 it has been boycotted by many Arab countries. The movement over the years started to organize online and attract other peoples to the Palestinians plight. However, boycotts do not reach the UN Security Council, nor do they halt the magnificent turning gears of a capitalist giant like the Swiss chocolate makers of Nestle. The use of boycotts is effective, but only sometimes and only to a certain degree. And please do not think that boycotts are only used by progressive groups. While people across America are buying alternatives to Koch Brother products there are still consumers on the other side of the spectrum. The practice has been used by both pro-LGBT and anti-LGBT groups.

While many boycotts are limited in their reach sometimes the main goal is not just to influence one company, but the entire industry (Diermeier, 2016). To change a company from the outside is an insanely difficult thing to organize but it is not impossible. Sometimes all that really has to be done is to show the company and the world what the issue is. Just bringing attention to it can lead to some greater action down the road. A company may not lose a lot of money directly from your boycott but the money spent to cover up all the terrible nasty things being spread about them may be enough (Kieler, 2014).

Some might argue that boycotts do not work at all. Insisting that while you strategically pick out which companies are pious enough to stick around you are actually hurting the overall economy. “And unbeknownst to many of the pro-boycott folks, a great deal of their 401(k) and pension accounts are tied up in these corporations. Take them down and plan on working an extra year to make up for the smaller retirement checks” (Schneider, 2014). This position seems to take for granted that the magical economy may not have our best interests at heart. If we were to let the ‘Free hand of the market’ make all the decisions for us we may soon be wage slaves to a few Nestle type corporations in a few short decades. Kieler points out that it was boycotts by colonists to the Tea Act that led to the revolution, as well as boycotts of the Montgomery bus that helped launch a civil rights movement (Kieler, 2014).

Civil rights movements and labor rights movements may be all the rage, but the tool itself is used by religiously motivated groups as well, for example the American Family Association. Anti-equality and pro-exclusivity groups will also use boycotting as a weapon. They have been a hindrance to equal marriage rights for a quite a while. They have helped muster support for their cause and continue to promote Christian values in a nation founded on the idea of separating church and state. Samantha Allen points out here all the things you would have to give up to actively be against Trans-friendly businesses (Allen, 2016). Luckily, as noted before, not every boycott is successful. So the question is, when does a boycott work? And what will boycotts look in a future of rapid technological progress?

A boycott will not work simply by itself. If success is to follow the right conditions and connections need to be met. Sometimes a boycott may ‘piggy back’ in a sense on an already existing movement and together they may cause enough ruckus for change to start. It is difficult in these situations to say what was necessary and what actually caused the change in firm or industry behavior. Brayden King argues that companies that experience a decline in public trust are more susceptible to boycotts, and that the more attention that is brought to them, the more effective the boycott will be (King, 2001). But was it really the movement itself or was it the boycott? It is hard to say in such a complex issue that x + y = z. Americus Reed, a marketing professor at Wharton, found that visibility and severity are indicators of how successful a boycott can be (Reed, 2010). However, he notes that the internet and 24-hour news have desensitized people to news about such boycotts. “What is defined as outrageous becomes a harder threshold to cross,” Reed notes. “The frequency with which we are exposed to these [horrible] events will decrease the chance any one event will be seen as severe” (Reed, 2010).

It seems that executing a successful boycott is as difficult as navigating safely through a hurricane. Thanks to the internet there is an invisible war going on all around us. A war of moving money, this abstract concept not bound by matter, space, or time. Money was a means or tool of exchange and a holder of value, now it is capable of stimulating and slowing down the whole economy. With such great changes in the nature of our economy, changes in how people boycott were bound to happen.

With smartphones there are new applications utilizing the idea of boycotts. Now, whether you are a priest against contraceptives or you are a Scotsman pushing for independence, you can now track and shop smarter for your personal politics. Now you might find out a little sooner on that one of your favorite products actually funnels money against an issue you may care very deeply about. The app Buycott allows users to generate campaigns that encompass several businesses within the same issue or industry. By subscribing to Demand GMO Labeling you can scan products and it will tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that have donated to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food (Shinseki, 2013). Creator of the app, Ivan Pardo, stated “I don’t want to push any single point of view with the app,” said Pardo. “For me, it was critical to allow users to create campaigns because I don’t think it’s Buycott’s role to tell people what to buy. We simply want to provide a platform that empowers consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions” (O’Connor, 2013).

Although the intention with boycotting is clear, changing consumer culture will not be so easy.  It may also include actual “Buycotts”, as mentioned by Kieler (Kieler, 2014). This is simply shopping smarter and more locally to help benefit the people around you and in your daily life most. If we are going to have a change in consumer culture, if you want change in any culture, it takes more than one group, more than one aspect, more than one boycott, and more than one voice to change the society as a whole. So are boycotts effective? A hammer can either smash someone’s skull in or build a house for a family. As a social and political tool a boycott is a little less dangerous and can both be very successful and ultimately fail. Changing the behavior of humans may seem easy for advertisers, but for activists it is like telling your cat not to smack that glass off the table. All you can do is give consumers the avenue to do right and hope they take it (no matter how desensitized they are). Forcing them to do so may only cause them to further self-justify their sketchy purchasing behavior in the end. So keep an open mind  and simply check out what is in your refrigerator. You may find yourself surprised at the things you have been indirectly supporting.

Bibliography

Allen, S. (2016) All the things you can no longer buy if you’re really boycotting Trans-Friendly businesses. Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/26/all-the-things-you-can-no-longer-buy-if-you-re-really-boycotting-trans-friendly-businesses.html (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Berlin S-Bahn (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_S-Bahn#After_the_construction_of_Berlin_Wall (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Current list of consumer boycotts (no date) Available at: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/boycottslist.aspx (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Diermeier, D. (2012) When do company boycotts work? Available at: https://hbr.org/2012/08/when-do-company-boycotts-work (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Kelly, A. (2016) Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/feb/01/nestle-slavery-thailand-fighting-child-labour-lawsuit-ivory-coast (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Kieler, A. (2014) If A boycott works, it’s not just because people stopped buying stuff. Available at: https://consumerist.com/2014/05/17/if-a-boycott-works-its-not-just-because-people-stop-buying-stuff/ (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

King, B. (2001) Why boycotts Succeed—and fail. Available at: http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/why_boycotts_succeed_and_fail (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

O’Connor, C. (2013) New App lets you boycott Koch brothers, Monsanto and more by scanning your shopping cart. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/05/14/new-app-lets-you-boycott-koch-brothers-monsanto-and-more-by-scanning-your-shopping-cart/#2c5139eb2c82 (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Pro-GMO? Or pro-right to know? – support the cause! (no date) Available at: http://www.buycott.com/campaign/211/pro-gmo-or-pro-right-to-know (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Reed, A. (2010) To boycott or not: The consequences of a protest – Knowledge@Wharton. Available at: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/to-boycott-or-not-the-consequences-of-a-protest/ (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Schneider, C. (2014) ‘Buycott’ at your own risk. Available at: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/opinion/buycott-at-your-own-risk-b99337719z1-272760731.html (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Shinseki, E. (2013) Quote of the day. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/06/11/watch-forbes-test-buycott-app-on-anti-gmo-and-koch-products-in-supermarket-aisle/&refURL=&referrer=#15563a4245cc (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Watson, B. (2015) Do boycotts really work? Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/vital-signs/2015/jan/06/boycotts-shopping-protests-activists-consumers (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

Allen, S. (2016) All the things you can no longer buy if you’re really boycotting Trans-Friendly businesses. Available at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/26/all-the-things-you-can-no-longer-buy-if-you-re-really-boycotting-trans-friendly-businesses.html (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Allen, 2016)

Berlin S-Bahn (2016) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_S-Bahn#After_the_construction_of_Berlin_Wall (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Berlin S-Bahn, 2016)

Current list of consumer boycotts (no date) Available at: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/boycottslist.aspx (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Current list of consumer boycotts, no date)

Diermeier, D. (2012) When do company boycotts work? Available at: https://hbr.org/2012/08/when-do-company-boycotts-work (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Diermeier, 2012)

Kelly, A. (2016) Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/feb/01/nestle-slavery-thailand-fighting-child-labour-lawsuit-ivory-coast (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Kelly, 2016)

Kieler, A. (2014) If A boycott works, it’s not just because people stopped buying stuff. Available at: https://consumerist.com/2014/05/17/if-a-boycott-works-its-not-just-because-people-stop-buying-stuff/ (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Kieler, 2014)

King, B. (2001) Why boycotts Succeed—and fail. Available at: http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/why_boycotts_succeed_and_fail (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(King, 2001)

O’Connor, C. (2013) New App lets you boycott Koch brothers, Monsanto and more by scanning your shopping cart. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/05/14/new-app-lets-you-boycott-koch-brothers-monsanto-and-more-by-scanning-your-shopping-cart/#2c5139eb2c82 (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(O’Connor, 2013)

Pro-GMO? Or pro-right to know? – support the cause! (no date) Available at: http://www.buycott.com/campaign/211/pro-gmo-or-pro-right-to-know (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Pro-GMO? Or pro-right to know? – support the cause!, no date)

Reed, A. (2010) To boycott or not: The consequences of a protest – Knowledge@Wharton. Available at: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/to-boycott-or-not-the-consequences-of-a-protest/ (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Reed, 2010)

Schneider, C. (2014) ‘Buycott’ at your own risk. Available at: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/opinion/buycott-at-your-own-risk-b99337719z1-272760731.html (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Schneider, 2014)

Shinseki, E. (2013) Quote of the day. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/06/11/watch-forbes-test-buycott-app-on-anti-gmo-and-koch-products-in-supermarket-aisle/&refURL=&referrer=#15563a4245cc (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Shinseki, 2013)

Watson, B. (2015) Do boycotts really work? Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/vital-signs/2015/jan/06/boycotts-shopping-protests-activists-consumers (Accessed: 27 August 2016).

(Watson, 2015)

I am with Her…Again

What an election cycle, eh? Now, I must say, I had been on the Bernie train before it even got on the tracks. Days went by where I was hovering over the refresh button. I had read about Burlington a lot since visiting there myself a couple times during college. The city itself is just so amazing and I went so far as to drive over five or six hours just to show a visiting signorina what I considered one of America’s finest gems. This brought me to Bernie, his progressive and refreshing policies, and our struggle. The more I read the more I wanted this man to run for president. I had completely forgotten we were trying to get our first woman in the oval office. I had utterly forgotten that I already knew who the President was going to be in 2016. However, Bernie was offering something she could never; new trajectory for American politics. The waiting continued and he still had not announced his candidacy. Maybe people are actually too afraid of a socialist inspired hell scape after all, I thought. Back then I had already been through several of those European market socialist hell holes and I always came to a similar conclusion, or question. The right wingers are still alive and well in these countries as much as they are in the States. However, these pro-religious, mostly rural, and sometimes very anti-immigrant communities were (more or less) fine with having single-payer health care and affordable higher education. If a bunch of gun toting blame seekers could accept that in one country, I thought, why not mine? Most people would argue, well no person or country are the same, and that is just the way it is. But that is exactly what Bernie went up against in America. He went up against the myth that nothing can change, against the myth that affordable health and education are terrifying phantoms and deadly day dreams, and he was right to do so. And although he may have lost he proved a moral obligation exists to keep fighting no matter what the odds. Now we have to reflect on that while moving forward with her.

A sense of creeping liberosis (the desire to care less about things) found me this election year. This was despite previously thinking it might be interesting to actually be in America for 2016. The train wreck we all watch and scream for while the world falls apart all around us, the ultimate hunger games, who wouldn’t want front row seats to that? And as much as politics may annoy you, and you might be done with it, it is never done with you. Politics simultaneously cares and doesn’t give a shit about you. It is in many ways the balancer between you and the community, between the individual and the poli (Greek for city). So if you are displeased with politics as it stands don’t ignore it, join it, shape it, breathe your own uniqueness into it. That is something I can admire Hillary Clinton for. When she saw a corrupted political system she didn’t back down to it, didn’t hide away from the public eye, she went right after it, talons drawn. She has also been an inspiration for women to join into the modern political fray and there is absolutely nothing wrong with increasing citizen participation and turning what used to be a men’s game into what it should be; a citizen’s game.

The convention is finished and while thinking over all the events I was softly brought back to that feeling of waiting. Waiting for what, I thought. And while we are waiting, what are we enduring? While waiting for Bernie I was waiting for real discussion, real issues, and less petty politics. However, it seems like we are now a society magnetized toward pettiness. The road ahead is a road frequently traveled by. The footsteps and loose stones are familiar to both JFK and Nixon. I don’t expect a political revolution from Hillary, but I do expect political backwardness to thrive if Drumpf wins and the last thing I want in America is for us to take steps and possibly bounds in the opposite direction. And that is why I’m with her now (again). Although I also despise the lesser of two evils choice that is forced down our throats like political extortion, that is the lay of the political landscape. As much as I would love to give more support to a third party, be it Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, I am not willing to let America dive into being a more populist Reich than it already is. Maybe in the near future we can come up with a multi-party system that isn’t hell bent on demagoguery and catchy slogans.

As mentioned before, eight years ago I was already hoping Clinton would get the nomination in 2016. It was clear to me then that she was a good choice after seeing her commitment to the great game. Like Obama’s comical anger translator Luther said, Khaleesi is coming to Westeros. However, there is a part of the left that has yet to decide if Clinton is a Khaleesi, coming to free us from low waged chains or if she is a less incestual Cersei just twisting and manipulating her way to the top. She became Clinton the climber, the fighter, and our woman. But is this woman a monster in the same league as Donald Drumpf or does she utilize a necessary evil to counter such forces? Perhaps it is neither, perhaps she is the Lady Lizard overlord we have conspired her to be. Or perhaps there is only one way to fight the corruption of the GOP establishment and their Mafioso of candidates, with fire of her own. When she viciously attacked Obama in 2008, I understood it was part of the game she had to play, I didn’t think any less of her. Then I visited Burlington, Vermont and heard about Sanders. This was a man I shared values with. The only candidate to say climate change is our greatest security threat. Something that even the Department of Defense has had to admit. The main difference for me between Bernie and Hillary was that for one of them the ends justified the means and for me, well, I have seen where that kind of politics has led us.

The one thing that has hindered me from being vocal about my compromise with the Clinton campaign (besides her donors and actions) has been their air of condescension. And this very well may be her undoing. Especially this phrase; fall in line. I was seriously disappointed in the DNC for coming out and saying something that sounded like the echoes of an SS officer telling his Nazi underlings to keep digging ditches for corpses. Now, I know the Democrats are not that bad. However, it is the kind of attitude that turns away so many potential Hillary supporters from team Bernie. It is not what I expect from the Democratic Party. There has been all this talk about Bernie bros yet, I have met more Clinton clingers who rarely seem to look at things from a different perspective. They say things like, ‘oh I have supported Hillary since I was kid’, which is fine if you have an open mind. But today Clinton is using the same fear that the Republicans have used for decades to sway voters. Vote for her or the King Joffrey of U.S. politics will win. (Can’t stop the GoT references). You don’t want that do you?! Fall in line. And every time a Sandernista hears that you will lose their vote automatically and create division among people who share the same values.

(While I am not quite sure if the online community considers Sandernista an insult by insinuating Bernie supporters are left leaning commies reminiscent of the by gone era of the Red Scare, I think it appropriately captures the revolutionary zeal of the movement).

I also think that any serious Sandernista will realize the day before election day that principles aside, she is our girl. Again it is unfortunate that our political system is caught in a bi-polar Cold War political party shit storm and that we can’t show more love for other parties, new ideas, and progressive attitudes. It is perhaps even more unfortunate that we have to deal with Mr. Drumpf. Or maybe he is exactly what we need to show that this system does not work and is too adept to inspiring blind hatred.

I still cannot decide which is worse or more dangerous. Giving the man the attention he so craves or ignoring him completely. I have settled somewhere in the middle in that I recognize he exists but will not refer to him by his specifically curated brand name. Either way the man inspires almost nothing of value. He is the crappy phone charger you borrow from a friend. He fills that shallow racist hole in your life that you were looking to fill, it might not be your charger, he might not be your favorite Republican, but like many before him he will slip right in between you and power, barely functioning and keeping you satisfied with more entertainment than you can afford with your data plan.

Jokes aside though, Jeff Weaver, Sander’s former campaign manager points out the real danger here. “I think some people on the Democratic side who think that, you know, Trump is such a buffoon that it’s already won — but I think he’s a very dangerous opponent and I think he certainly has the ability to win as well,” he said (Byrnes,2016). This ability for Drumpf to win will certainly increase alongside Clinton supporter’s condescending attitudes toward Bernie supporters.

Democracy has weirdly become some crappy ‘reality’ TV show and Bernie showed this to a lot of people. Not so much to the people on the right who already think it is a farce and will hate the government no matter what it does, but people in the Democratic party, who finally saw that even our most left-leaning political juggernaut is more center than we thought. I also had no idea until this election that the DNC had opening musical acts. Is this normal? Since when do we have to tempt voter’s attention with entertainment, this is their livelihoods that are at stake when politicians step into the ring. If they are not already invested in this process something is wrong with our democracy.

The post-internet media shit show madness is basically complacency disguised as rage at this point. We will see nothing new despite the redness of their faces.

For Drumpf, the wall issue works well because of the kind of people that would react to exactly that particular issue. It is an amazing tent to be under. The only people that would ever support, what for most people is a ridiculous plan, are the same kind of people who still think hordes of immigrants coming to America is our biggest problem. These people cannot fathom why other countries even exist. Or that many migrants do not come to America because it is so great, but because it is less violent, if only a for a little bit. For them America = Number 1 forever. It is a barely inspiring and quite ignorant mentality. Of course, we do need to have some border controls, but a wall, for free!? If we learned anything from the Cold War it should be that, whether there is a wall or not, people will get past it to get to the west, and it is not going to be cheap.

This 2016 election has merely shown us what we have known for a long time. Being corrupt, conniving, and getting to the top is part of the American dream and is to be idolized. This is nothing insanely new. The only thing that has changed is the visibility of this truth. It seems the more this truth of corruption is revealed the less people want to be a part of the political system. The New York Times even published an article pointing out that the nominees are only chosen by just 9% of our total population(Pearce, Parlapiano, 2016).  And well, I taint no statistician but that don’t sound much like a democracy to me, at least not one that I would want to be a part of anyway.

By endorsing Clinton and refusing to run as a Third-Party candidate Bernie has highlighted the current nature of our political system. We have especially learned this lesson in my home state of Maine, when an Independent and a Democrat split the vote leading to our own mini-Drumpf governor.

At the same time when this gross corrupt mentality is so visible in showing itself to the world we also see our greatest moments of love and solidarity. The Bernie campaign coming together was no short feat. They followed the rules even when they knew it was rigged against them. They didn’t play dirty even though it would have helped them along the way.

Now, Hillary is the Democrat we have all been following for years and even though she is unprincipled concerning most people’s rights she is more than principled in the art of politics. She is Frank and Claire Underwood rolled together into one unstoppable being. This, under the right circumstances, could be good for America. She is certainly more respectable than her current opposition.

However, in the end, whichever Mad Max character makes it to the end of this death race through the inferno, might not even mean much. It will be hard for either Drumpf or Clinton to get anything done without a solid backing in Congress. After eight years Obama has struggled to bring about his own brand of change. He had to fight a Republican congress bent on his complete and utter failure. And yes, starting out at the beginning of a recession didn’t exactly give him a head start, but he lost strides in places of moral high ground that hurt the trust many had in the Democratic Party. In particular his acknowledgement of killing American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki (Taylor, 2015). It seems insane how a man who ran under Hope and Change and became our first African American President could actually change in such a twisted way.

While I may be socially a liberal degenerate, I also find that at times our government regulation can be overreaching. Again it comes back to the question of a political revolution that neither of these candidates will bring about. Hopefully, a Republican defeat will mean GOP supporters can all go back to complaining (and not to the streets) and perhaps the new progressives sprouting up across the nation can hold Bernie’s fire to Clinton’s feet.

In this coming election 2016 take all that disgust you have for politics and use it for some good. Vote for your local representatives with some attentiveness. Forgive and move on from the incumbency dictatorship that has been cemented in Congress. In this Post-Tim Berners-Lee world, we need a new kind of democracy. A more robust and direct democracy that is in better touch with constituents. Perhaps a citizen push for ranked choice voting will usher in this new age, with new ideas, new parties, new coalitions, instead of the same old power games. Citizens United will also need to go. Like separation of church and state we need a separation of state and corporation. Only then will these new and hopefully more trustworthy parties deserve the respect they will receive as our representative organizations. We cannot sacrifice our environment and our dignity to blindfolded industrial gain any longer. We cannot allow these twisted godless freaks to destroy our politics or our planet for much longer. We just simply cannot afford it. So take the step forward and be with her. Not with racism, not with narrowmindedness, but with bold attention.

Bibliography

Byrnes, J. (2016) Ex-Sanders aide: Trump could win. Available at: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/289961-ex-sanders-aide-trump-could-win (Accessed: 7 August 2016).

Pearce, A. and Parlapiano, A. (2016) Only 9% of America chose trump and Clinton as the nominees. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/01/us/elections/nine-percent-of-america-selected-trump-and-clinton.html?_r=0 (Accessed: 7 August 2016).

Taylor, A. (2015) The U.S. Keeps killing Americans in drone strikes, mostly by accident. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/23/the-u-s-keeps-killing-americans-in-drone-strikes-mostly-by-accident/ (Accessed: 7 August 2016).

Citations, Quotes & Annotations

Byrnes, J. (2016) Ex-Sanders aide: Trump could win. Available at: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/289961-ex-sanders-aide-trump-could-win (Accessed: 7 August 2016).

(Byrnes, 2016)

Pearce, A. and Parlapiano, A. (2016) Only 9% of America chose trump and Clinton as the nominees. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/01/us/elections/nine-percent-of-america-selected-trump-and-clinton.html?_r=0 (Accessed: 7 August 2016).

(Pearce and Parlapiano, 2016)

Taylor, A. (2015) The U.S. Keeps killing Americans in drone strikes, mostly by accident. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/23/the-u-s-keeps-killing-americans-in-drone-strikes-mostly-by-accident/ (Accessed: 7 August 2016).

(Taylor, 2015)