In Defense of the Desperate: Why a Terrible Economy is Making us Awesome by Emily Sacher

Graduation season is finally over. The fanfare, congratulations, and hopeful adages thrown around like confetti are slowly starting to be replaced by the quiet, creeping question – what’s next?

My college graduation two years ago was probably one of the worst days of my life. Sure, I was unbelievably hungover and convinced I’d never ever see my friends again. But most of all, I was overcome by the vast expanse of nothingness that loomed ahead – no job, no money, no place to live. That piece of paper everyone was congratulating me for was just a one-way ticket departing the land of security and stability, and hopes of ever returning were slim.

For the past five years, and probably the next five to come, nearly every graduate has had this same realization. Unless you’ve obtained a degree in Nuclear Mechanical Engineering That Will Save the World, or you’re one of those “legacy” fools whose dad’s connections will get you anything and everything in life (PS – you are the scum of the earth and deserve no other mention beyond that), you, as a degree-holding member of the Millennial Class, are freaking. the fuck. out.

And you’re pretty used to it by now.

No one’s denying that the economy is atrocious, employment prospects are slim, and the idea of a “dream job” is almost laughable. While the public dialogue has certainly shifted away from “shoot for the moon, even if you miss…”, not much has surfaced to replace it. I’m guessing the public is too preoccupied with their grocery bills and student loans to think about a dialogue, or maybe we’re all just too terrified of what the future actually looks like to come up with a new set of advice to hand off to graduates. What does a realistic, useful graduation speech sound like in 2012? What am I supposed to tell my students when they are considering colleges and career choices?

From my perspective – an insider’s perspective – I think the recession is helping us immensely. Maybe not in the immediate moment, looking through loan statements in your parents’ basement where you come home to every day from your shitty, low-paying job. But hear me out. For everyone who’s recently graduated with a (just gonna say it!) useless degree, we’ve had to become real-world educated really, really quickly. Not just the usual stuff like how to cook with a stove and clean an apartment. But the stuff you just have to do in order to make it in a world where absolutely nothing is given to you easily – how to work multiple jobs, how to live for cheap, how to continue learning new skills, how to be bold and take risks. And how to keep going when all of those things fail miserably.

I’m always amazed that, when things get desperate and it seems like there’s nothing to lose, people can be incredibly creative. I think the current economy is the perfect example; how many people do you know that work jobs that they never, I mean NEVER thought they’d be doing? Raise your hand if you’re one of them. Not to say all of these people like their jobs, but those jobs teach an entirely new and ultimately useful skill set, like it or not. And those who absolutely hate whatever out-of-the-blue job they ended up at always seem to come up with new, innovative ways to regain their humanness. (“Hey bro, you hate your job too? Nice. Let’s make a blog.”) When job prospects are so unbelievably abysmal, there is suddenly a lot of freedom and room for creativity. Again, how many people do you know that have traveled abroad, or done a year of service after graduating, rather than enter the hopeless throng of job-seekers? If there were companies handing out offers with salaries and benefits, it would seem insane to do anything else but accept. Instead, we’ve gotten really good at finding out what else we can do with our time and are left with an enormous range of experiences and skills that, if not forced to, we wouldn’t otherwise have acquired.

Somewhere down the road, in a land of rainbows and bright futures, the economy won’t suck anymore and we’ll actually have a choice in the types of jobs we accept. We won’t have to have fourteen roommates, six jobs, and ramen for dinner. When that finally happens, everyone who came of age and survived during the Great Recession will not only have multiple advanced degrees, we will have enough job experience and, more importantly, life experience than we will ever know what to do with. We will be better, smarter people that won’t make the mistakes of generations before us. Just imagine graduating college in the confidence of the roaring 90s. What did that do for anyone? Oh right, created an economic balloon that exploded and rained shit on everyone in the generation to come. Thanks guys.

So at next year’s graduations, I hope somebody says something along these lines: Hey guys. The next few years are going to suck really bad, but you’ll eventually get in Survivor Island mode and get through it. You’re going to do a lot of crazy shit – good and bad – and probably won’t be anywhere you’d thought you’d be. You’re going to get really tough and gritty and cynical. You’re going to be resilient and resourceful. And just like people do when times are good, you’ll manage to laugh at yourself and make the best of it. Your accomplishments will feel especially good and your failures will push you harder because you have no other choice. And because of all that, you’ll be awesome.

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Old School America: Why your time is running out (still)

Last week, the New York Times reported a study that analyzed birth rates according to the most recent US Census data.  According to the report, over half of new babies born in theUS are now Hispanic, African American, Asian, and other minorities, while white babies make up only about 49% of new births.  The study projects that by 2050, the white population as a whole will no longer hold a majority status.

While this news represents a tipping point in the demographics of this country, it should not come as a surprise. Many major US cities are already majority-minority (yeah that’s a phrase, not a riddle) and birth rates among the white population have been declining for decades. Demographically speaking, a population shifting away from a white majority really isn’t news at all. But for a lot of people, this is news. It’s slightly scary news even, something that gives older generations the creeping feeling that maybe the “good old days” are over.

I don’t have a scientific, pinpointed characterization of the type of person I’m talking about, but I feel like we can all conjure up a vague image in our minds. For me it is the people in my parents’, and especially grandparents,’ generations: people who grew up in an environment where everyone looked and talked the exact same way, people whose worldview rests on the assumption that if you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, hard work makes anything possible. These people tend to offhandedly use terminology that, today, is mildly racist, but in their day was just fine. They scoff at everybody’s obsession with political correctness and insist that “oriental” is more than considerate enough. Members of this group get a little nervous when they see stats on immigration rates, or the booming Japanese auto industry. These people loveAmerica.

It’s pretty amusing to picture your senile great-aunt who fits all of these descriptions, waving her bourbon glass and ranting at last year’s Christmas dinner. But there is a much less comical, much more real face of this Old-School America class. Look at Arizona, for example, and the extremes their legislators have gone to in order to promote white America over immigrant America. Then you have the birthers – those people who have, for the last four years, been demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate under the assumption that it either does not exist or, worse, proves his nationality to be Kenyan rather than American. How about the offense in the epic War on Women, the (white male) politicians who are doing their best to limit access to birth control and restrict who is legally protected in incidents of domestic violence? And then there is the newest magazine-cover fad, painting Obama as the first “fill in the blank” president – First Female President, First Gay President, you name it – simply by championing the rights of some minority groups, his (also minority) identity has, by association, absorbed them all.

What do all these phenomena have in common? They are the latest and greatest attempts by Old SchoolAmericato relinquish its grasp on our culture. And they’re failing.

While these conservative agenda items are relatively wide-ranging on a policy spectrum, the common thread underlying them all is a vision ofAmericathat relies on patriarchal, upper-class, white dominance. Cue the 1950s music and pan across the cookie-cutter American household: stay-at-home wife with a houseful of children (Equal pay? Birth control? What on earth for?) Husband as king of his household, making sure his sons learn about Thomas Jefferson and how to fight like a tough guy. And, just like every sitcom or history book (surprisingly similar!) teaches us, they’re all white.

Is there room in this picture for the Latino family down the street? Only if they’re off-camera, cleaning the house or doing some yard work.  What about if one of those sons turns out to be gay? He’ll be sent away to be cured, done and done. Are there daughters in this picture? Probably, but they are busy washing their hair and getting ready for prom. Forever.

It sounds exaggerated, but so much of the American populace clings to this vision of the past. I say vision because the 1950s sitcom version of history never actually existed (surprise!) It is a specific viewpoint, the camera angle of the privileged, that has been evoked innumerable times in modern history to distract the ignorant eye from the reality of what’s really happening around us. Immigration is real. Homosexuality is real. Race is real.  Jesus – women are real. Sex happens. Poverty exists. Not everyone likes religion.

Are any of these things true in the cookie-cutter sitcom painted above? Absolutely not. And everyone – whether it’s your crazy great-aunt at Christmas or the Grand Ole Party themselves – everyone who still believes Old SchoolAmericais a viable vision forAmericatoday will deny these truths to the core. Enter: racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ignorance, and the dozens of bills, laws, and amendments still on the docket to promote them.

Few people are truly surprised that over 50% of new babies are non-white babies. But for the Old School America, the news should be a wake up call signaling the beginning of the end. In less than forty years, the “dominant” class will no longer even have that coveted label that allows them to alienate everyone else – majority. Instead, demographics will have caught up with where cultural reality has been taking us for years: the New School America, where every culture, race, orientation, gender, and category we don’t even know about yet has a little more – no, a lot more – equal footing. Old School America – you have about thirty-eight years to admit defeat. Hopefully it won’t take that long.

Real Bros Support Marriage Equality by Emily Sacher

[This post is sort of about gay marriage and how much President Obama loves it, but it’s really about bros. Bros and men, specifically straight ones, and the spectrum of opinions and actions they hold in relation to gay men. Admittedly, I am not a man, so please feel free to comment and correct me if you have a differing view.]

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Let me start from the beginning. I can’t help but notice, in my day-to-day interactions, in my workplace, in TV shows, etc. that there is a very clear and deliberate delineation between straight men and gay men in a way that there is not between straight women and gay women. For example, my male students (hovering around the delicate age of 13) will use homophobic slurs as a way to insult each other and, despite knowing my “Here’s Why That’s Not Okay” lecture by heart (exasperated arm motions and high-pitched crazy voice included), they continue to do it as they grow into teenagers and figure out how to be young men.

From as early an age as it takes boys to start figuring out how to be boys, the necessity of being an undoubtedly straight boy emerges as a clear frontrunner on the list of Most Important Qualifications for Manhood. Think about any caricature of masculinity in TV or movies – Don Draper from Mad Men, for example. Why is Don Draper such an awesome dude? He’s successful, he’s powerful, he drinks at work, and he can get with any sideways-glancing secretary he pleases. So much of Don Draper’s appeal is that he is the ultimate embodiment of heterosexual masculinity.  As a society, we seem to define “masculine” with “heterosexual” almost inextricably, to the point where gay men often struggle to reconcile their sexuality with their masculinity, and the most gay-friendly, queer-accepting, open-minded straight bro will still squirm at the thought that another guy could be, say, hitting on him.  Anyone ever noticed this phenomenon? It’s a cultural catch-22 that does every man, gay or straight, a serious disservice.

President Obama’s announcement of his full support for same-sex marriage comes at an interesting time in terms of our society’s views and actions toward homosexuality. On one hand, a man who is remembered from prep school as being a brutal anti-gay bully is running for president, on a platform advocating restricted civil rights, while his openly gay campaign aid is forced to resign amid backlash from conservative constituents (maybe many of whom hail from the great state of North Carolina?)  On the other hand, state after state is voting and passing amendments allowing same-sex marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been overturned, and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been signed into law.

While much of the country is engaging in this cultural tug-of-war, there is an enormous and invisible population left somewhere in the middle, between blatant homophobia and donning a rainbow flag to join the local Pride Parade. There are whole range of people whose views on gay marriage are still “evolving,” but the ones I’m thinking of specifically are regular people we all know – young, open-minded straight dudes, decently educated, who, in all things theoretical, support LGBTQ rights. But, out of necessity of saving face for fear that their masculinity (even their straight-ness) might be in question, will express discomfort when a gay person is “too close for comfort.” Or insist that they “can’t tell” if another guy is attractive. Or be offended if someone calls them gay.  These aren’t bad guys, they are regular guys who are caught in the throes of reconciling what they know is progressive for society with what they know they must do and say to be a man’s man. My students are on their way to becoming these guys. Don Draper probably is one. And, until a few days ago, President Obama was too.

When Joe Biden spilled the beans and came out expressing his own complete comfort with same-sex marriage before Obama did, he set a new standard.  Whether President Obama’s announcement that he too was in full support of gay marriage was swayed by political pressure or just genuine belief in his cause, the fact that he and the VP were clear and unwavering in their support sent a powerful message to those straight men in the middle: “Hey bros. It won’t make you any less of a man to openly accept and support gay rights. Get with it.” We have been in desperate need of a new standard of masculinity, one that involves open-minded acceptance and the strength to stand up for a worthy cause, with far less emphasis on heterosexual relationships with women as a defining feature of manhood. It is refreshing and inspiring to see that, finally, the leader of the free world is at the forefront of a cultural progression as well.

The World Is Ending!!

The year is 2012, you know, the year the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world as we know it.  With each passing day we are getting closer to our December 21st showdown with fate.  Amazingly, however, it feels like the hype surrounding the 2012 prediction is slowing way down.

In years past, I could have scrolled through the channels on TV, and found at least one program predicting a destiny of death in 2012.  Now the phenomenon seems as forgotten as Chia pets.

So I say we step it up, people!  I want to turn on the news and hear all about the man who created a most elaborate underground bunker/laboratory; I want to read about the concerned scientist who has recently been stripped of all licenses and degrees for claiming he had groundbreaking evidence of our eventual doom; I want camps popping up all across this great nation with purposes varying from hunkering down to try and survive, to a 7 month party for those who want to ride this thing out on a high note.

Fear of the end of the world has been around forever, and I think it’s probably a good thing.  Questions organically arise from the idea of a doomsday.  Questions like: What would you do if you knew the world was ending tomorrow?  In a week?  A month?

Answers to those questions can be really fun to think about, and generally we say we would do the kinds of things that make us truly happy.  You might say to yourself, “why am I not doing that for a living if it is what I really want to do!?”

Well, while the idea of living every day like its your last seems like a great one at first, I think it would get pretty hairy.  Skydiving every day might get taxing on your wallet, making out with total strangers in the elevator could get you arrested, etc.

But I do think it is possible to do this in moderation.  I’ve come up with an alteration on that ethos: live one day a week like its your last.  And, of course, keep it within the law, or at least most of the law.

I’ve recently—in the past two weeks—made a vow to myself to try and do this, and while I have probably not  done some of the things I would actually do if I knew it was my last day on earth, I have been committed to being more active in the things I want to do.

In the past three weeks I have created a raised bed vegetable garden, found a sweet walking stick and am in the process of sanding and coating it to be my sidekick on hikes, and brewed beer and joined Habitat for Humanity.  I have committed to hiking the tallest peak in every state within a reasonable distance of Pittsburgh—Mt. Davis you’re up this weekend if the weather holds, bud—and I’m hoping that can one day turn into all 50 states.

I think everyone should try and live one day a week like its their last—or at least try and do something you’ve really wanted to do.  What’s holding you back?  The world is ending in December, guys.  I’m hoping somebody starts that 7-month party camp.  Any eccentric millionaires reading this?

Perspective by Emily Sacher

An Ohio radio personality seems to have taken a leaf out of Rush Limbaugh’s book this past week, pushing the envelope of misogyny and extreme conservatism by advocating corrective rape as a legitimate parenting technique. Yes, really. Dominic Dieter, a commentator on Cleveland’s WMMS “Rover’s Morning Glory” show, responded on air to an email from a man who was concerned that his daughter was a lesbian, saying the father should just get one of his friends to “screw her straight.”

After some serious outcry from the LGBTQ community and local radio listeners, WMMS, Clear Channel Communications, and Dominic Dieter himself have all issued apologies. Clear Channel assured that “the appropriate disciplinary action” had been taken. Dieter recorded an apology “to anyone who may have been offended” by his remarks, saying “I regret what I did say. My comments were inappropriate. They were inexcusable, and downright stupid.”

This apology sounds suspiciously familiar – oh wait, yes. It’s the same bullshit I babbled when I got in trouble as a kid for teasing my sister. Or what you tell your boss when she catches you on Facebook. Or what my middle school students give me when they don’t turn in their homework. “Uhh, my bad. I’m wrong. You’re right. Are we good?”

Let’s not forget that we have seen this scandal unfold before; just a few months ago, Rush Limbaugh entreated the airwaves with his rendition of “women who have sex are sluts and I’m entitled to watch.” Look beyond Limbaugh’s egregious sexism (and ignorance of contraceptives’ functioning, and funding) for a moment, and focus on his apology: “I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation … My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir.”

Not the best? Attempt to be humorous? Dominic Dieter – sound like a good example? The problem is not simply that these people are seriously standing by their vile, sexist assertions, but that they are getting away with it. As long as the bases have been more or less covered, from a PR standpoint, nobody is truly going to call them out. Dominic Dieter is not fired. Rush Limbaugh’s radio show is as popular as ever, since “sponsors are trickling back to his program and the news media have moved on.” If the people and companies that finance radio shows that propagate hate speech and advocate – oh right, rape – won’t hold them to a higher standard, who will?

It’s one thing to create an uproar over unacceptable speech by public figures, but it means nothing if it’s all forgotten about just days later. Controversy fuels their fire, giving them the attention and the audience they need to thrive. Virtual forgiveness after a mere “my bad” opens the door for them to do it again. Think about it – if you are a radio pundit who makes a living off of stirring things up, it’s the perfect scenario – say something homophobic, racist, or sexist and you’re instantly a star. No consequences.

As a society, I hope that we can reach a point where this type of hate speech on the airwaves becomes completely unacceptable; either the people who propagate it deal with lasting consequences (i.e., get fired) or are paid no attention whatsoever. Here’s to holding out for a higher standard.

Vermont is the …

Vermont is the least diverse state in the country. It is part of New England and is where I am from. Growing up in Vermont people root for the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins because we have no professional team of our own. I myself am a die-hard Patriots fan. In my opinion Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. I make no apologies for rooting for my team, Brady, and I root hard against any team the Pats play. I love my sports teams.
When I left New England to go to school in Ohio at the College of Wooster (great school), I was struck by how many people hated New England teams. Almost universally people couldn’t stand the Red Sox, Patriots, Tom Brady or the Bruins. I never understood why until I started asking questions. 99% of people I asked responded by saying that they hated New England sports teams because of their fans. Supposedly New England fans are overly arrogant, pompous, disrespectful and have an air about them that says “were better than you.”
No way. Were nice. At least Vermonters are. Right?
Wrong. Last Thursday the Washington Capitols (the city where I live) defeated the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Great series. Every game was decided by one goal. Fittingly, the final game went to overtime and 31 year old Joel Ward scored the game winning goal sending the Capitols on and the Bruins packing. Its sports, Washington fans were elated, Boston fans were crushed. We all get up and go to work the next day. End of story.
Wrong again.
Joel Ward is black. Immediately following his goal twitter exploded with language reminiscent of the 1950s. Or maybe it’s not reminiscent at all.
Posts on twitter included:
– “Haha that (slur) actually did something.”
– “The fact that a (slur) got the goal makes it ten times worse.”
– “We lost … To a hockey playing (slur)…. What kind of (expletive) is this.”
Racism still exists. This is a surprise to nobody. We’ve all seen it and hear about it on a daily basis. Maybe this surprises us because of how blatant it is. Unapologetic racism for all to see has shocked us. But are we really shocked? New England sports have always had a bad reputation. Come to think of it New England has always had a bad reputation of elitism. A reputation that I defended wholeheartedly. But I was wrong.
New England is a beautiful place, full of great people and places. I love where I grew up and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But there is a definite pretentiousness that haunts the six states. Maybe it’s because of the exorbitant amount universities and private schools producing entitled students, maybe it goes all the way back to the Puritans and their overly religious, white patriarchal society vision for society, or maybe it’s because New England is tucked away from the rest of the country and hasn’t integrated itself well enough.
Whatever the reason, Thursday’s comments put New England’s attitude on display for the country to see. Add New England to the list of places where racism is alive and well. It was a sad display of ignorance and hate and I was happy to see the Bruins organization and NHL condemn the comments. Reading about this in the news the next day made me think how this correlates to the larger sentiment that New England is a place filled with pretentious, entitled, self absorbed people. Its hard for me to defend our sports, fans, and region when things like this happen.
It’s sad. Not all encompassing. But it’s there.

Welcome to The Weekly Snooze!

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Welcome to…..dum da da dum….The Weekly Snooze.  Some of you are joining us for the first time, others have come from the4815er.  We are very excited to have you with us on our epic adventure to bring humor, insight and a new look to the world of news and opinions, and well…pretty much everything.

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