Don't Call It A Comeback

Don't Call It A Comeback

The City of Sometimes Pretty, Sometimes Gritty

I recently returned from a solo trip to Detroit, one I found myself using the New York Times 52 places To Go In 2017 article that featured "the D" on its roster to calm my friends' and family's nerves. I was traveling there alone from New York to explore and photograph abandoned and occupied buildings, and learn about the rise, fall and now renaissance of such an iconic American city. My shutterbug spree really should've started with portraits of people's faces when I told them my plans - the fear, the confusion, and the disgust. Why?! I eventually shut my mouth and hoped my photos would explain the appeal for me.

I gained interest in Detroit 4 or 5 years ago after finding a Detroit based photographer online. I was intrigued by his raw and rebellious aesthetic and ability to capture an alternative perspective of the city I had never seen before. He also seemed to be as enamored with Art Deco ornamentation that is signature to the buildings of the city as I was, and his photographs embodied a mysterious "what happens after man?" meets Will Smith in I Am Legend vibe.  

Due to the economic state of the city, there is an air of lawlessness that resembles minor league anarchy. How will people behave when they aren't heavily policed? When the consequences for breaking laws aren't a factor? Will the community innovate together as citizens to find solutions for issues the city usually has reign over? Do people take over land and homes that are essentially unaccounted for? Did those that don't typically have the monetary means to buy homes actually flock there? Is there a strong artist community? Coming from NYC, I was curious as to if untraditional ways of life were common since the primary pressure of making money just to afford basic living requirements is minimized.

As people typically select exotic or relaxing vacation destinations, I had a difficult time convincing any friends to use their PTO to join me. Despite having anxiety about going there alone, I booked, and since I was traveling stag, I opted to stay in a Hostel to cut cost and optimistically hope to pick up some adventurous companions. Cue more uncaptured portraits of friends' grimaced faces (someone will steal your stuff!, ew you share a bathroom?!, aren't you too old?). I almost let these people rain on my parade. Prior to this trip, I never considered staying in a hostel in America, but I stumbled upon Hostel Detroit with rave reviews in a drunken research session, and considered it too affordable and adorable to say no. That decision changed the trajectory of my entire trip.

I splurged on a room in the Greektown Casino for the first night, where I quickly remembered it is still legal to smoke indoors in certain places, and how watching people who didn't appear to have much to loose gamble depressed me. Detroit has not 1, but 3 newish casinos in an incredibly small radius. I understand that Casinos are designed to draw people into the city, but considering the city filed bankruptcy in 2013, their presence felt slightly predatory to the already struggling locals. One of my Uber drivers confessed that he had battled with dropping his gambling habit for so long, he went to one casino and voluntarily added his name to a "banned for life list"! After one lap around the casino I decided the Trump voter to me ratio was way too high, grabbed a burger and headed back to the room to reluctantly watch 50 Shades Darker on HBO with some sweet potato tots. 

I had scheduled an early morning photography tour of abandoned buildings hosted by a local resident and photographer, Jesse. When I arrived, he had me sign a waiver essentially outlining that we may be trespassing, I could get seriously injured, and he hopes my tetanus shot is up to date. "Not to freak you out or anything," he said. I scribbled my name and we boarded a tiny, yellow school bus to an abandoned church, Sunday school, broadcasting school and auto plant. Our guide was full of tidbits on the city - from political history, prominent figures, and even some street advice like what areas to ignore red lights and what gas stations to stay away from. He also told us he had recently purchased an abandoned home for $500 at a tax auction and had plans to turn it into a hostel.

One of the neighbors of this "bando" property had grown so tired of looking at all the surrounding vacant lots, he purchased a bunch through the state at $300 per lot to plant trees on. Since the city could not afford to upkeep them, he would in the hopes that it would beautify the areas for current residents and help areas look less desolate to visitors. This project became known as the Hanz Woodlands Project. We also made our way past Motown mogul Berry Gordy's old mansion where they just wrapped an estate sale. My stomach sank upon learning I missed the window by just one day -- can you imagine what sort of gems were up for grabs for probably nowhere near their value?! 6 hours and 400 pictures later, I got off the micro magic school bus and into an Uber headed toward Hostel Detroit.

After dropping my things, I walked over to Nancy Whiskey, a local institution, to kill some time and some drinks. Jack and Coke's were $5 dollars and someone told me I was pretty for once, so naturally I spent the next 7 hours there. The people of Detroit definitely lived up to the "Midwest Nice" reputation that proceeded them. I made friends with the regulars who affectionately called me New York, and chopped it up about their thoughts on the revitalization efforts, as well as the recent spike in tourists like myself. Cheryl, the bartender, recognized I looked about her daughters age and declared she was adopting me temporarily. There were a lot of free whiskey shots that night, and when I voiced it was time for me to walk home (literally two blocks over), everyone shouted in unison "NO! - It's dark let one of us take you!" Cheryl made me a drink to keep me busy as she closed up shop and dropped me around the corner. I promised to visit the other Nancy Whiskey in Tribeca and drop her name for a free T-Shirt.

When I woke up the next morning, I was relieved to find my hangover was maybe level 5 tops, and overheard hostel bunkmates chatting about their plans. We realized we all had similar itineraries and spirits, and the warrior posse of 8 was born. We had two Canadian circus performers, a powerhouse athlete from Houston that ran a marathon the day before, a camp councilor from England, a mysterious guy from New York, a Spaniard and a Brand New cult fan from Tampa. We rented a fleet of bikes on the RiverWalk, gave our biker gang a name, and headed to Detroit's capital of leisure, Belle Isle. Belle Isle is a sliver of land nested in the Detroit River that is home to America's gorgeous first aquarium- lined entirely with Sea Green subway tile, Giant slide - towering a glorious 50 ft high, a futuristic conservatory - previously home to the largest collection of orchids in the country, an abandoned zoo - yes it was as cool as it sounds, and more. 

Creepy, soggy, defeated looking, oversized Teddy Bears let us know we had arrived at the next stop, the Heidelberg Project. Tyree Guyton started this art initiative in the mid 80s when he returned home from an Army stint to find his neighborhood in shambles. Similar to the Hanz Woodlands group, Guyton saw a "why not" opportunity in the abandoned land and decided to make something beautiful amid the ongoing deterioration. The project personifies one man's trash, another man's treasure, and consisted of things like funky polkadot paint jobs, hefty piles of shoes representing the people that once lived on the block, mannequins arranged in AA meeting fashion, and countless allusions to time. The art was so nonsensical in its presentation it was easy for each of us to interpret something entirely different, if anything at all. The project transformed the area from a place people actively avoided due to crime and drifters, to a visually quirky attraction, thus increasing safety with visitor foot traffic and giving the area a renewed sense of pride. 

The final day consisted of running around downtown to snap lobby photos of the Guardian and Fisher buildings, the Michigan building - a jaw dropping former theater converted to a parking lot (for sure Joni Mitchell-esk), the must see Motown Museum, and the fist monument dedicated to boxer Joe Louis. On the way home, we popped into Slows bbq, then grabbed some booze, had the most sophisticated Faygo tasting, and proceeded to drunkenly debate social movements, our idiot President, trans issues, and whether or not we would move to Detroit to start a revolution next year.

While I personally get a giant boner for unorthodox lifestyles, unrealized potential (hence my lackluster trail of exes), and uncovering things along the unbeaten path, I encourage people not to be deterred by the lingering reputation of the city's struggle. I left town with some priceless experiences, new friends, and a renewed sense of confidence knowing I not only can, but enjoy traveling alone, even to "scary" Detroit. If you want to go somewhere, go. If somewhere speaks to you that no one else gets, go faster. Don't let peoples' fear influence you, including your own. Best believe I will defend Detroit in any conversation that comes my way. I will be back for the rest of you Detroit!

The Pink Crayon

The Pink Crayon

As we all unfortunately know, the Charlottesville attack happened over the weekend prompting the expected chatter on social media. "Enough is enough!" "Trump's emboldened people!" "See not all terrorists are brown!" "Not all white people are racist." I always feel some type of way about racism, particularly when rears its ugly head high enough for the mainstream media to report on it. Racism crushes my soul in such a way that I cannot fathom living through the the 50's and 60's (or really 400 years prior).

Race has been a deeply personal issue for me because, outside of having a beating heart, I am biracial. My father is a first generation American from a Hindu family in India, and my mother's family is of German Mennonite descent from farmlands of Lancaster County, PA. Raised by my blond hair, blue eyed mother, people frequently used to ask if I was adopted. Tan skin, big brown eyes, and a big brown afro to match, I certainly didn't look like her, or any of my neighborhood friends in the suburbs of Orlando. 

I grew up not knowing what I was, not really being deeply exposed to my family's cultures on either side. To this day, my dad is very stingy with facts about my origin. I had heard I had a half brother in Puerto Rico - did that mean I was Puerto Rican too? I didn't even get to meet him until I was 17. I didn't meet anyone else from my father's side until I was 25, and I only found out about them through Facebook.

My parents divorced when I was 3 and my mother couldn't see far enough past her beef with my dad to share stories of how they met, or what it was like when they were married. What did they see in each other and why did they divorce?

Having hardly any context to where I came from left me feeling like an orphan in a lot of ways for the majority of my life. I wasn't considered white to white kids, Indian to Indian kids, Latina to Latino kids. Add the fact my stepfather was Jewish - so I celebrated Jewish holidays for 10 years, but wasn't actually Jewish or accepted as one.

I didn't see people in magazines or TV that looked like me until Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope album came out - I DIED when I saw someone as amazing as her on that cover with hair exactly like mine. I used to joke that I was the "White Airhead" - the mystery flavored taffy candy - because it was up to whoever I came across to decide for themselves what I was that day.

I tell this lengthy story to say that I can't begin to understand hating another race, because I never got to belong to one in the first place. And while I grew up envious of kids that got to fit in, or even look like their parents or siblings, I'm grateful today that my racial and religious ambiguity allowed me to identify with all of them in a way. 

Of all the things I read in the the subsequent days following the attack, a friend's post about trying to explain racism to her 4 year old daughter Ariana, with the crayons they happened to be coloring with while watching the news, struck me the most. I don't have kids, but I imagine trying to explain racism to a child is much more excruciating than lecturing them about condoms when they're 16.

She said to her daughter, "It’s like green telling pink that green is better and then all of the greens go along with it. She looked at me all confused and said but pink is better? I said, well, pink is just a color and the green marker can color the world and our paper just as much as pink can, they are just colors. One is not better than the other. The conversation got very confusing because of course being a girl, she loves pink and kept insisting that it’s better because she thinks it is. I started to ponder that this world that we live in and the events we are going through, is truly being judged like a 4-year-old judges colors."

The hopeless idealist in me attempted to write this in an effort to prove there is more to it than that, despite feeling more defeated with each passing day's news headline. Some crayons fear what they don't understand, and they only meet others as deeply as they have met themselves. Too many of us are so out of touch with who we are at our core (what we truly value, are we living authentically, what motivates us, do we appreciate life) that we are unable to successfully learn about and relate to other people.

How can you find parallels between yourself and another when you aren't honest about who you are? Just as you can't truly love another unconditionally without mastering it toward yourself first, people whose souls are lost can't even begin to profoundly connect with another person, period.

We've continuously heard it echoed that love trumps hate, but hate is easier when the going gets tough. We have become lazy, and more cynically, spineless. Ironically while kindness, forgiveness, and vulnerability all take the most courage, people who exhibit those qualities get condescendingly pegged as sensitive or weak.

Can you differentiate your thoughts from your feelings? Are you aware of ways you've been indoctrinated by the community you live in, the news you watch, and the family that raised you? Can you point to the roots of your beliefs? Do you even think to question what you actually believe vs the things that has programmed into your brain over time? 

Too many crayons are too scared to admit what they don't know or understand because their biggest fear is being exposed as ignorant, uncultured, racist, or worst, somehow not good enough. We've traded in the inner child that used to annoy our parents with the broken record loop of the single question "but why?" for the insecure adult too afraid ask questions because we think we might offend someone, or that it might come out wrong and mean something negative about ourselves. And on the flip side, others are too offended by someone's honest and ignorant question that they would rather scoff than use it as a teaching moment.

Our fragile egos need to take a back seat to our desire to ask and answer questions, and more importantly, unlearn things we were once taught that have since been delegitimized. Be humble, sit down, and admit that there is something to learn from every crayon and every experience. 

Too many crayons have been on autopilot for so long, it's easy to let fear take the wheel. They avoid asking questions or accept certain truths, such as the world does not revolve around you. Some crayons have been hurt and want to hurt others; Some are poisoned; Some are sick. Some crayons need to find purpose or more hobbies to fill their time so they're too busy living a life they love to hate crayons around the country. Some crayons just fucking suck. At the end of the day, too many people choose judgement over curiosity. This is applies to both themselves and the outside world. 

There is a quote about apologizing that I don't think enough people have heard that says, "apologizing doesn't mean that you're right or wrong, it just means you value your relationships more than your ego." If we could spend as much time obsessing over our role in contributing to "harmonious society" as we do our ridiculous belief that we have the right to be a self appointed one man judge and jury of every thing that happens on earth, we would likely be in a better place.

Can we move forward without a "winner" being declared? Do we know how to pick our battles? Can we admit the ways we were wrong in the past about so many things that have lead to the tension we are experiencing now? Can we accept that life is beautifully rich and complicated, and inherently gray? Can we apologize to people experiencing pain that wasn't caused by us directly instead of telling them to get over it? Can we admit that we don't know everything and STFU for once?

James Baldwin said 'I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.' Truth can be painful, and a lot of people will go to great lengths to avoid it.   

The painful truth is that we're all just one of billions of insignificant threads that make up the fabric of humanity. Life is everything and nothing at the same time, it's filled with equal parts miracles and tragedies, and it's painful. The truth is we can't all be the main character all the time. That were all going through this very short life together and have to share it. That we don't know what the hell we're doing or why we're here most the time. We have literally created religions to help us feel better about dying - there is life after death if you're good, don't worry! Living can be a very scary and overwhelming experience, if we let it.  

Self-righteous crayons can tell themselves they're superior to another because the color of their skin, their religion, or who they decide to sleep with, but we all end up 6 feet under at the end of the day. Fighting to deny someone an equal existence on this earth is not only laughable, it is no one's right. It doesn't make any one crayon's life more significant or meaningful than the next, it doesn't make one's life more permanent, and it's only a temporary distraction from the truth - we are all one. The narrative is short sighted and tired, but I can understand the desire to avoid insignificance.

Acceptance and tolerance has been a something we've been preaching forever, but it has primarily been used in relation to other people. We need to start truly loving, accepting and tolerating all ourselves, even the parts we don't like or understand, if we're ever going extend that kindness to someone else.  Kendrick Lamar said "It was always me vs the world, but then I found its me vs. me," and until the majority lets go of the fear that feeds their demons, we won't have true peace; but in the meantime, we can choose to not give up or give in. We may never beat them, but don't join them. Don't let them bring out the worst in you. Lead by example. Don't stoop. Be humbled by the adversity. Don't engage in wars with idiots. 

So, tell Ariana that she can love pink with all her heart, and that someone else feels the same way she does about pink, about green. It's not about what color is better, it's recognizing that they're both crayons from the same box here for the same reason - to color; they are loved the same way by someone else coloring; and both can only color the world so much in their own way before turning into little nubs that can't color any more and get tossed away. That's the common denominator. 

Creature of Habitat

Creature of Habitat

11. Eleven years spent making moves, mending wounds, and building a space to call my own. A home, a customized habitat where I could plant my flag. Eleven years of shape shifting, wandering, dreaming, creating, searching. 11. Eleven days spent deconstructing, packing, parting with friends, painting walls, and panic attacking. After eleven years in Atlanta, a city I had identified with so closely its initials are ingrained permanently on my arm, I said goodbye to half of my belongings and my entire hand picked family to board a plane alone with a one way ticket.

It's June 1st. My alarm goes off at 7am and I find myself on my mattress boxspring under a pile of clothes that I couldn't find space for in my duffle bag the night before. I was more nervous than I had ever been for any interview, presentation, or date. I wanted to throw up. In less than two weeks, I had gotten a job offer in New York, sold nearly all of my furniture, tossed half my closet, white washed my condo, found a property manager, sold my car, had countless going away dinners and drinks, and cried (a lot. like, a metric shit ton).

My best friend was coming over to help me trash leftover miscellaneous items and take me to the airport. Usually a chatter box, he hadn't said much to me since I told him I was moving, unintentionally leaving me insecure. We hadn't really talked in great detail about it - I didn't have time to sit down properly, nor did I have the emotional stamina to start the dialogue. I wasn't sure if he was secretly as upset as I was that I was about to be ejected from around the corner. Unavailable for those "Hey I'm in your hood - you home? I'll stop by" or "It's Tuesday - AHS is on, come over. Bring wine" moments. It hurt a little, the nonchalance of some of my closet friends. As an only child who grew up with parents who were in and out of my life, I had always felt paranoid that I overemphasized the importance of my curated family: friends, coworkers, relationships; that I was predisposed to care more than I should, and would inevitably be disappointed because no one could possibly fill that void. It was unclear to me if this was the case again, but couldn't help questioning - after everything, was my friendship that easy to live without?

He showed up and we buzzed around my place trying to tie up loose ends. He helped me drag the boxspring to the dumpster and we loaded up the car. I would later come to find out my duffle bag was now 70lbs. I couldn't see his eyes behind his aviators and it was probably better that way. The ride to the airport was so unnervingly quiet. He was my oldest and closest friend in Atlanta - we had met 8 years prior slinging lattes at a Buckhead Starbucks. We unwittingly discovered we lived 4 doors down from each other in the same apartment complex and had been friends ever since. 

Leaving everything behind feels like a form of death in its own way and, as we flew down 85 at 85mph, the flicker of the dotted lane divider under us mirrored flashes of memories I had kept locked away. It was a purge. And like any breakup, the only things that immediately float to the surface are the good times. The amazing, special, irreplaceable moments that make you wonder why you ever thought to leave in the first place. My poor cat was shoved into his ridiculous, futuristic-looking travel cat pack at my feet. If you know what a cat who is in transit's face looks like, then you can assume you know what mine looked like too.

We followed the Delta departure signs and he put the car in park and turned on the 4 ways. He came around to the passenger side, and suddenly his petit frame started shaking and, in his Puerto Rican Abuela voice, he said "aye aye aye" as he started crying and hugged me tight. "This is temporary you know."; "You're gonna be back after a year or two right?" ;"You have to call me once a week" "You always have a room at our place any time" "Who is going to make me go to weird places and get out my comfort zone?" were just a few fragmented sentences that fell out of his mouth. The fleeting doubt that I was important to him disappeared along with the mustard seed of strength I thought I had pulled together. I was now just a puddle with an obnoxiously heavy piece of luggage and a cat on my back. We took a red nosed selfie and I swallowed my angst deep enough to get me to the ticketing line.

Completely dazed and shook, I had never gotten so many sympathy looks in my life. The ticketing agent looked guilty for charging extra for my morbidly obese bag, and the bartender took the liberty of a heavy hand on the house. I assumed people thought I was flying out to a funeral, not that I was a recent recipient of a gift from the universe to chase a dream in the Big Apple. Though, in a way I was burying a life that I knew based on a pipe dream, and only time would tell if I would ever see a return. Despite this, the most difficult part was knowing that people would change, and that I would change, which inevitably meant being unsure who I would still connect with when I got back. I was jeopardizing the sense of home and belonging, that habitat, that I longed for my entire adult life (and most of my childhood). Why getting what I dreamed of felt so gut wrenching and agonizing in this moment. What was I doing?

After slamming a few vodka sodas and ugly crying at the bar, puffy eyed and sleep deprived me boarded the plane and sat in a window seat where I buried my face out of plain view. Fortunately, we were directly over the wing so the humming of engine drowned out Romeo's howling, and most of mine. Unfortunately, the older couple next to me was intrigued by Romeo and his travel pack and would not stop asking me questions. I hadn't felt this raw and vulnerable in a long time. The notion of a physical sense of security and familiarity was now just a mirage. The emotional support blanket of my inner circle was yanked from me, and trust me it's cold without it. I had not visited the new neighborhood or seen the apartment I was moving into, so I couldn't sooth myself with something tangible.

2016 had personally been a really pivotal year, and likely prove to be one of the dirtiest consecutive 365 days for America. I turned 30; left a toxic relationship. On the same day I had planned to quit a job I loathed with no backup plan, I got laid off; On the same day my cat had emergency surgery and broke my credit card, I received a note from my HOA notifying me that after being on a wait list for 2 years, I was finally eligible to rent out my condo. I had effectively been dumped by the city I loved, which meant I had free will to go anywhere.

It is funny how unnatural freedom feels after you've been swimming in your own lane for so long. Trying to make other people proud. Being stuck "do what makes sense" mode for so long that you feel undeserving of the gift of a pure and unfettered opportunity. Trying to live the life you're told you're supposed to live all while being unknowingly comfortable chained to a shadow self you didn't know existed until you position yourself to break free. It's funny how a decade spent craving and attempting to create the habitat to belong in, I had now forced myself into isolation (ironically while immediately surrounded by millions of people), where personal space is nonexistent, with nothing but ten days worth of clothing and the cutest cat that ever lived. There was nowhere to hide from myself. I would soon learn nothing would sustain or make me feel whole until I found sincere refuge in my own skin, the habitat I had possessed all this time and somehow overlooked.

Change Is Gonna Come

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Change Is Gonna Come

New York City is in a lot of ways the center of the Universe - a small 304.8 square mile slice of land that is a city and the World at the same time. Hop on a train in one part of town, and emerge from underground in what can feel like a different country in just moments.

Every once in a while on the train to work I get lucky and an older, gentle spirited man gets on and sings. Just for one stop. Just one song: Sam Cooke's, Change Is Gonna Come. The song was released in the 60's and became one of the anthems of the Civil Rights Movement. It is both sullen and optimistic, with Cooke's soulful vocals belting out palpable pain and frustration of the time. I always felt when he sang "change gonna come" it wasn't because he was sure it would, but because it had to. Because the alternative was too much to bear any longer.

On this morning, the 2nd morning after the Presidential election, it brought me to tears the same way it did the last time I saw him: during the week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's murders. Change was indeed here and was not the beacon of hope we dreamed of, but instead a wolf in wolf's clothing. A wolf named Donald Trump. 

Tuesday felt like xmas eve. I had proudly worn my Pussy Grabs Back shirt all day. There was excitement in the air. Nerves - would I get what I voted for? If I did, would it even matter? Like many, no part of me is happy to say goodbye to the Obamas. Surprisingly, little part of me felt the expected honor of seeing a woman's name on the ballot for the first time ever.  I reluctantly voted for Hillary based somewhat on her experience, but mostly because there was no way me and my "pussy" could vote for Trump. If voting my conscience (voting third party or not voting at all) meant a vote for Trump, I couldn't have that either. 

This country could've used a female president now more than ever. Though as a response to chronic sexism, Hillary has denied, hid, and seemingly disassociated from her female identity in order to navigate the waters of Washington. When you spend 30 years second guessing your instincts out of fear, you separate from yourself. When you are told that who you are isn't good enough and you don't belong because of it, you will try to be more of someone else.

After you have been doing it for three decades, chances are you aren't sure who you are. Chances are you will pander, overcompensate, and morph into an audience mirroring chameleon. Undoubtably, there are people who don't like Hillary solely because she is a woman, but I think the real tragedy is how the discrimination Hillary dealt with throughout her career led her to create these self-proclaimed, separate "public and private" personas. The "gap" between the two inevitably led to the public's mistrust of her, ultimately causing her to lose the election. (Clinton foundation and various other scandals aside).

The country is polarized, but not for the first or last time. We are on high alert as we have been forced to give a long, hard look at our fragmented reflection in the shattered mirror before us. Our skeletons have made their way out of the darkest corners of the closet into the light. The veil is being lifted, and the latent voices of America are being heard. Painfully, many people are becoming more "woke."

This is what change feels like. It is uncomfortable. It is scary and exciting. If you are shocked and angered by the ignorant comments Trump and his supporters have made over the course of his campaign (and life), I hope you are also shocked and angered by the ignorance that has prevented you from understanding the hopelessness and desperation of these people, or the 46% of eligible voters that refused to vote at all.

I hope you are shocked by how unaware you've been of the privilege you've had in your daily life that has spared you exposure to the problems Donald has brought to the forefront. I hope you're thinking of times you turned a blind eye when you should've dug deeper, been more curious. The times you wrote off or quickly argued with those who did not agree with you when we should've engaged. When you should've listened to understand, not to respond.

These issues are not new: our land was founded by men who violently seized it from natives, and was able to prosper because of slave labor. Inhumanity is a thread in the fabric of our country's origin that we can not ignore. We were the same country the day before the election as we are today, perhaps you have just not been listening. Donald is not who we are nor our final destination, but he is clearly a part we have willfully ignored from inside our insulated bubbles. There is still work to be done.

How did we get here? Who are we? Who do we want to be? For starters, we are not victims. As corrupt, greedy, and money hungry as politics have become today, we must acknowledge our contribution with our collective apathy, lack of involvement, and general sense of powerlessness. There is more to democracy than voting for a president every 4 years.

There is more to exercising your freedom of speech than posting articles and debating with people from high school on Facebook. When is the last time that your anger turned into action? The system has not been working. The system has been rigged to favor the few not the many. The American Dream has become a lie, and the opportunity of the promised land is not extended to all. If you have been paying attention, none of this is news.

This election proved that the people can create change, even if it is not in the way we expected. A marginalized, uneducated, voiceless group of Americans united and overthrew the Establishment groomed, "shoe in" candidate because they didn't want more of the same shit. Many voted to watch the empire fall. This was the same reason the mainstream unknown Senator, Bernie Sanders, came out of left field and stole the show (and almost the DNC nomination. Sigh, the one that got away).

There is duality in all things, and we all have a choice in the meaning we assign to what transpires in life. I choose to believe that the craving for something more than the status quo was the driving force behind Trump's victory, not the hateful rhetoric. I choose to believe this because when I met people that voted for him I asked them to explain their why to me. It wasn't because they agreed he spoke the truth or had the answers, but because they felt we are in need of anything but the more of the same, so much so that they we're willing to gamble with the worst kind of human to get there. I choose to believe this because I believe in us. While there have already been implications from Trump's words (increase in hate crimes, riots, hateful encounters), I choose to believe this is a phase and not the norm of a Post-Obama America. There is still work to be done.

If we are really the people we say we are, we know that ultimately love trumps hate. But guess what - we were racist before Trump; we were homophobic before Trump; we were misogynistic before Trump; we were religiously intolerant before Trump. He did not create these issues, he gave them a microphone, and hate did what hate does. Trump is the personification of all of our country's demons - past and present. Only now that he is standing in front us center stage, under 2 inches of orange spray tan and a 4 inch toupee, are we forced to really look at ourself. The parts of ourself that we don't like.

By indiscriminately spewing hateful, barbaric, offensive things about nearly everyone, he has resurrected, refueled and rebranded different civil rights movements that have been ongoing in isolation. While we may not have been able to empathize with people different from us and their unique struggles (Black, LGBT, Muslim, Women), we sure as fuck can agree that we are all American and we will not go down with this Trump shit ship. We are forced to address our dark side all at once, embodied in one person. We are forced to own it. To put our money where our mouth is and lay the inequalities to bed once and for all. This is the bridge we needed. There is still work to be done.

If we are the people we say we are, we know that we are stronger together. Trump has managed to bring both the Democratic Party and Republican Party together to a degree, in that both are mortified and appalled by him and what he symbolizes. He does not represent either party's values. He does not represent American values. He has not acted in a Presidential fashion. He has made us the laughing stock of the World. You'd also have to imagine that watching a steak salesman with no political experience, legally be elected to the highest office by a constitution you hold so dearly, has to make the hard work and sacrifice it took everyone else to get there feel... shabby, to say the least.

In Trump's acceptance speech, he said, "it's time," and he was right, but not for the reasons he implied. It is time. It's been time. It's time we look within and ask ourselves how open minded and tolerant we really are. It's time to look around and ask what we've done to contribute to a better society. It is time to become active. It is time to listen. It is time for empathy. It is time to walk the walk. It is time because our identity and national paradigm has been challenged by a villain named Donald. A villain that, whether we like it or not, we actually need. Our evil needed a face. We need the jolt. We need to unite. We need to defend our country in a real way to prove we aren't a sham. To prove him wrong.

How we respond to a Trump presidency will ultimately determine our true colors. What we have shown thus far is that we are weak enough for a ratchet reality tv star to not only bring out the worst in us, but get us to elect him as the leader of the Free World. Only a fool can try to use this man as a scapegoat for our nation's problems, but maybe we all need this fool to rally together against.

Opponents of Trump have been adamant that we need bridges not walls. I believe in the most unexpected way, Trump will be the bridge. He has shifted the dynamic. He has dismantled the throne of the Establishment. Have faith there is more good than malevolent in this country (Hillary won the popular vote). Have faith in each other (your friends aren't tagging Swastikas or harassing Muslims). Have faith in our constitution (the president is not a rogue shot caller). Have faith in yourself (act). Trump has been elected as our new president, but we get to decide what that means. The hand you are dealt is determinism, the way you play it is free will. We have a responsibility here to play our hand, to know our power, and to truly make America great for all. There is still work to be done.

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