The U.S. Needs A Fifth Party

It’s fair to say that the majority of people aren’t thrilled with the current political landscape. You, dear reader, have probably vented some frustrations in the break room, in a Facebook post, or around the dinner table.

This is nothing new.  Even before Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump clinched their respective nominations people had a bad taste in their mouths from politics.

Political polarization has been on the rise for years. (Pew Research Center, 2014) Each party has pushed the other to their respective extremes, preventing cooperation. We see this everyday on the news, but the most serious evidence of this is the government shutdown of 2013. (Politico, 2013) Republicans & Democrats were so polarized that they become impotent. They couldn’t compromise enough to do their jobs and pass a budget.

As if polarization isn’t a big enough problem, add to the mix the disdain of the two party system. Americans are more disillusioned with the two party system than they have ever been. (Gallup, 2015) It seems the vast majority of voters settle for a vote against an opponent they disagree with, rather than for a representative they’re excited about.

So Americans are forced to compromise in electing representatives to the highest offices in the country, simply because they think they only have two options. Neither of which excite the majority of the public.

It should not be this way.

If we compromise our values and beliefs to elect a politician, how can we fault them when they compromise theirs?

We should not settle when it comes to electing our leaders. The stakes are too high. Simply put, we need more options.

The US needs more than two parties.

All signs point to it. The trends above suggest people are ready for it. The idea isn’t really radical at all. The US political system shouldn’t be controlled by two parties when nearly half of its citizens don’t identify with either. (Gallup, 2015)

Luckily, there is another viable option: Gary Johnson of the Libertaian Party. The merits of the Johnson Weld ticket and the Libertarian Party as a whole are too numerous to expound upon here, so I have linked resources for you.

I am thrilled for the Libertarian Party to have a strong presence this year. I will most likely vote Libertarian for my first presidential election. I encourage you to check into Johnson and the Libertarians. They can topple the duopoly in Washington with your vote.

Jill Stein of the Green Party is also making a relatively strong showing in polls. People are beginning to support outsiders in bigger numbers.

These third and fourth options are a wonderful start, but I feel there is more that should be done.

I think many millions of Americans could rest comfortably in the Libertarian party, but I recognize that some wouldn’t. However, there’s no reason voters should align with either Republicans or Democrats if they don’t feel compelled to.

If not Libertarian, Amercians should have the option of Green PartyReform Party,  American Solidarity Party, or Constitution Party candidates.

I’m encouraged by the third and fourth party support, but why not a fith party?

Brazil has 5 parties. Finland has 6 parties. Germany has 6 partiesDenmark has 9 parties.

There’s no reason a developed country as diverse as the United States should be limited to two parties. If you perfectly align with Republicans or Democrats that’s great, but there are millions who do not. Especially this year. 

The US could transform into a multiparty system that’d more accurately represent the spectrum of views held by its citizens.  It’s entirely possible for the parties above and others yet to gain traction to be represented in all levels of government.

This is an awesome idea, but nothing changes if nothing changes. Other parties only rise if you vote for them.

I encourage you check into the Libertarians and other parties this election cycle. Your vote is only as limited as you make it.

Should Businesses Refuse Services To Protest LGBT Legislation?

The issue of transgender bathroom use has been a divisive topic recently. There’s a wealth of commentary on nearly every side of the issue. There are even some sympathetic, nuanced perspectives that I think are profitable.

I don’t have much to add the primary conversation, but one thing that struck me was the protest from businesses and individuals.

Bruce Springsteen, PayPal, Disney, and others have boycotted or threatened action in response to legislation concerning transgender bathroom use and other LGBT issues.

Not surprisingly, there was a public response to those actions. These businesses and individuals were met with praise and criticism alike. Public policy issues like this draw plenty of commentary, but it’s always a mixed bag. My concern is not with the quantity of commentary, but the quality.

There seems to be some inconsistency in the attacks and affirmations.

The same people that currently praise these businesses criticized others standing up for their convictions. Likewise, the same people that currently criticize these businesses praised others for doing the same.

I immediately thought of the Christian baker controversy of last year. These bakers didn’t want to bake a cake for a homosexual marriage, as motivated by their beliefs.

Generally speaking, social liberals called these bakers bigoted, while social conservatives praised their convictions. The roles seem to have been reversed this time. Social conservatives call PayPal and others bullies, while social liberals applaud their actions.

This is an incredibly hypocritical stance on both sides.

If Christian bakers should have the right to refuse service other businesses should too. Similarly, if the Christian bakers are bigots for refusing service then other businesses are too.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It’s totally unfair to ostracize one business for acting on its convictions while admiring another for doing the exact same thing. Social liberals and social conservatives are both guilty of this.

I suppose you can argue that only businesses with your beliefs and convictions should be able to boycott or refuse services. That’s a biased position, but you can hold it.

You cannot, however, argue that it is a business’s right to do so. If so, then other businesses you don’t agree with have license to protest as well.

Sometimes we might have to grit our teeth through a protest or boycott, even if we don’t agree with the beliefs behind it. Our beliefs may motivate a boycott or protest in the future.

So should businesses refuse services for their beliefs?

That’s a complicated question that I cannot answer for you. However, regardless of your stance on that question, you should be consistent in your answer.

What are you thoughts?

You Won’t Be Happy Anywhere If You’re Not Happy In Your Boring, Little Hometown

I see it everywhere, all the time.

“I’m so tired of [insert hometown, home county, or state].” “Can’t wait to get out of here.” “Back in [x] for 10 minutes and I’m ready to leave.” “I hate living here,” and on and on. There are people endlessly pining to be anywhere but where they are now.

True, where you’re at right now might not be the most exciting place on earth. There might be a single grocery store or a few supermarkets. There might be one restaurant or hundreds. There might be a single watering hole or a thriving entertainment district. The fact still remains:

Happiness is not a place.
There’s no location, no matter how intriguing or bustling, that can bring you happiness or fulfillment.

I come from a tiny town in Alabama. There are just under 1,000 voters, so we’re not exactly a bustling metropolitan hub of excitement. There’s a single grocery store (plus a Dollar General if that counts?), a single fast food restaurant, and a single gas station. There’s not much to do, to be quite honest. Trust me. I get it.

What I don’t get is why so many people, especially young people, hate their hometowns. Most people from my area are dying to leave. They think their current location is just a stop on their way to a bustling city with things to do and people to meet. But I feel like I should let them know. You read the title, but I’ll reiterate it again:

You won’t be happy anywhere if you’re not happy in your boring, little hometown. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to travel, or even live somewhere else. I’d love to see every inch of Creation that I can. I want to taste all the food, hear all the music, and live all the culture the world has to offer.

I could do all of that twice and still be unhappy, though. You have to learn to be content, no matter your situation, and no matter your location. Abound and abase.

I love living in Birmingham when I’m at school. There’s tons of music, food, parks, events, and new places for me to experience. But I also love living in my hometown. It’s a little slower paced, for sure. But it’s not a toxic hole of monotony to be escaped; it’s the potter’s wheel that helped mold me into who I am. There’s beauty there just like there is anywhere else.

You absolutely cannot wait for your life to begin or to improve once you move out of where you are. You can have a fulfilling life right where you are. You should have a fulfilling life right where you are.

The change of scenery, the different people, the happenings of other places are just distractions. Those things can keep you occupied, entertained, and satisfied for a time, but that new place you once longed for will soon be as old and worn out as the one you left.

Tuesday Adventure – The Birmingham Zoo

My brother Isaac and I were home alone with my two younger brothers, Asa and Zane, this past week. Mom and Dad were on vacation for an anniversary, so it was up to us to keep the house from burning down and keep them happy.

The week went very well! The highlight of the week was our trip to the Birmingham Zoo last Tuesday. My girlfriend Ashley came up with the idea, so we went for it. I took tons of pictures to share with my parents, and figured they’d work well in a photo essay. Enjoy!

We mounted the steely steed and rode into The Wind. And by The Wind I mean Jack’s. A Jack’s biscuit is the perfect start to any day, especially one so exciting. After meeting up with Ashley, we were off to the Ham! We were there in a jiffy, not a bad drive at all. There was a little pond with loud Macaws just past the entrance. We popped a squat to look at the map and figure out a game plan. We decided to go counterclockwise to hit everything we wanted to see. Zane was pretty disappointed when he saw that the fish we came to see were dead. He didn’t realize those fish were food until he saw the real one, a Largemouth Bass.  After passing the carousel (without riding it, by some miracle), we made our way to the Alabama Barn, the contact area that’s similar to a petting zoo. Goats and sheep of every color and size bleated at us as we walked through.  With the sweet goat noises still ringing in our ears, we went into Alabama Wilds, a circle of exhibits showcasing some local animals from Alabama and North America. We saw this Black Vulture on the trail.  After the vulture, we went over and ruffled the feathers of this Red Tailed Hawk.  Just shy of the trail’s exit was the Great Horned Owl. Zane asked me about his eyebrows.The trail opened up to a little pond, where a duck and a turtle greeted us.  The birds were appreciated, but the boys were really excited to see this Giant River Otter.  After leaving the Alabama Wilds, we headed for the Predator Zone. A gentle incline made the bench up top that much sweeter.  We went to the habitats inside before seeing the tigers and lions outside. Apparently Asa and Zane are Ocelot experts since the cats are on a game they play.  We continued on and found one of the zoo’s two Black Bears asleep. I looked for a pic-a-nic basket, but couldn’t find one.  After a minute or two, the other bear came out. These bears were actually left on a porch on Montana. Uber amounts of character in these Ursulas.  The Golden Eagles were much bigger than I imagined. It’s hard to tell here, but they’re further down than it seems. I see why they are famous for more than just their syrupI rounded a corner and saw two yellow eyes staring at me. I’m too much of a man to say it scared me (not that it did), so I’ll say that it startled me. The Malayan Tiger had already turned around by the time I got the picture, but it was still exciting to be that close to one.  We went to the outside section, and the same tiger circled around to stretch his legs a bit. We turned around from the tiger to see the African Lions. The lioness was asleep, but the male struck a majestic pose just as we got there.  We found out that trainers would be feeding them soon, so we waited a bit to watch. The trainers called the lions over to the side of the habitat with a fence to feed them and tell us more about them. Lying down, standing up, and whispering (a soft roar) are husbandry behaviors that the lions are rewarded for with ground beef.The husbandry behaviors help the zoo keepers look after the animals, allowing every inch of them to be visually examined for cuts, bruises, or defects. Many times, shots can also be administered without sedating the animal. Cool stuff for sure. We left the big cat area and ran into Red River Hogs. I told Zane to get off the rail because he might fall in. He quickly assured me and said that they’ll only charge, they won’t eat him. I felt a lot better.  After walking another 50 feet or so, we found Grant’s Zebras. We watched the zebras for a moment before moving on to Ashley’s favorite animal, the Reticulated Giraffe. They were joined by Ostriches. By then we had circled around to the massive elephant herd. While breaking for lunch a gentle drizzle came upon us. Luckily, we came prepared with two umbrellas.No rain is gonna ruin our zoo day though. “Oh! The primaries!” – Zane RobinsonThe Ring-Tailed Lemurs were curled up to get out of the rain. Zaboomafoo was a hero of mine, so it’s good to see his relatives.  De Brazza’s Monkeys were in the next exhibits. This mother was with her baby, who had just celebrated his 1st birthday.The porcupines didn’t have an umbrella, so they took shelter under a rock.This otter exhibit was a wide open habitat with a bridge running over it. We couldn’t find the otters, but the bridge made up for it.  I was concerned when we were about to meet the most dangerous animal on earth. But then I was a little underwhelmed. Asa was disappointed when he saw that this orangutan wasn’t real. The real Orangutans were napping to the sound of the rain. The Primates area led right to the Boma Play Area, an African themed play ground. We decided to pass because of the rain, but one activity on the sign caught my eye. Guess which one? We walked over a bit to the Sea Lions. One of them jumped right up to greet us!  We came back to the Sea Lion Splash Show a bit later. We saw Geo stand, flip, wave, and do so much more. Geo has learned husbandry behaviors too. It was an entertaining and informative show. The Birds section was right by the Sea Lions, so we strolled over to the aviaries after the show. We were able to investigate some incubating eggs.There were more than a hundred different kinds of birds, each with different colors, sizes, and sounds. We’re looking at Ravens here. There are six different birds in this habitat, definitely a cool one. These tiny birds were by far the loudest. Lots of punch in that tiny package.  This Southern Cassowary was staring us down. This picturesque staircase led us to the larger bird habitats. After descending the staircase, we were at the American White Pelican habitat. We stuck around a bit for the feeding. We didn’t know that we would be throwing the fish.But we all did! We then passed by a peacock who refused to show his feathers, despite Ashley’s encouragement. We left him for the flamingos. Hopefully he’s jealous. There were tons of these American Flamingos, they just didn’t come near us. Vanity side-note: I busted out my new Nike’s for the zoo trip. They looked super spiffy and felt like clouds of comfort. Little ponds with turtles were scattered everywhere in the park. Zane always leaned over a bit too far for my comfort. Our last exhibit was the Reptiles!  This Monkey-Tailed Skink didn’t move an inch no matter how bad Zane wanted him to. This massive snake (can’t remember if he’s a Boa or Python) was coiled up and still stretched across the habitat.  Zane had been going on and on about a Komodo Dragon since we got to the zoo. I couldn’t remember if they had one, so I told him we’d try to find one. He was so excited when we finally did.  Asa read the timeline for a Komodo’s life, so he’s an aficionado now.  We saved the train ride for last. The Red Diamond Express travels throughout the park and takes us behind a few habitats. She’ll be coming ’round the corner when she comes…Our engineer and tour guide told us tons of interesting facts about the animals and the zoo. There were a few corny jokes in there too.Asa and Zane both got some scenic views of the zoo. The tunnel was fun for sure!Zane had to ring the bell a few times to let them know we had a good ride! The Birmingham Zoo treated us well! Despite a little rain, we had a wonderful time seeing all that the zoo has to offer. If you’re anywhere near the Birmingham area, it’s worth the trip!We had an awesome day at the zoo. We went hard, bro. The ride home was pretty quiet..

7 Things You Learned After Your Freshman Year Of College

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT THROUGH YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR!

You’re a big kid now. College wasn’t necessarily a picnic though, you learned some stuff. You’re now the wisest you’ve ever been thanks to college. Let’s recap just a few things you might’ve learned in your freshman year.

1. College ain’t no joke

shutterstock_1017017412

You heard everyone say college is hard, but you had no idea till you’re at your wits’ end and in the trenches. The difficulty of the work usually isn’t that intense, it’s the amount. Having to juggle assignments from your different classes is exhausting. You’ve mastered multitasking though. So that’s a plus.

2. High School was terrible

hs-sucks

Can you imagine staying in the same building for 8 hours? Eating lunch at the same crappy cafeteria every single day? That’s awful. Sure, you did it for four years, but now you’ve tasted freedom. You can eat lunch wherever you’d like and hammock outside between classes. Yay independence!

3. Sleep is for the weak

349cf0adbd727d2a0503ce872330b2e2.1000x667x1

You might not have had to last 3 days on 3 hours of sleep during finals, but you felt it. You probably pulled an all nighter. You might have only gone to bed before midnight like twice. That’s fine, that’s more than most.

4. Eating alone isn’t bad

Eating-Alone-510-x-339

High school you would’ve dreaded sitting alone in a room full of people at lunch. No one eats lunch alone if they have a choice, right? Wrong. You realized it’s alright to sit in a hall with a few hundred other people socializing and be completely alone. In fact, it’s one of the most peaceful parts of your day.

5. Professors are people too

Black_Professor-mod1_1_t580

You come into college imagining a strict old man that lectures fast and won’t answer questions. Don’t get me wrong, those guys are definitely out there, but you learned that most professors aren’t that bad. They’re real with you in a way that your high school teachers couldn’t be. They’ll talk about being hungover or about being a “horndog” in college. They’ll level with you. They’ll say they won’t grade your paper cause they’re watching football this weekend.  And biggest thing of all is that they cuss. In high school some teachers did, but it was always scandalous. Here, it’s commonplace.

6. Balancing free time and school

school-life-balance

The problem is that you have to do the vast majority of your work in your time outside of class. This might’ve been difficult for you, since there are literally hundreds of other things to do. You can take up cactus keeping, rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, start a band, join the ballroom dancing club, and so so so much more. You’ll eventually have to bite the bullet and do your school work, though. The key is to do it earlier than the hour it’s due.

7. College is only as fun as you make it

This is the big one. College is a world of opportunity where you can branch out and discover yourself. You can do all the things mentioned above and so much more. You can create friendships that’ll last a lifetime. You can unearth a passion you never knew you had. Or you could sit in your room and watch Netflix for 16 hours straight. You could’ve gotten out ahead of your work, or get swamped. You had a choice to make college awesome or awful. Which did you do?

That’s just scratching the surface of what you might’ve gotten out of your first year of college. Did I miss anything? Do you have a funny story? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t Be Ignorant On Gay Marriage, Alabama

Alabama’s Gay Marriage Ban was recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. There will be a blizzard of appeals, debate, and people on both sides of the issue embarrassing themselves. But that is not the point of this post.

I have an issue with people comparing the discrimination of homosexuals today to the discrimination of blacks in the 60’s. I’m not speaking on comparisons to interracial marriage, but to the nationwide hate that faced African Americans from this period.
Regardless of how you feel about gay marriage or even homosexuality as a whole, it is absolutely ignorant to compare the two.

True, I could see where homosexuals have been denied something because of their sexuality: a job, promotion, adoption, or any of the many things that never reach headlines. I see that. I can sympathize with that argument to a reasonable extent.

But that pales in comparison to the atrocities faced by the Civil Rights Movement.
To even suggest that homosexuals’ issues are equitable to that of African Americans facing discrimination in pre-Civil Rights Act America is absurd. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, violence continued on for years.

King
Especially those in Alabama, you should know better. Our state was the battleground for Civil Rights. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a famous letter from a Birmingham Jail. The Montgomery Bus Boycott started by Rosa Parks took place in our state’s capitol. Martin Luther King also led a massive march from Selma to Birmingham. We have memorials everywhere,19551201_Rosa_Parks_Mug_Shot reminding us of the past. We are bombarded with it in History class. Our classmates, coworkers, and churches have family that lived it. How could we have forgotten?

Honestly, the comparison angers me. I’m always shocked whenever I hear this argument. Homosexuals have experienced prejudice, no doubt.
Homosexuals have not faced systematic oppression and outright hate like African Americans did in the 60’s.

There are no gay water fountains.

Men Drinking from Segregated Water Fountains

There no restaurants that only serve straights.

8a17588u-master-1000

There are no signs placing gays below dogs.

cr0024_enlarge

There are no police officers beating gays for having a different opinion.

Rev.-WEB-VOL-1-030

There are no German Shepherds attacking gays at peaceful protests.

1111_civil-rights

There are no fire hoses unleashing 290 pounds per square inch of water on gays.

22235_h500w820gt

There are no crosses being burned the yards of gay houses.

mlkjr

And most importantly, there are no lynchings of gays.

I won’t post pictures here, but all you have to do is Google “Black Lynchings” to see these travesties. In many of the earlier pictures (not necessarily 1960’s) you will see children gathered around watching this murder, because it was commonplace.
Blacks were drug behind trucks, torn between horses, lit on fire and hanged regularly. There were churches and schools being bombed. In fact, Birmingham had the nickname of “Bombingham”. The hate led to white civil rights workers being murdered as well.

Violence ran rampant in the Deep South especially, but discrimination and segregation was everywhere. Hundreds of years of tensions were reaching a boiling point. I pray our country never sees discrimination on such a scale ever again.

Iamaman.previewThis was one of the lowest points in the history of the United States. There was so much wrong being perpetrated on a daily basis. Jim Crow Laws and the Ku Klux Klan separated blacks and presented them as subhuman. Black life was far from sacred, it was often despised.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not think every person that is for gay marriage compares the two. I actually think it is a relative minority, but they are a loud minority. It only takes one person to made this ignorant statement. I also don’t want you to think I’m minimizing the battles homosexuals are facing. I am not. Homosexuals often face hate rather than understanding. I understand their resentment and feelings of discrimination. I honestly do. But.

It amazes me that people can think these two situations are comparable. They most definitely are not. Conversations on gay marriage should happen. Comparisons to the Civil Rights Era should not.

What are your thoughts? Have you heard anyone use this comparison before?

So this is my blog/website/cactus…

It’s 8:31pm in Birmingham, Alabama and I just started a blog… or is it a website?

Both?

We’ll see I guess.

I’m excited to be honest with you, ambiguous reader. I know this seed can grow into a beanstalk that not even Jack or the Giant could surmount. It can be an exchange of ideas so beautiful it could be known throughout the planet, becoming a household name.

But for now, this is just a seed.

 

And this is just a cactus.

IMG_5153

 

I recently received this cactus and the fishbowl as a gift.IMG_5139 I’m excited for my cactus to grow in size and eventually bloom flowers in the late Spring. I don’t know exactly what the flowers will be, they’ll be a cocktail of orange, yellow, or pink, but I can’t know. Until they bloom at least.  I have to be careful not to over-saturate or ignore my succulent to ensure this. My brother and my Dad actually have a bet on how soon it will die. (+1 for family support!) But I’m confident I’ll be showing you this same cactus in May with gorgeous flowers that’d wow even the greenest of thumbs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love this cactus…but it’s been rough upfront. Repotting this thing with an oven mitt was a little less than ideal. There was a scream or two or three, and even while taking these pictures I pricked myself a few times. It’s difficult starting this plant for sure! But I know it’ll grow easier with time, and eventually I will see the fruits of my labors. It gets easier. I’ve found this fact to be true in most everything in life:

It takes the most energy to get started.

…and I’ve started! So the hard part is done!

Now I’ll be babying my cactus and this site… watering, checking, watching, sitting, waiting, wishing… And looking to see what they will become!