Thursday, March 17, 2016

On Trump

Why are people so drawn to Donald Trump? I mean, I get it to a degree. Trump is anti-political status quo (i.e. he is not a career politician) and can be highly entertaining to boot. He says exactly what he is thinking and does not leave much to the audience's imagination. He is an "open book" so to speak (even if the story changes on occasion). Some people seem to be drawn to what appears to be a candid candidate that lays it all out on the table.

However, Trump is a troubling figure regardless of how much people are drawn to his dramatic energy and I would like to take up a bit of virtual space to counter a couple of the more common talking points that people use to defend Trump's presidential bid and his questionable stance on certain hot button issues.

I often hear people say things like "What is the big deal if Trump is elected? It is not as though the House and Senate would get behind all of his ideas. He would not have total control." This train of thought is problematic in two important ways.

  1. Why allow him to be elected if we do not actually want his ideas. We need a president who is going to be a leader. The president is and should be more than just a figure head. The ideas that are spouted from the top office of our country should be ideas that come with comprehensive plans on how to move those big ideas forward. Most of Trumps ideas have been promises to do something with little to no plan of action to follow suit. In fact if you listen to most of his answers to just about any question, the answer lacks substance. He says a lot of simple/understandable words and adds in a buzz word here and there for dramatic effect, but from a rhetorical stand-point there is largely nothing there when you really start to flesh it out. How is he supposed to lead when he has yet to demonstrate his ability to put forth clear cut plans for his ideas? Sorry Trump, your "believe me," rhetoric is not a plan.
  2. As president, he would technically need the cooperation of the house and senate to get things done, meaning several of his ideas would be unlikely to muster much cooperation, but the "big deal" is a problem of perception. Many countries (some of which are currently our allies) are completely appalled by the fact that Trump has made it this far and that there are a great number of people in our country that hold someone with his bigoted/xenophobic ideology in such high regard [1-2]. In fact he has already made attacks against certain foreign leaders that are sure to work against him if he were to be elected [3]. Trump's inability to display any measure of diplomacy is and will continue to be a huge issue. Our diplomatic ties are incredibly important. If Trump cannot create and maintain meaningful and respectful relationships with other leaders, how are we supposed to believe that he will be able to facilitate important negotiations with other world powers. Respect tends to beget respect on the international stage and Trump has shown little to no respect to anyone but himself. His inability to foster these diplomatic relationships will have a large impact on our country's ability to work with other nations. As much as some want the U.S. to close itself off, we do actually share a planet with other countries and we will need to work with them on certain global efforts.

I have also heard things like: "Trump is going to make sure real Americans get back on their feet and are safe. The wall and stopping immigration of certain groups will make this possible." Clearly this is also problematic.

First of all, I take issue with the way I hear people defining real or true Americans. Unless you are Native American...please just stop. But even beyond this, I again have two important retaliations.
  1. Regarding Americans getting back on their feet, Trump has insinuated that illegal immigrants are saturating the labor market and are at the root of the problem when it comes to the financial hardships of the American people. However, this is a point that Trump has personal stake in the average American believing. In reality, the truth lacks that kind of simplicity. There is also much blame to be spread at the top of the ladder. While wages for the middle and lower class have stagnated, the incomes for those in higher positions (e.g. CEOs) have skyrocketed [4]. And how do CEOs tend to earn such exorbitant salaries? First of all, CEOs and other top ranking officers in large companies are often rewarded for keeping costs low (that includes payroll folks!). For larger companies the wages are so low because they can be and those at the top understand that keeping wages low at the bottom will improve their own wages at the top in the long run. Not to mention that those large corporations that pay out exorbitant salaries at the top actually do so to create tax incentives for the company [5]! Donald Trump may not be a career politician but he is certainly one of the faces of corporate greed. Sure Donald Trump says he cannot be bought...but how is letting him into the oval office not directly placing corporate interest right at the top of the ladder? Donald Trump does not need to worry about being in the back pocket of corporate interest groups because he IS the FACE of corporate interest. If that does not raise your eyebrows regarding ethical concerns...I don't know what will...
  2. As far as keeping Americans safe: Trump, like many politicians, understands that fear is always a topic that will bait people. His "fear the 'other'" rhetoric is tired.What we need to understand is that, in reality, Americans harm other Americans much more frequently than any other group harms Americans.  There have been several studies that confirm that immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes or become incarcerated [6]. Additionally, although the media tends to casually work terrorist threat rhetoric into every-day news, we should really be questioning just how at risk we are. This is not to say that terrorism should not be taken seriously but I think that we are living in far more fear than is actually warranted. There are so many seemingly benign things that pose far greater threats to you than terrorism [7]. Seriously...relax! Letting in refugees and those who are trying to escape far worse living situations than a vast majority of Americans could ever imagine or letting in those people with diverse religious beliefs should be seen as a sign of our continued global leadership. Additionally, some of Trumps talking points related to the halting of terrorism are truly troubling. Trump has indicated that we need to kill off the families of terrorists. Way to advocate for a war crime! The fact that he has come this far lacking basic understanding of The Geneva Conventions and its stance on collective punishment is seriously troubling. I will not make a claim that I am an expert...but I am not running for president.  
People should be worried that someone like Trump has made it this far. I will be the first to admit that no candidate is a complete saint and it can be difficult come election year to find candidates that align with every one of our own political beliefs but I think that most Americans can agree that we need a leader who can work with congress to actualize policies, maintain our position as a global leader, play nice with other world leaders, understand international policies, and exist at a remove from serious ethical concerns. I do not care on which side of the political fence you fall, Donald Trump does not fit the bill.  

To be honest, I could go on but this post is already quite lengthy. Kudos to you if you have made it this far. 

Feel free to join the discussion in the comments below. 


Saturday, March 7, 2015

An Open Letter to PNC

Dear PNC Bank,

I think we might need to break up. Today is the day I am finally coming to my senses and realizing that you are no longer interested in really serving me, a long-time customer.

Today I entered one of your small branches to make a coin deposit. This coin deposit has become something of a ritual for me. Approximately once per year I enter your branch with around $100 worth of coins that I have accumulated and expect to be able to make a quick deposit that will both lighten my physical load and slightly swell my account. Today, however, this ritual was put to a swift halt.

Upon telling the young lady behind your counter that I had a bag of coins to deposit, she informed me that they no longer have a coin counter in the branch and cannot perform same-day coin deposits. Seeing as you are a financial institution who deals with legal tender, I am pretty sure my jaw dropped right down to the floor. Did I miss something? Are coins no longer a form of legal currency? Or perhaps the problem is that you now find my coins to be nothing more than a trifling annoyance, an insignificant blip amongst your sea of “C-notes”.

To be fair, I was offered the option of leaving the coins and a pre-printed deposit slip from the back of my checkbook (of which I am currently out), with the teller who would then ship my coins off to, what sounded like, a central coin sorting location. I was assured that after the counting process took place, that a deposit would be made into my account for the amount of coins.  I would hope, of course, that nothing would come of my coins from the time they left my hands and made it to this facility, but how can I verify anything once they leave my hands (or the branch into which I brought the coins)? I am expected to blindly trust that nearly $100 in cash (change) will go through all of these motions unblemished when you are unable to give me any documentation on the spot of the amount I am handing over to you? Sorry….just no…not happening.

I was a bank teller once so, to a degree, I get it. Coins, even with a machine counter, take a bit longer for each transaction, they are heavy, and sometimes you need to cull through them slightly to remove a stow-away paper-clip or two that have hidden themselves amongst the nickels. However, these small services, in essence make a big impact on how customers perceive you. For example: My thought after the “no more coins” debacle this morning was “If I can’t trust PNC to graciously take care of the small things, why should I allow them to profit off of the big things?”

This no coin deposit revelation came in a very timely manner for me. I am currently vetting financial institutions for a new vehicle loan. This will be the largest loan that I will have ever needed. You, as one of my current financial institutions (who doesn’t have a little side-action in the banking world these days?) is was on my list of institutions with whom I have spoken and that have relatively decent rates to offer. However, I have now determined that your arrogant can’t-be-bothered-with-coins stance makes you unworthy of my hard earned cash. I will not allow you, who sees the little things as too trivial for your time, to profit in the form of interest on my loan. I have other options with smaller, friendlier institutions, all of which still see little things (like my coins) as still being worth their time.

I can honestly say that this break-up has been looming on the horizon for some time. The ridiculous paper statement fees, the outrageously high minimum balances, and the monthly check writing maxims are just a couple of the other infractions of which you have been guilty in recent years… It is time to walk away from you and your too-big-to-fail, audacious practices and find a healthier, more holistic banking relationship.

I wish I could say, “I’ll miss you,” but I’m sure I won’t.


Your very-soon-to-be “ex” customer

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Imagination Hiatus and the Quirky Creative Process

Recently, I find myself mourning a loss. Please do not fear. No one has passed away, I have not misplaced a family heirloom nor have I experienced any other such cause for misery per se but I do find myself missing the days where I would sit around with my imagination as my company and just write. For those who have either not known me long or have not known me with any deep degree of friendly intimacy, I have long wanted to be a great novelist. Ok...maybe not great in the canonical sense but at least noteworthy in the Young Adult genre... I have several works that I have begun but I never seem to either find the time to finish them or I abandon them for being "not quite good enough".

Confession: I have not put pen to paper as an aspiring novelist in nearly two years.

That is a long time!

It is strange to imagine that I have allowed myself such a hiatus from an activity that I find so amazingly therapeutic. This is not to say that I have been completely denying myself any creative outlets. I am a crafter and in some ways my crafting allows me to express myself but there are so many more ways that the written word serves me. I am able to work out internal issues and frustrations through writing  and I am certain that, for many of these issues, my crafting, in comparison, will never serve as an adequate outlet.

Confession: I can barely remember a time when I did not love to write.

In fact, I am a bit quirky when it comes to creative writing. I tend, in my deepest imaginative thoughts, to whisper through the scenario or possible dialogues for my works (most people would construe this as one talking to oneself...). When I was in grade school, probably around second grade, I learned that this was apparently a strange thing to do in public. I sat behind a boy, I believe his name was Brad, and the class was having a "free write" time. I, deep in thought, was whispering to myself and Brad turned around to face me. His eyes were wide with horror. I remember those eyes well. There is no doubt in my mind that he thought I was a psychopath. A day or two later, the classroom was rearranged. I always wondered in the back of my mind if Brad requested not to sit by the "weirdo" anymore or if the teacher had been planning the move anyway. In any case, I never sat less than two to three desks away from Brad for the rest of the year.

Fast forward to high school: I never really gave up on this quirk. I tried really hard not to do this talk-to-myself-whisper thing in public anymore but when I was around people with whom I was really comfortable, I would often do it without realizing it. My family usually just ignored it. I mean for them, it is/was something that they were used to. Cue the High School Sweetheart. I would slip sometimes and do this in front of him and he would inquire about my strange whisperings. I would either:

A.) Deny I was doing it

B.) Say it was nothing

Either of these answers would, of course, start a fight (we had a very nurturing, healthy, and trust-filled relationship...). But let's expose the true problem: I was uncomfortable confronting the idea that I was engaging in quirky act which, ever since second grade, I believed to be absolutely non-normative behavior. Basically, little Brad's reaction and the subsequent (albeit probably coincidental) class room rearrangement scarred me. that my blog post about missing writing has become a blog post about missing writing and my bizarre creative process...I should probably stop typing before you, just like little Brad, believe that I am a total weirdo.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Picking Up the Pages

Where to begin?

Perhaps I should start by introducing myself through a mini and self directed interview.

Marilyn The Interviewer: Please state your name for the record.
Marilyn The Interviewee: Marilyn
Interviewer: Why have you created this blog. Goodness knows the last thing the internet needs is another blog!
Interviewee: I am sadly aware that I am adding to an endless variety of not-so-important bloggers. However, I need an outlet. Even if no one reads it... I'll know it exists and somehow that is enough for me.
Interviewer: What is it that you plan on sharing through this blog?
Interviewee: I suppose it depends on the day. Some days it might be about my latest music obsession, others about my latest products in my Etsy shop, a book I just read for the 2nd time, or even a TV show that I am hesitant to admit that I have just binge-watched (thanks a lot Netflix...we seriously need to break up!).
Interviewer: So basically you are going to be entirely random... Ok...Well...Why don't you explain the significance of your Blog's title..."Picking Up the Pages".
Interviewee: Sure. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure what to call my blog. I mean I, like every other blogger, wanted something both witty, relevant, and interesting. I had a hard time finding something to mesh with such high standards. I threw around the idea of something related to my Etsy shop, which is called The Nerd Boutique (No is really called The Nerd Boutique and you should probably check it out...) but I did not want to corner myself into blogging only about my shop. I am so much more than my Etsy know? Anyway...I am a huge lover of books. I have quite a large collection and I am also working on a PhD in Film & Literature. I even use books as one of my main mediums for my Etsy creations. In fact my idea to create this blog came while I was crafting and while I was stewing over what the heck I should call this little space in the big bad world wide web, I happened to drop several pages that I had just torn out of a Harry Potter book ( read that correctly..."torn out of a Harry Potter book"...seriously...look at my Etsy shop will make perfect sense to you). As I leaned over and picked up the just seemed to be the perfect fit. I am constantly picking up pages. My crafting is ridiculously messy. Plus there is that love of and something of an academic obligation to books. It just seemed fitting.
Interviewer: Interesting indeed. Well, that is about all of the time we have for today. Thank you for answering all of these questions.
Interviewee: Of course. I was happy to do it. Thank you for having me.
I think that interviewing myself is one of the strangest things I have ever done. On that note...I bid you adieu...At least for now...