Guest contributors run the gamut, but they all pretty much rock.
Guest Contributor @LLMajer
In the wake of Betsy DeVos’s Title IX announcement, social media looked something like Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Destruction and debris clogged the channels of Twitter as both sides of the debate spewed their arguments with gale-force emotions:
“Due process for the accused!”
As someone who spent the last two years looking into the sexual assault cases at Baylor University, I understand the frustration. Reading the allegations of how a university failed its students who allege they were assaulted resulted in a breakdown of my own emotions. Namely, I found the lack of support for victims astounding. The school, and others in Title IX investigations, remained as inefficient in providing assistance for victims as they were twenty-five years ago, when I was sexually assaulted as a coed.
Back in the day, I did not know I had any rights. I attended a school committed to Old South principles, meaning terrible things never happened to nice girls and you do not talk about said events if they do. But, they don’t, because nice girls don’t get in those messes. Consequently, when the word got out that my attack was “my fault” and my attacker’s fraternity brothers called me a “whore” as I walked to class, I did what a Southern girl with a tarnished tiara was supposed to do: I transferred and never mentioned it again.
It’s safe to say my compassion, and my passion, lies with victims, whom I call survivors. I feel their need to be heard, and to be believed.
That’s not where the story ends for me, though. Today, I have children. Sons, to be exact. Watching the ESPN 30for30 special, Fantastic Lies, featuring the Duke Lacrosse case, terrified the mom in me. I found myself tearing up for the mothers of the men who were falsely accused of rape.
So, whose side am I on, anyway?
The victims…and the accused.
I know police departments and universities fail the victims. Clearly, Title IX needs some work. However, in the interest of fairness for all, due process for the accused is imperative. Allowing schools to adjudicate cases moves the schools into a place they do not belong, and convict falsely accused men. Title IX then serves as a weapon for women with nefarious intent. For those survivors who have real claims of assault, these false accusations make your fight even tougher. Your real claim is seen with skepticism as someone seeking a payout when false claims lead to false convictions. You do not deserve that treatment. You have suffered enough.
I know the pain from sexual assault. I do not want your pain diminished because an environment is created where all survivors are seen as opportunists. Your pain is real. People will believe you. Please let this system be reworked so that the nightmare scenarios you faced do not happen for other survivors. Let’s make sure your attacker is given the basic civil rights accorded to any citizen in our nation. That will make his conviction that much more satisfying when it happens, because the facts of your case will not lie.
Our culture has come to believe teenage sexuality is the norm. We assume teens are essentially adults capable of the same reasoning and decision making we, as mature adults, take for granted. Liberal child psychology has long insisted upon sexual autonomy for teenagers, often insisting anything less is harmful to the healthy development of a young person’s sense of self. We are simply expected to accept that teenagers will have sex regardless of their parent’s intervention or wishes .
But there is a consequence the liberal world has never recognized. This consequence is especially tangible in gay males. I could go into statistics, studies, issues with drugs use, homelessness, sex work etc. But for this discussion I feel the most relevant perspective is my own experience. I have discussed my experience in early sexuality on many occasions, but this in particular is for the parents who may not fully realize what their child is going through.
As you may know, I began engaging in sex with adults when I was 14. An unexpected encounter at a college library where I, alone, found myself being molested by a much older man initiated me into this world. I would return to that same library basement several times a week, driven by my father and often dropped off on my own, seeking something more than just the thrill of the encounter. Every man I engaged with told me how handsome, beautiful, sexy and special I was. Each touched me in a way that, for a moment, made me feel validated and even cared for. And each man left me alone once the encounter was over without a thought to the impact they had.
My craving for this validation pushed me into situations I cannot even imagine risking today as an adult. Riding my bike at midnight across a river, down to a dark and secluded riverfront area to get into a car with a stranger I had spoken to online just an hour before. Spending hours in a dark, dingy stall waiting and holding my breath every time the door opened. Walking down a highway at 2 a.m. to fulfill the fantasy of a man who wanted to pick up a hitchhiker. All in a futile attempt to find that sense of meaning and to believe I was worth something.
I had never felt the way I did in the first moments of a kiss or a touch and in my obsession with my own identity and my difference from my peers, that validation meant everything. But it was always fleeting; always just pretend. It is a curiosity in the gay world how two men who have never met before can become instantly and passionately intimate in body and soul and then walk away without thinking of the other again. But as a teenager I interpreted it as love.
My father had his suspicions when I was 15, after he discovered I looked up gay porn on his work computer. But he could never really talk to me about it. In my mind, I was an adult in a world that rejected me and I was trapped in my teenage years just waiting for an opportunity to escape. I held a several month-long relationship with a man in California with whom I fully intended to run away with the second I turned 18. He turned out to be an older man who lied about everything he told me he was. I nearly convinced my father to let me travel 3 hours away to Columbus, Ohio for my 16th birthday to visit a 45 year old man I had been chatting with for only a few days.
But it was the time in-between that tells the real story. When I was with these men I felt desired, important, confident and mature. When I got up to go to school the next day I felt ashamed, afraid and paranoid that everyone would somehow know. Sitting in class with my peers I felt out of place, not just because I was gay but also because I felt my experience was so drastically different from theirs. Overhearing the other boys brag about making out with their girlfriends seemed incredibly odd when I had, just the night before, been sitting in a parking lot with a complete stranger having sex.
I was deeply depressed and anxious. As a freshmen I had been a top performer. I barely graduated 87 out of 89 in my class. I could never develop friendships because I felt I had to hide myself and my secret life so completely. When I tried to go to church I would sit alone in a pew and nearly shake with the anxiety and paranoia of judgement all around me. I could tell absolutely no one. And yet every few nights I would find myself craving the attention and the validation of a man again and each time I believed I was on the brink of discovering my one true love. I truly believed if I were just good enough at sex, one of them would eventually love me back.
The constant ebb and flow of extremely intense contact, thrill, danger and euphoria and then loneliness, depression and isolation was emotionally exhausting. At age 15 and again at age 17 I attempted suicide. On more than one occasion I spontaneously burst into sobbing fits I could not control in the middle of class. I was deeply obsessed with the darkness of the goth trend for a year and then reverted to a childlike state the following year with a Rugrats bookbag and a pop-music persona. I dyed my hair a different color every week, sometime multiple times in a night. I was desperate to perfect the right persona.
My erratic behavior and genuinely bipolar emotional extremes made me the school freak and when I finally came out at 16, my entire Junior year became nothing but that singular experience. Ironically at the same time I was taking care of my grandfather, whom I lived with, and maintaining a house, dinner, cleaning and managing the bills. I was an adult trapped in the emotional and irrational mind of a teenager, but living with the responsibilities of someone much older.
After high school, I found myself reverting to an adolescent, unable and uninterested in holding a job, living with my father and doing absolutely everything impulsively. I am genuinely grateful my friends were not into the bar or drug scene because I would have been absolutely lost to it had I been exposed. My obsession with finding that secret combination of passion, validation and love escalated during that time and ages 18 to 21 were essentially lost to me. All I did during those years was indulge every desire I found myself wishing.
I started college at 21, older than most and only with extreme prompting from my grandmother. I struggled through it as I was essentially living my teenage years by that point emotionally. And emotional is the best way to describe the person I was then. From 21 to about 25 I existed in a near constant state of emotional crisis with legitimate things like the loss of my father to suicide and the growing sense of emptiness I found in sex with strangers. But I also found I seemed incapable of building relationships.
I never learned how to date or hold a relationship. I only knew how to have sex. To this day I deeply struggle with the ability to emotionally connect to other people.
We seem to live in a binary world of the Right lecturing on the dangers of moral decay and the Left mocking the backward thinking of it all and celebrating revolution after revolution of social identity. But the truth is somewhere in-between. In my case it is the realization that I lost vital years of social development and the sheer weight and stress of adult decision-making nearly pushed me over the edge. But this isn’t a morality tale. This is not a lecture on gay culture or oversexualized media. This is simply a look at one man’s experience being a teenager unable to handle the responsibilities of an adult.
Unfortunately, the LGBT world would rationalize this by arguing if I had only been accepted and affirmed I wouldn’t have needed to sneak around. They would say that my sense of shame and anxiety was due to homophobia and intolerance. They would demand my experience is due to the lack of LGBT resources and accommodation. But the truth is, I mentally broke down. I was delayed in development and nearly lost my life because I realized I was an object of temporary desire to older men with whom I expected love, validation and acceptance from.
I am not one to wallow in self-pity or allow life situations to excuse choices or behaviors. I grew up, built a life, overcame my emotional and intellectual insecurities and fears and learned to validate myself over time. I am not a victim. But I am an example.
A teenager is incapable of understanding or appreciating meaningless sex. I don’t care how mature or confident they believe themselves to be, they cannot handle this level of adult consequence. Looking into the eyes of someone you put your absolute trust in and seeing passion and excitement followed by disinterest and avoidance is devastating. Repeating that experience over and over crushes the soul. It can be argued that teenagers engaging in sex with each other in relationships can be positive, but I cannot overstate the dangers of adult-teen sex.
My message to parents? If you have a gay son, he is most likely engaged in sexual talk or activity with men online and he has absolutely no idea how dangerous this is. Young gay men do have the ability to find each other much easier now and, unlike my time in 1998, can date other gay guys their own age. But if they are ‘hooking up’ online it is likely with an adult. I can remember trying to get my dad’s attention without really understanding why. I remember thinking ‘how can he not know what I am doing? Doesn’t he care?’ And in truth I believed he didn’t. It is your job to intervene.
The LGBT world is doing everything in its power to separate young gays from their families and integrate them into the LGBT ‘family.’ While well-meaning from a stand point of outdated ideas of family rejection and social stigma, today it only fosters resentment and risky behaviors. Teenagers should not be deeply depressed. They should not be hiding their online life from you. They should not have mysterious friends you don’t know about. In a better world, they would be told ‘No’ by the men they are attempting to hook up with.
If just one of those men had told me ‘No’, imagine what that might have changed. Imagine if one of those men had told me ‘You are 15, don’t you see how dangerous this is? You don’t need to throw yourself to men like this to be valued. You don’t have to risk your entire future for a 15 minute encounter that means nothing to either of you. You need to be a kid right now.’ Sadly, this never happened to me.
You cannot assume your teenager is making good decisions or knows how handle the decisions they have made. I was lost and felt overwhelmed and buried daily. I needed someone to stop me. I needed someone to guide me. I needed faith and community. But most importantly, I needed an adult to tell me ‘No.’ Don’t be afraid to tell your son ‘No.’
Last week, President Trump announced that he was giving Congress six months to “legalize DACA,” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This controversial government program was created by President Obama’s executive order that delayed deportation of illegal immigrants who had entered the country at age 16 and younger. Trump threatened that if Congress took no action, he would “revisit the issue.” Given other remarks from members of his administration, many took this as a signal that Trump would end DACA within six months.
Preemptive protests against this assumed action began almost immediately. National figures from both sides of the aisle stressed the need for the young illegal immigrants covered by DACA to receive protection, as many of them had simply accompanied their parents to America and had otherwise done nothing wrong. However, from this point of agreement on policy, the debate devolved into a referendum on DACA itself.
We think this is the wrong direction for our national discussion on this important issue, and we chose to write this article to explain why. We differ in our ideology: Connor is a conservative on most matters of policy, while Andy leans to the left. Nevertheless, we agree that Republicans, Democrats, and centrists alike should be on board with ending DACA and replacing it with a legislative solution to our ongoing immigration problem.
America is unique among other nations due to its foundation on the rule of law. Since its beginning, our country has taken as its first principle that “all men are created equal.” As American citizens, we are all accountable before the law. By electing representatives and participating in the political process, we participate in the crafting of the legal rules and regulations that protect our freedoms. Well-made laws provide stable guidelines for the exercise of our liberties that do not vary from person to person. The even measure of our law ideally allows us all to pursue happiness from the same starting point.
In order for us to maintain an fairly applicable system of law that is accountable to the American people, Congress should make the laws that govern us. The Framers of the Constitution understood this when they explicitly granted Congress “all legislative powers.” In contrast, the President’s job is to execute the laws Congress has passed.
We choose not to speculate about President Obama’s motivations in signing the executive order that created DACA. He may well have considered DACA to be within his constitutional purview, as a matter of executive discretion regarding enforcement priorities. The fact remains that DACA does affect the legal status of a certain class of illegal immigrants by allowing them access to many of the rights of American citizens. As such, it has the force of law while in effect.
This situation requires a remedy. Those who are currently under DACA’s purview deserve better than a flimsy executive decree that is unconstitutional at worst and easily repealable at best. DACA increases uncertainty and decreases quality of life for the illegal immigrants it seeks to help. The far better solution is the one proposed by our nation’s founders: the rule of law.
By implying that he will end DACA, the President is forcing Congress’s hand on a hotly contested policy issue with Election Day implications – exactly the sort of issue that Congressmen enjoy talking about but never acting on. A legislative solution to our immigration woes is a long time coming, however, and is beyond necessary.
Some in our country would prefer that DACA be legalized in its current form by Congress. Others argue that Congress should allow the President to end DACA and commit to strictly enforcing existing immigration law barring illegal entrance into the United States. But embracing one of these tactics over the other will deepen our country’s sizable political divide on this issue. Moreover, both approaches are markedly flawed. Legalizing DACA would likely incentivize future illegal immigration and increase the incidence of “anchor babies.” Alternatively, strict enforcement comports with the rule of law, but mandates deportation for all illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States – a solution that is impractical and costly, at minimum.
As two individuals from opposing sides of the aisle, we would like to offer a bipartisan model solution that should satisfy both parties. To replace DACA, Congress should pass a law featuring a limited period of amnesty for all illegal immigrants residing in the United States who have not committed felonies. For a year following the passage of this bill, illegal immigrants could visit a website, fill out a form, pay the applicable fee, and begin the process of becoming a United States citizen or acquiring a temporary visa or green card.
After that year, this model bill would require the United States to strictly enforce its existing immigration laws, deporting any undocumented immigrants discovered within America’s borders who chose not to come forward during the amnesty period. The bill would also provide for the appointment of a joint select Congressional committee to investigate and recommend solutions for better border security, like a U.S.-Mexico border wall or increased patrols. In addition, the law would remove bureaucratic and monetary barriers to speedy authorization of citizenship for those who apply, making legal immigration easier.
This model law would satisfy the major stakeholders on immigration, and would be a better solution than the legally shaky, politically divisive system created by DACA. As a liberal and a conservative, we agree that it is time for Congress to come together and act to solve our immigration crisis.
Connor Mighell and Andrew Smith are both third-year law students at The University of Alabama School of Law. Connor earned his undergraduate degree in Political Philosophy from Baylor University. He is a regular contributor at Merion West and the curator of “Five in a Flash,” a weekday newsletter. He may be found on Twitter at @cmigbear. Andrew graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor's degree in History and a minor in African-American Studies. He has previously worked in the South Carolina House of Representatives and for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. He can be found on Twitter at @myandrewisname.
Chupacabras. Terrifying blood-sucking creatures that keep many kids in line and following the rules in order to keep safe. As a Californian, I grew up hearing much more about Chupacabras than about the boogeyman. I also recognize a good Chupacabra story when I hear one. For those of you who don’t know, the mythological (or is it?!?!) creature is typically a dog-like, vampiric beast that sucks the blood out of goats. Most of the country sees California as a Chupacabra. Why did I not use boogeyman and just get on with it? The draining of life force is important to note. Most of the other states see California as a drain due to its massive entitlement programs, oppressive laws and regulations, and uniformly Democratic representatives such as Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, and new darling Kamala Harris. Events of late in Berkeley aren’t helping moderate this narrative either.
“We together can fight liberal agendas and stop our state from becoming California… just click here for a one-time donation to” and so on and so forth. California is fantastic for fundraising, throughout the state and all over the country. In my inbox I have invitations to swanky fundraisers for candidates from the primaries that were held in Southern California. California ranks in the top five states for Republican fundraising. Last I heard, there are more registered Republicans in California than in Texas. We have a lot of people in our state. This is where the ‘rule following’ thing comes in. For Californians, our fundraising letters and emails talk about fighting specific battles within the state that are rarely actually fought. An example of this would be restrictions on firearms above and beyond the federal regulations. If you are out of state, I am sure you’ve heard plenty about us. Not the blonde babes on the beach, the produce for much of the country, or the craft beer. Instead, we have the reputation for siphoning off federal resources. Chupacabras are quite hungry creatures.
I didn’t vote for Trump in the 2016 general election, and it is not a surprise to anyone that California went for Hillary in November. In fact, the lack of organization and funds from the GOP really reinforce both the results and my ease of leaving the top of the ticket blank. This is where the ‘purple’ part comes in: As a state, we have not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988 with George H. W. Bush, the same year Pennsylvania also voted red. However, every other governor in California for the past 3 decades has been Republican. What? California is solid blue, no way it oscillates consistently! It does. What shapes this? Name recognition and organized investment into the state. I will admit, name recognition matters more as of recent elections and one could argue this is true nationwide after Donald Trump became our 45th president. Why? The RNC and GOP don’t care about California enough to invest resources into the state. If you look at district maps, most of the state is actually quite red. In fact, the House Majority Leader is Kevin McCarthy, Representative of California’s 23rd Congressional district. The same recipe could be used for any conservative candidate or party.
I am not a Republican Party loyalist. I care about the Constitution, freedom, and reducing the oppression of government on the people here and nationwide. I couldn’t care less if we turn red if we aren’t doing good by the people here. The point I’m making is that California is not solely a solid blue block. It appears the reason is because the past 30 years the RNC (and the GOP in general), have capitalized on demonizing a state. Yes, it is very expensive to run a competitive campaign in the Golden State. What is incredibly doable is building and maintaining an organizational machine with volunteers to gain seats in districts including mayoral races and city council seats. From there, you build up to statewide races like the U.S. Senate and Governors’ mansions.
The infrastructure I’m speaking of could flip California red. I know I’m not the only one who personally couldn’t stomach a Trump vote in November and used the Electoral College as an out for a difficult choice. What would November 2016 have looked like had California had a great conservative political infrastructure? Our Senate race in November was a run off of the two top primary finishers. Harris had all the endorsements and full support of the DNC political machine and she received the lion’s share of votes with 40.2% The second-place candidate finished with 19% of the vote. My ballot had over 10 official candidates running as Republicans and many more running as independent candidates. The Senate section took nearly an entire page. This crowded field of many hopefuls split the vote. I have no doubt that a non-Democrat could have easily gotten at least 20% of the vote and gone to the run off in November. Could the candidate win the seat? Absolutely. However, that person can’t be a bad candidate; they need that infrastructure and name recognition. It comes down to money, time, and effort. All would be doable and attainable with the resources the RNC has. Sadly, the RNC has been more than happy to use California as a tale of woe to keep the rest of the country in line.
Guest Contributor Bryan O’Nolan
Two individuals meet on the street, say. In talking, they discover, to their joy, that each is a victim of oppression. As for why such calamity is cause for celebration, it will suffice to say they suffer from that insidious disease, modernity. Though each is oppressed in different ways and by different forces, they embrace their common experience of oppression. They walk, hand-in-oppressed-hand, down the street.
Soon they come upon a third. She — for of course a she she must be — too is oppressed, and is oppressed in her own way. They congratulate each other on their mighty common struggle against the myriad forces of injustice.
So two are now three.
They live in the bliss of intersectionality, of having found in their complex, multidimensional and disparate identities a common struggle. Imagine, if you will, a giant Venn diagram: the central ring is Intersectionality, that region where all the various struggles against oppression reside.
This will destroy them.
But for now, they walk in confident solidarity. In time, however, the third is discovered to be an oppressor, a fact of which she herself had heretofore been unaware. She has, as part of the complex makeup of her identity, a common experience of (supposed, as is more often the case than not these days) oppression, but there are also parts of her identity which lie without the Ring of Intersectionality; there are aspects of her identity other, stronger forces within the Ring see as a source of oppression.
What is she to do?
She could admit to herself that the intersectionality racket is a threat to her individuality, that she is more than a grievance, but she will be tempted to choose otherwise, for within the Ring of Intersectionality are wealth, fame and power. The region within the Ring is on the right side of history, after all. Icons of ProgressⓇ will court, and perhaps employ her for her presence there. Financial backers whose wealth can only be matched and mollified by their willingness to donate to her cause will require that you place yourself and entire operation within this ideological space, that they need not be exposed to scorn from the wrong places later. She’ll have clicks, followers, the right kind of enemies. She is no less indignant, but her indignance would now be empowered by the forces of intersectionality: it would be of a safely vetted righteousness.
She must, then, subsume those parts of herself and her identity which do not conform. She must denounce her inner oppressor. That part of herself who is seen by her masters as a tool and symbol of oppression must die.
Intersectionality, which grew out of Black Feminist Theory, was first formulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the late eighties and was afterward expanded upon by Patricia Hill Collins. It was Collins who identified Intersectionality as a vector for social change. Though this is only one of Collins’ expansions upon the theory, it is this one that drives Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American Sharia advocate from New York, to her prominent place as co-organizer of the Women’s March. Needless to say, in many Sharia-compliant nations the only women allowed to march do so, faces shrouded, safely behind their common husband. But Sarsour exists so comfortably within the correct intersectional space — woman, Palestinian, Muslim — and is thus excused.
This is why a lesbian Pride March in Chicago this past June told women with Pride Flags which contained a Star of David, that they were not welcome. The Dyke March, you see, was “anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian.” What it is that binds one particular side of the several thousand years old struggle for the Levant with faraway Chicago lesbians? Intersectionality.
This is why the oppression of the Egyptian Copts is popularly ignored. They are, Christians, of course, and thus, though unquestionably the victims of sectarian violence, their Christianity makes them, in the twisted, ill-informed logic of 21st-century social justice, problematic, as they say. The term is a polite synonym for anathema.
The reality is, of course, that few of these oppressed peoples are oppressed in a way that early 20th century Armenians, or European Jews of the same era, or South African blacks under Apartheid, would recognize. Intersectionality allows one to connect legitimate social grievance (“I have to have substandard schooling because of my skin color? I don’t think so”) with mere social discomfort (“I’m gay and I’m not sure everyone around me is okay with that”) and in doing so equate the injustice and urgency of the former with the relatively pedestrian insecurity of the latter, a social justice grievance-by-proxy syndrome.
Like the teens who all choose to be different in the exact same way, intersectionality requires conformity and the refutation and removal of all elements of the self which are evidence of the equal evils of Wrong Thought and Wrong Being, obverse and reverse of the same coin of hate.
Intersectionality is advertised as a kind of grievance network which enables a discovery of commonalities and is a source empowerment, but what it really empowers is the Intersectional Ring which will destroy all other grievances and all other voices which do not, can not or will not conform.
What then will become of the legitimately aggrieved and the sincerely oppressed? What of those repressed by Intersectionality itself?
No matter; they were on the wrong side of history.