Republicans Don’t Deserve To Govern Alabama Anymore

This week, Alabama saw perhaps one of the strangest political moments in decades when Gov. Robert Bentley resigned amid a sex scandal and ethics violations investigation.

Bentley, however, is not the only disgraced political leader in the state.

This is the third, I repeat, third high ranking Republican politician to be removed from office in the past year.

Within less than 365 days, Alabama’s Speaker of the House, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and now Governor have all left office under their own ethical failings.

In June, Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted on 12 felony counts of corruption and other abuses of office.

A month later, he was sentenced to pay a $210,000 fine and spend four years in prison, and then eight years on probation.

Throughout early 2016, Chief Justice Roy Moore actively and passionate fought against the US Supreme Court’s opinion that laws preventing same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, instructing local clerks to not give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In late September, Roy Moore was found guilty on six counts of judicial ethical violations and was removed as Chief Justice for a second time.

Finally, over the past year, it has become clear that Governor Robert Bentley had not only had an illicit affair with one of his staffers, but that he used state funds to conduct said affair and cover it up.

A 3000-page report from the House Judiciary Committee found that Bentley created an atmosphere of intimidation to cover up his affair, going so far as to fire the state’s top cop Spencer Collier.

Photo Credit: Jim Bowen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

With impeachment proceedings quickly approaching, Bentley took a plea deal, admitting guilt to two misdemeanors in turn for higher level felony charges being dropped.

We are now far past the point of absurdity.

Alabama Republicans have embarrassed our state and further ruined our reputation nationwide.

When our leaders act so foolishly and without regard for the law, Americans outside Alabama view our state as a backwards spectacle without regard for so many of the redeeming nuances of our state.

These Republican figures and their actions are why at least a few times a month, there will be a segment from John Oliver or Rachel Maddow or Bill Maher roasting Alabama, turning the state into a continuous punchline.

Whether Alabamians watch these shows or not, millions of Americans do, and our reputation is flushed down the toilet every time our state provides the fodder for these jokes.

Obviously, these Alabamian leaders have some ethical issues.

But aside from all of that, these leaders also failed the citizens of Alabama by simply being bad at governing.

Alabama Republicans, much like their national counterparts, have proven that no matter how much power they control, they still have no idea how to govern.

Even without the distractions at the top, the Republican controlled state government has stagnated, while other states have passed us by in nearly every conceivable metric.

Alabama now ranks in the top ten nationwide in cancer, heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, and kidney disease.

Our state has the fifth-lowest percentage of residents with high school diplomas and the sixth highest unemployment rate to boot.

Over the past year, Republicans have done little to address the shortfall of Medicaid coverage, the structural budgetary deficit, and the lack of good paying jobs.

Instead, all that Republicans have done is built more prisons, disenfranchise thousands of voters, and get caught up in scores of ethics violations.

Perhaps a quote that summarizes the situation in Alabama best comes from former state representative Arthur Payne: “There is nothing good that has come from the Republicans being in power in Alabama, and I’m a Republican.”

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RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Stuart Seeger/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

A Message To The Guy Who Honked

By Emily Chadwell

I’m not really sure why I am writing this.

You will never see it, but you did affect my day in a way that compels me to share.

When you slowed down your car, honked until I looked at you, and waved/winked/gesticulated towards me I did not feel special.

No longer was I a person on a run, no longer was I an athlete, no longer was I a human working on my mental/physical fitness.

I became a body.

I was legs.

I was breasts.

Whether or not it was your intention to turn me into these disconnected entities, you did.

Maybe you meant nothing by it; you liked my dog, or my shirt, or you just enjoy honking at people.

Photo Credit: Yann Cœuru/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

But, you took a woman who trusts her body, a woman who respects her body, and even loves it, and turned her into just a body.

I may be oversensitive or dramatic, but for the next 45 minutes my run was no longer about me; it was about how I looked.

Was my shirt too tight?

Were my pants too sexual?

Did my stomach jiggle when I ran?

Things I should never dwell on while working out.

I can’t blame you.

I can only blame the society that socialized you to honk, and me to smile back.

The society that taught you to feel like you had a right to comment on my external body and me to internalize being self conscious.

I don’t think my experiences are special, or deserving of extra attention.

I recognize that there are people who are victims of worse treatment every single day.

I only ask that people who don’t understand the way your actions impact the lives of others to try.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Jean-François Gornet/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

No, Libertarians and Liberals Won’t Team Up To Overthrow Trump

There has been talk as of late about the possibility of libertarians and liberals uniting to ‘take down’ President Trump.

How this coup d’état occurs in the material world I’m not quite sure, but it is nonetheless an intriguing question.

Both sides have numerous qualms with the Trump agenda, some of which overlap.

The tightening of the immigration system, the travel ban, and a belief in the existence of authoritarian tendencies point to a teaming up of the administration’s foes.

However, the differences outweigh the similarities and I am far from convinced these two will form a successful resistance.

Libertarians pride themselves on individualism, abiding by the U.S. Constitution’s prescripts, and cherishing free market capitalism.

They support minimal taxation (if any) for all individuals and aim for a general disengagement between the government and the private lives of the people.

This includes very few economic regulations, a reduction to the welfare state, and a refrain from unnecessary international entanglements.

No limits to your speech and no antiquated social restraints.

Within Libertarianism is a codified system of beliefs, whether you agree with them or not, that aim to reduce the state apparatus and maximize the liberty of an individual to live as they wish, without inflicting harm on others.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is often considered one of the leading libertarian voices in the country. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

An ideological line can be drawn straight from principle to policy.

Liberals, on the other hand, fail to present a systematic worldview which applies to the plethora of modern questions.

The most vocal left-of-center Americans have turned all of their attention to protesting whatever Trump does.

And as Trump doesn’t adhere to a concrete vision of government’s role in society, liberals follow him deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole.

They were aroused by the zeal of Bernie-sized federal authority, but tremble in the streets now that it has fallen in the hands of he who shouldn’t be mentioned (‘Calexit’ is the type of irony satirists have a field day over, as highlighted by Edward Morrissey in his piece, “California Has Lost Its Mind”).

Instead of formulating a legislative response to fight Trump’s immigration orders they demand a ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ approach to the law.

Even though changing immigration law is a monumental task, proposing such a change would be a more respectable reaction than the emotional response to border walls and ICE raids.

Apply this to another area of the law and it unfolds quickly.

We all want police officers to follow the law when carrying out search warrants or routine traffic stops.

In what universe would it be suitable for them to neglect the law?

By suggesting that we only follow some laws, the law-abiding argument no longer holds up.

On the constitution, liberals love to cite it when fighting Trump but too often refuse to accept its other necessities.

Staging a sit-in is the first amendment at its finest but allowing a conservative speaker on campus is a bridge too far.

Perhaps the point of greatest separation from libertarians is the way the American left thinks in term of group identity.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is a leading American liberal. Photo Credit: Nick Fisher/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This collectivist mindset erodes the focus on the individual which is essential in libertarianism.

Ask your average liberal – millennial or not – and they will most likely describe our current state as a battle between the marginalized and the majority, a society divided among the oppressed and the oppressors.

You are Black, White, Latinx, Muslim, Evangelical, Straight, Gay, Cis or non-Cis, etc.

It’s not you who matters, it’s the group that matters.

This way of thinking appoints all of its resources towards the ‘common good’, a utilitarian goal but one that can easily lead to a starvation for freedom.

The individual becomes relegated to serfdom, pleading for liberties to the group or the state.

I have a hard time believing libertarians and liberals can unite for a common purpose to stop Trump.

Their missions are polar opposites, at times antithetical to the very existence of the other.

It is commonly thought that liberals and libertarians are very similar in their political leanings, but libertarians are simply more frugal with money.

This is a complete understatement of the fundamental differences by which these sides view the world and societal order.

Even if, hypothetically, these two did join forces to take down the President, there aren’t many avenues go down.

Impeachment would lead to Vice President Mike Pence stepping in, someone who libertarians and liberals aren’t too fond of either, or a 2020 defeat, which leaves four years minus a few months left for Trump in the White House.

Some fantasized outcome other than these, as unimaginable as I think it is, would require a serious rebuilding period with the victors sharing the spoils.

As the famous axiom of former Secretary of State Colin Powell (And Pottery Barn) goes, “if you break it, you own it”.

Libertarians and liberals would have a nation-sized divorce on their hands.

As they would try to divide up the assets, their quarrels would become insurmountable.

Unless the Senate Republicans buy into the theory that Trump is a Russian puppet, the Donald is here to stay.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Why Do We See Pop Culture As A Barometer For How The Country Is Doing?

Watching the Academy Awards a few weeks ago was a bit of a stressful experience.

I was obviously stressed about whether or not Emma Stone would finally win an Oscar, but the stakes were bigger than that.

From the very beginning of this awards season, the conversation was clouded by last year’s Oscar’s So White controversy, where the show’s 88th run was criticized for a lack of diversity among its nominees.

This year’s ceremony was definitely a test of the relevance and awareness of the Academy, but it represented something more.

The entire country watched this year’s Academy Awards with bated breath, with a sense the results of the ceremony said more about themselves than the actors.

Collectively, we tend to use pop culture as a barometer for how we’re doing as a country; is that really fair to either?

For the few (brief) moments La La Land was 2016’s Best Picture, I could almost see the furious typing of Buzzfeed opinion columnists, writing the think piece of the year about what La La Land’s defeat of Moonlight meant about race in America.

They appeared within minutes when Adele’s 25 beat Beyonce’s Lemonade for Album of the Year a few weeks earlier at another high-profile awards show.

It’s not an unfair criticism to make, it might even be a necessary one.

Commentary and discourse about the results of the biggest acknowledgement of excellence within the entertainment industry is what keeps it moving forward.

The problem occurs when we take it a step too far.

An interesting phenomenon has popped up in the discourse about Hollywood’s diversity: the application of that discussion for a wider purpose in the political sphere.

There looms a need to connect entertainment stories to more “important” stories, such as ones related to the political climate.

Everything that happens in the world of entertainment is played off to represent something bigger.

A perfect example of this was the inaccurate announcing of La La Land as Best Picture.

The unfortunate mistake saw Moonlight literally taking the most coveted award in the movie industry from La La Land’s hands.

The conflict between those two movies lasted all throughout awards season, and many saw it as a direct reflection of the political polarization taking place in America.

The trend of the underdog win has not gone unnoticed in the last several months, either.

From Donald Trump unexpectedly winning on election night to the Patriots’ fourth quarter comeback in the Super Bowl, many saw Moonlight as a reiteration of that same trend.

It provides an easy answer, and, in Moonlight’s case, it’s exactly the answer we want.

In a time of unprecedented political polarization, it feels good to think we can all be as accepting as Moonlight.

The reality is not that easy.

Pop culture isn’t really a direct reflection of our political climate.

In fact, it’s often the opposite.

One of the biggest reasons La La Land was so dominant this awards season was because of its sense of escapism – it was refreshing to see something so not important.

It wasn’t trying to reflect our current political climate, it wasn’t trying to teach the audience a lesson.

It was simply telling a story, which is what all pop culture really goes back to.

The age of Trump has turned everything on its head, however.

La La Land didn’t win Best Picture.

Moonlight did, and that’s whatever the opposite of what escapism is.

That detail may be indicative that people are looking for a more relevant pop culture.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s nothing more than wishful thinking.

Here’s what it comes down to: both entertainment and politics are a reflection of who we are.

Both take the struggles of real people and harness those emotions on a national stage.

There’s a fundamental difference between the two, however.

Politics is a direct reflection of who we are; politicians are elected by the people, after all.

On the other hand, entertainment is often a reflection of who we want to be.

The stories that are told, from Moonlight to La La Land and Lemonade to 25 represent where we want to be going, not necessarily where we are.

Using pop culture as a barometer is only somewhat effective.

Moonlight’s win at the Academy Awards does not mean racism in America is over, in fact it doesn’t even mean racism in Hollywood is over.

The Pop Culture Barometer as a construct is an oversimplification.

Hollywood’s failures are not America’s failures, their successes are not our successes, and vice versa.

Pop culture is a representation of everything we want to be, and it’s often a reflection of the very best of ourselves.

Using it to try to explain things like political polarization is where the comparison fails.

At the end of the day, understanding where we want to go is crucial to understanding ourselves, but it doesn’t do anything to describe where we are now.

So while it’s great to know we all want to be Emma Stone, it’s important to realize we’re not quite there yet.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

This is an opinion piece. It is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of RISE NEWS. 

Cover Photo Credit: La La Land/ Facebook


Kylie Jenner Is A Role Model Whether She Likes It Or Not

Back in 2012 when I graduated high school our class song was Young, Wild, and Free by Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa.

For those of you who live under a rock, the song talks about smoking weed, drinking and living freely.

The artists in the song don’t really care what others say about their actions or lifestyle.

Recently Kylie Jenner posted a picture on Instagram of her smoking weed.

She is definitely living the carefree easy going life.

I really do not care if you post a picture of you drinking but drugs are another story.

“Come one it is one picture” you may say but if I posted one picture of me smoking weed my career as a nurse would be over before it even started.

Weed is still considered illegal and classified as a scheduled I drug by the DEA.

Let me go ahead and put this out there, I fully support cannabis in a medical setting to help people who really need it.

For example, that video on YouTube where the older gentleman has Parkinson’s disease but his tremors go away once he takes cannabis.

On other circumstances I am not totally against it but if you are going to blaze it up maybe don’t post it on Instagram.

My main concern with her post is young girls look up to her as a role model and as a kid we are taught not to do drugs…see where I am going on this?

I wish she would post images of her creating something new for Kylie cosmetics, videos of her cooking (I’ve heard she is a good cook), or her showing girls how to be successful.

I am sure Kylie Jenner is aware of the damage is done when you smoke weed but just in case she doesn’t, let me explain.

Have you ever heard of lung cancer?

Brain cells dying?


Also it can predispose people to schizophrenia.

I don’t know about you but I’ll pass.

Lastly, I will close with this final statement.

It is her life and she may do whatever she pleases but she is a role model to millions whether she likes it or not.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Kylie Jenner/ Instagram

Would The Discovery Of Alien Life Cause A Crisis For Religion?

Many people have asked the question, “Are there aliens out there in the universe?”, but the one question that rarely gets asked is “what would their discovery mean for the very foundation of organized religions here on Earth”?

In the course of writing this article, I took the time to ponder the question myself, as well as ask people of different faiths how they think people would react given substantial evidence that intelligent life exists outside of our planet.

It should be known that this article is entirely theoretical and opinion based, but it’s certainly fun to think about.

I firmly believe that there is intelligent life out in the universe; it is not a matter of if we will get in contact with these beings, but a question of when.

In the year 2000 it was known that astronomers had located about 50 “exoplanets,” and in the year 2013, that number had grown to 850.

In just 13 years, out of the 850 that have been discovered, 20 of the planets have been found to be “Earth-size exoplanets that occupy a habitable zone around their star, including the most recently discovered Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri,” according to the BBC.

The idea that something could be going on outside of Earth would surely be something that God would have told us about, right?

It is estimated that by the year 2045 the number of exoplanets discovered will be well over one million.

At a certain point, it just becomes silly to think that we are actually alone in the universe.

Now that the framework for this conversation has been laid out, and the argument made that it is only a matter of time before we find a form of advanced life that resides outside of our world; we can begin to examine the question of what the discovery of alien life would mean for religion on earth.

Photo Credit: William Murphy/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The very first thing that would probably happen is that there would be a period of denial for many people that have a religious life and background.

The idea that something could be going on outside of Earth would surely be something that God would have told us about, right?

The denial would just be dismissive at first, but then we would move into our second stage: anger.

Anger would envelop the masses of religious people, and for the first time in the history of religion, there might even be a shared understanding among all faiths to combat the false lies that are being spread about alien life that exists in the universe.

There would be a strong effort to dispel any rumor or fact that there is extraterrestrial life, and people would gather en masse to protest and show their anger for the contempt of their religion.

This brings us to step three and three and a half: denial and depression.

After being shown substantial evidence that alien life exists outside of our earth, and with all their theories and rhetoric thoroughly exhausted, the religious people that have no accepted the reality of this fact will have a severe attack of cognitive dissonance.

Photo Credit: Chris Murtagh/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

It’s a very unfortunate thing to say, but some people will no doubt be so overcome with doubt and depression that they will likely take their own lives as they see everything that they have ever known fundamentally shaken.

Luckily, I see this as a short period of time, and slowly the fog will begin to clear.

This will lead us to step four: acceptance and rationalization.

When I asked people of different faiths the question about how they would personally feel about being show substantial evidence of the existence of alien life, and how it would affect their belief in their religion I was generally given the same answer: “There are things that we just don’t know about, and in due time God will reveal them.”

It is no secret that the Bible, Torah, Qur’an and other religious text were all written by man.

I believe that these religious texts have been drafted through divine inspiration from a higher being and that higher being only gives us as much information that we are able to handle at any given time.

Photo Credit: Jason Trbovich/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

If you were to tell the people of the world back in 300 A.D. that we would have these magical machines that could fly us across vast oceans in a matter of hours they probably would have looked at you like you had four heads.

We are only given as much information that we can cognitively process, and that will continue to happen if people have a truth faith and allegiance to their religion.

Religion is rarely based on things that can definitively be proven.

Religion is based on belief and faith.

When there is tangible evidence of alien life existing outside of our Earth, the true believers of faith will continue to believe that there is a supreme being in the heavens that is looking out for all that it created, and in this circumstance, the creation extends to extraterrestrial beings.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: DeeAshley/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Why Is It So Hard To Move Away From Fossil Fuels?

By Sonam Ahluwalia

The idea of a one-hundred percent clean energy future seems to be a pipe dream right now.

While there has been some tremendous progress made by private industry in the creation of innovative technologies to lead the transition from non-renewable resources like coal and natural gas to natural elements, the process has been painfully slow.

No matter the number of technologies created, private companies cannot move forward without the public’s support.

The largest challenge is unity.

The private sector lacks the current partnerships to address current issues with renewable energy.

For example, currently, wind turbines use many magnets derived from rare earth minerals- most of which are ripped out of the ground in China.

This has created an ecological disaster in areas there.

These minerals are also unreliable in the longterm because they are limited.

After all, you can only take so much out of the ground before you run out and searching for alternatives to these minerals requires collaboration, which can occur through partnerships that generates a more dependable and sustainable wind turbine.

Furthermore, there also needs to be unity between companies and the general public they service.

If engineers working on magnetic wind turbines or photovoltaic solar panels view their role as imperative innovators, the public can take the role as active supporters or consumers that create a market for renewable energy.

In short, we all have to be pushing in the same direction in order for this to work.

In order for the public to support the private industry, vice versa, the communication gap between these two entities needs to be closed.

This can happen through proper education and through transparency.

Many people do not understand the benefits of cleaner energy, or how much energy we currently waste and have stored in grids from excess.

Just like people learn how to turn on the lights, set up the television, and turn on the water, people should also know where these luxuries come from.

Proper education of the current, wasteful methods can influence a large portion of the public to support cleaner energy.

As people become more educated on sustainable options, a market for cleaner energy sources needs to be created – another challenge.

Supply and demand are interdependent.

For the private sector to gain more momentum, the public needs to show an appetite for cleaner energy sources.

As the demand for renewable energy increases, competition to meet the public’s requests will stimulate production of more affordable sustainable products with higher quality.

Affordability is imperative to consumers, and it is easier to convince someone to buy something that is more energy sustainable when they are able to understand the financial benefits.

Adding competition to the mix will push companies to fabricate better, cheaper ideas.

This in term will allow those products to be available to the general public at a competitive price point.

This sector’s growth requires regulatory policies to ensure that the energy is actually clean.

Since clean energy is an ever-changing field, creating policies to assure quality is a fairly new conflict the government must learn to follow.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Activ Solar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Why Don’t Professors Do More To Help Their Students Get Jobs?

Getting a job out of college is a tough process.

Students need to find companies that they are interested in and search for opportunities which match their interests and talents.

It can be stressful and confusing.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you had a mentor when going through the process?

Of course!

So why don’t more college professors make an effort to help their students get a college once they graduate?

Just think about it.

Professors have information about their students that they can use to further their careers. They have a good idea whether they are strong in certain areas and can give important insights to perspective employers.

However, professors oftentimes mislead their students about how much they are willing to help them.

I will make this concept clear using my friend’s example.

She is very smart and good at academic work.

My professor works with a management team of a hotel to run a research project in engineering and asked her to join in.

Before the project, my friend was not informed about the content of what she was going to be doing. But she trusted the professor and believed that it would end up helping her in the long run.

She was wrong.

It was not until the time my friend went to the hotel with my professor that she knew it was about engineering and she was upset but couldn’t quit the task.

Basically the professor had used her.

This kind of thing happen a lot in China as many professors just want more students to help when they need staff in projects.

And it makes you question whether professors are really looking out for their student’s best interests at all times.

I’m sure many of you have heard of similar situations.

As a student, it is a learning experience to know more about ourselves and prepare for entering a job after graduation.

In China, students tend to find internship when they go into their junior year.

But I find students in the United States tend to get started earlier even in freshman year.

It is very good to try the jobs that students are interested in and at the same time learn academic theories.

The earlier we get started, the better chance we will gain experience and find our target position career.

Take my own major as an example.

I major in hospitality management and there are different concentrations that students can choose.

I chose hotel management and would like to start in a front desk job in a hotel as my first job.

I got some experience in food and beverage in China but not in hotels.

Hospitality is a very broad area.

Some of my friends here have experiences in restaurants, hotel, event planning and tourism.

After working for different areas, they have known which area they would like to enter and those experiences have enabled them to learn a variety of knowledge in this industry.

Therefore, exploring for ourselves and a direction that fits our talent and interests is a very good choice.

Besides, it is very important to let students find more about themselves.

Everyone knows about themselves better than others, although it is hard for us to summarize our traits and personalities.

Finding a job is not just because we can do and love doing, it also matters that we are suitable for those positions.

Every time my mentees come to me and ask me that how to a find an entrance for their career paths, I will let them take a MBTI professional character test to know more about themselves.

Then I will encourage them to try the opportunities to grow and learn.

Because through the process of learning, students’ points of view and how they view themselves will change.

They will find what they like and feel comfortable to work with.

For instance, one of my friends is comfortable to work without interacting with people so she is now working with accounting very well.

I think this self-knowledge learning process is very important for students to experience rather than the situation that professors lead them to real jobs.

It is also important that students get to know different companies and their cultures.

Working in an environment which motivates people benefits both people and companies.

After students have clear understanding about their personalities, they can find the companies which match their personality.

Searching for opportunities is a process.

It is undeniable that professors usually have a wider network and experience to help students in their career.

But students should find their own pathways by themselves.

Professors oftentimes won’t think outside of the box and for whatever reason usually don’t take personal risks to help their students outside of the classroom.

It doesn’t make sense for them but it is the reality.

So don’t count on them- no matter how many promises they make.

You are the only one who knows yourself and in the end it is on you.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Patrick Freebern/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Rory, Obama, And Me

The last time I saw Rory Gilmore, it was 2007.

She sat nervously sipping a cup of coffee at Luke’s at 5 a.m, about to take off on the road to work as a journalist, covering the Obama campaign.

At the time, an unlikely black, underdog, born in Hawaii had unexpectedly become a presidential candidate and I, a young eleven year old girl was about to enter the daunting world of high school.

Although Rory, Obama, and I’s futures were uncertain, there was a palpable feeling of hope that outweighed any fears of the unknown.

During my young impressionable years, I had the privilege—in both my real and imaginative worlds—to be surrounded by truly remarkable characters.

In the real world of politics, I got to grow up in the ‘yes we can’ generation, believing that anyone regardless of gender, race, economic background, could carve out a place for themselves in even the most elite pockets of society.

In my world of fiction, I was fortunate to have two strong female heroines whose self-worth was anchored in their intelligence, independence, and capacity to eat more than their male counterparts.

As a young woman—navigating through a time often ridden with cliques and self-confidence issues—my real and fictitious role models helped me keep a touch on the pulse, whose steady and defined beats reminded me of the values I would grow up to cherish dearly.

When I was reunited with Rory Gilmore this past November, only weeks after a sexist tyrant was elected as Obama’s successor, I mourned the loss of feminism in the worlds I had once inhabited.

When I left Rory, she was a quiet, driven young woman, who acknowledged her flaws and her fears.

She chose a career she loved over a man she adored, and though terrified, fearlessly threw herself into the deep end.

The Rory I found in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, was virtually unrecognizable.

Her work-ethic I had once so preciously admired was replaced with a repulsive entitlement that manifested itself in her career, her love life, and even her relationship with her beloved mother and best-friend, Lorelai.

A poster promoting Gilmore Girls during its original run. Photo Credit: Zach Tirrell/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She found satisfaction in her friendships with trust-fund babies she had once despised (Logan’s Life and Death Brigade friends) and seemed to have no qualms being Logan’s mistress, meanwhile walking all-over her caring boyfriend whose name and existence not even she could remember.

When I have expressed my disappointment with Rory’s character in the Gilmore Girls revival, people have told me—to my fervent frustration—that the old Rory was ‘unrealistic’.

But to say that a sincere, hard-working, and driven young woman who cares more about C-Span and Tolstoy than about fashion and parties is ‘unrealistic’ is to do a massive dis-service to every hard-working young woman out there who refuses to succumb to stereotypes of what a young woman is supposed to look like.

Like all of us, Rory was a flawed and imperfect character.

Throughout the seven seasons, Rory fell apart almost every time she received criticism.

When she hit a deer and missed her exam, she threw a tantrum in class; when a professor in Season Four told her to drop a class, she cried in Dean’s lap; when Mitchum Huntsburger told her she didn’t have ‘it’, she dropped out of school for a semester and moved into Richard and Emily’s pool house.

As Jess poignantly noted back in Season Two while driving Rory’s car—and Logan pointed out at a Life and Death Brigade retreat later in the series (You jump, I jump Jack)—Rory was scared of the world around her.

Gilmore Girls speaks for a certain generation of American women who are now coming into positions of influence. Photo Credit: jeffmason/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

She spent her first year of university hiding away after her mom slept at her dorm her first night of college, where I might add, she hardly made any new friends.

So no, Rory was not an unrealistic character because she was imperfect with flaws that I learnt from and whose attributes I grew to admire.

But because of Rory, I went through high school hardly worrying about my appearance or trying to be cool.

While I undoubtedly had my teenage moments where I rolled my kilt to show a little more leg, or worried about what party to go to on a Friday night, I spent more time reading and studying than I did drinking or sneaking out.

I wanted to be valued for my independence and intelligence rather than be judged by my appearance or who I was dating.

Though I would like to take credit for these character traits I have grown to be proud of, I can say with an utmost certainty that I inherited these attributes from Rory Gilmore and for that, I am thankful.

In her high school graduation speech, Rory said:

“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior. My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”

For those of who grew up watching Gilmore Girls, we also grew up living in two worlds.

In one, we were part of a fictitious, eccentric town in Connecticut where two women taught us what it meant to be independent strong women in the 21st century.

In the other, Obama, an also imperfect character, reminded us that despite all the odds, hope could conquer.

In 2017, I am no longer inspired by the characters in my world of fiction nor in my world of politics—feminism seems to have temporarily escaped them both.

But perhaps this reminds us that progress is not an uphill process—it zigs and zags in surprising directions—but it’s up to us, the generation whose impressionable years were imprinted by impeccable role model to reshape the worlds that have shaped us.

It’s our turn to be someone worth imitating.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ed Schipul/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

And I Still Believe

If you travel to another Asian or African country and ask local people: “Which country do you think is the best for education/ health care/ services or everything?”, the most common answer probably is “America”.

It has become normal for people with means in developing countries to “go to America” to study, to do surgery or even to live.

And many of these people do not bother to question the validity of this seem-to-be stereotype- the idea that America is the greatest country on Earth.

I still believe in that stereotype.

To me it is a truth.

Despite everything that has happened in the past few months, America is still a place that I deeply believe in.

I am not American or processed to be an American.

I have been in the U.S. for almost two years to pursue higher education.

I want to be close to my family – who is at home, so at least until now, I have no plans or intentions to be an American after I finish my degree.

But I admire this country, or more exactly, I admire its people.

I do not remember being called an “Asian whore” or told to “get back to your tiny dirty place” by random people on the street.

I only remember being helped with my oversized luggage by random people at the train station.

I only remember being welcomed home for Thanksgiving by my roommate’s family.

I only remembered being tirelessly encouraged and inspired by my American professors.

They are good people and they are American.

The bad ones are simply bad.

And the good always wins.

You win when you have democracy.

This country is based on democratic ideals which takes over each individual’s mind and soul.

You have both rights and abilities to stand for your nation and your own democracy.

It is not easy to call for a change, especially an expansive and impactful one.

But it happens in America.

When enough people, regardless of their political or social positions, acknowledge the need of change, they join together and strive together with all of their power and strengths, to make a change.

This is how your freedom is protected and trust me, not many people over the world can have it and keep it.

You also win when you can say “NO”.

You can say “no” to what does not appeal to you.

You can say “no” to what goes against your ethics.

You can say “no” to what hurts your definition of humanity. Y

ou can say “no” because it is simply not you.

It is a privilege, but also a duty.

Do not say “no” to people. Say “no” to things, wrong things, need-to-be-stopped things

. Say an appropriate, reasonable, ethical “no”, even when everyone else say “yes”.

You win when you can choose to stand when everyone else is flowing.

There is nothing such as “give up”, “surrender” or “follow the majority” in America.

Your stance is protected. Your ideal is kept alive.

You can decide to accept or deny, to support or oppose, to love or hate, to defend or abolish.

You can resist when being forced to do something you don’t want to do.

You can fight when being oppressed.

Most importantly, you are respected and appreciated for your individuality, for your difference.

You win when you act on your heart, mind and soul.

You win when you follow what you believe.

You can ignore the messy chaos out there and keep sitting in your office, do what you are supposed to do.

You can drive home, have a tasty dinner and enjoy your cozy coach with your Netflix on.

But if your heart asks you to get out there and fight, you fight, even for strangers, even for potential “economic burden and social danger”.

It is kind when someone responds to a call for help.

It is even kinder when someone searches for people in need to help.

You are being kind when you do this.

You are being an American.

Because Americans know what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong.

For some people, America may not be the best, the strongest, the biggest nation in the world, but no one can deny the enormous impact of this country to the global situation.

When same-sex marriage started to be recognized in many states, the world was celebrating.

You know why?

Because if it can happen in America, it can happen anywhere and it will.

America is believed by many non-Americans to be the first and then when something is brought here, it spreads its spirit to make the world a better place.

Yes, the rest of the world is watching you, America.

These days, a portion seems quite disappointed.

Some are enthusiastically mocking.

Others are ideally concerned.

The rest, including me, simply thinks: “Just leave them alone. They will figure it out themselves.”

You know what you have to do.

You know what you need to do.

And you know what you should do.

America has enough power and its people are armed with enough strengths to get over any bullshit to make what should be right, right again.

For all Americans who have decided to take fighting for everyone else, for humanity as your duty, even though your wage will not be raised, your house will not be surrounded by fences, and your children will share the same classroom with other kids whose hair, eyes and skin colors are all different

As a humble citizen of the world, I thank you.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

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