Powder Kegs, Brexit, and Politics

Something is in the electorate’s water – and the status quo better watch out.

On Thursday “the shot heard around the world” moved across the Atlantic Ocean with this week’s historical vote of Britain to leave the European Union. Brexit will change the face of both the political and economic structure of the world.

To put this in perspective, imagine if Texas, the second largest economy in the United States, asked for the check? Can you imagine how disruptive this would be to financial institutions and markets (who prefer predictability) or something as simple as a trip to New Orleans?

That is exactly what the not-so European Union now faces.

In the face of a powerful effort by elected officials, celebrities, and media, the English electorate pushed back with votes saying, “Enough is enough”. Not even James Bond’s post (Daniel Craig) on Instagram, sporting and anti-Brexit shirt could turn the tide. In the end, the people were fed up with their current circumstances.

In interviews spilling from voters, themes of a unrepresentative and unelected governing body making decision on trade, immigration, economic policy are common. Frustrated with stagnant job growth, flat wages, and immigration policies making numbers of a populace uneasy, voters changed the course of modern history.

While some may look to brush the vote off like a crazy uncle’s random decision to paint his house lime green, something is stirring in the water on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this presidential election cycle we’ve seen the self-appointed royal families of American politics, take both fatal and near-fatal blows to their legacies.

The Bush family, already with two in the White House, found the coronation of Jeb Bush stopped dead in the water by a real estate / reality star. And on the other side of ticket, the Clinton coronation took on water – and possible irreparable brand damage – by a little know senator who didn’t even represent the Democratic Party.

If anyone believes what happened in Britain is a blip on the world stage, look out.

History is littered with the populace rising up against governance they no longer believe has public’s best interests at heart. And history also shows how people in power will do about anything to keep themselves in power – even if it means selling the populace down the river of self-interests.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are agents of change. Both represent a powerful and emotionally charged segment of voters who refuse to toe the line of traditional party allegiances. In other words a powder keg, that if not respected, could blow the top of the status quo. Good or bad, the day is coming.

I know Republicans who refuse to vote for Donald Trump because he’s not ‘one of them’. I also know Bernie Sanders voters who consider Hilary Clinton the poster child as an example of another political family shoving a candidate down their throats.

And powder kegs, if not attended to, tend to change the course of history.

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Orlando Shooter’s Aim Misfires

One week after the bullets stopped flying at an Orlando club – leaving 49 people dead – the impact of the killings stubbornly remains behind.

But maybe that is a good thing.

“I’m sorry about what happened to your community,” I said to a friend this week. Openly gay, he had tears in his eyes as we hugged.

While some may wish to consider the shootings as another example of guns gone wild, there is a certain element of this particular tragedy that may inadvertently push the general population to a tipping point. In the wake of the tragedy, the American public shifted.

No better example may exist than that of a grandmother traveling to Orlando aboard a JetBlue flight to attend the funeral of her grandson, a victim of the deadly shooting.

As a flight attendant learned of the passenger’s journey – one no one should ever have to take – she passed a single sheet of paper to passengers if they’d like to offer words of comfort or support. No one asked the flight attendant to do this – nor did the passengers have to participate.

And then a peek into our new world began to show its face.

“Halfway down the aisle, another crew member on board said more paper was needed. Instead of signing their names and moving on, passengers were writing paragraphs—long notes of compassion, grief and strength, “ reported CNN.

“When we gathered them together to present them to her, we didn’t have just a sheet of paper covered in names, which is what I had envisioned. Instead, we had page after page after page after page of long messages offering condolences, peace, love and support. There were even a couple of cash donations, and more than a few tears,” the attendant would write on her personal FaceBook page.

But the grains of sand kept shifting, creating what may indicate the new landscape for all of us.

As the plane landed and passengers began to debark, each took the time to stop by and offer their condolences to grieving grandmother.

“Some just said they were sorry, some touched her hand, some hugged her, some cried with her. But every single person stopped to speak to her, and not a single person was impatient at the slower deplaning process”, she wrote.

If you’ve a heart, you cannot help but be moved by the amazing outpouring of love without prejudice. If you’ve not shed a tear over this event, you’re probably not allowing yourself to fully understand and experience the pain that walks hand in hand with love.

I believe our country changed last week in ways the shooter could never envision. From where he hoped to create a toxic environment of hate, love sprung from the ground. If he wanted to change the world, well, he did.

But he missed one key calculation. We are a nation of decent, loving people. And if his goal was to divide us, he may very well have accomplished the exact opposite.

 

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Blood, guns, and mental health.

Sunday morning, with cable television and social media spewing reports of the mass killings in an Orlando nightclub, I found myself feeling uncomfortably numb.

Not that I wasn’t moved as a human being by the painful loss of life or the families forever impacted by the grotesque killings. My stomach hurt. My heart hurt. I spoke to God.

But I also felt as if I was becoming less shocked and surprised at the event. Like I said earlier, I felt a creeping sense of being uncomfortably numb.

Sitting in church Sunday morning, we prayed for the victims and their families. We’re not a group who passes judgments about others, but rather recognizes everyone for what they are – children of God. And for someone to lash out at one of our family members is to lash out at all of us. And we collectively, deeply, hurt.

But then again, this isn’t the first time a church, community, or nation, reeled from a mass killing. Only this time, the body count reached 50. And in this new state, benchmarking these events is now a part of the common national dialogue.

Uncomfortably numb.

Within hours, the issue became political. Positions were staked out from the all sides of the political spectrum. Condolences were quickly issued through social media channels, prayers somberly claimed in televised sound bites. But make no mistake – political gain was – and is – the common undercurrent. And we’ve all heard this before.

Uncomfortably numb.

I’m left to wonder when we’ll pass the tipping point of either accepting this is going to be a part of our world going forward or give these tragedies their due respect. To do nothing, to avoid meaningful conversations and commitments to action, is to allow us to continue to slip into a desensitized value of life.

Uncomfortably numb.

Periodically we hear of a local school being on lock down. Remember when that once sent chills down your spine? Today people increasingly – including our children – equate the event to a practice fire drill or inconvenience. This should scare us.

Uncomfortably numb.

We do not need to spend millions of tax dollars on research on discovering the common threads running through these events. Ask someone what is going on and you’ll hear lots of opinions – but most people will settle on three common elements. 1.) Access to weapons designed to take large amounts of life in a small amount time. 2.) Mental health and how we as a nation refuse to commit the resources to take care of those who need our help the most. 3.) A politically charged system where victories are not measured by what is best for the people, but rather by an interest maintaining a position of power.

Uncomfortably numb.

The United State of America is the most generous, intelligent, and prosperous nation ever created on the face of the Earth. Rational people support the right for responsible people to own guns – as the Second Amendment states. And when I speak to many of these responsible gun owners, they too, are given pause to why weapons designed to kill large amounts of people in a short time circulate in society.

And very few people will argue the common thread of mental illness does not run through those committing these crimes. Whether driven by delusions of fame, chemical imbalances, or deeply seated pain from ugly chapters in their lives, mental health sits front and center in this discussion. But as a nation, we’ve chosen a path of least resistance – reduce care and hope for the best.

And finally, our political leadership’s hands are blood red from using these tragedies as opportunities to promote political agendas. Leadership, the type that takes the courage to do the right thing in the face of losing it all, is unfortunately absent on a national scale. We should not allow this to be the legacy of our nation.

I refuse to become uncomfortably numb. I prefer to be angry. Please join me.

 

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Lifeguards Quietly Save The Day

Earlier this week, I saw a dead woman walk out of the surf. That’s what her daughter had feared, at least.

Riding my bike along the seawall, I could see beach patrol lifeguards running toward the water. With floats tucked under their arms, the lifeguards were pointing to a spot in the water off the east side of the 61st Street jetty. Behind me, I could hear sirens.

I walked my bike down to the edge of the water. Beside a yellow beach patrol truck, a teenage girl in a bathing suit knelt down, her forehead pressed against the sand and face buried in her hands. Her body shook with involuntary convulsions from fear. A friend was comforting her, while a lifeguard tried to calm her.

You hear about people drowning from rip currents when you live in a beach town. Experiencing one is something completely different. You can’t help but be emotionally moved.

Other members of the beach patrol began arriving and getting to work — and fast. With minimal conversation, they were coordinating their efforts with a precision reminding me of a highly trained group of border collies herding sheep — working together with an almost invisible sense of what to do at precisely the right moment. And I mean this with the utmost respect. Watching this team in action was remarkable.

Standing on the truck parked near the surf, one lifeguard held up a white object for those in the water to use as a reference point. Those in the water moved toward where they believed the drowning person was last seen. Two lifeguards were pulling a long surfboard-shaped tool behind them.

While family members or friends ran down the jetty, the lifeguards operated with remarkable sense of urgency and calm.

I could see people on the 61st Street pier dropping circular, white life-preservers into the water.

I could not see the lifeguards in the water because of the waves crashing against the footings and rocks.

By now people were lining the beach and seawall.

A lifeguard inside the truck called out to a team member who was comforting the girl. The news was good. The young girl stood up, and, with help from her friend and a lifeguard, walked to the truck on unsteady legs. Friends circled and hugged her.

Walking toward the jetty, I could see the beach patrol team moving toward the west side of the jetty. Two lifeguards in red shorts were wading out of the surf supporting a woman in a black, one-piece bathing suit. After getting to shore, the woman thanked the patrol and walked back to her family.

And as quickly as the beach patrol team went into action, they again faded into the background. And because of them, a young girl went home with her mother.

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Cancer Needs to Go Away

Cancer sucks.

For the second time in less than a year, cancer is reaching its ugly and life-changing tentacles into an employee here at The Daily News. And this makes me angry.

As the publisher for The Daily News it is my job to successfully manage the business with respect to both the opportunities and risks in the marketplace. It is also my responsibility to make sure the people who I work alongside each day know they are valued and play an important role in our ability to successfully serve our community. The outcome of the role I play is directly dependent on those I work with each day. Simply put, without their efforts, our collective charge is impossible.

But along with this comes the benefit of becoming emotionally invested in those same people. An employee is not a number but rather a representation of a family and of a life filled with dreams for both the present and future. And, believe it or not, I am a human being – filled with emotional deposits from those around me. I care deeply about those I work alongside. And when cancer comes along and wreaks havoc with their lives, I hurt.

This week yet another employee went under the surgeon’s hand to hopefully extract an ugly intruder named cancer.

Earlier this year at Daily News we did all we could to support and pitch in as another one of us dealt with the long and difficult road of cancer. While surgery is undoubtedly painful, the long journey of treatment is incredibly difficult and all consuming. The act of living is put on hold as one focuses on nothing but living, albeit one with a different definition.

When you care about someone going through this, tears and prayers are never too far from the surface. Collectively we shared a great many of them. At times there were so many collective prayers going on inside The Daily News you might’ve mistaken us for a house of worship. And we are not ashamed to admit we believe those prayers were heard. One month ago the all clear came for this individual.

Now, only a few weeks later, cancer is back to visit another one of us.

Cancer sucks. We should be angry. We should be emotional. We should hurt.

According to the National Cancer Institute an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease in 2016. And on average, nearly $5 billion is spent annually on cancer research in the United States. Those numbers are staggering – and we should be angry at the disease.

But anger is a short-lived emotion and rarely accompanied by productive thoughts or actions. The challenge is for us to channel our emotions towards curing this indiscriminate disease.

Yes, cancer sucks. Today the halls of The Daily News are again filled with tears and prayers. What we wish for is cancer to leave all of us alone once and for all.

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