All your favorite artists are problematic. It’s an obvious statement, but one that resurfaces on social media in the wake of most every celebrity scandal, from Kanye’s vocal support of Donald Trump to Azaelia Banks’ apparent Twitter crusade against any and all forms of human decency. Of course, with other artists the crimes prove more unforgivable, inviting armchair critics everywhere to try and reconcile good art’s occasional tendency to come from bad people. Skillful deflections and self-justifications on this topic range from “Only a troubled mind could have made this!” to the more nihilistic “Everything is terrible; we might as well enjoy the music”. It’s an exhausting debate, and one that seems to affirm the sad truth that people will always do what they can to avoid feeling guilty in their indulgences.
Last year I participated in an activity as part of my training to become a peer counselor. All the trainees stood up and answered questions by moving to either the “yes’” side of the room or the “no” side. One of the questions was, “is it okay to have sex with people you don’t care about?” I was one of the few who went to the “no” side. As a follow-up exercise, one person from each side was asked to share the reasoning that led to their answer. The “yes” representative spoke primarily about consequence.
Everything is chaotic right now, and not just in America. The whole world is spinning endlessly into an abyss of terror and uncertainty. Does anyone know what’s going on anymore? What can we do and how? How much time do we have left?
The American tax code is one of the most complex and byzantine bureaucratic structures in the federal government. The tax code currently stands at an eye-popping 9,000 pages and is often considered the most complex system of its kind in the world. To even remotely understand the inner workings of the nation’s tax system requires years of education and training –– making it all but impossible for the average American to comprehend how their taxes are calculated and spent. The sheer size of the nation’s tax code is a hindrance to both greater financial equality and economic prosperity. In terms of income taxes, the nation operates on a “progressive tax” system –– the more money you make, the higher the percentage of your income goes to Uncle Sam.
I don’t particularly want to talk about politics. Throughout these past two years as an opinion columnist at The Sun, I have made the conscious decision to never directly address a political party, a candidate or the policies enacted by the US government. Don’t get me wrong — I have plenty to say, and I strongly believe that refusing to talk politics with the people around you is refusing to engage opinions other than your own. Acknowledging political opinions is attempting to understand and engage in a political atmosphere that reflects the values and happenings of a world that is greater than your own. Yet I will not dedicate the ~800 words I am allowed every other week in The Sun to attack a party, a policy, or a candidate.
The United States of America is currently “The Divided States of America” according to TIME. How did we get here? Part of it has to do with emotion. Much has been made about the role of emotions in the most recent presidential election. They played an important role in shaping a massive populist movement headlined by Donald Trump, one that underscored the need to retain some semblance of a ‘greater’ American past in which its foundational promise as a nation to be open-minded and big-hearted is not made.
About a year ago, a story ran by the Daily Mirror caught my interest. It talked about a “Dark Web”, a sort of black market on the internet that was relatively difficult to access but provided a venue for illegal activity to thrive. This article illustrated in particular how two British computer sleuths uncovered a Dark Web website that scammed people into paying money for hitmen to assassinate the person of their choice. It sounds ridiculous – like the plot of a movie Liam Neeson would be interested in – but it was true. And perhaps more stunning, it worked: By the time they were caught, the two men had raised over 50,000 pounds in a year, without actually carrying out the work.