Getting Coffee with “A”

I recently got coffee with a friend (“A”). He’s in his early twenties, wears a backwards baseball cap and a button up shirt. He sits down and we immediately discuss the election. “I keep reading that we’re living in a post-truth era,” he says. “Is that true? Are we?” he narrows his eyes. “What is truth?”

We talk for a good hour, sussing each other out. A is from Indiana, raised conservatively with self-described “racist, misogynist, and false” ideas about how the world worked. For example, one of the doctrines he learned at a young age was that colored people were descended from a race of people that God cursed for homosexuality.

“I’ve been having a series of epiphanies in the past years,” he says. “Ever since a kid, from reading everything, I started learning that many of the things my parents were teaching me didn’t make sense. And now I feel like I’m learning a bunch of new stuff and trying to contextualize it.”

“Some of my thoughts are just the beginning of thoughts,” he tells me as we both stare off into space, thinking about aliens, politics, philosophy, and people. A couple weeks before I asked him what he was interested in, what his passion was, and he told me “right now, I’m interested in the big ‘why?'”

We arrive at very few conclusions after our long and expansive talk about the world we can expect in the future: genetic modification, libraries, economics. Both of us agree that we need time to crunch on our thoughts.

What inspires me about A is his fearlessness to discuss things he does not know. I’ve always tried to make sure that I was always right, and it never worked. I find myself gravitating to people who gracefully explore the limits of their beliefs, and push themselves to the edge of thought where ideas become muddy and dark.

“Do you ever find yourself wondering if you’re incredibly smart or incredibly stupid?” asks A. I tell him yes. He continues, “I discussed with my girlfriend how we sometimes become proud of of humble we are, and then we notice the pride and become humble again, but then become proud again for doing so. And it’s just this continuous, recurring thing.”

This oscillation, I think, is something that I can relate to. Perhaps this constant questioning, and this cycle of challenging what is true, is one of the only solid things I can grasp.

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Steps We Took In Response To Trump’s Election

My girlfriend L and I were shocked when Trump was elected. For a full week I watched Facebook & Twitter, looking for answers. I devoured newspapers. I was angry at how Trump had managed to harness the power of social media to his advantage. Even more so, I feared for the future of our country. We have elected a dictator, who rallies unhappy constituents against a common enemy: non-white, non-conforming Americans.

While many people took to the streets to protests, L and I sat at home and thought about what this meant for us. L felt afraid and angry that this new power oppresses her and her loved ones. In response to reports of hate crimes against non-whites, I called my mother and ask her to let me know if anyone attacked her, verbally or physically. L and I felt unsafe. So, we looked at our alternatives.

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Through my dim social-media lens, I hear a call for Americans to stay in the United States to join together against our elected dictator. I agree, however this does not mean that we should be complacent with our homes in the United States. If our government gets out of hand, we should know what our options are. L and I settled on about 5 countries that we could move to if we needed to (based on lists like this). We decided on a secret word we could tell each other if either of us were in danger but were afraid that someone was listening. We researched secure, encrypted messaging systems, and investigated what kind of privacy and security measures we could take while online (https://www.eff.org/).

My fear is that with a hot-headed, bigoted leader (& staff), if there was ever an attack on American soil, we could expect to see a complete totalitarian takeover of our free country. Americans, fearing for their safety, would readily let the government read their e-mails and texts if it meant making them safer. This power could easily be abused by our government to find and silence voices that challenge the establishment.

It’s the world that Edward Snowden feared. It’s the world that George Orwell predicted. It’s an idea explored in books like Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I have reason to believe that, under the right conditions, our current freedoms could be stripped in a similar fashion. Before, I thought that there was no way that Trump could be elected. I have lost this “no-way-it-could-happen” mindset. Now, I quietly prepare for the worst.