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On Paella

Due to popular request, I’m formalizing my paella recipe. Now, the very first thing that needs to be taken into consideration is that paella is more of a method than it is a recipe. This is because – while there are traditionalists and purists who say that a true paella can only have this or that – paella is really refrigerator Velcro: whatever good meats and veggies you have in your fridge could, with due consideration, be prepared and thrown in there.

By the way – I go on a bit of a long discussion about paella and paella making. I think it’s crucial to the understanding of what makes a good paella – that way you can adapt it to your cooking style and play around with the recipe as needed. But if you’re tl;dr – I admit, I get wordy – then feel free to scroll down to the “And finally, the Recipe” portion of the diatribe.

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American Dignity

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

-Thomas Jefferson, “The Declaration of Independence”, 1776

Thomas Jefferson – philosopher, scholar – knew what the fuck he was talking about. With those words above – “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government . . . on such principles and organizing its powers . . . most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” – the United States of America dissolved its ties to the British Empire, and became the Greatest Nation on this world. And then of course, we remember that Jefferson was more than a philosopher and a scholar. He was also a slave owner, who – though he wrote many times against the institutions of slavery – never in his life freed a slave, though it is believed he was in love with one of his own.

This duality has been ingrained in the American psyche since its inception. Jefferson was not alone in his slave-holding ways. Most of America’s “Founding Fathers” owned slaves. It’s what rich, powerful white men did at the time. Many of them spoke highly against the institution of slavery, but only a small handful actually did anything about it. And we all know that one’s values are only worth something if one sticks to them when it isn’t convenient.

But America has never come to grips with this basic fact: We have never really paid more than lip service to that notion that these unalienable rights include “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” In fact, that wasn’t even supposed to be in the Declaration of Independence at all. That line originates from a philosopher named John Locke, who argued a hundred years before in his Two Treatises of Government that governments exist to protect the natural rights of “life, liberty and estate” (meaning, the property) of its citizens. It was Jefferson’s (quite American, in retrospect) imaginative leap to change the word “estate” to “happiness” – and not even the right to Happiness, but just the right to try to achieve it.

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Nothing’s Quiet on the Western Front

A week ago – it feels so much longer – I drafted you into a fight. I asked that you stand for duty, honor, and right. We’ll get into what all that means, the philosophy of morality, forging a code of honor (and sticking to it) down the line; for now, I want to define an aspect of the war that we all must begin to fight today. The fight that I speak of is one that is fundamental to Liberty and Freedom in the Information Age. It is a fight that your schools should have taught you to fight, but the truth of the matter is we’re all too human.

Now I want to stress that this is only one front one of many. But it is the first step in becoming awakened to a greater world. I hope you’re good and rested and ready to fight, because from here on in, once you begin to take these steps with me, your life will begin to change and unravel in ways that I cannot predict.

You are being lied to. Constantly, from all sides. Your friends are lying to you. The media is lying to you. Your politicians are lying to you – even the politicians on your side are lying to you. You are lied to because control of your thought – your market share – means more money, more power, more influence along the “Invisible Hand”. We’re hearing a lot about “fake news” sites playing a major role in the election, and how destructive they are, and how there are calls to censor them…

That’s all well and good, but you cannot rely on others to tell you what is true and what is false – that is another system of control. You must take active cognition of the media that you consume and, once you have learned how to digest it, use your knowledge to help others in kind.

Now, it’s not as bad as it may sound. A couple paragraphs above I told you everyone is lying to you – that’s only partly true (see what I mean?) Some people will give you misinformation because they don’t know any better. Some people will do so because they don’t have all the facts. Some people will give you misinformation because of our limited human knowledge. While I do make a distinction between lying – actively passing misinformation – and just unintentional misinformation, I felt that I had to make a dramatic point.

You must question everything.

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Quo Vadimus?

A lot of friends and loved ones woke up on Wednesday to the terrifying news that Donald Trump had won the presidency of the United States. They felt shocked, they felt outrage – but most of all they felt betrayed. Betrayed because the country they love, work, and fight for elected a man who called for racial violence, religious intolerance, espoused sexual assault, and treats women like they’re second rate pieces of flesh to be bought and sold at market. When these people – myself included – think of the Donald that is what they immediately associate with the man: a con artist huckster criminal who should be behind bars but for the fact that we’ve coddled rich con artist hucksters for the past thirty odd years.

What followed immediately were hundreds of articles of “what went wrong?” I’ve seen this before – the post-mortem. We lawyers do this all the time: lose a big case (some of us do this even if we win) or motion, and immediately we dive into “what went wrong.” The purpose of What Went Wrong is the hunt for the elusive “Try to do Better Next Time.” A ton of digital ink has been spilled (so to speak) over this issue, so I won’t bother rehashing the theories and the recriminations.

I’m here to give my two cents on what comes next. Where do we go from here?

First, you must – if you haven’t already – mourn this election. I’ve heard from plenty of people that they feel like crying, that they’ve never cried over an election before. That they have so many feelings that they can’t square them all away. I felt the same way. I found out at 6:01 am, when I picked up my phone and had a Breaking News alert: Donald Trump has been elected president. I had known, in that way that cynics “know”, the night before, at around 10:00 p.m., when most of the states that should have gone for Hillary were still either “too close to call” or “too early to call.” I thought that maybe she could squeak through… but in the depths of my mind, where every horrible contingency exists, I began to do the math, and I knew: the Democrats had fucked it up again. We had fucked it up.

I spent the entire drive home at around 11:15 pm Tuesday night, yelling at my roommate and the radio about how the Democrats had blown it. About our arrogance and about our hubris. About how we’ve spent the last twelve, thirty, maybe even sixty years obsessed with the White House, ignoring every other race – local, state, federal, legislatures and executives alike – because all that mattered was the (Wo)Man in Charge. My friend Jessica texted me around midnight asking what I thought, and I spent another 20 minutes text-yelling her, expressing my frustration and anger at the establishment that had failed us once again. And then I slept. And I woke up, and my anger had been spent, and I cried.

I didn’t cry because I was angry. I did not cry because Trump scares me so much I could only quiver in fear. I cried because we – collectively, as a nation – had missed A Moment. We were poised to do something historically great, we were poised to push through misogyny, alienation, hate, and stand with the world. We were going to elect the first female president of the United States. And then, at 6:01 a.m. – for me, at least – we hadn’t. So I mourned that moment.

I started to write a Facebook post venting my rage and my frustration. But that’s not what came out. As I felt the emotion flow through me what came out was the only part of me that was still standing: hope. My faith in humanity – that we can do better – was still there. We had failed, collectively, as a species, by failing to listen to the better angels of our nature, and by embracing fear, and desperation, and tribalism. But I knew – as I do now, more than ever – that we can do better.

So, mourn. Let your grief pass. Accept that the America you live in today is no different than the America you lived in on Monday, November 7th, 2016. We’re a little smarter now, we’re a little wiser. We’ve fallen – but we can rise so much higher.

Second, you must stand. A lot of people talk about withdrawing from social media, moving to another country, hiding out among your friends or withdrawing into cat memes and video games. I implore you: Don’t. This is capitulation. This is acceptance. This is not the time for idleness. This is not the time for vagaries or insulation. I know that we’re all tired – after I wrote my first post I started crying again, because I was exhausted, and I knew that we couldn’t rest yet. But the fight goes on.

That doesn’t mean, of course, you must obsess. Take a week or two off, take what time you need to separate yourself and distance yourself from the negativity, if you must. But be ready to come back and take a stand. Do not falter, and do not kneel (metaphorically, anyway – Kaepernick, you’re doing God’s work, even if I disagree with your choice not to vote.)

Third, you must fight back. I hope in the next few days to write more about what this means, exactly – the means by which we can harness our collective outrage in constructive ways. This will include activism, running for local office, convincing people to vote in the mid terms, convincing people to get involved. If you are angry and outraged by the election, good! It means you’re waking up to a larger world. But too many people weren’t outraged – there were far too many people out there who didn’t vote for Trump who simply shrugged and moved on.

We must awaken our friends and neighbors. We cannot make the call to change alone. This means we must engage, at all times, and take every opportunity, to engage, and debate, and ask people to be held accountable for their actions. But please, never, ever, be disrespectful. I’ll write more about engaging in debate over Social Media – right now I fear I’ve already used up my good will going on over 1000 words. But we must engage and enlighten and spread information to combat the misinformation that our politicians and the media will continuously try to throw at us.

We cannot afford to live in a post-factual world. We cannot allow opinion to take the place of fact. We cannot allow pettiness to take the place of reason. We – the people – are the only ones who can raise the level of discourse and dialogue.

And when we do you will find that, while reasonable minds can differ, reasonable minds cannot hate.

In Good Conscience

I cannot, in good conscience, stand idly by any longer.

I have chosen as a career to do battle, every day, against the awesome and mighty power of the state. To speak for those who society doesn’t want to listen to. To stand in the way of the gears of a machine that doesn’t care for the lives of the people it grinds up.

This line of work is hard. It eats at the inner workings of your soul in a way that I don’t think any other line of work quite does. I know doctors and surgeons see the ravages of nature (and stupidity) do terrible things to people – that is horrifying, and draining. Soldiers go to war to kill the enemies of their state, and that is horrifying too. But there is a special kind of horror in watching the carelessness in which our government treats its most vulnerable, our most needy. It chews you up inside, and changes you, in a way that I can’t quite explain. You know more, you trust less, and yet… you love. I think you love because you have to, because if your capacity to love despite the darkness does not grow… then, well, I fear there would be no point.

But it drains you. To love means that you can get your heart broken. I get mine broken every day. And I can tell you it never stops hurting.

But you also learn to stand up, somehow, despite the heartache. Not always. I’ve seen so many people – good, honest, well-intentioned people – be chewed up and spit out by this machine. I don’t think that this type of work is meant to be kept long term… But I digress.

Today I stand up. I’ve been in tears this entire morning, since I saw the headlines. And I’m trying hard not to despair. I’m trying hard to love.

I cannot, in good conscience, allow for anything less.