Why is everything so politicized? (5/6/18)

Years ago, there were questions about America’s youth.

In the increasing digital age, fears rose about whether children were not as active – both physically and socially- as they used to be.

What happened to the days when politically engaged youth protested the Vietnam War?  Some asked.  Were kids now just too absorbed with their cell phones and video games to be aware of or care about political and societal problems?

It’s safe to say that now, in 2018, those fears are, for the most part, gone.

While there are still problems with an increasingly technological driven and dependent society, it seems that Americans are now more politically active than ever. In fact, technology, has played a huge role and serves as a platform for political views and stands. It seems that technology, once viewed as a major inhibitor and distraction, is the biggest medium for the modern day politically-active youth.

Athletes are protesting the national anthem. Video and music award shows have artists making empowering and political statements. News programs dedicate 24/7 coverage of the current White House administration. Songs, tv shows, and all types of art have some  political message to convey. Simply put, a wave of political activism has taken over the country, of the likes that the country has never seen before.

This raises an interesting and essential question: Why is everything so politicized?

Recently, Kanye West made headlines by seemingly allying himself with President Trump. Kanye, who has a history of making controversial statements, made statements praising President Trump, while criticising former president Barack Obama. Kanye received significant backlash for his statements.

Kanye left many scratching their heads, and not because of his political position perhaps, but more because his political tirade came at such an unexpected time. I mean, Kanye, who is known for his rap career, his shoes, and his wife, making a political statement?  He was never politically engaged.  So, why now?

Truthfully, however, we shouldn’t be surprised.  Trump’s election has spurred political activism and increased politicization throughout the country. It seems as if some  view Trump’s election as such a threat to basic American values that they feel compelled to speak out in order to preserve “American democracy.”

Supporters of Trump administration have responded by emphasising their own positions and fighting for their “American values.”

Trump’s election came at such a unique time; some were ecstatic and hopeful that Trump would “bring back” the old American ideals and culture, while others thought the exact opposite.  To them, Trump’s election represented a complete reversal of the eight year progress that Obama represented. This type of deep political divide created a political “with us or against us” culture in which being “neutral” is not an option.

Therefore, the reason why everything is so political is because there is no other option. The rise of such a “with us or against us” culture has forced people to express their views for fear that they will be exiled or accused for not having an opinion.  Today, not having an opinion or taking a side is unacceptable.  People have to join sides, and naturally they want to belong to a group, so they feel obligated to voice their opinions. Voicing your political opinion has become a “trend.”

However, the rise of politicization has come at a price. It seems that nowadays, everything has to have some “message” behind it. If it’s not political, it has no significance. No longer can we just enjoy a sporting event for the sport itself, or a movie for its entertainment value. Everything has to be judged on the political impact or message it has.





What’s with the obsession with the Kennedys? (4/9/18)

Hello, viewers, and sorry for the long hiatus.

After watching the movie Chappaquiddick and the CNN documentary The Kennedys, I began to ask myself this question: why is the Kennedy family so revered?

I want to somewhat clarify my question here. When I mean “Kennedy family,” I mean JFK and RFK, the two Kennedys that seem to be political and cultural icons of the 20th century (sorry, Ted, you really weren’t that popular after Chappaquiddick). These two Kennedys are revered as political giants, yet I don’t think their political legacies are as great as the American public seems to think they are.


John Fitzgerald Kennedy was an incredibly popular man. Young, good-looking, articulate and part of a wealthy and politically connected family, he swept the nation off its feet. He made powerful friendships with Hollywood stars and was undoubtedly the biggest icon of the early 1960s. His average approval rating for the near three years he was in office was 70.1%, and he is consistently ranked highly on many modern lists of best presidents.

However, when analyzing Kennedy’s body of work in office, his high approval ratings and rankings seem unjustified.

JFK’s New Frontier domestic policies were, for the most part, unsuccessful. The Civil Rights movement heated up during the early 60s, and Kennedy was slow to endorse it because he did not want to lose potential supporters and popularity. The Bay of Pigs invasion ended up being a colossal failure, and two months later, JFK was trounced by Nikita Krushchev at the Vienna Summit. And even though a year later Kennedy helped save the world from nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he increasingly fought with members of his staff (particularly Curtis Lemay), and there was permanent tension between him and several military advisors.

Also, JFK’s personal life was subject of much scandal, as allegations of him cheating on his wife plagued him throughout his tenure in office. If you consider how Donald Trump’s or even Bill Clinton’s reputations have been negatively affected by extramarital affairs, and you compare those to JFK’s, it is shocking to see that JFK’s reputation was not more damaged.

JFK’s presidency was marked by extremely high tensions with the USSR and its leader Nikita Krushchev (right). (Pic: history.com)

While Kennedy did have achievements in office, such as the establishment of the Peace Corps, escalating the Space Race, eventually proposing a Civil Rights Bill, and negotiating an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, these accomplishments do not warrant the high esteem bestowed on hm.

Without a doubt, JFK’s assassination was an absolute tragedy. But it’s also undoubted that his assassination contributed to his continued popularity to this day.  JFK is the “what if” president. The American public wonders just how different the current world would be but for the assassination and what JFK could have achieved had he lived and served out his full term and any subsequent term. He was an immensely famous, larger than life person, who captivated the nation. However, we tend to not hold him accountable for his personal flaws due to his tragic assassination. An analysis of JFK’s presidency is always a reminder of a promising life cut short, and that seems to more favourably skew the perception of his actual achievements in office.  In essence, the public tends to adopt an idealised image of JFK and his accomplishments.

JFK’s glamorous presidency (dubbed “Camelot” by Jackie O) left the nation starstruck, adding to his immense popularity.

Much like JFK, Robert is revered, but his political legacy is just as complex.

Robert “Bobby” Kennedy is often dubbed “the greatest president America never had.”

While there are men who could likewise be described as great presidents America never had (Henry Clay and Adlai Stevenson), it’s interesting to consider how exactly Robert Kennedy got that nickname.

Robert Kennedy was a controversial Attorney General during his brother’s presidency. Even though he was a skilled litigator, Kennedy often misused his powers and directed vast amounts of resources to take down organized crime. He was often irrational in his decision making when dealing with the mob, and when disagreed with, he was hot-headed and impatient. RFK was also one of JFK’s chief advisors during America’s escalation in the Vietnam War, even though Bobby would change his stance much later.  And though he supported civil rights, RFK was constantly caught between the struggle of maintaining the Kennedy popularity and dealing with the national civil rights issue. RFK’s biggest mistake was his choice to have the FBI wiretap Dr. Martin Luther King Jr due to suspicions regarding Dr. King’s political agenda and personal life.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1963. (Pic: Reuters)

Even though circumstances were different, consider what happened to Richard Nixon when the American people found out about his involvement in the wiretapping at the Watergate hotel. Can you imagine what would happen if other senators or government officials were involved in such an invasion of privacy, especially against a revered civil rights leader no less?  Bobby got a pass.

Bobby’s messages to end poverty, crime, and his pursuit of equal justice for all have made him an icon for modern liberalism, but there are other men who achieved far more who almost became president. For instance, Henry Clay held the nation together on three separate occasions by writing several compromise bills. And while Robert Kennedy’s life was tragically cut short by assassination, that is no excuse to embellish his achievements and true political legacy.

John and Robert Kennedy were outstanding leaders in the sense that they captured the hearts and minds of both the young and the old. They were part of an elite and accomplished family and were destined for fame and power. Their lives ended far too early by a pair of assassinations, which no doubt contributes to their enduring popularity. However, when objectively and fairly analyzing the true achievements of these men, it would be false to put these two Kennedys on a pedestal.

A Year Under Trump (1/23/18)

This past weekend, President Donald Trump celebrated the anniversary of his inauguration. It marked a full year of his time as President.

Throughout the weekend, numerous women’s marches took place, attacking the President and also empowering numerous women to seek positions of power.

The President himself commented on the women’s marches, but I’m not quite sure he read the marches correctly.

Women’s March in Boston (Pic: Jesse Costa/WBUR)

So, what has one year under Trump been like?

Well, from an economic standpoint, there has been record success. Per Fox Business, the Dow Jones surpassed 26k for the first time in history, making it an all-time high. Throughout Trump’s first year, the Dow saw a constant increase culminating in the record number. Unemployment also reached 4.1%, with around two million American jobs being added in 2017.  Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress finally were able to pass tax cuts.

While it’s too much to give all the credit to the sitting president for the economic success of the country (as former presidents Reagan and Clinton seem to get), praise should still be given to the sitting commander-in-chief – yet, praise seems largely absent when the news media talks about Trump.

Why is this the case?

For starters, President Trump remains as divisive, if not more, as he was when he was first elected. This can easily be seen through Trump’s foreign policy agenda.

For example, Trump maintained an aggressive stance towards North Korea, as the country became increasingly hostile and threatening towards the U.S. with its nuclear missile program. While some were proud of the President for showing true “American might” and standing up to threats on the world stage, many also criticized the President, claiming he was dangerously playing with fire.

Trump distanced himself from several European allies and from NATO. If you’re an America-first type of person, then you were happy for the focus Trump put on Americans and domestic policy. However, if you are a firm believer in America’s presence in European affairs, you felt Trump turned his back on our allies in Europe, at a time when the continent needs all the support it can get.

Trump distanced the U.S. from several European allies, culminating in Merkel (right) calling for a change in the world leading force (Pic: NYT)

Let’s not even get started on immigration.

Trump’s Muslim ban and his views on illegal and legal immigration continue to polarize, and it’s clear that the media is there to attack him on these policies at every chance.

Domestically, Trump battled with Republicans and Democrats alike throughout his first year. Trump had to deal with Establishment Republicans, like McConnell and Ryan, alt-right Nationalists, like Bannon, and Democrats, like Schumer and Pelosi, who were continually attacking him. Trump lost several key red states like Alabama and Virginia in special elections, further emphasising the critical importance of the 2018 midterms for the Trump Administration.  Issues like DACA, healthcare, and gun control continued to further the blue and red divide, and issues over budget funding ultimately culminated in the recent government shutdown.

If you couldn’t tell from reading, the nation is more split and divided than ever.

And that’s the one word that dominates Trump first year in office: divided.

Never in American history, maybe since the days of the Civil War, has the U.S. been so polarized. The United States is in the midst of an extreme political divide, and Trump, for the most part, has not done his part to bridge the divide and bring the sides together.

He continues to appeal only to his core base, as if he’s given up on working across party lines. He uses divisive and sometimes mean-spirited speech to stir up his base and anger his enemies.

And he doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.





Does the world still need U.S. leadership? (1/1/18)


As we look to the new year, many news media outlets are reporting that 2018 will be the first year in over seven decades that the world does not look to the U.S. for leadership. Under 45th President Donald Trump, the U.S. has taken a much more isolationist stance in the world, and leaders around the globe are looking to other countries for leadership.

Whether or not the U.S. is still the “championed leader” that it was after World War II is debatable, but the essential question remains: does the world still need U.S.  leadership?

After WWII, the world was in need of a leader. It was in shambles and needed a beacon of democracy and freedom to guide broken nations away from the evils of the Axis powers. 

The U.S. was able to fill this role, and even though the then U.S.S.R opposed the United States in the Cold War, America still stood at the helm.

But, seventy-three years after the end of World War II, times have changed greatly.

george marshall.jpg
Former Secretary of State George C. Marshall. After the war, Marshall became a symbol of the U.S. democratic leadership after he constructed the Marshall Plan, which involved rebuilding Europe and spreading U.S. influence.

It isn’t as simple as standing up to bully nations who are looking to invade others and acquire mass territories. No, the problems of today are much more complex and nuanced, and there aren’t straightforward solutions. 

In 1992, Samuel Huntington proposed the “clash of civilisations” theory. The belief was that cultural and religious differences would be the cause of conflict post- Cold War, rather than from differing ideologies or nationalities. 

In the post-Cold War era, it’s hard to deny this theory. 

Since the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the 1990s, the present day world has been dominated by religious extremism. September 11 changed the way the world viewed terrorism, and its aftermath divided the world. Throughout the world, people rise and revolt when they feel their cultures and beliefs are being threatened.

The events on Sept. 11 changed the world, and the U.S. counter-terrorism response since has divided the world after costly wars in the Persian Gulf. (Pic: Time)

And when such conflicts arise, there’s no way to stop them. 

In the increasingly globalized and multicultural world, there are no more true identities. With migration and immigration, millions of different people from various backgrounds and religions live together all over the world.

So, how can you declare war on a religion or a culture if it is present all over the world, and even in your own country?

The truth is, you can’t, and not even the greatest nation in the world, the United States, can figure out a straightforward solution.

Democracy has spread throughout all parts of the globe. People are becoming more empowered everyday and are increasingly challenging governments to protect their individual rights. The United States is an example of democracy at its finest, and is what nations will look to model themselves after, but it is not needed in this mega-leadership role that it once desperately was. The root problems of the world have changed, and it isn’t as simple as “good vs. evil” or “free vs. unfree.” 

The U.S. is still the greatest nation in the world. It should still be replicated for its technological and media innovations, its world class secondary education, and its fabulous sports teams. But, in a world where questions like “what is the best way to combat terrorism” or “why is my culture being attacked” are being asked, and there are no real answers or solutions, there is no need for a leader to guide the way. 



Why is Jerusalem so important? (12/6/17)

This week, the 45th President Donald Trump vowed to move the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump’s announced intention shook the political world, with allies of the United States and the Arab states warning the U.S. of possible danger and other detractors forecasting increased violence and unrest in the Middle East.

To those of you who are unaware of the full importance of Jerusalem (I don’t blame you) and think that this embassy controversy is being overblown, this proposed move is significant and more complicated than you might think.

Essentially, Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world, being a sacred site to three religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam- which arguably also happen to be some of the most prominent religions in the world today.

It’s an extremely risky move, but when analyzing Trump’s move, it is not that surprising.

Trump’s main presidential goal is to be everything the former-President Obama was not. And it’s no secret that U.S.- Israeli relations under Obama had significantly “cooled.” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s increasing distrust of the U.S. stemmed from the perception that Obama was being a little too “Arab-friendly.”

To the Israelis, Jerusalem is their “true capital,” and many believe that the city rightfully belongs to Israel ever since the Israelis took ownership of it from Jordan following the Six-Day War. Therefore, Trump’s intention to move the U.S. embassy to what he deems to be the “true capital of Israel” can be seen as a complete reversal of Obama’s feelings towards Israel.

Obama was also incredibly weak in the Middle East, with detractors listing numerous failed opportunities in the Arab Spring revolts, Syria, and Libya. While Trump’s action could provoke a violent reaction from Palestine, as well as surrounding Arab states, it can be seen by some as a welcome reversal of Obama’s fecklessness in the Persian Gulf. Seemingly, Trump’s move can be seen as his intention to not let other Arab States “boss” the U.S. around and to be more forceful in the region. That is, after all, what Trump campaigned on.

Overall, the move is very hit or miss. The move could effectively reestablish a more forceful U.S. presence in the Middle East, as well as strengthen the ties of our long time ally Israel. However, the move could also greatly destabilise the region, lead to violent conflict, and disrupt any hope of a peaceful solution to the world’s greatest conflict.


No Swastikas in COD WW2 Multiplayer… Political Correctness over Historical Accuracy? (11/14/17)

As a person who once thoroughly enjoyed his share of video games, I am dismayed at the recent developments regarding the Call of Duty:WW2 video game.

To those who didn’t know, Call of Duty: WW2, a game in the well-known Call of Duty franchise, was released earlier this month. When reading a review about the game, I learned that Sledgehammer, the leading developer of WW2, made interesting choices about the use of Nazi symbolism in the game.

Essentially, Sledgehammer decided not to include swastikas or Nazi flags in the multiplayer mode of the game. All swastikas were replaced with the traditional German Empire iron cross. The swastikas were kept in the single-player campaign due to the historical story that Sledgehammer wanted to tell, but for the multiplayer mode, they decided to remove them.

As seen in this snapshot of the multiplayer gameplay, swastikas have been replaced with the “more conservative” iron cross. (Pic: PC Gamer)

On the swastika removal issue, Sledgehammer co-founder Michael Condrey explained, “In our global community of multiplayer and zombies players, we’ve chosen deliberately not to include [the swastika]. We want the community to play together. We want to be respectful of local customs and laws around the world. And frankly it’s a dark symbol with a lot of emotion behind it we don’t feel matches our multiplayer experience.”

The removal of the swastikas wasn’t the only source of controversy with the game.  Players soon found out that in the multiplayer mode, you would be allowed to play as a black Nazi soldier, and even a female Nazi soldier. Despite being very historically inaccurate, Sledgehammer defended its decision by claiming that the game should be as inclusive as the audience who plays it.

Another snapchat showing a killed black Nazi in the game’s multiplayer mode. (Pic: Reddit)

While I praise Sledgehammer’s initiative to create a more enjoyable, inclusive and diverse game, I do not agree with its choices.

First, the Call of Duty:WW2 is a game that is historically based. It is about WWII and reveals horrors of war. I think people who play the game should receive historically accurate depictions of World War II.

Second, I understand the horrors associated with the Nazi flag. With the recent controversy concerning the Confederate flag and monuments, I understand Sledgehammer’s worry about including the Nazi flag in the multiplayer aspect of the game. However, we are talking about a video game entered around WWII, and I don’t agree with its choice to exclude it. We are not talking about having the Nazi flag displayed on a monument for the public to see. Sledgehammer’s decision would be akin to making a historical documentary about the Civil War and removing any reference or picture of the Confederate flag. Consumers are not likely to be sensitive about the Nazi flag in a video game about WWII. They are aware that it was part of a very dark history and would not be offended by its portrayal in a war game.

I know you are thinking that this is just a video game. But, I feel that this is an example of political correctness over historical accuracy. Political correctness should not come at the expense of historical accuracy. And this effort by Sledgehammer not to offend anyone clearly comes at a cost of accuracy.

Also, when Condrey stated, “we want the community to play together” and that the Nazi flag doesn’t represent what the multiplayer experience should be, then why create a game mode in which players can play as Nazis? Isn’t the option to play as a Nazi just as bad, if not worse than just displaying the flag? The point is, while the Nazi flag is a symbol of evil, it is still a part of history.

And as for the multi-racial character you can choose to be, once again I think Sledgehammer fell short. Call of Duty game definitely has a wide variety of races and genders playing, but once again, these gamers are aware of the time period of the game. They understand that being a black Nazi soldier would be historically inaccurate, which is why you cannot play as one.

My opinion is simple: you should always try to advance society and promote diversity and inclusiveness, but with a clear and accurate knowledge of history. It’s important that we know our history, the good and the bad, so that we can learn from it. We cannot change history, but we can use it to change the future.

Enjoy the game, but always be aware of what you’re playing and learn from it. (Pic: Call of Duty)

More questions/doubts raised for Trump, White House after NYC Terror (11/1/17)

After a little over sixteen years, New York City was once again hit with another terrorist attack.

Tuesday afternoon, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a Uzbekistani man who has been living in the U.S. since 2010, drove a pick up truck into cyclists on a bike path, killing eight and wounding eleven. It was reported that Saipov yelled “Allahu Akbar” during the attack.  Since the attack, we learned that Saipov was radicalised through ISIS propaganda.

Nearby citizens and investigators look at the scenes of devastation. (Pic: AP)

Controversy arose Wednesday morning when President Trump described the U.S. Justice System as a “joke” and said that U.S. is “a laughing stock” around the world. He declared that he wanted to have a quick and harsh judgment and suggested sending Saipov to the infamous prison Guantanamo Bay. He also announced that he wants to cancel a visa lottery immigration program that he claims “allowed Saipov in” the U.S.

As terrible as it is to say, terrorist attacks seem to bolster Trump’s presidential agenda and talking points. As one who favors a hardline stance on Islamic terrorism, Trump does not hesitate to use terrorist incidents like this one to advance his agenda to limit immigration and to support his travel ban.

As a patriotic person, I want our president to be successful. However, I cannot say that I can support President Trump’s immediate plans after the attack.

While I believe that terrorists and hard criminals deserve harsh punishments for their abhorrent acts, the idea of sending Saipov to GITMO is just too far-fetched. First, no person has been detained in GITMO since 2008, and after many debates over whether to close the prison, it is unlikely this will be able to be done. Second, numerous legal issues would rise from transferring a suspect from New York to GITMO.

Trump’s plan to do away with the visa lottery program is a much more direct and straightforward policy, but like his proposed plan with GITMO, there is no way it can be achieved. The visa lottery program is not new, and this program was created with bilateral support in Congress. In addition, it is important to point out that there is nothing, so far, to indicate that the visa lottery system is allowing terrorists to come into the U.S.  Saipov lived in the U.S. for seven years, and he was radicalised in the U.S.

Trump has had some of his most contested battles with immigration reform during his year of presidency. His travel bans are suspended for the most part and are pending in courts. He was forced to settle on a compromise on DACA in order to avoid a government shutdown. There is little to no talk on the “border wall.”  Given all that has occurred, I simply don’t see immigration reform being passed in the near future. His immigration plans are too divisive, and he will not be able to get the support necessary to pass legislation. Even with rising terrorist attacks, I don’t see the Supreme Court supporting any legislation or executive action unless it is very narrow and serves a real and immediate national security interest.

There have been a lot of distractions for the Trump presidency recently. Where do I even begin? There is the ever-growing spectre of Russian collusion. Two top level people connected to the Trump campaign have been indicted. Another has pled guilty. There are also many investigations into the killing of four American soldiers in Niger. Why were the soldiers there? Why was one of the soldiers left behind for forty-eight hours? Was there an intelligence failure?

Paul Manafort walks out of the courthouse. Due to looming Russian collusion scandal, the Trump administration has been distracted and unable to focus on important policies. (PIC: AP)

With almost one year in the books, there is a growing sense of urgency for Trump.  Next on Trump’s plate is tax reform. Many of Trump’s supporters must be growing wary of his failed policies and legislations. If he wishes to be more successful, Trump will need to come up with better and more thoughtful legislation, one that comports with the Constitution.

Arrogance gets the best of USMNT, fails to qualify for World Cup (10/12/17)

When the United States men’s soccer team stepped on the field in Trinidad and Tobago, they already knew they had qualified.

Needing just one point to qualify for a playoff World Cup spot against a “B-team” Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. men clearly weren’t sweating it.

Yet, 90 minutes later, what happened?

A disaster.

As the Trinidad team celebrates, the U.S. team looks dazed, unable to contemplate their 2-1 loss to the small island nation.

While millions all over the country were shocked, it is clear to see, when examining this defeat more closely, that there was a multitude of problems right from the start. With poor results against Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and Panama in the fourth and fifth qualifying rounds, it’s clear that this United States team lacked some of the fire that we had seen from previous U.S. teams.

But still, what type of problems caused the USMNT to lose yesterday?

The main problem with the USMNT last night was simply attitude.

Going into the game, the U.S. team had a certain arrogance about the game. Despite their shaky performances throughout the qualifying rounds, many of the players appear to treat this game a “blow off” game and one that they were assured to win.  The players didn’t seem to take the game seriously until the final minutes, and by then, it was way too late.

Christian Pulisic in utter disbelief after the final whistle. Pulisic was the lone bright-star in the U.S. attack yesterday.  (Pic: Getty Images)

Next was the poor quality of play. Despite a good 4-0 win over Panama last Friday, the U.S. team failed to bring that type of fire and energy to the field against Trinidad. Passing was extremely poor in midfield, and the back four, primarily the two centre-backs, looked incredibly shaky from the start. Effort was also very poor, as many of the USMNT players failed to hustle for the ball in midfield and were slow to pressure the Trinidad team, giving the Trinidadians plenty of time and space to control the ball.

I am not taking anything away from Trinidad and Tobago’s win.  Their players brought heart, intense energy and effort throughout the match. Trinidad had nothing to play for in this game – their qualifying hopes were gone – yet, they still played with enormous passion and emotion.

The question after the 2014 World Cup, in which the U.S. team reached the Round of 16, was how the team could legitimately challenge the German and Argentine teams of the world. That seems to be in the distant past. Now, almost four years later, the question is: how do we get back on track?

Alvin Jones (#17) celebrates after scoring for Trinidad and Tobago. (Pic: AP)

It is clear changes need to be made.

First, there needs to be a higher sense of responsibility ingrained in the United States players.

In other countries, soccer is literally life or death. Players use soccer to stay out of crime and trouble, and to provide for their families. Also, in smaller professional leagues, some town’s football teams are essential to their economy. Jobs depend on those club teams and, if the players fail to get promoted or stay in the division, their hometowns suffer.

That is not the case in the United States. The MLS, where most of these athletes play, has money poured into it. These players do not have that sense of urgency that other foreign players have. They don’t see qualifying as life or death, and they don’t seem to care as much as they should.

Second, the United States needs to fix its recruiting process. The pay-to-play system clearly is not working. In the U.S., the primary way for a player to get noticed is by joining top, expensive academies.  However, due to the cost prohibitive nature of these academies, many talented, passionate young players who are low income cannot join and their talents goes unnoticed. Soccer is a democratic game.  All you need is a soccer ball and players. Many of the best players in the world grew up poor and played in the streets. There is plenty of talent in the U.S., but not all of it is being seen.  Recruiting needs to be broadened to obtain the best players.

In most countries, soccer is a sport played in streets or empty fields. But in the U.S., it’s become a suburban, upper-middle class activity. (Pic: SB Nation)

It was definitely the most embarrassing night in U.S. soccer history. That being said, there is no time to hang our heads. The U.S. team’s training for 2022 starts now. Maybe now there will be a sense of urgency.


The gun problem in America (10/9/17)

It’s been a week since the massacre in Las Vegas.

The perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, is still being investigated and his motive for the shooting remains a mystery. As America continues to recover from the shock of the now deadliest mass-shooting in U.S. history, the gun control debate continues to rage on. For what?

People flee the scene and head for cover moments after the shooting starts (Pic: NBC News)

What is America’s problem with guns?

In the past four presidencies, the gun control debate has constantly been re-ignited, then extinguished, as mass shootings continue to occur in the United States.

But, even with all the massacres and the resulting push for tighter restrictions on firearms, no progress is made.

Why is that?

The reason is simple: some Americans view gun ownership as vital to the “American character.”

The right to bear arms is provided for in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and some seem to think that because of this, owning guns is an unfettered and fundamental right to the American freedom.

Guns are a symbol of security in this country, but also of liberty.  They are viewed by some as a necessity to keep our families safe and free. Owning guns is a tradition that has been with America even before it became the United States, and gun control would simply be ridding the country of one of its core values.

The Sandy Hook massacre, in which nearly thirty young children were killed, sparked intense debates over gun control , yet no real gun legislation passed. (Pic: Niall Bradley)

If we’re being honest, the gun control discussion effectively ended after the Sandy Hook massacre. If nearly thirty young kids are killed, and no significant gun control legislation results, it’s highly unlikely that any massacre will bring about significant reform.

The issue of gun control is complicated. The Second Amendment expressly provides for the right to bear arms so there is a constitutional right to own guns. Even if one could somehow get around the Second Amendment, an outright ban on guns will not stop gun violence. Millions of citizens currently own guns, and there is just no way to get back all the guns. Further, people will find ways to obtain guns illegally. Restrictions on gun ownership will not completely stop gun violence. As mass shootings at Sandy Hook and Las Vegas show, the shooter either legally owned the guns or had access to legally owned guns. In fact, no gun restriction measure could have prevented Paddock from owning guns as there was nothing in his background that would have restricted his ownership.

As we recover from yet another mass shooting, it feels as if we are all simply going through the motions once again. We will discuss gun violence and gun control for a few weeks, and nothing happens. We decry the violence and pray for the victims and their families. We hope massacres like this won’t happen again, but we know they will.

Why I have a problem with athletes protesting the anthem now (9/25/17)

Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or a socially-engaged individual, it is hard to miss the protests that have been erupting all over the American professional sports landscape.

Some athletes in the MLB and NBA, but mostly the NFL, have been “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem as a form of silent protest for the perceived racial inequality in the country. Taking a knee has generated much controversy.

The situation escalated after President Trump expressly espoused the idea of firing athletes who kneel during the anthem. On Sunday, players from many NFL teams kneeled during the anthem (with nearly the entire Steelers team not even showing up on the field) and locked arms in a symbol of unity.

In a Sunday game against the Bears, the entire Steelers team chose to sit in the locker room during the anthem. Only one member of the team, OT Alejandro Villanueva, came out and stood during the anthem. Villanueva was a former Serviceman. (Pic: AP)

And as a long-time NFL fan, I have to say I am disappointed.

I’d like to first mention that I firmly acknowledge the right these athletes have to protest. I am not doubting their freedom of speech rights, and I am certainly not going argue against the Constitution. That is not the issue.

While I believe that all athletes should stand for the flag, because the flag serves as the symbol of our country and the protection that the U.S. military gives us, I don’t even necessarily have an issue with the athletes protesting. That is not the issue, either.

The issue I have is with the timing of it all.

It’s been over a year since the former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the National Anthem. And while other players followed, they were small in number, and nothing like it was this past Sunday.

I genuinely feel that the large number of players that kneeled on Sunday were just doing it because it was “trending” and the issue was at the forefront.  These players had a year to express their protest, but the majority of them never did.

So, why now?

While I don’t doubt that these NFL players are aware of the major police brutality cases and injustices, I doubt that many of these players believe in this cause strongly enough to kneel during the anthem. It feels as if these athletes didn’t want to stir up unnecessary controversy, but when it was made clear, as on Sunday, that everyone was going to kneel and that it was safe to do so, then they decided to do it.  It doesn’t seem genuine or heartfelt.

Where were you guys last year? (Pic: USA Today)

As much as I dislike Colin Kaepernick, at least he was genuine and kneeled because he truly wanted to protest inequality and police brutality.  By contrast, I feel that the majority of the NFL players who kneel are just doing it for PR reasons.

And again, I’d like to stress the fact that I don’t believe that all of these athletes did this just because it was the “popular thing to do.” However, some did.  Players, like Martellus Bennett, who had once refused to protest during the anthem and are now choosing this time to attack the President and claim they wouldn’t mind being fired for doing something they believe in, are hypocrites.  They are just doing it because everyone else is.

The main concern I have with this protest is the use of “identity politics.”

I feel that a lot of these players are being pressured into kneeling when they might not necessarily agree with it. Identity politics generalizes groups of people and pressures  a person to think or act a certain way by virtue of his membership in a particular group.  However,  not all people in these groups have the same views or live in the same condition. In America, you should think for yourself and act freely, and you shouldn’t feel pressurized into agreeing with something you might not believe in.

Is America a perfect country?   Absolutely not. While the patriotic side of me would like to say yes, the reasonable, logical and realistic side says no. And while we, as a country, understand that our country has flaws, we also have to be reminded of the great things our country provides and stands for.

So, to the NFL players, next time you think of kneeling, think LONG and HARD about the opportunities this country has given you and decide for yourself if you really want to kneel or not.  Do not feel pressured into kneeling.

Don’t be afraid to stand if it’s what you truly believe in. (Pic: SI)