An Open Letter to America

In Life, Politics on November 9, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts

Dear America,

WTF???  No seriously, WTF???

What did we do last night?  How did we elect a misogynist, racist, con artist as the President of the United States?  Why did we just hand over the keys to the most powerful nation in the world to the most unqualified and unstable person for that job?

Part of the answer to these questions lies in the fact that “we” no longer really exists.

As exit polls and electoral college votes came streaming in last night, a glaring division in our population became evident.  This was an election that pitted the white voter v. everyone else.  For the past eight years, the constant message was how racially diverse we were becoming as a country.  We heard how the Obama coalition – a multi-ethnic, gender-diverse, youthful group – was the wave of the future and they were going to dictate elections from here on out.  We heard how the rise of Latinos would impact races across the nation and how resonating with that specific group would be the key to winning in the future.

So what happened?

I’m sure political scientists will be looking at this election for years in order to understand how pollsters could have erred so horribly.  But it seems, at least on the surface, that the white vote (especially those that have been impacted the most economically over the past eight years) came back with a vengeance.  They were tired of hearing that they didn’t count anymore.  They were tired of hearing that they had a dwindling share of power in this nation.  They were tired of hearing they didn’t matter anymore.

So when a white nationalist candidate becomes President…what does that say about America?  What does that mean for everyone that doesn’t fall into that category?

Over the past 35 years of being an American-born citizen who is Asian, I’ve experienced subtle racism, institutional racism, blatant racism, egregiously blatant racism…but I’ve never really thought of America as a racist nation.  America had racists (so does every country and every population), but the country itself wasn’t racist.  Right?

Sadly, I now have to question that assumption.  Trump is a bigot and he campaigned on a white nationalist platform that targeted anything considered “the other”.  And “we” just elected him as President.  Maybe you’re the voter that convinced themselves that Trump’s economic “message” (or gobbledygook) resonated with you.  You were negatively affected by free trade and you weren’t seeing the economic gains other parts of the country experienced.  Or maybe you just couldn’t move past the Clinton scandals (even though they pale in comparison to Trump’s).  Or maybe you just wanted “change” in the status quo.  So you voted for him for these reasons – but you also have to come to terms with the fact that you just validated the rhetoric of the most blatantly racist candidate in recent history.  All candidates have flaws, but these are disqualifiers.

If there is an increase in violence toward Muslims in America – that’s on your soul.

If there are families torn apart by aggressive deportation – that’s on your conscience.

If there are people bullied because of how different they are – that’s on you.

We elected a President that stirs up and promotes all of these aggressive and negative emotions…and I’m honestly scared.

So what happens now?  That’s the question that made some people (me in particular) queasy this morning and made others rejoice this morning.  Is it possible to even create a “we” in this political environment?  Or is this going to be four years of trying to bring down the progressive coalition that’s been building in this country?

Being Asian, I thankfully haven’t been the direct target of Trump’s assaults.  But I wonder if I could be in the future.  Let’s say China or North Korea starts antagonizing Trump.  How will he respond and will he turn his vitriol to Asians in America?  It sounds idiotic (especially since I’m Filipino) – but nothing is off the table anymore.  This is the new America to which we’ve woken.  A country where logic and truth just don’t matter anymore.  It was a constant stream of lies out of the Trump campaign and half of the electorate just didn’t care.  How is it possible that someone who 61% of the population thought was unfit to lead…became President?  Is America really that intent on shooting itself in the foot?

I have been angry about election outcomes, but I’ve never been despondent.  I’ve never been inconsolable.  I’ve never worried about the future (as in, the actual existence of tomorrow).  This election has broken the American spirit.  Not just in its outcome, but in how we were all dragged through this disgusting process over the past 18 months.

Can we become stronger as a nation with this potentially authoritarian leader?  Can we heal as a nation with such a divisive figurehead?  Can we survive the next four years?

I hope so.  But obviously my voice doesn’t matter as much anymore.






Midnight Oil

In Life on October 14, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts Tagged:

Trying something a little different today – let’s see what the WordPress Daily Prompt can inspire: Candle

When you think of a candle, the first image that comes to mind is one of light.  A flame in the darkness that illuminates a room, a passageway, an entrance.  A candle becomes the one thing you treasure in an emergency.  A way to ensure that you have warmth or light when darkness is thrust upon you.  A candle is also associated with sensuality.  A way to set the mood with either scents or dim lighting.  While dulling your vision, a candle can be used to stimulate your other senses.

At this point in my life, I think I associate candles the most with…mortality.  It’s a symbol of our finite nature.  The minute we’re born…our wicks are lit.  And it’s just a matter of time until we burn out and are nothing more than a puddle on the floor.  Rather than reshape us into something stronger, the flame destroys us and breaks down our structure moment by moment.

If we all end up in the same state…is there a point in life?  Is there a point to the struggles?  A point to the constant search for riches and status?  A point to seeking out love?  A point to trying to create a legacy?

We spend most of our lives trying to survive (and we obviously all have different perspectives on what ‘surviving’ means), but how often do we actually stop and think about why we’re doing all of this?  There should be a greater point…some greater meaning to all of this…right?  Are we just meant to enjoy the time we spend as our candle burns?  Should we just acknowledge the wax puddle that we’re all moving towards and just let our lives melt away?

I tend to think of larger themes and bigger meanings…it’s a product of consuming too much fictional content over the years.  I yearn for some narrative…some structure and arc to life…

Maybe I’m just asking too much out of life…I should just be content with watching the flame move down candle…and creating some formless mass at the end.





Do We Need More Nuanced Thinking? – Absolutely!

In Life on September 6, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts Tagged:

Black or white…

On or off…

Right or wrong…

We tend to reduce the world into binary choices – absolutes that wash away all of the nuances that provide any uncertainty.  As logical human beings, we aren’t big fans of uncertainty…the unknown frightens us, and so we do we everything we can to absorb those gray areas into black and white choices.

While perusing WordPress as part of Blogging Fundamentals, I came across this post talking about the dark side within all of us…and how we eventually need to “turn on the light” in order to extinguish it.  I didn’t necessarily see it this way.  I saw the value of a “dark side” – the necessity of aggression and destruction in order to create and basically live a complete life.  The need to vanquish our dark sides comes from this binary thinking though.  Since we associate dark sides with negative thoughts, we end up categorizing it as “evil” and something that shouldn’t exist in the world.

Isn’t that immature thinking though?  But more than that, is this a product of the “binarization” of thought as a whole?  With the rise of technology and its underlying binary language of on/off – has that forced us into only thinking there are two states to any situation?  As more and more of our lives are encoded in databases and driving by algorithms, do we risk losing the ability to make nuanced and multi-faceted decisions?  Does everything become a zero sum game with clear winners and losers?

The polarization of our current political system is a prime example of this.  It isn’t enough to consider Trump a bad candidate – he’s evil and a demagogue.  Hillary isn’t just careless with state secrets – she’s corrupt and conspiring against America.  Republicans are anti-science bigots…Democrats are trying to take our freedoms away.  It all seems so silly written out like this, but this is sadly the state of our political discourse these days.  We’ve somehow lost the fact that governing a country of over 300 million people is extremely difficult and in the end, everyone is going to be unhappy on some level.  But we’ve equated that “unhappiness” with the political system, the government, The Man – being an oppressive evil.  It’s as if we can’t even fathom that the government would have to balance the interests of the whole and sometimes our needs won’t be met.

In the end, it’s laziness and selfishness that drive the need for absolutes.  We just don’t want to put in the effort to think holistically…to think creatively…and so we’ve cut the world in half.  Maybe this binary tension is what drives us and inspires us to be something better…but that’s just wishful thinking.  Right?






Thoughts from a former Republican

In Politics on July 26, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts Tagged: , , , , ,

I was raised to be a Republican.

Like most immigrant families…(specifically, Asian immigrants…a relevant distinction), my parents came to America with the hopes of fulfilling the American Dream.  They came for opportunity, for freedom, for safety and stability, for the chance for our family to become what they saw as the ultimate goal in the world – to be rich and white.

Naturally, the Republican party was their preferred choice of political party affiliation.  (The social conservatism also appealed to their Catholic upbringing…even though the party itself has a history of being skeptical of non-Protestant Christians.)  And so, throughout my life I was told that Republicans were superior to those dirty, socialist Democrats.  If you believed in capitalism and earning your own way (without any handouts), then you should be Republican.

As I’ve grown older, my perspective on social issues leaned toward the liberal side, but I still believed in the fiscal conservatism of the Republican party.  I was a moderate Republican…someone in the vein of (don’t laugh) Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colin Powell, or John Huntsman, Jr.

After watching the RNC (and really the whole primary process), I’m not sure if a moderate Republican exists anymore.  The Republican party is one that has cast off science (yes…climate change is real), cast off reason (just watch the logical contortions any Republican politician goes through when they talk about gun control or immigration), and cast off any sense of sanity (Donald freakin’ Trump).  What happened to this party?  How did it transform from the party of Reagan to the party of Trump (and Cruz…he’s as much at fault as anyone).  Based on the RNC, it’s now the party of anger, fear, and hate.  It no longer provides solutions…just obstructions.

And it’s so sad to see this transformation because I can’t fully support the Democratic platform.  I agree on many of the social issues (LGTBQ rights, pro-choice, etc.) but I still can’t fully buy into all of the measures they’re proposing on government programs.  It’s a highly progressive platform…that’s hard for me to accept because all that I’m wondering is how they’re going to pay for all of this.

Yet the Democrats haven’t rejected science, reason, or sanity.  In this current political environment, they’re the only party that’s actually presenting a clear vision for the future of the country.  I don’t necessarily agree with it…but it’s better than the vitriol of the Republicans.

Is that what our choices have come down to?  “Something” v. “an angry orange goblin”

If there’s anything that this primary season has proven, it’s that our current two-party system is broken.  We live in a fractured America that have very distinct needs and wants.  Shouldn’t we have a political system that services those individual needs, but also strives to build coalitions when those needs align?  We have forgotten that politics and governing is about compromise and we are creating an unnecessary binary choice.

Is it time for a real third party?  One that’s practical and pragmatic…and above the name calling and extremism present in our current parties. Is it time to vote Libertarian?

Haha…of course not.  I wouldn’t waste my vote on them.

I’m voting Democratic this year because the Republican party has left me behind.  More than that, they’ve left reality behind.

At least I’m still holding onto my core ideals of voting for rich and white.




The Neverending Story…

In Comics on June 16, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts

As a lifelong comic book fan, I’m still a little bit in shock at how popular the comic book “genre” has become in film and television.  After years of horrible adaptations (I’m looking at you Punisher), we’re in the “Golden Age” of comic book movies.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced nearly 20 movies to date.  And DC is trying their hardest to replicate that success with their own universe.  The Netflix universe is growing strong (and actually has the stronger offerings) and the CW DC universe continues to expand.

But after watching Captain America: Civil War, I have to wonder if this is ever going to end.  Non-spoiler spoiler alert: Civil War was an enjoyable and entertaining movie…but it literally didn’t have an ending.  One common trait within the MCU is the lack of any closure in movies.  Every movie is a lead-in to the next…a small piece of the grander puzzle that they’re trying to build.  The post-credits scenes present in all of the movies are the literal manifestation of this concept as the end of the movie is never truly the end of the movie.  While Marvel filmmakers should be applauded for their ability to plan and build a whole new universe…I wonder if this is a universe we want to be engaged with 10 or 20 years from now.  While this is only a rumor, the projected MCU slate will run to at least 2023.  That’s another seven years of Marvel movies…another seven years of the same characters…another seven years of the same basic movie formulas…another seven years of the same styles and themes.

Is this what we really want?

Comics books, by their nature, are neverending stories.  Much like professional wrestling, the hero’s journey is never complete.  Each completed quest leads into another challenge…another villain to vanquish…another damsel (gender neutral) to rescue.  Does this type of narrative structure work for movies though?  I enter a movie expecting a beginning, middle, and end.  The purpose is to entertain and to stimulate my senses for the 1.5 to 2 hours I’m sitting in the theater.  A movie isn’t supposed to be a trailer for the next movie.  (Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice was horrible in this regard…it really didn’t even try to hide the fact that its sole purpose was to set up the DC Cinematic Universe.)

Maybe I’m just getting too old to appreciate “open stories” – I need some closure.  My comic book habits have trended towards self-contained stories…stories that ultimately have a stronger viewpoint, message, themes, style, etc…because the writer knows that he won’t be able to expand on his points the next month.  An “end” focuses you as a writer…it makes you cut out the fat of your stories and  emphasize the aspects you want to leave behind in the reader’s mind.

As long as the Marvel movies continue to be blockbusters at the box office, Marvel will continue churning out these movies.  While it does seem like they’ve mined a good chunk of their intellectual property, in reality they’ve only scratched the surface of the 80 years of comic book ideas they’ve created.  We could be watching Marvel movies until the concept and technology of movies become obsolete.  I’m not saying that Marvel movies will cause the end of the movie industry…but they’re probably going to be the only movies left standing at the end.

But I’ll be there…standing in line with you…for Avengers 10: The Korvac Saga (featuring Cap-Wolf!).



Healthcare Technology – A complete cluster….

In Politics on June 13, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts Tagged:

…I’ll let you all finish that tagline.

Given all of the medical advances that are available within the US healthcare system (at least to those that can afford it), I’m sure you may be wondering why I would have a title like that for this blog post.  But if you’ve ever wondered why it takes so long for your medical claims to be processed, why it’s so confusing to read the “bill” (either the the Explanation of Benefits from your insurance plan or the actual invoice you receive from your doctor), why checking the status of claims or finding a doctor is so difficult to do online…then this post may be for you.

[If not, feel free to check out The Ringer – the new site from the folks that brought you Grantland.]

One of the core tenets within our current technological revolution is the ability to access and transfer our information easily.  With the rise of technologies specifically made to make connections between information systems and applications easier (e.g., APIs), we almost take for granted the ability to switch between applications and see all of our information populated.

Yet in healthcare, we see insurance plans and healthcare providers working with archaic administrative systems that are designed to specifically prevent the transfer of information to another system.  While the US government is pushing for greater interoperability (e.g., the ability for systems to connect and transfer information), the current state is one where your medical records, your medical claims, and your personal health information are all locked into one system or another.  For the longest time, I just assumed that this was how things were always going to be.  In a “free market”, you have competing systems doing everything they can to lock in customers.  And one of the most successful ways to do that…is to prevent other systems from accessing your information and preventing your customers from being able to switch to a competitor.  It makes sense from a capitalistic, market-driven perspective…yet I ask once again, is that the system that we want for our health?

Upon reading  The Healing of AmericaI learned that in France and other European countries, all of their medical records (e.g., procedures, claims, etc.) are kept on the security chip that you see on most credit cards these days.  While this chip technology is “new” in America, it’s decades old in Europe…and they’ve taken advantage of it in more ways than just security.  By creating a common system to store and process medical data, they’ve been able to lower the administrative costs associated with healthcare (to the tune of around 5% for insurance plans…vs. the 20% that you typically see in American insurance plans).  Why can’t something like this exist in America?

Sadly…it’s capitalism.  As much as I am a believer in the free market system, I have to question whether or not it should be applied to healthcare.  From a purely technology standpoint, I know many will make the argument that innovation and progress can only be made through the free market system.  But a free market system inherently creates winners and losers…and do we really want losers when it comes to our health?

The healthcare industry (and in particular the healthcare technology industry) truly is the Wild Wild West.  While a few standards do exist, we honestly haven’t seen a more forceful push by the US government to shape the industry into something that will ultimately benefit healthcare consumers.  Obviously, it’s a product of the US government lacking the vision (or at least the consensus vision) of what it wants out of healthcare.  But the longer that we drag our feet as a nation when it comes to answering the question of “what do we want out of healthcare?”, the more entrenched we become in the cluster”what?” that is our current healthcare environment.


[Update: here’s an article on the current state of interoperability.]


Is Healthcare a Privilege or a Right?

In Politics on May 20, 2016 by thebetweenthoughts

[Note: This may be the beginning of a series of tirades against our current healthcare system…or it may not – you know how I am about blogging consistently.  I hope you’re as excited as I am about what the outcome may be.]

After years of health care reform being the top priority for both Democrats and Republicans, it’s sad that we still haven’t addressed the fundamental question of healthcare in America – is healthcare a privilege or a right?

Where you stand on that question will lead you towards the various infrastructure, regulatory, and market decisions that create a healthcare system.  For every other developed nation in the world, the answer is “right”.  The citizens of a nation are entitled to free access to healthcare at some level.  No person goes bankrupt because of their medical bills.  No person stays away from care because they can’t afford it.  No person dies because of their inability to pay for a treatment.

America, on the other hand, has chosen a different answer to that question.  We have chosen the path that seeks to profit on our health (or lack thereof).  We have chosen as a nation to allow money to dictate what level of care we receive.  And because of that, we’ve created a system that is costly and a country that lags behind others in actual health.  Our decision to let “the market” and profit drive our healthcare has led us to having one of the worst healthcare systems of all developed nations.  How is it possible that we spend so much, yet receive so little care?

[For anyone that wants to learn more about the other healthcare systems in the world, I’d recommend reading: The Healing of America, by T. R. Reid.  It’s a fascinating book that will leave you frustrated and angry about our current healthcare system…exactly how I like feeling.]

I don’t know what the solution is – it isn’t something as simple as a single payer system or the elimination of medical expense waste.  It’s more about how we think about healthcare and what we, as a nation, want out of our healthcare system.  Do we want to create a stratified world where some people aren’t able to receive care?  Do we want to encourage people to be healthy or do we value our individual freedoms so much that we would risk the health of all?  In a previous article, I made the case that it really was on us to learn more about our health and how healthcare works.  I still believe that to be the case, but now what we need to answer is if we care about the health of those around us?  Do we believe that our neighbor deserves to receive the same level of care as us?

It’s amazing that Republicans are still rallying against the Affordable Care Act, yet have no alternative to the reforms that have been in place for the last few years.  Healthcare shouldn’t be a political issue…it should be a moral one.

Every other developed country has based their healthcare system on the moral choice to make healthcare available for all of its citizens.  Are we prepared to make the same moral choice or are we destined to stand alone?




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