The National Debt Is Higher Than You Think


Thank you, Donald Trump.

Wait! Don’t go yet, dear reader. Hear me out.

I’m grateful Trump became President. Thanks to his blatant prejudice, raging narcissism and wanton disregard for human decency, he has successfully flushed out the insidious, bubbling septic sludge of systemic racism to a level that even white society can’t cover up with a patch of sod and a pretty pot of begonias. So, grab your gloves, rubber boots and shovel. We’re gonna dig in to a stinky little spot right over here…

In 2018, Amendment Four was put on the Florida ballot that, if passed, would restore voting rights to felons who had served their terms. And it passed. I voted for this amendment and was encouraged to see this victory. The amendment went into effect January 8, 2019 but just a few months later Governor DeSantis signed a bill in to law requiring felons to pay all fines and legal fees associated with their sentencing before their voting rights would be restored.


A democratic government is not pay-to-play. Voting is a constitutional right. But what really stood out about the amendment’s overthrow was the knowledge that a majority of convicted felons are people of color. Restoring the voting rights of nearly 1.4 million citizens could certainly be enough to swing the state of Florida in future elections. It doesn’t take a genius to see this was a blatant squashing of black citizens’ civil rights.
Now, watching the heartbreaking videos and emotional protests of the past week has left me with a strange mix of anguish, guilt, sadness and, yes, hope. There will be sweeping reform in the coming months and years, I have no doubt. And while it will be a good start, it will take diligence and persistence to engrain these changes into the system permanently. As quickly as laws can be amended for good, they can be easily overturned when we’re not looking.

That’s partly how racism became embedded in our culture. Much of this standard of injustice stems from the broken promise of forty acres that every freed slave was to receive from the government. This was what a small group of African-American leaders and ministers, a mix of free men and former slaves, requested as restitutions for their people; not as a handout, but as a means to create their own wealth and build a prosperous community.


Incredibly, the wheels of this movement were set in motion and quickly passed. Lincoln approved the redistribution of a swath of nearly 400,000 acres from South Carolina to Florida for the settlement of freed slaves. But less than a year later the order was overturned by Southern sympathizer and Presidential successor Andrew Johnson. The land was confiscated from freed blacks and handed over to former white owners. And discussion of reparations all but ceased in white society.

Unpaid reparations is white society’s debt to black society. Many will argue, “It wasn’t my fault so why should I have to pay?” Generations of black Americans have suffered unspeakable oppression from a government constructed by and for white society. The debt of this injustice is white society’s inheritance. I am white and I am American. It doesn’t matter where my family came from, who my ancestors were, what my political biases are — my country was built on the foundation of slavery and oppression and thus it is my history. One cannot revel in the light of freedom and national pride and at the same time reject the shadows of this country’s inhumanity. It is my responsibility to pursue the equalization of justice and the compensation of debt.


So where do we start?

Reparations paid as a simple cash-out to descendants of slaves would be an unacceptable and grossly inappropriate apology for the damages done. Instead, we must look at how to eliminate the current social and financial imbalances. Slavery built the foundation of America’s wealth and every generation has had to bear injustice that directly contributes to white prosperity. Perhaps we should start reparations with a simple national tax exemption for black citizens for, let’s say, the next four hundred years? That money would enrich individuals and families and go right back to the communities they live in.
Too many are locked up in prisons for inflated, paltry offenses. As an example, pot possession and/or distribution should be grounds for immediate release and expungement of criminal records. Now that more states are legalizing pot it is absurd to keep those locked up for a crime that is becoming legal and shamefully profitable for white people.

Generous federal grants (not loans) should be allocated for black-owned businesses and education. Funding black communities through facilities such as public schools and parks, recreational centers, and museums will offer opportunities for growth and alleviate crime and poverty. Life enrichment through cultural education, art, sports, community events, and paid internships will translate to real-life work experience.
And where will this funding come from? Money currently spent on militarizing police is a good place to start. That’s just a small step on a long road ahead. There are many other ideas and proposals that should be implemented but this redistribution of funds could provide an immediate, beneficial change in the communities that have suffered so much loss.

In the meantime, check in on your black friends and colleagues. Support black-owned businesses. Get involved with civil rights organizations. Donate. Black Lives Matter is not a campaign bandwagon to hop on for social media optics. Those of us who have benefitted from white privilege need to engage in fundamental solutions and apply the pressure on our elected officials until a change is implemented. It’s an election year. Let’s jump-start this movement by voting in candidates who listen and holding accountable those who seek to overturn majority votes for their own interest.

And in case you were wondering about the governor’s “pay-to-play” bill? In May, Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the bill unconstitutional. Hell yeah. DeSantis and the Republican party will most likely appeal but the world has changed dramatically in a few short days. I wager there’ll be a lot more resistance now than they remember.

To all black lives: you not only matter, you are invaluable. I see you. I love you.


By: Erica Ruhe




Writer’s know all about comfort zones…we live to destroy them. We chop up our protagonists’ lives and scatter their pitiful feelings to the wind just to sweep up the pieces and solder them back together into hell-fired heroes and heroines. It’s a very messy, emotional process, and yet, it has a simple equation:

Character – Something Valuable = Fear

Fear = Conflict

Conflict = A Helluva Good Story

In today’s ego-based economy, where what we possess determines our worth on the class scale, people break into a cold sweat at the possibility that ‘Something Valuable’ might be taken away from them and diminish their social status. Especially, if that ‘Something’ is fleeting and intangible, like their comfort zones. Americans have seen a lot of change over the past sixty years. The abolition of racial segregation; equal rights for women and minorities; the legalization of same-sex marriage. All of these movements have brought about great strides to empower the oppressed. It’s hard to imagine that some view these victories as defeats. After all, when power is given to one person, it must have been taken from someone else, right?

Imagine Bobo has two bananas and Lulu has one. Bobo has the most banana power. So when Kiki comes in, holds up the newly passed Equal Rights Amendment and gives Lulu a banana raise, there’s much rejoicing. Now we’re all equal! However, despite losing nothing, Bobo feels less powerful, even threatened, because Lulu has ‘moved up to his level.’ His financial situation now improved, Lulu has inadvertently affected Bobo’s comfort zone. This might cause Bobo distress, even anger him. Lulu now becomes the unwitting target of Bobo’s misguided fear, leading to a display chest-pounding and poo-throwing. Great friction for fiction. Bad for Human Resources.

So what is this ‘Something Valuable’ that has the country at odds right now? For a self-riotous few, it is as narrow-sighted as their outdated beliefs and comfort zones of intolerance. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend are a painfully accurate example. Ultra-conservatives are exhibiting the same messy, emotional symptoms of a character in conflict:

Entitled Americans (Alt-Right) – Freedoms & Rights (Power) = Displaced Fear (Discrimination)

So how do we tame the volatile stray that’s barking inside these terrified Alt-Right ideologists? How do we get them to understand the unshakable truth that nothing is being taken away from them? Their precious freedoms are as intact as they’ve ever been. The only difference is, back in the ‘good old days’ they could unethically enthrone themselves on top of the social hierarchy without raising eyebrows. It’s 2017. Now people are raising their eyebrows, their voices and their protest signs and ultra-conservatives don’t know how to handle the pushback.

The Alt-Right’s refusal to acknowledge these changes is what’s led to their own paranoid schizophrenia. Building a pillow fort with Confederate flags in their living room while chanting ‘blood and soil’ does not change the fact that the South lost the Civil War. No doubt we still have a long road ahead, but most Americans have come far enough to declare that people are not property or punching-bags or ladder rungs. The Alt-Right have padded their egos using this superiority complex to punch and fluff the minority ‘cushions’ under their derrieres. But now they are the ones under the sharp focus of (gasp) discrimination. Discrimination against inequality and violent rhetoric.

This bad behavior is being strung up as an intolerable example on social media. And the Alt-Right is feeling the acute discomfort of that mass public rejection. Evolution hard-wired humans to ‘think like the flock’. If you didn’t, you died. That’s led to rationalizations like, ‘slavery is acceptable’; ‘sexism is scientifically proven’; ‘desecration of your neighbor’s faith is honorable.’ This brain-washing machine was, unfortunately, left on the spin cycle for most of humankind’s development. And, it seems, our current POTUS’ development as well. But that’s a rant for another day.

Although intolerance is still gnashing its teeth, the ugly beast is slowly backing itself into a dead end alley. People are talking. People are coming together – just sometimes with too much force. In dealing with every aspect of this divide, the lives sacrificed are unnecessary. It is a loss felt deeper because of the senseless violence. But I hope the country will remain optimistic. The fiery conflicts we see on our television screens at night are proof that we’re squeezing in on the Alt-Right’s comfort zone.

There will be more heated exchanges, more blood, more tears, and this is why the pending years of America’s next big ‘growth spurt’ are going to take all the patience and compassion we can muster. We must continue to lead by example and breathe through those dark, infuriating moments to come; to look to the core of the problem before we become a part of it too. Because the biggest challenge is not the danger of taming a cornered, belligerent mongrel – it’s convincing the damn thing to turn around and see that there were never any walls to begin with.

By: Erica Ruhe

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