A Millennial Couple’s Journey From Saint Paul to New York City: Part Three – Morgantown, Mountains, and Entrance to the East Coast

by Troy M. Olson

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Our view entering Manhattan last August.

Morgantown, WV — Jacki and I began the last leg of our journey driving over the Appalachians on what was turning out to be a longer drive than we had planned. We thought we could get to New York City with all of our possessions in three days. However, since we had the Penske truck for five and a very angry cat, we took the more scenic route. We took our time. No regrets at all. Because traveling further south than we needed to allowed us to see family the night before officially arriving.

D.C. Suburbs — I got see my East Coast relatives on the night of August 1st, which was badly needed. Outside of coming back to Minnesota for funerals, seeing the Jones family of Maryland has been the only time this past year I’ve seen family. While I had experienced this lack of familiar connection before during my year long deployment earlier this decade, this time it affected me more because it was self-imposed and I was always just a plane ride away from the Midwest. As Jacki and I get more and more established out here, this is definitely something we will rectify.

The next day was going to be a long one, and Harrison Potter needed some exercise. He met his nearly identical tuxedo twin in McNugget. Several mosquito bites, even more kitty hair loss, and a night spent breaking things and we were ready to get to our new home.

East Coast and Our New Home — New York City, Borough of Manhattan, Harlem.

By midday on August 2nd of last year, nearly a year to the date where Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop (oops…wrong story), we arrived at our new home in the Heart of Harlem and began the arduous process of unloading the Penske truck. I saw the road ahead and it was not pretty. I immediately called the only human being I knew at the time in New York City, my lifelong friend and co-writer of various screenplays, famous pre-mudgeon and Brooklyn film industry alum Zach Kangas. One year later, I’m happy to report I know hundreds of fellow New Yorkers now, to varying degrees. However, only Zach would help me unload a Penske truck.

Jacki and I arrived in New York last year without guaranteed jobs, very little to our names, too many books to count (let alone, fit in our apartment), and about seven craft beers. Objectively speaking, moving here was insane. One year later though, I know now more than ever that it was the right move.

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What We’ve Learned So Far…  Jacki and I are now employed and more or less have been since the start. In fact, we work every single day in some capacity. Her in finance, and me in real estate. We could not have got here without the love and support of our extended families.

It is not lost on me that many would correctly point out, that we are gentrifiers in our new neighborhood. We are. It is a fact I’m very aware of each and every day. In a city as diverse and concentrated as New York, you end up seeing just about everything you can imagine. It’s easy to disappear into it. Looking back on a journey that took my wife and I from growing up in towns of under 10,000 to the second largest city on Earth (Tokyo, Japan is the largest), I cannot help but feel more connected to our common humanity than I’ve ever felt. Whether it is thinking back to then or looking at now and where we want to go.

Jacki and I have experienced nothing but a very welcoming and positive attitude. The old adage that New Yorkers are aggressive and mean is not necessarily true. I would argue New Yorkers are direct and to the point. While I always retain a good amount of my midwestern passive aggressive, in fact, a good amount of my satirical nature depends on it, the direct and “I’m outta time” nature of this city suits me at this stage in my life.

The one time either of us (Jacki) did face something unpleasant, it led to my favorite sentiment of all this past winter. Jacki was riding the subway when an older (white) woman yelled at her for being new to the neighborhood, for being a gentrifier. Irony being completely lost on this woman, she continued to single out Jacki until eventually, a black man stood up and said: “Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood.” This sentiment is undeniably America on its best days. It should be true for all communities and neighborhoods. Yes communities and neighborhoods. Don’t be fooled by the skyscrapers. Every American city is a series of communities where people find belonging and commonality each and every day, a series of neighborhoods both famous and unknown, new and old, and a series of streets named after Presidents, civil rights leaders, or just made up to be a numbered grid so tourists can’t get lost.

“Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood” is the country that I believe in. I hope it’s the one that you believe in too.

The Coast to Coast Podcast #39: RNC GO

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After another multiple week hiatus, Bill and Jered return with special guest Justin Norris to discuss the Pokemon Go craze and the Trumpsanity of the recent Republican National Convention.

Will the Jered and Bill be able to catch them all? Can Justin’s wisdom save us from the Trumpocalypse? And most importantly, where is Pat? Tune in to this week’s episode to find out! You can also direct download it here.

Cultural Conservatism and the Politics of Rage

 

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During a recent episode of FiveThirtyEight’s “Elections” podcast, Harry Enten mentioned a phrase I haven’t thought of for a while that I thought warranted a second look. Enten’s been a vocal critic of not only Trump, but the wave of “cultural conservatism” behind his campaign’s success. He suggested that the core fissure within the Republican Party of 2016 exists between “Trumpian” cultural conservatives and social conservatives like Ted Cruz—which led me to wonder What is cultural conservatism and are we in its moment?

 

Social Conservatism

It’s probably best to start with an idea most politically engaged people are familiar with: social conservatism. This ideology within the American conservative impulse bases its worldview and governing philosophy upon traditional religious morality, especially in regards to gender relations, reproductive rights, sexual behavior, and marriage. While they use the rhetoric of “small government,” social conservatives also tend to support policies that enforce and protect their moral beliefs while prohibiting activities seen as immoral. Their candidates will usually emphasize their religious affiliation and run in support of “family values.”

It’s important to remember that social conservatives are not always economic conservatives—in fact, it is often an economically ambivalent ideology. Nor are they always Christians or white—they are often Muslim, Catholic, or Jewish, and they are present within every ethnic or racial community in the United States. One reason I believe Bernie Sanders failed so miserably during the Democratic primary campaign in the South is because he did not grasp the power of social conservatism within the African-American communities of the region.

Which leads to a final point: social conservatives aren’t necessarily Republicans. It’s probably more effective to understand social conservatism as moral code rather than a political ideology. As such, it reflects the vast diversity of “traditional” moral thinking within the United States, and those who seek to bring about social change succeed when they account for this heterogeneity. LGBT rights and same-sex marriage made significant advances when they appealed to the immorality of oppressing their community and emphasized their desire to enter into the institution of marriage. Simply put, social conservatism is a moral code with inclusionary aspirations. It seeks to not only protect, but expand its moral code. It is an ideology that believes in change, despite its fear of revolutionary action.

 

Cultural Conservatism

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“Minorities Welcome! Only ‘good ones’ need apply!”

Cultural conservatism, on the other hand, is an inherently exclusionary ideology that believes in the supremacy of value systems and political practices based upon nationalist identity. While cultural conservatives don’t necessarily need to be religious, its Trumpian form is founded upon a belief that the United States has traditionally and should always be governed by Euro-American Christian nationalism. Even among supporters who don’t regularly attend church, their worldview is widely influenced by a racial and religious sense of nationalism. American cultural conservatives aren’t necessarily social or economic conservatives—they believe in nation about all else. Citizens are free to ascribe to any ethical or religious code, as long as it doesn’t threaten the integrity and security of the nation. They also believe that cultural outsiders can be brought into the nation, but only if they assimilate fully into the dominant culture—as opposed to diluting it through multiculturalism.

It’s also tempting to paint all cultural conservatives and Trump supporters as racists; however, it is more accurate to understand them as xenophobic above all else. American cultural conservatives view alien “others” as threats to themselves, their interests, and their county. Threatened as they imagine they are, cultural conservatives seek to bring order to chaos through social order, national integrity, law and order, and economic protectionism. Their ideal world is one divided by clear borders, with nations free to protect their physical and economic interests. In their minds, liberalism and globalism has destroyed order and left poor and middle people vulnerable to exploitation. Finally, American cultural conservatives also support social welfare programs, but only for “members” and “good outsiders” (members receiving clear priority).

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Is this a Cultural Conservative Moment?

Of course it is. Whereas political conflict in since the 1960s has been between liberals and conservatives, I believe that we are entering a period of pluralism versus cultural conservatism. This should come as no surprise. While Republican leaders have, from time to time, continue to roll back the policies of a bygone battle—repealing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicade, or defunding higher education—its non-elite rank-and-file have been motivated by cultural and nationalistic concerns for at least twenty years. In the past, many of these populists put their faith in party, church, and class affiliations, but today they feel as if these institutions have failed or even betrayed them. The “imagined community” of nationalism is all that remains, and they’ve put all their hopes in the dream that is a strong American nation led by the most talented spinner of nationalistic fantasy—Donald Trump.

The prevalence of cultural conservatism within the currently Republican Party manifests itself not only in its nationalistic rhetoric, but in its firm rejection of traditional social conservatism. The RNC’s vocal rejection of Ted Cruz, paragon of the Old Order, was striking. So was its response to Donald Trump’s pro-“LGBT . . . Q” line. As striking as these were, we should be careful not to believe that the Republican Party is moving into a new era of social progressivism and cultural pluralism. For all the talk about sexual justice, legal justice, economic prosperity, equal pay, and maternity leave, Trump and his surrogates were plucking a dangerous and reactionary chord.

The cultural conservatives currently run the Republican Party. They value nothing more than Euro-American Christian nationalism. They offer acceptance, economic support, sexual liberation, and justice to only those who support their definition of the American nation. Anyone who does not conform is perceived as a dangerous outsider who should be excluded from membership in the national community. Trump didn’t create this moment, nor will it end in November. The history of the United States is a history of justice versus oppression. Our history is also one of alternating nationalistic, pluralistic, liberal, and illiberal impulses. In 2016, the Republican Party has embraced the cultural conservatism and all of its white supremacist and nationalistic baggage.

Come November 8th, the people of the United States will elect one of two candidates, and neither will be named Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Anyone who votes for Trump or aids him in his potential victory will be abetting the same cultural conservative impulse that gave us Jim Crow, mass lynchings, Chinese massacres, and Know-Nothingism. That’s the kind of moment we’re in.

Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past

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Lost in the madness of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week is that Agreeing Loudly snuck two reporters, Carson Starkey and Troy Olson, through the picket line to give our readers this inside scoop on what things are like on the floor. Here is a snapshot of their interactions throughout the week. 

Carson

It’s a good thing our veteraniness got us through security. All we had to do was show them our DOD credentials, I’m wearing this beard, and like that we’re in. Good call on getting the haircut just prior though. Our fake Heritage Foundation cards also came in handy. Props to our interns for those.

Troy

Right. You’ll have to send my regards to Bruce Wayne for loaning me this hair gel. Combined with this suit I’m sporting and my premature 45 year old-ness, we got through no problem.

Carson

Lost in all this madness is that the election will be relatively close still.

Troy

Agreed. Will there be coattails? A backlash against Trump? A wave seems unlikely.

Carson

It does. Ted Cruz didn’t exactly change the game last night. In a society where nobody is persuadable, Hillary will still have to campaign mistake-free. I predict no coattails. Not if Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has anything to say about it.

Troy

And what can we say about Sen. Tom Cotton from earlier in the week? Early 2020 names for him: do you prefer Senator Horseface or Cotton Gin?

Carson

Cotton Gin. Too perfect and appropriate.

Troy

Agreed. Senator Horseface is too mean. It’s merely a gift his last name is actually Cotton. It could have been the nickname anyway….God knows Eli Whitney’s invention condemned black people in this country to decades more of slavery.

Carson

True.

Troy

I won’t lay that at Whitney’s feet though, white people could have used that invention to create factory precession in plants and taken the path of the other great American labor tradition (the northern one), where technology replaces blue collar manual labor jobs.

Carson

The American pursuit of Free Labor goes ever on. Different problems, same outcome.

Troy

Our ability to sleuth at this convention reminds me… has anyone ever assumed you were a Republican?

Carson

Absolutely. All across the South. In a great many conversations. Those were hilarious moments.

Troy

I can see that. I had the opposite experience recently. The two or three liberals in Mississippi somehow found me and engaged me in conversation. (the music overhead stops) Uh oh… looks like they’re running out of Ted Nugent songs to play at this convention.

Carson

No other popular music options. It’s either Nugent or Toby Keith.

Troy

That’s a short list.

Carson

Well Pat Boone is too old to perform live these days.

Troy

That’s too bad, his Kayne West cover would have been great to see, although it likely wouldn’t have worked too well. It’s not 1953 anymore.

Carson

Yeah, the public might not tolerate that as well as they did in the early days of rock n’ roll. Demographics have changed, or so I thought prior to being here.

Troy

It could be 1953 if you redressed this stage and arena. I wouldn’t know.

Carson

Neither would the attendees. They still aren’t aware. (Carson shows Troy a Ron Burgundy meme of “We are laughing” and they both have a self satisfied, smug liberal chuckle).

Troy

So apparently the Back to the Future screenwriter admitted what we knew already, Biff Tannen is based off of Donald Trump.

Carson

Obviously.

Troy

You can especially tell with the second movie, the alternate 1985 timeline.

Carson

And the outcomes wouldn’t be all that off-base.

Troy

Which brings me to our Super Tuesday coverage where we used the Doc Brown “screwed into this tangent” / alternate 2016 Presidential Election bit. Can we just take a minute her and pat ourselves…or rather our pointy heads in peak self satisfaction for calling this entire election cycle?

Carson

I know right? At a time when the standard outcome playbook is in tatters too. We did exercise some solid foresight.

Troy

It’s especially amazing because surrounded by us being right are “professionally wrong” buffoon writing articles about how crazy and unpredictable this election has been.

Carson

We just keep building a trail of evidence for deserving that ad revenue investment. Or switching teams and working for Heritage. I’m not sure.

Troy

The ruthless pursuit of the truth goes on.

Carson

It’s like early Woodward and Bernstein.

Troy

Which is what we build toward when all hell breaks loose in 2018 to 2020. Starkey and Olson breaking the story. Our source–Sore Throat, we refuse to give up.

Carson

I like it. Good throwback/homage reference.

Troy

Of course Sore Throat will be the thousands of Fox News viewers shrieking hysterical rage at Benghazi.

Carson

That’s why their voices are sore. It’s understandable. They can’t NOT watch cable news. They might miss vital updates.

Troy

Still…I feel like we owe it to ourselves to go check out the Heritage Foundation table to see if they have any openings.

Carson

Agreed. It’s not like we’re missing anything.

***Carson and Troy walk off into a corner of the crowded Cleveland, OH arena, will they ever be seen or heard from again? Find out next time on another Conservations from the Ghost of America’s Future Past***

What you just read may scare you, I know it scares me.

However, there is still something we can collectively do about it.

We can change the future…. if we try.

Sen. Tom Cotton “Gin” Focuses Attention on the Next War at GOP Convention

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Taking the stage Monday night, Sen. Tom Cotton “Gin” of Arkansas, argued forcefully to prepare the nation for War with Iran, as well as War against a roving band of sixth graders that have been terrorizing Front Street all summer.

Desperate to continue justifying the nations bloated “defense” budget, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), the GOP’s “rising star” took to the stage Monday night to briefly talk about why the nation should elect Donald Trump as its next President. After giving passing mention to why his years of experience as a reality T.V. star qualifies him to be commander in chief, Cotton, an Army veteran himself, argued passionately for re-arming the nation for the next fight: the War in Iran. However, he did not stop there.

Concerned that the Iran War will not equal the potency and excess in the defense budget that the nearly fifteen year long two-front Afghanistan-Iraq Wars have brought, he also highlighted a second enemy: the roving band of sixth graders on their bikes who have been loitering all summer around Front Street.

The mastery of the elementary school years by the numerous 11 and 12 year olds around the community has given newfound confidence and outright arrogance, to the incredible dismay of curmudgeons and pre-mudgeons everywhere. “I just wanted to enjoy my summer, yet here come these kids on their bikes and 32 ounce sodas rotting their teeth, and they just sit on those bikes, and I don’t what they’re up to…”, says Brian Kilmeke, an enthusiastic Cotton supporter who is already backing his 2020 Presidential bid just in case Trump is unable to make America great again…

“When I was that age you didn’t see us disrespecting elders like that, and acting all entitled, I seriously worry about kids these days”, Kilmeke added.

Sen. Cotton promised that not only would the defense coffers continue, but increasing the budget to meet the growing threat of “Icy Mountain Dew” gangs on Front Street across American cities and towns would a top goal of his administration…. I mean after Trump loses and all. In explaining his choice for the next abstract, impenetrable threat to America, Cotton offered these words: “I needed to create an enemy that is not only present everywhere, but also equally disliked John and Jane and union Joe too. Unless it is your kid on one of those bikes, those 12 year olds and their multi-colored freezies fit the bill. We’ll probably go after those who prefer purple, blue, and red first. Those are the best flavors. I can tell those are the leaders.”

Add this to throwing away the Iran Deal, starting a War with Iran, and ensuring a third and fourth round of tax cuts for billionaires, we can be assured that things are just getting started.

Benefit of the Doubt

Two things. One, I have long promised the third part of a three-part journey of my wife and I moving to New York City. Two, given the events of the past 48 hours, I just cannot bring myself to write that article yet.

There are no words that I can say that are adequate for how I and so many other people feel right now. My feelings are inadequate in comparison to the despair and pain of so many right now. I can only write from my personal experiences and hope to on some level, gain a level of perspective and empathy for the experiences of others. Walk a mile in someone else’s skin Atticus Finch said. But like the long awaited sequel to the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” published earlier this past year, this statement is limiting.

I don’t know what it is like to be a Black American. I cannot even claim to relate to anyone’s pain or experiences. If it were not for my experiences serving in the military, I am the epitome of entitlement in this country absent having the last name of Kennedy, Bush, Rockefeller or Clinton. Those experiences also give me another status. The status of being a veteran. One of the few remaining statuses, jobs, professions still with net-positive approval ratings in the United States of America right now. One of the others in recent polling was that of a police officer, who we often give the benefit of the doubt.

This is not meant to disparage the law enforcement profession, I’m not writing this piece to comment on the specific facts of the case. Countless violence has taken hold of our nation once again. I write now for the third time about violence in this country on this website. Instead of talking about guns I’m going to talk about people.

While I want so much to hide behind the satire that often characterizes Agreeing Loudly, I cannot bring myself to do so. I’ll get to the point directly.

There is something wrong when a country that comprises of the highest GDP on the planet and half of the so-called most elite universities cannot solve issues or improve outcomes that are clear as day.

There is something wrong when statistics show that law enforcement in America are trained eight times more on firearms than they are on deescalation of violence.

There is something wrong when policing outcomes provide racial disparities that fly in the face of basic sense and logic.

As much as I’d like to try and find silver linings, it’s become increasingly difficult the last few days. I’ll get there, but you’ll have to bear with me.

If you read my biography on this website, or elsewhere, I appear as the model student. When I was teenager, however, I was a truant and rebellious. I was an extremely bored kid in middle America who was not being challenged or engaged. I had a blade pulled on me when I was 18 years old by a neighbor for no apparent reason other than I was a young kid (another bias of this country, assuming members of a certain age must be up to no good) hanging out in the neighborhood that I resided in at the time. AL’s own Pat Meacham can verify this story. My neighbor pulled out a blade on me for “his protection.” I was unarmed and completely freaked out. Luckily, the situation resolved itself.

Not long after that, I was driving to vote in my hometown district in the 2004 Presidential Election when a seemingly deranged Vikings fan, perhaps upset of their loss earlier that day, pulled over his car, assaulted me, and took my keys. His alibi was that I was tail-gating him. Perhaps I was. That’s not the point.

The point is that when I think of those two instances where individuals who weighed more than me, were older than me, were in positions of power over me–I wonder if I’d even be alive today if I did not have white skin. Perhaps others would disagree, but I do not think I would be. More to the point, if I had black skin I’d likely be dead.

I was not perfect at this age, but in each of these instances I meant no harm. For the aggressive individual, I was wishing and hoping for them to give me that benefit of the doubt while I was just living my life at the time. It’s the same benefit I hope for if I happened to be driving with a broken taillight.

And that’s the kicker. The benefit of the doubt.

This country as it currently stands, does not give Black Americans the benefit of the doubt. We give law enforcement that benefit. Many even gave vigilante cop school drop-out George Zimmerman that benefit. Some have even gave Cliven Bundy and his band of federal-land holding “patriots” the benefit of the doubt. We rarely give Black Americans the benefit of the doubt though. And this is the ultimate privilege. Getting the benefit of the doubt.

It is a privilege that allows you to live and breathe and work each day, without having to think about the overall statistical unlikelihood that you will be unnecessarily killed. It is a privilege of human safety and comfort that is essential in modern society.

This country is not asking Black Americans to respect and follow the “rule of law” or whatever passes as the rule of law these days. We are asking Black Americans to be perfect, while nearly everyone else gets to have the benefit of the doubt.

Philando Castile did not get the benefit of the doubt. Others have not. Until this fundamental truth is addressed, these tragic events and their tragic aftermath, whether tangentially related or not, will continue in this country.

The Coast to Coast Podcast #38: Brought to you by McDonald’s

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On this week’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast, Troy joins us yet again as the Agreeing Loudly Board of Directors decide to extend Bill’s suspension for another week due to continued insubordination.

Troy celebrates his return with another exciting discussion on the definition of Generation Y and Millennials, Jered attempts to overcome the perils of rural wifi and lead a final discussion on the latest season of Game of Thrones, and Pat wonders whether Bill Clinton is losing his political edge. And of course, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign makes more mistakes.
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***We are not, have not and probably never will be sponsored by McDonald’s

Will McDonald’s wifi have what it takes to keep Jered online for the entire episode? What show is Pat watching this summer? Who is at Troy’s door? Listen now to find out the answers to these questions and more!
You can also Direct Download the episode or find us on these excellent platforms: