As much as we love our children, the cold, hard fact is that we frequently lie to them in order to give them hope, which, in this world, is often in short supply. As far as I’m concerned, that’s totally ne. Adults recognize the harshness of a world that seems determined to discourage the next generation, so we manufacture comforting fiction to soften the blow and keep them in line (at least somewhat). How else do you explain countless fantastical tales throughout history, from stories of Greek gods to the annual appearance of Santa Claus to certain beliefs about what will cause hair to grow on your palms?
Most of these stories are innocent and well-intentioned. They tend to achieve the desired effect of keeping our kids believing in the unbelievable and living the good lives we want them to live. There is, however, one complete and total lie we have spun for years that may be doing far more harm than good. It has wreaked havoc on our entire democratic system. We tell America’s future leaders that if they work and study hard, any of them, no matter where they came from, can one day be President of the United States.
Presidential candidates want you to believe in this fiction because it humanizes them. They spend huge chunks of their day trying to portray themselves as men and women “from Main Street and not from Wall Street,” each one attempting to out- ordinary the next by sharing everything from stories of immigrant parents to childhood newspaper routes to their favorite barbecue recipes.
However, claiming they truly feel the plight of average Americans is like hearing them say they’re connoisseurs of Mexican cuisine because they’ve sampled the late night menu at Taco Bell. It’s pretty hollow reasoning and produces nothing but a lot of hot air. I’m reasonably certain this was not quite what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they set this whole democracy thing in motion.
In fact, they took great pains to keep the requirements for leading this nation as minimal as possible. It’s more complicated to get a Costco membership card than it is to make a run at the presidency. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution specifically states: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
And that’s it. Turn 21 and you can drink. Turn 25 and you get a better rate on your auto insurance. Turn 35 and you can be the Commander in Chief. It all seems so simple. Which is may- be why we constantly remind our kids that someday it could be them. It really does seem that almost no one is ruled out of this race. At least that’s how it feels if you spend three minutes viewing any cable news outlet once the election cycle starts spinning. I could swear that at one point, the only person not running for the Republican presidential nomination was that crazy old guy you see arguing with cashiers at the grocery store. And even he would have led if he weren’t so busy watching Clint Eastwood movies and telling the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.
So what are voters to do? We’re stuck between a rock and some head cases. On one hand, we all say we want a leader who can personally relate to the struggles of low- and middle-income Americans. On the other hand, we don’t want to waste our votes on candidates who can’t win. I’m not gullible enough to fall for the aforementioned lie that any of us can grow up to be president. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to at least find some candidates you’d enjoy having a beer and burger with? There has to be somebody out there running for president with the compassion of FDR, the folksiness of Harry Truman, the intellect of Stephen Hawking and the straight talk of your college roommate.
I knew that none of these people would ever get elected. But that wasn’t the point. The point was just to try. If we’re also going to stick with that other great political lie — that every vote is important — I was really just doing what we all fantasize we’d do if we could. I was going to find the best person to hand my vote over to, regardless of what the outcome might be. Somebody has to, right? It’s fun to complain about our broken political system. Yet if the final answer is to vote for the most likely winner, that’s not the best path toward any change. The only way to make a difference is to search for somebody capable of making a difference, regardless of what school they went to or how much money they have or what kind of fast food they order. We need candidates who are told they can’t do this.
RONALD SATISH EMRIT
Finally, we get around to talking about what brought me to him in the first place — that whole thing about running for president because he’d failed the bar. Often. Each attempt had cost Emrit $1,000 just to take the test. But there was more than a financial cost to his repeated failures. He’d been married, but when it became clear that a career practicing law was most likely not in the cards, the marriage ended. His wife remained in Florida with their daughter (now 12). While the newly single Emrit eventually found his way to Las Vegas.
“It’d be nice if I was president, because then I could go to my ex and say, ‘Hey, I’m the president now. Can I get custody of my daughter? She could come to the White House,’” he said. “I haven’t seen my daughter in a couple of years. It’s a sensitive issue.”
He also had a duty that, in looking at this gruff, bearded, 6’ 4” wall of a man, was hard to imagine ever being assigned to him. His Hell’s Angel demeanor made him seem like the last guy you’d want knocking on your door to tell you your loved one had just been killed in the line of duty. And yet, Harley Brown did just that for nearly two years.
“It loosened a few screws in me,” he admitted. “How could it not? If you don’t have a heart, you could do that job. But I was supposed to say this blurb: ‘The Secretary of the Navy said…’ Fuck that shit! I wasn’t gonna say that. I’d walk up to the door and they’d see my uniform and start thinking about their son. Then they look into your eyes and see the expression on your face and say, ‘Oh, Jesus!’ You have to confirm their worst fear. I had a lady who had a heart attack on the stoop of her home. I didn’t know what the fuck to do.”
For one of the very few moments in the evening, Brown sat silent. “That fucked me up in the head. It just changed my whole attitude. It completely stripped me of a façade of political correctness. After doing that shit, you don’t care.”
* * *
“Business was lousy and I was depressed. [So I] cried out to God, ‘What the hell am I doing driving a taxi? You didn’t make me the youngest fleet commander in the Navy for nothing. How about putting me back on active duty and make me a battalion commander of 1,000 men to fulfill my wildest ambitions?’ I think I was 40 years old at the time.
“And then God talked to me. Not audibly, but to my heart. He said, ‘Harley, I have a much higher rank in mind for you. Being an Irishman, I said, ‘What? Secretary of War? Being in charge of all the troops and planes and tanks?’ He said, ‘No, son, I’m gonna make you Commander in Chief!’ I said, ‘Wow!’ Then it hit me and I thought, ‘That’s the president of the United States. What the hell do I know about politics and protocols?’”
Not much, clearly. “I said, ‘Besides that, Heavenly Father, you give someone like me that kinda power and I’m gonna have to take over the whole goddamn world! Because that’s all those assholes can understand.’ I was thinking about Iran. And then the answer comes back, ‘I know what I’m doing, son.’ I was like, holy shit! The next day I went out and got the Presidential Seal tattoo on my arm!”
Nate sat outside the door getting jacked up on candy and soda from the courthouse vending machine while his father and I went into an office. Clearly I wasn’t the only one surprised by this meeting. So was Usera’s probation officer, who seemed shocked that a) he had a writer following him around for the day to document his presidential campaign and b) that he even had a presidential campaign.
Upon hearing this news, she feverishly typed something into her computer and then announced, “Josh, you do realize that there’s a warrant out for your arrest, right?” As it turns out, he was not. She explained the he’d neglected to pay a speeding ticket and therefore, he was headed for jail again unless he took care of the ticket ASAP.
We rushed downstairs and across the parking lot to the sheriff’s station, making it inside just before they closed for the day. Old Horse had left for home, so Nate entertained me with a failed magic trick involving a disappearing quarter. After a couple minutes, Josh motioned for me to come over. I reached into my wallet for my credit card, certain it was going to be up to me to bail him out of this. Instead, he had already taken care of the payment and just wanted to introduce the clerk behind the counter to the writer that was covering his presidential campaign.
BARTHOLOMEW JAMES LOWER
“Look around,” Lower instructed as we walked, constantly pointing at one empty structure after another with the same sighing recognition one uses when seeing high school yearbook pictures of friends who’ve died since graduation.
“See the signs — ‘For Rent,’ ‘Available.’ That building’s empty. That one’s for sale. That one just switched hands again. See that green building? That used to be my in-laws, and it was a bar they ended up closing because of the economy. This whole corner building has been vacant for a decade. That one on the corner that kind of looks like a bank? That’s been vacant for a decade too. That one there? Empty. That one? Empty.” He stopped on a corner for a moment to take it all in. “Truck through downtown Ionia, and this is the rest of the country. The big cities are the big cities, but what you see here is the rest of the country.”
Lower has a very personal relationship with one of the town’s drug abusers. When Nicole’s son was 16, she and Lower learned he wasn’t just using drugs. He was starting to deal them as well. A line had been crossed and Lower truly believed that “if you can’t hold people accountable in your own family, how can you expect to do it on a national or global level?” So, they turned their own child over to police custody.
I had no idea how to respond. We’re so conditioned as parents to protect our children no matter what. The idea of handing them over to someone else for punishment seems unnatural. We preach tough love because it sounds good, especially when it’s about someone else’s children. I like to think that everything I’ve ever done for my son, this current journey of mine in particular, has been done to inspire him to do the right things—rather than scare him into avoiding the wrong things. And here was a man who felt the same way, yet still handed his oldest child over to the authorities.
He had his reasons. The way Lower saw it, “when kids are under 17, you have a window where you’re trying to make a change that doesn’t end up hurting them the rest of their lives. He couldn’t follow the probation, so I finally looked at the judge and said, ‘He needs real consequences.’”
Candidates talk all the time about their willingness to make tough decisions. Well, they don’t come any tougher than this one and Lower made it. He let his son go to a detention center for 90 days in order to start weaning himself off drugs. The decision definitely strained his relationship with the now 18-year-old. But I didn’t sense an ounce of regret from Lower.
There was a pause that hung as heavy as the early afternoon humidity. “I tried to commit suicide.”
At age 14, Fleming had become a pariah because of her sexuality. The girl she’d loved left her. Someone at school planted a stolen stereo in her locker, then alerted the authorities that she’d taken it. Couple that with her struggles at home with her father and constantly being held back at school, and Fleming decided she’d had enough.
“It was just a really bad year and I got tired of it all. I took a bottle of about 200 aspirin out of my mom’s medicine cabinet. I went to the park, climbed to the top of the ladder and took every damned one of them. I don’t know what happened. I woke up in the hospital. They pumped my stomach, and then I had charges pressed against me because it’s illegal to commit suicide. If you don’t die, you go to jail.”
They don’t necessarily agree on everything. Her mom has warned her a few times that she doesn’t have enough money to run for president—even though Fleming is certain that the mystery donation of a few thousand dollars that was recently given to her campaign was from her mother. And when she mentioned that she was going to talk to me, her mom warned her to be very discreet.
“She told me not to let anybody know that I’m a dyke. And I said, ‘Why?’ It is not like this was 20 years ago, when I could have actually lost my children.” Fleming paused. She didn’t exactly choke up, but I sensed a sadness in her that hadn’t been there even when discussing Travis. She quickly glanced at Marc, who had moved to watch over something wrapped in foil on their small, rusty barbecue grill.
“I would love to be able to have a female partner hold my hand and walk with my children without having to worry about if someone was going to call Child Protective Services. It has happened for me. That’s why I had to go back into the closet.”
JOHN GREEN FERGUSON
He’d already gone from being “a millionaire on paper” to being broke, courtesy of the 2008 stock market collapse. After she passed, he lived on odd jobs and food stamps, spending endless sleepless nights sitting in the same easy chair—“throwing myself into the news…local, state, national. I’d get one hour of sleep to get up and watch Face the Nation and all that stuff. Where most people are watching General Hospital and As the World Turns, I’m on cable watching BBC news from the UK. I am watching Japanese news. I am watching stuff all night long, I’m reading stuff. And I’m feeding on that.”
In particular, he started following stories about the Occupy Movement. The grass roots protest against income inequality got its biggest media boost in the fall of 2011, when followers set up camp near Wall Street. It didn’t take long for the movement to spread to nearly 1,000 cities around the world, inspiring frustrated citizens everywhere—including Ferguson. Even though the Wall Street protest ultimately was broken up after a few months, he found a purpose in the movement’s ideals.
“It was for my sanity, after being by myself in a prison,” he explained. “[Losing my fiancée] was really a kick in the balls. I was left alone to fend for myself. It wasn’t the surviving part. It is just that when you haven’t got anybody, no friends—I mean, I am away from anybody that I ever knew here.”
Craig Tomashoff is a freelance writer/producer based in Los Angeles. His blogs appear regularly at Huffington Post.com. Most recently, he was a producer for The Queen Latifah Show. Prior to that, he served as Executive Editor of TV Guide, and has also worked as Associate Bureau Chief for People. In addition, he has written for the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Emmy Magazine. Prior to The Can’t-idates, he was the author of You Live, You Learn: The Alanis Morissette Story and co-wrote I’m Screaming As Fast As I Can: My Life In B-Movies with Linnea Quigley. He has also worked as a television writer/producer for such series as VH1’s Behind the Music, The Martin Short Show and The Late Show With Craig Kilborn.
Ellery A. Kane
Publication date: September 5th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
How do you want to feel today?
In 2041, the choice is yours.
San Francisco is deserted, the Bay Bridge bombed, and the BART subway trains grounded. The Guardians, members of an elite and mysterious government-appointed military police force, are maintaining order at all costs—thanks to emotion-altering drugs like Emovere that suppress fear and anxiety. Lex Knightley, daughter of a prominent forensic psychiatrist, risks entering the devastated city to partner with the Resistance, a group of rebels intent upon exposing the dangers of Emovere. Lex discovers an ally in Quin McAllister, a magnetic Guardian Force recruit with a haunting past that binds them together. As she uncovers the secrets of the Guardian Force and confronts the truth about her family, Lex begins to realize that even those closest to her are not quite who they seem.
Legacy is the first book in the Legacy trilogy but can also be enjoyed as a standalone.
Top 10 Favorite Fictional Female Characters, in no particular order:
- Amy Dunne, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Because who doesn’t like a bad, bad girl.
- Katniss Everdeen, Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Because it takes uncommon bravery to risk your life for others.
- Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Because girls are wicked smart.
- Beatrice “Tris” Prior, Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Because she embraces her differences.
- Molly Weasley, Harry Potter series. Because there is nothing like a mother’s love.
- Carrie Mathison, Homeland television series, Showtime. Because her weaknesses (including a fairly serious case of Bipolar Disorder) only make her stronger.
- Ramona Quimby, Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. Because sometimes a little mischief is just what the doctor ordered.
- Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Because she stands up for her convictions in a cynical world.
- Elle Woods, Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown. Because looks can be deceiving.
- Clarice Starling, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Because she goes toe-to-toe with a serial killer and lives to tell about it.
Forensic psychologist by day, young-adult novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing—professionally and creatively—for as long as she can remember. Just like her main character, Lex, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. An avid short story writer as a teenager, Ellery recently began writing for enjoyment again, and the Legacy series was born.
Ellery’s debut novel, Legacy, has received several awards, including winning the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, young adult, e-book category. Ellery was recently selected as one of ten semifinalists in the MasterClass James Patterson Co-Author Competition.
Kaon na? These are the impressions of an American visiting the Cebu region of the Philippines for the first time. An enlightening and hilarious account from writer Chris DeBrie.
Unlimited Kids [chp 4]
At my host family’s house, I found out that the surrounding neighborhood was dotted with relatives. When I visited the house, up to twenty children under fourteen would come running.
That’s a cousin, the host family told me, those are our other cousins… and she is our sister in law…
My wife laughed at the look on my face as I tried to process all of the faces and names and talking. Unlimited kids, she said.
A few of the kids held their arms up to my arm, comparing tones. They looked at each other, talking excitedly in Visaya, and laughing. I sang the Bahay Kubo song, and they took over, almost screaming the words. Drew pictures of superheroes and animals on someone’s homework after I’d motioned for a pen and pad. A finger reached and tapped my illustration of the Hulk. “His head’s too wide,” said one boy who could speak English a bit better. “Everybody’s a critic,” I said, and he grinned.
There were no smartphones and iPads here. No MP3 earbuds. These children were squatting in the dirt, or leaning against my shoulders. Someone brought me a chair though I didn’t ask, and I sat in it, still ham-fistedly entertaining all the kids gathered around me, staring and trying to communicate. Kaon na? Musta na? I learned a few new words of Visaya and quickly forgot them.
Only one boy, maybe two years old, looked disturbed to see me. Wearing only a dirty white shirt, he stood a bit away from us. I could see him over their heads. He glared, ran away, stopped to see if anyone was chasing. He glared again from a distance, and then ran out of sight.
For about a half hour, I joined in a game they were playing: You and another person each held a trading card in the palm. Both of you slap palms and the card facing up takes both cards. Ties mean a do-over. A very satisfying game, and not only because I was winning before we were called to eat.
“They love you,” said one of the neighborhood uncles, who had married into the family. “You want to take one home with you?” No, salamat po. “Do you want a lot of kids?” Will take what the Lord gives me…
Lots of food had been cooking. The activity was in preparation for a birthday party. Kebobs, dipping sauces, chicken wings and whole chickens, and some veggies I had requested after trying some street vendors, and plenty of rice. My favorite was the lumpia [basically an eggroll], both the ones with meat and the ones with a fried banana inside. A fancy chocolate cake got eaten and smeared on toddlers’ faces—then on adults’ as well. Then a blast of feedback got all the kids excited and running off into the darkness.
Karaoke time… a VERY LOUD speaker system was assembled beneath a small tarp. As the sun set, lots of people (mostly females) did their thing, blasting out (mostly American) pop tunes of the last thirty years. Not my thing, but I was persuaded to sing so persistently, I finally did Elvis: “Heartbreak Hotel.” I was alarmed at how loud my voice was. Did this kind of thing make the neighbors angry? Or maybe everyone just took turns belting Britney Spears and Michael Jackson.
I had read about the pinoy culture where men were almost expected to have someone on the side. And I’d heard jokes in my youth about Catholic-majority nations where they dropped babies continually, because birth control was off-limits according to the Vatican. One expat complained that poorer Filipinos kept having children that they couldn’t afford and wouldn’t use control… he partly blamed those attitudes for the poverty. Perhaps he is correct.
I only know that the Filipino children I met had a more child-like, free spirit than most American youth. That was an eye-opener because I am used to meeting children who are swimming in their apps and who ‘know everything’… not used to children who stand back and wait for their elders to get food. Not used to being treated like a respected uncle by the very young; to being protected where ever I went by a dozen little bodyguards. It was discouraging to return to the States only for that reason—because most youth here don’t have time to look you square in the eye.
Chris DeBrie is an American publisher, cartoonist, and musician.
Non Fiction / Self-Help / Memoir
Date Published: April 19, 2016
The city lights blind your amazement. The sound of the traffic challenges you to be alive. Families ask bystanders to make magic and capture the moment with photographs. Newly engaged couples seal their union by kissing under shooting stars while loving by crossing their hearts.
But if your heart was under arrest, wouldn’t you want to embrace something to feel like others?
Go insider the world of one courageous sheep as she discovers that her heart was under attack by darkness. As she travels on a spiritual journey to understanding her purpose, overcoming the undertones of low confidence, self-acceptance, and the importance of inspiration, she rose against the odds with forgiveness and strengthening her faith.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MAY 4, 2016
BSC & Co.
℅ A Terrell Enterprises
(336) 701-6287 (Office)
An Opening in a Dark Sky
The “White in Black Places” Breaking Barriers
Greensboro, NC: The evolution of time presents itself in trends and rhythms of skinny jeans, colored lipsticks and natural afro puffs. Within the understanding of identity, men and women are becoming comfortable with uncovering their potential.
Chairmen and executives find advantageous marketing positions to heighten their importance of their influential products. As various products fly off shelves in nearby stores, businesses are escaping the secret to what encourages high gross sales and supply in demand.
“Example of intentional change,” author, Ashley Terrell, explained. “Instead of trying to change it to go away, we need to begin to accept why our flaws are here. It is to influence self-acceptance.”
Terrell, author of the nonfiction book, The Black Sheep Shadow, reflects on days that she felt were intentional to endure to be able to become a true disciple for self-betterment and resilience.
“We decide if we want an unconditional relationship with ourselves. We have to decide if it will be a choice or decision. The rhythm of your journey will be based on your thinking of what you choose (reactive behavior) or decide (proactive behavior),” she explains.
Terrell’s The Black Sheep Shadow has received raved reviews from the cast of Bounce TV’s Saints and Sinners cast, and USA Today. The potent yet vivid descriptions of each turning point has gained its own hashtag trend [as #TheBlackSheepShadow] on social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“The most successful person has to lose [unexpected] ones along the way to find strength. Successful people have to skip and ration meals to see how far they will go to eat. Successful people have to lose money to learn how to keep it the second time. Sometimes successful people have their world burned entirely to see their purpose is to influence far bigger [than their own],” Terrell expressed deeply. “Successful people are the ‘white in black places’. I am tired of hoping someone sees we need to do better. I’m GOING to break the barrier(s).
Purchase The Black Sheep Shadow on Amazon NOW!
For Terrell’s #TheBlackSheepShadow tour dates, visit www.blacksheepandcompany.com.
It’s been 133 years since the Specters invaded Earth. Like ghosts they haunt the planet, devouring anyone foolish enough to venture outside the last remaining protected cities. For some, venturing out isn’t a choice–it’s a necessary evil to prove yourself to your clan as you come of age.
But when a team of ambitious youth—New Adults—undertakes a mission deep in Specter territory, they discover a terrible secret. Everything they’ve learned may be wrong … and Earth is in grave danger.
Suddenly, the area all around her began to glow, as if some sinister light was slowly coming to life. Thin pine and tupelo trunks were painted in a fiery red light, bright enough that each tree cast a bloody shadow. The creature was near. She ran left, thinking about her family and blinking away stinging hot tears. She hoped to see them again. She hoped to tell her husband and her daughter how much she loved them both. Her body, numb, expected death at any moment but she refused to give in. Ahead, she could see an end to the forest. And something else . . .
A fence! An old fence whose links were being pulled earthward by heavy vines with thick stalks and fat, crescent-shaped leaves. And beyond the fence: a dim pool of white light illuminated a squat building at the far edge of a barren lot. The building must be an emergency supply depot, no doubt running solely on stored energy from the solar panels attached to the roof, slanted up at the sky. The depot would contain emergency equipment and maybe some kind of weapon. It would have a communication system, too.
She could jump the fence. She could take one step on the constrained chain links and reach the top and hop over. She could reach the building. She could survive. She’d carried a child in her womb for nine months, seven days and an additional fifteen excruciating hours of labor. Her back had endured. Her legs had endured. This pain she felt in her shins now? It was nothing. It was an annoyance.
She could do this. She could send a warning.
The Proving is Ken Brosky’s newest YA sci-fi adventure. His first series, The Grimm Chronicles, ran from 2012-2014 and is available on Kindle. Ken received his MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.