5 incredibly delicious chain restaurants you should never, ever eat at and 1 you should but can't

You know you want to. But sorry, you can't.

Fast food. It's kind of a big deal here in the USA.

A moment of silence, please. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.


And who could blame us? Fast food is, to use a scientific phrase, tasty as all get out.

But some chains, well. It's painful to admit, but they're bad for us.

Not because they're slowly clogging our arteries — we already knew that. Bad for us in the metaphorical heart, not the literal heart. Cosmically bad for us. Bad for us in that they pretend to be our friends, but in reality, they're talking behind our backs about how we have a weird-shaped face or whatever.

They're doing bad, shady things to the world is the point.

They are delicious. So so so so so so delicious.

But you can't eat there. You just can't.

#6. PAPA JOHN'S

Why it's so delicious:

If there's one belief that my big Italian family managed to drill into my brain when I was a kid, it's that chain pizza tastes about as good as an old rusty piece of sheet metal. Or maybe a used napkin, on a good day. And, like a fool, I never questioned it.

Until I met the "The Meats."

Oh. Hello there. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

The Meats is a pizza. From Papa John's. It is a pizza full of meat.

Here are the list of meats on The Meats:

  1. Sausage
  2. Pepperoni
  3. Beef
  4. Bacon
  5. Canadian bacon
  6. Eagle (probably)
  7. Sacrificial lamb (pretty sure I tasted that)
  8. Unicorn (definitely)

So yeah. That's it. Naples can pretty much just close up shop. There's just no more need.

Pack it in, boys. We're done here. Photo by Inviaggiocommons/Wikimedia Commons.

Oh, and see that little cup in the corner?

Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

That's Papa John's special garlic sauce. It's basically garlic, butter, and chemicals that bring your grandmother back to life so that you can tell her you love her one last time, giving you that sense of closure you always needed. That's how good it is.

Papa John's also sells something called a "Cinnapie."

Suggested serving si— oh, never mind. Who am I kidding? Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

It's a cinnamon bun. The size of a pizza.

Needless to say, I totally didn't eat the whole thing in a single sitting. What are you looking at? Stop looking at me like that.

Why you can never, ever eat there:

Like most of America, I always assumed "Papa John's" was just a generic name ideated up in some corporate copy factory. Possibly tied into a mascot of some kind. A pizza-tossing horse maybe, with a vaguely racist mustache. Needless to say, I was extremely surprised to learn that Papa John is an actual human.

His name is John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John's. And in a move that just screams "humility," he put himself on all the pizza boxes.

Of course this is him. Of course it is. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

In August 2012, Papa John got on the phone with a bunch of reporters to talk about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

"Oh," you're probably saying to yourself, "I bet he wanted to discuss how awesome it is that, under the law, his kids can stay on his insurance until they're 26. Or how the law is expected to dramatically lower health care spending nationwide. Or maybe just gush about how happy he is for the millions of people who will now suddenly be covered for the first time in their lives. I bet that was what that was about."

Nope. He mostly wanted to explain that Obamacare means you'll be paying more for pizza. And you're gonna like it.

Byron Tau, Politico:

"If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders' best interests," Schnatter vowed.

Specifically, 11-14 cents more. Which means ... sorry University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Cribbage Club, the cost of next Wednesday's pizza-n-chill info sesh just increased by about $1.56. Thanks, Obama!

Oh, and Schnatter also implied that some franchisees would cut worker hours to get out of having to provide them with health care required for employees working over 30 hours a week under the ACA. Of course, he later clarified that he wasn't saying he would cut their hours personally but, you know — it's out of his hands.

Nice prescription plan you got there. Shame if something happened to it. Photo by Ildar Sagdejev/Wikimedia Commons.

Now, you might be thinking, "Well, sure, that's harsh, but look. He's just trying to do the best he can in a shaky economy. If he's asking his employees and customers to take one for the team, I'm sure he's making an even bigger sacrifice somehow. Because Papa John is a leader. And that's what leaders do." And naively, I assumed that too.

Until I found out about his house.

Sarah Firshein, Curbed:

"Schnatter lives in a 40,000-square-foot castle on 16 acres in Kentucky; the property includes a 22-car underground garage ('complete with an office for valet parking, a car wash, and even a motorized turntable to move limousines') and a 6,000-square-foot detached carriage house."

That's right. Papa John is Batman.

Now, numbers are just numbers. It's hard to get an idea of what 40,000 square feet looks like without actually seeing it in real life.

Thankfully, I used to live about 20 minutes away from Papa John, so I drove to his house and took a picture.

Like most rich people's homes, it is blocked by a sh*t ton of bushes. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Just trust me. It's a freaking enormous house. You can Google it.

I certainly don't begrudge the guy having a garish, cream-colored mansion the size of a small moon. Hell, I have one too in my dreams. But dude. You're gonna live in that thing and then threaten to nickel-and-dime your customers and employees on pepperoni prices and healthcare? Bad optics. Bad, bad optics.

It's like that old sailor saying, "A captain always watches the ship go down with all his crew screaming inside of it as he soars away in his private helicopter."

Don't eat at Papa John's. I know you want to. I want to. But don't. Just don't.

#5. SONIC

Yes, please. Let's go to Sonic right now.

BEHOLD! The mighty bacon cheeseburger toaster! Gaze ye upon it in all its glory! A third-pound patty of heavenly manna slathered in barbecue sauce on two slices of Texas toast.

Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

And what's this in my cup holder? Is this the fabled CHERRY LIMEADE OF LEGEND? Miraculous lime wedges and a maraschino cherry sinking beneath the roughly crushed ice pellets into a sea of pink sugary mirth? Verily, do not look directly at it, or it will surely blind you.

Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Oh, hey — look! Some onion rings. Cool.

Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Sorry, bub. No more Sonic. Not ever.

Fast food is delicious. We've already established that. But the typical fast food experience? Usually leaves something to be desired. Take a burger, wrap it in some paper, and slap it on a tray. Maybe you squirt some ketchup into a thing, and that's the highlight.

But not at Sonic. Sonic has a concept.

You see, Sonic is a drive-in. And you get car-side service. From carhops. Just like in the '50s.

All of these children are currently collecting Social Security. Photo by ftzdomino/Flickr.

Indeed, very little has changed at Sonic in the past 60-odd years.

Including salaries for Sonic carhops.

As of May 2014, the median hourly wage for fast food workers in America was $9.19/hour. Which is objectively terrifying. But compared to comparable employees at Sonic, other fast food workers are straight up building motorized limousine turns in their 40,000-square-foot castles.

As of June 2015, Sonic carhops made roughly $6.70/hour on average, according to Glassdoor. Even as a survey estimate, that's far less than the (already meager) federal minimum wage and state minimum wages in all but eight states.

How is that even legal? According to multiple former carhops, and at least one official complaint, because Sonic crew members bring the food to you (often on roller skates), they are classified as tipped employees at some stores and therefore exempt from minimum wage requirements.

Which begs the question. Do people tip Sonic carhops?

Maybe. Maybe not. At the very least, it is the subject of great confusion on the Internet.

Sonic certainly doesn't make it easy either. Here's what happened when I tried to pay at Sonic's automated credit card reader back in March...

No receipt. No place to tip.

At this point, you're like, "Ooh, burger!" and proceed to forget about your fiduciary responsibility to your fellow humans. But even if you do remember when the carhop eventually brings out your receipt, there's no tip line.

Both times I went, only the customer copy came out. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

So you have to tip in cash. Which you might or might not have. At least that's what happened to me when I went (for ... uh, research).

No matter how you look at it, it's really difficult to tip at Sonic. So lots of people just don't do it.

To confirm this suspicion, I creeped on the guy next to me.

Not him. But this is a public domain image of the truck he was driving. Photo by IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons.

And sure enough, no tip. Nada.

Stop going to Sonic, everyone. Stop it right now. Don't even think about it.

I know you're thinking about it. Stop.

#4. WENDY'S

Wendy's is amazing.

Wendy's is all like: We're the Target to McDonald's Walmart. Sure, we look similar, but our food just seems ... better, doesn't it? Healthier and more ethical, somehow. You can totally trust us. We'll even sell you a baked potato if you want!


But instead, you get this. And no jury in the world would convict you. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Wendy's is an infernal den of smoke and mirrors.

Wendy's: We actually pay even less than McDonald's does.


Average crew member salaries. McDonald's photo by Cruiser/Wikimedia Commons [altered]. Wendy's photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.

Ha! Gotcha hook, line, and sinker, you fast food hippie!

#3. CRACKER BARREL

You guys. Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel, you guys.

Quick, here's a pop quiz. How much food can you get for $8.99?

Six! Six dishes! Ah ah ah! Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

If you responded "all of it," congratulations, you have won. If you are among the folks historically lucky enough to be at Cracker Barrel right now, you can avail yourself of meatloaf (solid), chicken and dumplings (delicious), fried okra (heavenly), and a big piece of ham ('nuff said). Also baked beans, turnip greens, and two corn muffins. All for less than nine dollars.

"But Eric," you might whine, "All that food is so ... beige."

Yeah. Beige like a fox.

Not beige. Photo by digitalprimate/Flickr.

Listen. There is nothing that looks less appetizing than classic American comfort fare. It's mushy, brown, and smells kind of like baby food. But it is freaking delicious. If you want texture and vibrant colors in your food, go eat pad Thai.*

*Seriously, go eat pad Thai. Pad Thai is delicious. You should always be eating pad Thai.

Also, have I mentioned this?

There's your color, you jerks. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

That's raspberry sweet tea. If you could take the feeling you get when your aunt Helen presents you with a hand-knit sweater on Christmas morning and liquefy it, that's what you'd get. Free refills too! You could, and should, have eight of those.

Seriously? Don't go to Cracker Barrel. What were you thinking?!

I'll tell you why in a minute. But first we have to talk about segregation.

Photo by Jack Delano/Wikimedia Commons.

Segregation. One of the darkest chapters in American history. Under the pretense of separate-but-equal, white leaders in the South excluded black Americans from nearly all aspects of public life. But after decades of heartache, violence, and struggle, thanks to the historic efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, segregation was finally legally abolished in 1965.

Except at Cracker Barrel, which waited until 2004, when the U.S. Justice Department told them, "No, really. Now stop."

Fox News:

"At least 42 plaintiffs, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, accused the Lebanon, Tenn.-based company of discrimination in federal lawsuits filed in Georgia. Black customers in 16 states also said they were subjected to racial slurs and served food taken from the trash, while Cracker Barrel management ignored or condoned such actions.

The announcement comes four months after the company settled a Justice Department lawsuit accusing Cracker Barrel of similar discrimination claims at dozens of restaurants, mainly in the South. That settlement found that black customers at many of the country store-themed restaurants were seated in areas segregated from white patrons, frequently received inferior service and often were made to wait longer for tables. Blacks who complained about poor service also were treated less favorably than whites, the settlement said."

"OK," you're probably saying. "Fair enough. But that was over a decade ago." (Side note: 2004 was over a decade ago. You are so old.) And you'd be right! Cracker Barrel hasn't been accused of serving black people food from the garbage or segregating its dining rooms since Usher's "Confessions Part II" was on the radio. A lifetime ago (if you're a medium-sized dog)!

But while Cracker Barrel has undeniably gotten better, let's just say the road to full enlightenment has ... taken a weird detour in the past few years.

You see, Cracker Barrel isn't just a restaurant. It's also a store. A country store. The kind ma and pa used to run out back behind Old Murdoch's soda fountain, as imagined by the VP of branding of a multimillion-dollar biscuit corporation.

You might also be familiar with a little show on the A&E Network called, "Duck Dynasty," about a talking beard and his family...


Photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.

...who murder your favorite Sesame Street character over and over again.

Please don't kill me. I love you. Photo by Tom Morris/Wikimedia Commons.

It turns out the talking beard has opinions on more than just eliminating Donald, Scrooge, Daffy, Darkwing, and all the McDuck triplets from God's green earth, which he expressed in a 2013 interview with GQ:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks because we're white trash. We're going across the field. ... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people'—not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

This, understandably, ruffled a few feathers (presumably, Robertson later shot the duck said feathers were on).

But times change. This isn't the '60s anymore (or, in Cracker Barrel's case, the early '00s). And mercifully, Cracker Barrel did the absolute minimum amount of the right thing they could possibly do and pulled some (not even all!) Duck Dynasty merchandise from their stores.

Until, like, a day later when they put it all back.

Corinne Lestch, The Daily News:

"Company brass did an about-face on Sunday — re-shelving the goods and apologizing for 'offending' any customers...

'You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores. And, we apologize for offending you,' officials wrote in a statement posted on its Facebook page."

Backbone, ladies and gentlemen. Curvy, weird duck backbone.

Since that was two years ago, I went back the other day to see if maybe Cracker Barrel had quietly phased out the Robertson's T-shirts and hoodies when no one was paying attention. But sure enough...

One day, I'll make Duck Admiral. One day. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Boom. Still there.

For maximum effect, they are shelved right next to the military swag.

Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Because putting your life on the line to defend the United States of America from enemies at home and abroad is about as noble as mowing down a bunch of waterfowl with a high-powered semi-automatic.

Minus 7 bazillion for that, Cracker Barrel. But hey! Plus one for stocking Goldenberg's Peanut Chews.

The bomb. Dot edu. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

Those things are my jam.

If you go to Cracker Barrel, we are so not talking. Yep. You heard me. The camping trip to Red River Gorge is going to be awkward.

#2. CHICK-FIL-A

The Chick-fil-A original chicken sandwich is the pinnacle of human achievement.

The pyramids. The Magna Carta. The Apollo missions. PlayStation 4. This season of "The Bachelorette."

Combine them all. Multiply by 10. Sprinkle with holy water and shoot them out of a cannon into the sun. What you get is not even worth half the pickle chip on a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.

Your move, Ancient Egyptians. Photo by Jay Reed/Flickr.

Between those two unassuming buns is an explosion of salt, fat, umami (whatever the hell that is), and the overwhelming feeling that justice has been done somewhere in the world. If they could speak, any chicken would surely tell you that being hacked up into tiny bits, deep fried, and stuffed in this sandwich is like getting into Chicken Princeton.

In fact, the first bite of any Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich is such a sacred experience that they close all the restaurants on Sundays.

And I haven't even mentioned the waffle fries.

You know what? Best not. Best not even mention the waffle fries. Photo by Jay Reed/Flickr.

OMIGOD, you guys, you can absolutely never, ever, ever eat at Chick-fil-A.

Look. I'm not naive. I know that, deep down, most of my favorite brands are probably giving lots of money to nightmarishly evil causes on the sly.

My favorite brands. Also, I have favorite brands? Gross. Image by J.J./Wikimedia Commons.

I have to believe Apple just put a down payment on a giant coal plant somewhere in China. I'm sure Doritos wants to repeal the estate tax. And dollars to doughnuts Krispy Kreme is investing in Sudanese cobalt mines. But at least I can take comfort in the fact that it's not personal. It's just what's best for business.


Business. Photo by thetaxhaven/Flickr.

Chick-fil-A is one of those brands. But what sets Chick-fil-A apart is that their donations have nothing at all to do with putting more money in the hands of their obscenely wealthy top brass and everything to do with making sure Dan at the register and Leon at the drive-thru window can't file their taxes together even though they love each other deeply.

Josh Israel, ThinkProgress:

"As Chick-fil-A's corporate foundation came under heavy criticism last year for its long record of anti-LGBT behavior, the company attempted to distance itself from its political record, claiming it intended 'to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.'

But despite suggestions by some that the company's WinShape Foundation had already scaled back its anti-LGBT giving before that point, its newly released annual IRS filings for 2011 indicate nothing of the sort...

In 2011, the group actually gave even more to anti-LGBT causes. Its contribution to the Marriage & Family Foundation jumped to $2,896,438 and it gave the same amount to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and National Christian Foundation as it had in 2010. In total, the anti-LGBT spending exceeded $3.6 million — almost double the $1.9 million from the year before."



Look, I give Chick-fil-A a lot of latitude. After all, they make an absolutely bomb chicken sandwich.

Still, I'm really not sure I want them to weigh in on whether Leon gets to visit Dan in the hospital when Dan is 97 and has terminal shingles.

Now, unlike most of the other examples on this list, Chick-fil-A got big press play. There were boycotts, counter-boycotts, and counter-counter-boycotts. Which prompted CEO Dan Cathy to reach way down deep and do some soul searching.

The conclusion he came to?

"You know what, I just realized we're a chicken company. Probably best not to get involved after all."

"Cathy agreed that the 'lingering identity' of Chick-fil-A with 'anti-gay groups' that jumped to its defense in 2012 has meant 'alienating market segments.'

'Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with,' Cathy said. 'And it's probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.'"

And Chick-fil-A made good on its word — sort of.

According to their tax documents from 2012, Chick-fil-A only donated to one anti-LGBT group that year. That's down from — and I'm using a technical term here — a buttload in 2010-2011.

But that's still one more donation to an anti-gay group than a reasonable chicken sandwich company should be proffering.

So keep up the fire. Do not eat at Chick-fil-A.

Believe me, I know it hurts. But stay strong.

#1. IN-N-OUT BURGER

It gives me no pleasure to break this to you, but you probably can't eat at In-N-Out Burger.

Photo by Zink Dawg/Wikimedia Commons.

"Wait, nooooooo! I love In-N-Out," you might be thinking. "I thought they were actually pretty good corporate citizens."

"I'm going to punch you in the face if you tell me I can't eat at In-N-Out," you might also be thinking.

And I don't blame you. Because In-N-Out is so freaking good. But please. Just go with me here. I promise I'll explain everything. You've made it 4,000 words. Bear with me for a few more. It's all I ask.

In-N-Out Burger: cheesy meat patty of the gods.

This is what a triple-triple from In-N-Out looks like.

Stop it. Photo by Christian Razukas/Flickr.

This is it. The most delicious burger on the planet. You can keep your Shake Shacks, your Five Guys, and your Smashburgi. This is truly, madly, deeply the one.

If you actually took one of those burgers and put it under a microscope, this is what you would see.

If you zoomed even further in, you would learn the exact moment you were going to die. To this day, no one has done it. Painting by Johann Liss/Wikimedia Commons.

And the best part? The burgers are super cheap.

There aren't enough superlatives in the world to do the place justice. There is no greater pleasure in this world than the taste of an In-N-Out cheeseburger. That's a fact.

And I've been to a Bon Jovi concert.

So what's the problem? Why can't I eat at In-N-Out??!?!

You can't eat at In-N-Out Burger because you are probably among the approximately 76% of Americans who don't live in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, or Texas.


And coming soon, Oregon! Photo by Dave Sizer/Flickr.

As your West Coast friends probably never fail to remind you every single day of your life, In-N-Out burger is their secret special thing.

Dear God. Please. Shut. Up. Image via Thinkstock.

And as much as I hate to admit it, they're basically right. As of June 2015, In-N-Out burger is only available in five states. And, statistically speaking, you probably don't live in one of them.

It's a massive shame for the rest of us. Because compared to most of its chain brethren, In-N-Out is basically a choirboy, straight-A-student role model.

Sure, In-N-Out is a multimillion-dollar meat factory like the rest of 'em. But, relatively speaking, In-N-Out has a lot going for it. A lot going for it.

It is one of very, very, very few high-profile companies in America owned by a woman.

It's food is also reasonably locally sourced and fresh, even earning praise from "Fast Food Nation" author Eric Schlosser.

And, perhaps, most importantly:

The average In-N-Out crew associate makes $11.61/hour (as of June 2015, according to Glassdoor). Not super great in the grand scheme of things but a fortune by fast food standards.

In-N-Out proves that it is possible to operate a profitable, reliably delicious fast food chain in 2015 and not be a complete ethical idiot.

Plus, let's not forget...

#Neverforget. Photo by Christian Razukas/Flickr.

Here's my advice. Move to California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, or Texas right now. Or Oregon, to jump the trend. And go get yourself an In-N-Out Burger.

You will thank me tomorrow.

And every day. For the rest of your life.

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Tyler Perry says instead of fighting for a seat at the table, build your own

There's a lot to be said for paving your own path, and Tyler Perry said it all when he accepted the Ultimate Icon Award at the BET Awards. Perry received his award for making movies that were, Perry feels, subconsciously about "wanting her [his mother] to know that she was worthy—wanting black women to know you're worthy, you're special, you're powerful, you're amazing." Perry's inspirational acceptance speech has enough motivation to get you going for years. He spoke to the power of helping others while simultaneously carving out your own destiny.

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Inclusivity

Anyone who's done yard work on a hot day can tell you that it can be just as good of a workout as playing a team sport.

You're down on your knees pulling weeds, up on a ladder lopping off errant tree branches, and pushing a heavy lawnmower that never seems to start on the first try.

Unfortunately, because lawn work is so physically intense and not everyone can afford a gardner, the elderly and disabled sometimes have to let their lawns and backyards grow wild.

An alternative learning center in Dubuque, Iowa is helping its kids stay physically fit while helping out their community with a new program that gives them high school PE credit for doing yard work for the elderly and disabled.

The Alternative Learning Center is for high school juniors and seniors who are at risk of dropping out of school.
As part of the program, the teens visit homes of the elderly and disabled and help out by raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, and cleaning gutters.



Teacher Tim Hitzler created the program because it helps the students get involved in the community while helping those who need it most.

"The students aren't typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated," Hitzler told KWWL. "What they really like is A: helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person."

Nick Colsn, a 17-year-old student at the learning center, told NPR that the program allows him to meet people he wouldn't have otherwise. "I'm more of like go-to-school-go-to-work-home-repeat kind of guy," he said. "So to me, I probably would not have met any of these people."

The end-of-year program has been so successful, Hitzler hopes to expand it next year. "You know, in education, a lot of times, there's so many different gimmicks and curriculum packages you can buy and things like that," he told NPR. "And something like this all you need is a few garden tools. You know, I mean, it just makes sense. It's so simple. And it works."

Recommended

If you're a white supremacist, I imagine drinking beer (or any other alcoholic beverage) is a nice way to relax and tune out the fact that you're a terrible person who's helping set human progress back at a rate the bubonic plague would be proud of. But for some self-professed white supremacists, it wasn't quite so easy on a June weekend in Germany.

According to Newsweek, the hundreds of neo-nazis who flocked to the "Shield and Sword Festival" in Ostritz found themselves uncomfortably dry when a court imposed a liquor ban at their gathering of hateful bigots who also like to listen to awful music together. The ban's aim was to prevent any violence that might erupt (you know it would...) and the police confiscated more than a thousand gallons of alcohol from those attending the weekend-long event. They even posted pictures on Twitter of the alcohol they'd removed from participants.



But that's only half the story.

Residents of the town of Ostritz, who've had to deal with the bigots before (they threw the same festival last year on Hitler's birthday), knew that the ban wouldn't stop the festival-goers from trying to obtain more alcohol while in town. So the townspeople got together a week before the festival and devised a plan which would truly make the white supremacists focus on how terrible neo-nazi music is: They bought up the entire town's beer supply.

"We wanted to dry the Nazis out," Georg Salditt, a local activist, told reporters. "We thought, if an alcohol ban is coming, we'll empty the shelves at the Penny [supermarket]."

"For us it's important to send the message from Ostritz that there are people here who won't tolerate this, who say 'we have different values here, we're setting an example..." an unidentified local woman told ZDF Television.

At the same time the festival was going on, residents also staged two counter-protests and put on a "Peace Festival" to drive home the point that bigotry wasn't welcome. If the festival is held in the same town again next year, ticket-buyers should be aware that Ostritz isn't playing around when it says that white supremacists aren't welcome.

There's some good news, too: Aside from the fact that residents aren't afraid to send the message that they're intolerant of intolerance, attendance to the far-right music festival has drastically decreased in the past year. In 2018, 1,200 people attended, according to the BBC. This year? Approximately 500-600. Here's hoping the festival won't have a return engagement next year.

Culture

I sent both of my children on a bus on Tuesday. I knew where they were going.

The morning started rainy, buggy, and too early. To be fair, it always feels too early.

My husband and I waved from across the street as the buses pulled away, our kids, along with a hundred or so others, behind tinted glass. We waved like we were excited. Our son was likely not looking. Our daughter may have been, but she also could have not been paying attention until the bus started into motion. We won't know for sure if she saw us waving until she returns.

Returns.

Every day when I leave the house, I expect to return.

That's the default.

It's so much the default that realizing it is actually stunning. We run our lives as though anything else other than what's in our head, our routine, our privilege, is what will take place. There's that little truism that a worrier shines like a pebble in the hand: you're more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. Yet we are much more likely to be worried about flying because it is out of our routine. Being out of your routine awakens you to the precariousness we completely shut out in our day-to-day lives.

I put my children on a bus. My oldest will be gone four weeks, my youngest, two.

What should be normal: sending your kids to sleep away camp. What feels wholly unnatural: sending your Jewish kids to a Jewish sleep away camp in the world we're living in now. Even writing those words: JEWISH SLEEP AWAY CAMP make my fingers seize at the knuckles. I don't want you to know there are such things as Jewish sleep away camps. Even having others know that they exist feels like a danger.

I'm used to my feelings and my instincts seeming like hyperbole to others. I'm emotional. I'm tuned in. I'm hyperreactive. I have a hair trigger. I have anxiety and depression.

I also come from a genetic and cultural history of people who ended up in this country because we were hunted and pursued and needed to escape. Over and over and over again. The cells that have come to build the tissues and structures of my body and my brain have been organized by UNSAFETY.

In "normal" suburban upper-class life, this can be a huge detriment. A handicap. It can manifest in the most unhelpful and frankly, startlingly blind ways. I've spent so much of my life reacting and feeling and then trying to understand what makes me tick. I've spent so much time learning to train and control and ignore and channel.

I wasn't made for easy times. I was made for survival. I was made, like an animal, to intuit danger and get the hell out, fast. I was made in the image of fight or flight. I do both better than most people. It's not something I brag about, because it doesn't feel like a good thing most of the time.

I put my kids on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp. Because when my husband and I got married (I'm Jewish, he's not), our pact was this: if our children live in a world where historically they could be targeted and threatened because of their Jewishness (regardless of their actual observance of religion or customs), they deserved to know that being a Jew is not negative. We should give them every opportunity to be proud and happy about their Jewishness. Their belonging should help them to feel good about themselves and the world. It should help them seek connection and understanding of the human condition. They should know songs. They should sing full-throated. They should feel comfort in our traditions when they are useful to them, but never feel threatened or unnecessarily constrained by them.

Research funded by Jewish institutions and communities suggests that the number one way to help ground kids in their Jewish identity is to send them to Jewish sleep away camp. It's the glue.

And yet.

I put my kids on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp at a time when our government is putting migrant children into concentration camps.

I bought all the supplies on the list. I washed and labeled and sorted and packed. I zipped up those bags to accompany my children. And then I dropped my children off and couldn't see if they were waving back as the buses drove away.

Of course, the camp I'm sending them to has a stellar reputation. Every day they post updates on a special web site, along with hundreds of pictures of the kids in action. I send emails to the kids which are printed out and given to them. I send packages with stickers and trading cards and all sorts of goofiness so that they know they are loved.

Migrants from central America have made their way to our border with just what they could carry. (My children's bags were so heavy that neither of them could carry them. Likely at least 1/4 of what I sent will come back unused or untouched.) Migrants are following the rules of asylum seeking. They are fleeing violence and intimidation and abuse far greater than I will allow myself to imagine. They are separated from their children by a government that has no business doing so.

I, an upper-class white woman, expect my voice to be heard. I expect to be able to vote and call and hold my elected officials accountable. I know what to say to get my point across. I've given money to candidates and I know how to threaten that support in the future. I also have the privilege of time and energy with which to do it. My underlying expectation is that there are very few problems that I don't have some redress for.

Asylum-seekers, in good faith, and following the rules, have nothing left to lose. They are coming here seeking something less life-threatening than what they're fleeing. They're seeking some good will. Or, at the very least, safety. Or relative safety.

I put my children on a bus to Jewish sleep away camp knowing that in my daughter's cabin of 8 girls, there are 4 young adult counselors who are there to make sure that she's safe, happy, and her needs are being met.

I also know that last year, an asshole white supremacist antisemite decided to go to a synagogue on shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, and turn it into a bloodbath. Well before that ever happened, well before the era of mass shootings and Columbine, Jewish institutions like synagogues and preschools and JCCs have needed extra surveillance. We've had police guard our religious services and social gatherings. Even (and perhaps especially) seeking out Jewish belonging, Jewish joy, has always been a reckoning with danger and threat.

After I sent my children on that bus—the one I knew where it was going—the one where I'd shoveled their overpacked duffle bags into the bowels of the bus—I came home to a house strewn with the remnants from packing. Laundry bins with unneeded t-shirts and shorts and single socks. The cat—he normally comes to greet me when he hears the garage door open—was nowhere to be seen. I called for him. He still did not come. I came upstairs and looked in my son's room. No cat. I looked in my daughter's room—with its orange and pink somewhat darkened by the rainy skies—and there he was, tucked into a furry circle in an eddy of her duvet. I laid down next to him and lost control. The control I never really had.

Twitter this week has erupted in a jagged back-and-forth between politicians and pundits and opinion-havers about whether or not it is appropriate to call the migrant detention centers run by ICE and our government "concentration camps." I, and most other Jews I follow and know, agree they should be called exactly what they are.

Non-Jews (and, to be fair, some Jews as well), like to tiptoe around the Holocaust and any words or imagery which may in any way encroach upon the historical accuracy or singular legacy of that horrible period. To a degree, I might agree when the comparisons are used flippantly or improperly.

But the legacy of the Holocaust, we are all reminded, is NEVER AGAIN. And NEVER AGAIN means that we don't wait until something worse happens. What's happening RIGHT NOW in the United States shares that DNA.

In the same way I understood or had an inkling in my bones that the election might go a way I didn't want it to, I know this same thing: we are not ok. This is not just the start. This is halfway down the road to the place where we lose not just perceived control, but real control. For all the current administration's lies and purposeful incapabilities, know this: the cruelty that comes out of the mouth of our president and those who continue to support him in the government and in the populace is not a lie. It is predictive. They're telling us in advance what they intend to do. And then they are doing it.

In a world where I still have the ability to put my daughter and son on a bus with all their toiletries and know that they will likely arrive at their destination, I also know that our government argued for the legal right to deny soap and toothbrushes to migrant children. When anyone's children are denied such basics—human basics—no one is safe.

I know it will sound like hyperbole. I know that those who so easily dismissed my concerns early on—before this administration even took office—will still attempt to dismiss my warnings now. But do so at your own peril.

I was not built for normal times. I was built for times like these. And I haven't been wrong yet.

This post originally appeared on Outside Voice. You can read it here.

Inclusivity