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Democracy

I did a roundtable with the Vice President about abortion. Here are 4 things that surprised me.

The conversation was important, but in some ways the experience was nothing like I expected it to be.

Annie Reneau, Joy Reid, Kamala Harris

Upworthy associate editor Annie Reneau chatting with Joy Reid and Kamala Harris in an MSNBC roundtable

It's been a very weird week.

I'm a writer and editor—not a medical professional, legal expert or political activist in any way—so imagine my surprise when I got a message from Vice President Kamala Harris's senior advisor inviting me to join a roundtable discussion on MSNBC for the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. I thought someone might be pranking me, but nope. The invite was real.

Apparently, someone had read an op-ed I'd written years ago about how it's possible to be morally pro-life but politically pro-choice and felt that my voice would add something to the discussion. The panelists included the lead plaintiffs in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization and the Texas Abortion Ban lawsuits, two activists involved in the fight for reproductive rights, a Texas OB-GYN who has seen the implications of the Dobbs decision in his own practice…and me.

I felt remarkably average among these experts on the issue, but I think that was the point. My view represents millions of average American voters who may feel conflicted about where they stand on abortion morally and legally and are trying to reconcile their personal or religious beliefs with what they think our laws should be. Additionally, as someone with no political affiliation or loyalty to any party, I could speak about grappling with this issue without any partisan pressure or influence.


I'd like to point out that I'm wary of most politicians and well aware of biases in the media, so despite feeling honored to be asked, I was a bit hesitant to participate. I certainly didn't want to contribute to the partisan divide if I could help it. But because abortion is such a complex and nuanced issue, dedicating an entire hour of prime time to a discussion about it sounded like a good way to help people gain a better, broader understanding. So less than 24 hours after being asked, I was on a plane to Dallas to join the roundtable, which filmed the next day.

The full roundtable discussion is worth watching (and can be found on Peacock, with clips available on MSNBC), but I wanted to pull back the curtain and offer a peek behind the scenes because there were some things about the experience that genuinely surprised me.

1. I had no idea ahead of time what questions they were going to ask

I assumed participants in these kinds of events would be prepped ahead of time with what questions they would be asking and have ample time to prepare. This was not the case for me, and according to the fellow panelists I chatted with, it wasn't for them, either. I used my travel time to prepare a few talking points I felt I could address somewhat intelligently based on my op-ed (since that's what prompted the invite), but all I knew before arriving for the taping was that we were going to be discussing the Dobbs decision.

The only preparation we got was about 30 seconds before each segment was filmed. Joy Reid briefly explained how that segment would be structured with something like, "Okay, in this segment, we're going to talk about [some element of the abortion issue]. I'm going to ask [panelist] about [XYZ] and then pivot to [panelist] to talk about [XYZ]. But feel free to chime in if you want to respond to something. We really want this to be a conversation."

That was it. The entire prep. I was surprised—but also delighted—by how unscripted it was. No one asked me to make any specific points. I didn't feel any expectation or pressure to even agree with what was being said. Obviously, they knew where I stood based on what I'd written, but they had no idea what I was actually going to say ahead of time.

2. The conversations on-screen were no different than the ones being had off-screen by all parties involved

I think people who are skeptical of media may think that things said for the camera aren't as genuine as one would hope. Maybe that's the case sometimes, but that wasn't my experience at all here. In the green room and during the commercial breaks while filming, the conversation about the issue continued just as it did on screen, just without a host guiding it. The genuine sincerity of the discussion filled me with hope.

For instance, the OB-GYN panelist I was chatting with in the green room told me that in his 30 years of practice, he'd never had a patient come to the decision to terminate a pregnancy lightly, and we talked about the importance of keeping compassion and empathy central to the conversation about abortion. That was just our casual conversation. In the hours I was there, I overheard people from the crew to the other panelists to Joy Reid and the VP talking behind the scenes about all the things we talked about on screen. There was nothing contrived or fake about what you see in the roundtable discussion.

3. There was no atmosphere of eliteness

Despite the presence of Secret Service agents everywhere and despite being a high-profile cable news show involving the Vice President, the whole thing after going through the metal detectors felt mostly…normal.

All the people I interacted with, from the folks arranging my travel to the people headlining the show, were so down-to-earth. Everyone was genuinely nice and repeatedly expressed their gratitude to all of us for being there. I kept thinking, "Wait, aren't I the one who's supposed to feel grateful for this opportunity?" I didn't expect to feel so at ease. There was an air of professionalism, of course, but not at all a stuffy or high-pressured one.

I mean, I chatted with Joy Reid about her hot flashes while we were waiting for Kamala Harris to arrive, for goodness sake. It was obviously a serious and highly organized event with lots of moving parts, but it also felt casual and relaxed, which made it easy not to feel too nervous.

4. I came home to an immediate example of why this issue is so important

The night after I came home from Dallas, I had friends over for dinner. One of them works with pregnant women and told me about a mom who was in her second trimester and very ill. Her bloodwork looked horrible and her health was going downhill fast. It turned out she had a very rare fetal anomaly that was creating her health problem, and she needed to terminate the pregnancy or risk a dire outcome. The anomaly meant there ultimately wasn't going to be a way to save the fetus.

Her previous OB-GYN who had delivered her other children was in Idaho, and though he wanted to help her, he couldn't, because what she needed was an abortion. She wasn't at death's door yet (though technically could crash at any time), so despite the obvious need to end the pregnancy, his hands were tied by Idaho abortion laws. She then had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get to a provider in Washington who could help her, all while her health continued to be in danger.

There are countless stories like this that illustrate the very real implications of the Dobbs decision on real people, including people who don't actually want an abortion but need one. There's a tendency to try to make this issue black-and-white, but it's not. There are unique circumstances surrounding every pregnancy and every childbirth, and real women are harmed when lawmakers insert themselves into healthcare decisions with no medical expertise or training.

It's vital that we keep the moral debates separate from the legal debates on this issue. Pregnancy is a healthcare issue, deserving of medical privacy. No lawmaker needs to be in the room when a woman and a doctor are making decisions about her healthcare. People can debate the morality of those decisions all day long, but keep the law out of it.

I wasn't necessarily surprised, but I was happy to see first-hand how, at the highest levels of this unfortunately politically-charged issue, the concern behind the debate isn't about politics, but about the real people negatively impacted by the court's decision.


A woman is shocked to learn that her name means something totally different in Australia.

Devyn Hales, 22, from California, recently moved to Sydney, Australia, on a one-year working visa and quickly learned that her name wouldn’t work Down Under. It all started when a group of men made fun of her on St. Patrick’s Day.

After she introduced herself as Devyn, the men laughed at her. "They burst out laughing, and when I asked them why, they told me devon is processed lunch meat,” she told The Daily Mail. It's similar to baloney, so I introduce myself as Dev now,” she said in a viral TikTok video with over 1.7 million views.

For those who have never been to Australia, Devon is a processed meat product usually cut into slices and served on sandwiches. It is usually made up of pork, basic spices and a binder. Devon is affordable because people buy it in bulk and it’s often fed to children. Australians also enjoy eating it fried, like spam. It is also known by other names such as fritz, circle meat, Berlina and polony, depending on where one lives on the continent. It's like in America, where people refer to cola as pop, soda, or Coke, depending on where they live in the country.


So, one can easily see why a young woman wouldn’t want to refer to herself as a processed meat product that can be likened to boloney or spam. "Wow, love that for us," another woman named Devyn wrote in the comments. “Tell me the name thing isn't true,” a woman called Devon added.

@dhalesss

#fypシ #australia #americaninaustralia #sydney #aussie

Besides changing her name, Dev shared some other differences between living in Australia and her home country.

“So everyone wears slides. I feel like I'm the only one with 'thongs'—flip-flops—that have the little thing in the middle of your big toe. Everyone wears slides,” she said. Everyone wears shorts that go down to your knees and that's a big thing here.”

Dev also noted that there are a lot of guys in Australia named Lachlan, Felix and Jack.

She was also thrown off by the sound of the plentiful magpies in Australia. According to Dev, they sound a lot like crying children with throat infections. “The birds threw me off,” she said before making an impression that many people in the comments thought was close to perfect. "The birds is so spot on," Jess wrote. "The birds, I will truly never get used to it," Marissa added.

One issue that many Americans face when moving to Australia is that it is more expensive than the United States. However, many Americans who move to Australia love the work-life balance. Brooke Laven, a brand strategist in the fitness industry who moved there from the U.S., says that Aussies have the “perfect work-life balance” and that they are “hard-working” but “know where to draw the line.”

Despite the initial cultural shocks, Devyn is embracing her new life in Australia with a positive outlook. “The coffee is a lot better in Australia, too,” she added with a smile, inspiring others to see the bright side of cultural differences.

Image created from @maymaybarclay Twitter page.

The courage to speak up to join in the fun.

Meet Mason Brian Barclay, a teen and self-described "very homosexual male." He recently wanted to attend a sleepover at his "new best friend" Houston's house, because teens are gonna teen. But he's a boy, and everyone knows boys aren't allowed to attend girls' sleepovers, because of cooties/patriarchal norms.

So he behaved more maturely than most adults, and crafted a long text message to Houston's mom, Mrs. Shelton, in which he politely asked for permission to attend Houston's sleepover.


"I think the common meaning behind only allowing the same sex to share sleepovers is due to the typical interest in the opposite sex, when, in this case, I do not like the opposite sex," he explained in the text.


Mrs. Shelton's response was so good that Mason tweeted it out and it went viral:

"Hmm. Well my husband is hot. Should I worry?" she responded.

via GIPHY

Evidently Mason found Mrs. Shelton's text hilarious. So does Twitter.

And others are just wondering if the sleepover is on, or not??

Others need to know if Houston's dad lives up to the hype:

This article originally appeared on 11.26.18

Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”

The hilarious clip takes place during the American Revolution, where George Washington rallies his troops with an impassioned speech about his future hopes for their fledgling country…all the while poking fun at America’s nonsensical measurements and language rules.

Like seriously, liters and milliliters for soda, wine and alcohol but gallons, pints, and quarters for milk and paint? And no “u” after “o” in words like “armor” and “color” but “glamour” is okay?

The inherent humor in the scene is only amplified by comedian and host Nate Bargatze’s understated, deadpan delivery of Washington. Bargatze had quite a few hits during his hosting stint—including an opening monologue that acted as a mini comedy set—but this performance takes the cake.

Watch:

All in all, people have been applauding the sketch, noting that it harkened back to what “SNL” does best, having fun with the simple things.

Here’s what folks are saying:

“This skit is an instant classic. I think people will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

“Dear SNL, whoever wrote this sketch, PLEASE let them write many many MANY more!”

“Instantly one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time!!!”

“I’m not lying when I say I have watched this sketch about 10 times and laughed just as hard every time.”

“This may be my favorite sketch ever. This is absolutely brilliant.”


There’s more where that came from. Catch even more of Bargatze’s “SNL” episode here.


This article originally appeared on 10.30.23

Family

What to do when you're the child of an alcoholic

My dad was an addict, and growing up with him taught me a lot.

Photo with permission from writer Ashley Tieperman.

Ashley Tieperman and her father.


There was never just one moment in my family when we “found out" that my dad was an addict.

I think I always knew, but I never saw him actually drinking. Usually, he downed a fifth of vodka before he came home from work or hid tiny bottles in the garage and bathroom cabinets.


My name is Ashley, and I am the child of an addict. As a kid, I cried when our family dinner reservation shrunk from four to three after a man with glassy eyes stumbled through the door. I didn't guzzle the vodka, but I felt the heartbreak of missed birthdays. I feel like I should weigh 500 pounds from all the “I'm sorry" chocolate donuts. I had to grow up quicker, but it made me into the person I am today.

addiction, coping, 12 step programs, recovery

Me and my dad.

Photo with permission from writer Ashley Tieperman.

I spent many years shouting into journals about why this was happening to me. But this is the thing that no one will tell you about loving someone who has an addiction: it will force you to see the world through different eyes.

Here are some things I've learned:

1. When your family's yelling about burnt toast, they're probably also yelling about something else.

My family yelled about everything — and nothing — to avoid the messy stuff. We all handled my dad's addiction differently. My brother devoured sports. My mom took bubble baths. I slammed doors and slammed boyfriends for not understanding my family's secrets.

Regardless of the preferred coping mechanism, everyone feels pain differently.

2. Your "knight in shining armor" can't fix this.

Boyfriends became my great escape when I was young. But when I expected them to rescue me from the pain I grew up with, it never worked out. No matter how strapping they looked galloping in on those white horses, they couldn't save me or fix anything.

In the end, I realized that I had to find healing on my own before I could build a strong relationship.

3. “Don't tell anyone" is a normal phase.

When my dad punched holes in the wall, my mom covered them up with artwork. I wanted to rip the artwork down to expose all the holes, especially as a bratty teenager. But eventually I realized that it wasn't my choice. My parents had bills to pay and jobs to keep. I've learned it's common to cover up for dysfunction in your family, especially when it feels like the world expects perfection.

4. Friends probably won't get it, but you'll need them anyway.

Bulldozed by broken promises, I remember collapsing on a friend's couch from the crippling pain of unmet expectations. I hyperventilated. Things felt uncontrollable and hopeless. My friend rubbed my back and just listened.

These are the kinds of friends I will keep forever, the ones who crawled down into the dark places with me and didn't make me get back up until I was ready.

5. You can't fix addiction, but you can help.

When I was a teenager, I called a family meeting. I started by playing a Switchfoot song: “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?"

Let's skip to the punchline: It didn't work.

It wasn't just me. Nothing anyone did worked. My dad had to lose a lot — mostly himself — before he hit that place they call “rock bottom." And, in all honesty, I hate that label because “rock bottom" isn't just a one-and-done kind of place.

What can you do while you wait for someone to actually want to get help? Sometimes, you just wait. And you hope. And you pray. And you love. And you mostly just wait.

6. Recovery is awkward.

When a counselor gave me scripted lines to follow if my dad relapsed, I wanted to shred those “1-2-3 easy steps" into a million pieces.

For me, there was nothing easy about my dad's recovery. My whole family had to learn steps to a new dance when my dad went into recovery. The healing dance felt like shuffling and awkwardly stepping on toes. It was uncomfortable; new words, like trust and respect, take time to sink in. And that awkwardness is also OK.

7. I still can't talk about addiction in the past tense.

Nothing about an addict's life happens linearly. I learned that early on. My dad cycled through 12-step programs again and again, to the point where I just wanted to hurl whenever anyone tried to talk about it. And then we finally reached a point where it felt like recovery stuck.

But even now, I'll never say, “My dad used to deal with addiction." My whole family continues to wrestle with the highs and lows of life with an addict every single day.

8. Happy hours and wedding receptions aren't easy to attend.

My family will also probably never clink glasses of red wine or stock the fridge full of beer. I'm convinced happy hours and wedding receptions will get easier, but they might not. People get offended when my dad orders a Diet Coke instead of their fine whisky.

Plus, there's the paranoia factor. Surrounded by flowing liquor, I hate watching my dad crawl out of his skin, tempted to look “normal" and tackle small talk with people we barely know. I've learned that this fear will probably last for a while, and it's because I care.

9. If you close your eyes, the world doesn't just “get prettier."

With constant fear of the unknown, sometimes our world is not a pretty place. I remember watching the breaking news on 9/11 and feeling the terror of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers as if I was there.

My dad numbed the anxiety of these dark days with vodka, but this didn't paint a prettier world for him when he woke up the next day. I've dealt with the fear of the unknown with the help of boys, booze, and bad dancing on pool tables. Life hurts for everyone, and I think we all have to decide how we're going to handle the darkness.

10. Rip off the sign on your back that reads: “KICK ME. MY LIFE SUCKS."

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see only my broken journey. In some twisted way, I'm comforted by the dysfunction because it's kept me company for so long. It's easy to let the shadow of my family's past follow me around and choose to drown in the darkness.

But every day, I'm learning to turn on the light. I have to write the next chapter in my recovery story, but I can't climb that mountain with all this crap weighing me down.

11. It's OK to forgive, too.

Some people have given me sucky advice about how I should write an anthem on daddy bashing, or how to hit the delete button on the things that shaped my story.

Instead, my dad and I are both learning to celebrate the little things, like the day that he could change my flat tire. On that day, I didn't have to wonder if he was too drunk to come help me.

I can't forget all the dark nights of my childhood.

But I've learned that for my own well-being, I can't harbor bitterness until I explode.

Instead, I can love my dad, day by day, and learn to trust in the New Dad — the one with clearer eyes and a full heart. The one who rescues me when I call.


This article was written by Ashley Tieperman and originally appeared on 04.27.16


Recent polls suggest that Republicans and Democrats have slightly different tastes that have nothing to do with politics.

If you like cats, The Beatles, and Starbucks, you tend to vote Democrat. If you're into Toby Keith, Budweiser, and Dunkin' Donuts, you tend to vote Republican.

But an interesting new quiz claims to be 98 percent effective at determining people's political affiliations by asking questions that have zero to do with politics.



Click here to take the quiz.

So how does it work? (Don't read the answer if you haven't taken the quiz yet.)

According to ChartsMe, recent studies have found that people who were more prone to disgust are more conservative. This leads them to more closely align with the Republican Party.

Some scientists believe it's ancestral and that the adverse reactions to conditions we'd label “disgusting" were used to protect primitive ancestors from contamination and disease. This way a person wouldn't confuse drinking water with dirty pond scum. But if the test told you that you're a Republican, you probably won't accept that explanation because studies show you probably don't believe in evolution.

Click here to take the quiz.


This article originally appeared on 08.09.18