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Why I regret writing about trying to understand Trump supporters

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how I was done trying to understand Trump supporters after having spent four years at it. While I try to only write things I am proud of, I occasionally write something that doesn't sit well with me after it's published. This is one of those times.

I have messages in my inbox from people thanking me for that piece, saying it helped them understand their loved ones better, so I know some people found some parts of it helpful. But ultimately, I would take it back if I could. Please bear with me while I try to explain why.

My goal as a writer is to put stories and ideas out into the world that will, in some small way, help humanity progress toward a better future. Sometimes that means writing something positive that lifts people's spirits and gives them hope. Sometimes it means writing about injustices and hardships that need to be brought into the light and better understood. Sometimes it means challenging the status quo and helping people see things in a different way.

It also means avoiding things that I think are ultimately counterproductive to progress. While I don't shy away from tackling issues, I avoid writing about partisan politics because I see our two-party system as inherently divisive. I try to avoid writing about specific politicians as well, unless they've done something praiseworthy. There are more than enough political pundits putting out hot takes these days, and I have no desire to add my voice to that fray.

These past four years, however, have tested my convictions on these fronts, both internally and externally.


Issues that should not be considered partisan or divisive have become so in the eyes of many, making it nearly impossible to have a conversation that doesn't devolve into labels and generalizations and assumptions. When I write about racism or climate change or human rights—even basic public health at this point—I'm automatically placed into a political box, despite having never aligned myself with any political party. Even if I write about objective reality and verifiable fact, I'm placed into a political box, despite that making no sense whatsoever.

Labeling and categorizing is a natural tendency that's easy to slip into, especially in our current climate. But all it does is create an "us vs. them" filter on everything we discuss. I think that's the point of most political rhetoric, actually. "Us vs. them" is the simplest way to gain political power. Demonizing and "othering" make it easy to maintain.

The sneaky thing is that once that tendency takes hold, it starts to feel not just right, but righteous to "other" the people we see as on the wrong side of history or democracy or justice. It can even feel necessary and truthful to put them in the "other" category. Then it starts to feel okay to state the truth about them more and more harshly. Then we throw some potshots in, because those people deserve it. It so easily escalates from "they're wrong" to "they're insane" to "they're evil."

That's literally how everyone justifies division, on every "side," in every political system. But where does that lead us in the long run?

Whenever divisions seem intractable, I like to zoom out and look at the big picture. It's not like we haven't seen what we're seeing now in various times and places throughout history, from toxic partisanship to populist demagoguery. So the real root of the problem isn't the individual people or politics we keep arguing and complaining about, but something more fundamental.

In my opinion, the root cause of nearly all of our issues is people's inability or unwillingness to recognize that we are all "us." The lack of recognition of our essential oneness as human beings is manifested in all kinds of "othering"—racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious prejudice, political party prejudices, and so on and so on. But no matter the form, the root of most human problems is the "othering" of a group of people. My group = good. Other group = bad. So simple, but so wrong, every time.

I talked in my Trump supporters post about people wanting problems and solutions to be simple, but I should have been clearer that none of us is immune to that pull. We are all tempted to jump down the "us vs. them" hole because problems are simpler down there. It's easier to think in dichotomous groups and "sides" than to wade through complex ideas and nuanced beliefs on an individual level. Everything in our political discourse is designed to draw us into that hole.

And I allowed myself to fall in when I wrote that piece. I made Trump supporters a "them," and by doing so, perpetuated the very thing I see as the root of the problem. I fed the beast I was fighting while trying to fight it.

In the big picture, the beast isn't one individual with power or one political party or the people who support both of those things, no matter how it may appear in this era. The beast is the human tendency towards prejudice—a tendency that we have to overcome in ourselves and convince others to overcome in themselves.

How to get people to understand this is the challenge. But I know that categorizing a group of people in a way that they feel belittles or insults them isn't going to get us where we need to go, no matter how justified it feels. It's just not.

Cynicism about the redeemability of our fellow Americans won't get us where we want to go, and writing off millions of human beings will just have us living in perpetual limbo. Lasting solutions to our problems aren't going to be found in political boxes, and they aren't going to be found down an "us vs. them" hole, either.

We all have to decide how we are going to use our voice and how we're going to contribute to humanity's progress. I'd rather focus on the universal truths at the heart of the issues we face and work toward solutions in that way, rather than analysis of the political labels and ideological "sides" that only serve to divide us further.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Lizzo made history playing James Madison's crystal flute at her Washington, D.C., concert.

Imagine James Madison sitting in the White House during his second term as president. An enslaved Black servant delivers the president his dinner, which he eats by oil lamp as electricity wouldn't be installed until 19 presidents later. The War of 1812 rages. Most newspapers are still weekly, so news spreads slowly. There is no such thing as the internet, television or even radio.

Now imagine someone plops a laptop onto President Madison's desk and presses a button. On the screen—which is like nothing he has ever seen before—he watches a Black woman perform on a stage in front of thousands of people. Lights—which he's never seen—illuminate and reflect off her sequined bodysuit. She steps up to a microphone—which he's also never seen—and speaks to the 20,000 people in the audience.

Then she lifts up something Madison has seen and instantly recognizes—a crystal flute specially made for him for his second inauguration. The woman lifts the flute to her lips and plays. Madison is told this is happening approximately a mile away from where he sits, more than 200 years into the future.

Imagine him trying to process any single part of what he's witnessing.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

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