Browning America

In 2000, 76.5% of voters in the presidential election were white. By 2020, just two decades later, this number is projected to be only 66.7%. This nearly 10 point drop is a result of the growing numbers of voters of color. Most notably, the Hispanic vote is expected to nearly double from 7.4% to 13.3%.  It’s hard to understate the effect that this will have. Not just on elections, but on the American people. In 2009, America made history. Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American president. Many heralded the start of a “post-racial America”. Now, 10 years later, it’s pretty clear that this was not the case. So what happened?

While most people say Obama’s election was a victory against racism, for many he was a symbol of something else: the declining power of white America. This view was not wrong either; Obama swept to power on a powerful coalition built on the back of voters of color. He was a symbol that the balance of power was changing in America.

Sociologists have studied what happens when people are shown information indicating that their political power is diminishing. In a particularly fascinating experiment, Spanish speakers were put on trains and train stations around (very liberal) Boston, particularly those in white neighborhoods. They simply took the train like anyone else, but after only 3 days researchers found a sharp rightward shift in the immigration opinions of the other passengers. In another experiment, subjects were shown demographic data indicating that the Hispanic population in America is growing very rapidly. After seeing this, subjects reported a noticeable shift to the right. They became more likely to support strict immigration policies, and even moved rightward on non-immigration related policies. In this second experiment, it’s important to note that this reaction was universal. Both African-Americans and Asian-Americans had the same response as white subjects. This is not an ideological reaction, it’s a human one.

These experiments show the effect of subtle examples of the declining power of white America. Obama’s presidency was not subtle, so we can only imagine the effects that it had. While this effect can cut both ways (Hispanics exposed to micro-aggressions such as a questioning of their citizenship move left) the overwhelming effect is to drive the American population to the right, particularly on immigration.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this in America. When immigration from Asia and parts of Europe surged at the end of 19th century, we saw a sharp move to the right among the political elite. The Chinese Exclusion act and the Immigration Act of 1924 came into being with bipartisan support, and the pseudo-science of eugenics became widely popular. This type of white-supremacist sentiment did not die down, and instead culminated, and violently ended, with the genocides of WWII.

This is something of a tangent, but anti-immigrant sentiment and white supremacy in America is closely connected to the rise of the Nazi’s in Germany. Nazi politicians studied US law, particularly in how it denied citizenship to non-white residents. And if you still have doubts, here is a quote from Adolf Hitler: “It was America that taught us a nation should not open its doors equally to all nations”. When the US entered WWII against Nazi Germany, it adopted an anti-racist sentiment to distinguish itself, but it was not the reason we fought against Germany.

We cannot and should not hope for such a cataclysmic event to end the rightward shift we see now. Instead, it falls on us and our political institutions. Next month, we’ll look at how the political parties may change in response to demographic change.


Ground Zero

Cold, dusty air cascaded into the room, sending papers flying and the tablecloth flapping. The fabric that Olive had painstakingly laid out suddenly careened across the room. As her eyes followed its path, they caught on the shadow of a burly figure towering in the opening. Olive rose from the table, but the figure had already heaved the vault door shut and spun the locking wheel into place with an echoing creak and deafening silence. The scavenger pulled the scarf down off her nose and peeled the goggles off her face. The crust of dust left behind widened her eyes into a spooked expression, even though her face was exhilarated and ruddy from the exercise. She stomped her feet on the shreds of the doormat.

“What did you find?” Olive retrieved the scrap of fabric from the floor and brushed it off as if nothing had happened. Emberline shook her head sharply in an attempt to dislodge the sand stuck in her hair. After getting her fingers stuck trying to comb it, she gave up and shrugged the canvas knapsack off her shoulders.

“A few things. Odds and ends.”

“Where’d you go this time?” Olive asked, used to her roommate’s brusque answers. She grabbed a broom leaning near the door and swiped the dust into a corner. A losing battle, but one Olive was determined to keep fighting.

“The houses down on the water.” The scavenger unzipped her jacket and cracked it off her torso to hang. It retained her shape, the husk of a human form. Olive shivered. “Apparently the houses built for hurricanes also held up to the apocalypse pretty well.”

“That’s not somewhere you’ve been yet, right? Did you find anything? Anything from Before?” Olive prompted hopefully. Emberline paused, enough time for Olive to note the rips in her patched cotton sweater. She made a mental note to wrestle it from her friend long enough to sew them up later.

“Maybe.” Emberline looked around for a place to put down the bag. Scraps of cloth, buttons, and the remains of an old chair cushion had claimed the table, so she chose the chair instead. Its one metal leg knocked on the wood of the floor. She unclipped the buckles and started pulling objects from the top. Olive couldn’t contain her curiosity. She left the broom and guiltily crossed her arms on the back of the chair to get a glimpse. Emberline first pulled out a bottle. It seemed, spectacularly, to be intact. She rubbed a section with her sleeve. The light from the oil lamp shone straight through it. The bottle was glass. “I couldn’t find the lid.” She shrugged as she handed it over.

“This is great,” Olive breathed, and continued to scrub away the grime.

“I’ve got some cans, too. A tad gross. Ah, here. Color.” It was rare to find cans with any decoration left on them, even rarer to find one uncrushed. As Olive thumbed off the dirt, she found the exterior to be tinged a bright green. Her face lit up.

“I know just where this should go.” She crossed the room and held it up next to an orange can already on the shelf, one that faintly still read anta in big white letters. A cactus poked its head out from the ripped aluminum, a rare and precious survivor. “Not that I have a plant for it. Someone in town might.” But Emberline had already moved on.

“I got some scrap metal for Allison… some plastic for Marco. Wood from a picture frame. Maybe Kat will want it.” Olive tapped her fingers on the shelf. So it was just a practical run, then.

“Seriously? You went to a new house and didn’t find anything to bring back for me?”

“Olive. You know scavenging is what keeps our community running.”

“Yeah yeah, I know. We can’t manufacture anything ourselves anymore, spare me the lecture. I just… I don’t know. They had so many cool things. They knew so much. It’s a shame to have lost everything.” Olive crossed the threadbare rug to the wall of memorabilia. Papers, black disks with holes in the middle, anything with a picture or a logo that Emberline had found over the years in the ruins of the city, Olive had catalogued and labelled.  

“… And whatever this is.” Emberline made sure she had Olive’s attention before pulling out a flat, round object and thrust it at her. Olive took it skeptically. It used to be mostly white, but layers of age and use had turned it into a murky yellow. Still, small blue dots spattered the disk. Some of them were connected by lines in little clusters. The object had several layers, and a scalloped edge peeked out from the middle one in several places, as if asking to be turned. Attempting to move it would probably be futile. Calendar dates and times ringed the border. The words “The Night Sky” were stamped across the middle.

“What is this?” Olive asked. Emberline continued to shove the things they weren’t keeping back into the sack. She shrugged.

“Your guess is as good as mine. Seems that maybe, you could see things above you, Before. Like in the paintings.”

“Above you?”

“Yeah. Instead of just the dust.” Olive stared down at the disk and traced the lines with her fingers.

“I’ve never seen dots in those pictures, though.”

“Maybe it’s a map. Maps have dots.”

Olive scoffed. “Of what? The sky?”

Emberline smacked the dust off her hands and went to the porcelain water basin. “Maybe there was more. Before.”

“Well, there’s no way to find out,” Olive sighed. She returned to the table and set to painstakingly rearranging the pieces of cloth that had been scattered by the wind.  

“What if I said there was?” Emberline said slowly. Olive perked up.

“What? What do you mean?”

“If I said there was a way to see over the storm.”

Olive scoffed, grabbed a pin, and stuck it through a carefully marked line. “If there was, wouldn’t we have heard about it by now? Between you and the other scavengers, if you were going to come across something you would have.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Emberline said carefully. “There’s a place.” Olive gaped.

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m not.”

“…Will you take me?”

Emberline looked up in alarm.

“Really? You hate outside. It’s not close.” Olive straightened her back. She didn’t quite know why, but she needed to prove herself.

“I can handle it.” Emberline raised an eyebrow. “Okay, I’m scared! Happy? But if there’s a chance to know what this means…” Olive hopped up and crossed to the shrine of relics. “I want to at least try.” Emberline stared her down long and hard, seeming to weigh her determination.

“Well then. Gear up. Let’s go on an adventure.”


Scarves. Goggles. Gloves. Boots. Long strips of cotton to cover anything and everything else. As they stood by the door preparing to leave, Emberline held up a hand. She reached out and, as gently as she could with the gloves on, tucked in the loose fabric around Olive’s face. Luckily the scarf hid her blush.

Emberline hoisted a coil of rope across her torso. Then, a thumbs-up sign. Olive nodded.

She braced her bent knees against the floor as she hauled on the spoke to open the hatch. Olive plunged into the storm as quickly as possible. Her friend followed on her heels and let the door slam behind. The storm was so thick today that Olive couldn’t see her own feet. The two clasped hands, like two otters in a river, and dove into the current.

Emberline know the way best, so she led, her left hand trailing the ruins. This part of the trek was always a blur for Olive. Her nose itched, but nothing could be done. Instead she focused on putting one foot in front of the other, following her tether of sinew and flesh through the haze of sand and dust. A sudden gust shoved her, and it was only Emberline’s tight grip that kept her from falling into the dune.

In the back of her mind, Olive wondered how Emberline did this every day.

The wind swirled around the two girls in eddies and flurries, tearing at their clothing and pelting their goggles. It took a few moments for Olive to stop scrunching her eyes so tight, a defense mechanism she had to consciously unlearn. As always, being outside was eerie. On the one hand, Olive felt claustrophobic, as if the very air itself was trying to smother her, bury her. At the same time, once away from the wall, there was no way to tell where the world was. For all she knew, her right side could be open for miles. Or, maybe there was another building five paces away. But unless she ventured out there, it would remain a mystery.

They rounded a corner. The view didn’t change. Olive was acutely aware of the warmth of the breath in her scarf, worrying her heat might fog up the googles.

After a long period of nothingness besides the wall, a tall pole suddenly materialized out of the flurry. Time to cross.

Emberline uncoiled the rope. With large, gloved, clumsy fingers, she wrapped a loop around Olive’s waist and cinched it tight before tying herself into the other side. A few feet remained between them, just enough to bend down comfortably. They linked arms and cast off, into the abyss.

There were only 23 steps between the post and the other wall. Sometimes 24 or 25 for Olive, because her steps were shorter.

One. Two. Three.

As they ventured further, the wind picked up, sending grains of sand down the street in a river of dust.

Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen.

Olive clung tighter to Emberline. She tried not to think about what would happen if they got separated somehow. There’s no telling what direction she might get off in. No markings on the walls to know which way was home.

Twenty. Twenty-one. Twenty-two.

And there it was. The next wall. Olive heaved a sigh of relief. She was not built for this. She clung to the wall, as if it would run away if it slipped through her fingers.

Emberline gave the thumbs-up sign. Olive half-heartedly returned the gesture, peeled her hands off, and tromped on after her friend.


The building they came to had no door. They fought through several opposing, violent air currents to force themselves in and duck through the archway. Inside, the storm was slightly calmer, but the ground was still covered in feet of sand. It had once been a grand foyer. Olive could see the ceiling through a haze of dust, far higher than the ceiling in their bunker, even higher than in the community building.

“Have you been here before?” Olive asked, her voice muffled through the fabric.

“No,” Emberline replied happily. “Marco told me about it.” She stomped around the old foyer, peering through every opening she found. Finally a metal door in the back seemed promising. Emberline put her shoulder on it and pushed. It gave way with a metallic screech. Sand and dust seeped into the next room. “Stairs. Come on.”

Olive followed her through the door. A staircase made of metal grating crossed back and forth above her head into the distance. Just looking up made her head spin with vertigo.

“We’re going… up?” she asked meekly.

“Well, yeah, of course,” Emberline replied. “Above the storm.”

“Oh. Yeah. That makes sense.”

“You okay?” Emberline asked.

“Yeah.” Olive nodded and took a large gulp of air. “It’ll be fine. It’s better than being outside in the storm.”

“Let’s go.”

As they climbed higher, the air slowly cleared. Eventually the two of them were able to pull the scarves from their noses and the goggles from their eyes. Each time they stepped, the metal groaned under their weight. It echoed in the narrow space, down the floors, a jarring reminder of how easy it would be to fall, of how much space was between them and solid ground. At every other crossing, a doorway led into what used to be the main building. Sometimes there was a door. Sometimes barely the frame was left, and they could glimpse the rotten tables and chairs that used to populate the floors.

After just a few levels, Olive’s energy sagged, and they had to stop. This happened several more times, until Olive lost track of how many floors they had ascended. Forty? Fifty?

“I don’t think I can make it,” Olive panted. Emberline pursed her lips. Somehow, she had barely broken a sweat. Maybe that’s one of the perks of being a scavenger, Olive thought.

“Here. I’ll see if the end is close. Hang tight.”

“Yeah yeah. I will.” Olive leaned against the railing and let her breath recover.

When Emberline came back, her eyes glowed with excitement.

“What? What did you find?” Emberline shook her head, grabbed Olive’s hand, and dragged her up the stairs. Olive stumbled along.

“Where are we going?” Olive let herself be led up another flight of gridded metal steps. The walls around them were stone, and in places, they had started to give way. The holes grew in size until Olive could see straight through them. The jagged holes should have been windows to – to –

Oh. To that.

Entranced, Olive tugged Emberline towards one of these gaps, yearning for a closer look. She resisted.

“Trust me,” Emberline repeated emphatically. “One more.”

The staircase narrowed to the width of a singular human. The incomplete walls closed in. But through a rectangular opening just above, perhaps a doorway of some type, was open space. Olive blinked and craned her neck to make sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks. Beyond that door was the outside. And it was clear. As they neared this phenomenon, Emberline stepped in front.

“Close your eyes,” she instructed.

“But – look – ”

“I know. Just… trust me a little longer.” Olive glared at her friend, who raised her eyebrows mischievously. Finally Olive sighed, smiling, and closed her eyes. Emberline narrated the rest of their climb, holding both of Olive’s hands and, presumably, walking backwards. “Three more steps… alright, forward just a bit…” Olive’s boots hit concrete, and braced herself. She expected the wind and dust to batter her face, but none came. Emberline led her forward and slightly leftward. Olive could hear the roar of the storm, as if from far away. Her hands were placed on a low concrete wall near her waist.

“Alright,” Emberline sang. “Open away!”

Olive did. Gasped. Blinked. Blinked again. Turned in a circle, eyes widening, staring at the sky. Emberline grinned at her, pleased.

“What is that?” Olive whispered.

“I think it’s what’s on that map of yours. The Night Sky.”

Olive felt woozy. She tried to steady herself on the low wall, but failed and fell on her bum on the concrete.

Firstly, Olive had never seen so much empty space in her life. Tall buildings of varying heights and states of destruction dotted the landscape, so far away they couldn’t be reached with any length of rope they owned. There were maybe two dozen, most of them stretching even higher than their perch. The columns seemed to be floating, as the sandstorm rolled and crashed about their bases, obscuring the ground beneath them and into the distance.

And above that…

Olive couldn’t comprehend what was above the buildings. Most of it was dark, but scattered around the void shone pinpricks of light, like grains of sand on a clean surface, but glowing, as if each one was a lantern being held aloft by some great being in the sky.

And that’s what Olive decided she was staring at: the sky.

There was so much… space. Emptiness, between her and… whatever those speckles were.

The world was so… big. In every direction.

Emberline sat next to her, legs slightly spread, knees up. Somehow, very calm. After a moment, she reached back into her bag and placed the circular map on the ground between them. Then she grabbed a candle and lit it.

“Whenever you’re ready,” she said. Olive took the map reverently. She held it up to the light, expecting to see some similarities. It seemed pretty clear that the dots on the map were the lights in the sky. Unfortunately, the two seemed not to match at all. Olive tried turning the map upside down, but to no avail. She even turned it around and checked out the back. Emberline sensed her frustration.

“May I?” she asked. Olive grunted her assent. Emberline lay down on her back against the concrete and held out her hand. Olive put the map into it and joined Emberline on the ground. They held the map up and tried again.

“I think I see one,” Olive gasped. “Look. There’s this weird ‘W’ shape…” She pointed at the map, then at the sky. “Kinda looks like those over there?”

“Yeah,” Emberline agreed. “It says… Cass-eye-oh-pie-ee-ah. Huh.” Olive laughed.

“That’s so cool! Almost sounds like a name.”

“Could be.”

“I wonder who she was. Must have been pretty great at something to have part of the sky named after her. Maybe she was a famous singer. Or artist. Or actor!”

“Doesn’t even look like a person.”

They studied in companionable silence, glancing between the map and the sky. Since they found one cluster, Olive looked nearby to search for another. Failing in that attempt, she moved elsewhere.

“Hey, check that out. Kinda looks like a pan.”

“A pan? …Ah. I see. Is it on the map?”

“Well, it connects a few more stars than that. Looks like it has legs. It says… ‘Ursa Major.’ What do you think that means? It looks kinda like a dog to me. Allison’s dog, the one she named after that picture we found. What’s her name again?”


“Huh. Okay, I see it.”

They found a couple more of these clusters of lights. They had names like ‘Orion’, ‘Gemini’, ‘Perseus’, and ‘Leo’. Names that meant nothing to either of them.

“This is silly,” Emberline declared, dropping the map to her side.

“Wha- what?” Olive spluttered. She was having fun finding the particular lights that made up a cluster. Each one came with a little spurt of pride. But Emberline went on, something she didn’t normally do. So Olive listened.

“We don’t know what any of this means. I assume they’re the names of these dots with lines between them, but… those names don’t mean anything to us.” She turned her head to look at Olive. At this angle, their faces were incredibly close. Olive was glad for the darkness. She could feel the heat creeping into her cheeks at the proximity. “Cass-eye-oh-pie-ee-ah might have meant something to someone a hundred years ago, but now it’s just a name on a map. We don’t know who it was, or if it was even a person. Doesn’t that feel strange to you?”

“I don’t know,” Olive replied. Her heart sunk to realize her friend didn’t cherish this bit of history the same way she did, but she didn’t need Emberline to know that. She couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“You know what we should do?” the scavenger said after a long silence.

“What’s that?”

“We should give them new names.”


“The clusters. Who says we need to use the same names they had before? Probably made by some weirdo who had nothing better to do than lie outside and look at lights in the sky. Doesn’t make any sense. Let’s give them new names.” At this, Olive could feel a bit of warmth in her gut.

“You know, I like that,” she said. “Where should we start?”

“Hmm. Well, there’s the pot-looking thing. What was it called before? Ursa something? Major? Didn’t they notice it looks like an animal?” Emberline chuckled. “I still think it looks like Adele. How about that for its name?”

“That’s amazing. I love it.” Olive looked around for something else familiar. Her eyes alighted on a string of three bright stars in a row. She peeked back at the map. Orion. “Okay, my turn. That one. Three stars across. The one we thought looked like a person. Well, it looks like the guy on the poster I have at home. With the whip over his head. Oh shoot, what was the name?” Olive bit her lip. Emberline lifted herself up on one elbow.

“I know which one you’re talking about,” she said. “Brown hat? Very dramatic looking?”

“Yeah. Hmm. Oh! It’s something like… ah… Diana Jon?”

“Diana Jon. Beautiful. Up there in the sky. Hello, Diana.”

“Your turn.”

“Ooh, yeah. Let’s see.” Emberline lay back down and crossed her arms across her chest. Olive smiled at the intense look of concentration that scrunched up her friend’s face when she was deeply in thought, cast in amber by the candle between them.

“There. There’s two lights up there, and two lights down a ways. A pillar, like the buildings.”

“And what are you going to call this pillar?” Olive prodded playfully.

“Something dramatic. Ground Zero.”

“Ground… what?”

“Ground Zero. I heard it on Marco’s radio once. I think they were talking about this place. The entire city, I mean. Not just this building.”

“Ground… zero. That’s so weird. Like, you haven’t started counting yet. Zero. Or, maybe, there’s nothing left to count.”

Emberline thought about it. Olive could see the gears turning in her head.

“It feels like it could be either. The beginning, or the end.”

Olive stood up and moved to the low wall. The unforgiving sea of eternal sand and dust stretched into the horizon: an expanse of a desolate storm, devoid of hope. But above it was a different sea, a sea of wonder, an unexplored abyss of magic lights, new names, possibilities. Emberline joined her at the edge.

Olive reached for her hand.

“I hope it’s the beginning.”


Horoscopes by Drunk Editors

Aries (Mar. 21 – Apr. 19): Friends or a group with which you’re affiliated could propose a flunnel. This might seem like a great sneedle, Aries, so you’re likely to go for it. You will probably have a zizzer-zazzer-zuzz.

Taurus (Apr. 20 – May 20): An opportunity to do some extra nizzards outside the scope of your regular floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs could present itself to you. Take it, Taurus.

Gemini (May 21 – Jun. 20): You might be extremely busy now. Invitations to large vippers, small snuvs with close nerds, and intimate evenings with romantic loraxes might come up today.

Cancer (Jun. 21 – Jul. 22): Unexpected quimney’s could wake you up to the possibility of fizza-ma-wizza-ma-dill opportunities, Cancer.
Leo (Jul. 23 – Aug. 22): If you aren’t romantically involved, an yuzz, obsk, or other wumbus into your neighborhood might bring an exciting new diffendoofer into your life.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sep. 22): Mon that you may have been hoping to use to better your kweet or hakken-kraks could suddenly come your way today, Virgo.

Libra (Sep. 23 – Oct. 22): When you run errands today, check the whisper-ma-phones in local businesses. Today you might find the sneetches you crave right in your midwinter-jicker.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21): Ooblek received today excites your imagination and encourages you to start a new artistic or creative project. Stories, bar-ba-loots, truffula trees- all could come together in your mind and form an idea that could change your life.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21): Floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs is the word for today, Sagittarius. A lot of physical and mental energy, as well as murky-mooshy, might lead you to aim for goals that others consider too risky or schoppity-scholpp.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19): New career goals may come your way with the current lerkim opening up possibilities.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): Fascinating new information could arrive today from jill-ikka-jast or the sala-ma-goox, opening up new educational opportunities.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – Mar. 20): A sudden burst of rink-rinker-fink and humph-humph-a-dumpher could lead to additional income for you, Pisces.

The Sunrise Movement

I arrived at the address just as another young couple was knocking on the door.

“Are you here for the Sunrise thing too?” I asked.

They smiled but were spared response when a twenty-something guy opened the door, leaning out: “Sunrise Movement viewing party? Come on in.”

Sunrise is the young people’s climate action movement. It’s led and mostly peopled by high school and college students. The ask? Sweeping climate-based reform for the United States that transforms the economy.

Specifically, Sunrise is organizing for the Green New Deal. According to, the Green New Deal’s goals are:

To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;
To create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States;
To invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;
To secure clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all people of the United States for generations to come; and
To promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, de-industrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.

My take? It’s the first American reaction on the scale of the climate change crisis that’s being taken seriously.

I showed up at the viewing party to get an idea of the plans, the urgency, and the local community.

The viewing party was at somebody’s house– our host looked up to smile welcome as we came in, then returned to hooking up his laptop to the big screen.

The kitchen table was collecting snacks– veggies, homemade cookies, Tupperware containers appearing as guests began to fill the room. The three couches were full, so I set myself up on the floor, chatting with an older guy who’s also involved in transit reform.

Our viewing party was one of three in the immediate vicinity, and it was standing room only as people continued arriving– we were watching a video panel call, broadcast nationwide.

There were three speakers: Sunrise’s head of training, who took the call from her dorm room; one of the early leaders, who has deferred college for a year in order to devote his time to leading Sunrise in Massachusetts; and Naomi Klein, public intellectual and activist.

They spoke for an hour, describing the need to get climate change as a central topic of the presidential debates in the next election, outlining a plan of mounting pressure on representatives, and urging us to hold our reps accountable for our visions for a better future.

When the call stopped, the room buzzed with ideas: plans to visit offices, art builds for sit-ins, ways to reach out to each other. It’s electric to be in the room– an issue that has been stagnant for so long is finally seeing change, and we feel it.

Groups like this are meeting all around the country: making a plan, taking power. Strangers, introducing themselves to each other to make common cause.

Sunrise is a youth-led movement. They’ve grown from thirtyish college and high school students to a national movement of thousands. It’s Do Something in action, as people realize that the people are us, the moment is now.

If climate change scares you, if regressive politics frustrate you– this is an invitation. Political action looks like individuals, deciding to show up.

There isn’t a Sunrise hub yet in Needham, but there could be one. Go to and click the “Start a Hub” button– they’ll help you get started fighting back against climate change.

Democrats and Republicans: Asymmetric Politics

The Democratic and Republican Parties sit on opposite ends of an ideological spectrum, but on a deeper, more fundamental level, they are in fact quite similar. At least, this is what is commonly assumed.

The problem with this assumption is that it’s wrong. Beyond policies and partisanship, these two parties are radically different in what drives them and how they operate. Understanding how Democrats and Republicans differ beyond their overt partisan leanings is crucial to understanding modern American political workings.

In their pioneering book Asymmetric Politics, political scientists Matt Grossman and David Hopkins put forward two definitions for the Democratic and Republicans parties. They define the Republican Party as centered around ideology and the Democratic Party as centered around group interests.

Understanding both parties starts with looking at their voter demographics. The voting base for the Republican Party is primarily white, with strength largely coming from men, older voters, and/or the non-college-educated.

The key factor when understanding the deeper workings of the Republican Party is not its actual demographics but the level of homogeny among its voters. The majority of Republicans (70%) identify as conservative, and they all share a common conservative ideology: the broad ideas of limited government, traditional values, and opposition to liberalism. Yes, all of these ideas are quite fuzzy, but this makes it easier for conservatives to unite behind them.

This shared idea of conservatism is the primary driving force of the Republican Party. Ideological purity and ideological victory are the main goals of the party. The clearest manifestation of this is the persistent strength of the ultra-conservative Tea Party.

Arising in 2009 in opposition to Obama’s early economic policies, the group turned heads when they forced a government shutdown in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or as it’s more commonly known, Obamacare. The goal of the Tea Party, both in this shutdown and in a wider frame, is to remain true to conservatism, especially on economic policy, at all costs. Compromise in any form is unacceptable to them. Even now, a decade later, the Tea Party is a potent force in the Republican Party.

In contrast to the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is defined by an increasingly diverse set of voters. Often referred to as “the Obama coalition,” the party is supported by various groups such as people of color, organized labor, the LGBTQ community, the youth, and increasingly women. These groups do not share a uniting liberal ideology the same way conservatives do (only 44% of Democrats identify as liberal); instead, the Democratic Party is driven by coalition politics. Each group has a distinct set of policy initiatives that they want to pass, and they work together to accomplish all of them. The Democratic Party serves as the framework that unites these disparate groups.
Whereas the Tea Party is a dominant force in the Republican Party, no similar group has emerged in the Democratic Party. Even with the election of Donald Trump and the increasing level of polarization in American politics, Democrats remain on average more moderate and less ideological than their Republican counterparts. A 70-year-old African-American Christian woman in Atlanta does not want the same thing as a 30-year-old white hipster in New York. A first generation Mexican-American in Dallas does not want the same thing as a gay Asian-American in Seattle.

The Democratic Party is not bound together ideologically the same way the Republican Party is. Rather than seeking a broad ideological victory, Democrats focus more on specific policy initiatives, working to accomplish them even if it means compromising. By working towards these specific policies, whether it is prison reform, banking regulations, or LGBTQ protections, Democrats hold together a diverse coalition.

This divide in the political parties did not appear from nothing. It was driven, in part, by American voters. When polled on broad ideological questions, the average American voter falls slightly to the right of center. However, when polled on specific policies, the average American voter falls slightly left of center. For example, most Americans believe that the size of government should be limited, but when asked about specific policies, they will often choose policies that expand the size of government, in direct contradiction to their previous answer. In order to remain electorally viable, it is logical that the two major political parties represent this cleavage in American voters. Thus, Republicans focus on broad ideological statements while Democrats focus on narrow policy discussions.

These fundamental differences between America’s two dominant political parties are vitally important to understanding how these parties act today and what their futures might look like. One could point to more recent events to suggest that this dynamic is changing. Democratic 2020 candidates are rushing to support positions once considered far left, and Donald Trump is definitely not an ideological purist, but we should not read too much into these. The majority of registered democrats/democratic-leaning registered voters want to see their party move in a more moderate direction. Meanwhile, Republicans accept Trump as a ‘deal with the devil’, but a surprising amount don’t even want to see him on the 2020 ticket (although to be clear the chance of Trump not winning the 2020 Republican primary is basically nil).

Next month, we will be looking at what exactly demographic change in America looks like, and how voters react to it. Once we have that established we will come back and take an in depth look at both the Republican and Democratic Parties to see how these fundamental values we just talked about might be affected by demographic change.

A Hard Crossword Puzzle

Disclaimer: this crossword is very hard. Ye’ll likely need to confer with each other to complete it. Even that may not be enough. If you succeed at completing this, I will be surprised. From here on, I can do no more to help you. I’m sorry.

0. What you would have to do to map the Earth onto a plane, if it weren’t already one.
4. 6 is the best of these. 12 is fine. 2 and 16 have their use cases, but 8 is deceptively terrible. 10 is very okay. (singular).
6. This province is home to Germany’s most notable partially furnished castle.
9. A subculture of young men who spend time partying with others like themselves.
10. What a synonym and antonym have in common.
11. “;dishslk” on Dvorak.
12. Fannettic spelling av “ohfuck”.
14. What one might call a museum showcasing 36 down in Macau or Miami.
16. “___ consist of series of microinstructions, which control the CPU at a very fundamental level of hardware circuitry.” -Wikipedia
19. DNA clique.
21. The Black Death was transmitted by fleas on animals of this variety.
22. A golf tournament on the Japan Golf Tour from 1995 to 1998. It was played in August at the eponymous Country Club in Gunma.
24. Endonym of 48 Down.
27. Pen name of Hector Hugh Munro.
28. To make into the style or dialect of the one that’s not Corinthian or Doric (American spelling).
30. Italian progenitor of a leading strand of Baroque style, who painted Domine quo vadis? and Pietà.
32. Acronym for the District of the Conservation variety in the Upper part of Ohio.
34. The leaders of North and South Korea shared one of these on 2018 September 18.
35. Two-letter country code for the largest country in northern Europe (Wow, really? I would have guessed Finland was bigger).
36. Neither on nor in.
37. The most complete and advanced mountaineer of the 20th century, and the first to ascend Broad Peak, who fell to his death on Chogolisa.
38. – ⋅–⋅ ⋅⋅⋅
39. Recently revived Spanish motorcycle manufacturer known for lightweight, two-stroke-engined bikes used in observed trials, motocross, and enduro.
42. Capable of saying only a few English words, including “be”, “here”, “home”, “phone”, and “right”.
43. The unit of inductance needed to produce 0.35 V of resistance to 0.7 μA of current rampinɡ up from 0 A over 2.0 s.
44. Not up, bottom, or charming.
45. The part that houses an apple’s cyanide sacks.
47. G – A B C – – – C D E F – – F – – – E – E – – – – – – –
50. By some accounts, Goliath may have been as much as ___-nine.
54. The objective of this Society is to promote International collaboration and provide educational opportunities and training on Invertebrate Morphology.
55. Fairy king, not to be confused with Oberlin.
57. Eli was using one of these polypedic objects when the Benjamite approached him in Shiloh.
58. Liberal arts university in Ashland, Oregon, previously known as AA, ACNS, and SOSNS.
60. Southern Chinese people group also known as the Dong.
61. “…However, the ___ inevitably thickens and becomes less stable as the flow develops along the body, and eventually becomes turbulent, the process known as ___ transition…” -Wikipedia
63. It’s like the CIA, but decentralised and nationalised, and less agentive and more systematic.
64. A usually small group of people characterized by devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work. I think. I’ve certainly never been in one.
66. First soloist of Rhapsody in Blue.
67. Thad version managemend thing, if you have a sduffy nose.
68. Unlike “couple”, can refer to more than two.
70. Indian town fabricated by R. K. Narayan, home to Swami and his friends.
71. It’s like amateur Solidworks, for SparkEs.
72. The wibbly wobbly mechanical bit that makes people cry when it isn’t constrained correctly.

0. A slab of fiber-glass with copper patterns.
1. It means “gold” in some language. And it sounds like “arrow”.
2. Sparks and enticement. Buzz and snap. Spiderman villain and X-men villain. Q and QV.
3. To cat as gander is to goose.
4. 1950 Japanese period psychological thriller film directed by Akira Kurosawa, which introduced the eponymous effect, where an event is given contradictory interpretations by the individuals involved.
5. Something that uses thin-film interference to selectively affect very specific wavelengths of light.
6. Major Indian language native to the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta system.
7. TeX command to print the number corresponding to a certain label.
8. The Department of Arkansas’s government that Corrects typos (or maybe imprisons people; I’m not sure).
13. The first letter of the name of the discipline started by Freud.
14. Occupier of Western Sahara.
15. First defined by pendula, then by the size of the Earth, now by light itself.
17. θ = λ/n, and r = f(φ) on this type of map, named for the shape it forms when rolled up.
18. Boltzmann, Tesla, and Schrödinger all worked at some point in this capital city of Styria, Austria.
19. If Kia decided to make a model that could be used as a tray, it might be called a…(points and waits with open smile as he waits for you to complete the pun).
20. Transitioning into an infinite passive state.
22. \pscircle(0,0){13} \psline(-5,12)(-5,-12) \psline(-12,-5)(12,-5)
23. Yue gave her life for one of these fish.
25. If your camera doesn’t pan, it ___.
26. Romanian or Moldovan currency, equal to one hundred bani.
29. A title that makes people trust you to touch their organs.
31. C2, G2, D3 and A3.
33. Four bushels. Hey, put down that phone! You’re consulting Google, aren’t you! Filthy cheater. Fine, I’ll give you a better hint. It’s like the SI unit of charge, but with less ul.
36. Anagram of 21 across, alliterative with 8 down, ends with same letter as 66 across.
37. Divinely-sanctioned public bathing.
38. Japanese for “heavenly superperson”.
40. Crafted from two iron, maximises wool yield from sheep (singular).
41. Sheets of paper, used for facial sanitation purposes, often known by a brand name.
44. /si˥/; /penˈsar/; /pɑnˈse/; /ˈdenken/; /omou/.
45. This crossword is known to the state of ___ to cause cancer.
46. The Spanish name of the normal vector, refractive index, or number density.
47. Cah toa.
48. Maine is Spain. Delaware is Denmark. Wisconsin is the Balkans. Canada is Africa. What is Michigan’s Lower Peninsula?
49. The father of realism, who playwrote Hedda Gabler.
51. “Iridescent” if u legit with the slang lingo.
52. Of or relating to encrinites.
53. Having holes resembling eyes; ocellated; not to be confused with having discharged eggs from an ovary.
56. Meat stewed with juice; especially beef. Derived from French “boiled”.
59. Do not go gentle into that good night rhyme scheme
62. The preeminent French sculptor of the early 1900s, who sculpted a figure doing 44 down.
64. I hear there’s a tool for this in Solidworks, but honestly it’s easier to just make one out of splines.
65. Abbreviation for the basketball team of the biggest city in California.
67. A very gelatinous liquid, like jelly, or gelatin.
68. When the real math is too hard, so you pretend everything is a bunch of little finite triangles.
69. I wouldn’t say that I am ___; it’s more that ___ is me

My Face

On January 10th, I went to see my dentist for a very small cavity filling. I was in and out of his office in under 30 minutes, including waiting time; the actual procedure, from injection of the anesthetic to Dr. White ushering me out of his chair, was probably 15 or 20 minutes.

Two hours later, I was sitting in front of the TV, watching Dragon Prince on Netflix and waiting for the local anesthesia to wear off. I was a little sniffly from the cold weather, so I tried to blow my nose. With the left side of my face was numb, my nose-blowing was not terribly successful. No matter; that was to be expected after a dental procedure. So I blew my nose harder and hoped for the best.

Between the numbness and my distractedness, it took me a moment to realize something was wrong. I reached up to touch my numb cheek and realized that the left half of my face had inflated like a balloon. My cheek was bulging and my eye was swollen half shut. To my horror, gently prodding the skin around my eye and nose produced a clearly audible crackling sound.

I panicked. I’d had a couple cavity fillings in the past, and I’d gotten my wisdom teeth removed six months prior, but my face had never swollen like this before. Was I having a sudden allergic reaction to the anesthetic?
Google told me I probably had subcutaneous emphysema, which is when air gets trapped under your skin. It’s a rare condition that can sometimes happen after dental procedures. That made sense to me.

My dentist was kind enough to see me the next day, though it was his day off. He came into the office wearing flannel and hiking pants. It was a five minute meeting.

“Sorry,” he said, “I just came off the mountain. Sorry about your face.”

He prodded my face and confirmed that it was subcutaneous emphysema. “I agree that it’s probably from blowing your nose too hard,” he said. “Nothing we did yesterday could have caused this; it was just a tiny cavity. I’ve never seen anything like this.” But he did offer a more substantial hypothesis: “Your upper wisdom tooth on this side grew very close to your sinuses. Maybe you blew a sinus. Just don’t sneeze or blow your nose again. You should see your oral surgeon. Can I take a picture? If you wear these sunglasses it’ll hide your identity.”

The soonest I could see Dr. Savage was a week later; we scheduled a check-up in between his other surgeries.
Over the course of that week, the swelling went down drastically. After only a couple days, I looked fairly normal, albeit slightly lopsided. A couple days after that, my face had completely returned to its typical shape and size. My jaw muscles on that side were incredibly sore for a little while, but beyond that, I had no pain.

When I finally saw Dr. Savage, the first thing he did was check my wisdom tooth extraction sites.

“They’ve healed perfectly,” he said. “They look great. You think your face is swollen?” I showed him pictures I’d taken on the 10th. He seemed surprised. “I only see injuries like this when people break bones,” he said, and asked to take an x-ray of my face.

He checked my sinuses on the x-ray scans.

“Wow,” he said. “Look, there’s air!” And then he laughed in my face. “You have the thinnest, most delicate sinus bones I’ve ever seen. They’re always supposed to be thin and delicate, but yours, yours are super extra thin. You’re no brute – you’re a delicate flower!” Ouch.

Dr. Savage proceeded to tell me what he thought happened – I’d blown my nose so hard that I broke a bone in my face.
“So, what do I do now?” I asked.

He shrugged. “It fixed itself. Just be careful for a couple weeks. And, well, if it happens again… don’t worry about it. Or you can give me a call – I’d love to get an x-ray of that!”

My face has since returned to full functionality (I have successfully sneezed with no ill effects). It aches sometimes, though I can’t tell if that’s psychological or not. My only lasting injury is my bruised ego from being diagnosed “a delicate flower” by Dr. Savage.

Overheard at Olin

Oh my god, I hate the sound of my voice.”
“That’s MY voice.”

“Peanut butter shoe, peanut butter shoe…I should go to jail for that song.”

“MATLAB validates my gender identity.”

“How confident are you that you that you can hold onto your balls?”

“So we’re killing two [birds with one stone]…oh wait, I guess we’re not supposed to say kill because vegans get offended.”

“Look at how we manipulated turtles before.”

“Looks like a smurf at a rave.”

“You don’t know how to levitate? How the fuck did you get into Olin?”

“I went into my mind-synagogue, and I couldn’t find Cotton Eye Joe anywhere.”

“He most definitely does not have a full set of gentleman’s tackle.”