The President of the United States told four Americans to go back to where they came from. This is blatantly racist, and disgusting. To condone him is to support white supremacy. To support his statement is to wish me gone. I know because I grew up surrounded by those who did – wish me gone.
I dealt with this language and viewpoint growing up in NC. I was often reminded how I was less than my neighbors for not being Christian, and for not being a white southerner. My friends were called “sand niggers” for being Arab. My soccer team often broke up into “US vs World” when we scrimmaged. I never really understood that one. I was born in Greensboro, NC. Why did I end up on the world team? My friends reminded me that I was going to hell for not being like them, and believing what they believed. This all came with the best of intentions. But yet another reminder of how I wasn’t like them. And that they were the ones on the right side of history.
These words are powerful. Destructive. They go straight to the core of a person’s self-confidence and self-worth. And they just tear you down.
You lose your sense of who you are.
And now the President is doing that to every non-white, American child with his hateful and racist rhetoric.
Through all of this, what I’ve learned from so many who were stronger than me – I belong here. Those scared, American children born on American soil to immigrant parents belong here.
And those who think otherwise? They are the ones on the wrong side of history.
I was honestly really pleasantly surprised by how many good things I could come up with for this year because it’s honestly been a year dominated by the bad.
I’ve learned this year that the people who I grew up around never wanted me to be in their lives in the first place. My teachers, my coaches, my neighbors – they despised my background, my future, and who knows maybe even my presence.
I’ve been so bi-coastal this year that I feel like I’m constantly missing out on the most important thing in both places. Critical events happening in real time while I’m video or dialed in. Parent-teacher conferences or fun school events when I’m crossing the country the other way. I never knew getting status with an airline would be such a taxing and exhausting process.
I’ve been so lonely being in a new city, not being able to find the time to establish new friendships, and just constantly being stuck with my own thoughts. It took me a while to make friends in SF too, and I think I just forgot how hard it was. And I didn’t have kids in tow back then.
I’ve been bad to my physical self. I’ve gained 20 pounds. I don’t exercise, do yoga, or play soccer. I eat badly because I’m constantly stress eating.
But ultimately, I just haven’t been the father or the husband that I want to be. I haven’t been the person I want to be. My calendar has run my life instead of me feeling like I have a clear destination in mind and checking in with myself to make sure I’m getting there.
In 2017, I lost sight of where I’m going, and who I want to be when I get there. It’s been a bad year. One of the ones we’ll put in the forget jar when history writes our stories.
What a year… to say the least. Dominated so much by what happened around me, that I really spent almost no time thinking about looking inward, and keeping score on myself. There was a lot of bad… but let’s start with the good.
Exploring a new city It’s been so much fun getting to know New York. We moved December 17th, and spent the year becoming citizens of the world’s capital. It’s a fascinating city with so much to offer – Chinese New Year, museums, subway, Coney Island, going Upstate, and so much more. Learning the city and everything New York has to offer has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Being closer to Doruk (and Hanna) I think though the best part of all of this has been being closer to Doruk. The kids getting to know him better. Getting to know Hanna better. Defining who our family is in this generation as we redefine our unit post living in our parent’s home. My favorite – of so many adventures – was a text message call out for Sunday night dinner where we all descended from all parts of both NY and the US to get together. A clear sign that we’re building something special.
My aunt visited us I think a lot of the folks I grew up with would be hard pressed to put family on any good list. But I never really saw anyone growing up. Once every few years for a few days at a time is really hard to build a rapport. But this year, my aunt came to us, and stayed for a while. It was really lovely. Both in that she got to be here, and in that we got to be tourists together as well. It was definitely a highlight for me to say the least.
Superb times with friends I had so many fantastic adventures this year with friends – NASCAR race with James and the boys, horse racing with John at the Belmont, a night out with Sam that will live in infamy, and dinners out in SF with the people I love. Being in a new place can be incredibly lonely, and having these moments to hold onto has been wonderful.
Vacation in the Turks & Caicos I’m quite bad at taking vacations, but Micky planned for us to go to the Turks & Caicos Islands, and disconnect for a week or so… and it was AWESOME. SCUBA diving, fishing, snorkeling, making friends, swimming in the pool, doing lots of nothing… it was exactly what the doctor ordered. I absolutely loved it. We got really lucky too because we beat Hurricane Irma by literally 36 hours.
My dad’s induction into the NC State Computer Science Hall of Fame I think it’s quite obvious to anyone who knows me well how much I measure myself against my dad, and his successes. My dad, and my grandfathers, are my gold standard. And it’s amazing to me how no matter what my dad is constantly pushing the bar forward. This year, he was part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class at NC State’s Computer Science deprtment. Out of 9000 alumni, he was chosen as one of the top 25. It’s nothing short of awesome and inspiring. That we also got to go to the State Fair that weekend only put icing on the cake for what was a momentous few days for our family.
Working with Ibai and Matt again Having now moved to a new company for the first time in my life, I’m really happy to be working with some of the folks who I was the most excited to work with in previous lives. While things at Hearsay have been nothing short of crazy, being able to take on the adventure together has made it that much more fun. Coupled with a great team that I’ve proudly built, and I think 2018 will be an amazing year.
To top it all off, taking this adventure on with Micky and watching my babies grow on their own journies has been nothing short of amazing. I know this whole thing would be so empty without them. Theo’s love for the Natural History museum. Luka’s love for the Cosmos. Amelia becoming an urbanite almost over night.
So while there’s been much chaos, there has also been much good. Yet, and I’ll write more on this tomorrow, I’m happy to say good-bye to 2017.
I thought in 10 days time we’d get together for breakfast. I wanted to talk about sending Dylan to New York, and not letting me know. And how soccer was going. What a great job you’re doing at TokBox, and how happy I am at Hearsay. How our dads are getting older, and the world is getting angrier.
But instead, as I sit here tonight, I’m thinking instead about how cruel life is.
For your mother and father, who have to bury a second child.
For your boys.
For your wife.
For all of the people you took care of while never letting any of us take care of you
The world is a little bit more empty, and so is my heart.
Ok – I’ve processed a bit more, and read a bit more, and thought a bit more, and come to this conclusion:
This Executive Order isn’t anti-Muslim. It’s anti-Axis of Evil. Yup, we’re back to the Axis of Evil. It’s actually much worse in my opinion. My primary complaint with the Left across the world today is that it doesn’t provide solutions. It only points out the problems with the Right. So instead of just complaining, here’s my set of proposals for what I would do instead:
(1) We need to divest from Oil. We need to invest in American energy. We are less than one generation away from being able to run our electric grid nearly completely on renewable energy. This creates jobs in America that are impossible to export. The delta should be filled with American sources of energy. This allows us to invest in those communities as a matter of national security with the balance being that we would want to do so in both an ecologically and economically sustainable way.
(2) If we pull off (1), then we need to divest from the Saudis. The primary reason to stay involved with Middle Eastern affairs is to maintain open channels into the Saudis. This allows us to make sure that their influence on OPEC is balanced with our economic needs. We can then arm them against Iran (more to come on this below). And play puppet master . If we can reduce our attachment to OPEC, then we can also diminish the wealth and power that we give to Saudi Arabia today. This in turn diminishes the need for the US to be involved in the Middle East allowing the region to return to a status as a local one instead of a global one.
(2a) The Wahhabi School of Islam, as preached and protected by the leaders of Saudi Arabia, is the primary source of Islamic Terrorism. If what we’re really doing is fighting Islamic Terrorism, this is yet another reason to divest ourselves from the Saudis.
(3) The other primary source of Islamic Terrorism is the blind support of Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians. To solve this, we need to drop the two-state solution rhetoric, focus on a single Israel where Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis can live side-by-side successfully, and the religious views of all are protected. This means that Israel has to change its constitution. It also means that Palestinians need to be willing to trade statehood for prosperity. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it’s a much better outcome than what’s on the cards today.
(4) America needs to get over its infatuation with Iran. Yes, there was a revolution in 1979. Yes, there was an embassy hostage situation. We need to move on. Just like Reagan’s economic policies drove the Soviet Union to the ground, so can an open door policy bring down the extremism inside of the Iranian government. It may not mean a return to democracy for Iran. But let’s not focus on democracy everywhere. Instead let’s just reduce the hostility against us in as many places as possible.
If we do the above, then here’s what we’ve done:
(1) Moved away from non-renewable resources in our energy supply chain
(2) Created jobs in the US that cannot be exported while preserving the economic and ecological solvency of the communities most impacted
(3) Disconnected from our perverse relationship with Saudi Arabia
(4) Solved a human rights controversy in Israel
(5) Dropped our unhealthy obsession with getting back at Iran
The picture above is the Ford entry in the 2016 24h Le Mans race. Ford famously won the race in 1966 – if I’m not mistaken – on the back of work done by Mr Shelby whose fame comes from the car carrying his name. They came back at the 50th anniversary, and won it again.
Outside of this car, however, this was the year of the future of automobiles – not the past. And the brands at the show would have had you believe that right around the corner, we’re all going to be in self-driving cars that we rent, and that parking, car accidents, and fuel consumption are things of the past.
But, even as a technologist, the last thing I want is for this revolution to come too quickly.
Autonomous cars represent for me the next major economic shift we’re going to take as a society.
We won’t need – truck drivers, taxi drivers, or parking attendants.
We will need – systems engineers, merchandise unloaders, and a whole new breed of mechanics.
We won’t have trucks competing with daily commuters at peak hours to get places.
We will have roadside motels shut down as their clientele becomes unemployed.
We don’t know what insurance looks like in this new world, and we do know that taxes, licensing, regulations, and standards will all have to be reconsidered.
And so while I want the technology to be built, and the regulations and licensing conversations to start, the bigger opportunity I want to challenge us to take is to build a framework in which we look for a win-win (Pareto Efficient) outcome for everyone who will be impacted by autonomous cars.
We have a chance to have the conversations that we didn’t when we built the interstate system and exported our manufacturing infrastructure.
How can we ensure that there is protection for those who will lose paid for by the economic gains and efficiencies of those who win?
How can we look at the industries impacted by this revolution – trucking, parking, construction, gas stations- and make sure that in preserving themselves they don’t stifle innovation?
And equally – that the technologists who will win in this new world don’t irrationally pull us into the future without being able to ensure our safety, our communities, and the new culture we will build on these capabilities?
After this election cycle, and this year’s CES, I’m realizing that policy is just as important of a deliverable for a disrupting business as the product that is doing the disrupting.
My key takeaway – we all want to get to the future knowing our dignity will be intact when we get there.
We should make sure we have the conversations to help as many of us achieve that goal as possible.
When developing software, a Product Manager (that’s the job that I do) has to choose between whether to do the Cadillac version of a product (or feature) or the Accord version. Picking between one or the other is called making a tradeoff. Do you tradeoff completeness (which takes more time) or polish (which allows you to more quickly validate that the product has value to customers)?
When a feature that you’ve built doesn’t work the way you expect it to work, that’s called a bug. You’ve designed something a certain way to accomplish a specific task, but – in certain conditions – it can’t complete that task.
I’ve always thought racial profiling was a bug in the American justice system. I now realize that it’s actually a trade-off.
Let me tell you why:
In designing our justice system, we’ve decided that instead of having the hard conversations that we need to have as a society (building the Cadillac version of our justice system) around:
The War on Drugs and its disproportionate effect on inner city, black and Hispanic men
Our foreign policy as it relates to apartheid in Israel and the impact of that on Islamist aggression
Our immigration policy and how it relates to an open border and the ideologies that come with that
that we would rather racially profile (the Accord version of our justice system), and then ask for forgiveness when it turns out we’ve reached too far.
If this were a bug, then we’d just say stop doing that police/TSA/FBI/ICE/etc. That isn’t nice. But the thing is – we can’t. Because if we stop doing it, then the wheels fall off our ability to avoid those conversations.
As a result, we’ve chosen racial profiling over humaneness. It helps us feel safer. It gives us an enemy against which to build our police state. And it blinds us to the human right abuses running rampant in some of our closest allies. We have too many hard conversations, and so this is one we’re happy to push into the future.
When you see that Arabs voted for Trump – it is because Hilary Clinton would have continued a blindly pro-Israel foreign policy that would leave Syrian and Palestinian children constantly looking over their shoulders for the next attack on their lives.
We see the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, and yet have seen no real movement to end the War on Drugs in 8 years of an Obama presidency (and we’ve just started to see a movement against the for-profit prison system that profits off of this policy).
And the inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform because both sides are afraid of losing future votes to the other is leaving the lives of millions in limbo, stalling our economic growth, and continuing to fan the xenophobic flames of nativism.
If we’re serious about this country being a melting pot, and if we’re serious about this country being a place of opportunity, then we need to have these hard conversations instead of settling for the trade-off.
Because the worst decision you can make when developing a product is the decision to do nothing at all.
One of the favorite refrains of the Tea Party element of the RightÂ is that the only way presented with the facts that I could ever holdÂ liberal positions is to be brainwashed by the mainstream media (MSM is how it’s abbreviated – I guess for more efficient Twitter character counts).
To this, I just need to say a few things:
(1) I know how to read. And because I believe in being an educated voter, I often read (or watch) the transcripts (or speeches) that the candidates make. I’m not watching any media’s version of the speech. I’m actually reading or watching what the candidate is saying themselves.
(2) I know how to research. I can follow the trail of who writes a bill. I can follow the trail of what an organization with a friendly name may or may not stand for. And so just because it comes from a group with a nice name like the American Family Organization, I know that it’s not a group that would accept me because I’m not Christian.
(3) I can find opposing views. And I actively look out for them. I really enjoy reading the TACÂ blog – not because I always agree with Rod Dreher, but because it helps me understand the first principles from which he builds his arguments.
Here’s another point to be very wary of. You’re getting your information from the mainstream media as well. The Mainstream Media includes – but is not limited to – the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, Huffington Post, Fox News, the New York Daily, Rush Limbaugh.
These are all for-profit organizations whose goal is to make people look at advertisements, listen to advertisements, and click on advertisements. Their goal is not to educate. If anything, it is to entertain. Sometimes entertaining requires informing, but informing is different than educating.
Please don’t take as gospel what you read in your mainstream media any more than I do in mine. Educate yourself. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to have the conversations we need to have to put this country back together again.
I want to reintroduce myself. My name is Melih Onvural, and we met almost 25 years ago in a small town called Cary, NC. I even remember how you introduced yourself – “My name is Mary. My husband’s name is Terry. And we live in Cary”. I was 9. And I don’t think you hated me then. Why do you hate me now?
If you remember, we were neighbors for 10 years. I grew up playing Monopoly and doing math homework at your kitchen table. The one time I remember my parents taking some time off for themselves, I stayed at your house. You might remember my parents. Muslim immigrants from Turkey who came to America and built their own American Dream.
You see, I feel the need to re-introduce myself becauseÂ over the last year or so, you’ve filled my Facebook feed with alt-right political rhetoric as if you’ve never known an immigrant; or a Muslim; or someone who scraped, crawled, and fought their way from the bottom to the top of the hill known as America.
But you have – me.
And – very consistently – over the last year you’ve posted your political rhetoric, and I’ve stayed silent. I figured that your candidate couldn’t win, and that I shouldn’t soil our relationship with political bickering. I was wrong about the former. And you didn’t give me the courtesy of the latter, and so I have to remind you of a few things tonight.
(1) Your candidate said that he wants me and my parents to not be a part of the American fabric. Either he actually means it, which makes him and you bigots, or he said it onlyÂ to rally up the crowd which makes him a liar.
If it’s the former, then your years of speaking down at me for not being Christian are a farce. Christ isn’t a bigot. And as a follower of Christ you must love all of His children, and leave judgement to our Creator on the Day of Judgement. These are the words He spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. These are things you taught me. In your kitchen. In the life we shared together. As neighbors.
If it’s the latter, then you’ve been conned. And you’ve allowed a con man to become your false prophet – once again betraying the very values you claim to live by.
(2) Your candidate has encouraged white supremacists to come out of the shadows in which they were hiding, and refused to repudiate them.
By supporting this man, you’ve made the world less safe for my children. Here’s a picture of my mixed-race children. They’re 5, 4, and 1.5 years old. They have a British mom, and a Turkish dad. Their last name is one that no one can pronounce. Instead of looking into my feed, and wondering about the world looks like for these kids when hate is allowed out of the shadows, you openly invited hate, and pushed us into the shadows.
How can I possibly bring them to North Carolina now knowing that the KKK has been empowered to stand back up? How can I send them to their grandmother’s house for the summer not knowing if they’ll be safe or not? You have grandchildren. Why would you create a world that is less safe for themÂ than the one in which your own children grew up?
(3) Your candidate has firmly laid down a layer of concrete over the glass ceiling of equal opportunity that every woman in my familyÂ has fought for.
Why should these women have opportunities closed to them? Why as a grandmother and a mother of an incredible young girl should they think that her opportunities will be less than those of the boys in their lives? Your candidate – and the masses who voted him in – make them believe that. Should your granddaughter have fewer opportunities just because she doesn’t have a penis?
I think somewhere along the line you forgot that the names and labels that you were raging against were people. People with lives, destinies, hopes, and dreams. My family. Your neighbors.
Your vote – and the votes of millions of other Americans – told these people – my people – that we don’t matter.
As much as I thought the best solution was to turn you off, I’ve realized that that’s wrong. I’m not going to unfriend you. I’m going to fill your news feed with the pictures, stories, accomplishments, and journeys of these people.
Because we’re not a faceless mass. We’re not Skittles in a fucking bowl. We are America – the best parts of it. And we want you to be part of our story too.