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“The Hidden” by Chris Metzger

Welcome to SlashnBurn’s special, 2016 election opinion feature because, we know if there’s one thing you haven’t read or heard enough about, it’s the 2016 United States’ election.

As I’ve written in previous editorial columns for the site, while SlashnBurn was founded with a specific political intent, I did not expect the site to become directly involved with commenting on current political realities. Unfortunately, events occurred in the real world that I felt could not pass by without comment, criticism, and/or vocalized grief. The 2016 election, in particular, the presidential race, is one of those events.

I’m not going to comment on the race, directly. If you personally know me, then you know who I support. SlashnBurn has a diverse staff, with diverse views and voices. I wouldn’t dare to try to speak for the site or for the rest of the staff. Instead, we’ve asked a number of writers and artists to contribute pieces about the 2016 US election. Please enjoy their work. Reflect on their words and views before reacting and, if any of our contributors have offended you, good. You probably need some offending.

Robert Mateo Keegan Burbano

SlashnBurn founder and managing editor

Our first opinion piece is from Nicole Walker. Nicole Walker is the author of five books: Canning Peaches for the Apocalypse, Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. She’s nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.

My Blind Spot(s)

Nicole Walker

Max and I were reading Mary Pope Osborne’s The Hour of the Olympics from her Magic Tree House series. In this episode, Jack and Annie are transported back to the Ancient Greece where they meet Plato and watch the Olympics. Well, Jack and Plato watch the Olympics. Annie, who is a girl, is forced to stay behind with the women. Women aren’t allowed at the performances of Greek plays or in the stands to watch marathoners.

I get it that history had been written by men and men underscored their accomplishments as the main players, but it wasn’t until it was dramatized and illustrated in the Magic Tree House that I realized how deeply women were not a part of the fabric of western civilization. If you can’t see a Greek play, how can you write one?

I went to Reed College which required some deep reading of books from Ancient Greece. We began with The Iliad, which we were to read over the summer before our Freshman year. Then, The Odyssey. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Plato’s Republic. Aristotle’s Poetics. Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydides. We read Sappho. Clytemnestra was a hero. Antigone, we empathized with. Jocasta, we understood. Virgil’s Dido echoed Homer’s Calypso and Penelope waited for Odysseus, weaving and unweaving her tapestry until he came home. There were women inside the books, but, except for Sappho, not outside of the books. Not writing the books. Not even reading the books.

It’s a blind spot I have. I was raised by progressive parents who really didn’t think there was anything girls couldn’t do as well. Dad took us skiing. Mom took us to soccer and baseball. We did math at home for fun. If my dad would have preferred sons to daughters, he never said so aloud. I already told you about my obnoxious shirt that read, “Anything Boys Can Do, Girls Can Do Better.”

When I was a junior in high school honors chemistry, Mr. Vanderhooft (Picture Crispin Glover) asked me to please consider taking AP Chemistry. I was good at significant figure calculations. I loved the idea of quantum chemistry. I loved chemistry and I loved Mr. Vanderhooft’s teaching. But I also loved the literary magazine. I wanted to take humanities with Becky Lees. I told Mr. Vanderhooft that I thought I should take honors physics instead because I wanted a “well-rounded” science background.

The truth was, few girls were taking AP Chemistry. None of my friends were. My boyfriend had barely graduated from high school (Did he graduate? Maybe not.) I didn’t see a path for my future by taking AP Chemistry and so I didn’t take it.

At Reed College, two of my best friends were chemists. They were both boys. How I could sit and listen to them talk about inorganic chemistry until four in the morning. They were good writers too. Perhaps if I had known better that William Carlos Williams had been a doctor, I would have known I could do science and writing too. But if I had seen a woman scientist being a woman writer, well, maybe I could have seen a clearer path.

I was talking about leadership with my kids the other day. People aren’t necessarily leaders, at least not all the time, which was why I have loved watching Hillary Clinton lead—all of the time. Being the first is a lonely gig. It must be impossible, up there on the national stage while everyone judges her smile, her voice, her pantsuits, her wrinkles, her hairstyle. Does she look smug? Does she sound too polished?

I have blind spots about gender on purpose. I would like to think I have free will, that I made choices because I loved writing more than I loved chemistry, that I loved my friends over Mr. Vanderhooft, that I liked hanging out with my boyfriend more than I liked doing chemistry homework. But this election is forcing me to shine a light on those blind spots. There are things I didn’t do because the path was invisible.

It would have been hard to have taken AP Chemistry—not because chemistry was hard but because it would have been weird. One thing I have tried to do since then, and that I try to teach my children, is to be the weird one. Weird makes change. It will be weird to have a woman president. It took me a long time to figure out that weird is good.

Nicole Walker’s piece is a part of a regular series of letters she writes entitled “Dear Governor Ducey,” addressed to the current governor of Arizona. To read more from this series, check out her website, http://nikwalk.blogspot.com/

The next opinion piece is from Sam Rapine. Sam Rapine is a firefighter/EMT, runner, and traveler who writes when nothing is on fire and nobody’s bleeding. Check out his work as Sam Rapine on MatadorNetwork, and as Owen Rapine on Flash Fiction Magazine and Everyday Fiction, and follow him @RiotousRapine!

A Plea to Not Vote Intelligently

Sam Rapine

With the election circling above the American populace like a vulture stalking a starving desert wanderer, I feel that the time has come for a plea, a call-to-arms in the name of civic duty.

In light of our choice between an orange avatar of bigotry, The Aggregate American Politician, and two astonishingly misinformed independents, I recognize that I’ve got precious little to work with here. Specifics on economic plans have been laughably vague. There have been enough lies, subterfuge, and corruption to make the IOC look like Girl Scouts.

Three of the four candidates collectively might know enough about foreign policy to win a game of Risk, but only if their opponent were piss-drunk and possibly under the impression that they were playing Yahtzee. The fourth would, in this game of Risk, almost certainly pile on cannons and cavalry to bolster her defense of Australia after said opponent passed out, which, while encouraging for winning the continent bonus, brings us back to that integrity issue.

Nevertheless, at this stage in the game I know you’re already pretty set on who’s getting your vote, and whether or not I agree with you, I’m not going to waste your time proselytizing any further. The people I’m looking to reach here are the ones who have opted to sit this election out as a show of disgust at our paucity of legitimate candidates. I’ve spoken with a number of reasonably intelligent people who have told me in no uncertain terms that on the eighth of this November they plan to put their feet up, crack a beer, and make some popcorn to watch the free world tumble off the edge of a cliff.

I feel you, hypothetical friend. I really do. And I can’t fault you all that much. I respect what you’re looking to say–that given the choice between hemlock and the noose, you’re not going to give ’em the satisfaction of accepting the sentence. It’s a statement in the spirit of great thinkers from Thoreau to Social Distortion, and at this point, if I can’t bring myself to agree with it, I certainly can’t argue with what brought you there. Over the past year the Idiocracy references have all but made themselves.

I only ask that you revise your stratagem by a smidge: instead of not voting, please go to the polling station and select the “blank ballot” option.

It might seem trifling, but consider the difference: with the latter, you’re letting the establishment know that you are an informed, voting citizen and you’re not amused by this bullshit; with the former, all you’re doing is adding to the depressing percentage of people who didn’t vote. It’s like giving somebody the finger while wearing mittens: you might pour all the rage you’ve got into that upraised digit, but all they see is the oddly-angled back of your hand.

So that’s what I’ve got. In the fifty-eighth round of what is perhaps our greatest exercise of civic responsibility and democratic efficacy, our shining torch against the dark horrors of fascism and rule by force, all I ask is that you intelligently tell your government to shove it. It’s a reflection on the sad state of affairs that I cannot in good conscience urge a candidate to back; only that if you’re not going to vote, that you at least not vote in a way that matters.

The next piece is from Gabriel Matthew Granillo. Gabriel Matthew Granillo is pursuing a B.S. in Journalism at Northern Arizona University. In 2015, he graduated with an A.A.S. in Audio Production Technologies from Scottsdale Community College. His fiction and poetry has been published in both print and online journals including Vortex and Postcard Poems and Prose. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Bernie Sanders, the Aging Piano Man

Gabriel Granillo

Before entering the Prochnow Auditorium in Flagstaff, Arizona, a young man with a grisly beard and dark glasses handed me a yellow piece of paper. When I turned it around, I saw a photograph of Beyoncé Knowles with the text: Beyoncé is a democrat. Are you?

It was a difficult task dodging bullshit flyers and voter registrations and strange men with buttons and stickers, and I thought of Captain Rex Kramer in Airplane!, understanding that, although throwing punches and flipping people over my shoulder was a simple solution to this problem, it would more than likely lead to my arrest. Finally, after nudging and shoving my way around, I found a seat near the North East corner of the auditorium.

The stage was lit like an interrogation room flanked by two flags: the good old stars and stripes and the Arizona state flag, a star bursting with red and orange rays. In the middle, just beyond the podium was a Clinton/Kaine poster, and pretty soon, the once presidential hopeful, Vermont senator, and grumpy old man, Bernie Sanders, would be encouraging the public to get out and vote for Hilary Clinton.

A woman approached the podium and set a clear glass of water atop a stool. As she made her way back through the curtains, the crowd of mostly Northern Arizona University students erupted with adulation and delight, and from across the isle, someone took a photo and gave it the hashtag, Bernie’s water.

It’s rare to drive around our small city without spotting a Bernie 2016 campaign bumper sticker peeling off of the side of someone’s Subaru Outback, like a sad sticker for an honor roll student who ended up becoming a cashier at Wal-Mart. Despite his victory here in Coconino County, with 53 percent of the vote, Sanders lost the Arizona Primary Election, garnering only 41 percent of the vote, compared to Clinton with 57 percent. And, now that Clinton is the official Democratic Party nominee, Sanders is out campaigning for her, attempting to convince young voters that she isn’t as bad as he once convinced them she was.

Sanders eventually took to the stage, hobbling toward the podium like it was the adult table for Thanksgiving dinner. I was excited, though. As with many other smiling, naïve students, this was my first political event and it was for someone whom I actually admired. But the whole event felt like what I imagine going to a Billy Joel concert now feels like. Bernie Sanders, the aging piano man, playing his hits and getting the crowd to sing along, “the top one percent need to pay their fair share” and “free tuition” and “free healthcare.” It felt like church, like mindless adoration for intangible ideas: recite the words, give us your money, and go home.

Exciting things did happen. A man from Infowars hosted by Alex Jones, interrupted Sanders’ speech by ripping open his button-up shirt and boasting a t-shirt that had the word rape underneath a photograph of Bill Clinton, much in the same vein as Barrack Obama’s hope illustration. Security escorted the man out with haste and it failed to put a skip in Sanders’ stride, but I wondered which claims were more ridiculous: free college tuition or that Bill Clinton is actually an asshole.

As he spoke, a moth circled around Sanders’ podium like the infamous Bernie bird, and it was evident that Mr. Sanders himself no longer felt the bern. After a few minutes of kissing babies and signing ticket stubs, Sanders waved his wrinkled fingers goodbye and drove away and, almost as if God had planned it himself, a silver truck drove past the auditorium, waving a flag that read Make America Great Again. Sure it was Flagstaff, Arizona, but it was still Arizona.

The following film, “2016!” is from independent director, Winter Kane. The film was completed in those halcyon days when the United States election was still in the primary cycle, when democrats argued between idealism and pragmatism, and most of us joked there was no way a reality star could become presidential nominee for a major party. Ah, those were the days.

Winter Kane is a visual artist focusing on cinematography and directing. She grew up immersed in musicals, classic films, John Hughes’ flicks and 90’s gold. Realizing she spent more time watching behind-the-scenes footage than the films themselves, Winter decided to step behind the camera. In her six years as a filmmaker, she has made dozens of short films, worked on web and TV series, music videos, has been cinematographer for two feature films Road Trip (2013) and Overwatch (2015), and was content director for Eyes Upon Waking (2017). She dreams of one day filming a soap opera on Mars. Just kidding. That sounds terrible. — https://www.facebook.com/winter.kane, winterkane.com.

The next piece is written by Chris Stamos. Chris Stamos is the former COO of and Director of Corporate Philanthropy at Sterling Stamos Capital Management (now Stamos Capital Management), and a copy writer at Saatchi and Saatchi, Taiwan. He studied philosophy, politics, and international relations at Stanford, Oxford, and the International University of Japan, and Mandarin and Chinese philosophy at Wenhua University in Beijing and Taiwan National University.

Rocket Man

Chris Stamos

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” No you won’t because the stars are a lot further away. If you shoot for the moon and you miss, you will drift in space. You won’t even make the next planet, and even if you did “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.” (lyrics from the song “Rocket Man”, by Elton John). “Shoot for the stars and you might land on the moon” makes a lot more sense. What makes the most sense is to spend the time doing your homework so that you can shoot for the moon and land on the moon. But that takes time and patience. As a country, we are young and impatient. And illogical.

I think the ‘protest voters’ are shooting for the moon when we need to just make sure Trump doesn’t get elected. In short, it is time to keep our feet on ‘terra firma’. If not, America under Trump is also going to be the wrong place to raise your kids. And you really haven’t done your homework when it comes to Jill Stein or Gary Johnson because if you did you would realize that neither is qualified to be POTUS.

We shot for the moon with Bernie and they moved the moon. Now it is time for Plan B: stop Trump. America is illogical enough already. When it is obvious that minorities are the victim of racism, police brutality, and injustice, white Americans reply with “all lives matter”. Of course all lives matter — we are just doing a terrible job at applying that concept to minorities. We are told that “all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but for most of our history we have had to convince Americans that this belief doesn’t sit well with slavery, and that it applies to minorities, to women, and to gay people and that if you don’t have basic healthcare, or are born into poverty your so-called ‘right to the pursuit of happiness’ is not a right at all and in fact a privilege of the wealthy. Pretty soon access to clean air and water will also be a privilege. Ask the protestors at Standing Rock or the citizens of Flint.

The battle to explain to Americans what our constitution and our Bill of Rights really mean rages on to this day. We are the flat Earthers, the church holding back science and the same people that locked up Galileo for telling us that we aren’t the center of the universe. Sorry Americans, we still are not the center of the universe.

Note: If you are a fundamentalist and a Trump supporter, then please do shoot for the moon and use the Bible and your unique sense of logic to calculate how to get there. Just bring a juice box because “I think it’s gonna be a long, long time.” There’s another line in that song that says, “I am not the man they think I am at all… I’m a rocket man!” I will let the business, military, and economic experts, and all former US Presidents, a long list of Republican politicians and smarter people than me tell you why Mr. Trump is no business man, no Commander-in-Chief, and NOT what is right for our economy. And am smart enough to know that he is no “rocket man”. More like a ‘racket’ man, selling you something you don’t need for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Our final piece is Zaira Livier.  Zaira Livier is currently the Regional Director in Southern Arizona for Prop 206. She began her organizing and advocacy career as the founder of Latinas for Bernie Sanders. Zaira is founder and current President of Progressive Minds of America at the University of Arizona where she majors in neuroscience with a minor in philosophy of mind. Zaira has also recently been elected president of Progressive Democrats of Southern Arizona (PDoSA) a club aimed at propagating Bernie’s progressive platform within the Democratic Party.

Dear fellow, pissed-off Bernie Sanders supporters,

Listen, I know you’re mad. I am too.

If we all got a dollar for every time a new leaked email correctly proved our suspicions of DNC corruption, we’d each have our 27 dollar contributions back, times three.

This corruption was, in large part, responsible for the swift and irrevocable killing of a Sanders presidency. This is no longer a theory of conspiracy. This is a documented fact.

Our rage is justified. We deserve vindication. Goddamn it, someone should have to pay.

I get that.

So where do we go from here?

To begin, I’d like to say please, everyone, take a massive dose of chill. We have become a drowning echo chamber of self-pitying victims on social media, and elsewhere, who cannot seem to move past this point. Every new email is the same as the last: They did not play fair. They’re terrible. Okay, I get it.

Now, let’s start looking to the future and stop dwelling on the past. Stop being so reactionary. Bernie Sanders didn’t sell out; he just isn’t as self-centered as you are.

We are in a constant state of finger pointing. And while we continue with this witch-hunt, our political revolution is stalling. Let’s start looking beyond the now.

This is the system we have. It is not ideal. I understand.

Some of us will hesitantly give Hillary our vote, while some of us would rather burst into flames before doing so. And then there are those of us who are voting third party. The choice is yours and you have the right to cast your vote as you see fit. I am not here to tell you who to vote for but, it is incredibly important to start getting involved in down ballot elections.

How can we move our political revolution forward this November 8th?

Voting down ballot might be the answer. The progressive candidates and the progressive propositions are out there, we just haven’t been paying attention. This isn’t an all or nothing movement. Change takes time and it takes a lot of effort.

If the political revolution is to move forward then change should be our end game. So pick up your pride, wipe off your liberal tears, and get to work.

Vote down ballot.


Zaira Livier