Tag Archives: Politics

Independence Day Ramblings (a day late) – 7/5/2019

The real problem isn’t Colin Kapernick. Or Donald Trump. They may be the symbols for anger, but they are not the problem. The problem is that we as a society fear and loathe the “other” in whatever form it takes.

The problem is that we don’t listen. We shout insults and obscenities at each other over personal beliefs instead of finding common ground and working towards reasonable solutions to real problems.

The problem is that we take examples of the extremes and generalize that to a whole group. We allow mass media machines, which only thrive when we tune in and consume their ads, to constantly poke at our anger for that other group and inflame our hatred for them, mostly so we will tune in tomorrow to see what new outrage “they” have committed.

Then, we act surprised when someone shoots up a school or a government building or whatever.

The problem is that we no longer respect each other’s right to life, right to culture. We are quickly slipping into a fascist wasteland where any dissent is met not by thoughtful deliberation but violent resistance.

The problem is that we so desperately want to be seen as part of the clever, intelligent side that we completely and utterly dismiss the opposition with straw man caricatures and derisive memes that dehumanize and degrade them as something unworthy of human compassion and rights.

The problem is that we have forgotten that living in a free society means that everyone is free to believe as they wish, and as long as they are not actively calling for harm to another person, they have a right to hold and express those beliefs. If we aren’t willing to defend the freedoms of those we disagree with, we don’t deserve freedoms ourselves.

Freedom isn’t about getting your way. It’s about all of us finding a way to live together. It’s about listening and sharing ideas. It’s about accepting that there is room for all of us in this world if we will just focus on finding solutions instead of inciting hate. We have the most beautiful framework ever created, a framework that has allowed itself to grow and morph and adapt to include more people and more views as time has progressed. Everyone who lives under the umbrella of that framework should take a moment and be grateful.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday Afternoon Ramblings – 11/9/16

So the election happened, and now we have half the country believing we’ve been delivered from evil and half believing we’ve been tossed into Nazi Germany. Only time will tell who is correct, but one thing is for certain: right now, a lot of people are scared of what the future holds. If this election can be summed up in one word, that one would be my choice. Fear. The right fears further expansion of Federal powers, further eroding of individualism, further entrenching of overbearing political correctness. The left fears rampant racism and sexism, a rolling back of human rights progress, and the rise of fascism. These fears have led to levels of mistrust, hate, and vitriol that we haven’t seen in many decades.

In short, we are a nation divided in a way that could rapidly devolve into bloodshed.

The sad thing is, few of us actually want that. Most of us just want the promise of America: the opportunity to live our lives to the best of our ability and provide a prosperous future for our children. Most of us want peace. Most of us want justice. We may disagree about the definitions of those things, but few of us actually want conflict. However, if this election cycle showed us anything it’s that we have completely stopped listening to each other. Nearly all of us lost friends because of political arguments. Nearly all of us witnessed people on both sides who we cared about go after each other like rabid dogs. Those arguments only heightened the fears most of us feel.

Despite everything I’ve experienced in my life, I still believe in humanity. I still believe that most people at their core are decent, honest individuals who are capable of kindness, compassion, and generosity. I still believe that we as a species are capable of better than where we are today. And we as Americans especially are capable of so much more than all of this suspicion, hate, fear-mongering, and dehumanization. Right now, however, we have to set aside our differences and begin the process of healing. If we don’t, the next election cycle might become violent.

So my challenge for all of us is this: first, turn off the 24 hour news cycle (which is THE single biggest source of all this fear). Stop listening to media outlets which generate revenue by keeping you fearful of whichever bogeyman they are peddling. Second, start engaging your neighbors, especially those with different opinions from your own, in meaningful conversations. Find common ground with each other. I’m not saying seek out the most radical opposition you can find and try to convert them to your way of seeing things. That would be folly. No, what we need to do is start rebuilding bridges amongst each other again and realize that we are all more alike than different. Third, we all need to come back from the fringes of our political spectra and move more towards the center. Right or left, the fringes are approaching madness, and we desperately need sanity and compromise.

These are three small steps that all of us can begin right now. We are Americans, all of us. We are human beings, all of us. We need to heal and stop hating each other now. Otherwise, the next step down this downward slope involves violence, and that’s not a future I want for my kids.

Let Them Eat Cake

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I have no doubt that successful entrepreneurs have worked hard to get their businesses afloat and sustainable. I have worked in many different industries on many different levels and have witnessed firsthand just how hard many owners and executives work. There is no doubt that hands-on entrepreneurs put in long hours and suffer incredible levels of stress. I harbor no ill will for anyone who rolls up their sleeves, puts in the hard work, and reaps rewards for their efforts. Hard work and effort should always be rewarded.

However, where I bristle and when the fighting side of me comes out is when someone of means insists their hard work and effort is superior to others just because they have made more money from it. First and foremost, no one does anything alone. Unless you personally built the building, paved all the roads you use, grew or mined all your resources, and invented every piece of technology you utilize, you received help along the way. Unless you were a trust fund baby who decided to gamble your own wealth, somewhere along the way a bank extended you credit. Unless you personally handle each and every step of your day-to-day operations, somewhere along the way employees have helped you achieve success. Those employees who help you succeed, from the janitorial staff all the way to your second in command, deserve to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, have the opportunity to send their children to vocational school or college, and be able to save for retirement. And they shouldn’t have to hold down second and third jobs to do it, either.

I’ve never known financial success personally, but I’ve worked hard all my life, often juggling those two and three jobs just to stay afloat. As an educator, I typically put in 12, 14, even 16 hour days during the school year, and then usually held down some kind of side job during off times from teaching. I’ve witnessed firsthand good, honest, hardworking people clock out from one 8 or 9 hour shift and hustle to their other job for another 8 or 9 hour shift. I personally once worked about a year and half, 12 hours a day, without one single day off except Christmas. In graduate school, we often put in 16 hour days, 7 days a week. We all work hard, and American workers are among the most productive in the world, even today. Yet our wages have stagnated for 30+ years while inflation has skyrocketed. The myth of hard work equating to success is just that: a myth.

If I live another million years, I will never comprehend the utter disdain some people of means hold for working people. I will never grasp how it’s okay for an executive to make $10,000/hr but unreasonable for workers to earn just a living wage. I’ll never understand how it’s good business sense for CEOs to outsource labor to foreign countries, but class warfare when a working person speaks out for rights. My mind cannot fathom the levels of contempt and pure hatred some people have for those “beneath” them. If you measure your self worth in financial terms, you truly dwell in a poverty stricken existence, no matter how much wealth you accrue.

I Dream of a Day

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As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his messages of civil disobedience and social justice, I thought I would share my dreams for the world and my nation.

I dream of a day when there is real economic opportunity for all, a day when all positive contributions to society are valued and rewarded. When the day finally arrives that physical labor is seen as more than disposable, we will begin to enjoy real freedoms for all. When the ability to teach others becomes as valuable as throwing a football, we will begin heal the fragmentation of our society. When knowledge and sacrifice are once again revered instead of ridiculed and avoided, we will once again innovate the world. When basic humanity trumps financial greed, we will have a society that seeks justice.

I dream of a day when people listen twice as much as they talk, and nations stop fighting over petty grudges and insignificant differences. When the peaceful, civilized people of the world hold sway over the warmongers, we will begin to know real, lasting peace. When the wants of ordinary citizens – to raise their families and have safety and nourishment – become more important than the greed of a few, the world will begin to move away from the threats of annihilation. When cooperation is given equal footing as competition, as both are necessary for human prosperity, we will begin to solve most of our problems.

I dream of a day when people live as much by principles as by self-interest, a day when people remember that their communities are as valuable as their own homes. When people refuse to accept a child going hungry or the mentally ill sleeping on the street, we will reclaim honor. When the day comes that we protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us, our world will brighten into something worth protecting, something worth defending. When we begin to see each other as brothers and sisters, we can begin pushing back against the darker impulses of our species, and maybe, just maybe, if people do not feel the suffocation of desperation, some of those darker impulses will fade on their own.

I dream of a day when people are free to love whomever they love and express themselves in whatever manner they see fit, without judgment or condemnation. When that day comes, we will learn real freedom. If people can ever let go of their deeply entrenched hate and simply accept others as they are, not as one might wish they were, we can begin to communicate with each other instead of at each other.

These are my simple dreams for this world.

Je Suis Charlie

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(Warning: normally I refrain from expressing my views on religion out of respect for my friends who are believers, but in light of the events in France yesterday, my views are central to this piece. Stop now if your faith is easily insulted.)

The biggest threat in this world, the one I have pushed against most of my life, is that of extremism. It comes in many forms, but the common denominator is intolerance for other people’s lifestyles or beliefs. On January 7, 2014, twelve people who worked for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were gunned down by two Islamic extremists because the magazine had insulted their invisible man in the sky. Around the world, others who believe in different invisible folks in the sky saw this atrocity as proof of the superiority of their totems. Extremists to the left used it as an opportunity to once again renounce gun violence, while extremists to the right made sure to point out France’s restrictive gun control laws. Both sides, so convinced of their own divine authority of knowing THE one right way, missed the point: Intolerance ultimately leads to destruction.

Rather than galvanizing civilized people into a collective mass, this latest tragedy is further proof of just how fragmented and intolerant we truly are. Just this morning, the first item to appear in my Facebook newsfeed was a post ridiculing Al Gore because it’s cold over much of North America this week. The ignorance and short-sightedness of confusing weather and climate never cease to amaze me, but that’s a different discussion for a different day. Within minutes, this person’s post had filled with followers, either piling on with more insults for the 97.5% of climatologists who believe climate change is a real thing and man made or questioning the original poster’s intelligence. Per usual with these kinds of discussions, there was no dialogue, no discourse, no exchanging of ideas, just a further entrenching of deeply held beliefs.

Even though I am pretty much a non-believer – especially in religion and specifically in invisible men in the sky who want cartoonists murdered – I’ve always tried to be respectful of other people’s beliefs. After all, that’s what tolerance is all about, allowing other individual’s the right to worship or not as they see fit, to love the person they want (as long it’s a consensual relationship), and to view the world through whatever prism they deem appropriate. The scope of this tolerance ends when one person decides to impose their beliefs on others involuntarily. In free societies, you do not have the right to impose your will on someone else against their own will. This message applies to the extremists on both sides. In light of this most recent tragedy, I see little hope for bridging the gulf of extremist intolerance.

We as a species are heading for a major conflict if we do not find ways to communicate with each other instead of at each other. Because of the unimaginable power of the weapons we possess, our survival as civilized societies is at stake, possibly even the survival of our entire species. And I have no idea how to fix it at this point. I see no way to convince believers that our actions as people are not preordained by the will of whichever invisible person in the sky they worship, and I see no way to get the extremists on the other end to respect the right to believe. I fear the consequences of this steady march towards a worldwide war, because that is what we are approaching, and if this war ultimately erupts, it will be unlike anything humans have experienced before because of the deep fragmentation we have created and those weapons we possess. While little internet arguments over climate change may seem innocuous on the surface, the dehumanization of “the other” is just a symptom of that terrifying disease of intolerance.

Yet Another Injustice

I’ve started a couple of research-based, logical, sensible posts to demonstrate why racism and all the divisiveness it creates are keeping us from ever progressing into a better society, but I know in my heart it won’t do any good. The people who agree with me will read it and tell me how grateful they are that I wrote it, and the people who disagree will attack my character and call me crazy or stupid. All the while, in a few days, we’ll get yet another story of an unarmed American citizen being murdered by the police. The powers that be will lie, falsify evidence, discredit the victim, and tell us to go fuck ourselves for questioning their authority. The sad fact is that we now live in a quasi-police state owned and operated by corporate America, and I have zero faith that the various levels of our government represent my best interests at all.

For decades now, this country has been moving towards criminalizing poverty, and today, we’ve reached the point where just being poor is illegal. Between nitpicking traffic stops for a taillight out (which is really just an excuse to look for bigger and more expensive infractions) to arrests of people for feeding the homeless to choking a man to death for selling cigarettes, this country simultaneously seeks to punish poverty and stifle economic mobility. In my grandparent’s generation, one income from 40 hours a week was more than enough for a home, three cars, regular vacations, and retirement savings. For my parents, it took at least two incomes for the home, a couple of cars, and irregular vacations. For my generation, most of us require two incomes just to survive. For most of us, retirement means work until you drop dead. I can’t even fathom how hard it will be for those younger than I am.

I say this not as someone who shirked the system and tried to skim by but as someone who went to graduate school for an advanced degree and has worked since I was ten, sometimes at two, three, and once even four jobs to make ends meet. I say this as someone who wrote multiple books and maintains over a four star customer review rating on Amazon. I say this as someone who tried with every ounce of energy, spirit, and fight in my body to be successful but ultimately only found dead-ends and blind alleys. I don’t begrudge those who have found economic success in this country, but I do begrudge those who have purposefully shifted the average American’s wages to poverty standards while simultaneously slashing safety net programs. And I know I’m not alone in my anger at that group of people.

As I write this, my body is now a broken shell, probably from so many years of 60-70 hour work weeks with no real vacations. I’m physically not able to protest in the streets for equality and justice and improved wages. My heart is broken at how far this country has regressed in my lifetime (and I still stand by my statement that we are heading for a New Dark Ages ruled by fear and superstition). I like to think that if my body were able, I would step forward front and center and lead the charge, but right now, I’m just sad for this country. Sad at seeing the time and energy and resources wasted on mindless entertainment. Sad at seeing greed and vanity rewarded while virtue and decency are ground to dust. Sad at watching countless injustices unfold while the vast majority pour their righteousness into frivolities like getting college football coaches fired or criticizing others’ clothing choices.

One of my few remaining rays of hope is that history tells us that this is a repeatable cycle. All civilizations go through episodes of greed and corruption that are followed by periods of chaos and then stretches of peace and prosperity. We happen to be in an obtuse period of greed, and hopefully enough people are waking up to this fact that it will change soon. Hopefully, enough people will begin to see that matters of race and gender equality are also matters of economic inequality, and that as long as the system purposefully denies full rights to any taxpaying citizen, no one is really free. Hopefully, the episode of chaos that follows won’t be too terrible for my children’s sake, and hopefully the next era of peace and prosperity will last for quite a while. Right now, however, I’m overwhelmed by all the hate and venom spewing from so many directions

A Deeply Personal, Angry Rant

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I’m probably the whitest white guy you could hope to meet, so honestly, I probably have no business saying anything about the happenings in Ferguson. But I’m going to speak my mind anyway because I’m pissed. I’m pissed for my black friends who once again feel as if our justice system has failed them. Before any single one of my white friends chimes in with a “yeah but,” shut the fuck up and listen. I hate the expression white privilege as much as the next person because there hasn’t been anything privileged about my life at all, but I’m absolutely aware that if I’m detained by the police for any reason whatsoever, if I’m polite and respectful, most likely I will get out of it unscathed. My black friends DO NOT have that luxury. If you disagree with that simple fact, fuck off and get out of my sphere. Permanently.  You won’t be missed.

I’m pissed at the latent and overt expressions of racism I’ve seen coming from white people ever since Michael Brown was gunned down in the street unarmed. If you think he deserved to die because he was a “thug,” fuck off and get out of my sphere. I’ll guarantee I was just as much of a smartass punk at 18 as he was and probably did ten times worse, and I didn’t deserve to be shot. Besides, this whole thing isn’t just about him. It’s about the thousands of black men who have been murdered by authority figures who never face punishment for their excessive uses of force. Michael Brown has just become the symbol for that oppression. If you think jokes about work boots not being looted is funny, fuck off. If you want to make analogies to OJ or the poor kids murdered in Knoxville or use this as any other excuse to express your internal racism against minorities, fuck off. Just because you don’t use the word nigger doesn’t mean you aren’t a racist.

I’m pissed that my white friends can’t see that their “yeah buts” are exactly the response the powers that be want. As long as working class whites are fine with working class blacks being treated like animals, caged in the prisons of the slums with little hope of escape outside of athletics, we will never push back against the oppression of the wealthy elite. As long as we allow race to divide us, we will never be anything but suckers and doormats for a system that fucks us over and drains us dry on a daily basis. And that is exactly what they are counting on. If you believe that THIS SYSTEM as it stands is what’s best for the average American, you are a delusional fool. Sorry to be the one to break that to you, but any system that allows billionaires to pay poverty wages to working people while receiving billions in corporate welfare and simultaneously dodging their tax responsibilities is morally bankrupt and doomed for bloody civil war. You can accept that lesson from thousands of years of human history or you can bury your head in apple pie and sing Lee Greenwood tunes.

I’m pissed that we are controlled and ruled be an ever shrinking wealthy elite who buy politicians and rewrite laws into their favor and then blame the rest of us for not succeeding in spite of the game being rigged in their favor. I’m pissed that conservatives want to blame everyone but big business for the mulching of America, and I’m pissed at liberals for being too spineless to actually do anything about it. I’m pissed at myself for not hoisting the black flag in my youth, when my body was still strong and virile enough to fight for real change. I’m pissed that now I’m virtually powerless to do anything of substance except write angry blog posts.

To my black friends, I’m sorry I failed you. I tried to build bridges; I tried to make a difference. While I know I made the effort, ultimately, I have failed at making any dent in the poison of ignorance and racism once again consuming this nation. To my white friends who harbor latent racism in your hearts (if you have in any way uttered that Michael Brown got what he deserved or that “those people” are acting just like you thought they would, I am talking directly to you.  Yes, you) fuck off and get out of my sphere. Whatever time I have left on this earth will not be spent on people mired in the divisive charade of hate that is racism. From now on, my time and energy is reserved for those who want to unite all of us working poor who want to shrug off the yoke of oppression and ensure that equality and justice are for every single person in this country, not just certain groups. If you aren’t in favor of that, fuck off. You won’t be missed.