Tag Archives: Politics

Friday Afternoon Ramblings – 10/11/2019

We are the shining beacon for liberty to the rest of the world. We are the land of opportunity, the symbol of free speech, the bastion for religious freedom. We are the nation that turned the tide against the Nazis and crumbled the Soviet Union. We are the greatest nation on this planet and have always marched towards the future with optimism and certainty.

And now, we are have abandoned an ally to a foreign invader.

That is not okay with me. That represents a level of cowardice and disloyalty typically associated with cartoon villains. America is better than that. We as human beings are better than that. The Kurds fought alongside us against ISIS and shed their blood to help us take down that extremist foe which very much wants us wiped from the earth. ISIS represents the opposite of free speech and liberty, and we abandoned the allies who fought and died on our behalf.

That’s not okay. Not on any level. Not by any defense. President Trump is unfit to lead. He is unfit to be in charge of the most powerful military in the world. He needs to be removed from office sooner rather than later. We are better than this. We are better than abandoning our allies.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday Night Ramblings – 9/25/2019

I’ve made a conscious decision to stay out of politics for the last couple of years, but I think we are at a moment of history when a few questions need to be asked of conservatives who still support Mr. Trump. For most of my life, the stances of Republicans that I have admired most are those on states’ rights, free trade, personal accountability, and fiscal responsibility. My biggest question for conservatives is: Do you believe in and adhere to your principles, or do you support the party regardless of what principles its leaders espouse?

Conservatives claim to believe in states’ rights. However, when the state of California attempts to maintain its own standards for vehicle emissions, the president revokes that authority. Do you believe in this principle or not?

Obviously, Democrats tend to be anti-capitalism, but conservatives have always maintained that they believe in free trade. This president has done more to damage free trade and restrict it than any before him. The trade war and tariffs with China are spiralling the world into a recession. Manipulating markets and pressuring the Federal Reserve to undo the damage the trade war is doing to the economy are NOT free trade fundamentals. Do you believe in markets or not?

For the eight years of Mr. Clinton’s presidency, Republicans railed against his immorality and dishonesty. Slick Willie he was called. Mr. Trump also regularly makes false and misleading statements. Typically outright lies. He also is a womanizer. Do you believe in personal accountability or not? Why are you not as outraged by this person’s behavior as you were Mr. Clinton’s? Is it blind devotion to the party?

When Mr. Obama took office during the Great Recession, conservatives screamed from every outlet possible that the sky was falling because of the national debt and the continuation of the bailouts begun during the Bush administration. Well, under Mr. Trump, in an effort to mitigate the damage done by the trade war, more money has been given to farmers than was used to bailout GM. The national debt has mushroomed to $22 trillion dollars. Where is the conservative outrage over lack of fiscal responsibility? Do you believe in this principle or does it only matter when a Democrat is in the oval office?

My final question for conservatives is this: is there anything this president could do that would make you stop supporting him?

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.