Posts in Category: politics

Keep your guns (to yourself)

freedom

There’s this ridiculous misconception in America that non-gun owners want everyone else to give up their guns. Even worse, that somehow gun owners are being discriminated against because not everybody wants one, or wants to see one, out in public spaces.

For example, I saw this meme online yesterday about the Olympian,  Kim imageRhode. Apparently the fact that she only won bronze in a competition that isn’t followed by a large majority of Americans escaped the notice of whatever 2nd Amendment zealot took the two minutes to create this meme. Everything’s a conspiracy to trash a dude’s “God Given” right to bear arms.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not trying to diminish this woman’s achievements. “Just a bronze” in the International Olympic Games is amazing. That takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and even more talent. Still… I can’t get pumped about it. Basically, I don’t care about skeet shooting just like I don’t care about what some stranger on the street had for dinner last night. It’s just not interesting to me.

So here’s the thing about guns, for me anyway. I don’t own them. They scare the crap out of me because they are tools designed specifically to end life. They scare me like the thought of stage 4 cancer or heart surgery scares me. If I find myself in either of those scenarios, the chance that my life expectancy just took a nose dive is very real. Right there staring me in the face, real. That’s how I feel about guns. If there’s a gun around, my chance of getting shot by it increase by 100% compared to if there was no gun. That’s real math, folks.

But, honestly, I really don’t care if you feel the need to own a gun. Own it. Go shoot at a range and get good at using it. Respect the hell out of that single or double barreled killing machine. Just keep it the hell out of my face.

I’m sick of seeing photo after photo of people and their guns on Facebook and everyone else online. I want to see your gun about as much as I want to see your dick pic. Basically, not at all. I don’t need to know you have one, I’ll just assume you do. That’s okay. You have an ass crack and a 50/50 chance that you have a pair of undies on, too. I don’t need to see any of that either.

One step further, here, I’m going out on a limb to assume that a lot of those who get it all twisted that I don’t want to see your gun will also get it all twisted if a woman breastfeeds her baby in public. Or because the movement Black Lives Matter exists. Or if any other religion besides your own, Christian-based one, is attacked on a daily basis on the grounds of what a person wears or how he prays. The problem with insisting that your rights MUST NOT be infringed should go all ways, shouldn’t it? But, no, that’s not my experience with gun rights zealots.

Here’s another thing. The most common idea that gun owners have about open carry, or publicly carrying their weapon in any way, is that I’ll thank them if problems arise. I don’t feel that way at all. If someone starts shooting up a place that I’m also occupying I’ll duck and dive and hope for the best. Call me a fatalist, but if it’s my time to go who am I to argue? Besides, I’ve seen crazy before. The thing about crazy is that person has no idea they’re it. This is why I don’t trust gun carriers in public. If you think you need to carry a weapon at all times just to be safe that’s called paranoid, which happens to be a type of crazy.

So there ya go, I’ve had my say.

P.S. All comments are welcome, but if I don’t like yours I’ll delete it. Sure you have freedom of speech rights, but I own this blog and what I publish here is totally on me. You want to write about how anti-gun people are crazy, go right ahead… but do it on your own blog.

Political hate

Protector 800I was recently accused of being a GOP hater, no matter what, and regardless of the agenda. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been accused of a lot worse things, so that message cut about as deep as, well it bounced right off if you must know. But this morning I thought it might behoove me to address it.

Highlights of the Republican National Convention: a hubbub on the floor as Anti-Trump delegates attempted to force a roll-call vote (they were summarily ignored by loyalists*), a cribbed speech by Mrs. Trump (sorry, the third Mrs. Donald Trump, just to clarify), a whole lot of Anti-Hillary yelling and screeching (because an entire day’s event should be based on what you don’t believe), and Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse (the guy’s a steaming pile of horse shit**, in my book, but everybody has a bit of good in them, right?).

Actually, I haven’t watched a lick of the convention. I honestly can’t care about it; I’ve already heard enough out of the GOP. They have now officially nominated a man who thinks we need to build a wall between us and Mexico and named some ridiculous specific height – because surely there are no ladders that tall. He believes we should block all Muslims from entering the US and target those already here, just in case they’re radical – because that’s not unconstitutional at all, not to mention stupid on fiscal, moral, and logistical levels. He openly mocked a physically challenged reporter, made that insane statement about what he could do on Fifth Ave in NYC and not lose a single voter/fan/morally untethered American, incited violence inside of his rallies then blamed protesters outside. You poured that gasoline, (I want to write sir but I reserve that word for men I respect).

So let me ask you this: why should I have watched the convention? I’ve known everything I needed to know about that man since his reality TV show. He’s nothing but a big, dirty mouth. I honestly can’t believe anyone could support him. What American parent would tolerate such behavior out of their children? What child would have felt a quick backhand to the mouth if that language came out of it – not that I condone physical punishment, it’s as unnecessary as me watching the RNC.

And of course I’ve heard the Trump rhetoric deniers*** who run around saying things like, he doesn’t really believe that and he’s a big supporter of women and feminist values or we need him because he’s anti-establishment. 

I’ll take those one at a time, thanks:

  1. He doesn’t really believe that: So what you’re saying is it’s okay to say anything you want, make any ridiculous claims, say the most reprehensible things, in order to get nominated? It’s okay to target the worst of the worst, lowest of the low, humanity has to offer because the means justify the end? one word: No.
  2. He’s a big supporter of women and feminist values. The only person I’ve ever heard make this claim in any believable way is his daughter, Ivanka. But of course she’ll say that. That’s her dad. Oh, and her boss. Double whammy.
  3. We need him because he’s anti-establishment. This one’s the most comical of all. Why? Sure, he’s never held any office in which he couldn’t outright fire anyone who disagreed with him. But putting that aside, the US government is run by big corporations; that’s where the money is and that’s who pays lobbyists and big portions of campaigns. This is not new news to anyone. And Donald Trump is nothing if not a big corporation (with a horrible fashion sense). He’s not anti-establishment. He is the establishment.

What about the Democratic National Convention? I’m honestly not watching that one either. I had hope for the future of America several months back, but I don’t right now. Both party’s conventions seem like made-for-social-media events, with equal amounts of the ugliest we Americans can muster. I have, sadly, come to expect this on the internet. Trolls have turned it into a (cyber) place I frequently feel unsafe wandering through. But that this type of behavior has landed in the middle of the elections and seems to have taken over?  As an adult person, I just don’t know what to think or how to deal with it. I’m sad. I’m disgusted. And I’m depressed that this process represents me, as an American, to the rest of the world.

I wish I knew what to do…

* Loyalists? Yes, that’s what I consider Trump fans loyalists. I believe he wants to turn MY country into a monarchy and himself its king.

** Steaming pile of horse shit? Actually, I think I’m underestimating the value of horse shit. At least it’s got use in the garden.

*** Deniers? Of course I used this term on purpose. These folks are the same lot who talk about climate change as though our weather patterns aren’t causing chaos somewhere new every few weeks.

ForcingThe real problem I see with racism in America right now is that it’s become such a habit that a lot of folks don’t even know they’re doing it. When I’m writing, and I’m really on a roll, my leg starts bopping up and down, really fast, and totally on its own. I don’t even notice it until I stop to think what I want to write next and suddenly — hey! how did that happen?

It’s the same thing with racism. People have been trying so hard for so long to be “color blind” that they can’t see the problem for what it is: despicable. Like my leg bopping around they don’t know when it’s happening, how it started, or where in the heck did that habit start in the first place? It’s called an unconscious bias, if you care to know the social sciencey term. It means you have a preference for, or in this case against, something and you have no idea that you’re doing it.

Here’s the thing, though. When my legs is bopping up and down, and someone comes along and says why are you doing that? am I going to say what? I’m not doing anything! Actually, I might because maybe I didn’t notice. But when I stop for a moment to realize, or they point it out to me, what’s my reaction then? I’ll definitely say oh sorry, is that bothering you? I’ll stop. Then I will because I don’t what to be annoying. I don’t need anyone to feel uncomfortable in our shared space because of something I’m doing that I can just as easily stop. And I will absolutely become more aware of my body so that I can preemptively stop any accidental leg bopping that might occur later.

I’m not saying everyone’s like me, but most people are thoughtful. Most people just want to try to get along and share space and not cause shit. Of course there are those jerks on the fringes, there are always a few, but that’s the point they’re numbers are few.

So turning back to racism (and bigotry in general), do you see what I’m getting at? I think oodles and oodles of white folks in America are behaving in a racist manner because they don’t notice it. But the problem that’s loaded on top is they’re being accused of doing something that they’re not aware of and they’re PISSED. Nobody wants to admit to something they aren’t doing, even when they really are, but don’t know it yet. And by the way, these are the very people that are running to the GOP in droves because instead of taking a good look at themselves it’s easier to collectively say, NO! Quit calling me a racist. I don’t hate Mexicans because they’re brown, I hate them because they’re taking our jobs. I don’t hate blacks because of their skin color and kinky hair, I hate them because they’re killing cops. I don’t hate Muslims because I don’t understand them. I hate them because I’m scared of all the upheaval and violence in the world and they’re an easy scapegoat. Let’s face it, anger is always easy.

Do I have a remedy? Honestly, I can’t say that I do. I think the wisest thing I can say is, it’s gonna take time. Yes, it’s been 50 years since the Martin Luther King era of race relations in America. That feels like a long time, but the human race has been fighting over our differences for hundreds and thousands of years. Fifty isn’t even a drop in the bucket. I try to be an example, I suppose. And I write things that I hope might help others think about what they’re doing and why, and if it’s something they’re proud of themselves for. And that’s another thing, I see people all over the internet being proud of themselves: he lost 10 lbs! she graduated college with a 3.8 GPA! he started running again! she won a pie eating contest! Celebrate!

Yes, please do celebrate. But what if we started celebrating ourselves for being good and kind and thoughtful people, no matter what the situation? I’d like my social newsfeeds a whole hell of a lot better if we did <3

A return to respect in politics

Respect

I read an article this morning about how Bernie Sanders was booed by a bunch of Democrats because he hedged when asked when he planned to come out and fully support Hillary Clinton. Commenters were up in arms that anyone dare boo their candidate of choice because how dare they?

Let me get this part out of the way first: I support Bernie Sanders. He has enough delegates to go the the Democratic Convention later this month and demonstrate to all of America just how important his message is. I applaud him for sticking to it and taking his supporters all the way to Philadelphia. I don’t know the guy personally, so I don’t know if its just part of his mystique or a real part of his core (I prefer to believe the later), but that he won’t back down from a tough fight is one of the traits I most admire.

My bigger point, in writing today, is to ask how have we become a nation that won’t tolerate dissent? How can we suddenly not stomach disagreement and wildly different ideas in this great big country of ours? I guess its not so sudden, really. I mean, four years ago I had a so-called friend tell me I should jump off the tallest building I could find because we were arguing over welfare policy. If you must know, I argued my point, he had no good counter argument, so instead of conceding, he thought I should inflict bodily harm upon myself. Some friend, huh? But I digress.

We live in a gigantic country. Google just told me it’s 3.806 million mi² to be exact. WOW. But, really, in all that space, we can’t eek out a corner for everyone to have their own opinion? And more importantly, we can’t give each other space to hold our competing ideals tightly against our chests? In my mind, a strong democracy is one where citizens who have distinctly different ideas will fight tooth and nail to find common ground and finally COME TOGETHER as one.

Anymore, we stop at the fighting part. How is that? Why?

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because the drama is in the fighting. Have you ever met a couple who fights constantly and seem to enjoy their relationship solely because they love the drama of fighting? I sure have and I gotta say I hate being around those people.

I’m definitely a peacenik. If I had my way we’d argue quickly and civilly and come to an agreement that suits everyone enough to create as much contentment as possible. Of course, nobody’d want to watch that on prime time TV. Plus, I understand that in politics especially, a lot of folks want to throw their chests out and make a big show of what they think. I’m always up for a good debate, but how about we lay out some ground rules? Because, honestly? Capitol Hill looks like a playground with an absent playground monitor most days. Which is pitiful because these are the people we’ve hired to take care of the business of running our country.

So how about those ground rules?

  1. Listen. If you’ve ever seen a counselor or read anything about human interactions you’ve heard the term active listening. All it means is really listen to what the other person is saying. Repeat back to them, in your words, their message so you’re all clear about what’s really being said and what’s most important. What this does not include is constructing your counter-argument while they’re still talking. You can’t take in what someone is saying that way.
  2. Think. Take a minute, take a few, and maybe a few more! In 2016 it seems we have no respect for reflection and rumination anymore. But to really roll a new or different idea around in your head, you’ll need some time. Take it! A little bit of thoughtfulness never hurt anyone!
  3. Focus. This is a biggie: pay most attention to what you can agree on. There’s always at least a sliver of agreement in two differing points. Start there. How can you grow that sliver?
  4. The Point. Stick to the single point at hand. It’s easy to take the issue you’re arguing and compare it to something similar, but then the argument gets wider, and more complicated, and you’re gonna get nowhere fast that way. Stick to the one issue and do not detour from it.
  5. Don’t Delay. While we definitely need time to think deeply about a disagreement, don’t put off the discussion for too long. Other issues will rear up and take precedence and then this first thing will never be resolved. Let’s face it, things like affordable higher education, racial equality, sensible gun regulations, etc. etc. need to be resolved.
  6. The Blame Game. Just don’t. It doesn’t help anyone to point fingers and find fault. It might be satisfying on some level to claim faultlessness, but the problem is still going to be there when you get done patting yourself on the back. This is a gigantic waste of time.
  7. Win-Win. Yup, we’re back to that common ground thing. If you’re going to make the largest portion of citizens happy or content with a decision, you need to look for the win-win. And let’s face it, win-win is never going to be on either extreme side of the realm of possibilities. I know this is particularly unpopular right now because politics has become some sort of extreme fight club, but it’s true.

If you got through that list, you might recognize it as a list of how to argue successfully in a relationship. Of course politics is about relationship. And we NEED to stop with the hate and the contention and the love of the drama because as an American, I don’t want to be a laughing stock on the world stage. I want to be proud of us. I want us to reach for our very highest ideals and quit with the hate and pandering to the ugliest parts of the human psyche.

And that, dear friends, is all I’m gonna say about that.

 

 

Why Hillary is not the gal for me #stillnotforHill

honesty

UPDATE: I originally wrote the post below right after the Iowa caucuses. I still feel pretty much the same, only now instead of having great misgivings about voting Hillary Clinton in the primary season, I’m facing the thought of having her and only her as the Democratic candidate in the general election. I’m torn and confused. And pretty pissed about the whole mess. I honestly don’t want to have to choose the lesser of two evils again.

Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate. I don’t know much about her. (BTW, you can click on her name and go to her candidacy page to learn more) I should, though, shouldn’t I? She’s another female candidate in the race for the seat behind that desk in the Oval Office. Here’s where I wish more than anything that we had fairer election laws and a better process so that anyone wanting a shot at the White House had access to a microphone loud enough to reach all the people with their message. We don’t have that. Because of that, among a couple of other things if I’m honest, I’m feeling caught with my pants down.

I’m still a Bernie supporter. Yes, I’ve gotten the emails: Hey, Becky! Take the unity pledge! Say you’re with her. I can’t, not yet. Maybe not ever. My biggest fear, though, is that unless Bernie Sanders joins Jill Stein’s ticket as her VP – which I think would be a huge waste – then a vote for the Green Party is nothing but a vote against the Democratic ticket. And regardless of who is on that ticket, I just can’t say I feel comfortable voting that way, given the possible alternative.

So, here I am. Here WE are. It’s only June. We have just under five months to go before Election Day 2016. A lot can happen in five months. But for now, I’m not feeling hopeful. And I hate when that happens.

There are so many important social issues that are on the cusp of BIG change right now. If we don’t have good leadership to direct that change we’re likely going to miss the moment and have to wait another 50 years all while watching ourselves sink into the pit of filth and despair, which is the current direction people who like to call themselves “pure” capitalists are pointing us.

What to do? I don’t know. I’m giving myself some time to think on it. I don’t think Hillary would be disastrous as a president. I also don’t think she’ll get much, if anything, done in the way of social changes we desperately need in America. Benghazi and all the crap with her email server? I honestly think it’s overblown the entire Republican Party hates the Clintons BS. Could both situations have been handled better? Of course. But I don’t believe for a second the mistakes were made with malice, shortsightedness, or bad judgment. I think they were honest mistakes made by a human being who is just as mistake-prone as the rest of us. Maybe new information will come out to change my mind about this, but I haven’t seen it yet. So, no. I don’t hate Hillary. I don’t think she’d be the worst thing that could happen to the US. I trust her intelligence and judgment better than I did George W. which is not saying a lot, but it’s something…

I could go on and on about this because my brain’s in a right jumble at the moment. I guess, for now, I’ll just say I will continue to hope for the best and leave it at that. Just for now, though. Probably, I’ll make another update to this post as Election Day draws nearer. Look for it in the coming months!

BEGIN ORIGINAL POST: Let me start by defending myself right off the bat: GAL? Isn’t it a little demeaning to call a 68 year-old woman gal? Yeah, no, I don’t think so. I think that’s the vibe she’s going for, honestly. But she can’t quite pull it off. She pulls off gal in 2016 as well as I used to pull off sista in the early 2000s, which is not at all.

And that’s the first reason I could never vote for Hillary in the primaries: she tries too damn hard to be something she’s not. She tries to work a room like Bill could, but she doesn’t come close. Put aside his politics (if you need to) and his philandering (ditto that), but that man can work a room like nobody’s business. He’s naturally charming. He’s naturally comfortable with people. Somehow those readers he wears now don’t look quite as frumpy on him as they do on everyone else. Hillary, though? She has none of that.

And maybe this sounds as dumb an argument as complaining about her hairstyle or her clothes, but I’m going out on a limb here to say, you’re wrong about that. If I want anything from my politicians the very first thing I want is for them to be genuine. George W. Bush was genuine. He was genuinely ineffective as president, but he was genuinely Dubya. I used to have a happy list of the idiotic things he said on my desk. He was definitely entertaining; I always gave him that much. But I don’t want to be entertained by my president.

I don’t get the same feeling of genuine from Hillary. She doesn’t feel that way, to me, at all. And here’s the thing, when I meet someone like that, someone who feels so fake? I am consumed with wondering what, exactly, is so bad it needs hiding. I don’t want that from my president, either.

Number two on my list: she calls herself a progressive. She said it in her Iowa caucus “victory” speech last night. But I believe it as much as I believed Ben Carson last night when he said any American who thinks there should be a separation of church and state in the US is schizophrenic.

Way back in the 90s, when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she was tasked to head up the fight for Universal Healthcare. THAT was progressive. But that was also more than 20 years ago. That was before I had a cell phone, when recording a clever outgoing message on your answering machine was all the rage, and fax machines were the handiest way to transmit information (and they also used thermal paper). Yeah, that’s when Hillary was progressive. But let’s be for real. If she was like the average 68 year-old, we’d be giggling at her emails, right now, every time they arrived from her AOL account.

Here’s number three: She’s a feminist. This one I buy. She grew up knowing what it was like to be told “don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” She grew up in a time that even when her ideas where the smartest in the room, they were ignored because they came out of a carefully lipsticked mouth. That is absolutely true. But as far as my feminist ideals go, I can’t stand on that issue, and that issue alone, and vote for her. That would be the antithesis of an intelligent feminist’s decision.

It’s not that I don’t get how all these women out there are planning to vote exactly that way; just because of what she’s got, or rather hasn’t got, dangling between her legs. There was a cohort of black voters that voted for Barack Obama because he was black. I get it. If all things were equal, you’re damn right I’d be supporting Hillary Clinton in the primaries. But they’re not. So I won’t.

Onto number four: Hillary’s platform makes the claim that she’s fighting for the people. How can she make that claim, honestly, when she’s backed by big monied corporations? Or the .00001% of the population? Politics don’t play out that way.

We know darn well that, in every situation, if you get a favor (money) you owe one back. And the favor (legislation or a big contract, maybe) you owe is payable upon request. Period. In politics you can’t be beholden to big money contributors and the little people at the same time. They’re too often, like almost always, on the opposite sides of the table. Hillary’s smart enough to know that. And I honestly find it a little disgusting that she’s banking on her constituents to not be.

After all that, here’s my conundrum: what happens if my worst case scenario comes about, and Hillary is the Democratic nominee? Will I eat my words?

To tell you the real, honest truth? I don’t want to think about that now. I’m 50 and I’ve already cast too many votes in my lifetime for the lesser of two evils. Please, I don’t want to have to do that this year.

Get your caucus here!

11705238_10205506481636053_1965115608713194476_nI figured today would be a good day to post political, with the kick-off of Primary Season, and all.

Funny, isn’t it, that we celebrate the beginnings of sport seasons – Week One of the NFL season is always a big day in my house – but we don’t get as excited about political seasons. I’m wondering: why is that?

Sports are meant to entertain us. The games are usually pretty exciting, but their outcomes have no real impact on our daily lives. I’m just gonna step over all a y’all Steelers fans, here, because you’re crazy 24/7/365. But honestly, what is most important, the thing we should really pay Super Bowl or World Cup level attention to, if not our political system; who runs it, and what the hell they’re doing with our money?

Say you pay $200 or $600 for a ticket to see your favorite team play, or watch your favorite band in concert. You expect them to put on a damn good show. You expect quality for that money. You expect to feel like, even if your team didn’t win, it was a damn good game. Those are reasonable expectations. Why don’t we have those same expectations in politics?

Nobody’s going to lose their job as a result of a poorly executed tennis serve, but a few tens of thousands might as a result of a poorly executed debate. Why is it so much less important to us? Why are there twelve ESPN stations and CSpan has, like, three? And they’re way up in the high numbers where nobody accidentally scrolls (FYI, I checked my cable provider’s website for the exact channel numbers for CSPAN and found a 1/3 page ad for ESPN’s streaming service on the homepage… I already feel a little vindicated.)

So how are we going to change this? I say WE because I assume, if you’ve read this far you do care about this stuff. So, how?

  1. Register to vote.Voter turnout numbers in the US are pitiful. We’re a republic, which means we elect our political officials to be our hearts and voices in our political system. With voter turnouts as low as 27.8% (I’m looking at you Indiana) and only as high as 58.1% (Go Maine!) we’re not represented evenly, fairly, or honestly. For once I’m not blaming our elected officials for it, either. That’s totally on us. On a side note: Don’t spend your time complaining about how our country’s going to a flaming, broiling hell, then tell me you never vote because what’s the point? That’s just stupid.
  1. Educate yourself about the issues.This is getting tougher and tougher, thanks to the ad nauseous number of links Google lists after you click the search button. As a test, I googled the term “two party system.” I got back 245,000,000 results in about a 1/2 a second. That’s overwhelming; it would take me more than THREE BILLION MINUTES to read just the summary of each of those pages.

What to do? First off, let me say, DO NOT rely on some political meme you found on Facebook, no matter how funny or real it looks. That’s also stupid. What you should do is learn from lots of different sources. Read them, and then find out something about the organization that published the material.

Everyone has an agenda. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But you should know what their agenda is before you go embracing their data, conclusions, and politics. Mom and Dad used to tell us to wait a half hour after lunch to go back in the water at the beach. Their agenda probably had more to do with them wanting just a half hour of relaxation than it did cramps. Here’s Politico’s About Us page. I found it by scrolling down to the bottom of their homepage. I also like Snopes to debunk stories that sound either too good or too bad to be true (see political memes above). Some sites, like FactCheck.Org even publish how they’re funded. FactCheck, is a resource I like, but it is commonly cited as having a liberal bias. Finally, don’t forget to check the politicians’ websites. Fingers crossed they list clear information about where your politicians stand on the issues and what they’re doing in your name.

  1. Pick a side. What issues matter most? Obviously, that depends on who you are and where you’re from. My top three are equality, health care, and education. The environment and foreign policy are a close #4 and 5, but we have to prioritize, right? Pick what matters to you, personally. It’s a good place to start. What gets you all riled up? Government waste? Poverty? Land use and conservation? If you’re homeless, regulations that have been popping up all over the country, that ultimately ban the homeless from living outdoors, will have a huge impact on your living situation. As a woman, abortion regulations have a direct impact on what can and cannot happen inside of my own uterus. That matters to me on a very personal level.

Spend a little time considering what you really care about, then research what’s happening in your community (local, state, and national). Then research your candidates so you can pick one who most matches your concerns.

You can take it slow. And maybe you should; it’s not easy. I like what Rand Paul has to say about staying out of foreign conflicts, but I would never vote for a man who said if you believe that every American has the right to quality health care “You’re basically saying you believe in slavery.” Things get messy in politics, but that doesn’t mean we should opt out.

  1. Put your money where your mouth is. Contribute to the campaign of the politician(s) who support your ideologies. This I can’t emphasize enough. (Here I’m stepping up on my soapbox.) We need campaign finance reform. It’s not right, fair, or responsible to allow individuals and corporations – NO, I do not consider a corporation to be an individual – to hide who they support and how much they’ve contributed. And contribution $$$ matter because if you only have $2,000 to run a campaign you’re obviously not playing in the same sandbox with the guys and gals who have $2,000,000. Do it. Contribute. I never throw a lot of money at my candidates of choice, but I throw enough to make me feel like I’ve done something. Whatever that number is for you, that’s what you should contribute. (…And now I’ll step off.)
  1. Put your time where your mouth is. Support your local food bank. Or your local school by volunteering for career day. Or write an opinion piece for publication. Or go clean up your local state park. My dad helped count the horseshoe crabs on a local Delaware beach. The long and short of this part is: it’s not up to our politicians to make our communities into what we envision them to be. That’s our job.

Did you notice in any of the above where I told you what you should think and why? You didn’t. Well. Maybe the part about campaign finance reform, but okay. That’s not my point. Of course I care if my candidates win or lose, but I care more that we become involved. This is my country. It is your country. If you’re not willing to stand up and be FOR us, work FOR us, then you shouldn’t call yourself an American. Not being involved has resulted in one current presidential candidate leading in the popular polls. That he can spout his filthy rhetoric and retain his popularity is beyond me. I find it frightening, but I also believe he is a direct result of our disinvolvement in the political system.

Hell yes, I want America to be a great country. But I’m more interested in watching a good game in the elections. A fair one. One that involves the best of the best political players. Any other scenario, in my mind anyway, is pointless.

Fame and Fortune and Everything That Goes With It

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On the one hand, I’d like to know who Neil deGrasse Tyson plans to support in the presidential elections. But on the other? I hope he never answers that question publicly. Why? Because politics is outside of his realm of expertise. I mean, sure, there are plenty of scientific and environmental issues looming large on the political stage these days: Flint; 2015 as the warmest year in the history of recording such a thing; fracking and the increased incidence of earthquakes… But these are all single issues, though, which should be discussed and discovered separately, just like every other issue that is important to the voting populace.

Something’s been bothering me for a long time… relative to how we come to our opinions about the world. It’s been a growing irksome thing, to me, for decades. It started back when Princess Diana began visiting one impoverished area then another. Her intent was heartfelt — the way she highlighted our failings as a species was quite effective. And we all adored her using her position for the good. But in the intervening 30-odd years, that scheme has turned grossly self-serving. I never cared when Angelina Jolie went to Africa (and wherever else) to lend her celebrity to the plight of the impoverished. I always figured it was a ploy to put herself in the public eye and make a bigger name for herself. Maybe she does have a good heart, but how do I know? I don’t know the woman.

And these days it’s come to the level of downright ridiculousness. Who in their right mind would rely on someone like Jenny McCarthy to instruct their opinion about vaccinations? That’s not smart. Of course it’s not! Who would take as scientific truth that the earth is flat because some rapper is claiming it? Come on! Are we even for real? And don’t get me started about celebrity endorsements of political leaders. I could care less who some backwoods, longbearded, famous-assed redneck thinks will make a good president. And I’ll add just one more item to this list: I’m sure as hell not gonna listen to some dude (any dude) tell me what can or cannot happen inside of my uterus. Let’s just get that straight right now.

My point is, I think it’s important we respect public individuals for their personal skills, not their opinions. Good actors are famous because of their acting skills. Good business people are known for their business acumen (c’mon Zuck, you’re no baby-raising guru). Physicists know the hell out of physics, and a skilled horsewoman will train the heck out of your horse if you ask real nice. Of course, if you happen to know a person well enough to have gained respect for them. Maybe then you respect their opinions. But I mean,  you know them, like IRL know them. Not reality TV know them. Or Twitter feed know them. Or you watch their vlog every day and feel like you know them, know them. None of those things are real.

Hell, I’ve known some people for years. I love them. I respect them. But we 100% disagree about almost every social and political issue coming down the pike. So you see? Right there! Even knowing a person very, very well doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their opinions. Or their opinions are worth a pound of salt. I suppose I just wish we weren’t so lazy headed when it comes to important stuff. Because that’s how Hitlers are made, isn’t it?

(On) The importance of being earnest

IMG_8982No, no. Not the play, silly. I’m talking about us. As people. Earnestness in how we carry ourselves. How we put ourselves out there in the world. Being earnest is important. It means you have some depth to you, and you are sincere in your words and your deeds. Without earnestness, all you got left is half-assed. And pardon me if that’s not good enough.

I’m proud to be a part of this crowd: We who run around being earnest. Even when we get called silly names, like “bleeding heart” or people say we’re too serious about this, too involved with that. Yeah, I don’t buy that, not anymore I don’t. Now what irks me is when someone, anyone, is not earnest. I don’t have time for people who don’t live their convictions. I don’t have patience for hidden agendas or the disingenuous. Everyone’s got an angle? Everyone’s got a shtick? I don’t, except to live my life in tune with my conscience. Go stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Is this (another) one of my political rantings? No. Not really. I mean, sure, it plays out that way, but that’s not my intent. If I have any intention with putting these words out there it’s this: Live how your soul tells you. Speak your truth and let your actions affirm your life’s purpose.

And maybe that’s what I like about earnestness in the first place. It’s simple. It makes life a lot simpler. And just like Oscar Wilde said a long time ago. That shit’s important 😉

Because he dared

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I was reading a story by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, today, called “Pride.” There was a line in the story that made me stop what I was doing to write this piece. It reads, “Good use can be made of everything, if you are willing.”

The reason it stopped me in my tracks, so, was because it made me think of Barack Obama. It brought to mind all that he’s faced in the seven years he’s been president. I admire this man, for a lot of reasons, but if I’m honest? It’s his blackness that I admire the most. That sounds silly, I know, so let me explain:

It’s not that I admire President Obama for the color of his skin. Rather, I admire what he’s done with it. He’s allowed himself to be a flash point for racism. He became the President of the United States of America because he dared to be.

President Obama doesn’t make the color of his skin an issue. He doesn’t pander to anyone by using his blackness as a weapon, or a calling card, or as a social divider. No. He asks us to look beyond his appearance and see that he is an intelligent man who considers an issue fully, and thoughtfully, and then takes a stand. He demands that we remember the substance of a man is in his heart, not in his DNA.

But dared? Yes, I used that word, purposely. It’s an interesting word to use, right? Here’s why: There are millions of Americans who use it in the context of how dare he? As though some little colored kid should never dare to dream so high. He dared like, he thinks he’s so high and mighty. He dared to think he’s better than me? Not around these parts. Not in this house. Not on my watch. Did that make you cringe? I’m not sorry. It was intentional. Those ideas (and worse) are voiced in America — land of the free, home of the brave — all day every day.

Yes, he did dare. He dared to willingly make himself a target. He dared to run for the presidency of the United States in spite of our latent but rampant racism. I don’t know, maybe part of why he dared was because of it. Not out of spite, but because somebody had to shine a light on it some day, why not him?

And my, oh my, it sure is shining big and bright now, isn’t it? But how does this tie back to that quote from Alice Munro? “Good use can be made of everything…”

I believe that President Obama has made good use of the way racism silently infiltrated America. I believe that his brown face and kinky hair alone allowed all the closet racists to crawl out and let their racist flags fly. I believe, ultimately, that that’s a good thing.

I am sick of hearing the phrase “I’m not a racist, some of my best friends…” Because we all know how that story ends. We know it’s just a bunch of words people use to excuse their deeper beliefs and behaviors, and to dodge the more serious conversations. Our president made good use of America’s racism because, and I’m being my typical hopeful self here, what I hope is that we will begin again to have honest conversations about race and poverty and all the inequalities in our country. It’s the only way to finally move, as a nation, away from those things, and toward what is greater. Because, let’s be honest, we are not a great country, unless we all have a fair shot at greatness ourselves.

But we must be willing…

 

Am I right?

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You don’t want to have to be politically correct anymore, huh? Well I don’t want to have to share 99% of my DNA with you anymore, either, so just give it back and we’ll both be happy. Problem solved.

I’m so sick of hearing why political correctness is a bad thing. Really sick and tired of it. I’m irritated every single day by people who tell me to quit being so offended. Or quit getting my panties in a bunch or being overly emotional about things. Really? Quit being offended?

Why should I? I want to live in a civil society. And surprise, surprise, that requires us to be CIVIL toward each other. So stop telling me that historically it was okay to use the word nigger, so you’re going to keep using it. There is no reason to continue to use terms (or symbols, for that matter) that cause other people heartache. It’s not that I expect you to be politically correct. I expect you to be civil. I’d honestly prefer you to be kind, in general, but if you can’t pull that one out, just be civil.

And while we’re at it, let me just say. Yes, I am tired of the ever-evolving terminology we have to use to not offend each other. Why call a janitor a building maintenance technician? I never heard of a janitor being offended by being called a janitor. Do you know why? I think it’s because somebody, somewhere, thought janitor didn’t sound important, or prestigious, enough. Well, I think that’s a wrong-headed assumption. Taking care of a place is noble and it’s a job done by good, hardworking people. When did we suddenly decide that good and hardworking wasn’t enough to be a proud American?

Same as with the terms homemaker, or gardener, or cashier, or cook, or teacher… Anyone who ends a day having worked earnestly and well is deserving of my respect. And yours, too. Not to mention, they’re worthy of pay that makes their lives livable. It’s simple.

So what if they have no further desire than to live a simple life in a simple place? Not everyone wants a big, expensive car. Not everyone needs a house with more rooms than he or she will use in a year to feel validated. Not everyone needs botox, hair dye, and designer clothes to feel worthwhile.

And also while we’re at it, I’m sick and tired of having to apologize because I am somewhat intelligent and use my brain to determine my opinions. When did it become a bad thing to be smart? Why is it wrong of me to consider things like poverty from all different angles? How is it wrong of me to say I understand why Middle Easterners feel righteous in their anger toward us? We need their oil, so we think we have some right to tell them how to run their politics, just so our oil supplies aren’t compromised? That’s like you coming to my house and turning the TV channel to your favorite show just because you’re there. No, man, it’s my TV. Maybe you should have DVRd your program at home before you left. Not my problem. And yes, I probably invited you to come to my house in the first place, but that doesn’t give you the right to take over.

I do think about issues that are important, to all of us. I think about how I feel about things, and why I feel that way. I mull things over, I chew them up and spit them out. And like when I was a kid and wasn’t done chewing a piece of gum, I might stick it on my bedpost so I can pop it back in my mouth the next day and chew on it some more. It bothers me when someone doesn’t take the time or the effort to think about things just because they’re complicated. So then what happens? We take the simplest route to gaining our opinion and call it good.

Here’s a good example: Illegal immigration. It’s not simple. It’s a refugee crisis, more like. Many (probably most) of the people coming over our border illegally are running from violence and poverty that we can’t imagine. Are you hard up enough to leave your home, your family, and everything you’ve ever known and travel thousands of miles, on foot, with just a few of your possessions in a sack? Are you doing that? No. You’re not. Do you know why? You don’t live in that level of fear or poverty. So tell me anyone who makes that trip doesn’t need our help and a little damn bit of civility? Come on. Nobody’s asking you to give them your home or your family. But the simple answer is to build a wall, to keep them out? That sounds like a good way to spend your tax dollars? Really?

And let me just add one more thing while I’m here. To those of you who over the years have called me, and others like me, overly emotional. I have just one thing to say: fuck you. I live a rich and fulfilling life. A big part of who I am is based on my emotionality. I feel things fully and deeply. I’m sorry if you can’t. Truly, I feel sorry for you. But just remember, I don’t go running around calling you a cold-hearted, unfeeling robotron, do I? Nope. I don’t. Just let me be me and I’ll let you be you. I never said you have to like me, anyway.

Is there a point to this rant, in the end? I guess the point is that I expect more from us. We can’t claim to live in a civilized society then refuse to be civil. We can’t claim the right to say anything we want, any way we want it, and then claim that no one has the right to react to it.  We can’t claim to have compassion and not show it, or to have intelligence and not use it, and, in the very end, claim to be human and not be humane.

And last but not least, for those of you who want to run around saying horrible things then claim, “I was just kidding” or “It’s just a joke.” Stop. Just stop that. Because whether you were a kid on the giving end or the receiving end of that sort of thing, we both know the truth. “I was just kidding” is what you said when mom came along and caught you being an asshole, right? Am I right?

You know I am.