Posts Tagged: intelligent

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.

My Facebook addiction

Christmas Tree Pass Hike 061

Don’t get me wrong, addiction is no joke. I have dear friends and relatives who have suffered with/through/around addiction and I know the heartache and struggles addiction brings with it. If you have or know someone with an addiction, get help! Start with a simple google search, like I did for this post, on “overcoming addiction” and go from there.

The rest of this post is not intended to be quite as heavy as life threatening addictions can be – it’s more a self-lament and, hopefully, step toward freedom.

I am a Facebook addict. Really. Checking Facebook is one of the first things I do in the morning and last things I do before bed at night. When I’m bored I’m most likely to grab my phone and tap that app, that beautiful, giant blue F. But I hate it, generally. I really do.

Everyone has an opinion about everything, but  more and more frequently those “opinions” are no more than a bashing of the opposition. That’s not helpful, nor does it further any sort of intelligent discourse. Then there are the cute dog videos and kitty pictures – I’ve been guilty of posting my share, plus a few of my adorable bearded dragons – these are mind-numbingly redundant; likewise baby pictures. I understand you’re newest bundle of joy just simultaneously turned 268 days old and spit up a Picasso-esque clot of pureed vegetables, but  we saw the same picture three times last week. Oh dear, the reposts, the political angst, the stupid memes!

I’m trapped, though. I am a co-conspirator to all things evil in social media and I hate myself every time I log in. So, it’s time that I figure my way out of it. Of course I started with some research about addiction.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is, in short, “an inability to consistently abstain” from a given substance, behavior, or activity. And by that definition, I am, indeed, a Facebook addict. I have gone so far as to delete the Facebook app from my phone, only to find myself logging in over Safari. In case you’re shaking your head, it’s okay. I am, too. I found some helpful information, though, when I searched the term “overcoming addiction.”

The top 10 google results included a few Christian-based advice sites, an article in Psychology Today, advice from Dr. Phil, and even a 13 Step wikiHow article. There was even a link to advice for beating your addiction to pornography… I chose not to click on that one. I’m no prude, but I’d rather not have that come up on my list of visited sites if the NSA ever takes an interest in my internet activities.

I’ll jump into the variety of advice with Dr. Phil. He’s a big advocate of self-assessment when it comes to addiction. One helpful question I found on his list was “What are you using your addiction to avoid?” Well that’s a loaded question, now isn’t it? My guess is most addicts aren’t prepared to answer such a question without a little coaxing. In turn, you may see my analysis of the question as a direct avoidance of answering it. And you would be correct. The truth? When I sit down and scroll through post after post of Facebook fluff, I’m avoiding my writing. I have some hangups about my writing and Facebook lets me ignore them. It also gives me a place to write silly little blurbs about some of the things that I really give a damn about, AKA the things that I should be turning into blog posts or articles or books. So yeah, it’s a place to hide from my fears.

There, I said it. And the Psychology Today article “Overcoming Addiction” reinforced that point for me when it advised that “the awareness of the relationship between addiction and symptoms of … anxiety is essential.” The more anxious I get the more likely I am to partake in my addicting behavior? Well now that’s a pattern I’ve seen before.

One of the more interesting revelations I had during my research was a kinship with the advice of Joyce Meyer on the Christian Post site: “True freedom is knowing who we are in Christ and that we are valuable because Jesus died for us.” Without delving too deeply into religious territory, I’ll rewrite that statement the way it sounded in my head – “True freedom is knowing who we are and that we are valuable.” To be brief, I am too much of a skeptic to be a good Christian (or any other structured religion) believer. Here’s the kicker for me: toward the end of the article this statement appeared, “Don’t try to do anything without praying.” I know prayer gives a lot of people strength and direction, but I’ve never found that, so I’m not a subscriber. Plus, I happen to believe that as I grow and improve as a person I am capable of what I put my mind to. Which is not to say I have any issue with those who are fervent believers. I like the gist of that quote, though. Having a deep understanding of ourselves and an equally deep trust that we each have our own intrinsic value is unquestionably important. Also, I’m pleased to know I appreciate good advice no matter whether I agree with its context.

Of course, there were some repeating themes, like, “the hardest part is deciding to change,” or “admitting you have a problem is the first step. ” True, but not very helpful in a practical way. wikiHow had some good advice in it’s 13 Steps. For example, “brainstorm a list of all the negative side effects” and “make a list of positive changes.” I like those. They’re good action items (for those of you in the corporate world, or up on the Top Ten Hippest Business Buzzwords).

One reassuring finding is that addiction has a genetic link. So when I claim to have an addictive personality, the Harvard Health article on overcoming addiction supports me in my belief. Why is that reassuring? Because what I’ve seen over and over again in my own family is this: addictive behavior isn’t the problem, truly. The problem lies in what you become addicted to and how that choice affects your life. There are far worse things to be addicted to than Facebook, to be sure, but I’d prefer to be addicted to my writing. That’s an especially helpful perspective to have since another recurring theme was finding other activities to replace or distract from the addiction you’re trying to break. I like the idea that the end result of my replacement behavior is the creation of new, never seen before material. Whether it’s good or bad is beside the point. To have spent my time in the research and then creation of a piece of written work that slakes my curiosity should prove to broaden me as a person. And that, ultimately, is what I’m looking for – to learn about life and my unique place in it. Is there any better reason to break an addiction than that?