Monthly Archives: February 2013

Are you ready to rrruummm-bble?

I just don’t know what to think. I want to believe in the integrity and collective wisdom of Americans, but I get scared.  I get scared when the tv ratings soar for the Jersey Shore and for Celebrity Apprentice.  I get scared when the lead story on the 6 o’clock Jersey-Shorenews is about Lady Gaga’s meat dress at the MTV Awards, while soldiers are being killed overseas.

I get scared when I see the person in front of me at Hy Vee picking up not only the latest copy of the National Enquirer but also The Globe with the headline, “Lizard Man Sheds Own Skin.”

So when I see the current lineup of hopefuls for the office of President, I cannot feel secure that they will be weeded through with sound and sane criteria, and I’m scared that one of them could actually become President.

So, who do we have…?Boxing Announcer

The large arena is filled with excitement as everyone takes their seats. The announcer, dressed in a natty tux takes the center mike—-“Are you ready to rrruuuummmm-bbbble?!!”

“In this corner we have the reigning champion, Barack boxing obamaObama, weighing in with Healthcare Reform for an industry that for decades has been using profiteering tactics to increase margins at the expense of American’s health.  He has battled unfair partisan attacks against his birth, his faith and his patriotism, yet remains in control at the helm of a fractured Foreign Policy Landscape!

And in this corner—-challenger Mitt Romney. Understandablyboxing romney shy because his “Romneycare” is remarkably similar to “Obamacare” he stands tall as a Mormon, with every right to be accepted as a candidate, even though his belief system is inherited from a man who received Golden Plates from an angel named Moroni!  He weighs in with tremendous financial success from years of acquiring businesses, then laying off workers!

And ALSO in this corner we have Mike Huckabee—weighing in on a desire “to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so thCANWRBGLit lines up with some contemporary view” even though that is contrary to the very essence of the Republic!  Huckabee is a right handed jabber who has taken shots at his primary opponent Romney by asking (if) “Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

Rounding out the Big Three in this already crowded corner is Sarah Palin….small but wiry, she comes with a right hook palinthat’s been unrivaled in competition. Creating a new political lexicon for every fight Palin shows that she ready for any “Squirmish.”  A true playground bully she is armed with fractured syntax and scant knowledge of issues that endear a base nourished by superficial thinking and anything anti-liberal, regardless of content.

What?  Someone else appears in this corner? Give it up for santorumRick Santorum! Nothing galvanizes the extremists better than a good Santorum battle cry!  “Homosexuality is man on dog sex!” he pronounces to his adoring fans!

Wait!  He’s not done!

“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything!”

The arena suddenly goes dark; the fans are confused. “What’s going on? Power failure? Government shutdown?” Then suddenly over the loud speaker a nasal, narrow mouthed voice is heard; it echoes in the darkness…..”You’re fired!” the voice intones.

Silence. Then the crowd roars! The lights are back on and a figure draped in a gold sequined robe moves down the aisle toward the ring. A protective quail is fixed onto the figure’s head.

Donald-Trump-Bad-Hair-Photo-1Donald Trump prances into the ring!  Unapologetic for his arrogance, he raises his gloves as if he’s already won. Everyone in the ring, including the lone Democrat, shake their heads with dismay as cameras descend and flash bulbs pop. “I’m the only true blue American in this race and I can make America profitable again!”

And yes, ladies and gentleman—the tv ratings soared!!!

And so it is that I am scared….Scared of what Americans can do when they put their minds to something….or maybe it’s what they can do when they take their minds out of the equation…either way, I’m scared.

The Bartender of Gettysburg

gettysburg-300x232Let’s say you’re in school and your assignment is to write the most interesting, yet factual, account of the Battle of Gettysburg.

You are told that you can choose one of only two options as your source for information. ONE option is a college history professor who is a world renowned expert on the Civil War and the SECOND option is that you can talk to a bartender in Gettysburg.

Which do you choose?

The logical choice, of course, would be the expert on the Civil War. The professor has studied the war and knows the battles leading up to Gettysburg that would have determined strategies. They know the execution of those strategies and the results. But, there can be a sterility to that narrative that takes us farther from a more realistic reflection.

On the other hand….a bartender can be the local conservator of stories and information often handed down from generation to generation. From those stories one might find a unique window to the area’s history; it could be information that is relevant and maybe even more truthful than what we can glean from history books or professors. Some of it is fable and mythology, but some of it could be a reality hidden from popular history.

One approach is more objective and the other is more subjective.

That’s how I also differentiate the left from the right in politics. The right side of the aisle is the more personal view (the bartender), and that’s why it’s generally the populist perspective. It is satisfied with platitudes over details because it’s more satisfying to connect our personal journey to the truth.

On the left side is a perspective that only exists because of inequities in the system and therefore must, by its own design, evaluate things more analytically (the professor). Liberalism is the challenge to the forces of the status quo which are inclined to stay within the confines of what they already know.

Where the right and the left come to loggerheads is when critical thinking is laid sodden by repeated rhetoric and hyperbole designed to make the argument more emotional and less logical. This is where the free press plays a role in the balance of our discourse by holding our “facts” to the fire.

Without that clear commitment the line between objectivity and subjectivity becomes vague or even lost. smaller Erroneous, incomplete, or false statements find a life, particularly on the Internet, that echo as truth when they are not challenged.

The right wing uses this distraction more effectively as it fits their general view more comfortably. The platforms of the right become based on information that does not require verification; the fact that the bartender said it is enough. But that leaves the door open enough to spread lies and unfounded hearsay.  The press served the purpose of quelling suspect or blatantly false information so that the public could make decisions with a fair analysis; using either critical or personal perspectives….or both.

There is a context in which people think, and it contains a natural polarity. We have an analytical self and an emotional self, and my observation over many years is that our political divide is shaped the same way. They are not exclusive domains, rather they are the platforms from which we begin to make our decisions.

What has happened, however, is that media now fans the divide between us in order to keep stories alive and interesting (to generate revenue) which results in a blurring of our commonalities to a point that where we are no longer aware of them.

The Free Press, when our nation was founded, was expected to keep the discourse imageshonest; when “free” meant “the freedom to pursue the truth” without fear of suppression or censorship. Not what it has come to mean today which is “Free to say whatever you want” in order to sustain the drama of our conflicts.

“The liberty of the press is the great bulwark of the liberty of the people: It is, therefore, the incumbent Duty of those who are constituted the Guardians of the People’s Rights to defend and maintain it.” – Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1768

Whether it is upon subjective (the bartender) or objective (the professor) perspectives that we base our political ideology, it is essential that we hold our facts to the fire.

Oh, and I’m looking for a bartender…does anyone have a Gettysburg address?

Just Plain Stoopid

It just doesn’t stop.  Everywhere I turn I run into an argument that demonstrates a new low for critical thinking.  I was reading an MSN analysis of a State of the Union address and they called the President out for having misled the people regarding job msncreation. The President said that “500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the past 3 years” and MSN called it a lie because in reality there was a net loss of 600,000 manufacturing jobs since Obama became president.

So much for the “left-wing media bias” we keep hearing about.  Of course the right-wing media jumped all over Obama’s “lie.”  Except, that it wasn’t a lie.

This link pretty much tells the story:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_losses_caused_by_the_late-2000s_recession.

What it tells us is that from January 2009 to March of 2010 there was a huge net loss.  What just a modicum of reasoning and critical analysis informs us is that those job losses are the result of a gigantic recession that became bottomless in 2008 and was not about to magically reverse itself.  In fact, the worst single month of the recession was the month Obama was sworn in.  Nothing could be implemented that would immediately change the economic direction of the deepest recession in 80 years.  Any such idea is pure fantasy rhetoric.  In fact, it’s pure stupidity.

It’s actually quite incredible that we started gaining more jobs than we were losing as early as March 2010 and, although job creation ebbs and flows,  it has remained consistent.  Obama’s claim of adding 500,000 manufacturing jobs in the three years that followed that month is actually quite realistic.  There was a mountain of previously lost jobs to climb and we are still climbing out, but what depth of journalism came into play that couldn’t deduce that and instead did the easy math that totalled net losses from a recession?

Stupid.  Just plain stupid.

Texas Congressman Steve Stockman invited Ted Nugent to be his guest at that State of the Union Address.  His guest was a man who was quoted saying, “Suck on my machineted gun, Obama!,” and “Let’s start the armed revolution!”  And let’s not forget this thoughtful chestnut: “Wish the South won the Civil War!”

Charming.  And Republicans wonder why we’re having trouble taking them seriously.

I saw an article in the Unification Church’s “Washington Times” that accuses the federal government of mandating new parameters to define Religious Freedom.  The Times author sees as an encroachment on religious rights, any denial of the right to exclude gay Americans from civil rights.

washington-timesThe article also states that Christian pharmacists were told to find other professions because their religious beliefs, with regard to the morning-after pill, were unacceptable.  The truth is that state and federal courts ruled that the pharmacists have no obligation to sell the pill.  Contrary to the point the article was trying to make about “government imposition” on religion, the courts upheld the rights of the pharmacists….just like they’re supposed to.

I was shown a conservative website that asks why there is no “White History Month” when there is a “Black History Month.”  They see that as being prejudicial against white people.  One comment offered, “White people have made contributions to America, too!”  They continued, “We can’t say ‘nigger’ but they can.  How is that fair?”

Sigh.

“White people have not been persecuted by design in this country,” I replied, knowing that logic wasn’t going to make any difference.

“White people were not sold as slaves.  Instead white men made the rules that excluded other races from civil and human rights for hundreds of years and even though our laws now prohibit the exhibition of prejudices, the reality of injustice continues.  The recognition of contributions from a race that was maligned from its entry into this nation, by acknowledging a Black History Month, is far more interesting and serves a far greater purpose toward continued improvement than would a celebration of White History.  Our history books basically tell white history already-  don’t you think?”

“Commie liberal!” came the reply.

Stupid. Just plain stupid.

But…I soldier on, along with many of the rest of you, trying to get some rational thought into the public discourse.  It gets tiresome and tedious at times…but then there’s always a new twist from the New Right Wing that gets my dander up and gives me the strength2010-12-13-Boehner to keep on fighting.

“Rape is something God intended,” said one.

“Carbon Dioxide is not a threat to the environment,” said another.

“Evolution is a lie,” chimed yet another.

“Just more ebonic mumbo jumbo!” cries Ted Nugent, the new Great Communicator.

Stupid.  Just plain stupid.

“With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!”

“Maybe there’s a God above, but all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew ya.  It’s not a cry you can hear at night, it’s not somebody who has seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!”

8565_leonard-cohenLeonard Cohen bemoaned the bitterness of love.  Or at least that’s how crooners and Hallelujah devotees (with broken hearts) interpret his Biblical-laden lyrics.  To hear Cohen, himself, however, define his ballad-tome, it is something a little different.  It is about the conflict between things that can be “reconciled but not where we live.”

In a radio interview Cohen said, “This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that is what I mean by Hallelujah.”

That fits nicely into my own view of a duality that exists in our individual core.  Our struggle with our own personal division creates stories, songs, poems, plays, and proverbs to give the inner conflict counsel.  Often we summarize our internal separation with a dismissive, “There are two sides to every story” and we wrap our fight with a nice ribbon to get us off the hook when we reach loggerheads.

conflict-final-3Its kind of like saying, “We’ll agree to disagree” when we argue in a marriage.  But, I’ve noticed that often when couples adopt that sensible compromise to diffuse marital discord, someone has already filed.

Are there two sides?  It certainly doesn’t appear in our political discourse that the “two sides” believe that there actually are “two sides.”  It seems that solutions and policy directions are one way only and can give no quarter to the other because views are often less about being correct than they are about making it clear that the other side is consistently wrong.

Yet, we all continue to parrot the phrase and eventhCANU8KCC teach it to our children.  Perhaps, we are hoping that the next generation can bust the stalemate that we know we’ve created.  We certainly can’t.

What the phrase means is that there are valid reasons for holding opposing views.  What that means is that we must demand that our disagreements are researched with an appreciation for the plausibility of the other.  What can be discovered is that there is an ethical path even for diametrically opposing views.

For example, take the ultimate disparity in ethical philosophy that is called “war.”  Certainly, there is a strong moral position behind wanting to end any war as it is rooted in the inarguable position that war inevitably ends lives and lives are what we cherish.  But, on the other side of that ethical fulcrum is the view that war can be justified to save lives; the eradication of those who would take lives will, in fact, save more.

While there was pacifist (and isolationist) opposition to entering the European theater to fight the Nazis in 1941, it was diminished by the roar of nationalism that followed the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor.  Saving Europe, and ultimately ourselves, from a global fascist revolution was now morally justifiable.

That was also the justification used to end World War II when the atomic (and then hydrogen) bomb was dropped on civilian-populated cities in Japan.  Hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost when that nuclear gauntlet was thrown down, but it ended the war.

You can choose whatever side of that ethical debate that you want and feel morally secure, but there is no question that it can be debated.

What it comes down to are “valid” reasons for our views; reasons that have justifications created from analysis, that bear historical relevance, and contain insight and vision.  Specifically it means that a good argument must contain premises from which the conclusion may logically be derived.  Yet from where I sit I see the stalemate that keeps us from “transcending the duality” in today’s political divide as the result of one side being solely devoted to destroying the objectives and policy of the other without respect for critical thinking.

I don’t gain favor from those who generally disagree with me by using Paul Krugman as a resource, but this article conveys an even handedness regarding the disconnect that I speak of:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/opinion/krugman-the-ignorance-caucus.html?_r=0

While that “other” side (the left to abrogate any misunderstanding) has, within its core philosophical directive, a commitment to discovery in order to find more relevant and useful solutions, that obligation creates disharmony in order to gain perspective.  It also gives the side that does not require such validation all the justification it needs to cement it’s resolve to obstruct.

But…there are two sides to every story, right?  You can decide which side of the story is yours.

Hallelujah!

The Princess and the Pee Pee

I have a theory. I’ve been trying to understand why today’s Republicans seem to be on the wrong side of everything. From healthcare reform, financial reform, civil rights, foreign policy, public schools, environmental protection….to rape!

My theory was provoked last year during the controversy surrounding insurance provided contraception, but has been exacerbated (has there ever been a better word?) by recent comments from conservative leaders, like Tennessee State Rep. John Ragan, who said, “Homosexuality is just another bad choice that people make, like murder, rape, overeating and prostitution.”

He isn’t alone in his cavalier dismissal of “bad choices” like rape and murder, many other leading Republicans like Texas Senator John Cronyn have stated that a pregnancy resulting from rape is a “gift from God.”

Former presidential candidate and Mouseketeer, Rick Santorum, laid the platform for Cronyn’s statement by saying, “When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen.”

At least he called that naughty choice to rape, something “horrible.”

Republican legislators, conservative pundits and s#!t bags like Rush Limbaugh (that is NOT a negative bias!   “Limbaugh” literally means “crap sack”…hang on…I’m lying…it is a negative bias…), continue their handcuffing of women with the assertion that access to contraceptives through insurance, denies religious liberty, even though the reality we see, and the reality that precedes us, shows that it will reduce unwanted pregnancies and disease; a result everyone desires.

Many conservatives are taking the sanctimonious position that this “condones” hedonist sex and teen pregnancies.  I have to wonder how many times we’re going to catch arch-conservative-anti-gay congressmen roaming Boys Town in stilettos, or evangelical preachers having sex with everyone except who they’re married to, before we realize that repression leads to hypocrisy (and chafing).

Be honest. How many of you think that Rush Limbaugh, who called Sandra Fluke “a slut,” had sex in college with anything showing a pulse as often as he could?

Well…maybe not…even a fresh corpse would feign rigor mortis to repel his sweaty advances.

sl_santorum02_0410Okay…so who thinks that Rick Santorum…you know what?  I’m going to stop myself here; he probably didn’t have sex before marriage either.

But that’s, more or less, where it ends. I was in college once and guess what? Conservative kids had sex, liberals (of course!), moderates, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Agnostics, Democrats, Republicans and even a few Libertarians had a sort of agrarian form of sex.

It is happening, it always has been and it always will, no matter how hard conservatives preach to change American “morality” back to their fairytale imagination of what it’s supposed to be.  Let me get this straight, however…unmarried sex is reprehensible but rape can fall under acceptable parameters?

Oh, I forgot!  So, here’s my theory…

Conservatism is based on an ideological fable. Specifically, a moral for the story but not the story itself.

Let me explain, using a different context for the sake of illustration.  If America goes to war against Iraq, the reality is that it’s WAR and soldiers will die, civilians will be casualties, property will be destroyed, hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent and trillions lost. Yet, to many, it is the fable of American resolve that matters the most; America defending her freedom; a noble cause to protect our sovereignty and our citizenry; and it cannot be questioned.

On the other side of this ideological fulcrum, however, are people who say we must address the loss of human life; the moral justification for it; the far reaching ramifications that could make things worse; the reality of war. On this side there is no short hand to embrace the ending without first reading the story itself.

In this “war” on contraception, conservatives are playing the same fairytale version of reality. A good example was when Sarah Palin preached abstinence, while her own daughter was having sex behind the band instruments. I’m not picking on Sarah, either. Her story was not an anomaly; it is reality. Making contraception available doesn’t increase the likelihood of teenagers having sex, it just decreases the chances of pregnancy and disease. Teaching and demonstrating responsibility, not abstinence, is what will decrease the probability of teen pregnancy.

The fantastical ideology conservatives embrace says that “America never apologizes!” It believes that “Those who work hard will always succeed!” and it says, “The American Dream can be achieved by anyone who believes in it!”

Liberal ideology, conversely, is rooted in what is actually happening, the story itself; like 17 million children going hungry in a country where some people are so rich they couldn’t spend all of their money in 1000 lifetimes.neccessity

The conflict between left and right comes from the fact that we don’t agree on what is “okay” and “not okay” to allow.  Personally, I cannot accept any platform that says there are forms of rape that are more allowable than others or where women bear some responsibility for a violent crime inflicted upon them.  It is not a moral ending by calling it a “gift from God.”

Furthermore, how we correct the things that we all agree “shouldn’t be allowed” is always at an impasse, as well.  One side says, “Just stop it” while the other side says, “It stops only when we correct the things that caused it, otherwise it will happen again.” On the left we believe that we learn from actually reading the story, not just from repeating the moral at the end.

Contraception…a woman’s rights to her body…foreign policy…immigration…its interesting how our “solutions” all follow the same storybook paradigm. Plug any issue into a comparison between a proselytizing moral and reality and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s fun…until it’s frustrating.