Category Archives: Opinion

Subway

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I love Subway. More accurately, I have a love/hate relationship with the eatery. For every great experience or store (such as is usually the case in Eureka Springs), I have a terrible one. Despite it seeming like an exaggeration, I’ve eaten at Subway somewhere around 500 times in my life.

It’s no secret that prices have been inching up in the last few years, mainly after they got rid of $5 footlong promotion. The company has closed a huge number of stores since 2015. Many factors are contributing to its demise, ones not tied to cost. The margins are low, so franchises tend to short-change their employees, both in wages and training. Most keep labor painfully short. We’ve noticed.

Visit any local Subway location and you’ll note a revolving door of faces.

Recently, I noted that some Subways had added a “Tip” selection to their payment kiosks. I have mixed feelings about this.

If Subway were new and tips were on the payment options, I might not stop to consider it carefully. Because I’ve eaten at Subways since they first opened in NWA, it is problematic for it to be an option suddenly. Especially so since I’m standing face-to-face with the employee as I opt-in or out. The sandwich artists are not providing any new value; in fact, I’d say in general that I have to be more careful and repetitive than ever to get my favorite sandwich done the way I like.

That’s not the employee’s fault – that responsibility falls directly on management and the owners.

Whether places like Subway should tip or not is a separate conversation. I’ll agree that’s it not a simple issue.

Most of the time, I get a vegetable sandwich with lettuce, double tomatoes, and Subway spice. That’s it. It is easy to make and cost-effective for the eatery, too.

Generalizing a bit, I’d say that the labor margins have also resulted in less clean stores, longer waits, and dirtier bathrooms. (And a sometimes a comical shortage of napkins.)

Given the uptick in prices, most people realize that they can easily eat a full dine-in meal at another restaurant for about the same price as Subway charges for a combo sandwich meal. In places with many restaurant choices, Subway can’t compete on location, selection, or cost. That didn’t use to be the case.

As an otherwise good tipper, I can see that adding a tip option to the payment isn’t going to go over well for the average Subway customer. I’ve asked several people about it. Most feel a twinge because while they wish to tip when it’s appropriate, they also feel trapped by management’s choice to underwrite the same wages with an upcharge disguised as a tip.

Robin Hood of the Retailers, Version Aldi

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I’m not going to share the ‘why’ of my previous oath to avoid Aldi grocery stores. Suffice it to say that they earned my dislike. Unfortunately, I carried the prejudice forward for years. Once bitten, twice shy, at least for this guy. It’s for the same reason I don’t buy meat products at a Dollar General. Russian Roulette is a game I like to watch in action movies – not participate in when my gastronomical choices are at play.

Aldi has many fans. People like blood sausage, too, as well as watching baseball on television, so popularity doesn’t equate to sensible. The store chain does have a few things going for it. It’s like the “Frugal Hoosiers” made famous in the tv show “The Middle.” The chain does have the “Twice As Nice Guarantee.” I’ll take the expectation of a safe, quality product or my money back. You don’t have to sing and dance for me – just meet expectations. Anything else strikes me as a means to acknowledge that you’re cutting corners on a square house.

“There’s a sense of discovery at Aldi that you don’t find in a traditional grocery store,” say many fans.

Yeah, like discovering the off-brand version of the mustard I had to buy tastes like a chicken fart.

I don’t mind that an Aldi store doesn’t have staff answer the phone. I don’t need to talk to a head of lettuce before I shop. It’s stupid, though. Just my opinion. Any corporation which reduces a customer’s ability to interact isn’t customer-focused, no matter how prettily they paint such an arrangement.

Location quality varies, as is the case for many retailers. Even I often forget that it’s unwise to compare one location of a business with another. There’s too much volatility between managers, cleanliness, and adherence to quality standards. Sometimes, a great manager can rescue an otherwise failed store. The Kroger Superstore in Hot Springs, for example, is spectacular, while the Kroger in my original hometown is… not. One of the Springdale Neighborhood markets is operated as if it’s a psychological experiment geared to determine how much people hate themselves. Harps Foods is so inconsistent in quality that I’m still incredulous that the individual stores are operated by the same system. I dare anyone who visits the Gutensohn and Lowell locations to challenge me to a pie-eating contest to decide the truth of my opinion.

On a whim, I stopped at a local Aldi earlier in the year. I went home a different way, and Aldi was locationally convenient. It didn’t hurt that I had recently suffered blunt-force head trauma. I don’t know what came over me, but the urge to eat a bowl of fish aquarium pebbles and stop at Aldi penetrated my reptilian brainstem.

The smaller footprint of the stores and parking lots of an Aldi store make a trip less invasive than a similar trip to the airfields found at Walmart. The smaller footprint of the stores means you might not find everything you need, either. Like your sanity.

I didn’t have a quarter, so I did the hands-full shuffle. I found some interesting items. One of the items I bought was inedible. (No, I didn’t attempt to return it.) On the next visit, I had a quarter. I stuck it in the slot for the cart, and it literally stuck. None of the carts would come out. I went inside and waited a couple of minutes for an employee to make eye contact. I told them the cart corral was needing attention, and I couldn’t get a cart. Eye roll. “There’s no one to deal with it.” Back to checking. Aldi’s employees often must do multiple jobs simultaneously. It’s not their fault: it’s corporate’s fault. Like Walmart, they ‘save’ money by eliminating jobs. Many of those jobs lost would have allowed for attentive customer service and real-time listening when things go awry. I didn’t get irritated at the cashier.

I can only hope that this attitude of cost-cutting doesn’t one day find me in the O.R. needing a suture to sew up my own abdomen.

For my next trip to Aldi, I withdrew $20 from an ATM and then stopped by the car wash and made change for quarters. I drove back to Aldi and parked on the outer perimeter of the parking lot.

I then went to the cart corral nine times. Each time, I inserted a quarter and ‘rented’ a cart. I took each cart to the edge of the parking lot and used the nine carts to make a large arrow facing the store. I’m no Banksy, but I did feel a twinge of stupid pride when I finished my artwork with the shopping carts.

I then went back to the cart corral and took out ten more carts, one at a time, by paying a quarter. I left them loose to the left side of the return corral. Because I always carry white index cards, I left a card on the first few indicating, “Free Cart. Please leave loose.” People observed me doing all this but didn’t comment.

Was it petty? Yes. Worth it? Yes. I was also paying it forward, though, even as I entertained myself.

One of the women shopping exited the store and told me she had watched me assemble the arrow on the other end of the parking lot. “It’s stupid, isn’t it? Just hire a person and keep the store tidy.” Due to her appearance, I was sure she was going to scold me. Her face was pulled back so tight I could hear her ears yelling in pain. She was nice, in any case.

People saw the loose carts with the cards on them, and each smiled and grabbed their free cart.

I felt like Robin Hood of the Retailers.

Imagine. Free carts, with each of us leaving them for the next person. Like a typical store not corraling us into doing their jobs for them.

If I can enter a store and not worry about expired food or being unable to shop easily, I’ll pay for the entirely reasonable expectation of a normal shopping experience.

When people ask me, “What do you like best about Aldi,” the only thing I can tell them is, “I don’t have to go there.” The second-best thing is, of course, the feeling of walking out of one of them.

If I have to choose between Aldi and Walmart, I’ll choose a lobotomy.

If I make the mistake of going to Aldi again, I plan to take 500 quarters with me. I’ll let you imagine what I might do with such a quantity of quarters.
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P.S. If you’re a fan of Aldi, I’m not worried about you reading all of this. It’s a lot of words.
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Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

I know it’s weird to be excited to see a movie about someone who was utterly annihilated by the media and law enforcement.

I’m thankful that Clint Eastwood is making the Richard Jewell movie. Movies like this, of course, cause my blood pressure to jump, but they always remind me that people can go amazingly wrong, especially when the are righteously convinced of the inerrancy of their conclusions and motives. People are accused of all manner of things for which they might not be guilty. We’d like to think that some imaginary justice will prevail to help anyone wrongfully accused. Our system doesn’t function that way.

If you’ve forgotten the mess that the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta created, I recommend that you start with the Wikipedia page for Richard Jewell, the man whose life was ruined by law enforcement and the media. Follow it by reading about the wacko anti-abortionist/ anti-gay Eric Rudolph, who was actually the culprit for the Olympic bombings – and others.

It’s challenging to fault Clint Eastwood when he narrows his focus on a subject. Some of his films have been both sublime and amazing. The movie, “Richard Jewell,” is supposed to be in theaters sometime in mid-December. I’ll make sure to take a double-dose of my blood pressure medication when I go see it.

If the movie is 1/4 as good as the trailer, we’re all going to be fuming.

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

The Time Tenet

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“Too much time on your hands” is criticism from those who believe their own choices are superior to those being criticized. A lot of our modern lives can technically be identified as a little bit stupid. It’s possible we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid in pursuit of our own hobbies and interests.

From my vantage point, all of of us are bit actors, engaged in our dramas of needless stupidity. I admit my own hypocrisy as I judge what people choose to do with their time, even as you might catch me alphabetizing my pasta collection or writing poetry in imaginary languages. I recognize my dedication to oddities.

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time” is a cliché for a reason.

“What a waste.”
“That’s pointless.”

Watch sitcoms or dramas? “Do” your hair? Play sports? Watch sports? Read fiction? Complain? Nap? Watch movies about killer clowns? Go to movies? Cook complicated dishes with ridiculously-named ingredients? Iron clothes? Dust? Wash car? Shop for clothes? Have pets? Hunt outside? Hunt inside? Like puzzles and crosswords? Paint your fingernails?

TMTOYH people forget that all of us do illogical, stupid, or wasteful things. All of us, especially those of us who vote. Claiming that other people have too much time on their hands falls neatly into the same hypocritical category of criticism; it serves no one.

I suggest that the “too-much-time-on-your-hands” folks have got too much time on their hands, not enough glue between their lips, and a failure to appreciate how much of their own time they spend doing ridiculous things themselves – such as criticizing other people for their choices.

To all those watching, your choices look a little ridiculous. As do mine. If I want to put on over-sized clown shoes and dance like I’ve succumbed to explosive diarrhea for a new Youtube channel, so be it.

P.S. It’s exactly as bad as the old farts who mock the younger generation for watching other people play video games, yet also spend a considerable chunk of their own lives watching other grown me in tight pants play sports. And often on television. Moreover, they pay to watch, too. Jeesh.

A Requested Defense Of Wasting One’s Money

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An acquaintance of mine reached out to ask me to take a jab at people who are hypocritical about his decision to spend money on fireworks. I’ll call him Slartivaniskivich for this post; mostly because you can’t pronounce his name that way and drop it in casual conversation. Slartivaniskivich felt he couldn’t do the subject justice. Me neither. But I can do it an injustice. There’s no point in being able to capably explain one’s opinion when modern news and entertainment clearly proves that incapably expressing oneself draws more eyes and ears. Being murdered by words never hurt anyone, and all the screaming basically counts as exercise anyway.

Are fireworks stupid? Of course. Is spending money on them totally discretionary, nonessential, and probably a demonstration of craven immaturity? You bet your ass! As long as there’s NASCAR, lite beer, and wine coolers, people are going to spend their money on blowing things up. Or, themselves, depending on quickly they can jump out of the way of danger. For Youtube’s sake, I hope we can reach a delicate balance between horrific stupidity and amusing stupidity.

Dear Karen and John: is the $200 you’re spending every six weeks on your hair, hair coloring, and eyebrows winning you any awards? Is that $110 blouse, the one with fluted sleeves and a tapered waist, worth it? Do you pay for someone to rid your yard, the one you’re seldom in and maintain mostly because you’re supposed to, of weeds? What about those golf clubs, fishing reels, and guns? How about those pyramid-scheme ‘nutrition drinks,’ the ones which cost an unknown amount of money per month? Or energy drinks? Are the cigars you smoke given to you at no charge? Are you washing your car every week in the automated lane? Are you having someone detail your car once a month? Are you subscribing to a meal delivery plan? Have those extra cable packages? Hulu? Netfilx? Eating out for lunch five times a week – and supper 3 or 4 more times? Your daily double latte? Your purchase of lottery tickets? Bottled water? Prepared foods? Do you have credit cards and pay interest on them? Pay for your checking account? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you were cologne or perfume? Do you go to yard sales? Do you have storage units? Do you have clothes or shoes you never wear? Manicures? Pedicures? Pediasure? (Ha!) Do you buy your pets special ice cream? Buy brand name products without question? Does your shampoo cost more than $4 a bottle? Do you have needlessly complex cellphones filled with paid apps? How about your subscription music services? Or those custom floor mats, vanity plates, or wheels on your vehicle? Do you own a golf cart, ATV, or motorcycle? Is your house bigger than 1200 square feet? Take vacations or do getaways, whether it’s to the beach, Mexico, Branson, or some other vomit-fueled amusement park? Do you have a favorite sports jersey? Do you collect things of any kind? Does your furniture ‘have to’ match? Do you have special utensils or dinnerware for special occasions? Do you own leather or fur jackets? Do you dry clean clothing?

Obviously, the point is that almost everyone wastes a LOT of money on stupid foolishness. Often, it’s spent for enjoyment and as a means to distract yourself from the ordinariness of daily living.

How you waste your money is your choice. How other people waste their money is their choice. It’s strange that you don’t feel a slap upside your head as you mouth criticism toward people who wasted their money on fireworks. You’re probably wearing $50 sunglasses as you mouth off – or wearing a pair of expensive shoes, even as the other 45 pair in your closet gather dust.

By way of example, a popular cliché sometimes exhorts us to spend our money and time on experiences rather than things. While fireworks are indeed ‘things,’ they also provide the experience of sharing the visual explosions with family and friends. They give a chance to upload videos of the displays that literally no one ever watches. They also give us a laugh if someone blows a finger off. Fireworks are social, even if some of the people involuntarily involved in their use aren’t keen on the experience. Additionally, fireworks give doctors the opportunity to practice their craft with stitches, scalpels, and surgeries, and firefighters the chance to put out roof fires all across these beautiful United States.

Invalidating another person’s stupid choices doesn’t enhance your enjoyment of your foolish choices. Okay, that’s not true. Mocking the choices of others can be fun, even if we don’t like to admit it. I’m saying that based on the 50+ years of observing people as they observe others.

From where I’m sitting, we’re all guilty of wasting our money on some seriously stupid things.

I’d write a bit more, but I need to go buy a polishing cloth for my silverware.

If your sibling, parent, friend, or neighbor wants to waste his money on fireworks, substitute any of the things you waste your money on.

There’s your post, Slartivaniskivich. Now you can link to it once the inevitable and repetitive arguments arise about how you choose to spend your money.

You’re welcome.

Fried Chicken Amen

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*I was hesitant to post this. People tend to jump over subtlety and substance by unforgivingly bringing their own observations to things unsaid.

On a recent Wednesday, in a town which can be found in several states across the South, I entered a local eatery to pass a bit of the time away from the blistering reach of the summer sun. I gladly surrendered in the fight against it. I could tell that the little place was a hub for all manner of necessary human activity: gas, small groceries, food, and tobacco. The place was packed with smiling faces, each focused on satisfying their hunger.

I went inside, ordered a bit of deliciousness, and sat down at one of the dozen rectangular white tables scattered on one side of the convenience store. It wasn’t my intention to get another bite to eat. I’d already had lunch across the street. Overcoming the scent of the food filling in the air, however, was impossible for a man of my age and girth. Bacon and butter are my beloved enemies.

I casually watched through the glass as a young mom ignored her little daughter as she strained to reach over into the ice cream case. Her short arm stretched, and her fingers moved like scurrying spiders in their attempt to reach the unattainable buckets of ice cream. Her brother watched from the opposite end of the case, undoubtedly anticipating that she’d either reach the ice cream or fall into it. They were all behind the ice cream case on the employee’s side. The mom looked up and noticed my gaze. Without hesitation, she turned and struck the little girl forcefully on the back. It seemed like an instinctive reaction to her guilt at being observed. The girl shrieked in a small voice, and the mom grabbed her by the nape of the neck. The scream died. I could tell it was a long-rehearsed dance between them. The young mom then looked to her right, toward a stern older woman with a scream of a ponytail at the other register. It turns out that the young mom was an off-duty employee of the store, there to feed her four children. The old lady with the austere ponytail was undoubtedly the young mom’s boss. I later observed the family huddled around one of the tables, each devouring their pieces of chicken as their fingers became increasingly greasy. Watching little kids lick their fingers in deep appreciation is one of the minor joys in life. The little girl didn’t seem to recall being hit like an approaching tennis ball. I silently hoped that the hits weren’t frequent. I could easily see how much the daughter loved her mom. I hoped she could maintain that love as she grew.

Atop the ice cream case was a placard, one of those telling the world that the owners love their god and country, stand for the flag, and for anyone who felt otherwise, they should use the door as quickly as possible. I had a feeling that many visitors of different customs or appearance had seen the placard through the years and winced, many of them understanding that they weren’t welcomed there and were simply tolerated for the purpose of commerce. There’s no nuance in such signs, even if the owners believe there is. It’s the equivalent of a harsh, angry shout; this world needs more whispers and gentle examples of encouragement.

It wasn’t until I noticed the placard that I questioned much of the content of my experience there. My eyes wandered around the store, finding confederate flags in more than one place. Such flags are not a guarantee of other sinister inclinations; their presence, though, tends to accompany such attitudes. People can fly confederate flags and be good people. I’ve learned that the combination seldom proves the exception, leaving those without prejudice to be lumped in and suffer with those who use the symbols as shortcuts for unforgiving opinions. It’s unfortunate and unfair for all of us. Each of us in our own private lives tends to embrace ambiguity and understand that people are a spectrum of conflicting ideas.

Inside the store, the air was thick with the scent of biscuits, gravy, and fried chicken. While I was inside, there was a constant, impatient line, slowly shuffling forward, and the tables were filled with people, each bubbling with a conversation. Unlike my adopted hometown, there were no faces of other color or snippets of foreign languages. There was no rainbow there and no spectrum of humanity. Once noticed, such absences are hard to unsee. There should have been other faces, though, because despite the small-town population, there were industries and occupations which were comprised of a majority of minorities. I was curious to know where those people enjoyed their lunch. I would describe the mood of everyone as happy and concentrated on their own bit of life.

Because of the recent tragedies, many of the conversations were about guns and violence. I could hear two distinct conversations ridiculing those who wanted things to change. The conversations merged into one, with the participant’s voices rising in volume. We all became involuntary listeners.

At the furthest table, a man in overalls and a plaid shirt leaned back and cocked his head toward the bulk of the tables and said, “Ain’t no one here going to disagree. Not in this town. We love our guns and those who don’t can leave.” Even though I was in a distant place, I laughed, the kind of raucous, loud laugh that makes my wife cringe sometimes. The speaker looked toward me with surprise, probably in an attempt to gauge my allegiance. Externally, I looked like them. Maybe my bright purple laptop case signaled a departure. Nothing else about me raised suspicion that I might differ strikingly from most of them.

The loud-voiced man’s false bravado revealed his temperament, one not accustomed to nuance or differing opinion. It’s a common affliction in places where the realm is small, and the courage to speak up is often swallowed to keep the peace. I doubt he was actually as harsh as the situation implied.

“You think they should take our guns away?” He challenged me. Several people turned their heads to look in my direction. I could see the owner standing next to the food counter, waiting to hear what foolishness would jump from my mouth.

All I could think to say was, “If you drink and can’t stop yourself from driving, you should lose the privilege of driving. But I don’t know who ‘they’ are.”

An older woman wearing a bright red shirt seated with two very young kids said, “That’s right!” as if she were in church and reciting a well-worn and enthusiastic “Amen.”

The original speaker abruptly leaned forward again in his chair as the conversations in the room went momentarily quiet. He wasn’t expecting a response to his oration, especially to encounter disagreement among his own tribe. Each table resumed speaking in subdued voices. I’m confident that several people were wondering how a traitor like me had entered their eating-place without being noticed. Truthfully, it gladdened me a little bit. I couldn’t get the smile of satisfaction off my face. The old lady who had invoked the informal amen smiled back at me and nodded.

Regardless of our individual opinions, each of us continued to eat our delicious food. Differences over guns seldom distract those with fried chicken on their plates.

A little later, I listened as the owner pulled up a chair and sat at a table nearby with one of his customers. He smiled and exuded friendliness. After a few seconds of listening to his conversation, I realized that the smile was a little forced. He had a lot to say about guns and the attitudes recently expressed in his eatery. I tuned him out. It’s unwise to strive to overhear words that you know will only serve to bait you toward a base response. We all vent, sometimes to the point of letting our mouths outrun our honest hearts. I’m afflicted with the tendency too. It would be unwise for me to paint him in a situation where one’s self-defense mechanism might override his ability to express himself honestly.

Not all the signs and symbols for these places are visible. That ideas and differences weren’t welcome somehow pervaded the room, though. The divisive placard on the ice cream case didn’t help much. Each of us loves our lives, our friends, and our families. Most of us appreciate our community. We don’t need code words or exclusion to feel like our lives are full. When I departed the store, I noted vehicles with confederate flags and harsh bumper stickers with rigid, us-vs.-them messages. Strangely, people don’t stop to think that at a certain level, we are all ‘them’ to other people.

The smell of fried chicken and gravy should be a sign of welcome for all those who appreciate a full stomach. Such a thing is a unifier, drawing us to places where each of us brings our differences and yet somehow joins in the spectacle of community.

If I could, I would ask the owners to remove their placard and relics of the confederacy. I’d ask them to instead let their smiles and kind words serve as both example and proof of their living creator flowing through them. The placard and things like it can only serve as whistles of perceived prejudices. Armed with love and fried chicken, it’s difficult to imagine a divided world. We preach our best sermons by example. I think that so many people feel cornered into a defensive position when the world stops seeing that everything is intertwined and complex. Except for love, few ideas worth fighting for can be encapsulated on a bumper sticker, placard, or t-shirt.

It is possible to love your religion and customs while also openly loving other people’s opportunity to do the same. Acknowledging their choices in no way denigrates your ability to live a good life in the way that you see fit. Only when we demand allegiance to our choices does our society suffer.

Let the chicken and gravy be sufficient to unite us.

We live in the United States of America, a place where all of us have an equal voice to be as proud or as ignorant as our own hearts require. There’s room for ignorance and intellect on all sides in this crowded room of togetherness. Let the best argument always prevail, though. Losing respect for the best ideas leads us all away from the truth and fried chicken.

All those in agreement say either “Amen,” or “Fried chicken and gravy.” They both come from the purest of hearts.
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We All Have Our Jar of Snake Oil

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The Quackery Commentary Inhibition: an individual’s reluctance to honestly share his or her derisive opinion about another person’s ridiculous beliefs, usually under the mistaken assumption that our own views are beyond reproach. Each of us wears clown shoes in some sense.
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It’s a treacherous path when you wish to express your opinion about some topics. People’s interests, beliefs, and attitudes overlap to a degree based on tribe, religion, or geography. Each of us has our crazy tangents, however, ones which often trigger a disproportionate defense mechanism when someone brushes against them, either accidentally or in mockery.
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If you’re going to put your foot in your mouth, it’s easier if you’re not wearing clown shoes when the opportunity arises.
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The fact that we convince ourselves we need to tread lightly is in itself a powerful demonstration of how unattached we are from reason and logic. It’s a certainty that many of our friends and family silently mock some of the things we follow or believe. Anyone claiming that their beliefs perfectly match those of all their family and friends is in a cult, not a society; even then, I doubt it’s possible.
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“Truth is not flavored by opinion.”
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That may be true – but opinion often throws a left jab into truth’s teeth.
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With the goal of not slaughtering any sacred cows, I’ll ignore the overall question of religion, which is the most glaring example of personal beliefs that shape people’s otherwise logical framework of living. Anyone paying attention can see that the disagreements caused by religious differences are a constant source of irritation, anger, and amusement among people. Any framework demanding certainty is already saddled with an inherent disregard for the next guy’s version of the same.
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I have my own blind spots, many of which aren’t logical or defensible. I’ve learned to recognize their fragility when I feel irritation when given contradictory information. No one likes to eat a hamburger carved from their own sacred cow. If you are going to do so, though, you might as well break out the mustard and pickles and figure out an easier way to swallow it.
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In the last few years, I’ve been astounded to learn that I was wrong about a few things, ones which seemed set in stone before. Among them were cornerstones of liberalism. Facts did not support them. My insistence sufficiently silenced the contradictions until a new truth materialized. Given that some truths have given way to others, it is only logical to conclude that I have other blind spots which impede me.
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Horoscopes, ________________ , homeopathy, psychic phenomenon, Bigfoot, ghosts, ESP, witchcraft, MLM schemes of all sorts (yes, even the one you’re thinking of), and other subjects are prone to evoke a snort of derision from me. Each of them presents an opportunity to examine their veracity, as well as a reciprocal reminder to consider what lunacy I might believe in.
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*I’m not making an equivalency argument here regarding the mentioned subjects. One of the defects of listing such topics is that people will immediately and erroneously make that incorrect assumption.
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People reading this are already jumping to a mental defense of one or more of the subjects mentioned above, their intellect turned to the purpose of hurling denials back at me. Their time would be better suited by simply ignoring whatever I have to say. Echo chambers at least offer a safe haven, even as they stunt growth. It’s impossible to reason someone out of a belief they didn’t reason themselves into. Most adherence to such belief systems is self-fortifying and tends to radicalize when a perceived contradiction is introduced. A while ago, I wrote about an acquaintance who believes that all cancer is mental. It’s not just ignorance – it’s dangerous and demeaning to those who suffer as a result of disease. Challenging the acquaintance on his stupidity will only cement his mistaken ideas.
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A symptom of whether I place any credence in a particular belief is how I respond to humor or satire involving the subject. The faster I laugh, the more likely it is that I find the entire issue to be ridiculous or subjectively impossible to be sure of. I’ve also become a fervent believer in the fact that those who noticeably lack a sense of humor about a particular subject are indicating cognitive dissonance in its regard. If they otherwise have a definite sense of humor and yet belligerently respond to any commentary or critique of their particular belief, it’s a certainty that it is a belief that can’t withstand scrutiny. This observation applies to me, too; if I find myself mentally lashing out, it’s a sign that I’ve hit the crossroads between belief and sustainability.
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Irritation becomes the carpet under which unsupported beliefs are swept.
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The problem arises when we share our disbelief with people around us, especially people full of humor and intellect. Throwing a dart at their dubious reverence invariably causes a medical condition known as “pissing them off.” More dangerous than the Carpet Viper is the angry intellectual. Even more fatal than the fierce intellectual is the knuckle-dragger. There are few people enlightened enough to look the other way without anger if their beliefs are challenged.
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When we don’t or can’t share our disagreement, it infects other areas of our lives and makes us less authentic. We become avatars and shadows on a stage, playing roles which deny what motivates us. Over time, we lose the real connection we have to one another, even if the link reveals profound differences in belief. If I can’t make a face every time you throw salt over your shoulder or claim to have seen a ghost, neither of us is getting a real connection from one another.
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It’s a fool’s errand to apologize in advance if I’ve stepped on toes. In honesty, there’s no way that you don’t listen to me or read some of my posts and think, “That guy is missing a few bolts.” It’s hypocrisy to wish to shout me down and simultaneously refuse to agree that you do the same thing, even if you don’t want to get caught in the act.
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All of us, each day, roll our eyes at the idiocy our cohorts believe. To simulate this experience, watch a couple of hours of Daystar television.
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Everyone should take a moment and find the Wikipedia pages for Donald Gary Young, Daniel David Palmer, or the Barnum/Forer Effect, among others. Regardless of the modern incarnation of whatever it is you might find worthwhile about a particular subject, many of the things I mentioned find their genesis in doubtful science. Whether they’ve evolved is subject to opinion. The people involved were not the type of people I would find myself agreeing with, nor their beliefs compelling.
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I could be wrong.
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Can you?
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More importantly, can you tell me you think some of my subjective beliefs are wrong?
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I won’t get too bent out of shape about it if you do – but don’t expect me to go to a chiropractor for the bend if you do.
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Government Dress Codes Are Not Democratic

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Another post from another social media site. This one drew commentary, mainly from people who said they’d never thought about the issue in this way before.

 

 

Before I begin, I’m assuming you understand that I’m discussing normal, everyday people and the prevailing mode of dress. It’s important that I remove arguments toward the exception from the conversation before I elaborate.

Forgive my tone and insistence.

Though I might be wrong and you might not agree, the older I become, the more I find this issue to be a problem for me.

If you are in a public governmental space and anyone demands that you dress formally, you can be certain that the forces behind it aren’t interested in democratic representation and equality; title and formality do nothing except to distance us from those who work for us. Beggar, plumber, and lawyer alike are equal where the government is concerned.

All requirements of dress are artificial ways to insist that there are hierarchical distinctions between those served and those serving: servant and master, or at minimum, superior and inferior. In the governance of a democracy, no such distinction should exist.

All government officials work for us, even judges and senators. They are our employees, appointed or chosen based on qualification of résumé rather than worth. In a democracy, we are all equal, even to those who would claim elevated status. While it tends to be a more conservative point, almost all government officials are our employees or representatives; hired, chosen, or assigned to perform a job.

Observing so much of the process and methodology of our government, I’m always surprised that citizens grant illusory privilege to those we choose to govern or judge our disagreements. That we extend this privilege in such a manner that allows them to feel able to sanction us for our clothing is arrogance on their part and idiocy on ours. Whether it’s a judge who irately demands that you put on a tie or never wear open-toed shoes or a senator who won’t allow you to speak to your representatives because you’re wearing mechanic’s coveralls, it’s wrong and wrong-minded.

We owe our respect and allegiance to our collective agreement of justice and equity, not to the fallible men and women who often forget that they serve for us rather than over us. The title or robe do not bring reverence, and if you demand it, you are not worthy of either the robe or the title. I can think of no practical reason to demand that fellow citizens follow a dress code in the presence of the operation of any facet of governance or judicial determination.

Whether I wear a tie, slacks, or dress shoes in no way determines my attitude regarding the service rendered. If the place holds no intrinsic honor and the title is assignable based on qualification, to whom then do we bow to when we acquiesce to the unreasonable and undemocratic demand that we conform our appearance to an arbitrary standard they choose.

Fashion and attire are subjective; they are not factors any reputable government servant should weigh, much less censure. It’s not your job to demand conformity in attire or ours to fear your displeasure.

Simply put, sir or madam, I’ve given up the pretense. If you insist that my attire doesn’t do justice to the place you were appointed or chosen to work, it is you who needs to be removed or sanctioned. We are human beings in the presence of government officials, seeking that you do your job as assigned. Our reverence is toward the law and our democracy, not those who imperfectly bend it to human caprice or avarice.

If you choose to elevate yourself through requirements of attire, please be aware that we as voters can and should pass laws to require you to wear common clothing of our choosing.

Those who fear the mob or accountability to the masses know that dress codes are almost always motivated by a misguided demand to be honored, whether deserved or not.

In the presence of the execution of any government duty, no one should take into consideration the garments on the citizen’s back. This is especially true where our individual interests can be harmed or infringed.

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Universal Voting & Registration For Everyone

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I posted this back in November 2018 on another social media site. It generated a lot of white noise and argument.

 

“Just to be clear, I think that no one’s right to vote should be abridged – ever. The potential for abuse is otherwise inevitable.”

As radical as it seems to some, the simplest solution to all voting registration issues is to eliminate them all and implement universal registration without limitation, across all jurisdictions. Yes, even if you’ve been convicted of a felony; and yes, even if you are currently in prison. Barring any exemptions is one of the fairest means to ensure that political whim doesn’t interfere with people’s access to government. If you are over 18 and currently not dead, you should be able to vote if you wish to do so.

I’d like to be clear that my proposal in no way is intended to affect the number of people who actually vote; critics of universal voting often cite studies to substantiate claims that universal registration fails to result in more voters exercising their right. The crux of my argument goes to the attempted restriction of anyone’s right to vote, not whether they choose to exercise it. Having said that, there are several workable ideas to dramatically increase voter participation. Each person still decides whether to exercise his or her right to vote.

As a backdrop to my changes, I would, of course, implement federalized identification standards. Each citizen would be enrolled at a specified point: birth, school, driving, naturalization, etc. Identification systems would also include biometric data embeddable into the system itself. I’m not proposing a perfect out-of-the-box system. We’ll have to engage our collective resources and intelligence to ensure we address privacy concerns and logistics issues.

It’s difficult to imagine an advanced democracy and government which fails to maintain a complete list of its citizenry, for various purposes. While it’s my opinion, it’s one which seems necessary and efficient.

Note: if you are going to make a “we can’t trust the government” argument, or one involving the impossibility of maintaining a complex system, I’m not trying to reach you. A perfect system is impossible; even a well-organized one must be maintained by the government. We must always do the best we can with what we have, with the people willing to help achieve it.

For every argument made against my simple system, I can counter your argument with logic and technological safeguards. Instead of worrying about voter registration deadlines or varying laws across states, let’s wipe all voter registration requirements from the books and design a system which truly represents our collective right to vote.

Of course, there will be wrinkles which need to be addressed, just as there are inequities in our current patchwork system. Our tax system is flawed, and yet we rely on it to pay our bills. Each state and jurisdiction handles birth certificates differently, as they do with vehicles, property taxes, and all other methods of governance. We’re smart enough to figure out a better way to ensure everyone gets to vote. Technology and a dedication to providing guaranteed access to democracy is the right thing to do.

I’d like to start from scratch with a system which does not allow any state or federal government to tell a citizen he or she can’t vote. Universal registration and universal identification systems are an inevitability. It’s our system and our right to ensure that political whim doesn’t interfere with our access to the polls.

If you’re in favor of disenfranchising someone from their right to vote, all I can ask is that you investigate for yourself how such measures evolved. Secondly, I’d ask you to examine your personal motivation if you agree with measures which strip adults of their right to vote.

All the difficulties potentially mentioned with universal voter registration already have counterparts in our current patchwork mess of a system.

We spend so much of our time complaining and arguing about voter registration that we often fail to see that the problem itself exists because of the way we look at it. The discussion should always start with the question, “Why isn’t everyone always registered?”
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You Can’t Slap a Bucket of Mud

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Note: I originally posted this on another social media website.

 

To preface my commentary, I’d like to say that I enjoy reading the political discourse of the person I’ve referenced. He should have his own dedicated media. He’s smart, well-versed, and interested in many things. For a private citizen, his opinion carries far and wide in the United States. His presence on the internet is a net benefit to everyone.

Unfortunately for us all, it’s considered bad form to level any criticism against the things or people we enjoy. The person in question recently got it a little bit wrong, though.

A popular political commentator posted an incident in which he became outraged regarding a personal attack on one of his social media posts. I didn’t read it before it was deleted. Evidently, it was a targeted personal attack with outright untruth in it. He says he came within an inch of deleting his social media account. He mentioned that it’s essential that we remember that real people are behind the posts and that reputation is worth defending. He felt personally attacked and demeaned – and also that he’s sued people and corporations for such behavior.

He’s right, of course.

He’s also wrong, in a way that he would never give an ear to.

Some people spend an excessive amount of time tearing at public figures, politicians, and celebrities on social media. It’s true that some of this is customary and expected, especially when your public presence is part of your job. (Doubly so when you’re being paid by the public.)

You have to look at your own hypocrisy, though. Whether you hate Donald Trump, evangelical ministers, Democrats, or Catholicism, you have to realize that you are torturing real people. While it’s true that they often deserve harshness for behavior or opinion, it’s equally true that you’re guilty of tearing down another human being.

That we justify such tearing is a dark path. We can become forgetful of the fact that a person is on the receiving end of our ire, anger, and hatred. It’s how such sentiment can amplify and result in actual harm as we fail to disengage in the relentless accusations and anger. Over time, we become so distanced from interpersonal interaction that we always step over the line of acceptable human behavior. People observing us lose sight of the norms that keep us as we ratchet up the volume and insults. Soon enough, we’re all shouting, instead of focusing on the best idea.

Politics is a realm of trolls and anger. When we dive into the subject for our own entertainment, education, or benefit, we become part of the culture of hate that we supposedly despise.

If you delve into the quicksand of politics, you must be willing to subject yourself to the same mistruth, innuendo, and scorn that you might heap onto a (deserving) subject. Words written on the internet are just words, after all. They have no power except that which is granted to them. Whether people believe such content is beyond your control. I’m no better at immediately suppressing my anger at untruth directed my way; in my defense, I’m only a visitor to the political stage as I comment. For those who own their own platform, they can simply delete and block the offenders as they step forward.

In Trump’s case, he deserves a mountain of scrutiny. Most politicians do. If I were to become an elected or appointed official, I would deserve scrutiny and criticism for misbehavior.

But if you’re going to use Trump as a focal point of mockery and ridicule, you have to cede the point that he’s human, with human family and friends. Yes, he, of course, signed up for criticism.

On the other hand, so did everyone who uses him as subject matter for their social media and political fodder.

It’s hypocritical to devote much of your day to ridiculing public figures of choice and then recoil when someone takes liberty with your life.

In case you missed it, I’m guilty of the same behavior.

I think most of us are, even as we find discomfort in our ability to creatively interact without resorting to personal attacks.

If we attack human beings in the public eye, it’s hypocritical for us to become angry when others do the same to us. It’s a tough lesson. Most of us are simply lucky enough to avoid such scrutiny as we go about our day.

I don’t have a satisfying conclusion or a neat bow for this post.

I assume it’s okay to share imperfect ideas, worded imperfectly.

P.S. I still do not like Tom Cotton.