Category Archives: Politics

A Word About Polite Discussion

I intend to throw absolutely no shade with this post. My intent is to convey my thoughts, imperfectly and in a biased subjective manner….

When I see or hear “I remember when it was impolite to talk politics,” I almost always know deep in my bones that a well-off person is the one saying it, if only because people who are happy with their lot don’t want to hear a contrary opinion. As for the “I remember when” argument, many people remember when women didn’t have the right to vote or when some people were openly treated as lesser human beings. Pointing to the past isn’t a strong way to make one’s point.

Also, one of my favorite axes to grind is this: people rush to label topics as politics, sometimes casting the net so wide so as to include everything: birth control, religion, sexuality, education, healthcare, and just about anything else. In so doing, they attempt to skew or control the conversation. This is especially true when their own arguments aren’t defensible. Limiting the playing field to weaker points of view helps them to maintain their comfort level at the expense of someone else.

If a topic is important to you, discuss it, even when the comfort level of those listening isn’t immediately receptive. If you speak from an honest place, no one who loves you or appreciates your opinion is going to silence you -and if silence is demanded without reciprocal silence from the person objecting, you’ve been shown that your place is not one of mutual respect. Conversations don’t occur in a vacuum; people must choose to engage and to continue to respond for them to survive even a few moments.

I, of course, wouldn’t visit family or friends and insist on a specific topic of conversation, and probably wouldn’t even start it myself. But once broached, I would be less inclined to favorably respond to someone intervening with “Let’s avoid politics.”

Small talk is the glue which binds us socially, but it is the discussion of weightier issues which allows us to know one another. In the context of a group, the dynamic alters the content of what’s being said. Societal expectations change and with those changes comes a looser grasp on the fabric of what we talk about.

It is rarely the topic per se which ignites an argument or dispute. Rather, it is a person’s poor communication skills and their lack of tools with which to confront reasonable ways to interact with opposing or even repugnant ideas. So often, people make the mistake of equating disagreement with something to avoid at all costs. We are a world of billions of people. Disagreement is mandatory, even with those people who are closest to you.

No one should expect you to participate in a discussion if you aren’t comfortable. Most of us also won’t force a continued conversation if everyone isn’t participating. In those cases where it happens, though, please leave your privilege aside and instead of silencing the topic, step away and let those who are interested engage in a spirited discussion. Not all windmills call out your name.

Taking the argument to social media makes the issue even less troubling. Since each of us only has to scroll past to avoid discussions we don’t like, it is the ideal method to toss around political ideas. No one can be forced to engage, and each person can participate at the level they feel comfortable doing so. You have time to consider your responses and even double-check the content before you participate.

To be clear, though, much of the objection to politics (whatever that might be defined to be), is really just a disguised attempt to make some people feel comfortable. Many people despise the democracy of social media, as it puts others in a position to ‘see’ information and content they object to. People tend to walk and talk inside their own comfort zones. When exposed to other politics, religions, and culture, their defense mechanisms kick into gear and push them to look away.

Our conversations reflect what we are exposed to. Politics is simply a huge part of that. Politics isn’t the problem. It’s us, as we struggle to come to terms with both talking and listening.

Ignore This Post

Trump lowered the bar for the Presidency. Kathy Griffin lowered the bar for comedy. I’m going to the bar to come up with a better analogy.

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A new brand of popcorn (I created) if you are sitting around waiting for the president-for-now to blow the place up: Orb-ille Redenbacher Popcorn.

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Tenacity is one of those things which I’ve found people to woefully misjudge.

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Forget Notre Dame ‘insulting’ Pence. Today’s footage of Trump expanding his library of ignorant speeches was priceless. Many of the leaders of the free world were openly mocking him, snickering, and otherwise demonstrating how important his opinion is to…anyone.

Toward the end of the video, an older white-haired man walked briskly along the background, adjacent to the wall. I imagined that it was Bernie Sanders, impatiently pacing back and forth, vainly trying to control his impulse to blast an air horn toward DJ Trump. I added an arrow so you can spot him.

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In a first for politics, the newest model Hoover vacuum cleaner was appointed to be the next Attorney General, after it was determined that it sucks less than current appointee Jeff Sessions.

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When I performed my recital at Walton Arts Center, the audience gave its first ever Standing Negation.

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In the future, vehicles which can fly will be great: if you own a dog and take it with you in the car, you will have a ‘flying car pet,’ just like Aladdin.

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My arrest was a big misunderstanding. I advertised on Craigslist as a ‘Ford Escort Service,’ and only because that’s the car I’m gonna drive for Über. I had 11 middle-aged guys in the backseat before I exited the driveway.

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Often slowly; eventually, though, people always talk because that’s what we do. If you are counting on secrecy to protect your accumulated reputation, you’re gonna have a bad time.

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We age the most not in the lines of our face but in the depths of our hearts. – x

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I’m not saying he’s not a nice person, but I know for a fact that he goes to the proctologist daily: not for an appointment, but so that he can be around other assholes.

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Mike Pence & Notre Dame – Thoughts

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Warning: Political and/or Social Commentary

Isn’t it strange that people howl for empathy for the Vice President, a wealthy man with access to the world and everything in it? Even as he continues to misuse conviction to preach to all that some are not his equals, he has one of the world’s biggest pulpits from which he can pontificate to people. We owe him no tears. His vocation is one he campaigned for. He is not immune to rebuke. In fact, rebuke is as much a part of public life as adulation is. We are paying him to fulfill his duties and he works for all of us, not just those which conform to his brand of fear and distrust masquerading as politics. Perhaps if Pence spent more time representing the totality of this inclusive country and less time pandering to those who agree with his ideology, he might have more ears tuned toward compassion when he’s talking.

Whether it’s climate change, immigration, LGBTQ issues, evolution, or any of the other issues which he has planted his feet firmly in the past over, Pence is not where this country is headed, especially for the younger generation. It is the natural progression of things for those threatened by new or better ideas to angrily point accusatory fingers at those who want us all to be standing on a level playing field.

Students at Notre Dame opted to use their right to peacefully protest against this man’s policies and therefore this is not an indictment on the mindset of young people: it’s a refutation of the man’s ideas. Whether they protest at school or in public, they are adults, given the ability to reason and to demonstrate against things which violate their beliefs. They didn’t attack Pence as he has so often attacked the weaker and unvoiced masses. They didn’t take away any of his rights, limit his healthcare, reduce his wages, interfere in his appearance at the podium, or in any way harm him; they merely objected to his ideology and expressed their displeasure with their feet. This is exactly how things are supposed to work. Surely no one is to suggest that an adult must feel compelled to be complicit and present in the display and conspiracy of ideas woven by such a man as Pence.

To say that students have blemished the school, themselves or this country by exercising their right to object is a greater misstep than 1,000 such peaceful demonstrations. Regardless of how their tuition was paid, these adults protested in a manner befitting our country, at a university which itself is in the education business. Those students earned the right to their degree and they reiterated their right to protest. It’s interesting for politicians to deride students and universities for protest. Perhaps feeling rejected will provide some glimmer of recognition in their hearts as to how deeply inhumane many of their policies and beliefs come across.

The idea that people shouldn’t protest simply because it makes another segment uncomfortable is precisely why the protest is necessary. Just because you are privileged or wealthy enough to turn your head away and to expend no effort is in no way an indicator of what motivates much of the rest of the country. If they choose to peacefully protest, you can shake your head in disagreement with the content of the protest but never against the idea of protesting itself.

It is only through resistance have any of our major social changes flourished. Change requires stress to whatever prevailing ideas and traditions live in the moment. If you are sitting on the side entrenched in the past, you are going to experience turmoil as the world changes without you.

Notre Dame is a cross-section of the brightest young adults in our country. We indeed should start worrying only when they STOP resisting things which no longer represent our country.

Lastly, someone should explain to Pence and people like him that the 1st amendment right of free expression pertains to the relationship between government and individual citizens. Thus, it is Pence’s job to ensure that he understands that his role as VP requires him to welcome debate and dissent even when it’s directed to or at him specifically. Angrily rebuking those who choose to exercise their right not only demonstrates a dangerous demagoguery but also an ignorance of one of the most fundamental means of letting our government know they are going astray.

PS: Protest at a school or university carries the same validity as does protest exercised anywhere else. You sound ignorant when you draw a distinction.

Speak Up, Mr. Ex-President

Speak Up, Mr. Ex-President or forever will hold your peace.

In my opinion, Obama was the embodiment of intelligence and professionalism as president. Many have expressed displeasure toward those supporters who see reason to criticize him for not putting on his cape, ignoring tradition, and wading into the current political mess swirling around Trump and congress.

The point of this commentary isn’t whether I liked Obama or not – and certainly not whether you did. (I listened to 8 years of mostly nonsense about why many of you hated Obama.) It’s about the disagreement of what a respected opinion should do in the face of strange and exotic circumstances, despite tradition.

I’ve seen some complicated verbal slap fights on social media, with some bellowing that others “shouldn’t” judge Obama for staying out of the fray. I agree with the spirit of those arguments. It’s Obama’s life to do exactly as he sees fit, especially since part of the gentleman’s agreement with ex-presidents is that they refrain from immersion in politics following their terms. There are benefits to our republic from doing so. But…

The truth, though, is that an ex-president never really has complete autonomy after serving: his life becomes entwined with the persona and duties of a figurehead. It’s part of the reason we provide immediate retirement benefits to our presidents. Traditions that served us well sometimes still continue to serve us, while others, including the expectations of diminished public interaction following a term, do not. Your voice is most useful when you’ve got the most to say.

Even though I agree that it is his life to do as he sees fit and that there are benefits to an ex-president giving a grace period to his voice in society, I strongly disagree that Obama is doing us any favors by being mostly silent on current events. If you have a respected voice and intimate working knowledge of the government, this is a skill that has real value on a day-to-day basis. Obama was president for 8 years and strictly speaking, knows more about the job that any other living person. His words – and silence – carry weight.

Obama does tweet, but carefully avoids public displays of criticism. His silence about current events is a disservice to us. If he sees that things are being done which violate the principles of the office of the presidency, he should confidently explain to us why. If he feels that the current president is wrongly stepping into affairs, he should say so. It is everyone’s choice to either heed his voice or ignore it. He has the right to use his pulpit in the manner he sees fit. His ability to exercise his right should be no more diminished than any other private citizen. He should wield his voice precisely because it is his to yield.

Trump placed dynamite on the old political establishment. Regardless of his term of office, Trump has voided many of the previous expectations of the presidency. If Obama is concerned, he needs to voice those concerns. Playing the game under an out-dated set of rules doesn’t help anyone.

It’s easy to believe that our republic will withstand the onslaught recently brought to it, in part because so far, it has done so. We compare Trump to Nixon, as if Nixon had so violently turned politics on its head. This is a foolish argument, given that Trump’s rise was considered a laughable impossibility until recently. Trump usurped both the GOP and Christians evangelicals, rejecting the traditional path and behaviors of both. The form that the presidency will take after Trump is seriously in question. Democrats quibble over who the party leader should be while their most respected voice sits mostly in silence, surrounded by incredulous people eagerly waiting to pass him the ball.

If Obama ever had a cape, he needs to fling it capriciously around his shoulders and start using his voice in the wilderness. His power rests in his skill as a trusted voice. Regardless of history, when people see silence in the wake of DJ Trump, it tends to dishearten those waiting for someone of stature to join them in condemnation of what Trump is doing to the country and to our collective intelligence.

We don’t need a grace period of silence in this country. We need Obama to put on his cape and grab the microphone now, as events unfold. Waiting until something has broken is a violation of our trust. I don’t want to know Obama’s opinion on smaller events if he isn’t going to share his experience, ideas and opinions on those things most on our mind as progressives. It’s his right to do exactly what he pleases. But if our places were switched, I would use each minute of my day to shout to all those people like me.

All of us collectively look at Trump and know that we are seeing something different, with wildly new unspoken rules. We need to stop thinking of these changes as temporary. We need new ways of keeping our country on course. Silence, even from ex-presidents with well-deserved vacation time in their pockets, is worse than nothing. Thanks, and my apologies for any poorly-executed explanations.

A Word On the Coming Week

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Because some learn a solitary syncopation of the drum and resist further knowledge, we’re going to experience another round of exclusion in the next few days. Whether you believe it to be the right course of action or one chosen with ill-advised rancor, remember that history sits over our shoulder, taking notes – and rarely writes any glowing words in the epilogue for those who choose exclusion. The effects of another barrage won’t touch most of us, except in the most vital way: we will be dulled to the inhuman efficiency of policy.

A Few Words About Tom Cotton and Immigration

As you read these words, please remember that I’m a liberal, the kind that Tom Cotton would like to invite to Guantanamo Bay for an unplanned vacation.

Several days ago, I wrote about progressives failing to understand the fight about the Department of Education. Northwest Arkansas residents heard first-hand from Senator Tom Cotton last night that he still strongly desires to break the Dept. of Education. I’m certain that this will happen, absent a huge change in government in the next year.(Although, as one of my friends told Tom Cotton in the Town Hall last night, it’s difficult to trust the State of Arkansas to do the right thing, given we had to have the federal government come in with troops simply to integrate our schools.)

Today, I’d like to offer a few words about immigration, ones which will be music to conservative ears.

Tom Cotton has positioned himself to take over the work of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Tom is staunchly conservative and will continue to carry the torch for conservatism in the senate. He has already sponsored immigration legislation under the Trump administration. I’m certain he will insist on strong immigration action in the next few years. He has connections in the military, congress, the intelligence community, and the new administration. He’s been clear about his views on almost all the immigration arguments. For him, they boil down to security and economy, which are two of the GOP’s most important themes.

Absent a miraculous bolt of lightning from the heavens, those who disagree with the GOP and Senator Cotton have a painful road of incremental losses ahead of them. Cotton wants to reduce legal immigration and to remove all undocumented foreigners, including Dreamers/DACA. He’s got a Harvard education and a head for logistics. He artfully argues away the statistics showing the benefits of a foreign workforce. In his mind, his views are justified and supported by his voters. Senator Cotton does not hold his views on immigration loosely or lightly – they define his worldview. Being reasonable won’t work to change his mind – but then again, neither will shouting at him.

I predict that some of the attempts to implement immigration action will be stymied by cost and the courts. Much of it, however, will pass scrutiny and occur to varying degrees. The courts will step out of the way once the administration sharpens its overly-broad attempts to shape policy.

Given that NWA has a large population of Latinos, I predict that Senator Cotton will use his pull in the administration to orchestrate one of the first waves of ICE sweeps in our corner of the state. It will not only serve his penchant for retribution for the ocean of protest he was handed last night, but it will be a cost-effective publicity-fueled way to kick off the effort.

In short, Senator Tom Cotton will use his considerable intelligence and pull to target the Springdale area first. Having observed him, I see that he knows trying to ease into such an effort will cause a greater resistance effort than simply striking hard and first where much of the resistance has grown.

As satisfying as it was last night to see Senator Cotton be told the harsh realities of those he disagrees with, I can see the coming backlash already forming.

We can’t rely on public sentiment to dissuade such an effort. The truth is that many citizens want absolute control of our borders and of who is allowed to stay here. We have underestimated the sentiment of branding undocumented foreigners as criminals who should suffer the consequences of being here without permission. Most will not join the shouts of protest as people we know are dragged away. It’s a hard thing to say, but I can see it coming.

Tom Cotton is going to be that firebrand who will not be afraid to step into the fight and deliver action. We can angrily thank Donald Trump for liberating people like Senator Cotton.

I can see all these things because although I disagree with much of Tom Cotton’s agenda, he has consistently held firm to his ideals as the country has shifted to meet him in the middle. Just as we looked away for a moment as the country elected Donald John Trump, I am certain that we’ve also looked away just long enough to miss the subtle change in commitment from the GOP to finally take decisive immigration action.

We are going to suffer and it is best if we prepare for it.

The Day the Dept. of Education Died…

One post of mine many Republicans will love reading:

For those of you who don’t follow other bubbles, it has long been the desire of many conservatives to abolish the Department of Education in entirety. If we continue on the trajectory of a Republican-controlled U.S. Congress and statehouses, the Dept. of Education will cease to exist. The abolition of the Dept. of Education doesn’t necessitate the adoption of a worse system – but it does hasten a total change in structure and attitude from everyone in the United States. It’s already started in earnest, whether we are paying attention in class or not. In Arkansas, most of us voted Republican. We gave them their voice and power. Those votes will continue to pay dividends toward their agenda. (I say ‘we,’ but please note that I’m a dirty, low-down, self-described degenerate liberal.)

I am not writing this because I agree with a state-centered system of education nor with the extinction of the Dept. of Education, as I think it’s the wrong course for our country. Unlike so many other progressives, though, I saw this fight coming from a long way off, and had already heard the bell indicating our defeat, even before the election of Trump.

I’m writing to tell you that it is inevitable.

We’ve abdicated our ability to continue with a progressive system we all know and handed that responsibility to the Republicans across the nation who had their eye on the goal longer and with greater zeal. The Republicans mobilized and by whatever means at their disposal, changed the games and the rules to achieve their goal, one of them being the eradication of the Dept. of Education. With control of most of the state legislatures, too, they are going to control the narrative of education for the foreseeable future. Because they control the House, they have a bigger say in funding. We’ll have vouchers and many of the things which educational experts howl into the night about.

We can fight and squabble, but the educational system to which we’ve become accustomed is going to morph into something else. What ‘that’ might be is dependent on a huge cascade of politics, money, and interests. Whatever emerges is going to be much more scaled. Those we elect to our state offices will have most of the say in what used to be a federally-supervised issue. That either elates or frightens you.

Betsy DeVos qualifications or lack thereof are almost a negligible concern for conservatives. Her appointment solidifies their cry toward a decentralized educational system. I’ve seen it coming, listening to the echoes of what once was the Tea Party. They’ve been consistent, whereas the progressives have not.

The Republicans did a better job at capitalizing on the system. Voting Republican yielded the intended result for Republicans. A decentralized educational system is just one of those important cornerstones, with Betsy Devos being a skirmish, rather than the actual fight.