Category Archives: Politics

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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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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Arkansas Baptistan Trigger Legislation

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I originally posted this on another social media site in February this year.

 

Only a fool writes about abortion. It strikes to the core of so much of our political choices. Many insist that it defined the 2016 election, the one which substantially proved that collectively we are quite addlebrained when the call arises. I’m still confused by the fact that a man who encouraged his paramours to have abortions when he was younger could galvanize the evangelicals to such a degree on this issue.

This post deals with the idea of using religion as one’s sole justification to ban all abortions. It doesn’t directly address the idea of abortion as an absolute. It’s a distinction that most will ignore. There are legitimate and genuine reasons to wish to abolish most abortion procedures. I’m poking at those sanctimonious legislators who hold up religion as their defense as if such a thing resonates with the spirit of democracy.

I would be a bigger fool to discount all arguments against abortion. I’m not refuting them. I’m refuting the insistence that religion dictates certainty in regards to personal or public policy. Religion as an argument for or against anything can be stretched to fit any issue. Its malleability is what makes it a dangerous tool for political uses. People can easily use it for political purposes, much like Trump has done with several issues.

Anyone watching the arc of current politics can see that Roe V. Wade is going to be abolished – at least for a generation.

Abortion isn’t a religious issue.

It certainly isn’t an easy one, either, nor one inviting an easy fix. It’s an issue that encapsulates so much human pain, agony, and economics. There’s a reason it’s both so personal and complicated for both the individual and society. Whether we realize it or not, it’s a fair bet we all have family or friends who chose abortion in their lives.

It isn’t a religious issue in the sense you say it is, though.

If this were true, it would follow that all religious people would wish to ban abortion in Arkansas.

They don’t.

Especially given the proposed prohibition of cases involving rape, incest, and viability in the recent ‘trigger’ legislation. It’s a strange twist that a gun metaphor defines the bill.

It’s possible to be both a person of faith and in favor of a woman’s right to choose, whether we’d choose the same option or not. Let’s be clear: cases of rape, incest, and viability are issues outside the scope of secular legislation using religious arguments.

Many of faith would never consider abortion as an option. Unlike their other religious counterparts, they tread with caution when they have the opportunity to insist that their choices be mandated as the only options for other citizens. This is doubly true when instances involving rape, incest or medical issues cloud the circumstances for the person needing options. If those with strong religious convictions wish to serve by example, they’ll simply choose to forego abortion services. History has shown that they don’t however, and seek abortion services like their non-religious counterparts. Banning abortion will result in only those with resources will be able to get them safely; everyone else will use the inevitable underground system with its inherent risk.

The ongoing insistence that abortion is within the scope of religious oversight weakens all religious considerations precisely because it falsely asserts that all those of faith will endorse it.

The hypocrisy of claiming to speak for all those of faith is ridiculous. Many people living here in Baptistan don’t abide by the politics of harshness

Watching people of Jason Rapert’s caliber preach to the entirety of Arkansas and women, in particular, is the best approximation of tomfoolery that I can conjure. I’ll give him a minute, though, because he’s undoubtedly planning some new affront to rationality as I write this. He’ll have heaven on his side, no doubt.

You’re going to have to get a better argument.

Opposition to abortion rights is one of choice and orientation, not religion. It’s convenient for you if you’ve convinced yourself that it is, as it relieves you or any burden of further thinking on the matter.

If you insist that religion indeed demands that abortion become illegal, you can’t escape the responsibility of telling all others of faith that they are completely wrong or that they don’t understand religion.

Other viewpoints don’t matter.

Other citizens? Ignored.

Conduct unbecoming for a legislator and of anyone of faith.

We all have friends and family who’ve had abortions, even if you’re unaware of it. There are better options than abortion in most cases – but not all. I can’t imagine judging someone’s life and heart with sufficient grace to be able to know anything with certainty. All of us can do better, starting with those tasked with making laws which reflect a conflicted democracy.

Bless your heart if you disagree.

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.

Congress: One House

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The Senate of the U.S. Congress is an antiquated and inequitable system that we should abolish. When I learned how Congress worked, I was surprised. It’s a self-evident charade. The Senate and the Electoral College both deserve abolition. The man who served longer in Congress than any other agrees with me.

“One man, one vote” and all arising corollaries support the argument that 100 senators, 2 per state, bears no direct relation to our prevailing general concept of democracy. Its existence arose out of a need to give a nod toward states rights during the formation of our country. Senators were chosen by state leaders with the intent of protecting the state and its interests – not the citizens. It no way arose out of a need to serve us equally. The necessities present during our country’s founding are no longer current; our adherence to such a system no longer helps us. The Great Compromise has compromised this generation’s ability to determine our own trajectory.

As for the Founder’s intent, I’m not particularly interested. The same Founders had some strange ideas about humanity. I owe them no allegiance simply because they preceded me. Each generation deserves the same ability to determine its course. That the Founders declared war to achieve their determination holds no more weight than our current right to choose our governance.

More simply put: the Senate represents geography, no people. There’s no way around it. It’s an alien concept to a modern person. To have legislation passed by the House and then refused a vote by the Senate is unacceptable. The United States is no longer a confederation of states: it is a robust and unbreakable body. In a sense, the Senate is an untouchable example of gerrymandering because states with fewer people, economy, and interests have an undue voice. Though it may paint me as a radical, I’d much prefer that the federal government have a majority voice in every instance over that of my state. Either we are a republic or we aren’t. We can’t be both fervent nationalists and states-rights advocates simultaneously.

“The existence of the Senate helps keep majorities from other areas having a larger say in our government,” some might say. No kidding? The Senate as it exists today already deprives me of representation, in part because I live life as a progressive trapped in a Southern state. I’m not sure how majorities in other parts of the country hampering my right to representation are worse than having closer parties do so. My state does not deserve a greater share of the decision-making process simply because that’s the way it’s always been done.

I’m not making my argument based on the current composition of the House. I believe the same even when the other party controls the body. Because my progressive voice is already lost in a Southern state, I don’t unduly fear the probability of party disparity. This is doubly true if we ever manage to eliminate gerrymandering of districts at the state level. I predict that we won’t, at least not for a generation, barring political revolution. If you’re going to attempt to weaken my argument, you’re going to need to choose another argument other than current political makeup of the House.

The Senate is a sanctimonious relic which needs to be dismembered. Any institution formed with any intent to protect slavery is suspect at best and ongoing fraud at worst. That a state with 40 million people has the same number of senators as one with less than a million is a travesty of just representation. I loathe the idea that we are so anchored to the past, one which is problematic at best. Due to rules in the Senate, filibusters give groups without a majority the ability to prevent votes on issues, withhold the right of appointments, and overall lessen people’s collective voice.

Rare is the Senator who feels humbled and privileged to serve as an elected employee of the people. Most tend to demonstrate a disengaged superiority and fail to understand that they are simply employees we’ve chosen to represent us.

The majority of Americans now live in 9 states and therefore have only 18 out of 100 Senate seats. Senators representing 5% of the total population can prevent any significant changes to the government due to arcane rules in place. Most people simply don’t understand how the Senate itself contributes to many of the problems which plague our government. As the population grows, so too does the issue with the Senate, precisely because the largest concentrations of people tend to lose a disproportionate share of their representation. California has more population than the combined smallest 20 states, yet has the same number of Senators.

Having a congress of one body, divided by population, would be a much better method of representation. All duties and powers currently exercised by the Senate can and should be distributed among our Representatives. Elections would be simpler, our legal process would be more flexible, and the idea that a Senator is of elevated status would disappear. Most people claim they want a simpler government. Eliminating one house of Congress goes a long way toward that goal. All the arguments I’ve in resistance to my opinion can be lumped under the heading, “We’ve always done it that way,” or “It would require effort.”

Factoring in the discord between the two houses of Congress, and it’s difficult to argue that one serves as a check on the other. Given the power of the executive branch, it’s essential that all the duties currently falling to the Senate should be based on genuine representative democracy, with the population being the primary determinate of deliberations, rather than artificially created power in the hands of Senators who do not proportionately reflect the will of the people. I’m not approaching this issue as a liberal or conservative; my main focus is proportional voice and power.

I would also lengthen the terms of Representatives from 2 to 4 years, with a term limit of 1 term. All representatives would be up for election every 4 years. All members would receive a salary equalling three times the current minimum wage, with no benefit after their terms of service are finished, other than their wages contributed to our social safety net, like any other citizen. I would also reduce the number of representatives in the proposed Singular House to 250. Yes, I realize that this lessens the hold some states have on power. Under a representative democracy, that’s the way it should be.

Smarter people have written about this subject. The more I’ve witnessed and learned, the stronger my belief that our bicameral system is a farce. I think states would do well to implement a one-house system as well. It’s time.

While I realize that such a move is practically impossible, I wonder whether we’ll address the disparity before political chaos envelopes us as a nation.

P.S. If you think that individual states could rescind their agreement to be a part of the federal government, I suggest you return to your bunker.

Privilege, Improvement, Hypocrisy

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Now that enough time has elapsed, I can post this. A former resident of Springdale had taken considerable pains to challenge a bit of civic improvement. He has a family member still living in Springdale. After investigating the details, I agreed that the city had awkwardly presented its plan. Most of the intended change, however, greatly benefited the city as a whole. Unfortunately for my friend, the improvements would slightly infringe on the previous way of life a bit.

This is just me talking without an appeal for my words to set in stone or to be taken as words of certainty. They are in their totality a walk through some of the thoughts which come to mind when I read or hear words other people have spoken.  I don’t have all the answers, but I do have many questions.

First, appeals to the past are strange to me because the people making them inevitably and arbitrarily choose a specific time amenable to their own arguments, rather than the broader scope of history.

At risk of being ostracized from polite company again, I cringe when I see someone say, “My family has owned that land since…” as a defense against change or incursion. I can only imagine what those who preceded them might think about such a narrow view of ownership. The European arrival, for example, dislocated and eradicated millions of indigenous people. Also, this world is predicated on the illusion of permanence, even though we are floating on gigantic and active tectonic plates, swirling in a complicated vastness which will one day extinguish itself.

Yes, I know that we didn’t personally participate in the distant past; we just benefit from it. I’m not immune to being tone deaf myself. It’s strange to see other people failing to realize they also are making errors of both logic and consistency.

One of the people criticizing the previous Springdale resident for jumping into the discussion harshly framed the argument: a rich, white outsider using the process to thwart what the majority saw as a benefit for the community. He used more profane words, but the message was striking.

Springdale is the 4th-largest city in Arkansas. For several reasons, there have been significant changes which have moved it away from its parochial past. The people who’ve stepped up to make the changes have overall done a spectacular job of managing resources, finances, and issues. Yes, I have problems with the way some of it has been done, but it is the price I pay for being a part of a living and thriving community. Change is constant. At my age, I’m not supposed to be enthusiastic about the march forward. It’s supposed to be my job to be reluctant. I disagree, though. We’re moving forward, and it’s as much on me as the rest of the community to take the long view.

It’s also odd to see people who fight change because it impacts them disproportionately. It’s difficult to accept change, despite enjoying the fruits and benefits of the community. By belonging to a city, you agree to a compromise of interests. If your property is affected or impacted, you can at least take solace in the fact that you will have a chance at fair compensation – a chance the indigenous people who lived here before were never afforded.

Those fighting against change for self-interest rarely see themselves in the way I’m describing – or realize that they are fighting the tide of time and impermanence.

New roads, street widening, public amenities, parks, rezoning, public condemnation proceedings, expansion- all of these are presented as improvements, for the common good. All of them happen because communities or their leaders have decided that things must change.

Yes, sometimes boneheaded decisions are made, precisely because human beings are involved. In those cases, it’s wise to use the processes in place to cause absolute hell. Absent those circumstances, though, it is an argument from privilege to rail against the public interest, generally speaking. Poor people don’t generally get to make such arguments.

P.S. I realize that there’s hypocrisy in my argument. That’s part of the point.

 

 

 

 

 

Education Comes With A Needless Cost

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It’s strange to hear people say, “Most people don’t need college for work.”

Most people don’t need pants, either, but you won’t see millions of people heading to work tomorrow sans pants. Even if it happens, you still wouldn’t want to see such a sight, based on my wild imagination of what that might look like.

Is economic motive our best barometer for achievement? If we pursue economic interests above those of humanity, it’s my opinion that we’ve surrendered much of what grants our collective future any hope. Capitalism as we know it hasn’t been around for most of our human history. Whatever happens shortly, it’s a certainty that the economic system we currently experience will not be the one which dominates in the future.

Most people don’t need high school for a portion of the jobs that exist; trade or occupational training could replace it, but at what cost to our humanity? Implementing such a system demonstrates that we have lesser motives coursing through our veins. Whether you agree with me or not, I see our enthusiasm for education for all as an indicator of the health of our society.

If only the wealthy can easily take advantage of higher education, we’re going to see a decline in our progressive nature. As the number of jobs declines, we’re going to need to shift our perceptions of work.

We already demand that everyone fund the current educational system, even those who choose to have no children. It’s no stretch to ask everyone to pay for local college for anyone who wishes to attend. I can’t convince those with hardened hearts that an educated populace is a better populace, just as I can’t reach those who believe that we shouldn’t pay for universal healthcare.

Yes, we know it’s not free. Everything is redistribution.

If we can maintain a military capable of eradicating most life on earth, I think we can manage a way to ensure everyone who desires it can get a higher level of education (or training). It’s a strange world to me that so many passively fund an irrational arsenal of destruction, yet balk at improving our intelligence and reasoning.

We are not protected from external threats if we become a threat to ourselves. Stupidity is its own reward. Just ask a Congressman.

Whether a person ultimately becomes a plumber, nurse, or teacher, higher education is an invaluable benchmark for our commitment to society. A plumber with an educated mind is a much more valuable resource to our society. A member of society interacts on many more levels than simple business and commerce.

An argument that strives to provide only the required education to perform a job is one premised on ideals that are unbecoming to us as human beings. The amplitude and depth of our minds is one of the most valuable assets we have.

There’s no reason that we cannot establish an affordable network of responsible public colleges and universities – and pay for everyone to attend. We’re smart people. Most of us know that it’s possible to get an excellent education for a much smaller cost than our current per capita average. Eliminating the elitist demand that people attend colleges based on reputation is the first step. Private colleges could, of course, continue to overcharge for the same education that a public college can provide. The objective is supposed to be education and training for all – at a reasonable price. It’s lunacy to fund a system which doesn’t demand that education itself be the goal, rather than the path or the building in which it was obtained.

Likewise, “college” isn’t a fixed concept. We can re-design curriculum, courses, and content in such a way to eliminate fluff or graduation requirements which often only serve the education machine rather than the degree sought. We can fund community colleges which allow students to live in their communities. We can design course schedules which will enable adults to both work and attend school. We can demand that students be allowed to demonstrate knowledge without attending traditional classes and thereby sidestep the necessity of wasting time and resources by forcing them to go through the motions of the bureaucracy. There are better ways. We didn’t plan our current system; it’s a patchwork of implementations that are devoid of a cohesive objective.

We’re sending too many adults into the world with crippling debt. There’s a better way and a more natural way. We all know that college or vocational training can be done at a much lower cost to students and to society.

Whether we absolve the debt of those who preceded our proposed changes to our higher education system, it’s vital that we amend our system to course correct now that we’ve recognized the size of the problem. We can adjust accordingly as we learn more.

Much of our problem is that many are distracted by the demand for a perfect solution that doesn’t exist and isn’t directly attainable. We must be willing to listen and adapt the system as we go – which is precisely the foundation of education.

Using the benchmarks of the past to determine our path to the future is short-sighted and unbecoming.

Most of us also recognize that educated minds are more necessary now than ever. The perils of ignorance have already brought us sorrow.

I know I’m ignorant of many things. I had some experiences in school that perplexed me. One of my most significant issues was that colleges forgot they are running a business and that as a student, I’m a customer. The goal is knowledge or certification of the same for a reasonable price. As you can imagine, administrators, advisers, and professors had their ears burned by the revolutionary idea of mine that my role was not subordinate to theirs.

We can re-imagine college to mold it to meets its objective: knowledge and ability. We can do so by significantly reducing the time it takes, as well as the cost. And we can do it so that adults don’t have debt as a result of something so vital for our well-being.

It’s the least we can: demonstrate the importance of education without it being an empty platitude.

A Polite Lesson: Losing in 2020

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Donald Trump is likely to be elected again in 2020.

I’m not going to vote for him. Because I live in Arkansas, my vote is irrelevant.

I voted against him twice in 2016: once in the Republican primary and again in the general election. I’m not a Democrat, but I am a liberal. I did more than most liberals to try to stop Trump, as many Democrats took a detour to argue over Bernie and Hillary. I’ll be surprised if they avoid the same mistake this time. The best is indeed the enemy of the good and some voters can’t stop fixating on irrelevant differences.

“Any functioning adult” was already my candidate against Trump.

Most people don’t like Trump but many will vote for him again despite his critical flaws. They believe he’ll advance an economy or agenda that’s favorable to them. Liberals watch in awe as Evangelicals defend and embrace Trump. It’s obvious that most people know that Trump is no man of faith and probably doesn’t care about most of the issues. As a politician, however, he has outmaneuvered almost everyone at every step. Trump’s polling numbers aren’t great, to be sure, but the economy is in his corner. He’s like the crappy job we endure because it pays the bills. We talk about leaving, but everyone knows we’re full of it. The Evangelicals will eventually face the consequences of endorsing a candidate and person like Trump – but it won’t be anytime soon. Movements which start at the extreme implode. (Take note, Democrats.)

A great number of Americans can’t watch the news, can’t talk to their friends and neighbors, and cringe at the idea that Trump has any position of authority. Worse, a trend that I’ve called the Polite Politics Pandemic has infected the minds of most of his detractors. People avoid any mention of politics or life issues on their social media, their conversations, and in general. They mistakenly believe that doing so makes their lives more manageable.

They’re wrong.

Just as it has done in other democracies, silence creates a false impression among your circle that you are either afraid of your opinion and the consequences of expressing it, don’t care, or secretly endorse the things that cause your silence. Over time, we find ourselves watching the boulder tumble faster and faster downhill.

Silence, even politeness with a goal of civility, works in favor of Trump.

Whatever your opinion, it is equally obvious that most Americans will overlook Trump’s onerous flaws and endorse him again. Like the last election, many of those voters will be Democrats.

Trump changed the nature of the Republican party and politics in general. Such a person comes along once a generation. Those who are politely silent are counting on their fellow Americans to push him out. The 2016 election taught us that it’s a fool’s wish to expect others to do the expected thing. If you don’t stand up and stand out now, you’re part of the problem. If you can’t find it in yourself to opine now, during a once-in-a-generation aberration, you never will.

Liberals should note that many of their friends and neighbors who once proudly shouted their enthusiasm for Trump have grown silent. Trump’s continued onslaught of profane and outlandish antics has cooled their support. The moderate in most of us eventually finds us again. Expecting most of them to violate their interests and not vote for him again, however, is lunacy. They’ll turn out in the next election whether you do or not.

I’m guilty of confusing a vote for Trump as an endorsement for some of his cruel policies. I can’t separate his policies and his endorsement. Many voters can, though, and we’re going to need a better way to frame it.

Incumbency and a strong economy invariably favor the candidate for re-election. Arguing about whether he’s qualified or a good person misses the point; it’s irrelevant. Politics has lost its facade. Qualifications will now invariably yield to tribalism and charisma.

Trump does not hold the blame for exploiting the election system or for our system of governance which assumed that rationality and normalcy would be prevailing standards. Some have shouted and barked so often that it’s impossible to alarm the bystanders sufficiently to believe that there is a real problem. I’m not asking anyone to snarl and fight; rather, I’m asking that you start by reminding everyone, even those who only passively see your influence, that the Trump America isn’t one you like.

We can do it without screaming. Screaming won’t work, anyway. If a few people get angry at you for simply enumerating your objections to a Trump America, it’s likely that those people don’t align with you or your life, anyway. Good people don’t banish other good people from their lives for honest expression; they banish them in fear of having to confront their own insecurities.

So many put their hope in the Mueller Repor. The biggest problem was its lack of transparency and immediacy. Simply put, such things must be developed quickly and openly. Whether it’s supposed to work that way sidesteps the fact that our democracy no longer finds value in the laborious process of law. Democrats lost the fight and bystanders mostly think it’s because there wasn’t enough meat on the bone. The average voter dislikes corruption, but most expect politics and politicians to be a little dirty. We’re not going to find a smoking gun in the last election unless someone releases footage of Trump killing someone with his bare hands. Anything less is a distraction.

Policy is not going to sway the middle in the 2020 election. Immigration is not an issue that will work for Democrats. Forget decorum, forget the small annoyances of a particular candidate, and stop shouting. Unless a charismatic third-party candidate enters the race late, the only Democrat who could possibly beat Trump will be the one who is standing in the middle with just enough charisma and intellect to know better than to offend voters who are mostly otherwise detached from politics. Stop focusing on how it ought to be and instead focus on the system that we’re left with.

Trump won’t win by much. Thanks to the electoral college and the tribal nature of national races, he won’t have to. If your family and friends don’t know that you dislike Trump and won’t vote for him, let them know. Don’t try to aggressively change their minds. If your life isn’t a shining example, you’re not going to change anyone’s minds. People will only stop to think about you or your opinion if something about your opinion and life speaks to them in a way that Trump’s charisma cannot.

On a personal note, I learned a hard lesson from FiveThirtyEight in 2016. As the interference of the last election became apparent, I learned more lessons from Facebook and the power of social media, watching in wonder as we discovered that they had been used effectively to sway opinion. I worked hard to embrace the lessons. My vote is almost irrelevant compared to the reach of anonymous and effective opinion. I’ve used it, especially in the last year.

Even if we miraculously get a new president in the next election, we now know that chaos and entropy are the wolves which will always be at the door. Trump or his surrogate is inevitably planning his next move.

Stay silent if you will.

Barring a major disruption, Trump will be elected again in 2020.

Silence will cost you more than your reputation.