Category Archives: Politics

Move Over Russia, Here I Come

I went through the process to be vetted to run political ads and content on Facebook’s platform. (Which, as you may or may not know, isn’t limited to the site itself.

Because of the fallout from the 2016 debacle otherwise known as the election, Facebook instituted some exacting rules to ensure that people and organizations are whom they claim to be – and live where they claim to. The rules don’t affect what you post on your private pages; rather, they affect what you post on pages you control and advertising platforms you access. Facebook reaches a couple of billion people. In some respects, it is the biggest communication platform in our shared human history.

Regardless of what content is on Facebook’s platform, it is our responsibility, not theirs, to use our brains in the way they were designed. We don’t adopt attitudes or prejudices at gunpoint; we are the guilty party in almost every case in which advertising is claimed to have been misused. It’s too glib to blame Russia or Facebook for undue influence. We own our collective stupidity.

The 2016 election proved that voting sometimes has less power when compared the reach of a determined voice, even if the voice is shouting disinformation. You can get your opinion and voice heard more effectively than by voting or arguing in a closed system. Even though we know that shouting doesn’t work to change minds, only cement them, we still do it, instead of using appeals to humor, persuasion, and targeted communication.

The most persuasive voice is another human presence, one of open mind and ear. The only sermon or speech which spreads your message is one of example. As we learned from the last election, the next best thing is a communication platform which allows anyone to reach a staggering number of people. The effect is amplified when people are engaging with passion at the expense of their intelligence.

You’ve read my words and creations in other places, many times without realizing that they were mine. You shouldn’t assume that they were the ideas, words, or images you would expect from me, either. None of us is the imagined version in the minds of others.

In an open society, that’s perhaps the best way. The best idea should be given consideration, even if it is disruptive to the beliefs and certainties we all cling to. Buried in the illusion of tribal affiliations of today, we automatically flinch and recoil away from the opportunity to hear new information. Our motto should always be: “I change my mind with new information.” This tendency is necessary for learning and growing. The greater our tendency to fight against flexibility, the more likely we’ll experience a breakage. 7 billion people in the world demand that we stop seeing ourselves as the torchbearer for truth.

I rarely share anything from another source on social media. It’s almost exclusively mine, even if it only my opinion, full of error and disinterest. Much of the problem with social media is that it is too tempting and too easy to use others to give voice to our presence. Much of the time, the voice we choose is whispering – or shouting – information which is slanted, incorrect, or completely false.

This is part of the reason why it is amusing to think that I now can anonymously sway your opinion across the entire platform of social media. The last election demonstrated the power and reach of interactive content. Why hack the vote when we can convince large groups of people that up is down or that everyone falls into neat categories of political and religious ideology? Obviously, most of us don’t recognize that we are being swayed or led astray – that’s precisely why it is such a powerful tool. All of us feel immune to it. Reality proves otherwise.

All of us, every day, see information on social media that we know isn’t true. We think, “What an idiot!” We rarely stop to consider that the idiot in our scenario is often us in the other idiot’s mind.

P.S. Facebook has trusted me to access your eyes, ears, and minds. Good luck to you all. It’s my turn to be the idiot. You’ll find me all over the internet, thanks to the largest communication project ever created. You’re welcome.

Everyone Is Our Equal

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In my opinion, one of the best and immediate steps we can take to retake control of our political system is to stop collectively pretending that elected officials are anything other than well-qualified workers we choose to perform specific civic tasks. They work with us and for us to meet our agreed upon goals.

Much of our distrust of the political system stems from the fact that we perceive “them” as separate from us. It is within our power to insist that “they,” in fact, be us. It is our fault that we allow anyone to stand above us.

I do not understand the pomp and circumstance that so many people seem compelled to provide to the political process. All political positions are just jobs. Those who fill them are constructed of the same DNA as the rest of us and most of us should be capable as adults of doing some of these jobs. If we could somehow be able to approach politics with this idea in mind, it seems as if some of the hostility we feel toward politics would dissipate.

All the titles, all the pompous tomfoolery, and faux prestige should be discarded. I cringe when anyone in a position of trust demands that he or she is addressed by an artificial title. The likelihood that their ego and self-importance interferes with their assigned tasks becomes insurmountable.

You’re not “The Distinguished Gentleman,” sir, you were chosen by the people you work for, to represent our interests. A competent judge is not “Your Honor,” as she or she is sitting in the seat precisely because of his or her legal competence. Both the senator and the judge in my commentary owe us just as much respect as we owe them. Without us, their presence is not necessary. Titles and ceremony create an illusion of hierarchy where none should have ever been tolerated, much less nourished.

From mayor to a senator or president, all of them are people who are compensated for their expertise. It is assumed that each of them values the honor we have bestowed. Those we choose to work on our behalf are compensated for their service. Civic duty in the proper context is rewarding for everyone.

Any elevation of status is a miscalculation on our part and in my opinion is a great deal of the problem we have in our society.

There is no mystery to civic service, no hidden list of qualifications for any of the offices we fill with fallible human beings. Being a senator, councilperson, or judge is an honor to the person performing the position, as we have chosen and entrusted him or her to do his or her job competently.

There is no reciprocal expectation that we should address any of them as anything other than someone working on our behalf. The title does not confer to the person individually, at least not based on the jobs we’ve given them. In an equitable system, we would tend to choose the best candidates for the specific job and the person chosen would reflect well on the level of responsibility we’ve conferred. The person does not reflect on the position, even though we resist acknowledging this idea. Competence is rewarded and incompetence is not -so that anyone we choose to occupy a job will be held to that standard.

All of us contribute extraordinarily to our society, whether we are teachers, judges, police officers, or those who cook our food for us. Those employed in politics are of no greater utility. Judges are legal scholars – or should be; as such, they should refrain from pomposity and reverence toward their own thundering voices. No judge or representative is more than my equal; he or she should be more educated and trained in their fields, however.

There is no mystery in public service. Everyone employed by our government bodies is one of us, hopefully endowed with a specific expertise. Any of us should be welcome and able to fill a position of responsibility if we have the ability. We are all equals in this sense. Titles interfere with the concepts of merit and function.

It is time we push the reset button on the illusion of elevated status in the United States.
Until all political positions are filled by people like us, based on competency, and without expectation of privilege, we will never achieve what we are capable of.

Enough with the titles. You work for us.

While my view is simple, it is not simplistic.
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Voting Is Like Boots For Cows

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Warning: this madness may trigger you, either on the grounds of satire or foolishness. Were it my choice, partisanship would go the way of the Blue Squirrel, full of pellets and eaten with roasted potatoes. Part of the joy living in a d̵i̵c̵t̵a̵t̵o̵r̵s̵h̵i̵p̵  free country is that each of gets to voice our own ridiculous opinions. Unless you work in the NFL, home of the buy-one-get-one-free concussion special.

I voted on election day because the rodeo grounds in Springdale is the best voting station in Northwest Arkansas – and not just because they have free coffee and tanning beds available. The voting stations are no longer drive-through, though, as I discovered the hard way. Note: vehicle insurance covers these types of mishaps. My apologies to Janet, John, and Frida, who thankfully escaped injury as I drove through. It is fitting that the same odor which sometimes graces the hallowed acres of the rodeo grounds also captures the essence of the political process. It is an olfactory reminder that we shouldn’t take our own vote for granted, much in the same way that those already in office tend to take us for granted.

It serves as an early voting location, too, for the county. I tend to early-vote twice and then just once on election day unless my social media friends have been especially tedious and annoying about voting – in that case, I vote 3 or 4 times. The throngs of ineligible voters the Democrats bus to my voting location usually give me adequate cover to not get caught. (Note: part of that was a joke, obviously, much like the current presidency.) As a fairly nondescript middle-aged white guy who is often favorably compared to Danny Devito, I tend to blend in well with people, until I open my big mouth. They assume I’m a Republican mostly because I sound ridiculous and doubly so if you can understand what I’m saying. Once I get my hand inside their wallets, though, they know I tend to vote as a progressive. Any chance I get to vote to raise taxes, I do so gleefully and if I can raise yours too, I consider it a bonus.

I opted to vote in the Republican primary again, mainly to disrupt the process. Not that the GOP needs my help. Putting Trump in office has given everyone the idea that they should run for office, even if they are currently leaking brain fluid. I gladly did the same in 2016 so that I could vote against Trump in the GOP Presidential primary. In November, I had the honor of voting against him again. Because I live in Arkansas, though, the hordes overwhelmed me, as they were armed with the antiquated “Electoral College,” which is just about as bad as weighted voting on “The Voice.” I wish that the Native Americans would get together and deport all these white Europeans who are ruining the country. Somewhere, there’s a “Fox and Friends” viewer who is reading these words who is getting really pissed off. “That’s racism!” he or she will undoubtedly repeat two or three times before dragging out his or her old typewriter to write the editor an angry letter. That last part is supposed to be funny, too, because we all know that no self-respecting Fox & Friends viewer is going to read anything past the first paragraph unless it says “Applebee’s” across the top of the menu.

I voted against Steve Womack in the 3rd District race and I’ll vote against him again in November, probably twice just to be safe. There’s a rumor that he might have to drop out of the race in order to have the stick up his rear end removed. Those who revere his rigid posture often overlook the fact that it’s due to that same stick. (Also, he looks like Mike Pense’s 2nd cousin after a hard weekend of drinking.) I voted against Asa, even though Jan Morgan is nuttier than a closet full of fruitcakes. She wouldn’t win the primary, of course, so I’ll vote against Asa again this fall. She might be the next VP candidate, though, if Tom Cotton ever figures out that literally, anyone can become president. Additionally, it irritates me that Asa’s actual first name is “William.” For the supreme court, I voted for David Sterling, because more dark money was spent in his favor than the other candidates. In the Age of Trump, that’s the kind of idiotic logic that I find myself agreeing with. A massive influx of dark money and influence is very important to me, unless you ask me, in which case I’ll say the opposite and do so while waving my arms nonsensically. I’m not too fond of the supreme court, anyway, since black olives and onions are generally terrible on pizza.

Because I’m adept at reading upside down, I scanned down the clipboards the poll workers left in plain sight on the registration table. First, the text I was reading upside down was inverted- not me. I think the poll workers would not have been amused had I been upside down, either like a slumbering vampire or a gymnast walking on my hands. The R columns vastly outnumbered the D columns; simply put, the Republicans turned out in much greater numbers to vote today. I understand that there are variables which affect this observation, not the least of which is that a progressive voter is more likely to early-vote and traditional voters also tend to be retired and can, therefore, follow the tradition of voting on the day of the election. I like to think that by voting in the GOP primaries that marketers foolishly assume that I am anywhere in a Venn Diagram with their targeted constituency. Obviously, if I were to suffer a major head trauma it is possible that I would suddenly start seeing both logic and appeal in the platform of the GOP but until then, please continue to send me ridiculous flyers to warn me of the dangers of foreigners and the need to personally own no fewer than 17 guns, each of which I’ve given cute names.

I enjoy the moment immediately after I give the poll worker my I.D. Given that the average poll worker is older, he or she invariably reads my name at least ten times. Most of them usually give up and assume that my license, like every other person in this state, lists my last name first and vice versa. When requested to do so, I try to find the strangest way to recite my name, address, and date of birth. Today was no exception. My wife hates the way I recite my date of birth even though logically it’s the only way to be precise while simultaneously getting on everyone’s nerves. That last part is very important to me. One of my favorite quips is to quickly ask, “Date of conception, you asked?” and then pretend to start counting backward with the months of the year.

I sometimes ask if they have ballots with pictures of the candidates on them. One day, the answer will be “Yes.” It seems only fair if they can ask me to repeat the information that is plainly visible on the I.D. they are holding, I have the reciprocal right to amuse myself with a barrage of my own questions to yield the confused and nervous looks they often give me.

All of y’all pushing to get everyone out to vote should sometimes stop and remember that people like me listen and go vote, much to the detriment of the political process.

I was a little disappointed to find out that it was a rumor that Springdale was voting on whether to get rid of that horrible criss-cross pattern it chose as it’s mascot. Logo. I mean to say, “Logo.” The poll workers did tell me, however, that I was welcome to get some colored permanent markers and change all the logos in the city myself. Heads up, Chamber of Commerce and local constabulary.

Once done voting, I boarded the bus with the throngs of ineligible voters. As we drove away from the rodeo grounds, we saluted our framed picture of Robert Mueller.

 

A Few Words on Voting…

A couple of basic ‘voting’ posts I wrote a few years ago, especially regarding the feeble, illogical, and nonsensical “… if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to voice your opinion” arguments seen every election cycle.

Not Voting Doesn’t Negate Your Right of Participation or Expression

Voting Disenfranchisement Is Wrong

P.S. I of course vote. But those who don’t, voluntarily or involuntarily, don’t forfeit their right to participation or opinion.

May You Never…

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May you never…

I wrote this for a friend, who like so many of us, struggles with those who voluntarily and contrarily reside in a harsher world than we do. My apologies for the tone. I wrote it in one sitting, with my mind wide open.

1) Never tell someone that they weren’t bullied or that they are blowing it out of proportion. Fear sits in an invisible nest and those who inflict it often hide behind a smile and perfect teeth. Failure to protect those who need it is a hallmark of pathology.

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2) Never tell someone that they weren’t sexually harassed or that most of the cases are blown out of proportion. It is incredible how many people have been abused or harassed and have never spoken of it.

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3) Never tell a person sitting in a wheelchair or dealing with a disability that he or she has ignorant ideas about disability or how society can make their lives easier. We can endure a little discomfort if it makes another person’s life more manageable and dignified. In a rich society, we can also certainly afford a few dollars to magnify everyone’s ability to live a fuller life. Most of us sit in confusion as we hear people argue against such a fundamental idea.

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4) Never attempt to tell a black person that slavery had its benefits, about the ‘real’ reasons the Civil War was fought – or that there are no lingering, pervasive effects of discrimination in modern society.

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5) Never forget that many people endure hardship, suffering, and loss through no fault of their own. If you’re sitting in a house with granite countertops and most of the people surrounding you are similar to you in demographics, take a moment to give thanks rather than drag out the clichéd argument of merit or hard work. Many people do everything right and still suffer. If you are reading these words and think that just because you have granite countertops, that I’m referring to you, you are missing the point entirely. If you worked hard to get where you are, all good people will be glad for you. Your success is not the issue.

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6) Never insist that a person chooses their sexuality. I didn’t choose mine. Did you? If this kind of issue is important to you, attacking a person for being gay is exactly the same mentality that allowed blacks to be bought and sold, attacked, and vilified. The greater your reluctance to accept this as true is inversely proportional to how likely it is that you didn’t learn this prejudice – you acquired it.

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7) Never make an argument that a woman can’t or shouldn’t hold any position, office or authority that a man can. All qualifications exist independently of the letter on a birth certificate and should be judged accordingly.

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8) Never forget that being right will not make your life easier if you are shouting it with a snarled lip or with a repetitious and malignant tone. Preach through practice and let your life shine as an undeniable example.

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9) Never overlook that all human beings burn with the certainty that they have the right interpretation of religion. Most have become adept at citations, justifications, and all manner of argument to buttress the beliefs they hold. Most good people know that “Be kind” and “Do as little harm as possible” are key components of any religion and yet we violate these basic ideas from fear and pride. Religion which demands that we attack that of another fails to see the seed of its own demise.

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10) Never stop reminding yourself that although we may have perfected some small part of our lives or society as a whole, there will always be major roadblocks and setbacks. We are all going to encounter people who are fearful or looking back to the past as their anchor. We blind ourselves to our own ignorance and perpetuate the cycle by making decisions in society which veer us off course.

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Be who you are and live a good life in the best way you can.

If you feel like you need to shout in the face of disagreement, stop and consider.

If you feel the need to silence words which conflict with your own, pause.

Above religion, race, sex, creed or geography, fight for the side in which the lesser needs a hand.

 

All Hat in Springdale

I voted in the Springdale special election today. This city has impressed me beyond reproach. It’s a place with problems but what a delight to see it step away from the shadow of what it once was – and also attempt to navigate the shifting demographics of who lives here.

The dynamic of “what once was” versus what the city is becoming is a fascinating and uneasy study in politics and economics.

All I could think of was Ray Dotson’s hat as I voted “Approve” for each item on the ballot. No offense to Ray or his hat but symbolism plays a role, often at the expense of the person attempting to mold it to his or her end. In Springdale, we are a cowboy hat, sombrero, and zories. We’re not one or the other because we’re learning that we don’t have to choose one to the detriment of the others.

Listening to some Springdale residents reminded me that many weren’t going to vote based on a shared reality of progress. As much as I would have loved to sit on the couch, it seemed wise to venture out and let Springdale know that even though I don’t endorse everything happening, I can’t criticize what’s been done in the last few years, by those doing the mundane work, day after day.

I relish the opportunity to criticize, but voting “Yes” was a “thank you,” from someone who seldom sees the direct impact of my vote.

I’m hoping I wake up tomorrow to a city whose vote reflects the shift in the last decade.