Tag Archives: Politics

National Coming Out Day – 2014

It is National Coming Out Day. In my opinion, this is not simply about reiterating what most people may already know about many of us, but also about creating and enlarging a space of comfort and safety for those who still struggle to understand themselves – to say nothing for hoping to help others to understand them. This is complex because everyone’s environment – on both macro and micro levels – varies so greatly that we cannot juxtapose our own experience onto the life of another person. I was extremely fortunate and blessed that while I did experience questions and concerns from my own circle, I never had to doubt that there was always love, compassion, and respect. That was 17 years ago. It’s a much different world from even a few years ago, let alone 17 years ago, let alone a 35 years ago when I was born. Even in the time since I was willing to make this peace with myself – a greater struggle than telling anyone else – my understanding has drastically altered. The binary that can be so easy to refer to, with a single middle ground, is not really as cut and dry as many would like to think. There was no switch; there was just recognition. It is not not a set of distinct plot points on an axis with easy labels and definitions; it is a continuum that is anything but static. The more readily that fact is understood and respected, the more easily people will begin to accept not just others but perhaps their own ever-changing continuum. Just as my own relationship with another man does not mean I need to fear the occasional recognition that a woman may appeal to me (Emma Watson perhaps), so too a “straight” person need not fear a fleeting appreciation for one of their gender identity, or anything in between for that matter. Coming out should not be looked on as a single act of declaring just one of the many characteristics that make us human. It should be a state of mind. Sociologists are always working to understand more how people relate to one another. However, this should be a reasonable endeavor for everyone to take on.

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The slow, sad implosion of the U.S. Congress

I just finished watching a Daily Show segment in which they talked to a Democrat in California who had been approached by the national party about running for a U.S. House seat. She turned them down, feeling that her desire to be productive and successfully represent her community would be stifled by such a role. To use her words, “I don’t want to be in a place where I have a good, fancy title but I’m not actually able to deliver for people.” The story continued by highlighting a current House member that characterized his experience with words like gridlock, sad, frustrating, etc. He explained that he serves under House leadership that was more concerned with getting the best of the other party to stay in the majority than actually getting things done.

With this kind of environment, what idealistic up-and-coming future leader of this country would want to be a part of it? Congress — where good ideals go to die and good public servants lose their way or give up in frustration. One problem I have observed in the course of seeing how these people conduct themselves, these servants elected to represent the best interests of the American people, is how they treat the deal makers. These are the mavericks, the gentleman from Arizona willing to reach across the aisle, the Congresswoman from Maine searching out room for compromise, the Senator from Connecticut finding a working partner with another even though he may not share the same letter in between two parentheses. They are both celebrated and vilified.
The problem is that establishment party insiders turn their backs on their own members that seek out solutions with the opposition, but congratulate and welcome with open arms an opposition player coming their way. It happens on all ends of the spectrum.

How can we expect good people with hopeful intentions to want to take on important roles if it means toeing the line or towing your career away? It is the height of hypocrisy that Republicans pushed Arlen Specter out for occasionally disagreeing with their public platform, but welcomed Joseph Lieberman to their convention as a man of principle. For the Democrats, it was the exact same two men and the exact same hypocrisy — minus the convention invitation.

The Daily Show is satire, but our history is marked by the humor of satire managing to bring out serious points. The story made a valid point, and the solution is not easy. It requires a big shift in how the parties conduct themselves, a large swelling of new candidates willing to stand firm against the attitude that says play like we play or you won’t get far, and an American public willing to give them the support they need to stay courageous and keep fighting for a D.C. worthy of our support again. Principled leadership does not require dogmatic obstructionism. Unfortunately, not enough are willing to recognize that.

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Different Perspectives Versus Evil Intentions

It is no secret that our political atmosphere feeds off of divisiveness and inflammatory statements. The loudmouth gets the attention. Whether or not we need to accept this as a fact that will always be is a subject matter for another day. Overwhelmingly, most voters find this environment to be a big problem. Unfortunately, most voters are also highly likely to respond to the same political tactics they claim to despise. One problem is that it is dirty when the other guys are doing it, but it is simply truth telling when our own team plays the game.

What I truly have a big problem with is the assigning of ill intentions behind the actions or policies we disagree with. People on all parts of the political spectrum are guilty of it. To the conservative, a liberal wants to take all of the money from hard working Americans and give it away so that the poorest do not feel compelled to add to society. The evil liberals hate innovation, hard work, and good ole’ American values where everyone can be vastly successful by simply pulling up their bootstraps and getting a job. To the conservative, it’s not that the liberal simply has a different perspective on what is the best way to help everyone live the American dream, it’s that they hate American values and hate the rich and the successful.

To the liberal, the conservative wants to hoard all of the money and has no interest in caring for those who fall through the cracks. The conservative hates minorities, want to see their rich friends make more and more money, and only see the working class and the poor as commodities to be exploited until they die — there will always be more having babies to keep the cycle going. To the liberal, it’s not that the conservative may simply have a different perspective on how best to make the decisions that will benefit our future, it’s that they only care about their own interests and everyone else be damned.

And we all feed on it. Pundits encourage this attitude. The media gives the most vile examples of so-called “leaders” the most attention. And we emulate it by repeating what we hear without any attempts to verify what is claimed to be fact, and repeating the personal attacks about the caricatures created in the place of the the flesh and blood human beings putting themselves out there as public servants.

The liberal wants to see the government take away everyone’s guns because they hate the Constitution. It certainly couldn’t be that too many tragedies have lead to a desire to evaluate what can be done and what the causes are.

The conservative wants to be able to own whatever weapon they please and collateral damage in our society be damned. It certainly couldn’t be an honest concern that the taking of rights can be a slippery slope.

None of these points are meant to express that the perspectives are the proper way to move forward. That is why honest, respectful, reasoned debate is what we need more than ever, and what is painfully lacking. The first step is facing someone you disagree with with respect and an honest expectation that they come from a point of real desire to see their community and their country served best. You may differ on what that path looks like — and we need disagreement to keep extremes in check. However, assuming the worst of intentions are behind their ideas is not productive. It is not mature. It is not how we get past an environment where the opposition is treated like the enemy.

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Politicians Are People Too

Some popular sentiments are so commonly expressed that it is often too easy to just repeat them without considering the extended impact. This is how I feel when I see a Facebook post, a blog comment, or a comment in the stream of a news story regarding the perceived lack of respect for all politicians.

First, let me start by saying that skepticism for the mainstream political establishment is fair, healthy, and warranted. We should all want the best people with the right intentions representing our best interests. Often, we should and do disagree on what our best interests are — but that’s open democracy. What we should desire are political leaders that fight for those best interests with thoughtfulness and integrity. Our skepticism comes from very public examples where that example is not being illustrated.

What is missed are the countless number of people who have done the good work of the people but aren’t in the public eye. The countless number of people who work today for those they represent in states, counties, Congressional or Statehouse districts, and on down to village ward council members. Some have public name recognition, but most are known only to the small segment of people they represent. The overwhelming majority seek out those roles because they care enough about their communities to put themselves out there.

There should be a difference between holding our elected leaders up to a high standard, and simply trashing them all because some have been engaged in dishonest, unethical, or selfish activities. It is a real problem when we elect people to represent us and they use that role to benefit their own interests. What we should avoid is painting an entire profession with the same brush and deciding for ourselves that anyone holding an elected post is inherently a crook, a puppet, or anything less than an actual human being. What we should do is encourage good people to get involved and pay more attention instead of less. Cynically throwing our hands up in frustration is easy, but the resulting apathy only allows the pervasive cycle to continue where the lowest common denominator of public servants keep their jobs.

I admit that there is a personal motivation behind this post. I have friends who are good public servants and truly believe in the work they do and care about the people and communities they serve. Although I can’t say for sure that my future will include an elected office, my ambitions include public service in some way. It is not because I want to be some famed politician or historic statesman. It is because my past has given me the experience and the drive to do for others. I am choosing that direction knowing what the public sentiment is. All others have done the same.

Next time you are tempted to exclaim how they’re all crooks, they’re good-for-nothing, or they don’t give a damn about average people, stop yourself and consider if you are doing more harm than good by expressing such hostile terms for an entire group of people. Most are or have been average citizens at one time, and chose to get involved because they did indeed give a damn. Again, it is easy to get frustrated and only see through a single lens because the worst examples do tend to get the most attention. However, choosing to seek the path of public service is just that, a path of service to the public. How many good people will continue pursuing that path if it means being devalued as a human being by the people they wish to serve?

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Gun Control

There is a photo circulating around Facebook that shows a major vehicle collision. Above the picture are the words, “WE DON’T BLAME CARS FOR DRUNK DRIVERS.” It is stated below the picture, “WHY BLAME GUNS FOR VIOLENT PEOPLE.”

Besides the obviously missing question mark at the end of the second sentence, here is the problem with this argument:

Yes, it is true that we do not blame cars for drunk drivers. We also DO NOT blame guns for violent people.
HOWEVER….
This analogy is full of Swiss cheese holes.
Cars can become weapons when used poorly, but we use cars for a variety of reasons such as transportation to Grandma’s house, getting to work, taking the kids to Disney World. They provide a function that encompasses social, economical, and recreational capacities. We also have a series of regulations in place to limit dangerous use of vehicles. Those who have shown that they cannot use them responsibly have the legal right to use them taken away. We register people who use them and we register the vehicles. We regulate the speed at which they can be driven. We regulate safety devices to make them safer. We know that the series of regulations will not prevent the wrong person from using them unsafely, but we accept the regulations and driving laws because we accept that having some common sense in our regulation of them has a limiting effect on what can go wrong with them.
Guns are ENTIRELY for purposes of killing. Yes, they can be used effectively to put some meat on the table, as a deterrent to the man breaking into your house in the middle of the night, or as a protection for those who are charged with leading or serving society. Their purpose is ONLY as an instrument of injury or death though. Yes, no amount of regulation will deter the wrong person from using them unsafely, but we should accept that having some common sense in our regulation of them can have a limiting effect on what can go wrong with them.
Why is it that we can all accept that speed limits can be a good thing but that limits on how much ammunition you can shoot is controversial? Why is it that we are not all allowed to have a military tank in our driveways or a working, loaded cannon in our yards?
So, keep using your silly analogies for a variety of other machines we use in our lives that can also harm people. They all serve and are designed for other purposes. They kill when used the wrong way. Guns kill when used the way they are designed to be used.

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On Voting for the Romney/Ryan Ticket

You tell me that I should make the choice of changing leaders this November and support a new “direction.” What direction is it you’re asking me to go in again?

First, on a personal note, I have a President who respects my desire to marry the man I love, to share my life, my financial future, my (God forbid) hospital room, and then there’s the duo that wants to advance the notion that I am one of this nation’s problems, and that they somehow know more about what exists in my heart than I do.

I have a President who believes that I should have the chance to continue my education. I am a proud college student with principles, motivations, and values that I want help my community and world with. The access to that education through grants, scholarships, low interest college loans, and debt forgiveness is an access to personal competitiveness in society, and national competitiveness in the world. Then there’s the duo wants to limit and reduce access to that education by reducing investment in it. Borrow it from your parents, they say. Never mind the fact that an increase in college graduates increases the chance of success for the army of entrepreneurs they express to be fighting for so adamantly.

I have a President who worked hard and spent a great deal of political capital on advancing health care for all. It isn’t perfect, but improvement is always a work in progress and progress only comes from stepping into the dirt and pushing in the shovel for the first time, a process harmed by obstinate attitudes and falsehoods. Then there’s the duo who supported this cause when it was their own idea, but now wants to go backwards to a time when people could suffer pain in their lives and even die from causes that could be treated, but could not get access to that treatment. They say replace it, but they don’t seem interested in expressing any solid details on their plans to fix the nation’s health care environment that was broken to the point of creating an imminent danger to our economy and security. Consequently, this duo talks a good talk about national debt when lack of insurance adds to that debt due to uncovered people in emergency rooms. They detest the fake boogie man labeled the government bureaucrat making health care decisions, but have no issue with the corporate bureaucrat making health care decisions. Which bureaucrat do you want, the one who has to contend with the voting public or the one who is primarily motivated by the profit margins of stock holders?

I have a President whose 4 years in office have been marked by exploding profits and stock values for the companies that lost so much, and laid off so many before he took office. These companies are the ones not hiring, even though they face a business environment that has never been better. Then there’s this duo that wants to reward those companies with more tax cuts, with the notion that this will encourage them to hire people, even though this philosophy has been proven to not work. The loss of national income will be paid for by reducing investment in the living, breathing people of this country so that companies that ship jobs overseas can be invested in.

So, explain to me what choice it is that I have this November? I am to vote against my own self-interests and the interests of the people and communities that I care about. I am to take my vote and choose a President and a party that has boldly and unashamedly sought every chance to barricade any progress? I am to take my vote and choose those whose strategy of obstruction was set on day 1. I am to choose a party who had no issue with expressing that their main motivation was not helping the people of this country, but winning back the seat of the Presidency. Please, tell me what choice it is you are asking me to make, because it looks me to that you are asking me to be a fool!

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Business Success = Political Success?

I fail to see how having been a business owner translates into having the right skills to lead a country. Sure, the experience likely has some effect on your economic knowledge, but it is one facet among many — and that experience isn’t necessarily a plus depending on what kind of success was achieved, and how. A business, for the most part, provides products or services with an interest in making profits. A businessman would make a fine advisor for economic issues, but a President should be someone who takes into account more variables than running a country like a CEO would entail. I, for one, don’t want a President with a businessman’s perspective. I want a President who considers policy based on the benefit to the society as a whole, with economic success being one. With national wealth steadily becoming more centralized to a few, too many are not benefiting from our so-called status as the richest nation on Earth. We need priorities that aren’t simply about helping business owners save more money — at the expense of public safety, health, or to the detriment of everyone else.

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July 9, 2012 · 7:30 pm