What Can We Afford?

I heard a thoughtful politician on the radio this morning.  Of course he was “thoughtful” enough that he refused to answer yes-or-no questions with a “yes” or a “no” because he had to get to his talking points, but at least his talking points were thoughtful reflections on what he had heard at a town hall meeting he had convened in the district he represents in Nebraska.  The topic was the much-maligned Affordable Care Act (known disparagingly by its opponents as “Obamacare” and known adoringly by its supporters as “Obamacare”), an act that audaciously attempted to ensure medical coverage to everyone in the richest nation on the planet.  It might have succeeded, too, had not half of our elected federal representatives refused to support anything that President Obama proposed, and had not the other half pushed through a bill that they hadn’t even read.  But when the party-line politician on the radio this morning refused to answer a yes-or-no question and instead turned to his albeit thoughtful talking points about how he doesn’t want to leave anyone in the U.S. without health insurance (although he attempted to obstruct all progress on this exact issue when Obama was President), I can’t help but call “bullshit.”

If I were a praying man, I would pray that the current obstructionists — I mean minority party in the federal government — are not hell-bent on obstruction and resistance, but instead on, I don’t know, maybe governing.  I’d pray that they work with their opponents — I mean colleagues — in Congress.

Should they — should we — resist specific deplorable actions that consolidate power in the hands of the few, decrease civil liberties, and exacerbate fears of otherness?  Yes we should.  And we should articulate alternative narratives to those exact issues: how the powerful few have a social obligation to serve the many that grant them power; how the real American values that we should be proud and protective of are the ever-increasing granting of civil liberties to all; and how otherness and diversity and difference are not to be feared, but instead how we are always stronger together when we can draw upon our differences as we brainstorm and compromise to make the world a better place — not for the few, not just for the majority, but for all.

Resistance with purpose: not resistance for itself, Tea-Party style or Anarchist style that says to hell with the system.  Frankly, there are a lot of good things about the system, things I’ve mentioned on this blog before: public education, roads and bridges, parks, health care, social security, police, libraries, trash collection, sewage, clean water, diplomacy with other governments, consumer protections, environmental protections, workforce protections, renters’ protections, financial protections, a system of enforced public justice with agreed-upon laws and freedoms…. (https://frankcornerblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/drawing-lines/)

I’m voting for individuals who work with others, not in opposition to them.  I prefer democracy — government of, for, and by the people — to anarchy or fascism or oligarchy  or plutocracy.

And on the issue of health care: I’m voting for health care for all, not only because we can afford it, but also because we can’t afford not to have it.  Even in terms of dollars spent (not my favorite calculation, but one that I’m willing to use to argue for a more equitable system), emergency health care costs more than regular preventative health care, so we would save money if everyone had health insurance.  Why should health care be limited to the healthy?  (Thank you, Affordable Care Act, for finally forcing for-profit insurance companies to provide coverage for pre-existing health conditions.)  Why should health care be limited to the wealthy? (Republicans, your current draft penalizes the poor and rewards the rich, and there is no logic for this other than to keep power in the hands of the few; I’m resisting that.)

We can’t afford resistance for its own sake — it leads to costs (social, environmental, moral, even economic) rather than compromise.  Let’s be thoughtful in what we resist and let’s offer alternatives when we resist.

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Open Letter to Senator Orrin Hatch

Dear Senator Hatch,

Full disclosure: I was born and raised in Utah — and, to answer the first question that follows, I was born and raised and baptized as a Mormon — but I’ve left the state — and the LDS religion — and my ears prick up whenever I hear news from Utah (for example, see my post https://frankcornerblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/across-the-aisle/). I want you to know that I oftentimes find myself in the awkward position of defending my home state (which I’ve chosen to leave), its peoples (with whom I have some disagreements), and even the religion with which it is bound (and with which I have broken my binds), because, despite doing reprehensible things like pouring millions of dollars into anti-gay legislation, I know that the State of Utah and the LDS Church are both full of good people — not always excusable, and certainly not a monolithic homogeneous single-minded entity, but I am personally familiar with countless Utah Mormons in whom I have faith: that their goodness will outweigh some heinous social influences of powerful institutions and individuals.  I hope you are not one of those individuals, Senator Hatch, but your recent comments make me wonder.

Specifically, when you responded to the news about the United States Attorney General committing perjury by lying under oath to the United States Congress about his personal actions that could be related to the very serious acknowledged fact that a foreign government interfered in the supposedly democratic election of the United States President, the significance of which undermines the integrity of the very democracy about which we continue to be so proud, and the continued legitimacy of which is dependent on the United States Justice Department that is currently run by a known perjurer (not to yet get into the details about his troubling racist ideology), dear Senator Hatch, why did you respond by saying, “My concern is, why are our Democratic senators so doggone rude” to Mr. Sessions?

Is that what you want to know about why the Attorney General lied to you in his Senate confirmation hearings, both in spoken and written word? “In the beginning was the Word,” reads one translation of one of your holy books, “and the Word was with God,” and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s words are lies. And you wonder about the doggone words that other senators use who are trying to bring justice to the Justice Department?

Let’s put this in context. The G.O.P. (to which you proudly claim membership) as a monolithic homogeneous single-minded entity spent the last eight years with their primary and stated objective being to block everything that President Barack Obama wanted to accomplish.  President Obama, let’s remember, was without question fairly elected by the American people, twice, and he wanted to bring hope and change to American politics, and he pulled the country out of our worst recession since the Great Depression, and, in the end, he admitted to being a friend of gays (this must have rubbed you the wrong way — is it because he is actually more Christ-like and loving than you are?), and, as we all know, he is also black (and perhaps this rubbed you the wrong way, too, as your church didn’t see fit to grant blacks religious authority until 1978, although you were willing to take their tithing as soon as you could convert them). With that context, I’m personally a little bit more interested in why the Republicans have been so doggone rude.

Let’s provide some more context. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, you might remember, was rejected by Congress for a federal judgeship, but you might not remember this because when it was being reviewed during Sessions’ most recent Senate confirmation hearings, Senator Elizabeth Warren was not allowed to read a letter from Coretta Scott King (she’s the wife of perhaps our nation’s best known civil rights leader, in case you’d forgotten) explaining why Sessions’ explicitly racist actions made him unfit for the job. Interestingly, Senator Warren was not allowed to read the letter through the invocation of an almost-never-used Senate rule by your own Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (he looks a lot like you, I think …). At the time of Sessions’ first round of Senate confirmation hearings, Congress agreed with Coretta Scott King, and they did not appoint him. No matter. Congress’s recent change of heart, I’m sure, is just that they’re becoming more Christ-like, forgiving Sessions his past wrongs.

Except, it turns out, his wrongs aren’t limited to the past. Some of his first attempted actions as Attorney General were to drop U.S. legal cases against states that have clearly racist voter suppression laws, and also to stop investigations into the explicitly racist actions of local police forces. To me, these actions seem pretty rude, and I want you to know that I don’t give a goddamn what language my elected representatives use to stop such injustice.

Frankly yours,

vomit

No fiction from Frank tonight. Instead he is vomiting in response to the current President of the United States’ first address to a joint session of Congress, and in response to too many of those chambers’ sycophantic responses to illogical egotistical blather, many of those same hypocritical clappers having obstructed democracy and progressive politics for the last 8 years.

Follies

My apologies to those who might be offended by me calling my president a fool, but if you, like me, have been a fan of any of the ideas of then-candidate now-President Donald J. Trump then please hear me out.  This post is not about Trump’s ideas, whether conservative or populist or anti-establishment or …. This post is about Donald J. Trump the man, and calling him out as the fool that he is, not to be admired nor trusted nor accepted, regardless of which one or two or twelve or two hundred of his ideas you’re a fan of.

The reason for (and the importance of) this name-calling is that a fool can be a dangerous man when taken seriously, so we should call out and ridicule his foolishness to remind us to not take him seriously when he dangerously suggests that he will only accept an election result if it goes his way, or when he praises and encourages informational leaks that go his way but demonizes the leaks that don’t go his way, or when he is in such a position of power that he thinks he can brag about grabbing women by the pussy, threaten the world with actual nuclear weapons, or declare war on the independent media on which this country depends, without having the consequence that we cease to take him seriously and cease to give him power.  The man is acting the fool, and I will not endow his foolishness any of my power by granting him a serious audience.

Potentially dangerous, most of the time a fool is just a fool, like when he talks about a terrorist attack in Sweden that didn’t happen, or when he repeatedly falsely brags about the size of his electoral victory and the level of his popularity. A fool is a fool. And if he is masquerading as an emperor then we should call him out as the naked fool that he is.

Again, this is a separate issue from the man’s ideas. “Drain the swamp”? I happen to agree. But claiming to drain the swamp while filling his cabinet with wealthy self-serving inexperienced-but-loyal crocodiles? That’s foolish, and the man who does it is a fool.

A fool is a man who picks a fight with everyone he can — our allies, our neighbors, our scientists, his fellow politicians with whom he has been elected to govern, has-been actors, beauty-contest winners, reality-show hosts, the media, the justice system, the national intelligence community on which we all depend, a department store …. This guy is a fool. Perhaps we can appreciate someone who offers something new and different in politics, someone who claims to tell it like it really is. But when we see repeatedly that this guy is telling us bullshit, it means that he is not telling it like it is. Is he so foolish to think that he’ll fool us? Please don’t tell me that we’re foolish enough to let him fool us.

When he promises on camera, on the campaign trail, to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and then when he’s told that he can’t do that because our constitutionally-protected freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination prevent it, and he says, again on camera, that that’s fine because he’ll just make something up about Muslims’ country of origin rather than their religion in order to ban them, he can’t then claim that the ban is not religious in nature. He has just told us that it is! That’s foolish.

The man is not irredeemable. (Nor is our country.) He’s just a fool. Let’s call out his foolishness until he ceases to be a fool, because in the meantime a fool in power can do things that are not only foolish but also dangerous.

“Irresponsible and Dangerous” Delay Tactics

I read the news today: President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks are going to be voted on by the Senate before the nominees have been vetted by the Office of Government Ethics. Already, of course, there are threats by Democrats about delaying the votes, and counter-threats from Republicans like the following:

 

“Holding up confirmations just for delay’s sake is irresponsible and it is dangerous.”

 

That’s what Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. Cornyn, by the way, is one of the Senators who wrote a letter in February of 2016, ten days after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, promising in his letter to “withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President [Obama].” That was February of 2016, eleven months before Obama finishes his presidency. That means that Cornyn was actively delaying for a minimum of one year the placement of a ninth (potentially tie-breaking) Supreme Court Justice, leaving the country for a minimum of one year with an incredibly divided Supreme Court, unable to take on important cases because of nearly guaranteed outcomes that would be evenly split 4-4.

 

Frankly, then, Cornyn is a guy who doesn’t care about justice, based on the fact that he wants to obstruct the process of filling a vacant seat in the highest court in our national Justice Department. And he’s not alone: any obstructionist (Republican or Democrat or Tea Party or Freedom Caucus or Socialist or Independent) who is not willing to compromise is preventing government from functioning. This has been the expressed purpose of Tea Party politics, and it is now gaining traction among some on the left (see the Indivisible Guide, for example) who are tired of being defeated by uncompromising obstructionists.

 

But is that what’s going on with Democratic Senators requesting that members of our President-elect’s cabinet be vetted by the Office of Government Ethics before they’re approved? NO!

 

What’s “irresponsible and dangerous,” Senator Cornyn and your cronies, is not vetting people in government. It’s allowing a demagogue self-proclaimed billionaire to stuff his cabinet with other super-rich individuals without vetting them first. It’s irresponsible and dangerous to assume that these super-rich individuals – who have spent their lives looking out for their own self-interests – will care at all about the well-being of average Americans … or citizens of the world, for that matter, or the world itself, for that matter, as long as they make their personal un-taxable millions of dollars.

 

I’m sticking with the millions, not the millionaires. I’m sticking with ethics, not the abandonment of ethics. I’m calling out obstructionists like Cornyn who have refused to let government function while they’ve been elected to make government function, all the while proclaiming that government doesn’t function well. Frankly, it doesn’t function well because people who refuse to participate in it (obstructionists like Cornyn and Cruz and McConnell and many others) have somehow been elected to make it function. They don’t believe in the role of a functioning government, so let’s stop electing them to the government, and start electing people who believe there’s a role for government.

 

Wanna know who else wrote that letter of promised obstructionism with John Cornyn? Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, an Alabama Senator who has been nominated by Trump to be our national Attorney General. Yes, let’s rush the process to get this guy an even more important position in the federal government; let’s rush the process to get a guy who obstructs justice to be one of the highest voices of justice in the U.S. (besides the Supreme Court, but we know that Sessions and Cornyn don’t really care about a functional Supreme Court). Let’s rush the process to get Jeff Sessions into the President-elect’s cabinet: Jeff Sessions who believes in water-boarding and doesn’t believe in equal pay for women; believes in halting Muslim immigration and doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act; believes in wire-tapping without warrant and doesn’t believe in equal rights for our LGBTQ population. That is irresponsible and dangerous.

 

As of the writing of this blog post, it has not been announced which nominees, in particular, have not completed the paperwork for the Office of Government Ethics. They should all be vetted before they take a position in our federal government.

Drawing Lines

I had to compromise on my vote for president this year, and I am hoping this draws us together, you and I, because I’m guessing that every single voter had to compromise. No voter had the choice of their absolute perfect candidate on the ballot – this is probably even true for the candidates themselves, because politics is a practice of compromise. Assuming that we all had to compromise, I want to give the benefit of the doubt to people who voted differently than I did – for example, I can assume that they’re not sexist and racist (some of the observed traits that made me, personally, not vote for Trump) because there were a lot of issues at stake in the election, not just civil rights like gender equality and racial equality, and I can’t pretend to know exactly what motivated each individual Trump voter. But I have questions for current supporters of – or, I’d prefer to say: apologists for – Trump.

 

First, please know that I’m just a regular guy, trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense to me, and my personal method of making sense of the world is through writing – this way prevents me from being flippant: I’m less inclined to write things from a default knee-jerk automatic perspective than I am when I’m talking because 1) when I write I see my words on the page or screen and I realize that I will be held accountable to them – these written words right here, which I’ve authored, represent my perspective, and now you know it and you can quote my words, for better or worse, and I need to be prepared to be known by these words and to defend my perspective – whereas when I talk I can backtrack and rephrase and say, “no, that’s not really what I mean,” etc., and 2) when I write I have more time to be precise than during a live in-person conversation. So, these are my thoughts. And if you read this, please realize you’re reading the thoughts of a regular guy – I work, I pay my taxes, I come home to my family – and not someone with any ulterior motive except to try to figure out what doesn’t make sense to him, that is, to me.

 

I want to write about when we choose to draw a line, in this case, when we deem something unacceptable and we’re not willing to compromise. However, I realize that my framework assumes that a line needs to be drawn. So once I start on my actual topic I will already have revealed that my mind’s made up and that I think too many lines have been crossed, and readers who are inclined to disagree with me will automatically retreat to their side of the line, and nothing will change and we’ll continue to be combative and antagonistic, a nation bifurcated. Possibly. But I’m not asking for a recount, I’m just asking for understanding. I try to be open-minded, but there are some things I really don’t understand, and I don’t know what to do about that except put my words out there in the hope that, as I’ve thought through them enough to write them down, they may actually convince someone, and the world will then make a little bit more sense to me. Or, alternatively, someone can respond and try to help me understand what doesn’t currently make sense to me.

 

What doesn’t make sense to me is the continued excusing of what seems to me to be Donald Trump’s inexcusable behavior, and I would like to know from Trump apologists where they might draw the line, if not at the following points.

 

Is it when he put out a full-page newspaper ad calling for the execution of 5 brown-skinned boys (the so-called “Central Park Five”) who were wrongly arrested for rape and later exonerated through DNA evidence? (Now this man with evident bias and a questionable sense of justice will be in charge of nominating at least one Supreme Court Justice.) If that’s excusable, how about the fact that he has never apologized for this? (Maybe asking for an apology is a silly thing and I need to move on from such petty requests as making certain that my president believes in a system of justice where people are innocent until proven guilty.)

 

Is it when he claimed billionaire status and also claimed that not paying taxes makes him smart? (Yeah, but what do taxes really pay for … except for our infrastructure and schools and police and military and environmental protections and consumer rights and….)

 

Is it when he has claimed that he will release his taxes (as every president in the history of our nation until now has done) and he doesn’t release them? (But clearly he doesn’t have anything to hide. It’s not like he has business dealings around the world and many lawsuits filed against him … of course we all know he does.)

 

Is it when he cheated earnest students out of an education at Trump University? Is it when he settled the case for $25M without ever apologizing? (Yes, but how can we really put an accurate value on education? Again, wasn’t it just a smart business decision, in this case for him to defraud innocent students?)

 

Is it when he installed for himself a golden throne? Is it when he turned his own name into a brand? (Okay, maybe this stuff is excusable even though it is disgustingly egotistical, because I guess you have to have a certain amount of hubris to run for President, so maybe I should let him off the hook. After all, now he’s going to be President, not a businessman … it’s just his own children who will run his business [no conflict of interest there! not when they’re already sitting in on meetings with foreign dignitaries], and his son-in-law who will be in his Cabinet, and his name that continues to be sold out and funneling money back to the Trump family, and….)

 

Is it when he bullied the other Republican presidential candidates, domineering the debates and creating slanderous monikers for his rivals? Is it when you realized he continues to pick fights with has-been celebrities even while he’s campaigning to be President of the United States of America? Is it when he mocked a disabled guest at one of his own political rallies? (But it’s not like he’s setting an example for the rest of the nation….)

 

Is it when you learned that he ranks women on a scale of 1 to 10? (Maybe that’s not enough to demonstrate his illegitimacy to be president on account of his obvious sexism.) How about when footage is released of him as a 60-year old man bragging that he’s so famous that he can grab women “by the pussy”? (That’s his language, by the way. But I guess we don’t have actual footage of him grabbing women “by the pussy,” so maybe I just need to accept that his style of “locker-room talk” [his language] is acceptable and that women are really just objects to grope.)

 

Is it when he ridiculed Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a U.S. soldier who died while fighting for our country? Or when he defended his action by trying to explain how much he has sacrificed for the country? (It’s not like he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth … it was probably gold.)

 

Is it when he perpetuated a silly but slanderous rumor that our President, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States?

 

Is it when he co-opted all of the major U.S. news media outlets for nearly a whole day, promising a big announcement, which boiled down to one really old bit of news (that our President of 8 years, Barack Obama, was, as all evidence has always shown, born in the United States) and one false bit of slanderous news (the bogus claim that Hillary Clinton started the “birther movement” challenging Obama’s right to be president, a campaign for which Donald Trump himself had been a major – if not the major – advocate)?

 

Is it when he threatened to not accept the election results? Is it when he tweeted with no evidence that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton, and again with no evidence – in fact, with all evidence to the contrary – tweeted that he actually won the popular vote? (And then why is it that he doesn’t want a recount?)

 

Is it when, after winning the election, he named as his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor: Stephen Bannon, a man who has run a white supremacist news outlet? Is it when he named as Attorney General: Jeff Sessions, a man who believes in water-boarding and doesn’t believe in equal pay for women; believes in halting Muslim immigration and doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act; believes in wire-tapping without warrant and doesn’t believe in equal rights for our LGBTQ population?

 

Is it when he implied that Mexican immigrants are rapists? (Surely he didn’t imply that Mexican immigrants are all rapists? Judge for yourself; here’s what he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. […] They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Oh, thank goodness: although he knows that they’re rapists, he also assumes that some of them are good people. Given his sexist rhetoric and the footage of him in the “Access Hollywood” video aforementioned, perhaps he’s claiming that they’re rapists and good people.)

 

Is it when he claimed, “Islam hates us”? (Oh, maybe he’s right, it’s not like Islam is one of the world’s major religions … oh wait, I guess about one quarter of the world’s population is Muslim.) If his quote is not antagonistic and irresponsible and inaccurate enough, do you draw the line when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”? (It’s not like we’re a country of immigrants founded on religious freedom and non-discrimination!)

 

Is it when, after a Broadway cast politely thanked the Vice President-Elect for attending their show and then made a polite public plea to the VP-Elect, Trump demanded via Twitter, “Apologize!”? (Yeah, but it’s not like he’s the President-Elect and will be our Commander in Chief with the world’s largest military and intelligence apparatus at his command. His threat doesn’t really matter, right?)

 

And this brings me back to the beginning of my list. I guess if the President Elect can demand an apology for polite civil discourse then it’s not unreasonable for me to request an apology for his impolite behavior, which is not presidential, not American, and just plain unacceptable. Let’s call it what it is – sexist, racist, rude – and demand better behavior of our President Elect, regardless of how you voted.

 

Frankly Yours,

Frank

Open letter to my fellow straight white male natural-born citizens of the USA

We won. Now that we’ve elected Donald J. Trump as the next President of our country, and now that we’ll get our jobs and our industries back, and our paychecks will be ours to keep, and we won’t have to pay into some crazy healthcare scam, and, importantly, now that we’ve proven that we’re back at the top of the American totem pole as the hard-working original true creators of the American dream, like our founding fathers, straight white men born right here in the U.S.A., not giving up our family values for the sake of political correctness and not ashamed of our locker-room talk that we all know is common place; now that we’re victorious again at the national level, I hope you’ll join me in declaring our beliefs loud and clear. We’re in power, so let’s make it matter:

 

  1. As Jesus suggested we do, according to the Biblical Book of Luke, I believe in trying to stand with the least among us. To me, that means that if and when YOU are downtrodden, depressed, victimized, the target of discrimination or unjust policies or traditions or behaviors, I stand with YOU. As long as your freedoms do not impinge on others’ freedoms (admittedly, this can get tricky), I stand with YOU. If you are a child or a woman (or an adult or a man), if you’re queer (or straight), if you’re a member of a minority (or not), or if you’re an unemployed white male who needs social assistance, and regardless of your religion or place of birth or place of residence, I stand with you, because I can, because we can, because we are stronger together.

 

  1. I believe in the power and role of government to do good work. Admittedly, any institution will have inefficiencies, but I prefer a government elected to look out for all to a collective of individuals looking out for themselves, the latter of which perpetuates inequalities, privileges wealth, and inspires violence (without government, and sometimes even with government, “might makes right,” and that’s not right). Government means public education, roads and bridges, parks, health care, social security, police, libraries, trash collection, sewage, clean water, diplomacy with other governments, consumer protections, environmental protections, workforce protections, renters’ protections, financial protections, a system of enforced public justice with agreed-upon laws and freedoms…. I like all of those things. I want all of those things. Government employees (municipal, state, and federal) are my neighbors, and their salaries are paid by my taxes, and their work is paid by my taxes, and that is a small price to pay to have all of those things I listed that government provides. Without government we are on our own, every person for him- or herself, threatened by a neighbor who has a bigger arsenal and a different idea of our property lines, or what I do in my bedroom, or how I worship or don’t. Our government is us – our collective representatives enacting our collective values.

 

  1. And in order to make that last statement as true as possible – in order to make our government most like us – I believe in representative democracy. No doubt I would like to see our representative democracy improved. For example, I would like to remove (if possible) – or at the very least reduce – the influence of money in politics. Having more money should not result in having more influence. That is one of the things that government can work to protect us from. Abandoning government is not the solution because then wealth and the threat of violence will have even more influence than they do now. I prefer a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

 

  1. Besides getting money out of politics, another thing that would improve our representative democracy is to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to vote, because I believe that representative democracy works best when people participate. Inmates should be able to vote; immigrants should be able to vote; young and old should be encouraged to vote; people who work multiple jobs should have an easy way to vote; citizens who are outside of the country at the time of election should have an easy way to vote. The more of us who vote, the more representative our democracy is, and I will risk offending readers by suggesting that if you do not want as many people as possible to vote then you don’t truly believe in a representative democracy, and I would ask you to examine why you don’t think some people deserve to be represented by their government.

 

  1. One of the reasons I believe in the benefits of a representative democracy is because I believe in humanity, and I mean this in a couple of ways. First, I believe in humans’ general goodwill – in other words, it’s a rare person who (or it’s a rare moment when a person) seeks to do harm. Most of the time that we assume people are seeking to do harm, when we get to know their desires a little better we realize that they have a different idea of what’s good than we do, and they are, most of the time, seeking to do good, not to do harm. So, if we can understand each other better, and if we can calibrate (or compromise) on our senses of what’s good, and if we can respect other people’s rights, then we can all be humane to each other, and that is the second thing that I mean by saying that I believe in humanity: I believe in being “humane” (as our species-centric language puts it, which brings me to my next point).

 

  1. I believe in the Earth. She’s the only planet we’ve got, and it strikes me as absolutely crazy and short-sighted and immoral not to protect the Earth. For the record, this is coming from someone who doesn’t have children, so this is not about protecting the Earth for the sake of my grandchildren, as the saying goes: instead it’s about protecting the Earth for the sake of YOUR grandchildren and, frankly, for all sorts of other species and ecosystems as well. The Earth is where I live and what I know, and if my world-view were larger than the Earth then I might be less concerned about its fate … but then again, I might want to stand with it when it is the target of unjust policies, traditions, and behaviors. Shouldn’t it be a sign of our progress that we’re willing to take care of the least among us?

 

That’s my manifesto as a straight (mostly, not that it’s any of your business) white (according to the current social conventions of what it means to be “white,” which will undoubtedly change with time as they have changed throughout the past) male (according to my physiology and preference) natural-born citizen (by chance) of the United (questionably, but hopefully) States of America. Will you join me, my strong brothers?

 

Frankly,

 

Rural Resident of the United States, liberal (in terms of “advocating freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties” and trying to be “free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant”) but not part of the “liberal elite” (I make about $25,000 a year)

The Value of Donald Trump

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty” — John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

 

In the midst of a presidential campaign, with candidates making promises that they can’t keep and trying to convince voters that our values are in alignment with theirs, it is worth examining the candidates’ sentiments about both truth and beauty.  What do the candidates really value?

For Donald Trump, current front-runner of the Republican Party, this is what he values on the eve of another big day of state primaries, March 15, 2016:

“The beauty would be, if we win Ohio, if we win Florida, we can start attacking Hillary, and we don’t have to attack each other.”

That’s a strange sense of beauty to me: the attack.  Notice that for him some type of attack seems inevitable, his assumption being that he has to attack in order to win.  Notice that he’s not looking to stop attacking, but like any ego-maniac who is determined to wield as much power as possible, he is trying to convince listeners that they are (currently at least, or potentially) part of his “we,” so that “we” can feel justified in consolidating more power and attacking others.  That sounds to me like the character of some frightening individuals we’ve encountered in world history.  (Watch out if he ever decides you’re not part of his “we.”)  Unlike the speaker in John Keats’ poem who equates beauty with truth, Donald’s aesthetic has nothing to do with truth but is instead a violent assertion.  To me this represents the worst in American traditions: when we use our power to bully others; when we are self-righteous without self-reflection; when we choose violence over dialogue, attack over understanding.  That is not beautiful to me, and it is not what I value and not what I will vote for.

The truth of the matter is that the attack mindset perpetuates violence and misunderstanding rather than beautiful alternatives like peace and collaboration.  Based on Donald’s aesthetic as he stated it above, as well as on his performance as a businessman and actor and politician thus far in his life, he will move from attacking one enemy to another (whether that’s within his party, within his nation, or between nations or between citizens), the way the U.S. moves from enemy to enemy in the Middle East, supporting the Taliban to overthrow the Soviets, then attacking the Taliban, etc. ad nauseum and ad infinitum, with ever more and ceaseless attacking, in a state of perpetual warfare.  Does this match your sense of beauty?

Do you want a blood-thirsty ego-maniac as president of the most powerful nation on earth, always looking for the next fight, pre-emptively attacking because he is afraid of anybody else demonstrating strength?

It is more beautiful to me to recognize one’s power and use it to empower others.  I want as my leader not someone who is always looking to increase his own power and wealth but someone who, frankly, cares about truth and beauty.

All Lives Matter?

“Police Lives Matter.”  We all want to live in a society that is safe enough to ensure that our rights are protected.  The police protect us individually and serve us all communally.  As civil servants they nobly dedicate themselves to the common good, upholding the rule of law that we have together established and inherited through mostly peaceful democracy.

And the police are well compensated for their civil service.  Generally higher paid than teachers, police also enjoy a high level of societal respect.  Finally, police are powerful members of our society because of the authority they wield, and they are well protected by the law that they enforce.  In contemporary society, there is no doubt that police lives matter.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for black lives in contemporary America, and that is why it is important to speak out about ongoing injustices toward black Americans, and why I think it is disrespectful in the current climate to emblazon your vehicle with the bumper sticker “Police Lives Matter.”

It is for the very reason that police lives already do matter in society that I find it disheartening to see that bumper sticker flash past me on the interstate, the driver (white, incidentally) flagrantly flouting the speed limit law with no apparent understanding of the fact that, were he to be pulled over by the police for breaking the law, his whiteness would almost guarantee that his encounter with police would not jeopardize his safety, and yet, were he black, there would be a much higher chance that, through no fault of his own, his encounter with police — who are tasked with protecting all of us, keeping all of us safe, ensuring all of our rights — might actually lead to a decrease in his protection, a decrease in his safety, a decrease in his rights, purely because his skin is a certain shade.  This may not necessarily be the fault of the police, but it is a statistic that we should all be aware of, perhaps especially the police who have nobly dedicated themselves to the common good, to the protection and safety and rights of all of us.

We should all empathize with that innocent black driver, and his situation should be justification for us all to commit to creating a society in which black lives matter.  There is no immanent threat to whiteness, and there is no need to detract from an important civil rights and social justice movement — Black Lives Matter — to remind us that police lives already do matter.  We know they do.  One need only see the results of the last dozen high-profile national-news trials in which a policeman was not held accountable for killing an innocent black person, to remind us that police lives already do matter.

The contemporary issue is how to ensure that Black Lives Matter, because if we all want to live in a society that is safe enough to ensure that our rights are protected, then all lives need to matter.  Empathize with the police, sure — because they have to make difficult decisions; because they wield authority that might make them targets of violence; because they are on the front lines of changing our currently racist society in which 1 out of every 3 black men in the U.S. can expect to be imprisoned in their lifetime (according to the Bureau of Justice) — but don’t apologize for prejudice, and don’t distract from a civil rights movement because you might be afraid of losing a war of racial dominance.  There is no war, and a person’s skin color should not determine the extent to which his rights are protected.

If you agree that you want to live in a society that is safe for all of us, then in this contemporary moment please commit with me to ensuring that Black Lives Matter.

Across the Aisle

(written January 22, 2016)

Yesterday, as I mentioned in the previous post, I met a neighbor — I don’t know her politics — and we had a pleasant exchange.  This morning I woke up to some disturbing news coverage that made me wonder how much yesterday’s pleasant exchange was dependent on me not knowing my neighbor’s politics.

In the news coverage this morning, the reporter was asking why members of the national House of Representatives of Congress were supporting a particular presidential candidate, and one Representative explained,

“When I go on the other side of the aisle, and I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle…”

So far, it’s acceptable: I wish we didn’t so clearly have two sides of the aisle, but given that we do, thank goodness our elected politicians are actually talking to each other across that gigantic aisle.  But here is what she asks her colleagues, in her words:

“Who would they least like as the GOP nominee.”

Fine.  Maybe she wants to know who they would least like so that she can automatically disregard that candidate (there are, after all, at this point in the presidential campaign, at least a dozen candidates from her party), because they will all have to work together, right?  Unfortunately not.  Representative Mia Love from Utah explained that she is making her choice for whom to elect as President of the United States based on which candidate her colleagues least want.

Does this strike anyone else as absolutely absurd, a serious sign of dysfunction at our national level of democracy?  This elected official, a member of the United States Congress, is selecting a candidate for the position of President of the United States — head of the executive branch of government, figurehead of the most powerful nation on Earth, arguably the most powerful person in the world — based on her understanding that her colleagues in the national legislative body do not like this candidate, who, if elected, they will be expected to work with if they are to do any governing at all, any positive political action.  Evidently she has a very different notion than I do about what it means to be a colleague, and about how our political system should work, and in fact the only way a democratic political system can work, that is, by working with each other and not in opposition to each other.

There are alternatives to Ms. Love’s politics.  One option is that she could ask  her constituents their opinions, and she could choose to represent those who elected her to office in her choice of presidential candidate.  Alternatively, and also validly, she could consider her election a mandate to act with her best judgment, and she could choose the candidate whom she personally feels is best qualified for the position.  Finally, an effective alternative is that she could act in precisely the opposite way that she is acting: she could consult her congressional colleagues and identify the candidate whom they could work with, and she could choose that candidate because she might actually want to get some positive politics accomplished while she’s in office.

Instead, she demonstrates how entrenched we currently are in obstructionist politics, absurdly turning every issue into us versus them, as if there are two sides rather than the myriad aspects of any political issue that should be discussed, defended, argued, listened to, re-thought, and compromised on.  Democratically elected, this representative has publicly proclaimed her disdain for democracy by discarding her own right to think and participate in government; she is, I think it’s fair to say, not making a choice, but has instead given her choice over to the too-common lie of Republican versus Democrat, to the stupid idea that citizens of the same nation and even members of its legislative branch of government are in opposition with each other.

She should be demonstrating how we can work together!  What is she in politics for if not to effect positive change?  Does she want the debate and compromise of a democracy, or does she want war, with its violence and its victories and its resulting totalitarian regimes that do not permit colleagues on the other side of the aisle?

Frankly yours,

Frank

(Quotes are taken from interviews on NPR’s Morning Edition program, January 22, 2016.)