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April 30, 2013

Without tolerance, there’s something missing…

So, I’ll just admit it. Five years ago, I was a hater. A big time hater who eschewed most of what he believed in in order to advocate for what he believed in. I think the technical term for this is hypocrite. And like most things, it got worse before it got better (assuming I can justifiably call where I am now better… I have no idea how I will judge myself in five more years).

hater

This little epiphany came to me shortly after I was sorting through and processing news related to Jason Collins, specifically the reactions of other people to his announcement. This may seem unrelated to what follows, but bear with me… they connect (at least in they mystical ether more commonly referred to as my brain). A friend came up to me and showed me a picture on Facebook with President Bush and President Obama standing together with a caption that read something like “like if you think Bush was a better President.”

Laughter ensued, and a few snarky comments as well. But then it struck me, there are a lot of people who would be inclined to hit that like button. A lot of good, intelligent, compassionate people for that matter. And here I was mocking them, and then… suddenly… I was transported back in time to 1984 with the sage words of none other than the great prophet General Public resounding through my mind and into my soul:

I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it
I open my mouth and out pops something spiteful
Words are so cheap, but they can turn out expensive
Words like conviction can turn into a sentence

Hyperbole aside, this is where my mind went. I pointed out to my friend that, in fact, there is a group of people who really sincerely believe that President Bush was the better leader of the free world. I went on to say (in my mind) “who am I to berate them for that?” Our country is deeply divided right now over… well.. pretty much everything. This is not because one side is clearly right and the other side is clearly wrong (if that were true we wouldn’t be so deeply and evenly divided); more-so, it is because we are investing so much time and energy in pretending that the other side is clearly wrong – and deriding them for it – that we aren’t spending any (or at least enough) time actually trying to come up with solutions.

I, for example, in my excitement to support the candidate I had chosen, jumped firmly on the waxing tide of vitriol being heaped on outgoing President Bush as part of the Obama campaign. Completely ignoring the fact that Bush was not running in 2008, so anything dumped on him had nothing to do with the election that year. What I saw in Obama, a chance for progress toward general equality and tolerance I was conveniently evading in my own political rhetoric.

Coming back to Mr Collins announcement yesterday. I am happy, impressed and (more than anything else) thankful with/to him for taking that all important first step and “coming out.” I was also overwhelmed with the initial outpouring of positive emotion and support for him from athletes and others. Then some of the “other” responses started to trickle in. Mark Jackson said:

“As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”

This was actually filed under the “positive” responses… I didn’t take it that way (I’m not going to go into how I did take it as that would run contrary to what I’m trying to say with this post… you can be your own judge).

Mike Wallace posted an update on twitter wondering why, with so many attractive females around, a guy would want to mess around with another guy. An ESPN reporter went off on a bit of a rant about living in sin and what it was or was not to be Christian.

It was Mr. Wallace’s comments that really struck me. My instant (in my mind, again) response was something along the lines of:

That’s like asking a football player (which he is) – “with so many good basketball games going on, why would you want to waste your time on football” – or, asking a person who is eating Thai food – “with so many good Italian joints out there, why would you take your chances on Thai”…

In short, it’s a matter of taste. My sister (despite being brought up in a good family and being loved as a child) loves (**LOVES**) mayonnaise. I, by contrast, loath the fact that it exists and might accidentally get on a spoon I could possibly use months (and numerous washings) later. Other than the fact that *I think* she is bat-shit crazy for liking the stuff, there is nothing wrong with my sisters view. Further, no amount of intense personal loathing of the creamy white menace on my part will make her wrong (let alone change her taste for it).

There is also nothing wrong with Mr. Collins being more attracted to men than to women. In a more open, equal society he might be just as confused about why Mr. Wallace likes women as Mr. Wallace is currently confused about Collins predilection toward men. And that’s the thing, we should be able to treat someones sexual orientation (or political views) like my sister and I treat her taste (or my lack thereof) for mayonnaise (with respectful levity if anything at all).

But somehow we can’t. Bush has to be a villain and the worst President in history, God has to hate fags, I’m supposed to hate Mike Wallace (or Chris Culliver before him) and on and on it goes. What we fail to grasp, at times, is that while something may be a complete abomination to some of us (I’m looking at you, mayonnaise), what someone else feels about it is none of our business. Even when we view it as a sin or a blight against humanity we also need to remember that people are blessed with free will and can sin, blight, and abominate to their hearts content… so long as they are not harming others in the process. It is not our job to “fix” them, and even if it were… hating on them won’t do it.

The same friend who brought me the picture this morning also made the point to me yesterday that people shouldn’t be chided for openly and honestly sharing their feelings (ALA Mr. Wallace), even if they run contrary to the feel good mood of the day. And he’s right. He’s right because at the end of the day it’s not how well we articulate our opinions of someone else’s views that will make the world a better place, but rather, how well we tolerate, understand and ultimately respect those views no matter how much we might disagree with them.

January 21, 2009

Hail to the Chief!

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 2:40 am

Monday a friend of mine had a conversation in which she said something to the effect of “I’m so glad Obama is going to be sworn in tomorrow, and the fact that he is a black man is just the icing on the cake.” To which one of her acquaintances responded with vitriol and accused her, in essence, of racism (I don’t use the term “reverse racism” to me racism and bigotry is racism and bigotry, no matter which way it is flowing) and hypocrisy.

She and I discussed the matter a little bit and while I agreed that the other individual was way out of line and mistaken, I also had a caution for her. The issue, of course, is that a statement that implies it is significant that a black person can accomplish something can also serve to reinforce the belief and stereotype that it is remarkable or amazing for a black person to do what white people have been doing for the past 200+ years.

While it is historic that we have the first African-American president, it is not historic because Obama has elevated himself to some great level. It is not historic because a black man has transcended the limitation of his race. Rather, it is historic because the general public has finally accepted the long standing, yet heretofore unacknowledged, fact that the best person for the job might not always be a white guy.

In his speech today, Obama indirectly alluded to this very fact when he did not talk about his personal accomplishment, but rather that of the country. A country, which just a few short decades ago would not have served him coffee in many of its restaurants, but on November 4th of this year, elected him as its President.

Today was a landmark day for minorities, the message resonates loud and clear: the glass ceiling can be broken; the barriers of ignorance, prejudice and bigotry can be overcome.  The competent, can in fact, aspire to the heights to which they are qualified. No longer held back by the fictitious binds of perception, they are free to be everything they are capable of being.

Today was also a landmark day for the majority, no longer are we required to carry the burden of living in a society dominated by ignorance and intolerance. Certainly bigotry still exists, however, the number of open minds in our society has reached the critical mass required to make a difference.

Today the personification of that difference, that evolution, that change took the Presidential oath of office in Washington DC. The manifestation of the intersection of two opposing but interconnected journeys (the “black” quest for recognition and the “white” journey toward tolerance) is Barack Obama, a man I’m proud to call my President.

November 12, 2008

An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 2:30 pm

First of all, of course, I would like to congratulate you on being elected President of the United States of America. From my perspective this is a landmark election and the beginning of a truly remarkable journey. Your campaign was, for the most part, run cleanly and without vitriol (although, honestly, I could have done with a little less “more of the same” campaigning), and I cannot begin to express my appreciation for that. It was also a blueprint for efficiency and innovation, your staff deserves praise and congratulations as well.

I want you to know that I am excited and energized about our nation in a way I have never been before. When I was young, and traveling the world with my mother, one youth hostel at a time, many U.S. travelers would pretend they were from Canada so as not to be accosted by the anti-American sentiment of their fellow globe trotters. In some places it was literally considered unsafe to admit to being an American citizen. I can only conclude that this opinion has become worse rather than better, based on U.S. foreign policy decisions in the 20 years (my last trip abroad was in 1989). I believe the election of 2008 has the potential to stem the tide of this relatively global belief.

What has struck me the most about you during the campaign was your sensible, reasoned and balanced approach to the issues you have faced, and will face in office. The turning point for me, in selecting which candidate was going to get my vote, came in your “race speech.” Specifically, in these words:

That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

You then went on to say:

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

A clearer and deeper understanding of the whole picture I have never seen expressed by a person in a position to do actually something about it. It is that balanced approach that I am confident you will leverage against the problems of this nation, both global and domestic, that give me (if I may borrow the line) the audacity of hope.

I am excited, not necessarily by what I think you will accomplish during your (I hope) two terms, but by the manner in which I anticipate you engaging the issues that face you. Yours is not a Presidency that will be judged by its accomplishments, but rather on the quality and character of the effort put forth toward achieving (or failing to achieve) them.

I am energized because I feel that, like the principles this nations was built upon, and our constitution itself, you time in office and your actions during that time will be viewed, historically, under the lens of “intent” rather than “letter.” I’m not sure that, even with eight years in office, you will be able to resurrect America and solve all of her problems, but my hope for change is that you will reunite America with the dreams of its founders.

Or, in the words of so many parents across our nation, it will no longer be about whether we win or lose, but instead, how we play the game.

November 5, 2008

This doesn’t suck…

It’s not often that I use the same vid clip for two different posts in one week. It’s even less often that I use one from a kids movie. But, I’d like you to consider the second portion of this clip:

After ignorning the “smile and wave” portion, we are left with the “well… this sucks” portion. For those of you who have not seen Madagascar, let me provide the background for you. Those diminutive penguins have plotted since the beginning of the movie to get to Antarctica. To get there, they wound up hijacking the ocean liner pictured in the clip and navigating it to their destination.

Getting to Antarctica was their sole mission in life. They were focused, disciplined and determined, and in being so accomplished their lifelong dream… escaping from captivity in a New York zoo and reaching their homeland of Antarctica. However, what we see in the above clip is what happens when you set your sights on something without being prepared for what happens when you get there.

For our President-elect, I do not predict a “Madagascar moment,” however for the some of the people that voted for him, that campaigned for him, that donated money and time to him… I fear this may be their reality.

Last night Obama won the election, but those of us who elected him have not won anything yet. This election is not analogous to winning, or even getting to, the World Series. It is more similar to making the playoffs. It is from this point that the real work begins. We are now in the game, but are we ready to play?

Making real change will require maintaining, if not increasing, the energy and enthusiasm invested in the election process. Where we once spent our time advocating our candidate, we must now advocate the policies of our President. We must remain involved; engage our politicians and our fellow citizens. We must now, as never before, be the change we want to see in the world.

The good news is, if we do… it will not suck

October 22, 2008

Vote early, all the cool kids are doin it!

Filed under: Election 08 — sbj @ 5:29 pm

Vote early, remind your friends to vote, often. I have already voted and I cannot say enough about early voting. It is fast, easy, and best of all its on your schedule. You can find out the basics of voter registration, early and absentee, and pretty much anything you need to know about voting via this great service created by google. This is important and everyone can do it. Needs some inspiration?

Voting Picnic: the other day a co-worker reported taht when she went to vote, there was a group of about 12 women that had gotten together to have a picnic lunch book club meeting at the polling site. They all met there with their pot luck contribution and their books. Had their discussion and filtered through the voting booth. It was reported as a fun afternoon by all those that she talked to.

Voting Lunch: I went to vote on my lunch break. My best friend and myself headed off together to get our vote in and, of course, pleasant conversation the way and way back. Instead of trying to fit November 4th into my schedule, voting just became a great excuse to spend more time with a good friend.

Sticker Drive: A socnet friend of mine from another state has started a sticker drive. He is accepting the stickers of anyone who votes before November 4th. Friday night he is going to go out downtown, replacing as much clothing as possible with stickers. In other words, if enough people vote and provide him their stickers, he will be wearing nothing but “I voted” stickers while partying the night away. (This may or may not be a good thing… you be the judge… all I know is that I want pictures either way!!!)

The point, of course, is that unlike most important things, this one can actually be fun. So please, get out here and vote… and while your at it… have a little fun.

Speaking of which, if you get out and do have some fun while voting, please share here, I’d love to hear it, and I’m sure my other readers would as well!!! :)

October 21, 2008

You have to throw the grenade after you pull the pin, senator…

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 1:53 pm

Yesterday Senator Joe Biden, to whatever degree you may think, stuck his foot in his mouth. At a campaign stop in Seattle, he more or less said that Senator Obama was going to “invite” an international incident very early in his Presidency, He went on to say something to the effect of when this happens, we are going to need your support, not financially, but to stand us when it may look like we are making the wrong choice.

The actual words were not as bad as they appear here, I have given this a generous spin (for the Republican side) in order to make a bigger point.

Senator McCain did not waste a moment in starting to beat the “he’s not ready, and his own running mate agrees” drum. Honestly, I can’t blame him, when someone serves up a gopher ball, your sort of obligated to swing at it, if you want to stay in the game.

However, one again, McCain has proven how reckless and lacking in forethought he really is. Instead of leaving it there, he decided to push it out to the edge of the envelope, saying “we don’t want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.”

Perhaps a little history is in order for Senator McCain. The reason (yes there is a reason, these are not mindless savages striking out for the sake of striking out) that there is tension between the West and the Middle East is the West’s interference in Middle Eastern affairs. Wars, like the one in Afghanistan and to a far greater degree Iraq are a big part of this equation.

Senator McCain supports and encourages these wars. Don’t take my word for it, here’s McCain:

Senator, they are upset because we are there in the first place, sticking around for 100 years is, in fact, going to INVITE retribution.

Another major reason for attacks against the West, especially the United States is American arrogance, once again, Senator McCain:

The final significant piece fo the puzzle is Israel’s presence in th Middle East. While neither candidate offers much hope to the cause of the Islamic agenda with regard to Israel, at least Obama offers the hope of open reasoned discourse with any leader willing to sit across the table with him. McCain, more American arrogance…. he will not sit down without pre-conditions being established for the meeting.

There is no way to reasonably and objectively look at this and not see that, if a candidate represents a greater security risk to the United States, it is Senator John McCain. However, I would go so far as to say that even McCain will represent a reduction in the threat level to or incumbent. Noone, in the history of our nation, has done as much to tarnish our international image as President Bush.

Senator McCain, if you are going to stick with your negative campaigning, you might want to consider sticking to arguments that will not blow up in your face. But, then again, pragmatic decisions are not exactly your strong suit are they?

October 19, 2008

Anyone know a good plumber?

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 2:39 am

Since noone else has done it, I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss Joe the Plumber and his impact on this election and, more importantly, future ones.  You see, unlike others that think he had his 15 minutes and are gone now… I have longer lasting concerns.

What bothers me is the potential detrimental effect on the willingness of other citizens to speak up when given the opportunity to do so.  If it becomes reasonable to expect that when you question a candidate on the campaign trail you may wind up part of a nationally televised debate.  If, subsequently, you are having every aspect of your life exposed and commented upon, as if you were the one running for office, how many people are going to be willing to participate?

You don’t have to have tax debt or employment inequities to not want the media delving into your life and camping out on your front lawn.  You simply have to have a normal healthy desire to have your own life, be your own.

I’m disappointed in Senator McCain for dragging an innocent civilian “under the bus.”  This was not his intention, I’m quite sure, however I feel he should have investigated the possible outcomes before bringing a private citizen into the spotlight of a presidential election.  I have written before about his “seat of the pants” leadership style and this is the latest of many examples.

By an order of magnitude, I am even more disappointed in the media for launching the feeding frenzy  that was their investigation of Joe.  It appeared to be more important to discredit Joe, and therefore his points (many of which were very valid concerns, and remain so, despite the fact that he has personally been discredited) than it was to take into consideration for a moment that this was a person that never asked to be included in this circus.  He was just a man, standing in a line in his home town asking questions of the candidate he might, or might not, vote for in the upcoming presidential election.

So what happens when Obama or McCain come to your town and solicit questions in a line.  Are you going to unabashedly ask your question?  Or, somewhere in the recesses of you mind, are you going to be wondering if you are one step away from having a film crew at your front door?

It seems to me that there is a very real danger of quieting the electorate going forward.  And this is what I am afraid could become the real legacy of our friend, Joe the plumber.  A legacy that will not last 15 minutes, or 15 months, but could several election cycles to overcome… and that assumes that the media witchhunts stop, and stop now.  Something that I, for one, and not holding my breath about.

October 17, 2008

An open letter to Republican members of the Electoral College

Filed under: Election 08 — sbj @ 10:31 pm

Hello My Republican Friends,

I am writing you today, primarily, to express my condolences, in advance, for a race that seems to be pretty close to being over. I was especially appreciative of your candidate when he went out of his way in early October to attempt to curb the negativity at one of his events. Highly commendable!

I think John McCain was clearly the best of the Republican candidates and I was glad to see him wrap up his primary early. He, within the Republican party, most closely mirrors my views and gave me great hope that no matter who won the election, the overall direction of the country was going to improve.

However, for me, the wheels started to fall off when he selected Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate. I’m guessing that, by now, you are probably starting to regret that choice as well. Back then, Senator McCain was running neck and neck with Senator Obama. Now, a few short weeks, and countless talk show features recounting her many foibles, from that fateful day, your party finds itself almost hopelessly removed from contention.  It is never good to have a running-joke as a running-mate.

It’s that “almost”, however, that I’d like to talk to you about. You see, there is still hope. Anything can happen, and, Senator McCain could be right back in the ball game. That, in and of itself, is not the end of the world. However, electing Sarah Palin Vice President could be (I mean literally, it could be… what’s going to happen when she cannot “see” Russia anymore… how can she be expected to blindly trust them!!).

Many people don’t realize this, but, you, as electors, do not have to vote for her if Republicans win your state. That’s right, you can vote for McCain (you could vote for Obama too, but I realize that is a bit of a stretch) with your presidential vote, and then vote for someone completely different for vice-president*. Anyone you want!!! You could vote for yourself, your favorite elementary school teacher, even your pet rabbit (provided he, or she, was born in the United States and is 35 years of age, of course).

So, if McCain should win your state, remember, vote for anyone (and I mean anyone) but Palin for vice-President. Your candidate, your party, and your country will thank you. In fact, if you came out early and stated you were going to do so… it might just boost Senator McCains chances of winning. You should think about that… seriously… you should!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sbj

* The 12th Amendment of the constitution provides that each elector shall cast two votes one for the President and one for the Vice-President of their choice.

October 16, 2008

After further review, the ruling on the field stands…

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 8:50 am

Watching last nights Presidential debate the first time, I judged the debate “too close to call.”   In discussing the debate with friends online, many had the same reaction, despite the polls indicating that Obama had won by a large margin.

Watching the debate the second time, I was struck by something I missed the first time through.  Something that justified or at least supported the views of those polled by every major network, that Obama had, indeed, won the debate, handily.

What I saw, the second time around, was that, by and large, McCains responses were of the “knee jerk” or “fix it now” variety, with little or no sustainability.  In fact, in some cases, lack of sustainability was not an issue… because lack of feasibility (i.e. the number of Nuclear plants he intended to have in place in his first term, which is an impossible number by the most optimistic standards of the nuclear industry itself) pre-empted the evaluation of sustainability.

His “drill here, drill now” mantra resonates more as a wake up call regarding the general culture of excess, entitlement and sloth that is our “modern American society” than an actionable plan for reducing energy dependence.  By ignoring the simple fact that we lack the critical mass of reserves which would be required to provide a long term solution in favor of windfall profits and marginal short term leverage on the global market, McCain trades our future for immediate reward.  Now that’s a sub-prime mortgage… “my friends.”

His plan to toss a $5000 tax credit for people to purchase their own insurance ignores the growing number of people who cannot afford (even with the credit) to get insurance because of age or existing health concerns.  All of those people could very well be filling hospital emergency rooms shortly after his plan is adopted.  This drives up everyone else’s rates (marginalizing further the tax credit) and, in a far more tangible effect, places non-critical health issues in the direct path of medical emergencies by over crowding ER’s nationwide.

When called upon to defend his running mates qualifications to be President, his lack of judgement was again apparent.  In all honesty, if McCain had made a responsible choice for his vice-president, this election would probably still be very close.  Instead he chose a woman that his campaign is afraid to allow out of their sight and control, and who has bungled almost every one of the few interviews she has granted.  She was a running joke for weeks, during which time the race went from a relative tie to the one-sided affair it now at least appears to be.  To her credit, she gave a credible performance during the vice-presidential debate; however, at that point the damage had already been done.

The bottom line is that John McCain is not deliberate, contemplative or big picture oriented.  His judgement which has led to him being improperly labeled as a maverick, would be more properly categorized as capricious.

The change this country needs is not just in Washington, and it is not just in the failed policies of George Bush. It goes much deeper than that.  It is needed in every state, county, and city nationwide, and the changes must extend beyond policy, into our nations very character.  We need to bring our values back inline with those that made us the most powerful nation in the world.  We need to replace our society of excess with one of thrift, our notions of entitlement with those of accountability and our culture of sloth with one of responsibility.

Watching the debate a second time, it because very clear to me that Obama won the debate, by a very wide margin.  Further, if the long term stability of our country is something you hold close to your heart, this election really has only one viable candidate.  The choice on November 4th is between a pragmatic visionary looking toward the future and a impulsive profiteer not looking beyond his own limited life expectancy.

October 10, 2008

Shut up, already… damn!

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 7:04 pm

I am sick and tired of hearing about William Ayers like its (he’s) a bad thing. Watching this clip from Fox made me want to smack both of these buffoons around.

Lets just make a list, shall we,

So much for freedom – Taking this as a standard, I need to cancel my trip to see learn about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The last thing I need to be doing is associating with those traitors and terrorists. In the words of our own Declaration of Independence “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” Many, not just William Ayers, thought they were living under just such a destructive government during the Vietnam era.

What happened to forgiveness and reform – Aren’t we supposed to be understanding tolerant and forgiving when someone makes amends and does the right thing? This former “terrorist” is one of the leading authorities on education in the country, selected to speak and sit on various boards as well as being a college professor, in fact holding the title of Distinguished Professor. He is a contributing member, in good standing, to our society. Obviously, I would have taken a different tack than he did in my form of protest against the Vietnam war, but you can bet your last dollar I would have protested it, just like I do the war in Iraq today.

To thine own self be true – The board that Obama sits on with Ayers was created by, and is stocked with, Staunch Republicans (as well ad Democrats), including one of their beloved Ronald Regan’s closest friends and associates (and a person with a very constructive foundation of his own… in other words… a decent fellow). I’m thinking it not such a good idea to call someone the enemy while you eat at their table, but maybe that’s just me.

While I’m at it, I’d like to point out that, quite honestly, I’m no more pleased about the Keating 5 references to McCain from Obama’s camp. This is not about McCain or Obama, it is about the lack of reasoning that is going into the attacks, and the even more appalling and critical lack of rational thought that is going on before average citizens repeat these fluff ball arguments trying to lend credibility and legitimacy to what are, at best, arguments of emotional appeal.

I’m sure you are tired of hearing this from me, but, can we please get down to trying to find some solutions instead of this bickering. I’m this close to writing in Pickens (and I disagree with so much of his politics that I wouldn’t even know where to begin) because at least he is advocating something tangible and trying to get along with everyone in the process.

October 9, 2008

Take me to your leader (the extended remix)

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 11:18 pm

Recently, on my ohter blog (http://puntiglio.com/bookshelf/?p=18) I wrote about a book in which one of the main characters was a bit of a playboy.  As such he had a vast amount of experience with women.  What made him unique was that he saw each of them individually, and the beauty in each of them, regardless of stature, class, etc. (for more on that concept check out that blog).

What that reminded me of was a concept I cultivated and wrote about extensively in college.  I called it my Zero Sum Person theory.  In a nut shell, the theory goes that all people, are, in fact, created equal.  All people are born and remain just as good, or bad, as all others.  Our interpretation of them, based on the value filters we impose on our own view of reality, is what dictates to us that some are better than others.

I was further reminded of this by a comment I received on my blog entry from yesterday (In which I opined that we should carefully select the best person for the job of President):

A very reasonable opinion, ably expressed, and I think many will agree with it.  I don’t.  I think it’s un-American, not so much in a “traitorous” sense but in a “missing-the-point” sense.

We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect our President to be anything more than what we all are: flawed, human, mixed.  We’re not electing a savior, after all; we’re electing a person to an office that someone, unfortunately, has to occupy.  (We tried it once the other way, and learned it didn’t work.)  Government, by its nature, has power; men (and now women too) are unworthy of it.  But since we must trust someone, we’ll pick someone to trust.  What we will not do, as long as we remain ourselves, is harbor the illusion that the person we pick is in any way “better” than us.  S/he’s not; s/he’s blind, a bastard, and a fool.  They all are, just like us.  That insight is the genius of America.  (One of ‘em, anyway.)

Every person has strengths and weaknesses.  The sum total of these gives us the “zero sum person.”  I, for example, excel with children, and pretty good with people in general, and have a good mind for general business, sort of an COO type; financially, I am inadequate, my memory for tasks sucks, and my views are wildly liberal (perhaps too much so).  I know people who are just the opposite, they never make a financial mistake, never forget anything, and have nice balanced views… however they cannot relate with people and aren’t even interested in, let alone good at, raising children.

In my view, this person and I are equal.  Our strengths in specific areas aren’t, but we are.  They are more suited to do particular jobs or tasks, and I am more suited to do others. Ghandi v. Hitler, for example, seems like a clear cut case of a good person v. a bad one.  However, I would suggest that neither is better than the other, in reality, regardless how vehemently the lens of our societal norms tells us this is the case.

I am not, of course, suggesting that we should aspire to be like Hitler.  He used his formidable skills for what I think almost everyone would agree were “evil” purposes.  However, one must, if one is being objective, acknowledge that those skills were, in fact, formidable.  I would go so far as to suggest that they were as significant as those of Ghandi.

Others fail to make use of their talents at all, instead electing to pass through life in neutral.  This does not mean they do not have talents equal to yours or mine, just that they are not using what they have at their disposal.

I received a lot of criticism for this position in college.  I was called blasphemous amongst other things for putting some of the “best” people in the world on par with the Jeffery Dhamers, Jack the Rippers, and Adolf Hitlers.  It was unpopular then, and it has proven to be unpopular today as well amongst friends I have shared the concept with.

However, it is a concept I agree with.  And, ironically, it is a concept that I use to make a lot of decisions, when the choice comes down to different people.  Because, while I believe every person is equal, a Zero Sum Person, if you will.  I also believe we all have strengths.  I make a better parent than some other people would; my Uncle makes a better corporate executive than I ever would.

By the same token, some people make better Presidential candidates than others do.  It does not make them better people, and that very set of characteristics probably means they might not be nearly as good in a parenting roll as myself, or many of the readers of this blog.  However they are better qualified to be President.

I agree with the person who commented yesterday “We don’t, or shouldn’t, expect our President to be anything more than what we all are: flawed, human, mixed. … They all are, just like us.  That insight is the genius of America.” in the sense that the sum of no candidates parts is greater than my own.  However, I also hold true my view that for the particular task of being President, there are those more qualified than me.  Further, as the criteria mount, the number of “qualified” individuals, for this specific roll, decreases.  This process continues until finally one, best, candidate can be determined.  Someone who rises above the rest within the scope of the responsibilities set forth for their position

That person should be the forty-fourth President of the United States, not someone who doesn’t quite fitting the bill, but is given a free pass based on the notion that “they are all, just like us.”

October 8, 2008

Take me to your leader…

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 4:47 pm

Last night I missed the Presidential debate.  I missed it in favor of attending my sons football game, and taking my family to dinner afterwards.

Not suprisingly, the talk, at dinner, became political.  We discussed the upcoming election, and the importance, in my opinion, of making an informed vote.  The importance of knowing a candidates record.  Not just their voting record, but their complete history.  What judgement calls have they made that do not show up in a voting record.  Are they deliberative in making decisions, or rash? How do they, in their words, actions, and votes, represent those in their constituency?  Have they done things in the past that indicate poor judgement or lack of quality of character?

Somewhere in the midst of that conversation my son asserted that you cannot (“its not fair to”) single a candidate out for something he did wrong if half or more of the other Senators did the same thing.  This is not the first time I have heard this, and I’m sure it will not be the last.  It just resonated deeper and was far more terrifying when it came out of my own sons mouth.

To my son, I said then, and to you, my readers, I say now… Yes, we can.  Yes, we can, and yes we should.  The position in question is the President of the United States of America.  This is the most powerful position in the most powerful nation on Earth.  We can, and should, absolutely single the candidates out wherever possible.  We can and should have a more rigid standard they must pass, a higher bar they must clear, in order to be given the privilege of representing you, me and this nation.

I want to be represented by the person who is the most beyond reproach.  Someone who I can freely point to when talking to my children and say, this, dear boys, is what we stand for, what we believe in, and the reason we are fit to be leaders on the global stage.

Today, I have deliberately not included my opinions on who is the most deserving candidate in this election.  This piece is not about a particular candidate, it is about the process of choosing a candidate.  It is about taking the significant responsibility granted to you by our constitution, and treating it with the respect and deference it deserves.

While it is important to vote, it is imperative to vote wisely.  I think we have lost track, as a nation, of what we are voting for when we cast out ballots in favor or one Presidential candidate or another.  We are not voting for a party, we are not voting for an economic position, and we are not voting for a class of society.  What we are voting for is our leader, and the face of our nation.
We are voting for the man (in this specific case, another year perhaps it will be the woman) who will represent us face to face with the leaders of other nations, allies and adversaries alike.  The more credibility this person brings to that table, the more effective they will be at that table.

We are voting for the man who will singularly represent one of the three branches of our government, who is in charge of making recommendations to Congress, approving what they do, and selecting the Supreme Court Justices that will determine how our Constitution is interpreted for the couple of decades.

When evaluating your options, please, set that bar as high as you can.  Single each candidate out every where you are able to do so.  Hold them accountable for everything they have done and are likely to do.  Then cast your vote.  It will be more meaningful to the nation, and it will be more meaningful for you as well.

September 27, 2008

Choice? Not an issue in this election…

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 7:30 pm

Last night, while watching the post debate coverage, the question was emailed in by a CNN viewer “Why did Biden get a chance to respond and Palin did not”.  The response was something to the effect of, “we tried to get her on the show but she was not made available, we’re still hoping she will be available in the future”. Anderson Cooper, on the air, responded “I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

This is the sad state of the situation.  The vice-presidential candidate is a running and public joke because of her “witness protection” status when it comes to the media.  To be clear, I’m not saying she is merely being criticized by the media pundits, or lampooned by spoof news broadcasts like the Daily show.  Rather, I’m pointing out that during serious news coverage, by a respected news team, she was a joke.

According to one source, Biden has made 89 media appearances, and Palin 3.  Honestly I do not know if those numbers are correct or not, but I do know they cannot be that far off base.

I find it more than objectionable that the Republican party would suggest I vote for a ticket that includes a guy who, based on average life expectancy has a 50/50 chance of making it through his second term, and a successor who I am not being allowed to form an opinion about because she is being cloistered.  I could certainly be persuaded to vote for someone who is 72 years of age, however, not unless I have some level of confidence in their running mate.  Palin, as a joke on the CNN set, is not inspiring that kind of confidence.

I know the story about Palin not speaking to the media is not new news. However, I think it is noteworthy when someone like Anderson Cooper, not to his audience, but as an aside to another anchor, is willing to reduce her potential on air presence to a casual, dismissive, sarcastic quip.

I am voting for Obama, not McCain, to me the issues are clear.  However, there is still a critical mass of people who are undecided.  Increasingly, the margin between Obama and McCain is widening, and the Palin situation is a significant part of this.  I am for Obama, but I’d much rather he win a fair fight, then back into the presidency because of the foibles of the other party.

I really hope that the powers that be within the Republican party come to their senses and give the American people a real option rather than Hobson’s choice on November 4th.

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