Category: Life in America


This past week has been unreal, but, not much more unreal than, say, the last 100 or so weeks since November 9, 2016.

That is when a good portion of this country lost their collective minds.  We all know what happened, so, there is no point in rehashing all of that.  One of the lasting effects of this “loss of mind” as it were, has been the redefinition of the word “reality”

What is “reality” anyway?  If you ask your average person, they will tell you that reality is way the world is right now.  It is how things are.  What is reality to me?  Reality is, that I have a job I am responsible for, kids, a house, a car, and I have bills to pay. I have friends who are going through tough times, I am getting older, my health is changing, and not totally for the better.  My kids are growing up, I am not going to be on this planet too many more years, and, the world moves along, things happen, and life does what life does.

For many people “reality” is what they want it to be.  Too many people out there want a “Trump-free” reality, or a “Forever Trump” reality.  If you follow the stories in the “news”, or, if you are like me, and follow, and read multiple stories on the same issue, or event, lump them together, sort the details, and then, decide what is really going on.  Too many people seem to have a “personal reality” that goes along with their “personal truth”.  I see it all of the time on Social Media.  If anyone has been following the major stories this week, they are replete with examples of people seeing things the way they want to see them, despite having facts, and evidence in front of them.  Take the story that broke today about the curtains in the residence for Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations.  Twitter was alive with people going on and on about the Trump admin spending so much money on curtains (52,000.00) and rent (135,000 a month) so Mrs. Haley can live in New York.  Throughout the day, as more facts came to light, it turns out that Mrs. Haley had nothing to do with the purchase of the curtains.  Because the residence is used for official entertaining, it has to be at a certain level of luxury, because that is how diplomacy is done.  It just is. Been that way for a couple of hundred years.  The main fact is, that the curtains, and etc. were ordered under the Obama Administration.  Now, before you go getting all lathered up about that, it turns out that ordering expensive curtains, furniture, place settings, what have you, is kind of a standard thing that the State Department does for our ambassador’s residences all over the world.  There is even a budget for it. Imagine that.

Jake Tapper, of CNN, posted this thread to Twitter regarding the expensive window treatments. Read it here

That still didn’t stop people from going on and on about it.  Even the following from the New York Times, who broke the story, did little to end the pile on.  @NYTimesPR

The facts are there. Nikki Haley had nothing to do with it, and yet, garbage politicians like Rep. Ted Lieu (D) of California insist on calling for an investigation. It’s no better on the Pro-Trump right either. Pro-Trumpers were out in force decrying the supposed excesses of the Obama Administration.   Both sides live in their own bubbles, and it is because of that facts that do not fit their narrative are discounted out of hand.  It goes something like this:

Person:  (shouting up the stairs from the basement) Hey man what’s the weather like out there?.

Me: Sunny and warm. 

Person: I heard it was raining really bad out there. 

Me; Nope, warm and sunny.  take a look. 

Person:  I was told it was raining.  You are saying it’s sunny. why are you lying?

Me; Not lying, look, see out the window, sun, and blue sky.  

Person: It is rain. I was told it was raining really hard, and that it wasn’t going to stop for a while. It may even flood.  

Me:: Look, man, it sunshine and blue skies.  Look outside. 

Person: Don’t give me that, I am not looking outside, be cause you are lying. Look man, the fact is someone down here said it was raining real hard.  Just because you want it to be sunny doesn’t mean it is.  I don’t need to look outside to know it is raining.  You know, you people need to get out of your echo chamber and join the rest of us in reality.  I know it is raining, and you need to understand it is raining, everyone down here agrees it is raining real bad out there. 

Me:  Do you hear any rain, or any thunder?

Person: No, that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to hear it to know, and besides, it doesn’t always thunder when it rains, so the lack of thunder isn’t proof that its not raining.  One of the people down here heard last week that today was going to be a rainy day. 

Me; Yes, but weather changes. 

Person: That is exactly what an insulated and ignorant resident of an echo chamber would say. Weather doesn’t change that much, and you are stupid,…. 

And that is how it goes.  All of the time.  Every day.  There is not getting through, and it is people from both sides, not just one.  Along with the Russian Collusion business that is going on, we also have the investigation by the intelligence committee on what happened with the infamous “Steele Dossier”.  The narrative keeps shifting with each and every new bit of news comes out. On the left, and the Never Trumpers, they will tell you it’s smoke and mirrors, and that it is a, to coin a popular phrase, “nothing burger” . On the right, and the “Trumpists” they are saying that this is going to be “Bigger than Watergate” and that people are going to jail, and that Sessions is getting closer to unsealing the indictments, and that Trump is going to de-classify the FISA applications, and then everyone will know just how dastardly the cabal was that tried to prevent Trump from winning.   The stories, theories, and suppositions have gotten so convoluted, that the logic is turning in on itself.  Try pointing that out to either side, and that maybe what they are going on about is probably not what they think it is., and you get a variation on the conversation above.

The problem with people living in their own bubbles, or echo chambers, is that they give no other theories, facts, or anything else any consideration.  Information contradictory to their views is ignored, and worse, they react with anger to anything that challenges their beliefs, which is problematic, because anger can lead to violence.  So many people out there consume news only from one side.  Very few of them are willing to even consider another viewpoint.  They believe what they believe to be true,  because they want it to be true. Facing what is really going on is difficult for many people.  There is a big difference between what is true, and what you want to be true.  Children live in this kind of world, small children will tell you that there is unicorns in the sky, and rainbows, and clouds of cotton candy.  As an adult, you know it not to be true, and in time, little children learn that as well.  It is quite apparent that some adults have not gotten past that phase, and that is part of the problem.  Reasonable people take information in, analyze it, and come to a conclusion.  Unreasonable people, immature people do not do that.   It also leads to the same people wishing violence on those who share different beliefs, or wanting to commit violence on others of different beliefs.

We have gotten here from many directions.  The insulation of the American mind in my opinion started about twenty five or so years ago.  If you go back in history, the “mainstream media” has always been biased to the right, or left  to some degree.  It has only been over the last twenty-five to thirty years that a left-leaning bias became more apparent.  It wasn’t only the news though.  With the rise of computers and the internet in the early ’90’s people began to gravitate to online communities that shared their views.  First it was websites, and message boards, with CompuServe and AOL online communities became easier to form and publicize.  As electronic media grew, so did it’s influence, and it’s hold on the American mind. What really led the isolation was the advent of the smart phone.  People are tied to their “bubble” all day, every day. Having such a device allows easier rejection of anything that doesn’t conform to their world view.

As further proof, take the upcoming midterms.  All signs point to these mid-term elections being even more contentious than the 2016 Presidential race.  Democrats are convinced of a “Blue Wave” that will give them Congress, and they will be able to impeach Trump, and somehow, install Hilary as President. On the other side, Trump supporters are touting a “Red Wave” and Congress has GOP super majorities, and they are going to lock up Hilary, and the rest.   The thing is, the “reality” if you will, is the midterms are going to be somewhere between the two.  Reasonable people expect this, reasonable people understand, that given the current climate,  GOP majorities may take a hit, and they may either lose one house of Congress, or barely hang on with a slim majority in the House.  Try offering that compromise on Twitter, and see what happens.  I have seen many a person get savaged by both sides.

Another element of this has been the rise of, for lack of a better term, “Tweet-bloggers” people who, instead of writing a blog, (like this)  post long threads about what they think to Twitter, quite often they are thirty of forty entries. Many of these folks position themselves as knowledgeable people, and basically write opinions that they pass of as fact. A couple of them in a short period of time, have gained in excess of 100,000 followers.  The reason is, they say things people want to hear.  Because of that, their followers will rise up and defend anyone who has the slightest disagreement with any element of their latest thread.  They can (and do) post absolute pony-pucks, but their followers believe it to be the absolute truth, and they insulate themselves further.

Reality is indeed up for grabs.  Unfortunately, there seem to be multiple realities, depending on one’s political bent.  The fact is, there is only one reality, and it is the one we live in.  Reality, like truth, is not “personal” it is universal.  One doesn’t get to shape the world to what they perceive as reality.  Children do that.  Adults know better.  What is real, is real.  It’s not open for debate.  Like the conversation above, a sunny day is not a rainy day just because someone heard it is.  Evidence that it is a sunny day is proof that it is not a rainy day.  In other words, just because someone wants to believe that something is a certain way, doesn’t mean the world is going to conform to that belief.  Unfortunately too many people cannot let that go.  Many people need to.  Otherwise, both sides are on a collision course, and it’s not going to end well.

 

 

 

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Originally posted in 2005 at MySpace.com. and then again in 2009 on Facebook.  I like to bring this one up from time to time. 

I bring this post up, because of the latest controversy over “thoughts and prayers” and when people offer that up during a tragedy, be it public, or private, whether it’s an airplane crash, or someone on Social Media posting about death, or injury to a loved one.  Prayer is a big deal to me.  It is something that I engage in every day.  To me it is an expression of my faith, as well as proof of my faith.  Read on

Saying Your Prayers

“Pray for me”, believe in the “power of prayer”, “I will pray for you”, “Pray to God”, you know, we have all heard these phrases before, at one point or another in our lives. When we are down, and not feeling well, or stressed about a situation, or not sure of what is going to happen next, or perhaps, seeking some sort of metaphysical support for a problem we are going through, we are advised to “Pray” What is prayer? Is prayer a request for help? A glorification of God, and Jesus? A wish? A desperate plea? A chance to get “the goods” from God, because we have no other way to get what we can’t have? How are we supposed to pray? We learned the “mechanics” of prayer as it were, folded hands, kneeling in supplication, eyes turned toward the altar. That’s how I was taught to pray, but isn’t prayer an exercise in faith? In Daniel, Chapter 6, the prophet tells us this:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full”

So from this, we can surmise that prayer is a private affair, kind of like a phone call between you and your best friend, where no one else can see or hear what transpires between you. It is a private communication with God, It also tells us that those of us who pray and make a show of it, stand little chance of the Lord hearing what is being asked for. And that’s the other thing, what do we pray for? Does God indeed answer all of prayers, regardless of how trivial the request may be? When we are at our child’s soccer game and we utter “God let Johnny score a goal” is that a prayer, or just an off the cuff remark? And, to that end, do we pray to benefit others, or ourselves? In Matthew Chapter 22, Verse 22, it is put simply:

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”

So, again we are told, it’s a faith thing. But, what of faith? Is it just merely saying “I believe there is a God.” ? A person may say that, but what is the level of his conviction? Is the faith always there? Or, is it there only when we are faced with serious troubles, and that’s when we begin to pray. This what the pastor at my old church called “pulling on the knobs of the Jesus vending machine” . This is where faith, and prayer intersect, when it comes to everyday faith. Many of us seem to forget about God, until the fertilizer hits the fan, and then, there we are lining up with the faithful, mumbling our prayers, and hoping for divine deliverance, so we can get back to our lives. But, praying is so much more than that, prayer is an act of faith. Praying isn’t a crap shoot, we shouldn’t say our prayers with the disclaimer “Okay God, I am asking you this to see if it works.” Prayer needs to be approached for what it is, an act of faith, as well as an expression of faith, and a desire to get closer to God In James, Chapter 5, Verse 15 it tells us

“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven”

The keywords in the above verse being “And the prayer offered in faith” That tells us right there, a prayer is not a test. Praying is, and should be an expression of our faith, not a test to God to “see what we can get”. As far as how we should pray let us look at the book of Matthew, Chapter 6 verse 6

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

“For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” That last part of the verse says a lot doesn’t it? We spend many hours praying to God, and outlining to him, in detail, what it is we seek….. that is sort of like telling a fireman that you use water to put out fires. It’s obvious to the Lord what is in our hearts and in our minds, the challenge, is to put faith in that fact. It is through faith that we seek God, and it is through faith, that we pray. But we must not pray half heartedly, or tentatively, saying “Here’s my prayer God, I hope you answer it, it would be nice if You did, but if You don’t, I’ll figure something else out” A prayer should be prayed with the sincerity of the heart, and the conviction of faith that it will work out, and God will answer our prayers. The other part of praying is right there in the first part of the verse, “go into your room and pray to your Father”, in other words, set aside time for God, and for prayer. Give him the attention, and the praise that He deserves. Not only that, it is about giving yourself the proper time, and space to pray properly, and are not distracted. I guess all that this adds up to, is that prayer is our way of communicating with God, to ask for guidance, a favor, help, or a blessing. Prayer is powerful, it is soothing, it is calming, and it works. How do I know? God has answered my prayers before, and has come through in seemingly impossible situations. The first time it ever happened was amazing to me. I tried to apply logic to the situation, but I couldn’t, because it defied logic, the only explanation there could be was the fact that God did indeed answer my prayers. At first I am not sure that I wanted to believe, because, after all, surely God had bigger prayers to answer, but then, again, there is the faith thing again, and I can’t stress that enough. That is the main point here, is that you have to believe and believe with every fiber of your being, to the very depths of your soul. A prayer is not a prayer when it is uttered as an aside during an unpleasant situation, or when we think we will impress someone with our faith. To me, faith has always been a quiet, and personal thing, not something waved around in other people’s faces as a way of showing them we “believe better than they do” Because God has something to say about that, from Matthew

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full….

So, it is obvious to me that God doesn’t like show offs. I write this today, probably as a way of answering my own questions about prayer and faith. Hey, I don’t claim to be perfect, sometimes I need to be reminded about the power of God, and the power of prayer. And, prayer is not about instant gratification either, nor is it about personal gain, or power. God doesn’t make your wish appear in a puff of smoke. God does his work in His own way, and will surprise you, that when you least expect it, He will be there, presenting you with a solution, or an answer, or guidance. But remember, the Lord “helps those who help themselves” Praying is also not about laying around and waiting for God to deliver. As you go and seek Him, you will find Him, and, well as Jesus said, in Luke, Chapter 11, Verse 9

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened”

One’s faith must be active, and seeking, not sitting and waiting. One must actively seek God on a daily basis, and reaffirm their own belief. Yes it’s hard, and yes, faith and belief can take a beating, especially in today’s world. God knows this, and rewards those of us who believe, even in the darkest hours. I often wonder where my life would be if I had abandoned my faith anywhere along the line over the last couple of years. And when I do think about it, I shudder at the thought. God has carried me this far, and will continue to do so, I know He will….it’s all a matter of faith.

To add to this.  When offering “thoughts and prayers” that is exactly what I am doing. It’s not a throw-away line, or something I am saying.  I mean it.  As soon as someone asks for prayers, they get them.  I offer a silent, heartfelt, faith-backed prayer for God to intercede and help the situation.  God acts in so many ways.  I have seen it in my own life, and the lives of others.  It’s real.  It works.

 

I learned over the last few years, about the price one pays, to some degree, for living in a self-made political bubble.

I don’t know when it happened, probably somewhere during the early Bush years.  I slowly began to ensconce myself in politics, and it began to pick up speed, if you will, during the Obama years.  I went from being a “follower” of politics, to being more involved, to being totally immersed in what “my side” was up to, and how it was taking on the “other side”.  As social media began to rise, I began to follow, and comment on, and post almost purely political things. I didn’t realize how bad I had gotten, until one day, during a conversation with my mom, I launched into a rant about one political thing or another, and was literally yelling at my mom.  I don’t know why, but I was that wound up in it.  I was quoting websites, and blogs that I read.  Trying to make a point that my mom didn’t really care about.   To say that I upset her, is putting it mildly.  The upshot of the whole thing was I had not realized just how involved I had gotten in politics, and how much of my life was focused on whether or not something was in line with my political beliefs.  I analyzed TV shows, I analyzed books, and music, and movies, for anything that was not in line with my political beliefs.  In short, I had become insufferable to family, and even my kids and girlfriend.  I had always been “political” in that I had views, just like everyone else, however, what happened, is that those views became the end-all-be-all of my existence.  I began to think, somehow, that my views were necessary for my survival, and the survival of the country, well, a country containing all of the “right” people.  You know, the people who shared my views. I had surrounded myself with people who believed as I did, and ignored any counter arguments, or opinions that challenged what I believed to be true.  It didn’t matter that the argument presented was factual, what mattered was that it ran counter to my beliefs, and therefore, needed to be rejected.   It took a family gathering, where I managed to upset my entire family with a bunch of political remarks that managed to offend several people.  Shortly after that, I was talking with my mom, who informed me that because of my remarks at the previous gathering, discussing politics was off limits at the next gathering, and if I so much as brought it up, I would be asked to leave.

Now, you have to understand something.  My family is pretty easy going, and mostly laid back, and we can discuss many subjects reasonably, its how we were raised.  The problem with me was I was saying things without any regard for anyone else there, and practically demanding my view be accepted as the only correct one.   It is what woke me up to the way politics had consumed me.  My Facebook was full of nothing but political content, either groups I belonged to, or stuff I had posted myself.  My Twitter account was nothing but political follows, and my Twitter feed was an endless parade of memes, links to blogs, and news stories that favored my point of view.  I attacked anyone who posted content that ran counter to my beliefs, and by “attack” I meant I insulted, and belittled the person who dared to post something in opposition to me.  I didn’t offer a logical, cohesive counter-argument, I offered vitriol, because I believed that my position was the only one.  Now, note that I didn’t say someone posted disagreeing with my politics, no, they were in opposition to me.  To me.  That’s how deep I had gotten.  Someone who disagreed with my politics, was disagreeing with me, because I had become political.  It was all I was.  It was so bad, that my politics had pushed aside my faith in God, and every thing I had been taught. My religion, my values system my beliefs had been pushed aside, rather, replaced by my politics.  It was, at this time, I woke up and realized what I had become.  I was no longer me.  I had become a political creature.  This was all prior to the 2016 presidential race.  It was near the end of the Obama administration, and things were shaping up for 2016.

The other thing that woke me up, is a “news” story that I read.  The story was about a container ship that had sunk in the Indian Ocean.  The story breathlessly related that the container ship was loaded with weapons and other support for the Syrian rebels, that had been approved by Obama.  I read the story, and in a moment of clarity, I realized the story was fake  Using Google image search, I found another story, from 2014, featuring the same photo of the sinking ship.  The ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean, that much was true, however, it had nothing to do with Syria, the rebels, or, Obama approving any kind of support for them.  The ship had broken up and sunk because it was old, and the shipping line that owned it was going to de-commission it at the end of the voyage it was on.   Here I was, so committed to my side, to my politics, that I believed every story that I read, everything put out by my side had to be the truth, because we were right, we were the only ones with the correct ideas, with the correct solutions to the country’s problems.  Yet, here was a group, a “news” source that I followed that I had believed without question, posting a story that was, to use today’s vernacular “Fake News”. It pissed me off.  It really pissed me off.  I began digging into the some of the stories that were posted by other groups. I began to find more of the same.

In the coming weeks, logic broke through.  I began to evaluate my subscriptions, the groups I belonged to, the “news” sites I followed, and even some of the bloggers I followed.  I stopped using Facebook for anything other than keeping up with friends, and activities within my Amateur Radio group as well as the hobby in general. I cleared my Twitter feed of all the political follows with the exception of a couple.  I began following people based on anything but politics, and in some cases, they were people I had followed because of their politics, but quickly realized that politics aside, they were funny, interesting, and decent people.  I also discovered that I could disagree with people, and not let it anger me.  I ignored people who tried to engage.  I quit paying attention to my mentions, and I was much better for it.

When the presidential race began to heat up, I distanced myself further, I stayed away from debate and discussing the candidates, because I thoroughly disliked both of them, and I couldn’t see any profit in taking a side.  So I let it be.  I still read other’s opinions, but I didn’t engage. I did know I didn’t want Hilary as President, but I could not get behind Trump, and that’s where I left it.  I stayed away from the arguments because they were everything I used to be, and everything I used to post.  Anger, insults, and no regard for anyone else’s humanity.

Politics is poison.  When your politics becomes your life, when everything you say, do, and get involved is nothing but politics, it ruins your life.  When you base someone’s worth on who they voted for, and ignore everything about them, you are short-changing yourself, and you have become unbearable. Whether or not you like Trump or hate him, or any other office holder, for that matter, is one thing, letting that admiration, or disgust dictate how you feel about family and friends, and is the deciding factor on continuing or discontinuing that relationship, then, you are the one with the problem.  No politician, or political cause is worth severing family, marital, or friendship ties over.

Back off, take a breath, re-evaluate, look at your life, and things around you.  Friends, and family are far more important than politics, or activism, or anything else. When the dust settles, and things have moved on, all you will have left is your family and friends.

I rarely interact on Social Media, especially on Facebook.  I hang out on Twitter, comment from time to time, but I avoid arguments, and disagreements at all costs.

Why?

I am tired of it.  Since November of 2016, I do little more than read others people’s FB posts, I almost never post to my timeline.  For me, there is precious little that is worth reading any longer, and, add to that, there is nothing worth responding to.   All I ever see is the latest “I hate Trump” or “MAGA” type post. Or the latest “Anti gun” or “Pro 2A” post.  The problem with the posts are not the content, but, rather the attitude with which they are served up.  It’s a “this is what I believe, and f*** you and go to hell if you don’t agree”  No one has rational discussions any longer, and I do mean no one.

I am also tired of the conspiracy theories surrounding, well, you name it; Las Vegas, Parkland, Newtown, etc. etc.  The worst part about all of this, is these posts are coming from people that I know to be intelligent, and, I thought, reasonable.  Many of them old classmates, and others that I have known for 30 years.  Politics, and one’s political views have become the yardstick, (and with some people the only yardstick used to measure someone’s worth.) .  I have witnessed lifelong friendships come to an end, over a vote, or a political stance.  There is no “opinion” any more, there is “My post is irrefutable fact, and f*** you if you don’t think it’s true”.  People post things that they find, somewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet, as truth.  Not only truth, but incontrovertible, irrefutable, truth, because their favorite website, blogger, or pundit said it.  In this day and age, it’s not “for” or “against”, no.  It’s “you must believe or you are a heretic, and must be destroyed”.  It happens on both sides.

If you are pro 2nd Amendment, you are branded a “baby killer”, an “NRA Terrorist” or you “Support the murder of children” and the ownership of “weapons of war”.  If you want support Gun Control, then you area “gun grabbing communist” or a “traitor”, or an “anti-freedom leftist”.  No quarter is given in these arguments.  There is no discourse, only insults, and if it’s a woman posting her support of  2A, it’s the most vile sexual type of insults I have ever seen.  There are threats, and more insults.  Hashtags are thrown around like so many bean bags.  Frequently posts are in all caps, as people become more and more unhinged.  Eventually the donnybrook loses steam, and everyone is on to something else, but not before feelings are hurt, anger flairs and relationships are strained, if not broken.  I am amazed at the hurtful things people, especially family members, say to one another over a discussion of politics.  Isn’t family supposed to be better than that?  It is the disagreement that severe that some stop talking to siblings or parents?  How crappy is that?  I don’t always agree with my brothers, or my sister, but I would never, ever stop talking to them over their stance on something.  My dad, if he were still among us, would not stand for it.  I feel bad for those people who feel that a relationship, especially a long-term one, be it familial or romantic, has to end, because of a political opinion.

I hate all of the stupid fighting, and when one side presents the other with facts, then the arguing switches to whose “facts” are more factual.  We get our news and information from many sources these days, unfortunately, we all know about “fake news”, and in many cases, the “facts” as presented, depending on which “side” is presenting them can vary.  In more than a few cases, news sites will post a story, and include facts that only support their side of the argument, then other people quote that source as being proof that they are right, while the other side of the argument cites a story about the same issue from a news site, or blogger, or pundit, that includes information that supports what they have to say.  It’s exhausting.  Woe to the person who enters into the fray, in an attempt to be reasonable, cites a balanced story on the issue, then they get torn into from both sides.  The worst part about all of it, are the vile insults that people hurl at one another, either strangers they don’t know, or people that they do.  It’s unreal, and it almost hurts to watch it.

An example of what I describe above, goes like this:  I will use the latest raging debate over guns, that is burning up social media.

Friend A; (a long time friend of mine) Posted a story about a study done by two criminologists, citing the number of times a gun is used to defend life and property, and stops a crime in progress.  He posted his comments, as well as a link to the study, so anyone reading his post can avail themselves of the information, and read the study in it’s entirety.   Several people posted comments after reading the story, and the study.  The comments are all positive.

Stranger A:  this person pops up in a comment, after a news story that this person believes “debunks” the study by the two criminologists.  The news story takes the study to task, and selectively cites facts that support the gun control side of the argument.  So Stranger A, goes off on a paragraph long screed about the NRA, and evil corporations funding gun companies, buying politicians, and etc, etc, etc.  Friend A politely asks Stranger A to read the study.  Stranger A replies he doesn’t need to because the article he read speaks for itself, and he knows the study was funded by the NRA and the gun makers (it wasn’t) so, of course it is going to back up their claims.

It’s this kind of attitude, the “If you are against gun control, you are for the deaths of children” is really rather tiresome, and it is a tactic used by many in an argument to deflect from their arguments shaky ground.  It is also used as a way to end the argument, because the tactic forces the other person to argue that they are not “for the killing of children”, which then puts the anti-gun person on the offensive.  Or, it forces the other person to walk away from the argument, because it just got stupid.  The tactic is designed to shut down debate, and silence opposition.  People on both sides use it.  It’s not a “left” or “right” thing.  So, the above exchange over the study went back and  forth, but the problem is, everyone wound up arguing with Stranger A about how they are not for the killing of children.  It was several comments before someone else got the argument back on track.

The point of the anecdote above is an example of what typically happens on social media.  The other phenomenon is the habit among many to read the headline of a posted story, and then comment on the inaccuracy of the story   It is embarrassing when someone I know, and always figured was intelligent, decides to go off on an article they did not even read, and puts their intellectual laziness on display.  It is amazing to me how little there is in the way of critical thinking.  What ever happened to analysis, reading comprehension, and logical thought?

It is indeed sad, that the current level of debate on Twitter, and Facebook resembles an argument between a bunch of 12 year old kids on the school playground.  It really is.  The crises that face this nation are not going to get solved by emotional outbursts, name calling or finger-pointing.  The problem is, no one wants to hear the other side out.  It is as if we all want our side to be the only one that prevails.  When you get right down to it, the truth to just about any of the issues is much more nuanced, it hardly black and white.  In the studies mentioned in my anecdote, each one can, when facts and passages in the study are cherry-picked and taken out of context, support either the pro-gun, or the anti-gun side of the argument.  However, that kind of cherry picking does little to shed light on the problem of violence in this country, and what effective steps can be taken to curb the violence.   The same could be said of any study, on any of the issues that face the nation.  The sad fact is, that any side in an any argument wants to be the “only” side that is right.  It’s as if being right, and defeating one’s enemies is more important than solving, or working towards solving an issue.  “All or nothing” rarely works.  When one takes a position that the only way to solve an issue is an “all or nothing” solution, then people on the other side of the issue, are going to be unwilling to talk, much less compromise, or reach an agreement.  This is also how fights start, because once an argument gets to the point where one side feels compelled to use force to convince the other side, then all is lost.

All I know is, and I urge my kids to do this all of the time;  If you are going to debate a question, come to the table with facts, and research, and also come to the table with an understanding demeanor.  Disagreement is not a personal attack.  One can understand the other side’s point of view, without resorting to personal attacks, name calling, and the like.  If you have made your point, and the other person, or group, still disagrees, then, move on.  You have made your point, you stood by your argument, and that’s it.  One cannot change another’s mind, well, can rarely change it.  The most that can be done is “agree to disagree” and move on.  There is nothing wrong with that, either.  Everyone has different beliefs on everything, from the big issues of the day, to the question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. (it’s not.  Stating my position right now) or whether or not ketchup belongs on that same hot dog (It doesn’t, at least if you bought it from a hot dog stand.  If you made it at home, then, ketchup is permissible).  It is those differences that make us who we are, and one is not “less” because one believes differently than someone else on any given subject.  We sometimes forget we are human, and we should never dehumanize someone else over a disagreement  Ever.  It’s wrong, and leads to all kinds of scary things on a larger scale.

For those interested.  The link posted by my friend is below.  Read it and decide.  The article cites at least 3 studies and has links to them.  Read it.  Thank you.  Article my friend posted  I offer no opinions here.

For the average, run-of-the-mill guy, such as me, the political and national events that have taken place since the 2016 election have been quite a bit to follow.   I have been through at least 8 elections since  I was old enough to vote, so I have seen quite a bit of politics, and political theatre since then.  I have also been around people long enough to be disheartened, if not downright scared of the divisions in this country.

What makes all of this worse, is the fact that everyone, on all sides of the political spectrum are like two people having an argument, and both are shouting at the same time.  No one is listening, and that’s not to say that “listening” is the cure-all here, but, it’s a senseless way to be, and completely pointless.  The winner of any of the political argument these days (if there is such a thing) is not one that presents the facts, makes their point, and persuades the other person the validity of their position;  no, it is the side that yells the loudest.  In this year, we have had a scandal-riddled presidency since day one, heck, since before Day One.   But, what are the meat of these scandals.  Are they real? Are they not? Does any one know what the facts are?  I am not picking a side here, mainly because I don’t know what is right, who is right, and whatever.  Is Trump acting, well, badly?  Yes, he is.  Are those that dislike him acting badly?  Yes, they are.  The problem is, it is so hard to separate what is real, and what is “Fake News” that many people like me walk around in a state of confusion trying to figure out if the next Washington Post “bombshell” is exactly that, or is it just another “I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a girl, whose cousin’s wife’s sisters’s fiance knew someone who works in Washington and they saw something in a memo, but only read part of it.”

In any other place or time, something like that would not stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny.  Making accusations based on a sliver of a rumor would anyone laughed out of anywhere, and their integrity seriously questioned.  But, enough about the media, fake news, and the lot.  It’s been covered enough, and quite frankly, I don’t want to wade through that.

Today, Senator John McCain came back to Washington to vote on the motion to move the GOP healthcare bill for debate.  Vice President Pence had to break the tie.

And the left lost it’s collective mind.  (Or, what was left of it)

What astounds me is the intellectual dishonesty from the Democrats.  They were all over Twitter, and other media outlets talking about how now “people are going to die”.

Because of a debate?

It’s the same old tired rhetoric they have trotted out for the last two decades.  They, the party of “We have to pass the bill to see what’s in it” are now accusing the Republicans of obfuscation.  The whole thing is a joke, and the dishonesty from both sides is unreal.  The party of “Repeal and Replace” has been acting like the party of “We’ll take out the things we don’t like….maybe”.  They tried to repackage it, and rename it, and just keep the ACA in tact.  None of which made any sense.  But, now, the Republicans, by the slimmest of margins have moved their bill to debate.  Progress?  Maybe.

Nothing has been passed.  Nothing.  It’s being debated on, and we are a long way from passage of anything.  Add to that, my Twitter feed (such as it is) as well as Facebook were full of people clamoring for a “single payer system”.

Let us examine that for a moment.

I am not here to argue the economics of it or anything like that, there are others out there who are far more qualified to analyse that than I am.   I do not understand how anyone in their right mind would want a government agency in charge of one of the most personal things that we have as people.  Our health.  Why would anyone want to give control over how they are treated for an illness, or an accident, or a terminal disease even, to the government?  What is it about someone, or a group of people that desires outside control of their lives?   I find the calls for “single payer” is more indicative of what those who express that view, want for the rest of us.  Not for themselves, necessarily, but for the rest of us.  That elusive “them” or “the other guy”  I go back a bit to one my earlier writings “What Do We Want?  Tyranny!  When Do We Want it? NOW!” from last summer, where I talked about how the various groups of people across the political spectrum want revenge against “them”.  “Those people” whomever “Those people” may be.  When they express the desire for this country’s medical system to be “run like Canada’s” I honestly think they haven’t given it much thought.  So intent are they on implementing a system that would punish the rich, and tax to death everyone else, in other words punish “them”, they haven’t given much though to how it would affect themselves.

I am an independent thinker, I always have been.  One thing that will get me angry, and desirous of picking a fight, is someone telling me what to think, how to think, or what to say.  Or, even worse, someone trying to control my life.  I am not talking about being told what to do at work by my boss.  That is totally different.  My job is something entered into willingly on my part, and the part of my employer.  They pay me, I do the work I am assigned.  Do I disagree, perhaps, with policies?  Sometimes, but, in my disagreement, I come up with a solution to make it better.  Maybe they listen, maybe they don’t, but they are paying me to do a job.

However, someone telling me what to say, or think, or telling me what I must believe is totally different.  That is an imposition.  A totalitarian government is not something that most of us enter into willingly.  It is something that is imposed, something that is forced, and complying is mandatory, or punishment is handed out.  That is where I bristle, that is when my back gets up.   The thing about going to a single-payer system, is that it immediately becomes a  politicized single-payer system.  What you get treated for and for how long, or, if at all, is going to depend on your politics.

That should frighten any reasonable person.  It should frighten anyone, in fact.

I can’t even conceive of anyone telling me that I cannot have an illness, or worse, one of my children cannot have an illness treated.  That would make me insane.   A person, not my doctor, but, a person from some government agency,  a bureaucrat from a government agency is going to approve, or deny my treatment, based on how expensive it is, how many years I may have to live, and, yes, even my politics.  In fact, I would gather, in a very short period of time, (about 5 minutes after the legislation is passed) it will be the only deciding factor.

That should frighten anyone, regardless of your political stance.  Tyranny is not good under any circumstances.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a right wing dictator, or left wing.  The whole “If my side is doing it, its okay” argument is stupid, and pointless.  No one should want someone from the  government deciding if they get well, or get sicker, or even worse, if they live or die.    I hear stupid arguments like “Well, if the GOP does single payer, it will at least get done right.”

What the hell does that even mean?

Neither side could do it right, and you cannot convince me otherwise.  The best system we had in this country was the system we had prior to Obamacare.  Don’t get me started on that.  I know way, way too many people who, once they were forced to the exchanges were paying premiums that were higher than their mortgages in some ways, with unbelievable deductibles, and care that was so limited it was a joke.  I don’t want to hear that god-awful abomination of a “health care plan” was a good thing.  I know better, I know too many people, middle class people, who had to sell cars, and houses, and what not just to afford basic health care.

Yes, the previous insurance system in this country had it’s flaws, but, the fact is undeniable, it did work, and it worked for a large majority of Americans.  Spare me the stories of over crowded inner city emergency rooms.  Try to remember that the overcrowded emergency rooms were not the fault of the insurance companies, but, the fact that many of these people were on Medicaid, or it’s state-level equivalent.  I am also not saying the over-crowded emergency rooms didn’t happen, I know they did, I was an EMT for a private ambulance service, and paid many a visit to hospitals and saw the overcrowded emergency rooms for myself.  Yes, they were miserable, but, what is the solution?  Let’s also remember, by and large, no one was turned away, and treatment was not denied.  So,again, what is the solution.  The fact is no one knows, but the politicians of this country seem to be willing to gamble with all of our lives in an effort to fix something that was never really broken to begin with.

The problem with single payer systems, is that those who advocate for one honestly believe that a single payer system is the only solution, and it is somehow magical, and will fix everyone’s problems.  It is those people who tend to be the ones who advocate for it the strongest, and they are generally the ones who understand it the least.   It is that lack of understanding that makes their arguments so untenable.  Everyone of those who advocate for single-payer always point to Canada, or Sweden as an example of single payer success.   Unfortunately they aren’t successful as their proponents wish they were.

Try showing someone who sings the praises of single payer success in Canada the following articles, and see how fast you are accused of showing them “Fake news”.

Healthcare Wait Times hit 20 weeks in 2016: Report”  20 weeks. Can you imagine waiting 20 weeks for a procedure?  A test? An MRI that might detect a disease process, but at 20 weeks might be too far advanced?  I cannot even comprehend that.   Follow that with this  “Canada Has the Worst ER/Referral Wait Times of 11 Developed Countries“.  Facts take no note of wishes, however, but that doesn’t deter the ‘governement-can-solve-everything’ crowd.   This oft-quoted study by The Frasier Institute just adds more fuel to the fire.  Now, if the average time from referral-to-procedure in Canada is 20 weeks, then, obviously there are those who get care sooner.  At the same time there are those who get it later.   Yes there are this who get treated sooner, but, that does not take away from the fact that on average, for any procedure, the average Canadian can expect to wait 5 months for it to be performed.   Imagine going to the doctor.  You, or a family member has an issue that cause the doctor concern, could you imagine waiting?   If it is something serious (Cancer, etc) five months is an eternity.

Single payer makes no sense to me, neither did Obamacare, and so far, the the stuff being proffered by the GOP.

I don’t want a health care system run by the government.  I want my doctor and I making medical decisions about me, or my family.  Not some bureaucratic pencil pusher.  I don’t want to have to wait months for a test or a procedure.  I also don’t want the government telling me what to eat, or what is good for me, or bad for me.   I also don’t want a judge, or a court, deciding when my life ends (if you think that won’t happen, Charlie Gard should be a wake up call for you) or if I have become “too expensive” and need to be put on an “end of life path”

I just want the government to leave me alone, and let me live my life the way I see fit. I also wish the same thing for everyone else.

What is so hard to understand about that?

 

“Out There”, “Flyover country”, “beyond the lights”.  I have heard those terms with varying frequency, at various times over the past, oh, twenty years or so.  They are terms that many in politics, and media, especially media, use to describe the rest of the country.  The country beyond the Beltway, between the coasts, the places beyond the city lights of the cosmopolitan urban centers.  It’s a disparaging term, and used as a pejorative to describe anyone not from those privileged, comfortable, and sophisticated bubbles of “civilization”.  You know those places, where they absolutely lost their minds when Donald Trump won the Presidency, those same people, bearers of the double standard, spewed nasty, spoiled-rotten-brat rhetoric about Hillary Clinton losing the election, about how she was cheated, it was misogyny, it was sexist, racist, homophobic, or whatever label they decided they wanted to stick on it.  They called the rest of the country “rubes” and “uneducated”, or “bigoted”.  They acted as if they alone knew what was right for us, and how DARE we decide we want something else. (For the record, I did not vote for either candidate, I found them both odious) So, a large portion of this country, mostly on college campuses, urban areas, and inside the Beltway, had a collective temper tantrum that almost six months later, is still going on.  News outlets engaged in stories designed to defame, discredit, and  de-legitimize the election of Donald Trump.  Now, all of the sudden, after 8 years of worshiping at the Altar of Obama, the press decided that they were journalists again.  The words “Fake News” quickly gained currency, and networks, newspapers, and cable news outlets, were routinely putting up stories about the so-called “Collusion with Russia”, and then, were having to correct themselves, issue retractions, or straight up apologize.  Trust in the media, already in the toilet, was sinking even lower.  No one in these elite, liberal, college educated bubbles could understand what was going on.  They all asked “What is wrong with the American people?” instead of asking what was wrong with themselves.   I know, introspection, and self-awareness is hard.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, if you are not a user of the social media platform, then you missed it, there was a minor revolution, or even, a revelation of sorts brought to us by a couple of reporters.  Real reporters.  Journalists who went out, and sought out the people of the United States, what some people call “Real America”, to find out the reasons that Donald Trump got elected, and how that happened.  One of these reporters, a Salena Zito with the Washington Examiner, routinely posts stories about the people she talked to, the places she visited,  and what she found.  It was a revelation of sorts.  (Of course, those of us here in “Real America” already knew about it) Salena actually reported on what she found, no spin, no slant, just actual stories about what the people who live in this country actually thought, and what they thought about the election in general, and what their communities are going through.  They were stories about jobs, the opioid crisis, the economic woes still felt by many small towns across the country. They were stories about the people, they weren’t about what either reporter thought. They didn’t editorialize, or inject their politics, they listened, and they wrote.  With all of the garbage in the news, or, what passes as news, stories by Salena Zito, and another gentleman, Chris Arnade,  put a face on a nation of people dismissed by Hilary Rodham Clinton as a “Basket of Deplorables”.  The unique thing was that these two people at different times, climbed into their cars and traversed the back roads, highways, and  byways of this country, to find their stories (Yes, folks, they drove, they got on the road to go find these stories).  No pretense, no pomp, no qualifying, just reporting, and good reporting at that.   The stories brought to the fore the people of this country.  I am one of them.  I live near one of those “urban bubbles” if you will, and what I read from both Mrs. Zito and Mr. Arnade served to confirm what I already knew.

Here is why Trump won: People like me, and I can only speak for me, got sick and tired of the constant message from our elected officials, and from the media, and Hollywood, that the things we hold dear, our beliefs, values, rights, and ideas needed to be changed.  We were rubes, we were “bitter clingers” “deplorables’ and routinely called “racist”, “homophobic” and what ever other kind of “-phobic” they decided to stick on us.  In the weeks leading up to the election, Clinton and her campaign and her media enablers were acting as if she was not a candidate, but rather “President in waiting”.  It was disgusting, and it was enough to inflame anyone.  The display of arrogance and ego was astounding to me.  I got sick of it, I got tired of being told I was evil, or bad, or somehow mean for expressing my views, holding fast to my values, and wanting to just be left alone so I could live my life.  I did not want Hilary to win, I shuddered at the thought of her being president (I shuddered only slightly less at the thought of Donald winning)  So, now, here we are.  The “rest of America”, since November 8th, has somehow become the riddle that needs to be solved.  So, not to be outdone, the liberal media (because they are) has decided they are going to go out and find “America”.  the Huffington Post has decided to send a busload of their journalists on a 23 city tour of America, to do (in their mind) what Salena Zito and Chris Arnade have already done.  However, they are doing it by bus, and they are going to 23 cities, and the cities they are visiting, not surprisingly, were cities that Hilary won a majority of votes in.  So, in essence, this has become the Huffington Post “bias confirmation tour”.  Its amazing, and it is as if the liberal media has not learned a thing, nor do they understand just how despised they are.  The fact that they are going to cities, and not the rural, suburban, and semi-rural areas the other reporters went to, shows that they are merely going doing this so they could say “me too”.   Talk to Trump voters?  No, several of the reporters in this entourage have stated they are not going to talk to any Trump voters.  What they are doing, is going out to find Hilary supporters and have a good cry together, and share some mutual outrage, but try to mask it as an attempt to find “real Americans”.  This whole thing has inspired a Twitter hash tag #HuffPointheHeartland, and it is hilarious.  Instead of finding some integrity, and acting like the reporters they claim to be, and going out and objectively pursuing a story, they are going out to find stories, and people that agree exclusively with them, and of course, find people who have been negatively impacted by the Trump Administration, or the GOP, or both.  I also expect they will make something up if they can’t find it.   They are despised, and they just don’t understand it.  I am not sure whom I dislike more, Hollywood types with big mouths, idiotic politicians, or reporters and media types.  None of these people are even remotely qualified, regardless of their education level, to tell me how to live my life, what to think, or what to say, or what is right for me.  Yet, they seem to think that doing that is their job.  I hope one of these HuffPo reporters decides to walk into a diner in Southern Illinois, and start talking down to the folks that are there, and winds up wearing a plate of mashed potatoes.  I also hope one of the locals records it on their iPhone.

The bottom line is this.  This effort by the Huffington Post is just another attempt by the liberal media to make people believe they care, and they are in tune with the people.  What it actually is, is a tour of safe spaces, where they won’t be challenged, but can feel like they accomplished something.  If anything of any substance comes out of this, I will be truly surprised.

(Note. Salena Zito is also a CNN, and New York Post contributor.  You can find her on Twitter @SalenaZito. Chris Arnade is on Twitter as @Chris_arnade, and at The Guardian)

Trump. Again.

“The Donald” has won New Hampshire, and now, the din has become almost deafening.  In fact, on both sides of aisle, as socialists celebrate Bernie Sanders crushing of Hillary Clinton.

Trump won New Hampshire, rather handily, in many ways it was expected.  However, one primary does not a nomination make.  (Although, with the crows and cries from the Trump supporters, you would think he just won it all)

What is it about Trump supporters? Why, in many cases, are they so virulent, so vocal, so “in your face”?   I like Trump supporters to this:  Picture a Trump’s campaign, even, Trump the person, as a banquet, a banquet laid out by someone to satisfy a group of hungry people.  Now, on that banquet table, are carefully prepared favorites, things that the preparers know the hungry people want to eat.  However, also on that table, among the platters of delicious foods, are platters of things no one would eat, and many would find disagreeable., in fact, they may even be garbage, they smell so bad.  The hungry people arrive, and decide, “well, we are here, lets eat, at least at this banquet, there is stuff we can eat.”  So, everyone decides to get their fill, but in the process, have to reach over, around and aside of the platters of garbage, from which the emanating odors mingle with everything else, making it hard to smell the good stuff.  Still and all, once they navigate around the foul inedible, they pronounce the banquet as “The best” and “delicious”, despite warnings, and even, evidence, that the presence of the garbage at the table is going to harm them, despite all of the good food they have eaten.   In the meantime, the banquet goers are being told by others to take a step back, and look at the entire table.  For if they did, they would find the whole thing unappetizing, and walk away, despite the presence of their favorite foods.   And some, continue to eat, hoping that someone comes along, and cleans up the garbage, and gets rid of it, so all that is left is what everyone wants to consume.

I see tweets, and FB entries, praising Trump, talking about how he is a “leader” and “what this country needs”.   Now, I also understand what has given rise to Trump, and on the other side, Sanders.  It is an electorate that is fed up, finished, and angry, citizens who feel betrayed, and even, sold out.   People that are tired of “politics as usual” and the empty promises and hot air that comes out of Washington.

I get it, I am one of those people.

We are tired of the threat that is being posed to us by terrorism, unrestrained illegal immigration, a President who acts more like a dictator than the leader of a nation.  Tired of do-nothing Senators, and Congressmen.  We need, no, we want someone to do something about that.  Someone who will stand up and say “No more, this has to stop”.

Unfortunately no one has.  Well, except for Donald Trump.

The problem with Donald, and there are many. (take your pick) is that he is not, and never has been a Conservative, even a moderate one.  He is in it for himself, he is not in it for the country, the people, or our sovereignty.  He is in it for his ego.   His speeches on immigration, and terrorism strike a chord with many, because that is what people want to hear, he knows this, and he speaks to it.  It is little more than populist nonsense, with no real substance behind it.  It is what is selling though, and it is what is getting people to support him.  What most Americans want, is their country back, a sense of security, and the knowledge that Washington is not actively trying to run their lives.  Most of us just want to be left alone to pursue our version of the American Dream.  For various reasons, many Americans believe Donald Trump is, or can be, the man that does that.  Many of us disagree with that notion, and disagree with much of what Trump has to say.

Nonetheless, people are paying attention, taking it in, and following him.  In a speech just before the NH primary, Trump offered more of the same, talking points, and applause lines with very little substance, or policy behind them.   When I ask Trump supporters what he offers, I get very little in the way of responses that either point out what it is that he has, or, even make any sense.  I did get one reply on Facebook from a FB friend who is a Trump supporter, and she said “Trump is saying what we want to hear”.

That, folks, says it all.

Trump actually had his own, on the mark critique of his supporters, when he quipped during a speech recently in Iowa, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,”.  Which to me, is telling commentary on what he thinks of his supporters, and of himself.   In that one line, he is saying that his supporters blindly follow and support him, and it matters not what he does, they are so loyal, they wouldn’t abandon him.  Additionally he is saying that he is also above the law, and that if he shot someone, it shouldn’t matter.   There is not an ounce of humility in that man, and certainly, no respect for the people that support him.

Furthermore, the number of racist, white supremacists that support Trump, as well as Nazi, and other anti-Semitic types is more than a bit disturbing to me, and something that, I would think, any candidate would want to distance himself from.  It would seem, that Trump, while never acknowledging the support from these people, has also never disavowed it, and has never distanced himself from it.   Every extreme is present in every presidential election, in the past the extremism has always had little effect on the out come of the Presidential race.  This is the first election, in the 50 years I have been on this planet, where it seems that extremism has a much louder voice, and, while certainly not being courted, it is being tolerated, which should disturb just about anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, in 2017, because the election is going to make us wait.

The other night, a group of old white folks got on a stage, and said a bunch of stuff, I am sure you saw it, The Democrat Debate.  Yes.  That one.

So, over the last several months, we have one candidate on the Republican side, and at least two on the Democrat side, that are saying the things the masses want to hear.  All night, during the debate, we heard about how the candidates were going to give us everything our heart desires.  Free Healthcare, Free College Tuition, Free Birth Control, Free this and “Free” that.  But, what was conspicuously absent from their promises of rainbows and unicorns for everyone, was any talk about freedom, liberty, and our Rights.

Why does it seem to me, that any discussion of our Rights under the Constitution these days, results in people sidestepping the issue, or acting as if talking about those Rights is bothersome, and an annoyance.  “Why confuse the issue with Rights” a co-worker said one night at work.  As we go along in this election cycle, which is taking on a decidedly surreal aura about it, it seems like there are more fist-shakers, rabble rousers, and snarling, sign waving people than I have ever seen in my life.  I am old enough to remember the protests of the 70’s, and I don’t ever remember an election cycle where the American people seem so distant from the vision that our founding fathers had.

It seems, that in this America, we are focused on revenge, on sticking it to “the other guy.”  whoever that might be.  We are about reclaiming what we perceive as lost, and  what we perceive as “ours”, and not seeming to care if bloodshed  winds up being part of the equation.  Now, I am not talking about bloodshed for a noble cause, or in the defense of something we hold dear.  I am talking bloodshed in the name of “I am taking back what is MINE!”, leaving the definition of what “mine” means, to whatever fits the bill at the moment.  In every issue, from Illegal Immigration, to Gun Rights, to Abortion Rights, the undertone of the threat of  violence, is slowly starting to become less of an undertone, and more of an overtone. The riots in Baltimore, and Ferguson, MO, are a glimpse of what is to come if things slip further out of contriol.   It is as if, we want these candidates of ours, the ones that we believe believe as we do  to be in control, it seems, but so long as it is the “other guy” who is being controlled.   We want the Illegals thrown out, guns taken away, abortion on demand, the sanctity of life be damned, and whatever we want when we want it. Listening to our candidates, they say the things that fire people up, and get the fists shaking, and it’s not in a good way.  Throughout history, tyrannical governments have found their way to the fore when the people, tired of whatever malaise is infecting the nation, want a change, and they want a big change, and they want the change to serve, not the nation, but their self interests.  They want that “other guy” who is responsible for all of the aforementioned malaise, to be punished.  In the eyes of most conservatives, it is the liberal, Socialist Left, and in the eyes of many liberals, it is the Conservative, Christian Right.

What many people seem to be forgetting, is that the institution of an authoritarian government affects them as well.  Does anyone out there think that the people running for President, especially Sanders, Clinton, and Trump are running because, as President, they would put country first?  Put the people first?  Their rhetoric is about punishing those nebulous “others” however they choose to define them, be it illegal immigrants, gun owners, the rich, or what have you.  It is a rhetoric of class division, racial division, and economic division, designed to pit people against one another, and take our focus off of the important issues. In this day and age of the “low information voter” getting people fired up with rhetoric that doesn’t require much thinking isn’t very difficult. Heck, these days, outrage is manufactured by those wishing to move an agenda forward.  Photos and news footage of angry, fist shaking people shouting slogans, and threatening violence tends to project the image that there are large numbers of angry people agitating for change.  These days, it doesn’t even have to be true, just make it a hashtag, and pretty soon people latch on to it, without even thinking about the facts, or, even considering what the facts are.  The “Hands up Don’t Shoot” is a perfect example.  People are so mired in their insular, self absorbed social-media-pop-culture world that real news, and real events, important events don’t make it past the latest Kardashian gossip, cute kitty video, or viral photo.  Remember #thedress from earlier this summer?  It was the lead story on “Good Morning America”, a stupid story about a dress that is/was perceived to be different colors by different people, was all over the news.  A story, about a dress… something that, even 10 years ago would have been fodder for “Inside Edition” or something similar was the lead story on a morning national news program.  When people are focused on the trivia, the minutiae, and the unimportant, and it masquerades as the important, then anything that really matters (world events, the economy, etc.) gets shunted aside. Additionally, with the ever present “social media” on our phones, and in our faces now, 24/7, the trivial becomes important, because it’s the first thing we see.  It’s distracting, and that, ultimately may be the goal.  Today’s social media, is the equivalent of putting the  comics on the front page of the newspaper 30 years ago, followed by the TV listings, the gossip columns, and then “cute photos” sent in by readers, with the news, and the important stories being the last section.

It is this kind of dumbing down, this kind of media slight-of-hand, that is keeping people from learning and understanding what is going on.  This is where tyrrany starts, it is when ordinary people allow someone else to do their thinking for them, and then mindlessly repeat what they hear without giving it a second thought.  It seems to me, in some ways, that there are people in this country who want someone to think for them, and want more government controls, they want “someone” to take care of things that they could, and should normally do themselves.   Think about the advent of the “self driving car”….  Cool, new, “cutting edge”, technological, and one more thing that does something that the average person generally should have no problem doing.  Promoters of the self driving car, are saying things like:

“Safer than having people drive”

“It can avoid accidents, and, indeed, prevent them from happening”

“Can go anywhere, while you ride along in comfort”

Does anyone see a problem with this?  I would not, under any circumstances, want a self driving car.  However, people are all ga-ga over them, and can’t wait to own one.  I like the fact that I get in to my car, and go where I want, not where the car decides to take me. I don’t want to be a passive participant.  And that is the point.  Too many people want to be passive participants.  They want others to think for them, to tell them where to go, and how they should get there.  A self driving car?  Really? So, once you get in it, you are now at the mercy of whomever controls the programming for the system that controls the car.  I find no merit in such a vehicle, none whatsoever.  Yet, it is promoted as a “safety solution” and something that will put an end to the high number of deaths every year from automobile accidents.  That is how anything that ultimately takes away a bit of your freedom, or your control is promoted.  It is promoted as something that promotes “safety” either for children, or the elderly, or ourselves.  Think about that for one moment.  A car, that is programmed, and even if it is programmed by the owner to travel, the destinations, the routes, and the dates and times, are saved in a computer network somewhere, somewhere, where someone else can get access, and see where you have gone, and how often, and how long you spend there. It is just more information about you, that, can be used against you.  Add to that, how easy would it be for someone who wants to, to change where you are supposed to go? How much power would you have to override that?  What comes next after that? “Smart houses” that record what goes on in them, under the guise of crime prevention? Domestic violence prevention? Fire prevention?

Giving up control over our own personal vehicles and personal space to others, so we can feel “secure” is the wrong road to go down. Technology is cool, and does great things, but those great things are hardly innocuous, or neutral.  They can be used as weapons against us, when they wind up in the wrong hands.  Right now, so much of our lives depend on technology, whether it’s our smart phone, our computer, or our vehicle’s GPS navigation system, that we are exposed in every possible way.  Giving up control over what we hold as freedoms, to those who promise to be better stewards of it than we are, is frivolous, dangerous fantasy.   Many people, however, desire the control, but they want to be on the sidelines watching, they want the control, just so long as it is on others, not on them.  That is not, and never will be the case.  Once an enemy is identified, isolated, and the blame for the societal issues of the day placed on that enemy, it makes it easier for those who wish to exercise power and control.  The people become focused on the “enemy” that they don’t realize that the control is also applying to them.  In their zeal to find a politician who will isolate, and control the “enemy” people don’t realize that they are giving up their freedoms and their rights.

See, it’s not about the “other guy” or “them”,  It is about us.  It is about our society. It is about our country, and all of the citizens that live here.  We cannot afford to elect anyone who desires to take away rights, subjugate a portion of the population, or curtail our personal, and private activities, or worse, subject them to the scrutiny of someone or some group who is given the power to decide if it is an activity that we should be allowed to partake in, based on whatever agenda they happen to be running.   Regardless of whether or not you disagree with abortion, gun ownership, homosexual marriage, or any of the the other issues in our society today, it does not give you, or anyone, the right to prevent those folks from expressing opinions, protesting, or celebrating those issues by using violence, imprisonment, or the threat of such. It seems, however, that these days, there are people who seem to think that using violence is the only way, and don’t seem to shy about expressing that.

Illegal immigration.

Next to Hillary’s emails, and the Planned Parenthood fiasco, it is the one issue in the current election cycle that resonates with everyone in this country.

Every day, in this country, we have people spilling over our borders, entering through our ports, airports, and unguarded seashores, and, even, being packed into freight cars by criminal human traffickers. We have nearly unsustainable levels of people in this country looking for and getting hand outs from the government . It is an issue that is very important to many citizens, it is about our way of life, it is about National Security, and it is about economic security as well.

But, what are we going to do about it?

Well, what can we do about it?

On the second question, as well as the first there are several “schools of thought” if you will on how to handle the crisis.  From the Left, they want open borders, on the Right, secure borders and tougher laws. From Americans in general, there is a “send them all back” sentiment.   Neither side can offer a constructive plan on how to  deal with it, because Americans of all stripes are demanding something be done NOW!

Let’s be honest with ourselves about this issue; and, before you go making assumptions about me, let me spell this out:  I don’t like illegal immigration, and I fully agree it must be stopped, and our border secured.  I understand, that although there are many people coming here to make things better for themselves, there are also large numbers who are here to cause problems, break laws, and do nefarious things, not to mention the very real possibility there are ISIS-types among those illegals. I worked 9-1-1 in a Law Enforcement environment, in a town that has a rough reptuation, as well as being a haven for gangsters, and criminals of all stripes. Telling me that there are serious criminals coming here illegally, is like saying water is wet. Prior to the Obama Administration, ICE was a regular visitor to our lock up.  I remember quite often running names and coming up with criminal histories marked “previously deported alien”.   However, not all of them are criminals, not all of them are bad, and not all of them are from South America, Central America, and Mexico.  Illegals come from China, Russia, Germany, Jordan, Israel, Cameroon, South Africa, Korea, Malaysia, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Canada, India, Pakistan, and, well, you get the picture.  People enter this country illegally every year, from all over. One of the principal points of entry is in the Southwestern United States. but, they enter everywhere.

As solutions go, there are none that will solve the problem quickly.  It is too far gone, and too far advanced to turn around on a dime, and fix.  Regardless of what Trump and his supporters might think, there is simply no way to come to a fix that isn’t going to take a lot of time, energy and money. Fixing the problem, which should be a priority, will be expensive.  It needs a multi pronged approach, there has to be action on three things: Securing the Border, dealing with the millions who are already here, and preventing more from coming in.

Shouts of “Build a Wall” or “Send them all back” are neither practical, or real solutions.  We can’t send back millions of people.  How would that be done?  Do you really want the world to see train and bus loads of people being forcibly removed from the country? Do you really want this country portrayed like that? The “Land of the Free,” packing people in to freight cars, a la, Nazi Germany for deportation to another country?  Look, I know they broke the law, but, seriously, how could anyone with a sliver of humanity in them see that as nothing but barbaric. Who would round them up? Do you want to go there too?  How would you avoid any violence? Because violence would surely result from any kind of forceful measures, and would quickly spiral out of control.  If you are one of those who think it wouldn’t, your are delusional, and devoid of any logical thought. So. lets remove the “send them all back” option from the equation, except for those convicted of crimes.  The criminals can go, we don’t need them.

So, what do we do then?  Path to Citizenship? Mentioning that is like saying someone in the room has the measles.  Is that a “reward” for breaking the law? Perhaps.  But, what is worse; Giving a segment of the illiegals citizenship, or, being seen as a human rights violator right up there with China, Iran, and some other nations?

At this same time, current Immigration laws would have to be enforced, vigorously. The borders, including our ports, coasts and airports, as well as the long border crossings between us and Mexico as well as us and Canada would have to be secured. There would have to be immediate deportation of those that are caught crossing the border illegally.   I have no problems with those borders being patrolled by heavily armed border guards in armored vehicles. Remember, this is OUR country, and we can choose who we wish to let in.

Along with strengthening the border and other points of entry, there should be a comprehensive effort to remove the criminal element, and deport them back to wherever they came from.  Immigration and Customs should be beefed up, and be available whenever law enforcement comes upon someone who has a criminal past, and is here illegally, or, is here illegally, and has committed crime. Upon arrest, and the determination that the individual does not belong here, ICE agents should be on call to take the person into custody, and to a central location where they will be sent back to wherever they came from. Many other countries around the world have strict immigration laws, we need to have them too.  This country belongs to those of us (regardless of where anyone came from) who are citizens, whether they became a citizen last year, or their ancestors did two centuries ago.

Comprehensive, strict, and enforceable immigration laws, and a system to enforce those laws is what we need to enact.  Fixing the problem will take time, probably on the order of ten or fifteen years, but it can be done.  We won’t make the country impervious to illegal aliens, but we sure can make it tougher for them to try to get in, and, make it tougher for those who do manage to get in to stay. We also need politicians not afraid to act, and put the interests of the country above the interests of the party.(whichever party they belong to) Donald Trump does not qualify as “not afraid to act”, his bombast is worthless, his plan nativist and isolationist, appealing only to the xenophobic, and racist among us. Enacting any plan the requires the removal of large amounts of people, would require enacting a police state in this country, which is anti-thetical to anything and everything this country was founded on.

Now, let me make this clear: I am not talking about a blanket amnesty, if there were feasible, agreeable path to citizenship, then it would have to include getting oneself off of welfare, finding stable, productive employment, and staying out of trouble with the law (x number of misdemeanors, or one felony conviction within x amount of time gets one deported, perhaps) .  Once staying on illegally, whether it’s a border-jumper, or someone who over stays their visa, is made riskier, and less attractive, that may force many to head back where they came from.  LIke I said, it’s not going to be done quickly.  The only way to do that is to violate the civil and human rights of millions, and that will just lead to violence, and that is not a solution either.

Also, the next thing that would be necessary, is a stable, and growing economy, and a lean toward energy independence, which would create jobs as well.  A growing economy in Mexico, and South and Central America would also help, as many of the people who come here are poor and with little means.  But, again, this all takes time.   At this point, what we have to deal with is this:

Porous borders, anywhere from 11 to 20 million illegals.  A system the is broken, and has been allowed to languish under the current administration, as well as an administration that has sought to make it easier for people to get here illegally. That is what we have to deal with, and even if we “fix” the system, we will still have millions of people here, that are here illegally, and a solution is needed for them as well.   The very idea of forcing millions of people out of the country is appalling to me.  I don’t like the fact that they are here illegally and have taken advantage of my country, but, at the same time, I don’t like the idea of rounding up people by the millions (and, honestly, how would we tell who was who?) and shipping them off either, so I am at an impasse.  There has to be a workable middle ground here, and it needs to be found. Internal and external security needs to be rebuilt, illegal immigration needs to be brought under control.

Shouts, slogans, screams for mass deportation are not going to solve the illegal immigration crisis in this country.  The only thing that can, is a solution that addresses every avenue in this issue, and takes into account the security, well being, and needs of  American citizens first and foremost.  It has to be that way.  We are a sovereign nation.  We have the right to secure borders, and a secure homeland.  It’s really that simple.

The first debate is over, and the 2016 Republican Nomination race is in full swing.

Donald Trump, is leading in the polls, although latest reports have his lead shrinking, and his popularity declining, and some other candidates are moving up, notably, including Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson.

The one characteristic about this race, so far, is the seething anger, much of it from Trump supporters.  Now, I have to sympathize here momentarily.  I understand their anger.  Mainly, they are angry, not so much at the current administration, but more so at the current Republican leadership in Congress who were elected on big promises, but, once in office, failed to deliver on them, and caved to the Democrats at almost every opportunity.  In fact, I will gladly state, that I am angry right along with them.  To say I am pissed off at the current state of affairs in Washington is a bit of an understatement.

Anger aside, however, the viciousness with which Trump supporters attack their opponents, is, I think, a bit overwrought.  Yeah, fine, he’s your candidate, but he’s not the Magic Man, and he certainly isn’t this nation’s savior.  Trump critics everywhere meet criticisma like this with expletive ridden, factless bombast anytime anyone comes out against The Donald.   Over at Red State.com, Erick Erickson, who runs that site, dis-invited Trump from Red State Gathering 2015, that took place in Atlanta back on August 6th-9th.  He caught much in the way of the above described vitriol.  He describes some of it in this post here.  He also admits that his dis-invitation of Ben Carson was a mistake.  (I get the Trump dis-invite, but not the Ben Carson one, but he explains it, and admits he is wrong, so that’s good enough for me)  The contrast between those who disagreed with his Trump snub, vs, those who disagreed with the Ben Carson snub is, as he stated, “…..and the reaction about Trump was 80% expletive filled rage.” . There is passionate disagreement, I know, I can be that way, when it comes to things I am passionate about.  But, blind, anger filled rage, aimed at someone just because they disagree with, or don’t like someone that you put on a pedestal, serves no purpose, and actually does little to advance an argument.

I may be among the angry, but I am not among the Trump supporters.  Several reasons. First of all, he has no solutions.  He has soundbites and slogans.  Second of all, he is not a conservative in any way, shape or form, and was never a Republican.  In fact, it is documented that he was a donor to Hillary’s senate campaign.  He is here to play spoiler, and that is about it.  Furthermore, I am thinking this is a bit of dust up as well, and as the dust settles, so will Trump’s poll numbers. Additionally, his appeal comes from the fact that he is talking about sticking a thumb in the eye of the political establishment in Washington, and right now, that is what many voters want to hear, and are rallying around the guy whose thumb is extended, and is just looking for a target.

But, what about all of those angry voters?  Well, they are there, and they are, for the moment, rather vocal about it and don’t care who knows.  But, what is driving the anger?  For starters, it is the fact that many are tired of the Republicans saying one thing, and doing another.  They are tired of a President who seems more concerned with golf, celebrities and vacations, than the serious business of running the country. Many are tired of what appear to be threats to their rights, and their way of life  As I have said before, these political times are like nothing I have experienced in the 35 years or so, since I was old enough to understand the political process.  What will happen to the anger?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Anger can only sustain a candidate, and their base of supporters for so long.  Clear, well thought out statements on their plans should they get elected need to be forth coming.  Because when everyone is done shaking their fists, the angry voters are going to start thinking, and then they are going to have serious questions for not only “their” candidate, but all of them.  The candidates that are going to rise to the top, are the ones that are going to have clearly articulated goals, as well as be brave enough to take on the establishment, both within in the party, and within the opposition.  Once that candidate comes to the fore, then the voters will find common ground.  However, that candidate is going to need to be strong, as well as clear, articulate as well as “angry”, and will have the American people’s back.  All of us. Because right now, across many segments of our society, people feel betrayed by Washington, their party, and their politicians.