A Long Intro

Three months…and twenty-plus revisions. It has taken me three months to write this post. Constant revisions as well as questioning my intention, purpose and the message I wanted to get “out there”. Part of me still questions whether I should even press publish on this, but I know I will, hand over my eyes with a small slit open as I click “publish”. That questioning is due to the fact that I am well aware I am out of my league here, far out.

I normally don’t do anything remotely political. I could be wrong, but I cannot remember the last time I did, if I did. A quick scan of my posts tells me, no, but I could have missed something.

If it helps at all, in no particular order, that for some reason I believe you should “know” before reading this piece:

  • I believe the ideals espoused in our founding documents were not reached when they penned them, nor do I believe we have fully reached them yet. That said, they still remain an ideal to strive towards. This is truly a, “Republic, if you can keep it…”; an oh-so-fragile experiment it seems and while the road seems uncertain, we have the opportunity every day to move closer towards those ideals that ALL are created equal, entitled to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness/Property; with Liberty and Justice for all. That we can truly have a Democratic Republic, by, for and of the People.
  • I believe that our History should objectively be taught and understood: our failures, mistakes and errors, as well as our successes, victories and the things we excelled at.
  • I was raised very conservative, but I’m in the center, a “Moderate”, if you will with left or right leanings depending on the topic. I see value in both parties, well, at least how they used to be and the ideas they espoused.
  • For whatever it is worth, based on this calculator, I occupy the “middle-class”.
  • I do not have a major in political science or economics; never went to college. Just a High School graduate working in Corporate America for half of my life.
  • I haven’t voted in the last two Presidential election cycles, if memory serves. I voted during former President Obama’s first run for office and I think during the “W” days.
  • I began writing this piece with the intention of explaining why I am not voting in this election year… now at the final product of this piece, I have decided to vote.
  • I’m completely open to education and correction in what I have to say, I am admittedly ignorant of many things and am trying to rectify that ignorance.

I’d say, too, that I’m channeling my inner Dan Carlin (of Hardcore History & Common Sense podcasts) but I’m afraid that would be an insult to Mr. Carlin and the quality content he produces. He has articulated in a much better way, some of the thoughts I’ve had and if you listen to the last two Common Sense podcasts (#320 “Steering Into the Iceberg” and #319 “A Recipe for Ceasar”), you’ll probably catch the similarities in a few things.

Though I’ve tried to put this into a coherent progression of thought, it still feels like it is all over the damn place with incoherent babbling and rants. I guess we are our own worst critic.

As always, I hope there is something of value in here to you, the reader.

I think that about covers it, so, without further ado, let us begin.

To Vote or Not To Vote

I don’t plan on voting. (July)

I’m really, really, really on the fence about voting this election year. (August)

I’m thinking very seriously about voting this year. (Late August, Early Sept)

I’ll be voting this year. (Mid to Late Sept)

I consider myself among the jaded and cynical who believes the “system” is beyond flawed; believing my vote truly matters on the macro level of our country is a hard pill for me to swallow on most days. I, like many people, who say that I abhor politics.

Funny how politics and polite are so close together in spelling. Though, it doesn’t seem like politics cares if you like politics or not.

Politics is as politics does.

Earlier this summer, I allowed myself to get drawn into a heated political conversation with family – well, heated enough for me. This is usually a hard and fast NO for me. I really try to avoid having these discussions because it is just so damn volatile. Opinions are, like the saying goes, like sphincters: everyone has one. It takes a lot of attention, even with the best intentions, to ensure the discussion stays outside the muddy territory of Sphincterville. And from my experience, one never seems to get out of it without feeling a little dirty and smelly.

No, thank you, I’ll pass. I’d rather talk about your favorite football team. I have zero emotional investment in football.

I’ve been told that I was throwing away my vote by not participating in the election. I’ve been asked if I am the kind of person who is just happy with whatever outcome there is since I didn’t want to vote. I’ve been told, “Not voting for Trump (or Biden/Hillary/Obama/) is just giving a vote to Biden (or Trump/Romney/McCain)!” I’ve been told that the election is choosing between socialism or capitalism. And depending on which side you’re on, I’ve been told it is a choice between a Socialist Dictator or a Tyrant.

I’ve been told a lot of things by a lot of people over the last few elections. I’m sure you have been told many things, too.

My usual response:

  • If I truly believed my vote mattered, then yes, I would be throwing the vote away by not participating. I guess it depends on how I view the vote to “matter”. More on that later.
  • I’d only be taking a vote away from and giving it to either candidate if I actually voted for one of them, or at the very least, a third party candidate. But also, yes… that’s how voting works… I choose one over all others. Insert visibly confused Eitri from Avengers: Infinity War, here. (the “Yes, that’s what killing you means….” scene)
  • No, I’m not “happy” with whatever outcome. The candidates that have been presented to me aren’t particularly appealing choices and they haven’t been for a hot minute. I’m not happy with that.
  • I don’t see it simply as a choice between socialism or capitalism, or between a Tyrant and a Dictator. Power corrupts, of course. But this simplistic view doesn’t do anything to convince me that our economic or democratic system will automatically fail on Nov 5.

Anyways, moving on…

The “Best”, really?

I do believe in the process and the idea behind an election, don’t get me wrong.

We should have the people educatedly consent to who is to govern them and have a fair and balanced approach to that election process to make sure representation is appropriate, just, balanced; that we do not have a tyranny of the majority.

I don’t believe that the process is “rigged” per se.

Well, ok, yes I do.

Greed.
Corporatism.
Cronyism.
Power.
Lobbyists.
Career Politicians who seem to say and do anything to stay in office and linger on The Hill for 20, 30, 40 years.

These things and more give me pause and belief that the dice are loaded no matter who is elected; that things will continue moving how “they” want. Sometimes I think they just want to come out in the open and be done with the charade, “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are your ruling class. Get over it.” They seem to be making things better for them and just tolerable enough for us to keep playing the damn game, to keep rolling the dice.

It also feels this way when much more promising candidates get swept by and the party picks… well, the candidates that end up getting the nomination.

Remember when Bernie ran and the DNC gave the nomination to someone else and then he towed the line and supported that candidate?

That happened in the last two elections.

I’m not a big Bernie fan, however soundbytes don’t do him justice. Thanks be to podcasts like the Joe Rogan Experience where you can listen to someone’s thoughts and positions in long form. I listened to it after it came out and, well, I was impressed. Not convinced, but impressed. Again, long form vs soundbytes makes a world of difference.

When it came to the Hillary/Trump race, it seemed like he was far more favored over Hillary. When they gave it to Hillary, I figured it was over, like the DNC wanted to lose. I didn’t vote that election and I definitely wouldn’t have voted for either of them. This is just my average joe view of the whole affair.

Though Bernie ran again this time, I really didn’t think he had a dog in the race. However, listening to Tulsi Gabbard in long form, twice on the JRE podcast, and I was pretty impressed and very interested in someone like her leading. Listening to her, I was ready to cast my vote for her. I was disheartened that she wasn’t given more attention by the Democratic party. My impression is that she is more center-Left and stood a good chance of winning votes from the Left, Center and Right. But, what do I know? I’m no poli-sci major. (A quick aside, from the more vocal Left (possibly more far Left) I hear complaints about politics and “old white men”… yet that is just what their party decided should represent them.)

Forgive the analogy that I will have running from here on out.

Listening to presidential hopefuls like Tulsi Gabbard before each party picked or stood by their chosen “One”, is like seeing commercials online for a fine dining experience for a restaurant you were initially skeptical about and had a bad experience with before. It’s been awhile, things look different in the commercial, the rich cuisine, hand crafted original takes on favorite dishes, etc. Some of the dishes seemed so wonderfully tempting, so…

Promising.

You decide to go. To sit down and see what’s changed. The waiter hands you the menu and on the left side of the menu, to your amazement, you do not find a good selection of choices. Instead, you have a familar brand of fettucine alfredo, from the box. And on the right, again, no selection of choices, you just have a rebranding of a familiar boxed mac-n-cheez.

With a “Z” no less.

You look at the waiter and ask,

“Is this it?”
“Well, yes. We believe this is what you really want.”
“What about everything we saw on the commercials? What about those meals? I don’t mean to sound rude, but, can’t you do, well, better?”
“Well, yes, we could, but not enough people will buy them and these products are way more sure to be purchased. We’ve done market analysis, surveys, etc., and really, this is what the people are clamoring for!”
“Mm, well, that’s not what I saw before coming in here. I’d rather go home, thank you for your time.”
“I’ll get your bill right away, sir.”
“Bill?! But I haven’t ordered anything!”
“Everyone pays, Sir. Regardless of if you order or not…”

Indeed. Everyone pays.

To everyone trying to make their own lives better: Do you not find this selection insulting to yourself and to our nation collectively, that the selection given to us supposedy represents the “best” options we have?

If Trump is truly the best the Republicans can produce to lead the country, and if Biden is truly the best that the Democrats can produce to lead the country…

Maybe we are in much deeper trouble than we believe we are.

Anyone but!

I’m sure this has happened in previous elections too, but when Hillary ran against Trump, it seemed like both sides got into this “Anyone but them!” camp.

The Conservatives wanted and were satisfied with “anyone” but Hillary… and, well, they got it. And now a good percentage of them rally around their God-king as if Jesus Christ and George Washington came down from on high and annointed him as the chosen candidate who could do no wrong. The Savior schema isn’t something new on either side of the fence, though.

I received a “popular” message forwarded from somewhere on social media that dove into exactly this “Anyone but” mentality. Coming from the Right, it blamed Liberals for everything and that the Conservatives are fed up so much with all the liberal “BS” that they will take “anyone” as long as someone from the Left doesn’t get into office. It conceded, weakly, that while the author “may not like Trump” and may not approve of him and his morals, policies, etc., that regardless he is still a far better choice than Biden.

I’d say it’s safe to bet this mindset is prevalent on the Left, too.

You can hear the collective screams:

“Anyone but Trump!”
“Anyone but Biden!”

I’m partial to the “Any rational, functioning adult” bumper stickers I’ve seen recently, myself.

Sigh…

While we are made to think that these are desperate times we are living in and maybe we are… Do you not see how this “anyone but” mindset can be a dangerous, slippery slope?

This is dangerous thinking…

It is blind thinking…

Fast forward this time table a bit.

Every action, even in politics, seems to have an opposite and equal reaction. The pendulum always seems to swing back to the opposite side with as much or more vigor as the actions that swung it the last go round. An attempt to over correct, but the intertia seems to push it even farther out. If we keep over correcting the pendulum to both extremes, we could very well keep getting worse and worse “anyones” to fill the gap…

Of course, that’s a slippery slope statement, but it does seem to be headed that way.

I hope I’m wrong.

This “anyone but” stance seems to be a self-created false dilemma. To me, we created this mess in part by allowing our emotions to collectively rule us and settle for less and less than what the country really needs in and from the leadership of our country.

Partisanism at the expense of the Nation and the People…

Hope and Change

If we do want to see real change, if we want to have real hope in the future of our country then we need to do better.

It seems both sides and those in the middle are cynical of positive momentum for the country. I think part of this cynicism is due to the extreme Partisanism we are seeing today; that only, “my party can fix the problems and as a matter of fact, the other party is the problem!”

This extreme partisanism needs to be abandoned. Not everyone who is Red is a villain. Not everyone who is Blue is a villain. And not everyone in the middle are timid cowards who don’t want to choose a side. It is far past the time of pointing fingers. It is time to examine ourselves, our motives, our assumptions. It is time to look across the political divide, listen without trying to shut down and try to see the good things in the “other”; to see their humanity.

And then we need to look higher (no… not in a religious sense) and strive towards a shared higher vision.

We need to have higher standards.

If we are to be partisan on the Left or Right, then we need to hold “our own” to a higher standard and level of scrutiny than the other side. Both sides are guilty of this. Your side doesn’t get a pass just because they are on “your side”. Your side needs a higher level of scrutiny than the other side, precisely because they are representing your side.

Keep your own house in order.

Of God-Kings and Mankind

I can feel the waiter looking at me, willing me to choose: orange powder, uber salty, mac-n-cheez or pasty white, sort of bland, overcooked fettucine alfredo…

Served in gold plated bowls no less.

Ugh.

If one takes a step back, you could see that collectively our attitudes about who leads us has been more and more about who will be a God-King for us to believe in and have rule us.

One person to just “take care of the problem”.

One person to “save us all” from them.

Our Savior.

Sure, we may say collectively that we don’t want a God-King… that we want a government of, for and by the people and that each person we put into power is there by our consent. Actions however, and how “we” side with “our” candidate tell a different story to me.

“Our guy/gal will make it all better, our guy/gal will take care of us! Our guy/gal will silence and take care of the ‘problem’ of the opposing side and all they have done! Our guy/gal promised that they’d do X, Y, Z for us!”

Oh, how dangerous it is to believe the problem is the people who believe contrary to us and not the ideas themselves… As if we cannot anymore have a reasoned dialogue, put our pride and ego aside as best we could and weigh the value and merit of ideas anymore. As if, we are so far past that that anyone who is Red or Blue is the problem…

Have we not read how that dangerous mindset has played out before in our nation and in others?

But I digress.

The point in this particular portion is that is seems more and more we want the candidate who will just wave their god-like hand and get things done. We want a Ceasar, a God-King, a Monarch… as long as it fixes “the problem” as “we” see it. We don’t want to do the work to fix, to hold accountable, to make lasting change.

We want our God-King to fix it for us.

And hurry it up, already, the new season of whatever is coming on!

Voter Turnout

A small search on any echo-chamber answer engine shows that the percentage of the voting age population that actually showed up to vote when it was a choice between Trump or Hillary was as low as 55.7% and as high as 61.4%. So, for a voting age population of roughly 250 Million, that is roughly 138M-153M who showed up.

Remember, that “M” stands for MILLION. And roughly 97M – 112 MILLION people didn’t show up to vote (yours truly included): Why?

We have absentee and mail-in voting. Most voting booths, to my elementary understanding, are done locally. The voting districts/areas I’ve lived in have usually been within a mile or two, so ideally (and I use that word loosely here), one could walk or find a way to the voting booth.

People die and get sick every day, emergencies happen that rob people of the chance to get in to the voting booth on Election Day, some have a hard time walking, etc. We can take being hospitalized, invalid, bedridden, etc., into account here. We can take other socio-economic issues into account here too that could prevent voting.

Things “happen” everyday.

But all of that accounts for how many out of that 97-112M really? I don’t know. I’m not going to do the research here for this, I’m just kicking a can of thoughts around and see what shakes out.

Are they losing faith?

Do they believe in some way shape or form, their vote doesn’t matter?

How do we get them to opt-in and vote?

What would it take for me to opt-in and vote?

Does my vote matter? Really?

I did try to educate myself a little more on whether or not my vote really mattered. I cringe listing the links, because while my intent is to find solid, convincing material about why I should vote in this Presidential election, I’m well aware that search engines can find damn near anything to agree with whatever you want. And, on the flip you can find a counter argument for just about anything.

I’m reminded of stand-up comedian, Chris Porter, and his bit about how you can Google anything and you will find a bunch of answers backing up that claim. Go have a listen to his album, “A Man from Kansas”, have a laugh on me, well, on Chris. He’s got great observations from why you shouldn’t talk politics to how we can change peoples opinion about their belief in the Sun, as well as a bunch of great stories.

Seriosuly, go have a laugh, I’m sure you need it as much as I do.

From reading these articles, I’m more inclined to say smaller elections matter far more. I’d like to think that if we could get more voter turnout for city, county and state elections (while tolerating the presidential election) maybe we could actually see good changes happen. I’m admittedly still skeptical, but smaller, bottom-up change might just be the change we need. It just might be the way.

The Hot Springs Sentinel Record (newspaper piece)

Financial Samurai (financial website)

Votergy.org (this one had some good points)

Bustle.com (online women’s magazine. good points here too)

Vice.com (2016 short interview with Jason Brennan, a Professor at Georgetown University – never heard of him before.)

The Reeves Law Group (a post about the Electoral College)

Medium.com (opinion piece (?) written by Jason Bell, a researcher at Oxford – never heard of him before).

NPR.com (this gave some stats that make me inclined to agree that votes matter in smaller elections moreso than Presidential… though the author does mention a couple POTUS results)

A Voice Nonetheless

At this point, I’d like to give a nod to Allison Marie Conway, a prolific writer and published author of poetry and whatever her Muse wills her to create. She wrote and published this piece recently and I think it is worth a read.

I particularly liked this excerpt,

The country is being dismantled from the inside out. It goes on because there is no accountability. No force greater than greed has sufficiently challenged the greed, and so it goes. The threat is grave because it is invisible yet evident everywhere, it is hiding in plain sight. The call is coming from inside the house.

The flaunting of the corruption, the indignities, the lying, the deceit, the cruelty, the anger, the fear, the pardoning of cronies and criminals.

The refusal of even reputable media to call lying and cheating what it is. To speak truth to power. Even as the stakes have never been higher to do so.

It is not politics. The cleverest thing they have done is to convince us this is about politics. Fuck politics. ‘Politics’ is an illusion. It pretends to have lines you can cross or not cross, no. This is about the very basics of human decency, honesty, integrity. The value placed on human life, or the lack of value placed on it.

Basic human decency versus the vacant vacuum of greed which will never be satisfied until it eats everything and then is forced to eat itself.”

“Something Which Eats Itself…” by Allison Marie Conway

Indeed, Miss Allison. Indeed.

It was good to hear her (written) voice on this subject and we engaged in a conversation in comment section and then behind the scenes via social media messaging about some of my jaded views and concerns. Her responses were thoughtful and caused me to reconsider staying away from the voting booth, come November 3. At this point, I want to confirm that I did get her consent to share her piece as well as some of our conversation.

One of her public responses to me was, “What I ultimately asked myself was… does my vote (voice) matter… to me?”

Indeed. Sometime is is the most simple answer that is the most clear.

Maybe it can be that simple? A conviction that you followed your inner compass, that you let your voice be added to the collective regardless of the outcome, that you want a certain standard. Yes?

In a way, that’s really part of what the consent of the governed is supposed to be about, right?

I wanted to highlight a few things that she said on our social media chat. Italics are mine for emphasis.

Thank you for sharing this all with me I am really heartened by your openness to communicating kindly and honestly. I don’t think you are ignorant. You are engaging with me, right now. Which is very cool. There is no perfect in this. Either way, it’s messy and humans will be humans.

… Something I heard that made much sense to me. If you are taking a bus to a destination but there are no stops at that exact location, you get off at the closest option.

… [Biden] Gets us closer. And then we keep working towards the changes we want to see.

… But again, I vote for my own integrity with myself.

Allison Marie Conway

This may seem like a “duh” moment, or just common sense to some of you. To me, the beautiful simplicity in what she said had been escaping me before as I tend to overthink things due to a lot of what I’ve written about already, marred in a ton of cynicism.

I’ll speak below about potential contributions I believe we can make to really see positive change in the country but for now, maybe this simple approach is all we need, yes?

I could get into the overthinking weeds here by wondering how Trump is “closer” to the destination for some on the far right and what that destination is, and vice versa on the far left… but I’ll focus below on other things.

Even the destination is nuanced with how we individually envision our nation, isn’t it?

A Problem

Here is where I see a problem, writ large, over our nation.

Rant warning…

What is the common denominator, no matter who is in office? Whose faces and voices do we see just as often?

Career Politicians.

This is a major sticking point for me. When we talk about lobbyists, and politicians being in corporate pockets, corporatism running rampant, cronyism, etc., these are the ones we are talking about. On both sides, right and left, there are a legion of politicians who have been “serving” us for 20, 30, 40 years or more, including some of those presidential hopefuls that have sought the nomination, and one that will be on the ballot for President. The problem is here on both sides of the aisle from the representatives themselves, all the way down to the face we see in the mirror every morning.

We, collectively and over time, have tolerated this. We let them represent us time and time again.

Depending on which source you use and how you view it: the median wealth of our representatives (the net worth of a household, all of the assetts minus liabilities of both Senators and Congresspersons) hover somewhere between $500K to $1M. This number is schewed lower, if I’m not mistaken based on those who have a negative net worth or none at all.

The income of our legislators is closer to the bottom end of the upper class in many cases, too.

I know this is part fallacy here in asking this, but, whose interests do you really think they are representing?

We opine that these politicans are our employees, but it seems we do not hold them accountable like employees. They live much higher on the hog than most of us who put them in office do (if our votes matter more than the money and power used to put them in office that is…).

I’m not trying to make this a class war thing here, either.

I will grant that a good portion of those wealthy representatives, on both sides, earned their wealth. I suppose their connections on the Hill helped them a bit, but I’d be willing to bet that a good handful of them would’ve done fairly well for themselves without being in that position.

There have always been wealthy and poor among us.

If everything were “even” regarding wealth, there will be people who know how to use money as a tool and increase their wealth, and there will be people who have no proper relationship to money and spend and borrow above their means. I do believe in capitalism (not to be confused with the corporatism I see running rampant that seems to be giving capitalism a bad rap). I also believe in educating and helping the poor. So, there’s that take it for what it is.

When things go wrong, we tolerate these career politicians blaming the other side of the aisle. Rarely, rarely do we ever see a politican leader step up to the microphone and actually take ownership of the problem, “My fellow Americans, I have failed to bring both sides together in agreement on this issue. This is why it is my fault, X, Y, and Z and what I propose to do to help fix the issue is A, B and C.”

Pipedream. I know. Politics is an ancient game…that kind of ownership seems like it would be suicide.

The hard truth here is that in order to get rid of the career politicians, we’d have to force them to listen to us and do what we say… and the problem there voting them out and then getting representatives that would comply with our request to vote themselves out of a job: term limits.

Yes, that’s right, I’m a heavy advocate for term limits for every politician.

The max term for the most powerful office in the nation is two terms, 8 years total. A lot, as we have seen, can be done in 4 – 8 years. Maybe if we had term limits for the officies of Mayor, Governor, Senate, Congress person, etc., maybe we’d see some actual change for the good. Maybe the lobbyists and cronies wouldn’t be able to keep up with the change of guard as often or wouldn’t be able to put as many people in their pockets and we’d see some change that way. But that would take us paying attention to them with a level we haven’t given them.

Who knows. Probably a pipe dream. It seems, just like wanting a God-King, we seem to be okay with having a ruling class…

While we are on the topic of careers…Supreme Court Justices are a really hot button anytime there is a vacancy. Right now, due to the timing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing, it seems that the fate of the nation rests on which President gets to pick her replacement. Which as of this writing, he seems to have done.

From my loose understanding, the life term of service of a SCJ (and also federal district judges) is to help insulate them from politics and/or political pressure. The idea here is that justice can be done without bias, without pressure. From what I understand, they are impervious to outside pressure when coming to a verdict or decision on a case and can take their time. I could be wrong.

But that’s the idea, anyway.

Humans are humans. We are all fallible, corruptible, and prone to our own biases. Nobody is 100% “non-bias”.

I get the intent of sheilding the Justices from political pressure, and in a way, this idea confirms what happens to the politicians that supposedly represent us. I don’t have the chops to say what the overall impact has been with having life term appointments for the seat of the highest court in the land is. In a perfect, non-bias, “and Justice for all” kind of way, one would think this is a great idea. In an “all humans are flawed and subject to temptation and corruption” kind of way, it is a very terrible idea indeed. Because then it is only a matter of time before a Justice stops ruling justly.

From how both sides of the two major political parties act with each vacancy, and with the confirmation process as it is for these seats, I think there is more political pressure than intended. And it would be foolish to say politics has no place here. Just look at our current new about the potential replacement for Ginsberg.

For judges, maybe a 16 year term would be sufficient? That is a max of two to four Presidential terms. I don’t know. I don’t have an educated dog in this fight, much less anything I’ve mentioned already. But I know even that term limit idea is heavily flawed on the justice side of things. Example: what if half of the Supreme Court Justice’s terms expired in the same year, and God forbid, what if it was the final year of a presidential term, like now?

Yeeesh…

Let’s just keep it the way it is until we fix the rest of the circus.

A Potential Solution

Again, I acknowledge my own ignorance over the course of this writing and maybe a heavy dose of naive idealism.

This solution I have… it’s a long, arduous road, but we’ve slid so far down over the decades that it seems like the path that must be taken in order to right the ship. It’ll take a long time to slow the flywheel down without breaking the mechanism, as it were, much less bring it to a halt to change the direction of spin.

I’ve voiced this solution in person and some agree. That doesn’t make it “the” solution, but it is a start. Some just laugh, give me the short amount of time we have until November 3 and stress that we need to choose a side, now.

Let us not be short sighted.

Yes, it seems that we must choose now between Mac N Cheez or Fettucine Alfredo before we can get to more satsifying cuisine. We must get off at a stop closer to our intended destination and do some actual work to get where we want to be.

So, while we make our voices heard and demanding a better standard of candidate from each party on a macro level, we cannot place our hope there. I cannot stress enough that we cannot hope that change and lasting good will come from the top down… at first.

The solution is long and arduous because it demands a bottom up approach. I’ve been telling my older children for years: we must start here, where we are, if we are to ever hope at making things better across our country.

I’m talking about in ourselves first.

Demand a higher standard from ourselves. “Being the change”, as it were. Start small, get your life together. Take a look at your Shadow. Understand your own nature. Deal with the skeletons in your closet. Extend grace to yourself for it and grace to other people knowing they struggle with their own nature too. Understand each of us, yourself included, is quite literally a small random chance away from death. Balance your checkbook. Don’t be a jerk to the local barista making your coffee. Don’t lose your temper with the nervous WalMart employee who asks you to put on a mask – they are just doing their job. They don’t need you pontificating about your views on freedom. Be kind to the waitress who brought your food to you incorrectly. Look to making an impact with your immediate family and closest circle of friends – find a way to add value and make their lives better. Support your friends who have small businesses, and maybe look to support their friends who have small businesses too. We then continually expand this pattern of investing in our circles, neighborhoods and communities (promoting good relations in the neighborhood, service, lending a hand, helping a local cause or charity, etc), then our town, then our county, then our state and then our nation.

In other words – don’t be a black hole, sucking in everything and leaving things and people and your own life worse for your presence on this earth.

When it comes to our elected officials, start the same, bottom up. We hold the small offices in our towns to the same level of scrutiny as we would the President of the United States. Is their own backyard, house and life in order? Do they act in the above mentioned ways?

Why should we scrutinize like this?

Because we are electing those people to represent us and to lead us locally, nationally and globally.

We need no other reason than that.

If we want real, lasting change, their has to be a positive trend showing what “We The People” want on all levels of governance. And we must want more from our elected officials. We cannot tolerate mediocrity or corruption on any level. We aren’t electing a ruling class who gets away with anything, we are electing representatives who have but a short amount of time to make a change for the better before we either vote them out or their term expires.

We can’t turn a blind eye on someone’s “misgivings and mistakes” (read as illegal, questionable and/or immoral actions of any kind) because we “like that person” or because “he’s a Republican” or “she’s a Democrat” and we cannot let “the other” be elected.

We cannot tolerate it. We have to do better. The standard must be higher.

This takes time and energy.

It takes a level of intention and attention that we haven’t collectively given to making a good change in a long time, it seems. But the more I read, study and see human nature in action… I wonder how long it has been since we’ve done this.

If we truly want to see this nation actually become “Great”, then…

E Pluribus Unum – WE Must Do Better

Out of many, One…

WE must do better.

I know the problems we face look to be a massively tied Gordian knot and any attempt to loosen a single string seems to impact the entire knot, tighten it and make it worse. I do not think giving one man or woman a sword to cut the knot in two is the solution, either.

That seems just as dangerous.

In regards to this massive knot, it will take many hands, all giving a little slack so that other hands can help undo it while we each give a little.

On that macro level, if my solution would actually work, then we would hold the highest standards possible for the Office of the President of the United States and regardless of political affiliation, must keep that person under the shortest leash possible. Political leaning wouldn’t matter as much because scrutiny would (or should/could) help get good leaders on both sides in Office.

It is a long road because social and news media makes us believe we have this level of scrutiny.

We don’t.

This person should represent the best of us. Out of many, One.

It’s going to take more of us to “give” on this particular piece of the knot.

They don’t have to be polished and refined. But if I were to give you a list of characteristics I’d like to see in our leaders, especially our President, and I know, it is probably a pipe dream, it would look something like this:

  • humble
  • growth mindset
  • always looking to improve themselves for their own benefit as well as those around them
  • track record of genuinely working with and/or winning over “the opposition” – whatever form that takes
  • surrounded by people smarter and better than themselves and willing to acknowledge this
  • posseses extreme ownership when it comes to their own shortcomings and mistakes, as well as when problem solving for the nation
  • a track record of building others up, equipping others and helping others succeed – wants people to do better than them
  • this person shouldn’t embarass us with their conduct
  • demonstrates poise; grace under pressure
  • When given a question outside their knowledge, not afraid to say “I don’t know, however, I will consult with X,Y,Z, who are experts in that field and we will respond to you personally within 24-48hrs.” And actually do it.
  • demonstrates an attitude and understanding that positions of leadership are for service, for the people and greater good, not themselves
  • service to community – does this person actually get in the trenches and serve, or are they merely serving to be seen?
  • Proves the above through actions more than words

These are basic leadership qualities.

Again, we should hold every office we elect to the same scrutiny. Again, this requires diligence on our part. “Anyone” can’t get in to an office because we don’t want “someone else” getting in.

The Meal

And still the waiter, oh so patiently, waits for me to make my decision. I still have time, he assures me, as he bounces between tables checking on the other patrons. But time is running out before the restaurant closes.

You know just which meal some of the patrons are picking. Dressed like one would a favorite sports team, branded with their “side” on hats and shirts and buttons. Jeering, sneering and looking sideways, or worse, at the “other” patrons not eating the same thing.

Both sides are doing this and the restaurant is getting noisy.

I wonder if I can take my meal to go?

My gut churns at the thought of either meal, but I must choose, it seems.

Everyone pays.

I’m probably going to have some sort of indigestion after my choice is made and I begin to eat. I foresee a late night emergency trip or two to the bathroom, but, I guess it is a question of how much indigestion am I willing to tolerate until they serve some real food around here. I’m sure in a few ways I’ll have buyer’s remorse.

I’ve sampled these two choices prior, and similar ones. I used to love Mac N Cheese… like, really, really love it. Back when it had an “S”. I wonder if that is a figment of my imagination, did it ever have an “s”? This Mac N Cheez… well, this is the saltiest I’ve ever tasted of it’s brand. Danger level saltiness.

And the Fettucine? Well, it tastes similar to dishes served before from this brand. The sauce is… forgetful. It’s not perfect by any means, and I personally wonder about the shelf life of this dish.

Neither are very nutritious, to say the least.

I’m a low sodium guy, myself, gotta watch and limit that salt.

I’m probably going to go for the Fettucine.

At least I know I can pair that meal with a good wine…or two.

Did I bring antacids?