The Runoff Race in Georgia

The runoff race in Georgia provides an interesting contrast to the political drama in America today, on many fronts. If you don’t know what was happening there, they held an election in Tom Price’s deep red district after Price became Donald Trump’s Health Secretary. The Republicans have held that district since 1979. Victory was assured. However, the backlash against Donald Trump in America today gave the Democrats hope that they could unseat the Republican candidate Karen Handel. It was a longshot, but hopes were higher as the election cycle continued. It turned out to be the most expensive campaign in congressional history.

Handel won, as most expected. I paid attention to the rhetoric leading up to the race and almost everybody was saying her opponent, Jon Ossof, was a longshot to win, but that even a close race would be a victory for the Democrats and a referendum on Trump. It wasn’t really close. Handel won, if you’ll pardon the pun, handily. A Republican won a deep red district as expected. This, according to some pundits this morning, is an apocalypse for the Democrats.

No, it isn’t.

The person expected to win the election won. It is, however, a great time to overemphasize a runoff election with hyperbolic embellishment. And everyone from the President of the United States to the left-leaning Atlantic is ringing the bell of historic victory or doom and gloom.

It’s dumb. But that’s America right now. All sensationalist sound bites and chest-beating. Zero substance. It’s a big game being played out between Democrats and Republicans and only the final score matters. CNN and Fox News are simply the ESPN of politics, covering the players in the game. The folks in the stands don’t matter, as long as they pay their ticket and watch.

I understand the Trump grandstanding on all this more than the Democrat hand-wringing. Trump has been short on victories since taking office, and he’s prone to bluster, anyway. He’s gonna make it sound like his team just won the Super Bowl, because of him, no matter what happens. Even if everybody in Georgia avoided talking about him as much as possible down the stretch. He’s bad news for both sides.

The reason the runoff is such an interesting contrast, however, is because partially the Democrats are right to be concerned. It wasn’t the end of the franchise. They lost a game they were supposed to lose. But it is still a wake-up call. One of these parties, somewhere along the line, has got to start remembering it isn’t about the game, it’s about the fans. The millions of people in the audience are more important than the handful of players on the field. If you want to make a great America, focus on what is best for the people. The party that figures that out will run the table in 2018.

But, no, that asks too much. Donald Trump wants to run social media victory laps. Republicans want to repeal a health plan, then add tax cuts for the wealthy and reintroduce much the same plan with their name on it, instead. Democrats want to take back the Congress without compromising their core value of self-interest.

It’s time for some soul-searching. Both parties should take Georgia as a wake-up call and start thinking about the American people again, start thinking about the us in U.S. The approval ratings of Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan are even worse than the approval ratings for Donald Trump, and his are at historical lows. Nobody likes the leadership in America. And who can blame us for that?

But go ahead, leaders, keep celebrating and hand-wringing. Go ahead, news outlets, keep sensationalizing nothing stories. Keep the end times coming.

Apocalypses are great for ratings.

Thinking Local

Like a lot of folks, I must admit that my focus on local politics is lacking. I absorb some information here and there, mostly from overhearing conversations. I’ll hear complaints about it from customers in the store. I’ll see it on social media. I don’t currently watch local news stations or get the paper. An acquaintance recently pointed out that my approach to knowledge seems more macro than micro. I love national and international politics. I love political theory.

Which is all well and good and fun, but when something big happens in my personal sphere, I often find that I don’t know enough about it.

The good thing about knowledge, however, is that it is prevalent. I can ask opinions from people “in the know.” I can catch up on archived articles. I can read commentary in response to articles and get a feel for the community view. There are always plenty of mild and extreme opinions on all sides. It’s fascinating to see the contrast. It’s also fascinating to see how many people are absolutely sure they have all the answers. Even when it’s clear that they don’t.

I don’t. I don’t have all the answers. Which is why – despite the opinions of some, I’m sure – I have a fairly moderate view of politics and the world. With enough research and considerable thought I can find a pretty good reason to support any side. But I’m always the first to admit that I could be wrong. In so doing, I’ll always point out that you could be, too. I think that’s fair.

Here in my town, the town of Redding, there’s a mini-revolt going on. The effects of national and state politics have created a condition of turmoil in our city, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. A recall effort has been launched against members of the city council. The city council has tabbed a new city manager. The city manager has dismissed the current police chief. This has been one heck of a week.

My week-long inquiry into these matters leaves me woefully unprepared to state an opinion as of yet. For some of you, that might come as a shock. For others, who know me as a fair-minded and methodical study of human nature and human affairs, maybe not. But I can tell you that I think we have a problem. We have a problem at the national level, we have a problem at the state level, and we have a problem at the local level.

The problem at the macro level is a problem of inequality. There is a lack of proper services for the citizens in this nation. There is a lack of access to quality education. I’ve pointed all that out before.

But at the micro level the problem is a different one. It is caused by all of the above factors, but we can only work with what we are handed. We’ve been handed crap. It stinks.

What can we do about it?

Well, we can fire everyone on the council, if we want. We can fire police chiefs. If we want, we can raise taxes and build jails. We can cut salaries and add staff. We can point fingers until we’re blue in the face. Will all of that make it better?

I don’t know. If today’s blog is about anything, it’s about how much I don’t know. It’s also about how much I’m willing to learn.

I’ve read some pretty good things over the last week about this subject, and some pretty terrible things, too. The best overview I’ve read so far on the matter is the one this morning by R.V. Scheide in aNewsCafe. Fair. Sensible. Broad. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for all week. Does he have all the answers? Hell, I don’t know. Does anybody?

I’m going to take another look at what he said in a minute. And I’m going to keep digging in and looking for answers. I’m going to think micro. I’m going to act local. I am going to help, if I can.

Samuel Johnson said it is always a writer’s duty to make the world better. I don’t know that I have the ego to think I can make the world better, or even the ego to call myself a writer. I don’t have the ego to compare myself to Samuel Johnson.

But I do have the willingness to learn and the will to try.

In that matter, as in all matters, I appreciate your help.

Predictably Corrupt

This is not unforeseen.

The chaos gripping the Oval Office today was predicted, even expected. It was apparent to anyone paying attention that the presidency of Donald Trump would be a circus show. Impropriety was assured. Everything about the man told us that. The history of Donald Trump as a businessman and a human being was accessible to all. Scandal follows the scandalous. There was no way to avoid a scandalous presidency.

Remarkably, he prepared us for this moment. During the campaign, he steadfastly refused to focus on anything, for any length of time, except for the greatness of Donald Trump. America could be great again, he said continuously, but only under one man. These are the words of a narcissist, of an egotist, of a demagogue. These are the words of authoritarian dictators. We see them in other countries throughout history and we say to ourselves, “how did the people let that happen?”

We know now how “the people let that happen.”

People are remarkably easy to fool. In times of great tumult, as in the years following the Great Recession, empty promises come easy. Easy to say and easy to swallow. Building the brand of “savior” is effortless. All it requires is a complete commitment to ego, a sociopathic mentality, and – of course – willing dupes.

Donald Trump had all of these things in his campaign run.

That is how we knew. That is how we knew that his presidency would be filled with scandal. The president Donald Trump is no different than the businessman Donald Trump, the candidate Donald Trump, the man Donald Trump. Power doesn’t turn an ignoble man noble. Power does the opposite thing. It corrupts. Absolutely. So, when you take a man who is already corrupt and give him the reins of power what you get is something exponentially worse.

Of course he colluded. Of course he ignored protocol. He believes, wholeheartedly, that he is a man above reproach, above the law. He always has. Now he’s the president of the United States of America, and he would be king if he were not treated so “unfair.”

There will still be those who follow him, those who forgive him, even worship him. There will still be those who say, “it doesn’t matter what he does, he’s making America great again.” They are the ones who ignore the history of America, the history of mankind, and the history of Donald Trump. They are the ones that enable misconduct in the name of party. Over country. Over humanity.

The hope now is that we strike this mistake from our nation in short order. Business as usual was not going so well for the United States but, sadly, business-as-usual is the redemptive norm we pray for now.

I don’t expect Donald Trump to go down in history as an evil man. A selfish man, yes. An egotist, yes. A president in over his head, with delusions of empire in his brain, yes. A mistake. Yes.

We all make mistakes, but he can be remembered as a mistake we quickly corrected.

That can make all the difference in the world.

Rambling, Man

Football is over.

Well, not forever, but just for the 16-17 season. A few thoughts:

That was such an amazing Super Bowl. I don’t have to tell you that. When the 4th quarter rolled around I turned to a room of 30-40 people and said “anybody here think Tom Brady can’t score three times in the 4th quarter?!” Nobody doubted it. I did. I didn’t think it could really happen. Not in the Super Bowl. Not the way he looked. Impossible. If he isn’t the best QB to ever play the game I don’t know who is. I thought that before this Super Bowl, and I know it now. You do, too.

Kurt Warner was selected to join the luminaries in the Hall of Fame this year. His story is among the best ever told. Rags to riches to unwanted to the Super Bowl with Arizona to the Hall of Fame. I tell my version of his story here, and I defend his induction. I love being a part of CaliSportsNews. I love to write.

In case you missed it, I also wrote about the Rams and Chargers offseasons. I think my next article will take a look at the stadium being built, but I have some other ideas, too. Look for something new around Thursday. I love to write.

I see a lot of mock drafts out there already; it’s too soon, I think. I want to do one but I think it’s just too soon. The draft is April 27th. I’ll do an official one for CaliSports a couple of weeks before that. Really, that’s 6-8 weeks away. Not too far.

Unrelated to football:

Ludo has become an angel. After we brought home the new cage, he just crates right up without question. The other day I took a 10-minute nap at lunchtime (I do that), and when the alarm went off on my phone he jumped up from where he was curled up next to me, ran to his cage, and laid down. No words spoken. He knew my lunch hour was up and I was headed back to work. It’s amazing how a source of such frustration can one day, suddenly, become something so amazing. The light went on. My puppy became a dog.

I don’t like it when people refer to Donald Trump as an orange-something. I never liked the reference to the color of his skin. It’s his character that matters; his deplorable, rotten character. America blew it, but it seems to be coming around to that fact now. The value of a president has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here.

I didn’t mean to make a hair joke.

The illegal immigration roundups aren’t getting enough attention. In a week where we saw everyone rise to the defense of Elizabeth Warren when the establishment tried to silence her, a week where the preposterous immigration ban was stifled, and a week where more and more Americans are challenging the veracity of Trump’s belligerent claims, the rounding up of immigrants has almost gone unnoticed. Maybe that’s the Machiavellian plan, to distract us by doing so many things at once that we can’t gain the moral footing on any one of them. Maybe it’s a chaos war.

Oh well. We knew we were in for a long one. There are signs of temperance coming from inside the walls of the White House, however slight. He’s softening on diplomatic rhetoric. It’s a start. If our checks and balances push him into becoming an ordinary right-wing president, instead of a tyrannical authoritarian demagogue, then we will have won. The pendulum swings both ways, in time. That’s okay. The concern comes when the pendulum swings too far one way, gets stuck in an adjoining wall, and lets the waters of democracy seep out.

I probably could have done a better job with that metaphor. 😉

At any rate, cheers to the post-football world. I have a head cold today so I won’t be lifting spirits, but cheers nonetheless. Sorry about the rambling nature of this entry, but I’m in a rambling mood.

I’ve been at this blog thing for a year now and I still can’t get enough.

I love to write.

Go forth and be bold, friends.

On Giving the Man a Chance

“Give the man a chance.”

Politics are an amazing, blinding thing. A couple of months ago, the US  elected to president an egomaniacal, authoritarian demagogue. Followers of history might compare this man to Joe McCarthy, a similarly divisive and pompous politician. McCarthy, like Donald Trump, had a run of public success deriding his enemies in the public forum. In the end, however, McCarthy was condemned by his peers for conduct unbecoming. The man had no sense of decency, was exposed as a charlatan and a fraud, and was run out of office.

In other words, he was a putz.

“Give the man a chance.”

Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in November of 2007, and took office during one of the worst recessions we had ever seen. By no means a perfect leader, he nevertheless guided America from that purgatory into better days with a stable and reassuring hand. He has many documented successes. But throughout his scandal-free administration as the leader of the free world he was besieged with animosity by those who identify with the opposition party. They never gave him a chance.

“Give the man a chance.”

Eight years later, America is in a better place in almost every statistical category. And although there is much to chagrin about in the course of history there is a likelihood that the centuries will be much kinder to Barack Obama than to his predecessor or successor. Whatever the causes of success as a country, the leader during a recovery gets the credit while the president during a collapse – this time George Bush – gets the blame. As for Donald Trump, demagogic con-men are rarely remembered kind.

“Give the man a chance.”

Lest you decide, dear reader, to decipher the data above in an unkindly light, remember this: you will be measuring the successes of Donald Trump by the same values. Already the followers of the great charlatan of our time are touting his successes. “He has saved a 1000 jobs.” “The stock market has hit new records since the election.” Never mind that Barack Obama is credited with saving 1.2 million jobs in the auto industry in his early days and never mind that the stock market rebounded during his presidency from a historical fall to record heights. He deserves no credit whatsoever for such things. Barack Obama happened to be there when it happened; Donald Trump has (somehow) ensured that it has, by rhetoric alone.

“Give the man a chance.”

But almost nothing is true the way we see it in politics. Barack Obama deserves more credit than he is given by the opposition and Donald Trump less, already, than his partisans would like. And in the years that come it will undoubtedly ring true the other way. The biggest difference to my nonpartisan eyes is that Barack Obama, by all appearances, is a decent man and Donald Trump, by all evidence, is not. It matters very little to me what each espouse politically – politics is a game of lies, and the players of the game serve anything but the people. It only matters to me whether they are worthy human beings.

“Give the man a chance.”

Quit saying that now. The answer is no. The answer, in your heart, was no eight years ago when Barack Obama, the leader of the opposition party, took the oath of office. You never gave the man a chance. Instead of asking Donald Trump’s detractors to give the man a chance ask yourself why you have to ask that, and ask yourself with all honesty why you could not give that same graciousness before, in return. Politics is a fool’s game. You are being dragged about by your elephant trunks and donkey tails. In the world of politics, truth means nothing compared to zealotry. In your fervency to be the winner now you want to rewrite the rules of partisanship. The answer is no. Democrats will not give Donald Trump a chance any more than Republicans gave a chance to Barack Obama. We all root for leaders to fail when we disagree with their rhetoric.

I am neither Republican nor Democrat, though I tend to favor the platform of the left over the right. I wish that Democrats did, too, because then things would be easy. They do not. Politics, as I said, is a fool’s game. But although I am an affiliate of neither American institution I root for Donald Trump to fail. His blathering is the rantings of a buffoon. His policies are decadent at best and dangerous in all likelihood. He will set the cause of economic and human equality back half a century if he has his way. As a general rule I tend to root against anybody who reigns against the greater bulk of humanity.

Plus, he’s a putz.

So I won’t be “giving the man a chance” so much as combating his public stupidity with the marshaled forces of truth, accuracy, decency, and fact. The entire campaign was short on those four elements and, to me, they are more important than politics. If Donald Trump is the same president that he was a campaigner – that he has been a businessman or even a human being – he deserves no chances from me. He deserves none from you, either.

My eyes will remain opened for as long as this administration holds power. I only ask that you open yours as well, and keep them open the whole time. All presidents do great and terrible things, but let us not judge them any longer on what they do for your particular party, but instead judge them for what they do, or do not do, for the bulk of humanity.

All I ask is that you give that idea … a chance.

About Them Cowboys

I’m not ready to talk about Donald Trump yet.

I mean, I’m paying attention. I’m reading, I’m watching, I’m taking notes. Last night, during a pretty riveting Bengals/Giants game I kept flipping over to the news stations. It was fascinating stuff. I’m hooked. The storyline is unbelievable. Sean Hannity is still unwatchable, but some things never change.

I’m sure I’ll be talking about Donald Trump a lot in the months to come. There’s almost always something to see and something to say. It’s a circus and he’s the ringmaster. Even more than before, he’s the ringmaster. He’s the President of the United States of America now. There’s that.

But I don’t have a lot to say about it yet. The presidency is still in pre-infancy; the head is still forming. I could talk about Steve Bannon today, I suppose, and how if he is not a white supremacist then he at least has great appeal to that ilk. He does. The alt-right love him. He basks in that. Even if he himself is not a bigot he certainly panders to bigotry and has built a base around it. I’m sure Donald Trump wants to keep that far right bloc with him, so Steve Bannon is a smart political choice. I don’t want to talk about it.

If I did want to talk about it I might talk about how the cabinet appears to be coming together. There’s a lot of talk about the old guard Republicans making up Trump’s inner circle. America’s Mayor is back. The Newt will have a place. Even the acrimonious warhawk John Bolton is being tabbed. It’s hard to drain a swamp while you’re still filling it with gators, Don.

But it’s too soon to say. The American people have spoken, and they have chosen Donald Trump to be their leader after a tight, bitter election. He’s the guy now. Unless the electoral college pulls a 180 on December 19th then he’s the prez. They won’t. That never happens. But if it did we’d see the biggest flip flop in protesters in American history. Dems would go home. Pubs would hit the streets. The shift change would be kind of fun to watch.

But it won’t happen. It never does.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those “bitter about the electoral college” kind of guys; it did what is was designed to do. Maybe it’s outdated, maybe it’s an important safeguard. Either way, it worked the way it was supposed to and that’s just fine with me.

Maybe I’d be more bitter if there were a decent candidate to fall back on. Maybe I’d be out on the streets with the protesters if Hillary Clinton were a legitimate alternative. Maybe I should have hit the streets after the DNC, when the real travesty of this election ensued. I didn’t. I didn’t even write a blog about it. Shame on Tom.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. Maybe Bernie Sanders would have lost to Donald Trump, anyway. Maybe Donald Trump was inevitable. America has been spiraling out of control for a while now, and the culture war is fierce. Maybe the pendulum was going to swing far right this time no matter what. Mr Naccarato in 9th grade History was resolute about that; the pendulum always swings hard the other way in time. Maybe it was just time.


Mark Twain famously said that any man who is a pessimist before the age of 48 knows too much, and any man who is an optimist after the age of 48 knows too little. I am 48 years old, and a half. I have been an optimist my entire life and I’m very proud of my ability to see the silver lining in every gray cloud. So I’m trying, here, not to jump to conclusions, to see the positive in this election, to give the president-elect time. Not a free pass, by any means, but time. Time to prove me right. Time to prove me wrong. Time. In six months I’ll be past the age of 48 and I’d like to think I’ll retain my youthful optimism. If I do not then it would not surprise me if it were taken away by a misogynistic, xenophobic, egomaniacal charlatan who conned his way into becoming the most powerful man in the world, after I thought he was only a joke.

Oh well.

It happened.

We’re here.

I’m not ready to talk about Donald Trump yet, anyway.

How about them Cowboys?

A Proposition For You … Or Maybe 17

I’ve been asked by several people over the last few days and weeks about the ballot initiatives in California, so I’ll talk a minute about them. Maybe I don’t remember there being this many in the past but there sure seems to be a mess of them this time, eh? I’ll be brief and keep the rhetoric to a minimum, but I don’t mind sharing my thoughts. I’m an open book. 😉

We’ll go in order:

  • Prop 51, no
    • More bond money for more school projects. Flip a coin on this one and take your best shot. I’m a big believer in fixing the education system, but we already spend more and get less out of it than any developed country. This one seems to favor the developers’ pocket books more than the kids, so I’ll vote no. Still, I was on the fence.
  • Prop 52, yes
    • Another flip of the coin but this time I’ll vote yes. I lean toward help for the young, the old, and the downtrodden when it comes to health care. Extend it.
  • Prop 53, no
    • I circled yes the first time I read it, and flipped to no after reading deeper into it. Tying up funds that could go to disaster relief would do more harm than good. In this case, leave the decision local.
  • Prop 54, no
    • Politicizing the process more doesn’t help anything. We need better transparency, but this doesn’t look like a good way to get it.
  • Prop 55, yes
    • This is the right way to raise money for education and other services. No brainer.
  • Prop 56, yes
    • Another good way to raise revenue. Now if only we can spend all this money right.
  • Prop 57, yes
    • Our country has a shameful prison system and we need to massively overhaul it. In the meantime, let’s reassess who we’ve put away, and why.
  • Prop 58, yes
    • Diversity is one of California’s greatest strengths, and dual-language immersion is often the best way to teach. Let individual schools decide.
  • Prop 59, yes
    • Citizens United was a travesty, and the Supreme Court got it wrong. California should take the lead in overturning this terrible decision that further corrupts American politics.
  • Prop 60, no
    • This one just seems silly. It’s a violation of privacy, for one thing, and how do you monitor and enforce it? This one wasn’t thought out well, but it does add comedy to the initiative process.
  • Prop 61, yes
    • Drug prices are out of control. This doesn’t go far enough but it’s a start.
  • Prop 62, yes
    • With an asterisk. If you favor the death penalty, vote no. If you’re against it, vote yes. I’m forever on the fence but my higher self hopes for a better way. Your call.
  • Prop 63, yes
    • We need better provisions to help curb the ridiculous gun violence in this country. This is a good start, but something needs to be done at the federal level to ensure all states comply. Will this help? I hope so.
  • Prop 64, yes
    • Legalize it. Tax it. Regulate it. It’s silly that it has remained illegal this long.
  • Prop 65, no
    • This looks like a plastics industry ploy, not an environmental cleanup.
  • Prop 66, no
    • I’m not sure we should be using the death penalty at all anymore, but if we keep it we don’t need to be speeding it up. The system gets it wrong too often now in the name of expediency, so no.
  • Prop 67, yes
    • I love plastic bags, but they are not good for us or for our environment. This would suck for me and be better for everyone. Yes.

That’s where I stand on the 17 in question. For a junkie like me, who can’t get enough information absorption, it was daunting as hell. Do we really need this many initiatives? Can’t some of this be decided by the representatives we put in place? Isn’t that their job?

We need more than a bevy of propositions to fix the system, we need a system overhaul. We need better leadership and better information.

But for now, this is what we’ve got. Have an excellent election day, my friends; may we all come out winners in the end. 🙂

Having Had Enough

I’ve had enough.

I’m not sick of writing. I’m not sick of blogging. I’m not even sick of politics – my return to the role of “news junkie” has only just begun. I love reading. I love learning. I love the act of synthesizing data to uncover correlations. I love coming to informed conclusions.

But I have had enough. I have had enough of this election.

I have ranted about it, here and there, on this blog. I have ranted about it, at times, on Facebook. I have discussed it, ad nauseam, in person. I’ve seen it from every angle. I’ve heard it from every side. It’s over. It’s not fixed, it’s just over.

I want to talk about something else. Doctor Strange is almost here. Iron Fist is coming. We finally got to see the first GotG2 trailer. That’s some exciting stuff.

If you’re not a superhero geek (and shame on you for that!) there’s some other really cool stuff coming your way. Halloween is 11 days from now. Thanksgiving is 36 days away. Christmas will be here in two months. Santa Crawl 2016 is about 1200 hours away.

The holidays can be stressful for some people (most people!) so if you’re one of them, sorry about all that. Let’s change the subject.

If you’re a Dallas Cowboy or Minnesota Viking fan you’re in a surprisingly great place.

If you’re the Indians or the Cubs you’re feeling pretty good today. If you’re the Dodgers you’re a little taken aback by recent events but still hanging in. If you like the Golden State Warriors you got to see last night exactly what happens when the rich get richer.

(insert political rant here)

I’m not. I’m not a Cubs fan or an Indians fan. I’m not a Warriors fan or a Cowboys fan. I don’t like or dislike the Vikings, they’ve done nothing wrong to me. I like the Lakers, who got squashed by them Warriors last night, and I like the Dodgers when I like baseball at all. I’m a Rams fan. Big time. Let’s talk about something else.

Andy Stern, an author and former North American union boss, tells us that we need to get ready for the coming world of unemployment. According to modern futurists (can I put those two words together?) we are going to see 90% of current jobs become unnecessary in the next 20 to 30 years. Automation and artificial intelligence will be able to do what most of us do by then, and they will be able to do it a billion times more efficiently. I made up the numbers “90%” and “a billion times” in those last two sentences, for impact. They can be substituted for “a bunch” and “a lot,” respectively. The gist is that the world is changing and we’ll have to do something about this whole work-for-income debacle we’ve created. We’re going to have to throw out the ol’ Protestant work ethic. It’s passé. Sorry if that was your thing.

I don’t know why I brought it up, either, I’m just fishing for topics so I don’t talk about the elephant at the podium.

But, here it goes, very quickly:

Last night was the final debate. Donald Trump came off like a pompous ass and a spoiled child, like he always does. Hillary Clinton had that cheesy, nervous smile almost entirely throughout. They both lied a bunch about what they’re going to do to save America from people like themselves. CNN says she won the debate. Almost every poll in the universe shows she has won the election. It’s pretty academic now. Either way, it’s not going to be the end of the world as you know it. You’ll be fine.

But I’ve had enough.

I’m going to talk a little bit more with people about holidays and superheroes and sports. I’m going to talk a little bit more about the future of humanity and what we can do in our daily lives to be better people. We’re living on a pretty nice planet during a pretty nice time. I’m going to try and ignore Him and Her, at least until after the election and maybe until January. I’m going to hug dogs and take walks and drink beer with the people I love most. I’m going to laugh like crazy. I’m going to be Tom.

Really, that’s the only way I know to stay sane.

I hope you’ll join me now in letting go. There is almost no feeling in the world better than letting go. And this thing – this long, dark contentious chapter – is almost over. Take my hand. There’s a light ahead.

I’ve had enough.

Why I Really Don’t Care If You Vote (and how you can change the world)

I’m not one of those “get out and vote” guys. I’m not. I do vote, but I don’t do it because it’s my civic duty or anything. I don’t think it’s my responsibility. I don’t think it’s yours, either. It’s a choice. I usually take it. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t. There are a couple of times in the last thirty years I’ve thrown my mailer in the garbage, but I don’t remember the last time that was. It was never a major election, and it was never out of disgust. I was being lazy that year and didn’t want to be bothered. I suspect that’s why the other half doesn’t vote in most elections (voter turnout for presidential elections has been just over 50% nationally for the last 40 years), because they don’t want to be bothered. They have lives to lead and the issues are complicated and who has the time for all that?

Considering the fact that most voters, much less non-voters, don’t really understand the intricacies of politics, it would be easy to say that it’s for the best. It would be easy to say that only the informed should be pulling the lever on election day, but the informed are particularly few and far between. If only those who understood the issues, who understood politics and history and economic reality, were to vote I suspect the number of actual voters would be closer to 10%. 1 in 10 people would decide everything in that world. I take that back. 1 in 10 people would get out and vote on election day knowing, undoubtedly, that they were an informed contributor contributing almost nothing to the current or future state of the union. That’s the problem with being informed; you realize how little your vote makes a difference.

I’m not trying to be cynical here. I’m not good at that.

I know a lot of these people, the non-voters. I don’t blame them for their lack of participation in the system. I understand their reasonings very well:

“My vote doesn’t matter.”

“They’re all bums.”

“I just don’t understand any of it.”

I get that. I respect that. It’s closer to the truth than the truth I get from some of the voters I know. This stuff is really hard to understand. We can’t be informed through radio sound bites or gut reactions that are validated by our inner circles. We’ve got to do the work. We’ve got to dig deeper. We’ve got to let go of conditioning and see outside our own tunnels of vision and understand the larger nature of humanity before we can begin to understand the issues. That’s hard. We have jobs. We have kids. We have homes to clean and improve and we have to find some time in all that to be entertained and personally fulfilled. Digging deep into political truths necessarily gets shoved to the bottom of the to-do list, if it makes the list at all. And it doesn’t help that the leadership choices are, indeed, all bums.

So I don’t care if you vote. I really don’t. I’m not really sure it would matter if you did. The truth about politics is that the leaders of the world’s nations all want the same things: money, power, oil. If you vote left or you vote right you’re voting for representatives with varying agendas on how to get money, power, and oil. The system isn’t rigged; it simply evolved. Probably this is the way of leaders since leaders first took command in caves, became governors of city-states, and began arguing river borders with neighboring tribes. This is probably the way of leaders forevermore.

Unless you vote.

Just kidding, that won’t matter.

What you can do, that most people don’t, is dig deeper. Take the time to break away from the pack. Put away the preconceived notions you carry about and have taken with you from your cynical youth. Turn off the radio and the television. Stop the babble. Learn history. Learn politics. Learn economics. Really, really begin to understand the human condition. If you do all that you will change the world. Maybe not the whole world but you will change your own.

And if every single person reading this right now did that we would change a thousand worlds.

Just kidding. Maybe six.

But if everyone, everywhere did that – if everyone, everywhere really understood the machine of the world then you wouldn’t have to worry about whether your vote counted or whether the leaders were all bums. No bum could command a legion of the learned.

So if you don’t like the choices this political season, and they are not good ones, feel free to sit it out. Don’t take the time to learn which of the major presidential candidates are better than the other, or which of the doomed third candidates more closely resembles your world view. Take the time instead to begin to be informed on larger matters. If you do, baby steps you take now will shape your mind for the better over the course of the next four years and when this comes around again you will be able to confidently stride to those polls with me, safe in the knowledge you know exactly the way your vote doesn’t count.

Hey, I never promised a happy ending every time. 😉

But I will promise you this. For every one of you that does take the time to learn we will be closer to the humanity we deserve. We will march closer to democracy. We will slowly cull the bums from our ranks. We will tear down barriers and break down walls. I know I’ve changed hearts and minds with knowledge, and I know that the knowledge that others have possessed have helped change mine. Wisdom can be viral. The virus that has struck us in modern times, in this burgeoning information age, is the virus of ignorance. Somehow, with all this knowledge at our fingertips we have remained blind. That is our choice. Make another choice. Choose knowledge.

Then I promise you, for humanity, a happy ending at last.

Thanks for taking the time to read. That’s a good first step. 🙂

flickr photo by DonkeyHotey shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Standing Behind the Sitting QB

kapWhile I was out of town this weekend, on a marathon run to Monterey County to celebrate my 30th reunion with the amazing Alisal High Class of ’86, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took a seat and started a controversy. I heard about it immediately, when my NFL app fed me the news bulletin. I saw the backlash immediately, too, on the social media platforms I follow. Many spoke out instantly with disdain for his actions and for the words Colin Kaepernick chose afterwards to explain his actions. My own reactions were mixed and I decided to let the thing play out a little, while I enjoyed the weekend. I did.

My initial thought, and the one I shared with the lovely companion I had along on the ride was this: I had no problem whatsoever with what Colin Kaepernick did, but I thought he was dumb for doing it. My thoughts on the matter have evolved from my initial reaction, as thoughts should, but they haven’t necessarily changed. I still stand firmly behind the actions of the sitting QB, but I’ll watch with interest before I judge the man.

Why I defend his right to take a seat during the national anthem should be pretty obvious; I believe in the rights of people over the rights of nations. I adhere to the philosophy that a person has a right to peaceably protest in any manner that they choose. I believe that every topic can be viewed from multiple perspectives and, because of that, I think we need to be tolerant of multiple points of view. I also believe inequality is an issue in this country – on this planet – and that needs to be addressed. So if a man wants to take a seat to protest his perception that the issue of inequality is not being properly addressed, kudos to him.

Why my initial reaction was that Colin Kaepernick was dumb for taking this stance is a bit more complicated and, probably, unfair to him. I viewed the man as a privileged athlete with a lot to lose, and I saw him as an individual who had – to my knowledge – never taken a stand like this before. I questioned, internally, whether or not he was doing this to bring awareness to a cause or doing this to get attention, and if he truly understood the implications of this action. He painted a target on himself, and became a martyr for a cause that I wasn’t aware that he believed in. He was shooting his career in the foot and I wasn’t sure that he was prepared for the aftermath.

But that was hubris on my part. To assume that I know anything about the struggles another man has gone through, inside his own self, to get to the point where he takes such a stand, well that is arrogance. I don’t know what led Colin Kaepernick to decide to sit during the national anthem and I don’t know what he will do next now that he has. If he has thrown himself on the sword and expects that to be all he has to do then my initial reaction stands. If, however, this action is only the beginning and Colin Kaepernick becomes a champion in the fight against inequality then my initial reaction was wrong.

Regardless, it was his choice and I defend that choice. The song he sat through repeats the line “land of the free and home of the brave” four times in the full version, and Colin Kaepernick bravely exercised a freedom. He risked a great public and professional backlash to make what he feels was a necessary stance. We should honor that. We should wait a little longer before placing judgments on the character of the man. We should honor the constitutional rights that he has, that are echoed in the very song that he sat through. We should watch his actions now.

If he ducks and dodges, racing out of bounds, then we can judge his actions unworthy. If he stands tall against the rush and continues to deliver strikes against injustice, then we can judge his actions noble. Either way we should judge his actions as free, and defend his right to make them, while that banner yet waves.

I think that is what America is supposed to be about.