The Wire

The Google news feed starts with Texas. 30,000 people displaced. 40 inches of rain. Louisiana in Harvey’s sites. Flooding possible in the Pelican state and parts of Mississippi. “The worst is yet to come,” some officials say.

Houston has been greatly affected by very rare flooding now for three years in a row. The chances of this type of flooding in any given year in Houston are .2 of 1%. 1 in 500. Three years in a row. Pray for Houston, indeed.

The next item in my news feed, this morning, is a rocket over Hokkaido. Kim Jong Un is at it again, and he’s not afraid to provoke the international community, especially the United States. Firing a ballistic missile over Japan is another provocation akin to the threatening of Guam. It’s chest-beating on a global scale. It’s a test. Hawks will call for war. Doves will call for talks. The only correct answer, for now, is to continue to stare him down.

Next comes Littlefinger. In case you’re running severely behind on the season finale of what is arguably the best show in television history, I won’t reveal the tell. Suffice to say that it was one of the greatest moments in one of the greatest episodes on one of the greatest shows of all time. Go team.

After another Houston story (“Cajun Navy brings boats from Louisiana to help flood-ravaged Houston”), a quick rundown of the Arpaio pardoning. It was neither unexpected nor unprecedented. But the precedent has not been a good one for presidents who have acted similarly in the past. The argument that “others have done it” does not excuse it. It’s just one more bullet in the gun Donald Trump always has aimed at his own foot. -20% approval and falling. He’s on his way to Texas to find a lifeboat now.

While I was writing the newsfeed changed. Texas and North Korea are still the top two feeds, but the third is a story on the forthcoming budget battle. Houston complicates things. A relief package will now push the wall south. On the agenda, I mean. The president has said he’ll veto any bill that does not pay for a border wall, but can he veto a bill that includes aid for Texas? Maybe. Stupid seems to be his middle political name, and that seems to work well with his base. The correct answer for his opposition is to continue to stare him down, as well.

Over at Reuters the top stories are Texas, Korea, the markets and Iran. AP news is almost all Harvey, with a little Korea, Russian war games, and child marriage in the South Sudan sprinkled in.

It’s Tuesday. I got up early. I read the news.

Lately, I don’t. I wait until later in the day when I’ve already had my coffee, already walked my dogs, gotten a shower, a shave, a spring in my step. I try to write instead, dig deep down inside for something good to pen on paper (figuratively speaking). But today I let the news come first.

The news was about Harvey. About Kim. Littlefinger. Donald Trump.

Every story needs a villain, I suppose. Today, it was nothing but.

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.

Progress

Politicians this week were handed a golden opportunity to screw the American people, and they stumbled all over themselves rushing at the chance. They failed gloriously, in public view. All of them.

That’s progress, folks. 😎 👍

The ACA is flawed. The AHCA took the skeletal frame of the ACA and fleshed it out with gifts for the rich and poison for the poor. Like most bills introduced in America it was a transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper elite. That is not acceptable.

Remember that as they begin Plan B: tax cuts.

They are not working on your behalf, my friends. They don’t have to; we don’t require it of them. We only demand that “our guy” is in office. At that point we give them carte blanche to screw us as they see fit. As long as our chosen appointee is doing the screwing, great. We need to stop being “republicans” and “democrats” and start being “Americans” or, better yet, “humans.” When we think of ourselves in terms of political parties or national identities we create attitudes of disdain for anyone who is not “us.” We then enable those in power to manipulate us through our identities. Strip the identity. Don’t be manipulated.

I get it. Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to think their team is doing well. But this is not a game.

The eight decades we all have, give or take, that’s our life. And right now, by current estimates, there are over 7 billion people living out their eight decades on Earth. About 320 million of them live in the United States. That’s about 4.5% of the population of the planet. I know it’s a big deal to you, the title. Wear it proud. But keep it in context.

Of the 320 million people who do live in the United States, some 43 million of them live in poverty. That number is equal to the entire combined populations of the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago metropolitan areas. That’s a lot of folks, folks.

In the meantime, the richest 1% of people in America own nearly 40% of the wealth.

Friends, look at that. That’s staggering.

The AHCA was going to make those people, the 1%, wealthier. The only price we had to pay to make them richer was the health of millions.

I know the argument for saving those millions. Get a job. “Get a job” doesn’t work anymore. Automation and globalization have taken the availability and need away. Jobs that are available for many of the people on the bottom and in the middle are not what they once were. Wages have been stagnant for 40 years and benefits have been cut in the name of record profits. When the worker loses and profits soar that’s that transfer of wealth I was talking about earlier. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. The gap between the two is wider than it has ever been.

The failure this week of the AHCA was great for the American people. Not because the ACA is a good plan, but because the AHCA was even worse. There are better models around the world of health care systems that work for the people more than they work for the profits. America is way behind. It’s time to catch up.

This was a good week for progress, but not a good time to celebrate. Politicians in Washington aren’t throwing up their hands in defeat, they are rolling up their sleeves and getting back to work. The people who fund their campaigns won’t be happy that they let all that money slip through their fingers. They have to find another way to get it. Or they will be replaced. That’s how it works.

It isn’t you against me. Not right vs left. It isn’t Republican or Democrat. It’s all of us in this together for the entire time that my eight decades intersects with yours. To make a better society, a better country, and a better planet we all have to realize that. Right now we work for the glorification, wealth, and success of the few. We sacrifice; they gain. 24 million people would have lost health care next year under the AHCA but the wealthiest of Americans would have kept a few more dollars.

The ACA doesn’t do enough to ensure the health of the humans in America for their eight decades, either. There are better ways. There are healthier, happier places all around the world. Also, there are places much worse. But there are no nations with more wealth than the United States of America. There is no better place on Earth to begin to set an example of how humans should be treated. How they should be cared for in the beginning of their eight decades and at the end. How important they all are in the decades in between.

We are more than statistics, more than burdens, and more than machines that make them money. We are more than Republicans or Democrats or even Americans.

Remember that.

The next bill is coming.

And it isn’t designed to help you. Not one bit.

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.

Journal Entry 12/15

The Santa Crawl was extraordinary, as always. I found myself in bed, after work on Monday, replaying those 36 hours in my head and I was amazed at how quick it all was. Life flies by in an instant; the good times come and go so quickly. I try to never miss a chance to add to my collection of amazing memories. They are the true capital of life, and the only currency I really care about. Spend your money on experiences, they say, not things. I couldn’t agree more.


In addition to spending my weekend with those dearest of friends – those craziest of compatriots – I was able to add to my stable of associates. I consider the people in my life to be invaluable treasures, and I would not be me without all of them. I’m the luckiest guy alive and I’ll challenge anybody for that title. Thank you all for joining me on another wild excursion, and thank you to those just joining the fun. Life begins every day, and we’re all just getting started.


As most of you know, I’m a dog lover. The wife and I have raised 5 amazing canines (DOGS to the layperson, as Harry Dunne would say) and we’ve had very different experiences with them all. Moxie – the middle golden – has been the most angelic of them all except for his food vice. He’ll eat anything left on the floor, including every other dog’s food. But he’s never seen the inside of a crate, nor ever had to. Ludo, the latest gem in our line of pups, is probably the most energetic we’ve ever had. He’s a bundle of anxiety and fun. The name “Ludo” comes from a character in the movie Labyrinth, one of my wife’s all-time favorites. The creature – a gigantic, gentle beast who plays with rocks and refers to himself in the third person – is named after a board game on the main character’s wall in the beginning of the movie. The game – which plays much like Parcheesi or Sorry – derives it’s name from the Latin word “ludo” which means, appropriately, “I play.”

Young Ludo was doomed from the start with the name “I play.” It is not his fault, but ours, that it is all he wants to do.

This week, the playful one took his teeth and talons to the couch and love seat. The damage was minimal but enough to convince us that he is not quite ready for complete freedom when we are away, and has thus been returned to his kennel during work hours. The campaign to “Free Ludo” on Facebook, by my artistic and brilliant compadres, has been hilarious.

Alas, it is all in vain. The only thing that will free Ludo at this point is maturity, and maturity takes time. Rest assured, my evenings are spent couch-bound with he-who-plays nestled in my lap. At 65 pounds, it is a prodigious sacrifice I make, but one I make with love. Ludo loves.


After a tame beginning, Donald Trump has returned to form in the post-election era. His insane tweets, self-promotion, and thin-skinned backlashes are akin to the campaigner and, alas, show us all that there is no difference between the two. He will be the worst president we have ever seen, and survival will be the key. It is best on Monday that the electors strike faithlessly in unison, even if it leaves us with a less-than-desired second option in Hillary Clinton. His apologists will not like this take but, no, I won’t be “giving him a chance.” Chances have to be earned and, thus far, he is exactly what I predicted he would be: breathlessly ignorant of facts, woefully unprepared, dangerously narcissistic, and beholden to the special interests of the financial elite. In short, Donald Trump is who Donald Trump has always been and the office of the president will not change him. We have a horror show ahead of us of historic proportion. I will be placing my faith in the Republicans in power not-named-Donald-Trump to rein him in. Don’t let me down, House and Senate, you are our only hope now.


Thanks for checking out this contemplative entry. Only 16 days of 2016 left, and it has been a year of wonder. Let’s finish it the way we lived it, collecting memories to last a lifetime. Happy Holidays, all. 🙂

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.

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?

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.

Walls

I’ve been watching with interest the developments this week in Europe and comparing them to the populism sweeping through the United States this election season. The referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is not surprising, any more than it is surprising (anymore) that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for the President of the United States. We live in an age of fear.

In the last 20 years, and even longer, the world has become smaller. Radio and television did enormous work throughout the 20th century to bring together the disparate global populace, but that is nothing compared to what computers, and specifically the internet, have done in the last two decades. We are all connected at the speed of thought now.

In a connectivity so broad, we have choices. One, we can learn and adapt, embracing the beautiful diversity that has sprung from the planet and evolved – physically and culturally – in such a variety of manner. Or two, we can look deeply into what we see and shudder, turning away from sights so different and thinking so foreign. As we become interchangeable we can embrace change or we can build walls.

We are building walls. In Europe and in America, we are building walls.

It’s a natural thing to do. Nationalism itself was a logical progression. As city-states gave way to nation-states in the evolution of mankind it was sensible to form bigger pockets of pride, to run in ever larger packs. But just as cities combined into states and states combined into nations, nations will combine as well. The walls will come tumbling down.

But because we are so early into this transition we are still building walls. We are finding disparity in our union. With every new coalition comes new enmity. Fear is winning. Demagoguery is igniting the discontented. Isolation is gaining favor in the waning age of nationalism.

This populist backlash was anticipated. The people, once again, have been betrayed and they are fighting back with the only resource they have … the vote. Without a greater understanding this backlash takes the form of regime change and a rejection of ideals, however lofty. The people will run to safe ground, the ground that they knew, and there are propagandists and opportunists ready to lead that charge. We were taught to cherish our homelands, our faiths, and our likenesses, and those things become our shelters.

England rose up this week, and in an instant they made a statement that the world has heard. We are not ready. We are afraid. In America, the same popular statement is being read … give us the same thing we’ve had for a generation or give us somebody who will shut out the world and put America first. Don’t give us change. Don’t water us down. Don’t homogenize us. We are unique.

But the world has already changed. We are already assimilated. We are one people now, networked at light speed. The leaders are still finding ways to manipulate our uncertainty, to play on our fears, but in the end the change will come. Evolution is a certainty. So many walls have already fallen. The new walls we build are made from brick but this is the electronic age. Isolation is impossible.

The vote in England was a victory for nationalism, for isolation, and for fear. It was a response to a vision of unification that turned into a union of greed. My hope is that this referendum does not become a rallying cry for division, but a chance for all of us to unite with a new message. We want to be together. We want to embrace change. We want to overcome fear. We are ready for the new world. We are ready to tear down walls. But we are not doing it to line the pockets of the leadership or to grease the wheels of commerce. We are doing it for us, for mankind.

Try again, guys. Set your greed aside and try again. This time, get it right.