I’m complicit, I think

You’d think, since I work in pol­i­tics that I a) would not be shocked by any­thing any­more, and b) would feel like I’m already doing plen­ty to right the ship.

Appar­ent­ly, you’d be wrong. a) I am aghast at the blink-blink reac­tion of much of the coun­try to the bla­tant, naked racism on dis­play from the leader of our coun­try. b) I feel like in the day-to-day of laun­dry, mak­ing din­ner, plan­ning doc­tor vis­its, yard work, etc., etc., I am not as com­mit­ted to chang­ing this as I could be. As I should be.

I know, I know, pro­tect myself from burnout, you have to live your life, etc. I did not attend Fri­day’s march­es, I went to the movies with my fam­i­ly instead, and I did it on pur­pose. I did it to pro­tect myself. And yet, it has been almost a week and I can­not seem to shake the thought that I made the wrong deci­sion.

At what point am I com­plic­it, with my priv­i­lege, my mon­ey, my com­fort, even though I do the work? I am afraid I have crossed that point, and am, in fact, com­plic­it.

There’s always more to do, yes. But I think there’s always more we can do, even with­in our own lim­its.

My super­pow­er is writ­ing. Imma think on what I can do with it. Your ideas are wel­come, but I’m not look­ing for plau­dits or com­mis­er­a­tion. Let’s do this.

Multi-Party Local Elections?

I had an idea, read­ing an arti­cle on why nobody votes in local elec­tions, and how some of it is that those elec­tions are non-par­ti­san, and there­fore vague, dif­fi­cult, or unim­por­tant to vot­ers.

What if, when or if local elec­tions became par­ti­san, the sys­tem was set up to accom­mo­date more than two par­ties? What if then, once in office, peo­ple could explore what it means to gath­er with like minds around like ideas, and then work togeth­er and com­pro­mise? What if peo­ple could iden­ti­fy with some­thing oth­er than D or R when they ran?

We have a lot of issues in this coun­try with the two-par­ty sys­tem, and I have often tried to under­stand it—to explain it, to frame it—as two coali­tions of peo­ple of many dif­fer­ent “par­ties.” Greens and social­ists and lib­er­als and blue dogs and the lot gath­er and gov­ern as the “Democ­rats.” But it is not set up that way, and the bar­ri­ers to real mul­ti-par­ty elec­tions are many, like­ly impos­si­ble to over­come at the Fed­er­al lev­el. But what if we could explore it at the local lev­el?

My objec­tions to hav­ing par­ti­san local elec­tions are all about peo­ple vot­ing Par­ty-line with­out look­ing at can­di­dates or issues. At the local lev­el, a par­ty machine could over­whelm the mea­ger resources of local oppo­nents. It would make pol­i­tics even more polit­i­cal, if you can imag­ine. It would prob­a­bly take some elec­tion reform the likes of which we have been unable to attain. But again, we’ve looked at that at the Fed­er­al lev­el. What could we do at the local lev­el?

Would this be a way for con­ser­v­a­tives who are aghast at Trump to leave the Repub­li­can Par­ty with­out hav­ing to become Democ­rats? Yes, clear­ly.

I know there are a myr­i­ad of prob­lems with this idea. I grew up in Europe, so I have no rose-col­ored view of a many-par­ty par­lia­men­tary style gov­ern­ment. But what if?

Could this just be a sort of grass­roots thing? “I’m Joe and I’m run­ning for May­or in line with the plat­form of the Green Thumb Par­ty.” Could this be a way for con­ser­v­a­tives to decry Trump and the Repub­li­can Par­ty with­out hav­ing to become a Demo­c­rat? I know lots of them would like an option to do that.

Thought­ful com­ments only, please?

If you like The Clash…

If you like some songs by The Clash, lis­ten to some today. Why not? Get reac­quaint­ed with their bro­ken Span­ish, deep lyrics, and ska-styled youth-out­rage. Start with Some­thing About Eng­land, for its hor­rif­ic rel­e­vance to today.

If you like The Clash, you can’t go wrong with “one of the five weird­est albums of all time,” the orig­i­nal San­din­ista! album. It is wacky, weird, has great cuts, and a short clip of school­child­ren singing Guns of Brix­ton. Warn­ing, this album is long, and you kin­da got­ta like The Clash.

If you actu­al­ly like The Clash a lot, do your­self a favor and check out The San­din­ista Project, a col­lec­tion of Clash cov­ers. The site linked is about the cre­ation of the album, but the album itself is pret­ty good (read: inter­est­ing), with a cou­ple of stand­outs that I like bet­ter than the orig­i­nals, notably Jun­co Part­ner by Jon Lang­ford and Sal­ly Timms. Of note, it does not include my very favorite Clash cov­er, The Guns of Brix­ton by Nou­velle Vague.

If you like The Clash like I do… you already have all those things. Car­ry on, you mar­velous bas­tards.

Not my President

donald-trumpMy head is spin­ning with how fast the lash and back­lash about #not­mypres­i­dent has come and gone (and frankly, about a lot of elec­tion issues). I had thoughts about it when it start­ed right after the elec­tion, and I still have thoughts about it now, a long, long week lat­er.

To be clear, Don­ald Trump is not my Pres­i­dent. As George W. Bush was not, nor his father. But of course I respect the office of the Pres­i­den­cy, and he is the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States (bar­ring some fever dream about unfaith­ful elec­tors or exit-vote proof of fraud). I do not think he is an ille­git­i­mate Pres­i­dent. I do not think the mil­i­tary should dis­obey him as their Com­man­der in Chief (but note, I do hope that, if he should order nuclear launch­es, the mil­i­tary will defy him, as I hope they would do under any Pres­i­dent, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances).

I have no prob­lem with this appar­ent para­dox. It is the basis of non­vi­o­lent protest. I will not over­throw the gov­ern­ment, but I will resist the poli­cies I can­not accept. Or as writ­ten on a sign Ani DiFran­co held up at a protest, “I’m done accept­ing the things I can­not change. I am chang­ing the things I can­not accept.”

And there are things I can­not accept about this administration’s float­ed plans. Reli­gious reg­is­tra­tion and intern­ment? Ced­ing the Asia-Pacif­ic region to Chi­na? Turn­ing a blind eye to Russia’s Sovi­et-style repres­sion? Tripling down on trick­le-down eco­nom­ic fan­tasies? Unchecked Fed­er­al spend­ing on tax cuts for the ultra-rich? Ille­gal nepo­tism in the White House? And that’s not all of it. The list grows dai­ly.

So yeah, he’s not my Pres­i­dent. In fact, in an eerie par­al­lel to Kansas (just one of many) Trump was elect­ed by about one quar­ter of the elec­torate. So he’s like­ly not your Pres­i­dent, either.

What can we do to change the things we can­not accept? How do we stand up to this Pres­i­dent with­out attack­ing the Pres­i­den­cy? Protest, as we have in march­es already, as we will in march­es to come. As we have with phone calls, and as we will con­tin­ue to do with phone calls. Get involved in your local and state elec­tions, because trick­le-up pol­i­tics is a real thing.

But most impor­tant­ly, of all these things, get out the vote. There is no action that will change our nation faster than involv­ing some of the 100 mil­lion (or so) reg­is­tered vot­ers who did not vote, and get­ting them vot­ing. This is the sin­gle thing you can do to make a dif­fer­ence in two years, and in four years.

In the face of despair

Mon­day morn­ing I woke up feel­ing the most despon­dent I have yet since elec­tion night. Well, since after elec­tion night. That night was pret­ty bad.

But I’ve had a sort of ener­gy since then, maybe a bit man­ic, that may have been prop­ping me up. Yes­ter­day, I woke up and read the news as I usu­al­ly do, and it hit me. We are in for four years of unmit­i­gat­ed crap. I don’t like this feel­ing, so I’m set­ting about to fig­ure out what I can do to, yes, make myself feel bet­ter. Here are the prob­lems I see, in big wide gen­er­al­iza­tions that sure­ly don’t address all of the impor­tant issues. And here is what I am doing about them, per­son­al­ly, local­ly, and nation­al­ly.

  • Trump’s cam­paign, whether inci­den­tal­ly, demon­stra­bly, or even inten­tion­al­ly, has made it okay to be a misog­y­nist, racist homo­phobe.

What am I doing about that? Per­son­al­ly, I’m wear­ing a safe­ty pin, both to pro­vide out­ward evi­dence that not every­one is an ass­hole, but also to remind myself to be more inten­tion­al in my inter­ac­tion with folks who might feel tar­get­ed. I live in Kansas, and I don’t run into many mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple, which makes it all the more shame­ful that I have not reached out.

There are any num­ber of good groups, local­ly, I am sure, to which I could give mon­ey, or ener­gy. There’s a Social Jus­tice com­mit­tee at my church, and I am hop­ing they will help me iden­ti­fy places I can give my time. Our church does a great job with hunger issues and Islam­ic out­reach. That’s a start.

Since the elec­tion, Tiffany and I have become month­ly givers to the South­ern Pover­ty Law Can­ter and Planned Par­ent­hood. SPLC coun­ters and pro­tects those who are sin­gled out and attacked in hate crimes. Planned Par­ent­hood pro­vides ongo­ing health ser­vices and sup­port for women and poor fam­i­lies through­out their lives.

  •  Trump’s Pres­i­den­cy will roll back much of the progress we achieved under Bill Clin­ton and Barack Oba­ma. The trend­ing of the nation’s vot­ing coun­ties towards the right will lead to more chal­lenges for real people’s lives. The econ­o­my will pro­vide less for more. The influ­ence of Trump’s white suprema­cist friends, his oli­garch cronies, and the oppor­tunis­tic extreme right will turn actu­al, real free­doms upside down.

In a nut­shell, he has the full pow­er of the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, for at least two years, prob­a­bly four, to enact the agen­das of his friends and sup­port­ers.

What can I do about this? I can stay active in pol­i­tics. I work in state lev­el pol­i­tics in Kansas, where we actu­al­ly had a retreat from con­ser­v­a­tive posi­tions this elec­tion. We’ve seen the destruc­tive results of unfet­tered extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy here, and Kansans have cho­sen change direc­tion. There’s much more work to be done, espe­cial­ly to make this a last­ing change, and I will keep work­ing at it.

We’ve also opened up our pock­et­book on this issue, becom­ing first-time month­ly sup­port­ers of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union and the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil. The ACLU works to pro­tect civ­il lib­er­ties at the local lev­el with an eye towards nation­al influ­ence. The NRDC pro­tects the envi­ron­ment, among oth­er ways, by fight­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions that affect our future on the plan­et.

  • In two and four years, the coun­try will vote again. The chance that we could con­tin­ue down this path is fright­en­ing, and must be pre­vent­ed.

Per­son­al­ly, while I’m not cut out to actu­al­ly run for office, I have skills and expe­ri­ence that would be use­ful to those who are. I will con­tin­ue to be active in pol­i­tics, in get out the vote efforts, in sup­port­ing can­di­dates who will change this direc­tion. I’m well versed in local issues (and the max­im that all pol­i­tics is local is unques­tion­ably true) and yet I will work to explore issues I don’t know much about.

I plan to learn more about how the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty works nation­al­ly, what can be done to sup­port those local Repub­li­cans who are on the right side of the issues I care about (remem­ber, I live in Kansas), and how I can encour­age more peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, to step up to pub­lic ser­vice. Is there any­thing more awe­some than Tam­my Duckworth’s smile?

I’m encour­aged by the num­ber of peo­ple who are look­ing to get involved, and the num­ber of groups step­ping up to offer them an avenue, from estab­lished groups to new ones.

This is how it starts. That’s how you defeat despair. You do some­thing.

How I’m doing: 2016 election edition

It’s been a hell of a week, I won’t kid you. I spent the entire elec­tion sea­son being pret­ty con­fi­dent in Hillary Clinton’s vic­to­ry. I guess, I fell into the trap of believ­ing my expe­ri­ence of the world was shared by every­one. Clear­ly, I was wrong. And intel­lec­tu­al­ly, it seems stu­pid of me now.

But I believed she’d win, she’d be the first female Pres­i­dent, and that much of the progress we’d made under Oba­ma would con­tin­ue. Because, you know, the alter­na­tive was too unbe­liev­able to imag­ine. But on elec­tion day, with no real rea­son, I began to get ner­vous. By evening, as the polls were clos­ing, I couldn’t stop think­ing about elec­tion night in 2000, when we were at a bar watch­ing the returns, and some­one looked up at the TV and asked, “Hey, where did Flori­da go?”

It seems a small mer­cy now that Tues­day night’s returns were con­sis­tent­ly dis­ap­point­ing, with a long slow slide into a Trump vic­to­ry, no false hope moments to raise us up before dash­ing us back onto the rocks. (The Neva­da win was too late in the evening, at least for me.) But I felt numb, and kind of… blank. I was up until 1 am, just after John Podes­ta announced that Hillary would not be speak­ing. I went to bed know­ing the out­come, but when I woke up at 4:30 am, I checked any­way.

I work in pol­i­tics, albeit at the state lev­el, and I live in Kansas, so I’m pre­dis­posed to crap­py polit­i­cal news. I have spent the last few days read­ing and read­ing and read­ing, and think­ing, and talk­ing and think­ing some more. I think this immer­sion in the reac­tions of oth­ers, like a sort of shock ther­a­py, has replaced my mourn­ing peri­od. I’m not much of a mourn­er any­way (I’ll call it “wal­low­ing” when I’m pis­sy), and I just didn’t want to dwell on it.

Now I find myself itch­ing to do some­thing. I’m work­ing on under­stand­ing, and under­stand­ing will reveal the things that need to be done, I know. But until I get there, I need some­thing tan­gi­ble, some action, some dif­fer­ence to make. I feel, ener­gized.

It may all come crash­ing down, I sup­pose. Some day I’ll break down in the mid­dle of walk­ing the dog, or at the bus stop wait­ing for my kid. But there’s just so much to unpack, I think I’ve got some time.

Don’t get me wrong, if I sound blasé. This out­come is hor­ri­fy­ing to me, in every way. If I stop to con­sid­er the real con­se­quences, to peo­ple, to our coun­try, and to the world, I can feel the gib­ber­ing pan­ic creep­ing in at the edges of my vision. But these last cou­ple of days, I feel great. Like I have pur­pose, like I’m coiled and ready to spring. It’s weird. It’s inter­est­ing. And I intend to take full advan­tage of it.

Just shut that down

Today we heard that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma called up the Speak­er of the House John Boehn­er and told him, and I quote from Bren­dan Buck, Boehn­er’s spokesman, “The pres­i­dent called the speak­er again today to reit­er­ate that he won’t nego­ti­ate on a gov­ern­ment fund­ing bill or debt lim­it increase.” Source: Roll Call

Hel­lz to the yes.

The pure unadul­ter­at­ed gall of the thir­ty or so Tea Par­ty cra­zies who a) think their minor­i­ty is in the major­i­ty, b) are direct­ed and fund­ed by a con­ser­v­a­tive oli­garchy, and c) do not under­stand the most basic func­tions of gov­ern­ment is only sur­passed by the spine­less wheel­ing con­trivances of the mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans who refuse to stand up for their con­stituen­cies, their per­son­al beliefs, and their intel­lec­tu­al under­stand­ing of what is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing in gov­ern­ment today.

Afraid of the Koch Broth­ers mon­ey? Wor­ried you’re going to get Tea Par­ty Pri­maried? Well, it’ll hap­pen any­way, so you’d best just grow a spine and stand up.

It appears that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship has found theirs.

Time to shut down the Tea Par­ty. Time to shut down the nar­ra­tive that what­ev­er you believe is true because you believe it. Time to stand up to the bul­lies.

I am glad my Pres­i­dent appears to be doing so.

NRA: Shoot the bad guys for double points!

There is so much to say about today’s NRA state­ment in rela­tion to the Sandy Hook shoot­ing. But let us start with this. The NRA blames the shoot­ing on a cul­ture of vio­lence. They call out video games (spe­cif­ic ones, I guess you know who your friends are now!), media, the gov­ern­ment. It’s actu­al­ly a pret­ty com­pre­hen­sive (if slight) overview of the com­plex prob­lems of child­hood and games and tele­vi­sion and men­tal health and the econ­o­my. I’d say bra­vo for rec­og­niz­ing that the issue is shades of grey upon shades of grey. Except…

Iron­i­cal­ly, their answer is to present the fix to soci­ety’s ills as a video game:

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Wayne LaPierre, NRA Lob­by­ist

Bad guys. And good guys. Shoot the bad guys to save the chil­dren.

Well, I have some black and white rhetoric for you, too, Mr. LaPierre.

What is safer than a good guy in a school with a loaded firearm? No firearms. Not for good guys. Not for bad guys. Leave the firearms to the pro­fes­sion­als who need them.

Hunters and their guns

So, my wife and I had a lit­tle con­ver­sa­tion today about hunters and their guns in light of my pre­vi­ous post. We eat meat, and that meat has to be killed; hunters kill ani­mals, and some of them eat that meat… she won­dered if there was a prob­lem with my argu­ment in that con­text. I had to think about it for a moment before I wrapped my head around it.

But I’m good now.

I don’t have a moral prob­lem with killing ani­mals for meat. Nev­er have, real­ly. I have lots of prob­lems with the way we raise and kill food ani­mals, and try to buy my meat from local pro­duc­ers with small scale slaugh­ter­ing oper­a­tions. I don’t eat a lot of meat, for health rea­sons. But I’m fine with ani­mals as meat, killed by humans.

In that sense, I don’t have a prob­lem with indi­vid­ual hunters going out and killing ani­mals for meat. And while I may have a per­son­al dis­taste for hunters going out and killing ani­mals for fun, that isn’t what my argu­ment is about.

I have a prob­lem with peo­ple own­ing guns.

As I have said before, pro­fes­sion­al gun own­ers need their guns to do their jobs. Fine. But recre­ation­al gun own­ers do not need their guns. Recre­ation­al hunters do not need their guns. Recre­ation­al hunters do not need to kill ani­mals, and they cer­tain­ly don’t need to do it with guns.

They may want to. But that isn’t a good enough rea­son to own a gun.

  • You want to be one with nature? Go camp­ing.
  • You want to feel the “thrill of the hunt?” Grab a cam­era on your way out to the blind.
  • You want to feel like a man? Vol­un­teer at a soup kitchen. Build a house. Read at the library.
  • You real­ly need to kill? Do it with a bow, if you must. I’ll con­cede that piece of ground.

Your hunt­ing rifle does not make you safer. It puts every­one around you in dan­ger. What is safer than a respon­si­ble, trained hunter with a prop­er­ly secured gun? Not hav­ing a gun.

And then there’s this:

…the urge to kill lies with­in us all, espe­cial­ly as chil­dren. With­out prop­er chan­nelling of these instincts, chil­dren often grow into phys­i­cal­ly abu­sive and/or mur­der­ous adults. Can any of us hon­est­ly say that, as kids, we did­n’t shoot birds with our sling­shots and bb guns, or set home­made traps for oth­er crit­ters? I say that if you can say that, then you either nev­er had an oppor­tu­ni­ty as a child, or you’re an excep­tion to the rule of human nature.”

From Why do Hunters Hunt? by Russ Chas­tain

I’m sor­ry, you have an instinc­tu­al “urge to kill” that you need to chan­nel prop­er­ly? And you had it as a child? I don’t have an alter­na­tive for you, except to hope to God that you are the excep­tion, not the rule.


Some of the read­ing I did for this: