Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, July 24, 2016

And so it begins with demonizing "them".

It's the trick of despots and dictators alike:  Ginning up a fear and hatred for "them" in order to garner power for themselves.  Put another way, it's creating a need and then offering the sole solution, all in one neat little package.

Look, I get being opposed to "him" or "her"; these people, whoever they are, have names, faces, decisions, records, and actions that can be criticized.  That's fair game, especially in the arena of politics.  Even better is the fact that the accusers can themselves be judged based on the quality of their arguments and how they respond to any push-back they receive from their targets.  It's this kind of give-and-take that I think helps people make better decisions.

All possible value from a give-and-take process falls by the wayside when the target is some nameless, faceless group of people that just don't happen to look or act like us.  Then it becomes simply fear-mongering.  Then it becomes dangerous.



I get it:  Hillary Clinton is a liar.  I don't doubt that actually.  What she isn't doing though is demonizing entire groups and, for example, calling for a religious test for immigrants.  A religious test that, under a possible President Trump, would be applied to Muslims, but in the future could be applied against any other religious group.  What she isn't calling for is the construction of a Berlin Wall on our southern border (a wall which Mexico will never pay for, by the way).  If my choice is the fear-mongering proto-despot or the serial liar, I'll pick the least dangerous of the two, namely the liar.  At worst the United States will not be any better under a President Clinton.  Under a President Trump?  Our very soul as a nation is at stake.

In the end, if you choose to vote for Donald Trump, just do so knowing that your candidate enjoys pointing fingers at, and demonizing the nameless and the faceless, principally because they can't fight back.  Those are the actions of a coward.  He also enjoys scaring you into voting for him.  Don't take the bait.  Don't vote for Trump.  If Hillary Clinton turns your stomach, vote for Gary Johnson.



Friday, July 22, 2016

A Picture That Says It All

They say that a "picture paints a thousand words", well if that's true, then all you need to understand the state of the (former) Republican Party is the following:


Would Ronald Reagan have been found standing in front of a giant sign that said "Reagan"?

This is what the GOP has become:  Another platform for one man to engage in self-glorification.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Storm is Coming (for Republicans)

The past, present and future of the GOP, all in one posting.

Enter the Gipper
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States.  Love him or hate him, he was elected.  There was much wailing and mashing teeth among Democrats, but the man remained popular throughout his presidency.  He was also, at least by modern day Republican standards, fairly moderate:  He worked with Democrats in Congress (including the legendary Tip O'Neill), supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, and he campaigned with a more or less positive message.  I don't consider myself a fan of the late President Reagan, but contrary to current practices of both parties, it's possible to disagree with someone's politics without demonizing them in the process.

The Hand-off & Fumble
After two terms, President Reagan had to ride into the sunset.  His heir apparent, George H. W. Bush, was elected President in 1988 and served just one term in office.  This is where I think the train went off the tracks.  You see, it wasn't supposed to end that way for national Republicans.  The Reagan-Bush years where supposed to last, maybe forever.  It just didn't happen.  Making it far worse?  The fact that the Reagan-Bush legacy was up-ended by a man who many Republicans loathed as being nothing more than a hillbilly JFK:  Bill Clinton.  George H. W. Bush may have been denied a second term in office, but national Republicans would have their revenge and oust the upstart hillbilly.  While national Democrats may have looked on Ronald Reagan as being nothing more than a hack actor who had a mind (and policy agenda) in lock-step with the 1950's, there never seemed to be a need to beat him at all costs.  They were, instead, content with nibbling at him from the edges (Iran-Contra, Anne Gorsuch Burford, etc.).  With national Republicans, it was outright war against Bill Clinton.  The problem was that they failed, miserably, I might add.

Yes, despite despite investigations and whisper campaigns, atrocious right-wing talk radio attacks, and plenty of self-inflicted wounds, Bill Clinton was simply better than his Republican foes.  The fact that he beat them, and ended the Reagan-Bush dynasty is, in my estimation, what brings us today.

On-Going Fouls
Being beaten by Bill Clinton was simply too much for national Republicans.  That failure brought the party onto a trajectory that landed this year with candidate Donald Trump.  In failing to beat Bill Clinton, the national GOP pumped it's grass roots full of vitriolic steroids, instilling a hatred of all things government and counter to hard right conservatism that even surpassed what Ronald Reagan ever envisioned.  The whisper campaigns test driven on Bill Clinton (remember when Hillary Clinton was both a lesbian and having an affair with Vince Foster?), fine-tuned on Michael Dukakis and perfected by Karl Rove (sometimes against fellow Republicans, such as actual war hero John McCain), became part in parcel of the political process.

End Game
What national Republicans created in all of this was a monster they just simply could never control.  It's painfully ironic in a way:  They campaigned against an "evil federal government" from the seat of the federal government, never stopping for a moment to believe that they might in fact get caught in their own political backwash.  National Republicans don't want to admit this, but they are just as much a part of "the system" as the Democrats they seem to loathe.  It's not just me who thinks this by the way...you can add in millions who voted for Donald Trump (against far more conservative challengers, such as Rafael Cruz).

* * * * * *

This doesn't end well for Republicans.  It simply can't.  Even if they win the Presidency, they've already lost their dream of a national Republican majority.  Donald Trump is a lot of things...most of them evil in my estimation...but one thing he's not is beholden to the national Republican party.  His tormenting of the party during the primaries is proof of that point.  His winning in November though seems (hopefully) unlikely.  Assuming he loses, there will be a day of reckoning for those members of the national GOP that supported him...they know this by the way, which explains the many hedging of endorsement bets by the likes of Speaker Paul Ryan and others.

Mark my words:  No matter what happens in November, a storm is coming for the Republican party.



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Best Rush Limbaugh Quote, Ever (& Added Bonus)

I stumbled upon this quote the other day, and it's stayed with me, so it's time to share.

(from THIS site)

In a related...and more serious...note, I highly recommend THIS column by Michael Smerconish:  Are The Voters Really Mad As Hell?  A thoughtful look at how we got in this horrid political place in 2016.  My favorite quote from the article?

"Business motives drive the titans of talk. They aim to maximize revenue from advertising, which requires the attraction of computer clicks, ears, and eyeballs. That goal, in turn, necessitates producing an authentic, stimulating product. The more passion provoked by hosts, the better their shot of capturing and maintaining an audience.
Bold, assertive, controversial content achieves this goal far better than thorough, nuanced, paragraph-long explanations. This incentive explains why the content on talk radio and cable television news has long been a precursor to the provocative language of the stump speeches of Donald Trump and one of his final GOP challengers, Ted Cruz."
Talk radio...as in Limbaugh, Savage and others on the hard right...has NEVER been about informing, educating, or even thoughtful advocacy; no, it's all about business, as in earning revenue through a constant stream of bitter sound bite mental candy to people so that they will buy stuff from advertisers.  It becomes a kind of bizarre mental arms race into the gutter, feeding conspiracy and fostering an attitude of "it's the fault of _________ you are not getting ahead", where the blank could be filled by everything from ACORN to Obama to Black Lives Matter to fluoride in drinking water, all in the name of increasing advertising revenues.  Who needs a thought provoking discussion when you can simply point fingers and call names?

For the record, having listened to Limbaugh over the years (from time to time) and having read some of his work, I'm reasonably convinced that even he doesn't believe half the stuff he says, but he does know how to generate ad revenue.  Hillbilly heroin abuse may have destroyed his hearing, but it's done nothing to dull his keen business sense.

  




Friday, July 8, 2016

Shootings

It all boils down to this:  American society glorifies violence...culturally we somehow believe that problems can best be solved by solutions that inflict harm on others.  With that in mind, are the events of these past few weeks truly all that shocking?  

The solution to violence is never more violence, despite what politicians, talk show hosts and movie markers tell us through their constant verbal and visual assaults.  Nothing...and I mean NOTHING...in this country will change until we begin to see our problems as being rooted in the basic notion that might does not in fact make right.

We need dialogue and respect for everyone, ESPECIALLY those we disagree with.  We need less vengeance.  We need more compassion.  An "eye for an eye" simply leaves everyone blind in the end...a lesson playing out right in front of our very own eyes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Legacy

As you get older, the word "legacy" gets thrown around in your presence more and more.  "Legacy" as in "what will your legacy be?".  I'm starting to get to that age, and while the question doesn't come around from the outside very often, it certainly pings around in my head quite a bit.  Now I'm not quite sure how to answer it, but fortunately, I do have time.

The one benefit I see from the legacy question is that it does stop and make one think.  Heck, maybe with sufficient ramp-up time I'll end up actually having an answer by the time the very idea of a legacy becomes an actual thing for me.  It all seems to be in the perspective one takes.

On one hand, I know that my children will be a part of my legacy, but that's kind of nebulous, at best.  Yes, I'd like to see my better qualities reflected in my those for whom I've had an opportunity to help raise, but sadly they will also get some of my "not so better" qualities as well.  Anyone for a little side of over-thinking with your naked glazed chicken?  I could go on, but self-flagellation is never a pretty sight.

On the other hand, I would love the idea that something I've noted here, maybe in some small way, might somehow be akin to a breeze that helps alter the course of a Bee (hey, that last line almost counts as an Emily Dickinson poem) every so slightly.  I almost feel stupid even writing that thought, but it is an honest one, so why not?  I'm not looking to change the world, mainly just to maybe change me, and if someone else gets caught up in the (positive) backwash, well, I'm fine with it.  

Now at work, I occasionally get asked something along the lines of "what do you want to do?".  Yes, even folks who work in HR get asked that question.  For many (and I'd note especially those who work in HR) the honest answer is something along the lines of "get promoted".  I understand that answer, even if it's not my answer.  Sure, getting promoted would be nice, but I learned a while ago to detach my sense of self-worth from the notions of corporate rank/title/performance rating.  You should too, by the way, as otherwise you'll just set yourself up for almost continual disappointment.  Anyway, those things are real, in a sense, because they carry stuff like more money with them, but they are also very artificial as well, given that for the most part, they are also highly subjective.  That nasty clerk at the Post Office?  Everyone at Comcast?  God?  They all have something in common:  None of them cares about your work title.

Anyway, and to bring this thought to a close, maybe my legacy is this:  What I want to do...what I want my legacy to be...is to simply have made someone or something just a little better by the time I exit, stage right.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Walking in Redemption

A year ago today I married my best friend, someone who literally grabbed me from the depths and, while she doesn't like to hear this, saved me.

I confess, it feels a little odd celebrating a one year anniversary at age 52, but that's okay, because I firmly believe that no one is never too old to start anew.

So, what does it feel like one year out?

At times it feels as if we've been at this forever.  For the record, we haven't, unless you consider "about five years" to be forever.  We just, for lack of a better way to describe it, "fit".  Not like an old pair of shoes, but more like two pieces of a larger puzzle that, when put together, create a picture heretofore not seen before.  For the record, I've always wanted to use the word "heretofore" in a sentence.  Anyway, I have to gut-check myself via a mental reminder that all of this time is but yet a small sliver of my life.

At other times, I'm still shocked at how my life has changed over the course of what is actually just about ten percent of my existence.  Smart people write about how we truly are the masters of our own existence and that there is always hope.  Years ago that sounded, well, like a nice theory, of the sort that was meant for others but never for me.  Today, I can count myself as a living example of those ideas.  Mind you, sometimes I forget and my thoughts drift back into old habits, but the wonderful reality of my life today is that it has an equally wonderful habit of pulling me back into present reality with lightening speed.

(Early 2011, wandering about)

A circle is complete.

It's not just a one year wedding anniversary; it's more the larger of idea that we all have a shot at redemption.  When you go through something like a divorce, you lose a lot, and I'm not talking about things like money either, as that can always be replaced, or your lifestyle choices adjusted.  Part of my blessing is that while I did truly lose a lot, I didn't lose everything...in fact I kept the truly most important things (see directly below)...and I ended up gaining much more.

(Christmas 2010, with my family)

There's no cosmic or karmic accounting that works here, but I think that life ultimately is about making choices and taking chances.  I'm Not taking "shaving my head and joining a cult on the chance it will lead to true self-actualization" kinds of chances, but more of the "the possible rewards of taking a chance are greater than the risks of staying the same" variety.  It's a way of viewing the world not as a threat to your existence or even as being full of possibilities, but instead viewing yourself as an intricate part of the world.  The trick, if you want to call it that, is to realize that you are a part of the world in the first place.  That's sometimes easier said than done.

(Summer 2011, canoeing in New Hampshire)

So here I am now, writing this as a kind of open contemplation of a life well changed.  I've noted in this blog many times over the years that I  believe we all have a "shot at redemption", a thought that applies as much to me as it does to anyone else.  Maybe even more so.  Prospectively I know from experience that it's sometimes difficult to see that redemption in front of you, which is probably a good thing.  Why?  Well this has never been about redemption as being a destination or goal, something that should be planned for or coveted, but rather it's about a journey.  I don't think we ever achieve redemption, but rather maybe we walk in redemption instead, which happens precisely at that moment when we believe that we, in fact, can.

(Walking in redemption, July 3, 2015)

Here's to everyone's journey walking towards (and in) redemption.



"Redemption is never where you expect to find it."
- Sherrilyn Kenyon



Walking in Redemption

A year ago today I married my best friend, someone who literally grabbed me from the depths and, while she doesn't like to hear this, saved me.

I confess, it feels a little odd celebrating a one year anniversary at age 52, but that's okay, because I firmly believe that no one is never too old to start anew.

So, what does it feel like one year out?

At times it feels as if we've been at this forever.  For the record, we haven't, unless you consider "about five years" to be forever.  We just, for lack of a better way to describe it, "fit".  Not like an old pair of shoes, but more like two pieces of a larger puzzle that, when put together, create a picture heretofore not seen before.  For the record, I've always wanted to use the word "heretofore" in a sentence.  Anyway, I have to gut-check myself via a mental reminder that all of this time is but yet a small sliver of my life.

At other times, I'm still shocked at how my life has changed over the course of what is actually just about ten percent of my existence.  Smart people write about how we truly are the masters of our own existence and that there is always hope.  Years ago that sounded, well, like a nice theory, of the sort that was meant for others but never for me.  Today, I can count myself as a living example of those ideas.  Mind you, sometimes I forget and my thoughts drift back into old habits, but the wonderful reality of my life today is that it has an equally wonderful habit of pulling me back into present reality with lightening speed.

(Early 2011, wandering about)

A circle is complete.

It's not just a one year wedding anniversary; it's more the larger of idea that we all have a shot at redemption.  When you go through something like a divorce, you lose a lot, and I'm not talking about things like money either, as that can always be replaced, or your lifestyle choices adjusted.  Part of my blessing is that while I did truly lose a lot, I didn't lose everything...in fact I kept the truly most important things (see directly below)...and I ended up gaining much more.

(Christmas 2010, with my family)

There's no cosmic or karmic accounting that works here, but I think that life ultimately is about making choices and taking chances.  I'm Not taking "shaving my head and joining a cult on the chance it will lead to true self-actualization" kinds of chances, but more of the "the possible rewards of taking a chance are greater than the risks of staying the same" variety.  It's a way of viewing the world not as a threat to your existence or even as being full of possibilities, but instead viewing yourself as an intricate part of the world.  The trick, if you want to call it that, is to realize that you are a part of the world in the first place.  That's sometimes easier said than done.

(Summer 2011, canoeing in New Hampshire)

So here I am now, writing this as a kind of open contemplation of a life well changed.  I've noted in this blog many times over the years that I  believe we all have a "shot at redemption", a thought that applies as much to me as it does to anyone else.  Maybe even more so.  Prospectively I know from experience that it's sometimes difficult to see that redemption in front of you, which is probably a good thing.  Why?  Well this has never been about redemption as being a destination or goal, something that should be planned for or coveted, but rather it's about a journey.  I don't think we ever achieve redemption, but rather maybe we walk in redemption instead, which happens precisely at that moment when we believe that we, in fact, can.

(Walking in redemption, July 3, 2015)

Here's to everyone's journey walking towards (and in) redemption.



"Redemption is never where you expect to find it."
- Sherrilyn Kenyon



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Spent

I have to confess that the whole writing gig has gotten difficult of late.  One of the most glaring reasons was a recently completed graduate course that just seemed to tax my limits in more ways that one.  I know, "boo hoo", "#firstworldproblems", "suck it up buttercup", etc.  I get it.

Anyway, I'll also confess that there is a lot these days that's simply disheartening and mentally taxing.

I actually have two things I want to write about, but I just don't have the mental energy to pull either off at the moment.  That makes me just a tad bit disappointed in myself.  In fact, it's fair to call this posting a "posting for the sake of a posting", although as I write it I have no idea where it may go, so who knows?  The sad reality is that while I edit (a lot) for typos (but yet still have plenty), in fact, 98% of what's written in every posting of mine is a stream of consciousness anyway.  Yes, this is how my mind works.  Except it has far fewer typos.

One bit of bright news is that my school gig will be on hiatus for two months or so, and I'm likely changing my overall plan for the home stretch of my graduate education.  My original plan was do-able, but I simply hate, at age 52, feeling stressed and tired...and that plan would have left me even more stressed and tired.  I'm still graduating next year, but the actual specifics will be changing ever so much.  Heck, at this stage I'm just in it for the resume stuffing anyway.

Another bit of bright news?  I'm starting to catch up on some reading for fun and am enjoying a great book.
(from Amazon)

The author, Nadia Bolz-Weber, writes like a cross between Bishop Sheen and Hunter S. Thompson.  Highly recommended.

Coming up is a few days worth of vacation; nothing fancy, just some time with my wife's wonderful family and some hiking.  Maybe even some writing.  I'm hoping for a continued mental step-down from the latest incarnation of school and some additional focus on the right things.

I'll wind this posting down with something from The Onion that made me genuinely laugh out loud.

(from THIS page)

On a related note:  While stopping at a convenience store today, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that basically said that the Confederate battle flag wasn't a symbol of racism and slavery.  I stared at it for a moment and thought to myself, "Hey, he may be right...actually, it's mostly just a symbol of treason".  I was tempted to wait for Cletus to come out of the store from buying his chewing tobacco, in order to have a intellectually stimulating debate about the topic, but I thought better of it, as I'd likely need to explain what "treason" meant (and I didn't want to get shot by some hillbilly with more ammo than IQ points).



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ingredients of Being a Functional Dad

I've approached being a Dad much in the same way that I approach cooking:  I do my best, I experiment a lot, and I basically hope for the best.  In the case of both cooking and being a Dad, that last part basically amounts to whether or not someone gets killed in the process.

Now I've never received anywhere near any formal training in how to be a Dad (or cooking).  I simply had no one close to me growing up to provide an example, but as I've probably noted on this blog every year since 2008, I did have a good example of what not to do.  That can be pretty powerful.  

Also, note my use of the word "functional".  I don't want to say "great" or even "good", as those are subjective terms.  I've made many mistakes in the Dad department.  What's more, I do think that sometimes being a "good" or "great" Dad may make you pretty darn unpopular in the process, at least over the short-term (a span of time that I think is measured in years by the way).

Anyway, here are ingredients that I think make for being a functional Dad.
  1. Be Present.  Just showing up is most of the battle.  Showing up at school.  At basketball games.  At plays.  There is no substitute for actually being there.
  2. Have a Moral Compass (and follow it).  Morality is a tough concept these days, but I do think it's essential to actually have some sense of a moral compass to pass along to your children.  The key here is that you have to "walk the talk"; simply spouting off values is meaningless unless you actually live them.
  3. Be Kind.  Teach your children to be kind to others, as far too many parents don't. 
  4. Teach Respect.  This starts with respecting your wife/partner, even when that may be difficult, and even when your wife/partner may not respect you.
  5. Take Responsibility.  Don't pass the buck.  If you make a mistake, own up to it.  Humility is best taught by example.
  6. Model Intellectual Curiosity and the Value of Life-Long Learning.  Buy and read books.  Go the library.  Watch and talk about the news with your children.  Teach them that learning just doesn't happen from September to June.
  7. Have a Sense of Humor.  I think that laughing makes you far more human and situations far easier to handle.
  8. Teach the Value of Money.  It's tough in a society that pushes so much consumption on young people but teach your children to make good spending decisions.  
  9. Always Take the Long View.  Sacrificing important long-term life lessons for short-term calm is a brutal mistake.  I use the word "brutal" because that's what life can be sometimes, and parents (especially Dads) need to help their children learn important survival skills.
  10. Call Bull$hit to Teach Critical Thinking Skills.  What I mean is to tell your children when something (in the world, in the news, in their lives) simply doesn't pass the smell test.  For me, part of that was in traditional gender roles.  Yes, since I have three daughters, I understood that there are "girl" things, but I also wanted them to cast a critical eye on things that some might consider being "boy" things.  I wanted my daughters to be able to change a flat tire, for example.  Conversely, I think all boys should be able to cook, sew a button or two and wash/iron clothes.
  11. Value the Arts.  Encourage your children to be creative, in any way(s) that make them happy.  I think that every child should, for example, be given the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument.  If you're like me, that interest might not last so long, but it's the opportunity that matters most. 
  12. Independence.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly, teach your children that you as a parent have an end-game for them, namely independence.  An important goal of parenting should be to make you, as a parent, no longer needed.  
As a Dad, I can now look back on three daughters who are all out of college (well one is working on an advanced degree) and working.  How great is that?  There are things that, if I had a functional time machine, I would go back in time and do differently, but time machines don't exist and I firmly believe that ruminating on past mistakes is nothing short of an enormous waste of time anyway.  Regardless, a "belated due to graduate research paper" Happy Father's Day to one and all.