Sep 10 2016

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Support Hillary Clinton

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Democrat. I don’t ever remember voting Democrat–the first Presidential election that I could vote in was when Jimmy Carter was running. Though I liked him as a person, I don’t believe I voted for him.  

I have never liked Hillary Clinton. In fact, I liked her less than I liked Bill.  I seldom could bring myself to watch or listen to them.  I have been one of those who believe that Hillary is at best a liar, and possibly a criminal.  And, I have been one of those who has secretly hoped that one of the rumors about her would be proven true, and her political life would be over.  It bothered me that she of all people would go down in history as being the first woman to be a major party candidate for President. Like many other conservatives, I was emotionally biased against Mrs. Clinton.

And then there was Trump, who was funny for a short period until I realized a lot of people were taking him seriously.  I believe that Trump is a liar and a fraud. I also believe that he’s incompetent, ignorant, a bigot, a narcissist, and a loose cannon who is fundamentally dangerous.

The Turning Point

One night, I was watching an episode of “Black Sails,” the Starz show set as a prequel to Treasure Island, when there was a very interesting exchange between the characters Long John Silver and Billy Bones.  At this point in the story, both knew than Captain Flint was a liar and a murderer, acting solely out of his own self-interests.  Billy asked Silver how he could serve under and support such a man. Silver’s reply was that even though he hated Flint, he knew that Flint was a more than capable captain and their best hope at surviving the situation they were facing. 

I immediately thought of Hillary Clinton, and the logic of Long John Silver’s analysis cleared away the fog, and I looked at things logically.  

Hillary, unlike Trump, has the necessary qualifications to be President. She has 8 years of White House experience, plus having been Secretary of State. She probably has more respect around the world than Obama. And, she’s not crazy. She may have ego issues, but that can work for a leader: She won’t let the country fail, because that will reflect on her.  Trump, at least so far, doesn’t seem to care. His MO is to blame someone else, proclaim his greatness, and move on.

Bill will also be a great asset as First Man (or whatever). He obviously will have the most experience of any First Spouse, and in spite of my not liking him personally, I always admitted that he was, in fact, a pretty good President. And neither of them are going to dump the country, as it’s not in their best interest.  

And, Hillary has consistently been the most truthful candidate of this election (that is, of the statements made throughout this election cycle, objective analysis has found her to have been the most truthful).  Then, there is the point that in spite of the myriad attempts by her enemies to find some skeletans in her closets, none have been found. 

So, this is the process by which I overcame my avulsion to Hillary Clinton.  And considering I find Trump’s policies (such as they are) morally repugnant, I will have no problems voting for Clinton.  And I actually expect her to do a pretty good job.


Oct 5 2015

Guns and Dodgeball

IMG_0180.PNGI, like many others, were saddened last week by the news of the shootings in Roseburg, Oregon.  It didn’t take long before I was also angered by the rush of extremist responses over guns.  It seems that for many people, the battle over gun control took precedence over grief and empathy.  And like many others, I have followed the news reports fairly closely as facts are revealed. While I have seen countless rants about gun control and the 2nd Amendment, I haven’t seen one person examine the issues at hand, to try to determine what, if any, types of gun control could have prevented a wacko from killing people.

What I saw was this: As soon as the news made the rounds, people all over the country rushed to their side of the gun control issue, like kids choosing sides at dodgeball, and began hurling meaningless slogans at each other. There has been no meaningful discussion, not that it would be of any help to the victims and families. I’ve not heard one thing that I haven’t heard since LBJ was in office. I remember, because when I was a kid I had a political ad hanging in my room that showed LBJ, LadyBird and Hubert dressed as gangsters, with the slogan, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

That’s as far as the discussion has gone in most circles.

Now, common sense tells you that taking away guns from the honest, sane people won’t stop the evil, crazy people.  It also will tell you that if crazy people don’t have guns, they can’t shoot anyone.  Common sense will also tell you that you can’t stop crazy people from doing crazy things. I did some research, and it seems that the claim that there is a knife attack in England (who has gun control) every 4 minutes, and the rate appears to be climging.  And as we’ve seen here and abroad, it’s incredibly easy to build a workable bomb. You can find plans online.

Laws will dissuade reasonable people from doing evil things. They won’t stop the unreasonable. I don’t have a firm position on gun control.  I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I think background checks are an obvious necessity.  Do some gun control methods work?  Is it possible to enact some gun controls but still protect the 2nd Amendment?  I don’t know, because people are too busy yelling to really examine the issue. I’d like to find out, wouldn’t you, even if it doesn’t agree with your current belief?

Human beings need to pick sides, to join tribes. One of the aspects of tribalism is to adopt a position of “I’m right, and you’re wrong” (cue “For What It’s Worth.”).  Some call it “polarization,” but it’s simply resorting to a tribal mentality.

For a tribe, tribal identity is everything. This in itself prevents meaningful dialogue. For anyone to really get anything done, they have to be willing to risk their tribal identity and start thinking for themselves, entertaining new ideas, and going in new directions. This is the case with nearly every major issue in this country. Tribalism is preventing any meaningful work from getting done, and it’s costing the country in ways that can’t even be quantified.

And it makes me angry.  But then, I always hated dodgeball.


Jun 27 2015

Why the Supreme Court is Right about Same-Sex Marriage

Over the past couple of days I’ve read a lot of stuff about Friday’s Supreme Court decision on the Obergefell case. Some of what I’ve read has been thoughtful, but to be honest, much of it hasn’t.  I understand that there are people who have strong feelings on the issue, and will react one way or another without any actual understanding or opinions on the legal issues involved, and that’s okay.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  The Obergefell decision actual makes this point:

“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

However, I’ve also read some things that are positively wacko, claiming things like the Supreme Court didn’t have the right to make this decision, or that it will result in the end of the world as we know it.

The Supreme Court’s job – when they do it properly – is to rule on the constitutionality of an issue. They are not to make moral or emotional decisions based on their own whims or feelings, but to look at the specific issues that are sent to them, and apply the Constitution to those issues.

In this case, I believe the Supreme Court not only made the correct decision, but that they made the only reasonable decision.  They were looking at 2 issues: Whether a state could deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, and if same-sex marriages would be recognized in states where same-sex marriage was not legal.  The court looked at the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens.

It should be noted that the Supreme Court is not a religious institution, and looks at marriage from a legal persepctive, not a spiritual or religious one. And the Constitution doesn’t care how your religion defines marriage (or we would have to ask, “which religion?”). It is a legal definition, not a spiritual one.  And marriage, from a legal standpoint, means having certain rights relating to things like insurance coverage, taxation, citizenship, and estate issues.  Equal rights to marry essentially means that these various legal benefits are now available to everyone involved in a committed relationship.

The ruling is not going to result in more same-sex couples cohabitatng. It simply meand that they can’t be denied the same legal rights as other couples. And, under the 14th Amendment, that is correct. Basically, there is no Constitutional basis for denying same-sex couples these rights. The decision also means that the confusion created by marriages in one state not being recognized in another state will not be an issue.  Under the Constitution, and by simple common sense, it would seem that this is the only reasonable decision the Supreme Court could have made.  If we still believe in equality under the law. Some may not like it, but equal rights are equal rights.

Endnote: I am making no comments here about whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong or how the Bible is to be interpreted. I am only saying that according to the Constitution and the laws of the land, I believe the SC decision was the correct one, and it is a civil rights victory for the LGBT community.


Jan 12 2014

Why I Like Conservatives

Before you read this post, read Why I Like Liberals.

Like I said in the previous post, I lean conservative, but I’m not an “across the board” conservative, and am by no means an ultra-right-winger. Of course, a lot depends on how you define your terms, and what you’re talking about.   “Liberal” and “conservative” are relative terms. Today’s conservative may have been yesterday’s liberals. But, for the sake of this post, I’ll refer to conservatives as those people would you think of as contemporary conservatives—you know, those people who listen to Country music, own guns, attend evangelical churches, and watch Fox News. For the most part, I’m not one of those people.

Rooted in History

One of the first things I like about conservatives—whether politically, religious, or socially—is that they are rooted in history. Where liberals tend to be free and untethered from historical attitudes (though not unaware or uninfluenced, necessarily), conservatives tend to have a greater sense of obligation to the past. This is certainly true when it comes to issues of American Government. Conservatives are typically strict constructionists when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, and liberals tend to see it as a “living document,” open to changing interpretations. If we’re talking theology, conservatives will tend to take the Bible more literally, whereas liberal Christians often tend toward metaphorical readings.

One of the problems with this is that conservatives often don’t realize that their views of history may not necessarily be historical in themselves, but may have their roots in the 1950’s, or the enlightenment, or some other point in history.  Still, it is the tension between conservative roots and liberal ideals that keep us from being stuck in a rut on one hand, or meandering about like a ship without a rudder on the other.

Tradition!

The song from the movie Fiddler On The Roof (and the whole play) makes this point well. Similar to being rooted in history, conservatives tend to like tradition, if for no other reason that it’s traditional. Unconventional behavior is neither understood nor appreciated. Liberals (always speaking in general terms) are more open to the unconventional, the avant garde, and often find tradition too confining. This, I think, goes along with the tendency to be more creative, as I mentioned in the last post. However, there is a lot to be said for tradition, the passing down of stories and ceremony and customs that teach us history, but also attitudes and respect for the past.

Conservatives are generous

Contrary to what many believe, studies have shown that conservatives generally donate more to charities than liberals, and are more likely to volunteer their time. That’s all.

Morality

Here, let’s just say that conservatives and liberals will tend to hold to different standards of morality, and this tension has gone on for centuries. Conservatives, generally, are like parents who say things like, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too?”  Liberals, like many children, are prone to say things like, “Why not?” A whole lot of “why not” thinking would send the world to hell in a handbasket. Conservatives act as moral brakes, or as the red warning lights on the dashboard that tell us to change the oil before we fry our engines. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong. But, like liberal challenging the conservative status quo, conservatives challenge those who would cross the line into potentially dangerous territory. Not that extremists on either side will listen, because they seldom do. But, for those of us who are not extremists (the majority in the middle of the bell curve), the questions and challenges assist us in our thinking through the issues.

Bottom Line

Conservatives tend to be hard-working, decent, salt-of-the-earth kind of people. Often their attitudes seem quaint, or even out of step with contemporary society, and they may have little or no respect for liberal ideas. But, there’s a lot of wisdom in folk tales and lessons learned through experience.  New is not necessarily better than old, we need the constant reminders of that from conservatives.