Tag Archives: Politics

A Letter to a (ex)Facebook Friend

Last Spring, I decided to not post anything partisan or overtly political on Facebook. Sure, I commented about the election, mostly indicating a disdain that was not limited to just one party.  I often commented on other people’s posts, but I was careful to not call someone stupid, ignorant, or even wrong if they saw things differently than I did. I’ve always been a big fan of satire, so I didn’t stray too far away from satirical pieces that I thought were either funny or though-provoking.  Pictures of Big Bird atop Mitt’s car or the Romney family dinner table were about as political as the satire got — and that was more because I thought it funny than because of how I felt about PBS funding.   Sometimes I forgot to click those annoying boxes so that articles I read didn’t post to my wall.   I never stated, though, which candidates I was voting for, though most of my choices shouldn’t be a surprise to those who know me well. Nor is it any surprise that I am satisfied by the re-election of President Obama or the election of Joe Donnelly as the next Senator from Indiana. But I don’t hate those who voted for Romney or Mourdock. I’m glad that you chose to participate in our electoral process. I respect your right to have different opinions and to make different choices than I would make.

I had a Facebook friend or two who tried to goad me or others several times in the last months of the campaign & I found myself frequently taking deep breaths to refrain from taking the bait.  I bristled — then ignored — comments about Obama being a socialist or Romney being a rich but stupid bastard.  I was disappointed when others referred to O’Vomit or Rethugnicans, or made jokes about Muslims or Mormons,  but I held my tongue and discretely deleted the few comments that others made on my page using such vile language.  If they were on your own page, that was your doing, but I have always reserved the right to keep unkind, offensive, or hate-inspiring words off of mine.  I  had to think deeply about de-friending such individuals. But each time I considered it, I came to the conclusion that was not the right course of action. I respect and love my friends and family, even when they don’t agree with me. (And sometimes more when they don’t agree with me!)

Our democracy depends on diversity of opinion, on listening to each other and — yes! — compromise. Even when the other person doesn’t seem to want an honest debate, we need to listen; we need earnest dialog, not ad hominem attacks, not lies and words taken out of context in order distort the truth and to spin an alternate reality. We need to not take the fodder of the media — either liberal or conservative — the SuperPacs, or internet memes and then regurgitate it without checking its veracity. We need to demand that all of our elected officials show honesty and integrity, have the willingness to listen, recognize the right of the opposite side to speak, and are willing to compromise for the good of the country instead of their political futures. We need to demand that they respect each other — and their constituents, the citizenry of this country.

I was saddened today to realize that one of my Facebook friends de-friended me and several mutual friends in the last day. I am disheartened to know that our friendship, in her book, is not stronger than the fact of which political party she assumed I aligned myself with this election (after all, I didn’t publicly state it until just now). But, to be honest, while I will miss my friend, I will not miss the incongruity that exists between the spiteful comments about the (legitimately elected — twice) President, about Democrats, or about those whose faith does not match up exactly to hers, and her claims to be a patriot, a Christian, and one who wants and cherishes democracy. I think she needs to thoughtfully consider her words (not to mention facts) before referring to the President and his supporters as evil, socialist, divisive, intolerant and anti-Christian.

The country is not going to cease to exist because President Obama was re-elected.  You know what?  It wouldn’t have fallen apart either if Mitt Romney had won.    But I know my ex-Facebook friend will not read this now. I fear that she wouldn’t have understood it if she had. And that’s sad.

(This is a slightly edited version of a status I posted earlier on Facebook — the longest status I’ve ever written.  I’m glad I wasn’t restricted to 140 characters!)

What do you think?

This is a huge departure from my usual posts, and it is one that I hope generates lots of comments, not because I want the traffic meter to crash into the stratosphere — I have, I assure you, an insurmountable distance to achieve that feat! — but because I want to have a discussion on this with others. To participate, you only need to feel free to speak your mind in a reasoned, rational manner without ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with you. In other words, if you call someone stupid or ignorant, or treasonous because of their beliefs; if you curse or stereotype or stick your fingers in your ears and eyes rather than consider respectfully their point of view; if you suggest that someone shouldn’t comment or has no right to his or her own opinion, just stop reading right now. Come back another time when I’m posting about a book, a new recipe, a pretty photograph, marveling about something wonderous I’ve found in the natural world or reveling in some piece of optimism or a kind act of a fellow human being. I don’t care if you’re a writer or an artist; a runner, a vegan or a mommy blogger; a city dweller or a country liver; live on the East Coast, or the West Coast or somewhere in the spaces in between the coasts; a conservative or a liberal; an atheist, a Christian, a Muslim, a Zoroastrian, a seeker or a doubter; a progressive or a libertarian or anarchist.  I only care that you choose to participate in this discussion using reasonable, rational, calm, non-inflammatory discourse. Heck, I don’t even care if you are an American, although this is an American issue. In fact, I’d also like to know what those of you who are NOT Americans think of this as well (and I hope you don’t  jump to conclusions that we Americans are all crazies!)

As some of you may have gathered from other posts, I live in Indiana. Although Indiana’s electoral votes in the 2008 Presidential election went to Obama, that was likely an anomaly. Indiana is a very conservative state. Even our Democratic Party officials are far more conservative than the national Democratic party. The Hoosier state has always been that way as long as I’ve lived here (for > 4 decades). Yesterday, in the Indiana Primary, the incumbent Senator, The Honorable Richard Lugar, was overwhelmingly defeated by a “tea party” challenger, Richard Mourdock.

Senator Lugar, in comments following his defeat, stated the following:

‎”Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times. Certainly this was understood by President Reagan, who worked with Democrats frequently and showed flexibility that would be ridiculed today — from assenting to tax increases in the 1983 Social Security fix, to compromising on landmark tax reform legislation in 1986, to advancing arms control agreements in his second term.”

You can read Lugar’s full remarks here.

So, what do you think?  Do you agree with Lugar?  Or should the victorious majority get to set all of the rules according to their agenda, without compromise? If you agree with Lugar, what does the citizenry need to do to move our elected officials towards bipartisanship?

In my opinion, both the Democrats and the Republicans are equally guilty of being entrenched in their own positions, wishing to remain at their own extreme ends of the political spectrum, and unwilling to work together to solve problems. “Purity” tests to determine if one is a “real” D or a “real” R appear to exist in both parties — and they only seem intended to placate big-money special interest groups, not individual voters. As a taxpayer, as a citizen, I resent this, but I don’t have the answers as to what needs to happen to change course.

Ready? Set? Remember, trolling and similar nastiness will not be tolerated and such comments will be deleted without remorse.

Go; Comment! 🙂

A Patriotic Moment

I show a bit of geekish enthusiasm for things political. But, even I, news addict since age 10, get a bit jaded over national politics. Nobody seems to take the high road any more. I would love to see a politician who was truthful, does not try to belittle opponents that he/she disagrees with, fosters discussion, isn’t looking only for the sound bite. The same goes for the 24/7 echo chamber that is the news.

We have problems in this country — big problems. They aren’t going to be resolved with the current “don’t give an inch; the other side is evil” attitudes that both political parties are currently entrenched within.

Yet, I still want to wave my flag when I see the system working.

A few weeks ago I was asked to consider showing my support for an important charity in my city that was facing opposition from neighborhood groups in a zoning petition. Without going into details, let’s say that this is the type of facility that at first glance most people would be skeptical about, but it is also something with a 30 year track record of success and is exactly the type of organization that as a community we should be embracing.

I had no idea what to expect, and certainly didn’t expect a few hundred people at the meeting. The case I was there to support was the last on the docket. It didn’t matter though: I hung on every word, from the store that needed a zoning variance for a fence, to the homeless shelter, to the neighborhood squabble over an addition, to a half-way house. All were interesting to me. I was a bit discouraged by the vitriol in some of the cases, the “not in my backyard” attitudes. I was also curious when some, on the losing side of their particular battle, starting chanting “follow the money”, as if they could have only lost if there had been some sort of payoff or political favoritism. (There certainly wasn’t anything that I could tell that seemed suspicious, but it isn’t something that I’d be in a circumstance to tell). But, I do think that it is a sign of our times that people are naturally suspicious of the process.

But, I don’t look at it that way. Instead, I look at it as an example of what we do right. In one case, there were neighbors who had ridiculous reasons to oppose the petition. In the case of the homeless shelter for teens, one old lady said that it shouldn’t exist because she didn’t want teens having sex in a house in her neighborhood. Really? Does she think that doesn’t happen elsewhere? Maybe with teens who aren’t homeless? Another didn’t like that the city would have to bus them to their home school district, although that is the law, regardless of where the student may live. Neither were cases to not approve of the zoning petition.

But what was encouraging to me is that we allow people, regardless of how silly or unfounded their concern is, to remonstrate. Our court system has rules, sets guidelines for notifying people, and let’s people have their say. I may not have agreed with every ruling that the board made, but it made me feel good to witness the process.

Likewise, I always feel good on Election Day. In my city, there were elections for mayor and for city-county council. Some people might think that it wasn’t that important since we weren’t voting for the legislature. But, I vote even in off-year elections. It made me happy that I was number 203 in my precinct — a pretty good turnout for 10am in an off-year. I don’t know what the final percentage was, nor have I checked yet to see who was elected. But, it makes me happy to know that I can vote, even if my candidates didn’t win.

I’m also thankful for the people who took the time to volunteer at the polls today. I was the only one voting at the time I was there, and there were about six poll workers. It made me happy to thank them for their service. I think it made them happy too to be thanked.

Enough to give you a headache before Nov, 2012

The 2012 Presidential election is still far, far away, but I have already tired of the coverage. I woke this morning to some talking heads debating whether mentioning that Michele Bachmann had migraines was sexist.

Wow! Is this really what we should be discussing? Is it sexist to discuss her medical conditions? This is a tricky area. Quicksand is all around. I don’t think that the fact that she suffers from migraines is sexist, although the reasons that it has been brought up, or how it is covered may very well be sexist.

I’ve had migraines before that have sent me to the hospital, once even resulting in a 2-day stay. I remember the neurologist stating: You didn’t have a stroke, and you likely don’t have a brain tumor, but we need to do some more tests… as I struggled to focus on only one of the three images of her that were waivering in front of me like heat waves rising from asphalt, as I sat in a dark room with noisy, liquid light pouring in from the hallway. If only they could turn the sound off, I thought, I might be able to focus….

I’ve had headaches strike with such sudden anger that I wasn’t sure when I arrived at home if it were really the place that I lived; once, upon leaving my office at the onset of a migraine, I had someone write down directions so that I could find my way home as I couldn’t remember the names of any of the streets. Other times, I couldn’t look at a traffic light to tell whether it was green or red and realized that I shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. There have been episodes where I thought my teeth would fall out if I spoke. Times when my brain was so attuned to the slightest sound that I was certain that I was feeling the vibrations of filaments in the light bulbs, each soundwave auguring further into my head.

I hope that this give some insight to one who as never experienced a migraine, and yet, I feel as if I fall far short of describing how excruciating the migraine experience can be. This is not a headache that two aspirin will make better so that you can continue on with your day as the annoying pressure between your ears subsides. If you think that you may have a migraine but, like a trooper, you played through the pain, you’ve only had a headache.

I’ve never made it through a day of work with a migraine and I’ve had less important decisions to make than the President. So, do I think that migraines are a reason to disqualify one from being president? Well, that depends.

If one has an occasional migraine — some people have them years apart — then they probably are not an issue. However, if they are weekly — as the original article citing an unnamed source claimed — then they are an issue. I may think that Michele Bachman is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or I may think that she is bat-shit crazy, but that has no bearing on her migraines. The extent of her migraines — triggers, duration, frequency, and even treatment — are things that need to be made public if she continues in the primary. To a voter, those should have some bearing determining her fitness to be president. They may not be disqualifying, nor should they be the only criteria, but they should be considered.

Certainly there are still a lot of sexist attitudes towards women running for office in the US. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin both were subjected to sexist remarks, reporting, and judgements in the 2008 campaigning, for things that never would have been considered newsworthy for a male candidate. Any article that implies that migraines are evidence that women are disqualified because they have hormones, certainly needs to be questioned about the biases within the reporting. An occasional migraine does not guarantee that a person cannot perform a certain task, but if frequent, or requiring treatment that would render the person unable to make judgements throughout the day (or night — remember that 3am call criteria from 2008?), then they are certainly an issue and any candidate should disclose such issues and how the disease is managed.

Is the reporting of her migraines sexist? I don’t think so. Could individual news article about this subject be sexist? Certainly. As with any other news article, it is up to the reader to employ his/her crap detector and critically read about the issue. Sloppy reporting and minimal information from a candidate should not excuse the issue, nor should it be the end of a campaign. While an individual report may reflect the biases of the journalist and his organization, it doesn’t mean that the information is not newsworthy and subject to critical debate.