Tag Archives: Politics

I haven't as yet posted much with the Politics tag in this blog. There's been so much going on in my life with #gradSchoolSucks and WLS and living with rheumatoid disease, that politics necessarily took a back seat. The political climate has certainly changed over the last six months, and I am finding myself getting more and more vocal about politics in every arena as a result.

I'm a progressive liberal, and I'm not ashamed of it. Despite what many may think, this is NOT contrary to being fiscally responsible, or to having personal liberty. I also make a distinction between progressivism and liberalism. David Sirota in his blog "What's the Difference Between a Liberal and a Progressive" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sirota/whats-the-difference-betw_b_9140.html) states the following:

[...] there is a fundamental difference when it comes to core economic issues. It seems to me that traditional “liberals” in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A “progressive” are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.

To put it in more concrete terms - a liberal solution to some of our current problems with high energy costs would be to increase funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). A more “progressive” solution would be to increase LIHEAP but also crack down on price gouging and pass laws better-regulating the oil industry’s profiteering and market manipulation tactics. A liberal policy towards prescription drugs is one that would throw a lot of taxpayer cash at the pharmaceutical industry to get them to provide medicine to the poor; A progressive prescription drug policy would be one that centered around price regulations and bulk purchasing in order to force down the actual cost of medicine in America (much of which was originally developed with taxpayer R&D money).

Let’s be clear - most progressives are also liberals, and liberal goals in better funding America’s social safety net are noble and critical.

I realize that this puts me in direct opposition to my friends and family who espouse Conservative and Libertarian ideology (both Big-L and little-L). I disagree that the solution to every problem is "remove the government from the equation" and let people sort things out without government interference.  But that doesn't mean we don't have common ground we could start from.

I agree that there are numerous cases of government overreach (a town north of me is trying to impose building restrictions on people who live outside the city's jurisdiction) and government corruption (too many to list). It would be nice if we lived in a society where people could be trusted to do the right thing and the free market corrected all evils. History tells us that's unrealistic, especially when looking at corporations. A lot of the "government overreach" has been in response to egregious actions on the part of corporations. The Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act for example is rooted in a history of corporations horribly exploiting and abusing their employees. The classic libertarian response of "they can go get other jobs" doesn't wash, since corporations were able to reap huge financial benefits from the abuse and exploitation of workers too desperate to feed their families to go elsewhere.

I used to agree that it was ridiculous for people to have to go through the time and expense of obtaining a cosmetology license in order to braid hair. Until I got more information on the story from my stylist. Braiding hair seems pretty simple, but in actuality there's a lot of information that someone should understand before opening up a shop. Many clients have had irreparable damage because of products and techniques that are not only damaging to hair, but to the scalp itself. Those who set up shop in their garage or whatever don't have assets to cover the results of a lawsuit, so the injured clients are left with no remedy. Most laws have roots in people being harmed, and trying to prevent it whenever possible, even if the history and reasoning is not apparent to everyone.

In short, it all comes down to what kind of society one wants to live in. The lawless Wild West may sound romantic in bodice-ripping romances and old TV shows. I wouldn't want to live there however, because the reality is that people in groups tend to turn alll "Lord of the Flies". I don't want to live in that kind of society, where ultimately whoever is in power makes the rules and the rest of the people have no say in it, nor any recourse for the abuses of those in power. I see government as the only protection available to people in the society. Right now, corporations are the group in power and our political system has been bent to reflect the goals of corporations and the ultra-rich who run them, instead of protecting the people who are the backbone of the country. Abolition of the government "intrusion" into corporate dealings is the absolute worst thing that could happen in my estimation.

Does government need to be held accountable? Absolutely. Should government programs be held to a higher standard for economy and efficiency than they currently are? Absolutely. Are some government programs too far gone to save? Very likely. Does that mean that every government program should be terminated, and all federal regulatory bodies disbanded? No way, no how. Look at pictures of the air over Los Angeles from the 1960s compared to now.

Downtown Los Angeles smog photographs by the Herald-Examiner Collection (1968, left) and Gary Leonard (2005, right) courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library (http://www.lapl.org/#photo-collection).

Federal regulations are responsible for cleaner air in LA, period. There's still needed improvement in air quality in many cities including LA, but the improvements achieved by the EPA and the regulations that preceded its establishment are directly responsible for the ability to breathe at least decent air in our cities. Right now the EPA is fighting to stay operational, as it's under attack by corporate interests. When did corporate interests trump (pun intentional) the health and welfare of the American citizens? The ideology that government is bad is part of what's allowing the EPA to be gutted, instead of fixing what was broken with it (and I admit there is plenty broken).

Ultimately, we have too large of a society with our 320 million people (Census Bureau, 2015) to manage with a Wild West mentality. Too many corporations are trying (and succeeding) to influence legislation to their financial benefit. And yes, taxes are needed to run the government. I'll write more about taxes in another post. "Taxation is theft" is a catchy meme, but it ignores the responsibility people have to support their society, because of the benefits they reap from it.

I want to live in a society where everyone truly can become whatever they want to be. That requires everyone in the society to have a certain amount of safety net. People who have security in the lower 2 levels of Maslow's hierarchy are more able to contribute positively to society. Meeting those needs is a lot less expensive overall than dealing with the negative consequences as a society for not meeting those needs. A healthy population is one that enhances the GDP and drives the economy, not a sick population with a bunch of really wealthy dudes at the top. A healthy population breeds innovation and discovery, because when people are secure in knowing they have a safe place to live, enough to eat, and healthcare they are able to build new businesses, experiment with ideas, and take chances that those scrabbling for a bare existence cannot. How many cures for cancer remain undiscovered because the kid who would have found it dies due to lack of healthcare and decent food?  Crime drops when people have options and safety as well.

So yes, I am in favor of universal healthcare. I've done a hell of a lot of research on the subject over the years, and as a nurse I've seen what happens to people when we don't have it. I'm in favor of providing safe places for people to live, and healthy food for them. I believe it's the responsibility of the richest nation on Earth to provide these things, and excuses as to why it can't happen are just that - excuses. In this current political climate, the excuses aren't even ideological -- they are for the benefit of oligarchs and corporations.

For me, this goes beyond ideology. Until people stop arguing ideology and start working together for common goals they can agree on, the corporations and oligarchs win. If you believe that the perfect society is one with no regulations, we could at least agree to work together to reduce the ones we agree are the worst. If you believe that the perfect society is one where people are free to pursue their dreams with no restrictions, we could at least agree to keep corporations and oligarchs from abusing and financially enslaving them. If you believe the perfect society is one where everyone is treated equally, but you disagree with me on laws for protected classes, we could at least work to stop the abuses that are currently happening.

Instead, the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. Because you and I don't agree on what the perfect society looks like, we fight about that instead of coming together and promoting the improvements we can agree on. The oligarchs and corporations win and we all lose.

I started writing this post today because last night divergent political viewpoints caused a huge fight between me and one of the most important people in my life. I intended to write about how politics adversely impacts relationships. I'll have more on that subject later. Right now what I want to say to anyone who will actually listen is that there is a common ground when we give up the extremes.

Please, for the love of our country and our future, give up the extremes and start looking for commonality.

heavyheart

Your heart is too heavy from things you carry a long time,
You been up you been down, tired and you don't know why,
-- Matisyahu, Live Like a Warrior

You can count me among the millions of sad, scared people this week. My Facebook feed is mostly split between two groups this week: those who feel the same way I do, and those who think I and the others who feel this way are reactionary whiners.

I could write for hours trying to explain why we're scared and sad, but it would be wasted time. You either already agree with me, or you are likely not listening, REALLY listening, to anything I or my scared contingent say.

That is what I see as the biggest problem we face in America today. No one is really listening to the other side. We are all mired in our own echo chambers and when someone breaks through with a message contrary to what we believe, our reaction is to attack instead of listening.

I am told there was a time in America where the concept of a loyal opposition was an accepted, even celebrated, role in politics. I can't imagine it. For my adult life, the political reality has been "if you're not with us, you're against us" which has resulted in a do-nothing Congress hell-bent on accomplishing absolutely nothing for the American people in order to block any attempted legislation by President Obama and his supporters.

I naively believed that those on the other end of the political spectrum from myself still wanted the same things for America, namely a strong economy with unlimited opportunity and equality for the American people. That even if we disagreed on the "how" we all agreed on the goal.

But we have stopped listening to each other and assuming the best in each other. We are talking over and at each other and not listening.

The Mister is a hard-core Libertarian, which results in some ... um, well, interesting conversations about politics in our home. I know that the Mister loves me dearly, and would defend me to the ends of the earth if I were actively threatened. For the last few days, he's made comments about the people who are protesting the outcome of the election that while not directed at me, felt very personal. This morning, as I was getting out of the car, he took my hand and said "I know you're scared, but remember we're in this together and we'll get through it." I almost broke down in tears right in front of my office building because that was the first time this week I've felt my feelings validated by anyone who doesn't share my fear and sadness.

I know that most people who voted for Trump are good and decent people who do not support the vile, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, mysogynist, hateful rhetoric that he was spewing. Most of the people I know who voted for Trump would never condone the verbal and physical violence that has occurred this week in the wake of the election. But instead of hearing our very real fear, I see many of you trying to convince us that we're over-reacting or whining that we lost, and in some cases even trying to prove that the verbal and physical violence isn't real. Or worse, saying things like the only proven case of violence was graffiti in schools, and that's not worth discussing. What we hear is that children terrorizing other children isn't significant.  What we hear are statements mocking our very real fear and pain.

The Democrats are guilty of this too, don't think I'm giving us a pass. The leaders of the Democrat party have become completely out of touch with the "regular" people and the struggles they deal with every day.  The party has completely failed to hear and understand what people are going through and has marginalized those who don't agree with the platform.

Let me say this loud and clear. I hear you. I get that you're worried about how to keep a roof over your head, feed your family, and get healthcare when you need it. I know that entire swaths of industry have disappeared in this country, and that it leaves you and yours scared and angry. I get that terrorism is scary, and every time something happens here in the U.S. it feeds that fear. I hear your fear, I see your anger, and I understand.

If you're a conservative voter, you and I disagree on the best ways to fix the things driving those fears. I believe that a strong safety net is necessary. I believe that a public option for healthcare that is available to every citizen is a necessity. You believe that getting the government out of it and leaving it to the market is the best way to fix it. You believe the way to deal with issues of discrimination and hatred in this country is for everyone to just get along and quit talking about the issues.  I look at the history of discrimination and hatred in this country and believe that protections need to be established.  We disagree, and that should be OK. But instead, I get labeled a Socialist, you get labeled a Fascist when neither term means anything close to what we're trying to say.

If we could just talk to each other, and really listen to what the other person is trying to say, I believe we could find solutions that would work for both of us. But when the labels and judgment come out, there's no more communication.

That's when the political machine comes in, spreading lies and distraction to push us even farther apart. When we can't even agree on the facts, and issue moral judgment against the person who disagrees, nothing can be accomplished.  Fear and hatred are magnified, and the machine doesn't want us to find common ground.

If I could wave a magic wand and change anything about the politics in our country, it would be to close this entrenched gulf. I would not, in fact, wish that everyone thought the same way I do. I firmly believe that it is our differences that make us stronger. I believe that the strongest leader keeps people around them who disagree about what to do. I would just wish that we could once again embrace the loyal opposition, and figure out how to disagree in a civil and respectful manner.

There is a common saying in my UU faith which I wish for our country:

We need not think alike to love alike. *

This is my prayer for each of us.

 

* The quote is frequently attributed to Francis David, but arguably originated with John Wesley (founder of the Methodist church) so correct attribution is difficult.

I didn't get a chance to watch President Obama's State of the Union address live last night. As with so much of my news, I read it online. I just read the transcript of the SotU address, and I continue to be impressed with President Obama. He took an opportunity to make his last SotU address one to remember. He tackled the political issues of the day with thoughtfulness and insight. I've seen a lot of criticism about his speech online today, and it saddens me. Not that people criticize him or what he said, but that it is done with such hate and vitriol. I am tired of having our President called an idiot, tired of having his patriotism and commitment to this country called into question. President Obama is one of the most educated, eloquent, and thoughtful presidents we have had in a very long time. It's okay, expected even, to criticize what he has to say and disagree with his politics. But to denigrate his accomplishments and integrity because you disagree with him is vile. Yet it has become pervasive in our culture.

My friends and family represent a full cross-section of the political spectrum. I have Bible and Constitution thumping conservatives, Ayn Rand spouting libertarians, FDR loving progressives, Marxist socialists, and every flavor and variation in between represented in my Facebook feed. While some would argue, I in fact fall a very little to the left of center. Those who call my political opinions and stands to be ill-informed are flat-out wrong. I read and listen to every opinion posed, and try to see beyond the rhetoric and vitriol to see the value in the proposal. Sometimes I don't find much value, but the difference is that I do not assume that the person espousing the opinion is stupid or hateful or hates this country. I wish I could say the same of every person whose opinions I am exposed to.

I know enough history to know that the polarization of politics is nothing new. Nor is the vitriol and hatred spewed at those who disagree with the speaker. There have been times that our country was as divided politically as we are now, and the political rhetoric was just as vile between the political camps. I also know that those periods historically have also preceded some pretty nasty violent times. So I don't have to like it, or accept that it's inevitable, just because there is precedent.

What troubles me more than the vitriol is that the various political camps cannot even agree on the most basic facts, which means finding common ground is nigh unto impossible. That we have media outlets deliberately distributing untruths as true facts is both damaging and indicative of where we are as a country. When the attitude is factored in that if you don't agree with me that you are trying to destroy America, it guarantees that the divide will only worsen. Ultimately, it is not a good thing for our country, and certainly not for interpersonal communications.

I don't expect that anyone will change their minds because of what I write, but my hope is that I might get even a couple of the extremists in my circle of friends and family to stop and think. I love America, and want to see the country grow and succeed. If you believe that I am stupid or ill-informed because of the things I believe will help the country and my fellow Americans do just that, or worse that I want to destroy the country because of them... then I have to wonder why you would want to have anything to do with me. Is it because you think you can "save" me by educating me, or getting me to see things your way? Or do you think you can out-shout me, or intimidate me into supporting your opinions? Either way, you must not think much of me as a person. You certainly have no respect for me based on that position.

I was taught that conservatives and liberals all want the same thing - to live in the best country on Earth with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That they simply disagree on the ways to make that happen. When we start assuming that those who oppose us are evil, or at the very least stupid, we lose what makes us a great nation and society. What will it take to get back to the place where we can disagree without the hate and vitriol?

I usually try to find an upbeat way to end my posts, and today I just can't.  So I'll leave it here, and hope that the comments posted will revive my faith in my fellow humans.