EVERY American Deserves a Political Apology

No, I’m not talking about who won or didn’t win this election (believe it or not). As a matter of fact, I wrote the first draft of this entry well before election day. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that this whole campaign experience has been stressful beyond belief.

There is absolutely NO reason why a campaign should drag on for more than 4 months. If you can’t learn enough about a candidate in that length of time, someone isn’t doing his or her journalistic homework. And shorter campaigns would be less expensive, and therefore donors wouldn’t have the opportunity to burrow so deeply inside the candidates’ pockets.

We need to make this a law. No political ads, annoying phone calls, back biting, in-fighting, junk mail, interviews, yard signs, drama or stupidity prior to the day after Independence Day. This would also allow us a shorter period to argue with friends and family, and less hard feelings and bitterness as a country.

This campaign was cruel and unusual punishment. I’m not the only one who was impacted physically and emotionally by this. It seems to be the general consensus amongst all the people I’ve talked to. There’s no need for it. We don’t deserve this. After all this torture, we are all left with a sour taste in our mouths, and a level of cynicism that makes it very difficult to function.

And let’s get rid of this electoral college BS and Gerrymandering while we’re at it. We have reached a level of sophistication in this country where we can count above ten, and election results aren’t being delivered by horse and buggy. (I swear I’m writing this without having a clue whether the popular vote will fall in line with the electoral college vote. It usually does, but not always.) Every single solitary vote should carry equal weight.

Democracy should not be equivalent to abuse. If this is the shape of things to come, I absolutely, positively cannot take this every four years. I just can’t.

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Changing Your Tune

There are very few things that I find more irritating than hearing someone sing off key. That’s a bit ironic, because trust me when I tell you that you never, ever want to hear me sing. It’s kind of genetic. When my family launches into a Christmas carol, all the stray cats abandon the neighborhood. In that way you might call it a public service. Pest abatement. Yeah, that’s what it is!

But at least I know my kryptonite. I don’t force anyone to listen to me sing unless they’re taking a shower with me. I try to be compassionate and be a positive aural force in the world by keeping my mouth shut.

I’m assuming that all those bad singers out there have no idea how bad they are or they wouldn’t subject themselves to the humiliation, or subject others to the torture. That makes me wonder how many things we all do badly without even realizing it. It’s really mission-critical to be as self-aware as you can possibly be.

For example, we all know people with negative attitudes. They’re draining to be around. They make you feel as if your very life force is being eaten away by the sheer weight of their pessimism.

I can think of several people like that. Their default position is mistrust, doubt, and cynicism. They assume the worst and expect others to convince them otherwise. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the energy for that.

I know one guy who wonders why no one will spend time with him, and can’t understand why he can’t get a date. To the rest of the world it’s blatantly obvious. He’s toxic. He’s a downer. He’s the very antithesis of a pleasure to be around. No one looks forward to spending time with him.

I’m not sure why he can’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting everyone to turn into Little Mary Sunshine and go through life farting rainbows. But it’s also a lot to ask of people to expect them to stand still while you suck all the good vibes out of the room.

I really don’t know the solution to this, other than to take a good hard look at yourself and think, “If I knew someone like me, would I look forward to being in that person’s company?” If not, perhaps it’s time for you to start singing a different tune.

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How People Become Radicalized

Nothing makes me feel more bitter and cynical than feeling that I’m being treated unfairly. My mother would say, “Life isn’t fair.” Yeah, ma, I know. But that doesn’t give people a free pass to take advantage of that atmosphere and pile on. You still have the moral, ethical, and often legal obligation to do the right thing. Otherwise we have chaos and anarchy.

Without going into detail, recently I was screwed royally by an organization that pretends to believe in justice and equity. This was an organization that I trusted and relied on, so I’m feeling a little at sea. I don’t know what to do with my anger and frustration. I feel as if I could implode under the sheer weight of my righteous indignation.

And when I get pissed off, I cry. I’ve been crying quite a lot in the past few days. Not that that does me any good.

But this experience has given me a bit of insight. First of all, when counting my blessings, I realize that I have a great many blessings to count. If this organization’s douchebaggery is my biggest problem, then I’m quite fortunate indeed.

But it has given me a tiny taste of what it must be like to become so frustrated by the systems that hold you down that you feel forced to act out. It has made me see how a person becomes an activist, a protester, or, worst case scenario, a terrorist. Not that I’m advocating the latter. I am a pacifist to the very marrow of my being. I’m just saying I now get it. I may not approve, but I get it.

If this is my current level of anger and frustration, I can’t even imagine what it would be if I were trapped in a situation where my country was at threat from outside forces, or I perceived that my religion were under a similar threat, or global economic forces were such that I was watching the people around me starving or losing hope… I can’t imagine that level of fury. And then, if I didn’t have the education to realize that nothing is solved through violence and hate, if I didn’t believe I had options, and the only visible leaders who were proposing any type of change came from the lunatic fringe… what then?

It makes me think of a sign I once saw in an art gallery that said, “If you had behaved nicely, the communists wouldn’t exist.” Perhaps if we stopped being ruled by our own power and greed and worked more on raising others up instead of stepping on them, perhaps if we chose to be the voice of reason rather than the voice of fear and paranoia, we wouldn’t have so much homeland insecurity. Just a thought.

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Respect for the Presidency

During Obama’s recent State of the Union address, there was a moment that made me sick to my stomach. Don’t get excited, Republicans. I actually agreed with everything he had to say, as predictable as most of it was.

No, what made me sick was the way some Republican congressmen reacted to something he said. Toward the end of his speech, and less than 7 minutes after he talked about the need for politicians to set a better example for the American people, this happened:

(For those of you who can’t see the video, Obama says, “I have no more campaigns to run.” And you hear applause. Applause. To his credit, Obama retorts, “I know, ‘cause I won both of ‘em.”

The reason I was sickened was that, call me old fashioned, I still think that even if you disagree with the man who holds the office, you still should have respect for the presidency. This is the man that the majority of Americans elected to be the leader of the free world. Twice. That counts for something. That matters.

I despised President Bush (both of them, actually), but I was still horrified when someone threw a shoe at him. And every sane person should be shocked at assassination attempts, whether they succeed or not.

You don’t have to like Obama in order to realize that we are lucky as hell to have a president rather than a dictator. We have been changing leaders every 4 or 8 years since this country began without a single military coup. That’s pretty freakin’ phenomenal. Our country is one of the few that can say that. And a lot of people have fought and died to allow us to maintain these rights.

There seems to be a growing cynicism and lack of respect in this country. If we can’t even maintain it for our chosen leader, then all hope is lost. Obama had a point. Congress needs to set an example. What they did with their applause during that few moments of the State of the Union address tells you all you need to know the next time you consider voting for one of these people. We need to restore more dignity to the political process. If our representatives can’t even do that much, it’s time for a change.

Youth Protest

Throughout the world, regardless of race, creed, or culture, it always seems to be the youth, the students, who come out and protest when change needs to occur. They are the ones who march on Selma, who stand in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square, who rise up in Tahrir Square.

Oh yes, we adults are there, too, but for sheer numbers, strength, energy and presence, you can’t beat the youth of the world. And it’s ironic, because every generation seems to belittle that same group. We often say they have no purpose, no ambition, no drive. They’re lazy and unproductive, have no opinions and make nothing of themselves.

I say just give them a good cause and see what happens to that laziness.

Is it because they are younger, stronger and healthier that they are willing to sleep in the open to prove their points? Is it because they have the time? Do they have less to lose? It is certainly much easier to walk away from a job to join a picket line when you don’t have a mortgage, a car payment, and children to feed.

Or is it what I fear deep down: that the older you get, the more apt you are to be covered in an ever-thickening blanket of cynicism? I can only speak for myself, but I know that when I was younger, I was much more idealistic. I was much more apt to believe that change could actually occur. I really did think that my voice, when added to others, could be heard and acted upon.

Oh, I still speak out. I still sign petitions, write blogs and letters and newspaper articles, express my opinion, and I will march, even if only for a day. But the fact is, I’m tired. I’m tired, I’m disillusioned, and on my darkest days I’m bitter. I guess I’m just not as young as I used to be.

So I want to thank the youth of the world. Keep up the good work. It’s important.

Raise Hell

(Unfortunately, more and more, I find myself carrying on.)