Why You Have to Sell Out to Be a Politician

A successful politician cannot be honest. Honesty, you see, alienates as much as it includes. To get elected, you have to avoid alienating people as much as possible.

I could never get elected. Not in a million years. I am an extremely polarizing individual. People either love me or hate me. Mostly, it’s because I can’t keep my mouth shut. If I think something, I tend to say it.

For almost 6 years, I’ve put my opinions out there, every single day, on this blog. Anyone can read these posts and know exactly where I stand. The hate ads against me would be full of direct quotes from my blog, most likely taken out of context. I am the political third rail personified.

And that’s a shame, too, because I’d make a great public servant. I’ve got loads of integrity, I’m intelligent, and I’d be extremely committed to improving things whenever I detected a problem. I’d stick up for the underdogs, and I’d speak up for those who don’t have a voice. That’s the type of politicians we need, now more than ever. But people like me couldn’t serve if our lives depended upon it. We would never be invited into the clubhouse. We’d never be given the secret handshake.

I wish there was some way to separate the politics from the public service. I wish there was a way to make changes without selling your soul. I wish all our voices could somehow be equally heard and taken seriously. I wish there were a way to navigate the cesspool that is Washington DC without having to boil oneself in bleach every single day as a result.

I’m glad there are people out there who are willing to try. I just wish their motives were pure and their moral compasses were pointing them in the right direction. It takes a certain someone to navigate a flawed system. Honesty, unfortunately, is not the best policy under the current circumstances.

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Hanscom Voter Syndrome. A Disease Worth Avoiding.

Election day has come and gone here in King County, Washington State. We had less than a 26 percent turnout. That astounds me. The state of Washington makes it so easy to vote that it seems like pure heaven to this Florida girl.

In Florida, you had to wait for hours in the hot sun, sometimes only to be turned away. And you had to do your own homework to figure out who to vote for. Here, you vote by mail, and at least a week before the election you get a nice thick magazine that gives you information about every single candidate and issue so you can make an informed choice. If you don’t want to pay for the stamp to mail your ballot, there are free election drop boxes in many convenient locations. I’m surprised they don’t send a personal courier to your home, such is the ease of voting around here. And yet people still don’t vote. Stunning. Shameful.

But then there are some people who vote who clearly don’t take it seriously, either. It seems that some will vote for any clown who tumbles out of the political clown car, regardless of his fitness for duty. (Yeah, yeah, we learned this when Trump got elected, but silly me, I thought that would be all the lesson we would need. Apparently not.)

Case in point: Here’s the personal statement of Russell L. Hanscom, who ran for City of Kent Council Position No. 6. This isn’t a joke. It actually came from our voter’s magazine.

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So, here’s a guy who’s coming right out and saying he isn’t sure he wants the job, and that if he gets it, odds are good that he won’t be effective. One wonders why he bothered to run at all. He actually said in a television interview that he was just being honest, and yet he expected it to be a tight race.

Personally, I couldn’t vote for or against him, as I don’t reside in the City of Kent. I would have LOVED voting against him, though. It seems like a no-brainer to me. The only thing that would have made me more certain was if someone had gotten him on tape bragging that he liked to grab pussies. (No. I’m not saying he did that. That was our president.) But apparently even that wouldn’t slow the voting public down.

Fortunately, the race wasn’t close at all. He got less than 28 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Brenda Fincher, got the rest. Yay!

But here’s what freaks me out: He got 3,616 votes. Seriously. 3,616 people read his statement, and apparently thought that commitment and effective representation were not qualities that they find to be particularly important in their city council, so they voted for Russell. Or maybe they didn’t bother reading his statement at all. Maybe they just didn’t want to vote for his opponent, an African American woman. That thought is equally scary to me, especially after reading her personal statement and getting the sense that she actually gives a damn about her city, and has worked quite hard for it.

Was Russell’s statement honest? Yeah. He definitely told it like it is. But he’s telling you that he’s going to be indifferent and a waste of human flesh, people! You think that’s funny? You think that’s admirable? Why?

Trump disease is still alive and well in this country. I will now think of it as HVS: Hanscom Voter Syndrome. And it makes me weep for those of us who have to live with the results. This time we got off easy. (If you think having one’s time wasted in any election is easy.)

At a bare minimum, Hanscom’s statement is insulting to those of us who take the process seriously. Please explain why we are setting the bar so low. I just don’t get it.

Congratulations, Brenda Fincher! Score one for the good guys! For a change.

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Honne and Tatemae

Recently a dear friend introduced me to the Japanese concepts of honne and tatemae. I had never heard these words before. Without her, I would  probably just have assumed they were the names for a Japanese pop culture couple or something. (They do say that opposites attract.)

After reading several articles on the subject and watching this interesting little video, I think I have a grasp of it now. Honne is basically your true feelings and/or thoughts in any situation. (I will have no trouble remembering that word, because it kind of looks like “honest”.) I’m quite good at honne most of the time. If you ask my opinion on something, I’m always happy to give it to you, often to the point where it gets me into trouble. (Because, sorry, those shorts actually do make you look fat.)

Tatemae is what I struggle with. It’s kind of the public face you show the world in order to avoid conflict, spare feelings, and/or further your goal. It can be as innocuous as saying, “I’ll call you!” after a particularly bad date, or as insidious as, “Corruption? No corruption in this organization!”

Tatemae definitely has its uses. Unfortunately, it will often get you further in the work environment. “Yes, boss, you are doing a pathetic great job!” (This is probably why I’m a bridgetender instead of a CEO. I just can’t do it.)

And if you are trapped on an island with 127 million other people, avoiding conflict is all the more crucial. Not that tatemae is exclusive to Japan. In fact, I seem to be over my head in a sea of it here in Seattle, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever adjust to it.

But perhaps I’m better at it than I think. As I blogged the other day, friends tell me that the things I write here are not like the person that they know. That has a lot to do with editing, and my desire not to be perceived as a nut job. So, hey, there’s hope for me yet, if one considers tatemae to be a hopeful thing.

Corruption? No corruption here…

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Obfuscation

I am very confused by people who don’t say what they mean and mean what they say. That seems to be the case with a lot of people here in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s why I’ll probably always feel like a stranger in a strange land as long as I live here. I prefer straight shooters.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Seattle area. I just seem to spend a lot of time befuddled by its residents.

But it’s not as if Seattleites have cornered the market on such behavior. As a matter of fact, it should feel quite normal to me. My mother was the poster child for obfuscation. She would do anything, absolutely anything, to avoid confrontation.

For example, when I was about 6 years old, she bought me a pair of Keds tennis shoes. I was a creative and precocious child, so my solution to this boring white expanse of canvas was to take a magic marker and write “dirty” words all over them. (At that age, it was probably words like “poop” or “doofus” or something.)

I was proud of those shoes. By wearing them, I felt like I was pushing the envelope. Living on the edge. I thought I was being rebellious and cool.

Needless to say, my mother was less enthusiastic about them. But rather than say, “Oh, hell no! You are not wearing those shoes in public!” she simply gritted her teeth and let me wear them, rather than enduring the tantrum that most likely would have ensued. (I must admit that I was a brat.)

Then one day, we were leaving a grocery store, and as I got into the back seat, one of my shoes fell off in the parking lot. I said, “Mommy, wait! My shoe fell off!”

She must have thought she had died and gone to heaven. She accelerated. She said, “Sorry, honey. I can’t stop. There are too many cars behind me.”

“Well, then pull over there, and I’ll run back and get it.”

“We’re in a hurry.”

“I’ll run.”

“Too late. We’re on the street now.”

I cried in frustration and confusion as I looked out the rear window, watching my beloved shoe get smaller in the distance.

From an adult perspective, I think my mother was being spineless in this instance. She missed a teaching moment when I first created those awful shoes. She could have talked to me about the use of words, and how they can hurt or offend some people. She could have talked about common courtesy. She could have reinforced some much-needed and ultimately comforting boundaries. We could have sat down together and covered those words over with colorful flowers or something.

Most of all, she could have avoided having me think that the adults in my life are strange, unpredictable, and incomprehensible. Those are scary thoughts when you’re a kid. Instead, she took the easy way out.

Oh, I could tell you a thousand stories about how I came to feel as though the inmates were running the asylum in my household. I spent most of my youth wading through lies and excuses and pure fantasies. The sands were constantly shifting beneath my feet.

This kind of behavior made me prize integrity and honesty and safety and trust above all other things, simply because I didn’t experience those qualities very much. I longed for a world that made sense.

That’s why I say what I mean and I mean what I say. You can count on that. I don’t ever want someone to be confused by me. I hate that feeling of being misunderstood, not only because it hurts on my end, but also because I know how baffling it is for others. I lived it.

So just say I can’t have the damned shoes, already. It will only be awkward for a second. And I’ll respect you a lot more.

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Honesty Takes Less Energy

Here’s a bit of honesty: I’m an inherently lazy person. I avoid wearing clothes that need ironing. I take great pains to dirty as few dishes as I can. I am an expert at consolidating all my errands into one trip. My energy is limited, so I try to use it wisely. It’s just how I roll.

The same goes for my mental energy. I don’t know where people find the strength to be disingenuous or manipulative. I’d find it entirely too stressful, and I’d have to spend a great deal of time trying to remember which lies I had told to whom.

Fake people really amaze me. It’s been my experience that one’s chickens always come home to roost sooner or later. At the end of the day, I want my chickens to be nice to me. There’s nothing worse than a pissed off chicken.

Reality shows fascinate me as well. Even with a camera present and thousands of people watching, some people just can’t seem to resist taking their moral compass and jumping up and down on it while wearing cleats. That seems a bit self-destructive to me. Just sayin’.

The sad thing about people like that is they assume that everyone else in the world is the same way. If you know someone who believes that everyone lies all the time, I’ll bet you my next paycheck that that person lies all the time. It must be exhausting to live in a world where you think everyone around you is as horrible as you are.

I can’t imagine that the average parent teaches his or her child to go to the dark side like that. Where does it come from? What’s the long term payoff? I don’t get it.

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My Car Buying Experience

For the first time in many years, I bought a new (to me) car. I had no choice, really. The old one was a death trap. There was no heat, no defrost, and no air conditioning. When it rained, the dash would fill with water and the electrical stuff would flicker on and off and the water would pour out onto the floor when I drove up hill. The wheels also wobbled. And then the windshield wipers stopped working (in rainy Seattle, that’s really, REALLY bad news), and the cost of repair would have been more than the blue book value of the car.

As a general rule, I hate the car buying experience. I feel like I have “sucker” tattooed on my forehead, and they see me coming from miles away. I don’t know much about cars, to be honest, so I always have to rely on second opinions. But it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Why can’t you just deal with me honestly in the first place?

Fortunately, a friend of mine recommended that I contact Keith Dinsmore at Auto Connections of Bellevue, Washington. I told him what type of car I was looking for, and he found me a great one within the week. And it cost less than the money I had set aside for it, too, which was excellent.

This was one of those “inherited trust” situations. I trust my friend implicitly, so anyone she trusts, I trust, too. And it worked out really well. Also, if you look at their staff page, you’ll see Rusty, their official greeter. He’s a dog that wanders the premises, making you feel right at home. I’ve always felt that dog people are inherently more honest, so his opinion matters a great deal to me as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I still got that second opinion. I know another guy who is as rare as hen’s teeth: an honest mechanic. Gerard Ascherl, of Gerard’s Auto Repair, in Shoreline, Washington. (206) 931-1457. He inspected this car for me from head to toe, and I didn’t sign off on the deal until it got his seal of approval. (There’s a dog connection here, too. He rescued mine when he ran away. That’s how we met. I think my dog still wishes he was there. I try not to take it personally.)

Don’t let appearances fool you. Gerard’s shop is behind his house, and invisible from the street. Normally this type of business is not allowed in a residential neighborhood, but his got legally grandfathered in because he was there long before the city of Shoreline was. Rest assured he has all the equipment he needs to do a great job on your car.

If you do any business with either of these fine gentlemen, please tell ‘em Barb sent you!

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My new (to me) baby.

 

Meaning What You Say

“Let go of him, or I’m going to hit you,” I said to my boyfriend, who was playing a little too roughly with his much younger brother. The kid was choking. My words didn’t seem to sink in.

“P, I swear to God, I’ll hit you if you don’t let him go!”

Nothing. So I hit him. His little brother, having been abruptly released, immediately fell down on all fours and was gasping for air, but P was rubbing his jaw and looking at me in utter shock. “You hit me,” he said.

“A) the kid was turning blue. B) You are in my living room, not some wrestling ring. And C) I warned you, twice, that I would.”

I had never punched anyone in my life (and haven’t since then), but that seemed like as good a time as any to start. I don’t know why this took him by surprise. Even back then (this was 30 years ago) I said what I meant and I meant what I said. If I make a statement, you can count on the fact that I’ll follow through with it unless I am in a hospital dying. I don’t know how else to be.

This also reminds me of the time when I was in high school and my best friend’s boyfriend said, “You’ll never leave Apopka.” Why? Because I was so darned happy in that little redneck town? “Oh, trust me. I’ll leave Apopka.” He scoffed at that.

Since then, I’ve traveled to 22 countries, and have had 12 non-Apopka addresses. In fact, now I live in Seattle, Washington, which is about as far away from Apopka, Florida, both culturally and physically, as you can get without leaving the continental U.S. It was the two of them, now married, who never left. But they always seemed happy there. Good for them.

I don’t know which confuses me more: people who don’t believe what I’m saying, or people who say things they really don’t mean. I generally take people at their word because I know my word is good. Even when I discover that someone is untrustworthy, I have to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Trust is my default position. That quite often bites me in the butt. I’d like to think I’m extremely intelligent, but I suppose I’m not particularly sophisticated. Still, I’d rather be a straight shooter than a crooked one any day.

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Captain Justice

I have a dear friend with an IQ of 170. He also has a heart as big as all outdoors and is generous to a fault. I love him to pieces. But as with many geniuses, he is lacking some indefinable something in the social realm. He doesn’t seem to see things as they are.

He has a childlike sense of justice. He reminds me of me when I was 8 years old. I’d whine, “But that’s not fair!” and my mother would say, “Life isn’t fair.” That would drive me insane.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t fully evolved past that little 8 year old inside of me. When someone gets after me about the unfairness of life, it still makes me grit my teeth. I have a well-developed sense of moral outrage when I see someone’s human rights being violated. I absolutely hate it when a good person gets taken advantage of. And woe betide the individual who abuses an animal in my presence.

But my friend takes it to a whole new level. He actually thinks that since he works hard and does a good job, if he reasons with his boss he’ll get a raise. He’s certain that he can’t be replaced and that his value will be recognized. He’s sure that if someone breaks the law and you are the victim, some lawyer whom you can’t afford will step up and volunteer to help you. All you have to do is ask. He believes that if you need assistance in one form or another, some social worker will magically appear and completely set aside his or her entire caseload to solve your problem. Being ripped off by an unscrupulous landlord? Simply call the housing commission, tell them your story, and they will swoop right in and straighten her out, and you can go on living on her property, happily ever after. She’ll even bake you a cake on your birthday. If he were the boss or the lawyer or the social worker or the landlord, all would be well. But he can’t save the world, as much as he’d like to.

I would love to live in his world. Everyone would play by the rules and go above and beyond for you, and the trains would always run on time. Politicians would actually give a shit. Old ladies would always be helped across the street, no one would have to lock their doors, drivers would never run red lights, and there would be no stray cats.

It sounds wonderful, but it must be exhausting for a 60 year old man to expect the universe to function that way and have to face constant disappointment. I’d much rather hope for the best but leave room for delight if it actually happens. It’s a messy, unruly, out of control planet, but at least the sun still shines equally upon us all.

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There just never seems to be a super hero around when you need one.

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Sabotaged Dreams

The beauty of getting into a relationship later in life is that your character is already well established, so there should be no confusion as to who you are. The older you are, the more apt you will be to know your goals and dreams, and if you properly articulate them to your partner, you should be able to quickly determine if the two of you are heading in the same direction.

That’s the theory, anyway. The problem with that theory, it turns out, is that not everyone is honest. I didn’t get that memo.

Many, many years ago I got into a relationship and told him my lifelong goal was to relocate to the mountains of North Carolina. “Great idea!” he said. “Let’s do that,” he said. He even started going to college so he’d be more likely to be employable when the time came. I was thrilled.

About 3 semesters in he decided to change his major. No problem. Everyone has a right to change his mind. A semester after that, he “forgot” to register for the next semester by the deadline. I marked my calendar so that wouldn’t happen again, believe you me.

After one semester off, back he went. The following semester he told me he was quitting because they were requiring him to buy some expensive equipment. “How expensive?” I asked. $99.

The hell???

He had pretty much painted himself into a corner by that point. He had to admit that he didn’t want to go to North Carolina. In fact, he never wanted to leave Jacksonville. He just went to school to stall me in hopes that I’d change my mind. He had no real hopes and dreams of his own. He was just status quo guy. Our relationship ended after 16 years for a whole host of reasons, but lying to me and sabotaging my dreams just to keep me was a huge one.

After that I met a roofer who had so many dreams that it was hard to keep up with him. What a wonderful, wild ride that was. Too bad it was cut short. It’s impossible to know where it would have gone, but at least it was going somewhere.

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Kiss Me, Russell Brand

About 20 years ago I saw an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. in which a very young Neil Patrick Harris, as the lead character, fresh from some triumph or other, walks up to a woman he has never met and says, “You’re beautiful. Can I kiss you?” And then he kisses her and they both go their separate ways.

When I saw that, I remember thinking, “Oooh! I want to do that!” The thought of having a brief, innocent, extremely sexy encounter with an unknown person with absolutely no consequences, giving me an utterly clean slate on which to paint fantasies for the rest of my life, greatly appeals to me. In fact, “Kiss a total stranger” is on my bucket list.

Ah, but who am I kidding? I’d never risk the rejection or the potential look of horror and the subsequent awkwardness or assault charges. I’m not brave enough for that.

But the other night, with Russell Brand’s autobiography My Booky Wook on my nightstand as I drifted off to sleep, I thought, “Russell would let me kiss him.” Let’s face it, though, a great deal of Russell Brand’s, er… brand… revolves around his libido, so I’m fairly certain he’d kiss just about any woman, even one like me whose fantastic 19 year old body is hidden under a thick layer of fat and age.

So yay! That would remove the whole rejection factor, and there’s the added benefit that I happen to think he’s one of the most gorgeous men on the planet.

But here’s the question, would I actually do it?

Heck yeah! Didn’t I just say he’s gorgeous? (Well, at least when he doesn’t go wild with the mascara and the teasing comb.) And I wouldn’t have to worry about being tempted to go further than a kiss, because the man admits he doesn’t practice safe sex, so… no thanks.

But I think that after the kiss, instead of feeling triumphant, I’d feel a little sad. Because there’d be no emotional connection. There’d be no meaning behind it, no “might have been”, especially for him, so it would have no value. Well… reduced value, anyway.

In his book, he says he enforces his “identity and status as a man through sex and the seduction of women.” I’d love to talk to him about that, one on one. Not judging, but frankly, I’m curious why that identity and status needs to be enforced over and over and over again as he does. I suspect he may not be doing something right.

I would love to point out to him that what makes him a man has very little to do with sex and seduction. What I find most attractive about him is his erudition and intelligence, his ability to look at the world from his own unique perspective, his personal honesty about his rocky past, and the way he attacks life with a white-hot intensity. I like that he seems to have an utter lack of social filter, and that, to quote My Fair Lady, he treats a duchess as if she was a flower girl. Everyone the same. I find that charming.

So don’t worry, Russell, you’re a man. You seduce the world with your words, and I therefore think I’d get more of a kick out of talking to you than I would kissing you, but I’d be more than willing to test that theory. So if you ever pass through Jacksonville, Florida, call me, darlin’. You could spend the wee hours of the morning hanging out with me on the drawbridge. It’d be our delicious little secret.

Oh, and by the way, I’m told I’m a great kisser. Just sayin’.

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