Integrity Should Be Bipartisan

First, let’s start with the definition of integrity by Merriam-Webster:

integrity

noun

in·​teg·​ri·​ty | \ in-ˈte-grə-tē\

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility

2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness

3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

I think most of us can agree that these are qualities that all humans should aspire to. We can have integrity and disagree with each other. Our values can differ. As long as we are moral individuals who are not motivated by the desire to harm others, we can certainly have distinct priorities and unique points of view.

When I vote for an individual, first and foremost, I try to gauge their level of integrity. Do they consistently act upon their stated beliefs? Are they predictable? Can they be counted on? If they have made mistakes, have they owned up to them and sincerely tried to repair the damage? Only then do I try to determine if their values align with my own.

I may be looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but I really do believe that all politicians should vote their conscience rather than simply toeing the party line. What is morally right? What will allow them to look at themselves in the mirror? What is in accordance with the greater good? What is important, not only tomorrow, but in the long term?

These are factors that all politicians must weigh. If only more of them would then act on these factors. Unfortunately, many are more concerned with lining their pockets, or getting reelected, or bowing down to power. Many are motivated by greed rather than integrity, hate rather than generosity, or they are in short-term survival mode. They are afraid. They don’t have confidence in where they stand, so they don’t stand firm.

Having said all that, I’d like to reach across the aisle and give Senator Ben Sasse, from Nebraska, a pat on the back. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t like his voting record. He himself says he’s “one of the most conservative voters in the Senate.” But there’s one thing he has never waivered on: when it comes to Trump, he hasn’t been afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes.

According to this article, Sasse has spoken out against Trump and his family on numerous occasions. He holds Trump responsible for the insurrection on January 6th. He chose not to participate in Trump’s reelection attempts. When Trump lied about the election, he condemned that. And because of that, he faces censure by the Nebraska Republican Party’s State Central Committee.

Think about it. He’s not being censured for inciting violence or promoting conspiracies that can easily be proven wrong. He’s being censured for saying that, based on the facts as he knows them, he does not condone or support the actions of an individual. Whether you agree with him or not, the man has integrity. He’s being honorable.

This censure says more about the party members who are bringing it on than it does about Sasse. They are more interested in party loyalty, despite the consequences. They can’t accept anyone who wavers, despite the former emperor’s blatantly obvious naked state.

Would this group censure Marjorie Taylor Greene if she were a Nebraskan? She has incited people to violence, wished death upon her fellow congressmen, and has supported easily disproven conspiracy theories to the detriment of all. But say what you will, the woman has been loyal to Trump, so she’s alright by the GOP. It’s really quite sick-making when you think about it. But this is where we are now.

Would I vote for Sasse? No. Our values don’t align. I’d only vote for him if the Democrat running against him was a person devoid of integrity. But I think Sasse is a stand-up guy. The two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Don’t censure someone just because you don’t like their stance. Censure them because their stance is provably false and a danger to others. Anything less is a breech of integrity. So who should really be censured in this scenario?

Ben Sasse

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What to Take with You

I can’t speak for you, but sometimes I feel so completely freakin’ misunderstood that I even begin to question myself. It’s astounding how many people there are out there who are willing to tell you that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel or that you shouldn’t do what you do. The world is so full of noise that it’s hard for people to listen. And everybody’s a critic.

After enough time in that emotional meat grinder, I feel completely drained of my life force, and I start to wonder if they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe if I just twist myself into a particular kind of knot, maybe then I’ll be viewed as saner, stronger, braver, more confident, less irrational, more well balanced, and more appealing. I, too, can be functional, if only…

“Stop being so sensitive.” “Stick up for yourself.” “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Here’s how you should have handled it.” “Why do you think that way?” “You’re making too much of it.” “This is how everyone else sees it.” “Grow up.”

It’s enough to make me want to crawl into a hole and pull a rock over the entrance. Just long enough to lick my wounds. Long enough to heal and remember who I am. Long enough to keep my wounded butt from lashing out and verbally tearing my attacker limb from limb. Because despite how much it may be merited, it never helps.

What do I take with me into that healing place? Truth. The things that I know are true about myself. The things that no one can take away from me no matter how hard they try. Everyone has a different set of things. Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

  • I am intelligent.

  • I love my dog and my dog loves me.

  • I’m a good writer.

  • I am a fantastic bridgetender.

  • People can count on me.

  • If I say I’ll do something, it gets done.

  • I’m not afraid of being alone.

  • I love a hot bath.

  • I have a great sense of humor.

  • I’m good with my money.

  • I love to learn.

  • I have a creative mind.

  • I’m curious.

  • I draw strength from nature.

  • I can be trusted.

  • I live to travel.

  • I set goals, and I work toward them.

  • I am a good friend.

  • People confide in me.

I’m proud of these things. I hold them close. They are my passions, my values, and my strengths. They are what hold me together even when I feel like I’m being torn apart.

Never forget that you have your very own set of things. Take them with you wherever you go. They are what’s best about you, even in your darkest hour.

So, hold on to your truth. Tell your detractors to get stuffed. And don’t ever, ever give up.

learn to fly

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I’ll Take Love with Conditions

I think unconditional love is an absurd construct. Even my dog has his limits. If I stopped feeding him or started torturing him, how much do you think he would love me then?

While it’s comforting to think that there is love that you can count on, I believe that the responsibility for maintaining that bond goes both ways. Frankly, I’d find it rather creepy if someone loved me so unconditionally that I could become a monster and that person would be okay with that. I do not want someone loving me even if I decide to be a serial killer. I expect to be held accountable for my actions.

I was once in a 16-year relationship with someone who enjoyed saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I knew he was attempting to be reassuring, but in truth that always made me inwardly shudder. I don’t want blind adoration. I actually kind of feel better when there are well-defined boundaries. When I know where I stand, I can do so with confidence. That, and there’s a great deal of pressure to maintain your center of decency when, literally, anything goes. (I admit I didn’t handle it well.)

Parents are expected to love their children unconditionally. I can’t really speak from experience, as I chose not to have kids, but I suspect that “unconditional” condition is the very source of a great deal of dysfunction. If “unconditional” were taken off the table, more parents would be invested in instilling values in their children that would encourage them to be decent human beings, because it’s safe to assume that most parents really do want to love their children.

If we stopped looking at love as if it were a possession, as if, once obtained, you get to keep it, a lot of things would change. If people genuinely believed that one must be loving and lovable in order to receive love, this would be a kinder, gentler planet. If we knew that love must be earned, fewer people would remain with their abusers. If we set the bar ever-so-slightly higher when choosing a mate, it would make for much healthier family units. And if we looked at love as something that must constantly be nurtured in order to thrive, we wouldn’t be so shocked and devastated when it withers on the vine due to our own neglect.

It might also allow us to exercise critical thinking. This whole blind loyalty thing that is becoming the cultural norm is actually rather terrifying. If you vote for someone whose behavior becomes more despicable over time, your FIRST instinct should be a withdrawal of political love for that person. Your standards should be high, and your tolerance for outrage should be short-lived. Our leaders should be kept in check, as their powers allow for rather more destruction than most of us can endure.

So, dear reader, be loving. Be kind. And remember that it’s okay to set boundaries.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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“It’s How I Was Raised.”

I was remembering a conversation I once had with a coworker when I worked for the Florida Department of Transportation. We were doing highway inspections out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, there was nothing or no one around for miles except fields of potatoes, and for some reason he chose that moment to say something really racist.

I had to call bullsh**, as I am wont to do in these situations. I don’t know why I bother. It never ends well. But I can’t just sit back and let ignorance like that pass.

“Dude, I can’t believe you just said that. I can’t believe you believe it, let alone say it out loud.”

“I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised. I was taught—”

“Excuse me? You’re a freakin’ ADULT!!!  You don’t have to march in lock step with your parents. You’re not a potato. You don’t have to stay where you’re planted.  You’re not a stupid man. You get to decide what your morals and values are. I’d find it refreshing if you took ownership of your hate, and stopped blaming your parents for it. It would be even more refreshing if you got a clue.”

It was a long, quiet ride back to the office. Did it do any good? Probably not. But some things just have to be said.

potato field

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Contaminated Connections

I remember sitting on my couch with an old friend in Florida. We were having a pleasant chat, just as we had done dozens of times before. Then he looked out the screen door toward the park across the street and said something disgusting and hateful and racist about the guys who were playing basketball therein. I refuse to taint my blog by repeating it.

I could tell he meant what he said to the very marrow of his bones, and I was horrified. In that instant, reality shifted for me. I had never heard this man talk like that before. It wasn’t part of my truth about him. And yet, I could tell that in that instant his mask had fallen away, and I was seeing the real ugliness inside him.

And the weird thing was, he knew I’d seen it. As I sat there with my jaw hanging open, he got up, walked out of my house, and I never saw or heard from him again. I was relieved.

Normally, if I think someone is acting out of character, I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I try to get at the root of the aberrant behavior. I try to explain why I am feeling the way I feel about it. I try to salvage the relationship. But some things are just a bit too revealing about a person’s basic values. Some things cannot be undone.

It’s not as if we were expressing opposing views about Brussels sprouts. This was major. Some things you can’t simply agree to disagree about. Not if you value your own integrity.

It’s hard to maintain a friendship with someone when you lose respect for that person. It alters the context of every interaction you’ve ever had or ever will have. The foundation crumbles, and the whole structure collapses like a house of cards.

I had a similar reaction when a female coworker, upon discovering that an 11 year old girl had been sexually abused, said, “Well, she must have wanted it.”

After my head exploded, we did our best to avoid each other from then on. There’s no recovering from that. It just says too much about the person that you are, deep, deep down, where it matters most. It says too much about the way you view the world and the people in it.

It’s sad to lose a friend. But it’s heartbreaking to discover that the friend you thought you had never really existed in the first place. Fortunately, these situations are rare. I’m glad to say that I haven’t had an experience like this in years. Maybe I’m becoming a better judge of character with time. But unfortunately, to have a healthy home, sometimes you have to take out the garbage.

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Your Stool is Worth HOW Much?

My doctor was running late. (Aren’t they always?) So I found myself sitting in a waiting room with nothing good to read. Out of pure desperation, I began flipping through a fashion and style magazine. I figured that would be good for a laugh, and I was right.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to spend (read: waste) to be on the cutting edge of fashion. I’m sorry, but there are really only so many ways to make pants and shirts and shoes. It’s all been done before. A famous label added to a time-honored tradition of clothing doesn’t render it superior. You can pay a fortune for clothes, unless, like me, your priorities lie elsewhere.

To a certain extent, I feel sorry for people who think “stuff” is important. I inwardly chuckle at people who say, “He who has the most toys wins.” Actually, no. He who has the most toys has less money to spend on life experiences.

Life experience. That’s what’s really valuable. Making memories with people that you love. Seeing new places. Doing new things. Learning. Helping others. Making the world a better place. These things may not take up space in your closet, but they are priceless.

Stuff, on the other hand, wears out, gets outgrown, falls out of favor, takes up space, and will become one more thing to add to the Goodwill bag when the people who survive you are left with the unpleasant task of sorting through your mounds of crap.

While skimming that magazine, I was thinking that I pity those people with their priorities skewed toward accumulation. But then I flipped the page and saw an advertisement for a 3 footed stool. Granted, it was a beautiful stool, but it costs $1,900.00.

That’s when I nearly lost it, right there in the waiting room. In what world must you be living that you think a foot stool is worth throwing away 1,900 US dollars to obtain? It’s. A. Stool. A stool! Come on, people!

How can you be that selfish? How can you buy a stool like that when people are sleeping in the streets? How can you say to yourself, “I know that many children only avoid total starvation because they participate in a school lunch program, but hey, I need a stool.”

And when all is said and done, that stool will wind up in the same place your other stool does: in a landfill somewhere. Let’s face it: you can’t take it with you. That’s all stuff is, really: garbage that just hasn’t reached its final destination yet.

Wake up, people. Please. I’m begging you.

stool

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Independence?

I’m feeling particularly patriotic today, because marriage equality was recently made the law of the land here in the United States. Every once in a while, for all its flaws, this country gets it right. That makes me feel good.

So, one of my traditions on Independence Day is that I take some time to contemplate what independence means to me, as a woman, as an American, as a human being on this planet. And I’m not just talking independence from England, which is what this holiday was originally about.

Every day, all over the world, people experience varying levels of freedom. I happen to think that on that particular bell curve, I’m one of the luckier ones. But even on this day of flag waving and euphoria, I’m not going to say we get everything right. Some of my freedoms have been rolled back over time, and others are constantly being chipped away at. Independence isn’t some final destination. It’s not like you can sit back and rest once you’ve arrived. It takes work to maintain.

Here are a few things that I value highly, whether I have them or not:

  • Coming and going as I please.
  • Marrying whomever I want, divorcing if I choose, or never marrying at all.
  • Education.
  • The right to decide what I can and cannot do with my own body.
  • Access to health care.
  • Having no one else dictate what clothes I wear.
  • Being able to drive a car.
  • Freely stating my opinions in this blog.
  • Pursuing my own spiritual path.
  • Owning my own property.
  • Voting.
  • Protesting and debating.
  • Living alone, or with whomever I choose.
  • Celebrating differences.
  • Traveling freely.
  • Choosing my own career path, or in fact working at all.
  • Feeling safe.

All of these things, and so many more, are what independence means to me. If you have these things, you are very fortunate indeed. Don’t take them for granted. Today, and every other day of the year, we should appreciate what we have and maintain it, and strive for these basic human rights for all.

Happy Independence Day.

[Image credit: vvng.com]
[Image credit: vvng.com]

The Judgment Trend

Lately I’ve seen a lot of stories about people who try to force their beliefs on others by attempting to punish them in some way. People leaving nasty notes instead of tips, saying they can’t tip someone because they don’t approve of their lifestyle, or leaving them a religious tract instead of a tip.

Yeah, that’s a great recruitment strategy. Show that you’re cheap and intolerant. That’ll make someone want to be just like you.

Many years ago, when a family friend’s children were very young, they were traveling through my state and decided to come to visit me. I was looking forward to having a nice old fashioned sleep over with the kids, whom I love very much. Movies, popcorn, the works. But their mother informed me, at the last minute, that they’d be staying in a hotel. Why? Because I lived with my boyfriend, and she didn’t want to teach her kids that living in sin was okay.

Just to clarify, I had been living with said boyfriend for 12 years, and this woman, who felt she had the moral high ground, had been married three times. One marriage had lasted less than a year, and she had started seeing the latest one while he was still married to someone else.

So I counted to ten, slowly. And I said to her, “It is very important to teach your children right from wrong. I agree. But I can’t participate in teaching them that if you disapprove of someone’s lifestyle you should shun them. I can’t participate in teaching them intolerance. I can’t participate in teaching them that if someone disagrees with you, they cannot be accepted. This is a rapidly changing world, and they are going to run into all kinds of people during the course of their lives. So feel free to tell them that you disapprove of living together without being married if you wish, tell them you think I’m going straight to hell if you must, but if they’re not allowed in my house, then what you are teaching them is how to be prejudiced and inflexible and closed minded, and that any and all experiences that don’t fit with their belief system are to be avoided, and that, to me, is tragic and unacceptable.”

We had a very enjoyable sleep over.

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