Wolf, Ram, and Hart: Playing Politics For Centuries

The group in the title is from the TV Series “Angel”, a show spawned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They are the legal team for The Big Bad — the shiny suits that work  evil at it’s most primal. They are, of course, fictional, being from a TV series and all, but sometimes I wonder…

Tonight, while I’m laying in bed with a fever, my wife says that Congress has voted to allow women into the draft. I just want to cry. Just when it feels like we’ve tried to put out the various political “fires” in the world, a new cause/problem comes along that I didn’t see coming. Really?

Let’s see:

Donald Trump is no doubt the front-runner for the Republican Party. The next closest candidate is called “Lucifer in the flesh” by one of his own party. He chooses a female VP to garner votes and people trash her website. That means that a personality-disordered man is a candidate to run my country.  He wants to deport Mexicans and others! He wants to ban Muslims!  He blames intelligent women for asking reasonable questions, and then implies that she did it because she was menstruating! He says that the former Secretary of State “only has the woman card”!  Worse than that, he’s tapping into something in America, so it’s not just him!

Meanwhile, reactionaries and liberals duke it out over who can use the bathroom, where. I hear that this is a response to the existence of Caitlyn Jenner, who is a Republican! Does any part of that sentence seem real to you?

Meanwhile, in local news, a gifted friend of mine is being told she should teach another way than she is — for less money and with less prep time.

In other local news, a principal of an elementary school nearby (in another town)  is on leave, because her brother (whom she lives with, who “volunteered” at her school) has a child porn collection that has been discovered.

In national news, Sandra Bland’s mother says we’re not paying enough attention to women who were killed in prison/died in prison. She’s right. Oh, and yesterday some Black kid with a B-B gun that looked real was shot by police, just days after the police in Chicago blamed Tamir Rice for his own death. And the governor of Maine vetoed a bill making it cheaper to save lives of people having heroin overdoses.

Now this… I wasn’t aware we had a draft anymore. This White house hasn’t made such a big fuss about it, but then we’re not looking to start a war right now. I thought it was stupid for gay people to fight to be in the armed services, as though killing is a political right that people shouldn’t be deprived of. I’m sure there’s some systemic reason that somebody thinks this is a good thing.

When my daughter was in utero and I saw her first sonogram, I marched around the doctor’s office saying “if anybody hurts that kid, I’ll kill them!”. Right now, I have a daughter who will be going to college in a year and her student loans will probably be attached to this. My other daughter, far more genius than I ever was, deserves a chance to save the world, and I think she wants to. One way or another, she probably will. Not if she’s dead, though.

I’m not gay, or trans, or Black, or Mexican, or a female, or a drug addict. Maybe if I didn’t know so many people who are, I wouldn’t care.The hate swirls around me daily in the news. The American people seem bent on self-destruction, and the craziness of that drives me nuts. That’s bad enough, and depressing enough. But this thing about girls and the draft, whatever it is, that’s just a knife in my heart.

Bernie Sanders the other day said that the wealthiest 20 families in America make as much money as half of the rest of us. Did the Waltons hire Wolf, Ram. and Hart? The Kochs? Donald Trump? If they weren’t fictional, I’d believe they were real.




Bernie in Hartford: Speaking Kindness To Power


Bernie Sanders is the kindest “radical” I have ever heard speak. I suspect that’s what makes him scary to The Powers That Be — the extremely wealthy and the extremely powerful who make up 1/10th of 1 percent or 1 percent of America today.  Contrary to Larry David’s Saturday Night Live impersonation, today at a rally in Hartford, CT, Bernie told it like it is but never said a violent thing in his hour-long speech. There were no “bomb Iran”, there were no “kick out this group or that group”. There was no hatred for anyone, but there was truth.

As the rally began, I was actually worried about his chances, because — contrary to 20,000 people in New York City or on a college campus, it seemed like there were maybe 1,000 people here. By the end of the rally, though, that number had doubled or tripled in size.The early people looked very much like the people sent to the sofa in the frat house of the movie “Animal House”. They were — for the cameras to see — weird. There was a person in front of me with a black coat painted with a transgender rights symbol and painted on words like, “Stop thinking clothes have a gender”. There was a guy on my right with a marijuana headband  who kept saying “Light one up for Bern!”. There were tired men and women in the bleachers behind the podium. There were women wearing Islamic head scarfs in the same bleachers. There were more piercings and ear holes and colored hair than anyplace I had seen in a long-time. I grew sad as I saw their numbers and their composition until I realized that these were the hippies of today’s generation — the great unwashed intellectuals fighting The Establishment of today. They are the people that no one else cares about winning their vote. In short, these are the people that Jesus cared about — the ones who threw palms at his feet because that’s what they had. As I saw the Muslim women, I grew said because I realized in that moment that these are the people who will die  if Trump gets elected. They were there not just to support Bernie. They were there for their own self-preservation.

An African-American minister came out for a few minutes and spoke about his local church and the incredible unemployment around his church. He spoke as a community organizer about things in the local neighborhood that nobody ever talks about because nobody knows his neighborhood, because no one ever goes to his neighborhood. In short, he was just a local guy who cared about his community. Later, Jim Dean, of Democracy for America came out and he spoke about why DFA was supporting Bernie: because they had asked people who they wanted between Hillary and Bernie and — when 3/4 of people said they wanted Bernie, that’s who they supported. He lost a little street cred when he mentioned he was from Fairfield (a rich city here) but gained respect with his rolled up sleeves and rumpled suit jacket. He was a worker, and a tireless one, in the old mold of community organizing.

Then the man himself spoke. He looked tired and was a bit hoarse, carrying his handwritten notes to the podium. Once he got going, though, any tiredness was gone. He was speaking from his heart about things that mattered to him. Lots of things mattered to him.  Lots of people mattered to him.  He wants things like families that can support themselves on one income while someone raises the kids. He wants marriages to succeed because people don’t have to never see each other while they make enough money to live. He spoke of money being poorly spent on Big Banks and the Walton Family through our system while workers at Walmart had to get food stamps at most people’s expense. He spoke about fairness over-and-over. Clearly having read the Constitution, he talks about things like “one person, one vote” and “equal justice under the law” and believing that the law should apply equally to everyone — from the kid who got busted with a joint to the CEO who didn’t serve any time for destroying the lives of millions 8 years ago. Sanders questioned and didn’t support the new anti-LGBT laws being passed and said “That’s the state’s right, but there should be no federal support for such things (he acknowledge the actual limited power of the president as written in the Constitution).

Sanders wants corporations not to write trade bills, but our elected officials to do it. He wants everyone to get to vote (even conservatives!) instead of limiting voting rights. He wants people to have jobs that match their skills, he wants colleges to teach people that want to do that and jobs for people who don’t. He spoke about the criminal justice system and how bad it was, while saying clearly that most cops are good, hardworking, decent people doing a difficult job. He didn’t tell them how to do their jobs. He fine-tuned their jobs  by saying that “they should be trained to have deadly force be their last option instead of their first”. He thought we could use some of the money we’re now spending on for-profit jails to do that. When he finally got around to Native Americans and how important they were for us to learn from, he got to the heart of the matter. To my knowledge, since native Americans are from their own nations, they don’t get to vote in American ones. Here was a politician who was caring for people who can’t even vote for him. That’s not politically smart, but it is moral genius on the level of Santa Claus at Macy’s sending people to Gimbels in Miracle on 42nd Street. It brings back humanity and hope. It makes us believe in goodness again when people do things because they are right, rather than expedient.

Bernie Sanders is that guy. You should vote for him. I’m going to.






“Craftspersonship” — for Michelle

This morning, my wife went off on a rant  about supporters of Bernie Sanders who say they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she gets the party’s nomination/if Bernie doesn’t get it. She and I are different in our worldviews, and she knows an incredible amount about capitalism, world markets, Rousseau, fairness and globalization than I do. She teaches such things for a living. She understands the “practical”, but I’m an idealist. Needless to say, she’ll probably vote for Hillary(though I don’t actually know) and I’ll vote for Bernie in the CT Primary.  But we agree on one thing: Regardless of who wins the nomination, we will vote for the candidate that is closest to our values among the candidates. We’re not going to take our ball and go home, because we didn’t get what we want. (OK, if Trump wins, I’m taking my ball and moving to Canada, but that’s just me).

It is stupid beyond belief to not vote just because you didn’t get everything you want in the election.  If you don’t vote, you get whatever anybody else wants, and that’s far less likely to be what you want if you don’t say anything.

Democracy requires craftsmanship, by design. Or, if we get a woman president, “craftspersonship”. My friend Craig Hames is a craftsman — he builds cabinets by hand, sands them slowly and takes his time — and they last forever. Craig has apparently had quite a business, because he’s a craftsman, not just a builder. There are few builders around to start with, in our world of high tech plastics and 3-D printing, modular cabinetry and Ikea. Beyond that, though, their are very few craftsmen out there — people who are detail oriented and able to see the larger vision, people who can’t settle for less than the best and are willing to put the time into what they are building so that it lasts forever.

Any leader in America who wants to be good at their job, has to be a craftsperson — especially if they are President. The task of building a democracy that will last requires the craft of compromise, the ability to see others’ point of view, and the strength to maintain their own integrity, while representing the people that sent them there..  We both think our candidates have that. By this view, we have a “no lose” policy. If my candidate gets in, she’ll vote for them. If her candidate gets in, I’ll vote for her.  Something to our liking will be built.If one of us — or both of us — were to not vote, nothing we wanted in a craftsperson would be built.

Having your own opinion, and wanting your own way is great — until you decide to live with someone else and be part of something more than just you. The minute you are with another person, or millions of other people, there will be disagreement and conflict. Two people in a room can invariably come up with three opinions. Millions of people have millions of needs, all vying for attention. Representatives, Senators, and the President all have to compromise if anything is going to get built at all for American Democracy. Citizens need to hold their feet to the fire. Not participating is not an option if you want anything to happen. You can’t blame Congress for not meeting with the President’s Supreme Court Nominee if you’re not going to meet with people who want to build an America like the one you want.

Don’t vote for someone who isn’t even a builder, let alone a craftsperson. But if there’s one out there, even with a slightly different idea, hire them.If you want it “my way or the highway” — on the Left or the Right, there’s the highway. Help yourself, but don’t say we kicked you out of democracy. Remember, you chose to leave.







Martin The Forgotten?

April 4, 2016

48 years ago today, Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis, Tennessee. Sometime between then and now, all of the things that he was are gone from general society, with the possible exception of a Black leader in America.

Martin was a daring peacemaker. Martin’s “peace” looked like “rabble rousing” at the time, because he wanted the country he lived in to have the whole package of peace. He didn’t want peace that was achieved by silencing  a large part of our population. Whether that was African-Americans, (his first challenge), Veterans and Pacifists (his second challenge — the Vietnam War) or the Poor (he died while working on his third challenge — economic inequality). In the America that Martin envisioned — “The Beloved Community” — no one was “rabble rousing” because no one was rabble. We were all going together.  It was long, hard work, and it yielded love and actual peace by demanding respect for all sides of the equation, and only removing the hate. This work demanded giving up much on the part of the oppressed — their bodies, their churches, and often their lives — while demanding only sharing of those from the oppressor.  It yielded the souls of both.

Violence was easy then, and it is now. Anyone can get angry and act it out. Before Martin died, people had figured that out. What they hadn’t figured out yet is that it works about as well now as it ever did. No one ever — in a moment of passionate emotion — suddenly acted out peacefully without thinking. Peace requires thought as well as emotion. Not only did Martin want everybody to make it to the Beloved Community, he wanted every part of every person to go. People wanted a shortcut, but there wasn’t one and there isn’t one. Regarding injustice, the only way around is through.  Martin knew that.  He dared to do the hard work of making peace, and he dared us to, as well. Many of us didn’t want to hear that.

Martin was a man who dared to be peaceful. Men have historically “dared”. I still believe in daring as part of being male.  The problem is, we now tend to confuse ” being a man” with “being violent”. Donald Trump, that “man among men”, and so many other men, would have us believe that it would be “daring” to blow up people who disagree with us. Violence is the way we’re going in society today. To be “daring” would be to face into the prevailing wind and prevail against it. That version of “being a man” also requires work. It requires the hard work of listening, of caring, of forgiving, of reaching out, and yes, sometimes of dying. Daring to die for others is the opposite of daring to kill for others. Martin knew that, too. Martin was a man.  Martin’s “manly”, though, wasn’t manly enough for some then, and it isn’t even close anymore. I don’t strive to be “manly” anymore because I don’t like what “manly” means anymore. I aspire to be a man like Martin — a man who dared to die for what he believed in.

Martin was a believer. Martin believed that death does not win. Martin believed that life overcame death. Today, people are afraid. They are afraid that death wins. They believe  that evil is stronger than good. This makes sense if you understand the world that way. We all want to be on the winning side.  If death wins, “winners” want to work for death. If this is all there is, if we have no belief, then it looks like death does indeed win.You can see it win on the nightly news.

But if we believe there’s something more — if life ultimately wins — then we want to be on the side of life, ultimately. Believing the evening news makes this hard. If death ultimately wins, then we want to get as much stuff out of life as we can — souvenirs of our trip that says we were here.  If life ultimately wins, you can spend your life enjoying the ride rather than buying souvenirs .  Even without a lot of evidence in the news that ISIS will ultimately fail, I like Martin’s faith in life better than other people’s belief in nothingness or death.

So how did we get here — to this place today?  We took the easy way out when we only wanted to take some people to the future, and considered others “rabble”. We took the easy way out and we got violence. We took the easy way out again let our feelings over-ride our thoughts and decided that thinking was bad. We took the easy way out when we refused to listen to each other and tried to forgive. We took the easy way out again when we only believed in what we saw on TV and believed that death ultimately wins.

We have forgotten Martin Luther King’s ways because his ways were too hard. We have gotten what we wanted, but now that we see it, we don’t like it. Martin Luther King took the measure of a man more than twice before cutting them out of his world once. We don’t take the measure of anyone, and we just cut them out. Until we learn to do the hard work, our communities and our lives will look like poorly built shacks, while somewhere in heaven, Martin’s living in a mansion.