Conversations

Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

The pandemic has highlighted many of our problems. One of the most disturbing, for me, is the complete lack of a national conversation. There’s very little public conversation at all, and that tends to be confined to geekdoms. There’s almost nothing that can properly be called public discourse. All we have is a bunch of overconfident, self-righteous people yelling at each other.

The internet defines a conversation as, “a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.” I think this is a solid definition. I wouldn’t limit it to news and ideas. I think feelings and questions and other things are fair game for conversation, too. The important thing, though, is the exchange. Conversations require sharing. All the parties involved need to be willing both to give and to receive. That’s what we’re missing.

What would a pandemic conversation have looked like? It would have started with someone laying out ALL of the known, relevant information. Ideally this would be the government, but the press could step up, too. And I mean all of the information. So, they could tell us if we do nothing, we project x infections and y deaths. The economy will change by z%, and the unemployment rate will change by q%. Teacher and student absences will result in p school hours missed. Hospitals will exceed capacity by b%, and on and on. Then, do the same thing for a total, complete lockdown with curfews, mandatory closings, government payments for not working, mandatory quarantines, complete travel bans, etc. And do it for several points in between doing nothing and a complete lockdown. Then, we could start talking.

Different constituencies will, of course, have different priorities. Organized labor might focus on job losses and hazard pay while wall street focuses on the markets. Parents may worry about safety and education while medical professionals are focused on hospital capacity and vaccine development/distribution. The key to it being a conversation is that we must all recognize that every one of these priorities is important, legitimate. Then, we can find a compromise that balances all of these concerns as best we can. It won’t be perfect. It certainly won’t satisfy everyone, but as long as everyone’s position is honestly considered, we will get buy in. We can focus on the solutions together. That is the advantage of a conversation.

Almost none of this happened in reality. We still don’t have all of the known, relevant information. The government and press are only telling us what fits their agendas. No one is taking any priorities but their own seriously. And none of us have been presented with a range of options to choose between. We have basically split into two opposing sides, and neither will tolerate the other.

The two sides, broadly and generously speaking, are freedom and safety. It baffles me that the two sides can’t talk. I have been very good throughout the pandemic from the safety point of view. I’ve been staying in and wearing masks. I’ve gone weeks without seeing my kid for fear of possible exposure. I even quit a job in large part because I was one of the very few there who seemed to take the pandemic seriously. I also generally think that freedom is way overrated by most people. But, I’m very sympathetic to the freedom side. It’s disturbing to see the government force businesses to close and regulate what people can and cannot wear. I don’t like travel restrictions. I recognize the economic impact of social distancing.

I don’t think I’m unique in being able to see both sides. Most of us, I think, have some sense of it. But everyone refuses to talk about it. Well, that’s not true. Plenty of people talk about it, but they refuse to converse about it. The talk is never about exchanging ideas, it’s about forcing a viewpoint on others. Both sides are guilty. The freedom side may be more obvious with the ways they shut down conversations, but the safety side’s techniques may be more harmful.

Freedom folks are mostly shutting down conversation with variations on, “Don’t tell me what to do!” It’s not very subtle, but it is quite effective. The other group’s techniques sound a little softer, but they’re equally as effective. In the beginning of the pandemic, they were consistently saying things like, “If we react appropriately, it will look like we overreacted.” That’s straight up gaslighting. “Hey, guys, any evidence you find that we were wrong is actually evidence of how right we were.” Next thing, they’ll be telling me that they only hit me because they love me more than those other guys. Luckily (that’s probably not quite the right word), this tactic was dropped when it became clear that nothing about our response to the pandemic looked like an overreaction.

The next tactic adopted by the safety crowd was, “Listen to the science,” and it’s still with us. Science has been used as a conversation stopper for ages. You might say it’s a classic, and all the more dangerous because so many people don’t even notice what it’s doing. Science does not, will not, and cannot dictate policy. (I’m assuming that Political Science is not actually a science. I hope that’s not too controversial.) Science, at least when it’s done right, can tell us what is happening, but it doesn’t tell us how to deal with it. We need values and priorities to decide how to deal with things. Science is silent on both of those things.

I can hear the objections. Hopefully an example can help. Let’s say I want population control, I’m like Thanos. There are too many people and we need to fix that problem. Science can help. Step one, don’t lift a finger to do anything about Coronavirus. Step two, gather in large groups as often as possible. Step three, make covering your face taboo. I don’t just mean no masks, when you sneeze or cough, there can be no hands or elbows getting in the way. Just let it fly. We can go further, outlawing condoms and ambulances while encouraging smoking and drinking, but that’s enough for now. I have just listened to the science. I understand how COVID works and what to do with it. Science never once spoke up and told me there was anything wrong with my goal.

We live in a pluralistic society. That’s mostly a good thing. But, that means we are living with people who don’t always share our values and priorities. Their values and priorities are legitimate. I can’t insist they do what’s best for me and mine. We have to find what works best for all of us. That means we have to have a conversation, full of give and take. It’s the only way to begin to understand each other to find common ground.

The lack of conversation has been particularly frustrating during the pandemic even though it’s not only a pandemic problem. I’m not an infectious disease expert. Nor am I an economist. I’m no expert on education, supply chains, or mental health, either. However, I am a citizen of a (supposed) democracy and a father. That means I have to make decisions about the pandemic. Decisions that will affect others. I want, desperately, an open and honest conversation with all of the experts and stakeholders so I can make the best decisions possible. In the past year, I haven’t gotten anything close. A year into this and I still feel like I’m flying blind.

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Neera Tanden’s Defeat Would Not Make Me Happy

Neera Tanden

I don’t think Neera Tanden should run the Office of Budget and Management because she suggested that we should have Libya pay us back for attacking them, in order to convince Americans to continue to “engage” with the world in the future:

The email Neera Tanden sent regarding Libyan Oil. Source: https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2015/11/tanden2.png

It’s completely bonkers that Tanden put the ability to drop bombs on people halfway around the world up against Head Start and WIC. So I should be very pleased that it looks like she won’t be running OMB after Joe Manchin said he wouldn’t vote for her. But I’m not, because Manchin (and Collins, Romney, etc.) are doing the “right” thing for the wrong reason. Here’s Manchin’s statement about Tanden:

Joe Manchin’s statement. Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/neera-tanden-obm-nomination-joe-manchin-opposes/

To be clear, both Tanden’s suggestion that we charge Libya for bombing them and her mean tweets are in the public record now, but it’s the mean tweets which are a bridge too far for Manchin and company.

That’s why I’m not happy about this outcome. The actual right thing to do is to stop putting people who are ready to drop bombs on other human beings in positions of authority. But that’s not the part of Tanden’s resume that’s a problem. No one has even mentioned it, as far as I can see. If Tanden goes down, the next OMB nominee will be someone who’s just as willing to blow people into pieces, just without the Twitter baggage.

She hasn’t given up yet though, and various groups and individuals have been lobbying for her to get the position. Watching people argue over their preferred, professed potential war profiteer is not fun. If Tanden doesn’t get placed at OMB, every single other person who thinks she was good remains in government. So no, I don’t feel happy because this is simply a personal defeat for Tanden, not a step back from the insane militarism of the United States.

The Democrats at least seem committed to having a diverse group of people pursuing endless, global war. I guess that’s something for people of color who are interested in joining that war.

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Schtick

Daft Punk announced they are splitting up. Normally, I wouldn’t even notice the announcement. I’ve never been a fan. They’re just not my thing. If they’re yours, I’m glad they were able to bring you happiness over the years. I am a little bit familiar with them. I was managing a record store when Discovery came out. Some of my staff were fans and played it in the store a lot. As far as I can tell, they’re good at what they do. Like I said, it’s just not my thing.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about them. The short answer is that I’m not writing about them. But, they are a prime example of something I’ve wanted to write about for a little while, schtick. Daft Punk’s schtick was the helmets. They never showed their faces in public. Well, there was one time, at an airport, but that was so unusual that it made the news. In reality, their schtick was more famous than their music.

I’ve never liked schtick. It annoys me. The thing is, I’ve never been able to figure out why. It doesn’t hurt anybody, at least not that I can see. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people enjoy schtick. For Kiss fans, the makeup is a big part of the experience. If it’s true that schtick causes no harm while making people happy, then it must actually be a good thing. So, why does it bother me?

I should say that I realize there is at least a small amount of schtick in any public persona. Even regular people on social media adopt it. I’m sure I do, too. Most of that doesn’t bother me. It’s only when the schtick reaches a certain threshold that it annoys me. I don’t have an exact line where that happens. I’m not even sure how to measure something like that. But it does depend on how thick the schtick is laid on.

OK, back to why it bothers me. I honestly don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to figure out here by writing about it. There are some things that seem like they might be reasons, but I don’t think any of them work. For example, it could be argued that a schtick is dishonest or that performers are hiding their true selves. However, I don’t think a schtick is dishonest. Telling stories and playing characters isn’t dishonest. No one thinks that Gorillaz is really made up of cartoon characters, and Gorillaz isn’t trying to convince anyone of that. It’s just their schtick. And as for hiding their true selves, in most cases I prefer not to know about the artists I listen to. I’m not into gossip.

That leaves me feeling like I’m wrong to be annoyed by schtick. But, I can’t help it. I wish I could. In my defense, it doesn’t always keep me from enjoying an artist. Elton John is certainly schticky, but I consider myself a fan. At the same time, I’m pretty sure I would prefer Prince without all the purple and I think I’d enjoy David Bowie more if he didn’t adopt a new persona for every album. I guess I’m just flawed. I wish I could just sit back and enjoy the show. If anyone has any advice for how to do that, let me know.

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p.s. I quite like the word “Schtick”. So many consonants, so few vowels. It’s deliciously Yiddish. And using the word schtick is, in a way, me trying to get past my hang-up. If I had called them gimmicks or affectations, I’d be further away from my goal.

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Am I the Only One Bothered By This – Impeachment Edition

Trump’s second impeachment trial is currently happening in the Senate. I feel like I should be paying attention, but I can’t. I’m just so fatigued from the last four or five years. He’s not president anymore, I’d like to never think about him again. In some vague way, I hope he’s convicted. He’s obviously guilty, and the way the system is supposed to work is by convicting guilty people. But, it’s not like this country has any kind of history of holding rich, white men accountable for their actions (Just ask Robert E. Lee how terrible it must have been being president of Washington College after the Civil War.), so I won’t be shocked or particularly upset if he gets off. Like I said, I feel like I should care about the outcome, I just don’t have the energy.

Strangely, even though I can’t muster the energy to care about the trial, I seem to have plenty of energy to be annoyed that the trial is even happening in the first place. This annoyance is going to take some explaining, though. I want to stress from the outset, that it is not coming from the Republican’s calls for unity or a desire to move on. I understand why criminals should be held accountable, and I agree that they should be held accountable. I believe in fair jury trials. There’s even a vindictive part of me that wants to see Trump suffer just because he hurt me and my friends and family. (My feelings on crime and punishment and justice and accountability are actually very complicated, I promise I will write about those subjects in more detail later.) For now, just trust me that I agree with Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) and Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) and all the rest on all their substantive points. I’m annoyed because of the things that they will not say.

I’ve known that Trump was a criminal for as long as I’ve known Trump existed. I’m pretty sure everyone has known that on some level. Jump ahead to the rise of Trump’s political career and he’s been breaking the law and crapping on the Constitution almost constantly. He literally committed treason as a candidate by coordinating with a foreign power to subvert an American election. He incited violence at his rallies and assured his followers that he’d pay their legal bills if they got in trouble for it. No one even tried to do anything about it.

As President he continuously broke the Emoluments clause, the Hatch act, and myriad other rules and regulations. He continued to incite violence, everything from murders at BLM rallies to an attempt at kidnapping Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer), the governor of Michigan. He didn’t try to hide it. He wasn’t subtle about it. Yet no one even tried to do anything about it.

They have only tried to hold Trump the politician accountable for two things. The first was when Trump publicly asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s (@POTUS) son. I was confused at the time. I thought it was good that the House brought articles of impeachment even though I knew that the Senate was going to have a joke of a trial. But, like I said, I was confused. Asking Ukraine to investigate Biden’s son seemed like so much less of a big deal than pretty much everything Trump had done to that point. No one died. As far as I know, no one lost any money or property. No elections were actually tampered with. So, it was nice that they were finally doing something about one of Trump’s crimes, but why that one?

The second attempt at accountability is the current impeachment trial. It is for “inciting an insurrection” with the January 6th riot at the Capitol. That is a much more serious crime than the Ukraine thing. Five people died. It threatened the stability of the government. But, I still couldn’t help but ask, “Why this?” Trump was committing treason and subverting elections before he was president. There was loss of life and destruction of property, but both had been fairly common occurrences throughout Trump’s term. If none of those other things warranted impeachment, I couldn’t figure out why this one did.

Then, I started thinking about what the Ukraine thing and the Capitol riot had in common. The only thing I could find was that they both targeted political elites. Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence), Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) were the targets of the Washington mob. Biden’s family was the target of the Ukraine thing. Apparently, that is the line. If you want someone to be held accountable, they have to directly attack the political establishment. Anything else and no one in power cares.

So, that’s why I’m so annoyed by this impeachment trial. Despite all the rhetoric, it has nothing to do with America, Justice, the Constitution, Rule of Law, or anything else. Those in power are just pissed because they were the ones targeted. That’s it. If they cared about anything else, Trump would have never been allowed to take office in the first place. I still vaguely hope that Trump is convicted. I’m just having trouble with the fact that it took a too late attempt at holding a known criminal accountable for me to completely lose faith in my government.

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Disgaea Changed My Life

The first time I played Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was 2004. I’d just been kicked out of college. My depression had me sleeping all day and staying up all night, so a time sink like Disgaea was exactly what I needed.

The most recent time I played it was yesterday. I recently broke up with my girlfriend, and the pandemic turned night into day months ago. I have nothing but free time, so Disgaea fit the bill perfectly.

The gameplay for Disgaea is amazing, but there are enough reviews for the game if you’re interested in that. What brings me back to this game over and over instead of its numerous sequels is the story.

It’s fairly simple: the main character, Prince Laharl, is a demon. His father, the Overlord, has died, so he has to reconquer the Netherworld to assume the title with his vassal, Etna. Along the way, an angel trainee named Flonne is sent to the Netherworld to assassinate the Overlord. When she reaches the Netherworld, she decides that she can’t kill Laharl unless she’s sure he’s evil, so she joins his team to see firsthand.

Various hijinks ensue, and ultimately a pair of humans joins the team as well. They work together to thwart a plan by an evil angel to take over the universe.

Like I said, it’s a simple plot. What I enjoy is the message. It’s all about the Power of Love and Friendship™. Flonne’s mission was actually a plan to bring angels and demons together, to see that they have things in common and can coexist. The mission was setup by the Seraph of Celestia (where the angels live) and the Force Ghost of Laharl’s father, the Overlord.

Both the Seraph and the Overlord shared the same philosophy.

But what I truly enjoy about the game is that it’s not just about Flonne teaching the demons to love, although there’s alot of that. Flonne also has to learn that demons show love in their own ways, and that her way of seeing things is not the only correct way.

It’s a lesson that’s had a profound impact on me recently. I’ve been undergoing what I would honestly call a transformation over the last year, and one of the main components of it has been a hard anti-authoritarian turn. It’s not simply a matter of distrusting the people in leadership, but distrusting the entire concept of hierarchical leadership in general.

That distrust stems from the disconnect between what I hear about other people versus what those people tell me themselves. A great example is QAnon. When I listen to the authorities, I’m told that QAnon believers are a threat. But I know QAnon people. I’ve talked to QAnon Uber drivers. They don’t say threatening things, at least not to me. I simply don’t agree with them. But, like Flonne, I’m finally understanding that not agreeing with someone is not the same thing as disagreeing,

That distinction was driven home for me recently after I called a Christian conservative. He ran for office last November, and left a flyer on my door. I held onto it, and finally found the time to call him in December. I simply asked him to explain his positions and why he felt that way.

One example he gave was his call to increase police funding. He said that racism is a problem for the police, and that more funding would help to train police better and get rid of the bad ones when necessary.

I finally learned to have a conversation like that, and hear where we agree: racism is a problem in the police. I don’t agree with his policy solution, but I don’t disagree with this guy. He’s just different, with a different background and different experiences, so he wants to solve a problem a different way. But there’s common ground there, and in some other areas we talked about.

When demons, angels and humans spent time with each other, they found that they didn’t have to be enemies. In fact, they found commonality and even love for each other. When I talk to the people who have been described to me as my enemies, they don’t sound like my enemies (and the people who say they’re my friends sound way more threatening, like the evil angel. But that’s another essay). I’m not saying that everyone can be my friend, but I think that I should find that out for myself.

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Something To Think About Concerning the Minimum Wage

Photo by Enrique Vidal Flores on Unsplash

People have been talking about the $15 federal minimum wage for a while now. With Biden’s election, it’s a real possibility. Democrats have a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, so I’m not making any predictions, but it has a better chance than it did a year ago. So, this seems like a good time for an important reminder: Minimum wage is not the actual issue.

The struggles of poor and working class people have very little to do with the minimum wage. The real issues are harder and more complicated. Here is a list of some of the actual issues:

  1. Necessities (housing comes to mind) are treated like investments.
  2. Benefits (from health care and retirement to food stamps) are artificially tied to employment.
  3. The punishments for legal infractions never end.
  4. We have the concepts of efficiency and innovation almost completely backwards (I plan on writing a whole essay or two about this, but I’m talking about the fact that technology is not being used to improve lives).
  5. Even though feminism has accomplished a lot, Pink Collar jobs are still severely undervalued.

There are more, but these are a good start. Raising the minimum wage simply will not do anything for these structural problems.

I’m not pointing this out to say we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage. I’m all for it. I’d go for $20 or $25 an hour. I know I live in an expensive area, but I really can’t survive on less than $20/hour. Just realize that raising the minimum wage by itself won’t do all that much. The way we are set up, businesses have a lot of control over how the effects of a minimum wage increase are felt. Only structural changes can fix that.

I wrote a similar essay about student loan forgiveness. In both cases, student loan forgiveness and minimum wage increases, these are symbolic issues. They look great, and might make some marginal improvements, but don’t really change anything. That’s the way politics has gone in my lifetime. We don’t talk about the underlying problems, that would be boring, we focus on the flashy symbols. You see it in everything from abortion to reparations.

I hope Biden does get us a $15/hour federal minimum wage. But, if he does, please don’t get complacent. Fight for real, structural reform. We have to stop letting them get away with tweaking symbols. We need to demand that they fix the actual problems.

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Snow Days

Photo by alvaro ortiz on Unsplash

I’m angry. That’s not something you’ll hear me say very often. I don’t do anger well at all. I put myself through some pretty crazy contortions to avoid being angry. If you were to walk up to me, slap me across the face with your gloves, and say, “You, Gene Glotzer, are a horrible excuse for a human being,” I would try my hardest to make excuses for you. I would really worry about what I did wrong, I’d assume you were having a bad day, I’d apologize, and I’d try to make things right. There would be guilt and shame, but probably not anger. I work on it with my therapist (I know it’s a bit counterintuitive to work on being angry in therapy), but I still struggle with it. All that is just a long winded way of saying that it takes a lot to make me angry, and right now, I’m angry.

My daughter has a “Remote Learning Day” today because of the snow. It’s outrageous on the surface, and only gets worse the more you think about it. Snow days are one of the most magical experiences of childhood. It feels like the whole world comes to a stop. You have no responsibilities. It’s a free day. You just play outside until you can’t feel your fingers and toes, then go inside and drink hot chocolate until the feeling comes back and you can go outside again. It only happens a handful of times each year (I’ve always felt sorry for all the kids who live in places where snow days don’t happen). I can’t fathom how anyone could want to take that experience away from kids.

Then you start thinking about it. A remote learning day is basically taking all of the negative things about going to school and combining them with all of the negative things about staying home. There are no positives, no upside. No one wants to admit it, but the way our economy is set up, the main point of school is affordable childcare for working parents. That’s gone with remote learning. The next reason, and main benefit for the children, for school is the opportunity for social interactions. That’s gone, too. A distant third is the curriculum, what is actually being taught. The kids sort of get that still, but a much lesser version of it.

When you look at the reasons for school, the first one, childcare, is a big deal if it’s missed for even one day. Missing a day of socializing is less of a big deal. Missing a day of curriculum isn’t a big deal at all. No kid has ever fallen behind because they only had 4 days of spelling in a week instead of 5. That’s not how the human brain works. So, the schools are taking away something that’s wonderful, not for something necessary, like childcare, but for something that’s pointless. Those 6 hours aren’t changing the kids either way. 12, 18, or 24 wouldn’t either.

Add to this the fact that we are in a global pandemic. I’ll say that again, our kids are trying to navigate/survive a global pandemic. Everything about the past year has been hard, for all of us, but especially for the kids. It’s unconscionable that they aren’t given every break that presents itself.

I’ve tried to make excuses for the schools, but I’ve had no luck. Why are they so obsessed with the number of days/hours the students are in school (physically or virtually)? It just doesn’t seem like they care about the children. It’s more important that they check all of the administrative boxes than help people.

The closest I’ve come to making an excuse for them is maybe, just maybe, they’re really, really stupid. Maybe they don’t understand how they’re hurting the kids. But I can’t really believe that. I don’t think teachers and administrators are any smarter or dumber than anyone else. And many of them are parents themselves. How can they not see what’s so obvious?

So, anyway, I’m angry. Let the kids have a snow day. I really don’t care if my daughter learns long division a year “late” (whatever that means). I care about her well-being. That’s all I care about. That’s all anyone should care about. I’m angry. Let them have a snow day.

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Laser Show

Long before anyone knew what a Jewish Space Laser was, there was Dustin Pedroia. He was the original, and self-proclaimed, Laser Show. He is one of my all time favorite baseball players, and definitely my all time favorite second baseman (Sorry to Robbie Alomar and Chase Utley, but it’s not even close). Pedey made it an absolute pleasure to be a Red Sox fan. I will be forever grateful.

I’m not going to talk about his statistics or championships here. There are plenty of spaces where you can find that information. I want to talk about what made him so special to me and so many baseball fans. Half of it was his intensity. He played every game with grit and passion, worked his hardest, and tried his best. He played like his life depended on it. And it didn’t matter if it was Spring Training or the World Series, he put it all out there every day. Even when he was on the sidelines because of injury or some other reason, the intensity was still there. Anyone who has ever coached wishes they could coach people like Dustin Pedroia.

The other half of it was the way he played with joy. It’s infectious. The way he reacted to a late-inning comeback or a game-saving defensive play, he could have been an eight year old. For a guy who took the game so seriously, he never lost sight of his love for the game. He never took it for granted. He knew how lucky he was.

That kind of intensity and joy is a rare combination. Add to it the fact that he gives a good interview, is quotable, has a sense of humor, and always gives back to the community and you have a recipe for the perfect ballplayer. Everyone should be a Dustin Pedroia fan, whatever team you root for. I’m going to miss Pedey on the field. I hope he enjoys his retirement. Long live the Laser Show.

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What Should I Do if I Can’t Trust my Leaders?

From Senator Reverend Warnock’s Twitter account (https://twitter.com/ReverendWarnock/status/1345082524402393088/photo/1)

Whenever I seriously discuss anarchy with others, I usually get one of two responses. The first is some form of, “People need to be led.” The second is, “Without authority, there’ll be chaos.” I can’t discredit either one of those concerns because they might be true.

But our leaders aren’t trustworthy, and that’s a huge problem for me. One of the major knocks on Trump was how much he lied- so much so that some news outlets made a point of keeping track of all of them. Joe Biden made Trump’s lies a central part of his campaign, and even promised on multiple occasions that he would “always tell the truth.”

But he lied before he even entered office. He promised $2000 checks, multiple times, in speeches and in writing.

From President Biden’s Twitter account (https://twitter.com/JoeBiden/status/1348430675238678528)

He did this to convince people to vote for Reverend Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Both Warnock and Ossoff went along with the lie (see the picture above from Warnock himself). And when they won, they changed their tune.

From President Biden’s Twitter (https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/1355553863441543169)

The rest of the Democrats seem to support this idea as well.

From the DNC Twitter account (https://twitter.com/TheDemocrats/status/1355634654255190016)

This is a lie. I’ve read alot of tweets from people who are trying to say that he meant “$600 + $1400 = $2000” all along, but that’s not what his words say. Saying “$2000 checks” does not mean “$600 + $1400.” And it’s not just a lie told by President Biden, but by Warnock, Ossoff, and other Democrats as well.

I don’t want liars to lead me because I can’t believe what they say. Everything about Biden’s agenda, including the things I support, are now suspect because I don’t believe the words he says. I couldn’t believe Trump’s, or Obama’s, or G Dub’s. In fact, it looks like it’s not possible to become President, Senator or any other position of authority without telling bald-faced lies.

So that’s my problem: liars seem destined to lead, but I don’t want to be led by liars. I increasingly think the solution is to simply not have leaders, but I’m open to suggestions.

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It’s Not a Competition

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

Everyone with siblings is probably familiar with the phrase, “It’s not a competition.” I have two brothers. We thought everything was a competition. My parents often had to remind us that dishes is not a competition. For years I’ve been saying that politics is not a competition. Politics lacks two necessary components of competitions. First, a competition needs competitors, two or more opposing sides trying to win. Second, a competition needs to end. I know a lot of people are thinking to themselves, “Yeah, politics has both those things.” But those people are wrong.

There are tons of reasons why so many people think that politics is a competition. They would fill a long, but interesting, book. I’m not prepared to write that book right now (maybe someday), but a good chunk of it comes down to language. We use words like win, lose, race, against, versus, victory, and defeat when talking about politics. There are two problems with these words. One is that they are metaphorical even though people take them literally. The other is that they disguise the actual time frames needed for historical/political judgement.

For the people who think politics is a competition, who are the opposing sides? Is it Republicans and Democrats? Rich and Poor? Capitalists and Socialists? Any of those may seem plausible on the surface, but how does it work? What would it look like if Republicans beat the Democrats or the rich beat the poor or capitalists beat the socialists? Would the winner remain while the loser disappears? Republicans win when there are no more Democrats? That doesn’t seem likely (or possible). Would the winner get some kind of prize or reward that the loser doesn’t? That’s clearly not how things work. A social safety net doesn’t just protect the socialists and leave the capitalists out in the cold. It works (or doesn’t work as the case may be) for everyone. I know that there are inequalities, but luck is the biggest determining factor in how they land. It’s much closer to a lottery than a competition.

Some people may look at it as a giant free-for-all rather than teams competing. We’re all competing against each other. I think that’s even more problematic. What are the rules? How do you even judge who’s winning? I mean, clearly, I’m beating all of y’all. I’m the only person that gets to be the father to my daughter. Game over. But there are probably lots and lots of other people who think they’re winning because of their own children/spouses/parents/friends/possessions/jobs or whatever else. We all have different goals and objectives. It would be like if the Red Sox and Dodgers were playing each other, only the Red Sox really wanted to get more stolen bases while the Dodgers really wanted to get more hit-by-pitches. It wouldn’t make any sense as a competition.

Along these same lines, as long as we all live in the same society, we all move up or down together. If something is good, it is to the benefit everyone in the society. If something is bad, it is to the detriment of everyone in the society. Sexism hurts everyone, not just women. Racism doesn’t help anyone, not even Klan members. I’ve never been beaten by a cop, but police brutality has made my life worse. We are all interconnected. The metrics are complicated and I’m not going to get into them here, but the oft quoted statistic that billionaires have added $3.9 trillion to their collective wealth during the pandemic is hugely misleading. None of those billionaires are better off because of the pandemic. To simplify it a bit, the difference between $1 billion and $100 billion in terms of quality of life is negligible. At the same time, the difference between living in a safe, open society or not in terms of quality of life is huge. The rich getting richer doesn’t mean they are winning. At best, it means that they don’t understand what’s in their own best interest.

Even if everything I’ve said up to now is wrong (It’s not. I’m right about all this if you’ll just take the time to think about it for a bit. But, I’m willing to concede it for the sake of argument.), politics would still not be a competition because it never ends. The clock never hits 0:00. There’s never a 27th out or a final set. Elections are where most of the competitive language is used, but no one “wins” an election. An election isn’t an end. It’s more like the draft than the championship. The same is true for passing or stopping a piece of legislation or having the courts agree with you. Those aren’t end points. They’re just filling out the lineup card. There are no end points. Politics will continue for as long as there is a society.

But. But. But. But. But. But. But, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, however, yet, but.

What if people don’t believe what I’m saying? What if they don’t listen to me? What if they behave as if it is a competition? That’s where I get stuck. Frankly, that’s the position we’re in now. The political parties, the press, the rich and powerful, and even a good chunk of the rest of us all behave as if we’re competing with each other. I don’t know what to do about it. Engaging with other members of our society on that level is counterproductive, at best. It would reinforce the mistaken idea that we are competing, and it creates acrimony. We have to convince everyone that we only succeed or fail together. I’m open to suggestions if anyone knows how to get everyone on board.

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