How Politicians and the Media make Bullshit Happen

Former President Barack Obama gave an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic this month where he talked about why he thinks American politics has become so bad. It’s bullshit from beginning to end. But it’s easy to say that something is bullshit, so let me show you how Obama and Goldberg spread bullshit about race, women and politics with three examples.

What Obama and Goldberg Said About Race

Goldberg: You’re just surprised by the horse populism rode in on.

Obama: Yes, and it’s this indication of parts of popular culture that I’ve missed. It’s interesting—people are writing about the fact that Trump increased his support among Black men [in the 2020 presidential election], and the occasional rapper who supported Trump. I have to remind myself that if you listen to rap music, it’s all about the bling, the women, the money. A lot of rap videos are using the same measures of what it means to be successful as Donald Trump is. Everything is gold-plated. That insinuates itself and seeps into the culture.

Michelle and I were talking about the fact that although we grew up in very different places, we were both very much working-class, lower-middle-class, in terms of income, and we weren’t subject day-to-day to the sense that if you don’t have this stuff then you are somehow not worthy. America has always had a caste system—rich and poor, not just racially but economically—but it wasn’t in your face most of the time when I was growing up. Then you start seeing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, that sense that either you’ve got it or you’re a loser. And Donald Trump epitomizes that cultural movement that is deeply ingrained now in American culture.

Why That’s Bullshit- President Obama neglected to mention that almost every demographic cast more votes for Trump in 2020 than in 2016. Yet somehow he lays the blame at the feet of both Black men and rap music, managing to pathologize both at the same time. While he chastises only us for something nearly 74 million other people did too, he doesn’t ONCE thank Black voters for delivering Michigan, Wisconsin or Georgia.

What Goldberg Should Have Asked- Jeffrey Goldberg is a respected journalist who has won many awards. So why didn’t he ask any basic follow-up questions: What about Detroit and Milwaukee essentially giving Biden the presidency? What about your music playlists that are full of rap? What about all the rappers and Black entertainers who supported Biden?

These “award winning journalists” let these niggas say whatever they want and call it journalism. Anyone can do that. Push back and ask some fucking questions!

What Obama and Goldberg Said About Gender

Goldberg: In the book it’s very clear that for you Sarah Palin was the first horsewoman of the apocalypse and Rick Santelli, the CNBC reporter who helped spark the Tea Party, was the second horseman. And then the cast grows.

Obama: At the time that it’s happening, you get a sense that this is a strain within the Republican Party or the conservative movement that has always been there. It dates back to the Birchers and elements in the Goldwater campaign, but you also sort of feel that all of this is behind us.

Goldberg: Your presidency was supposed to be proof in a kind of way that America was moving on.

Obama: Right. But what happened is that these things unleash or liberate some of that energy. The power of Palin’s rallies compared with McCain’s rallies—just contrast the excitement you would see in the Republican base. I think this hinted at the degree to which appeals around identity politics, around nativism, conspiracies, were gaining traction. As I was writing, the clarity of those patterns became more obvious.

Obama doesn’t directly say anything negative about women, but he does a common tactic where he shifts all blame for wrongdoing onto women, and leaves men blameless. The current insanity of the Republican Party is all Sarah Palin’s fault. But who let the Palin genie out of the bottle? Obama spends a fair amount of the interview praising John McCain, and never blames him for picking Palin as his running mate.

So McCain continues to look like a hero, and Palin is the cause of Donald Trump, even though McCain is the one who elevated that particular strain of crazy into the Republican mainstream. Obama literally lets this dude slide.

What Goldberg Should Have Asked: He should have asked, “Doesn’t McCain share some of the blame for choosing her?” But that would destroy the narrative where Trump hijacked the party. It would show mainstream Republicans have been flirting with that insanity the whole time and turned to it when they needed it. It’s easier to blame the crazy woman though than the crazy men though, so whatever.

What Obama and Goldberg Said About the Tea Party

Goldberg: In the book, you describe what Santelli did on CNBC—his call for a new Boston Tea Party—as “bullshit.”

Obama: You can tell if you watch it that it’s shtick. It’s no different than Celebrity Apprentice. It’s entertainment. Except what I noticed watching that clip at the time, and rewatching it as I was writing the book, is that the traders—he’s doing this shtick at the Chicago Board of Trade—the traders believe it. The sense of grievance, the sense that “we”—and define we however you want: white Americans, working-class white Americans, conservatives—“we” are the aggrieved party and that “we” are being victimized, that sense is notable. You have billionaires and CEOs starting to feel like they’re being victimized. And it was interesting to recognize how powerful that impulse was, how readily people would embrace this kind of aggrievement and anger, the resentment that Palin and Santelli were peddling.

So the Tea Party becomes a genuine manifestation of that. It’s rooted in very real frustrations that folks are having about stagnant wages and communities that are deindustrialized. Folks feel like the insiders are taking advantage of them, and there’s a sense of loss of status and identity. It was becoming apparent very early in my presidency that you could take anger and frustration and direct it in what I consider to be a pretty unhealthy direction.

This is the most frustrating part of this interview to me. Obama is being plainly incoherent. How does President Obama say that Santelli’s Tea Party is “bullshit,” and then in the next sentence call it the real frustrations of Americans? How can a movement cooked up by a reporter in a Wall Street trading room be “rooted in very real frustrations?” How does that make sense?

The Tea Party NEVER represented real frustrations. It was invented by a reporter at a stock exchange and was bankrolled by billionaires. So why is Obama saying that it did?

He’s just lying. I can’t come to any other conclusion. Admitting the truth would show that the federal government was literally hijacked by billionaires and shut down. If Obama said, “The Tea Party was a front for billionaires, and nothing more,” then it reveals the utter impotence of him and our political system in the face of wealth. So I think he’d rather not say it.

What Goldberg Should Have Asked: “How can a movement that started in a stock exchange represent the real frustrations of Americans?” How did this guy win awards? How? Unless of course, the award is for bullshit journalism, which is what I’m starting to believe.

These are just three examples from the Obama interview, and they all point towards the same thing: a worldview which holds the preservation of the status quo above all else, and an unwillingness to hold the powerful people who’ve lied to and stolen from the American people accountable. And the reporter, our brave champion of truth, just sits there and records the lies instead of challenging them. I’ll pass on subscribing to The Atlantic.

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Fucking Liars Man

I was talking to a Black friend about the election. I told her I didn’t vote because I didn’t like any candidate. She agreed, and said, “If I had voted, I would have voted for Trump.” I asked her why.

“Because he says what he’s really thinking. Biden and Harris with their pro-Black stuff just sounded fake. Like they were hiding what they really think.”

I thought about it for a moment. Trump does say what he feels- it just happens to be untrue 90% of the time. He believes what he says, which is how I know he’s my enemy. Biden? I don’t believe a word that leaves his mouth. I think he’s my enemy, but I can’t be sure. I get why she’d rather elect an openly antagonistic enemy than a lying, sneaky one.

It echoed a thought I’d had a few days ago, where I finally understood why so many people voted for a lying, racist, sexual abuser named Donald Trump. It’s the same reason more people voted for a lying, racist, sexual abuser named Joe Biden: fear. Maybe it does make sense to choose the person whose rampant lies are more obvious.

And the lies really are rampant. A big part of “Amtrack Joe’s” whole appeal is based on his middle-class upbringing- except that in reality, his grandfather was a wealthy oilman, his father was a failed businessman, and he began collecting a federal salary worth $250,000 in 2019 dollars at the age of 29. It’s all right here in a Forbes article from April of last year. What part of his life sounds “middle class” to you?

And then this dude has the audacity to ask working people for donations to run the government? THEY’RE CALLED TAXES. TRY PUTTING SOME ON YOUR BILLIONAIRE FRIENDS. The fuck? Sell one of your houses! Ask your buddy Barack for a loan! And what happens to all of those donations when the GSA eventually certifies the election and the money is released? Are you going to give the money back?

Take from the poor, give to the rich, all while lying through your teeth. What’s the difference here?

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Kim Ng

After my last post, it feel nice to have some good baseball news. The Miami Marlins have hired Kim Ng as their general manager. She is the first woman to hold the position, not just in baseball, but in any of the major North American men’s sports. It’s a big deal, and great to see. I recommend Sarah Spain’s (@SarahSpain) write up about it.

I’ve been aware of Kim Ng for twenty-ish years. I remember when she was assistant GM for the Yankees and then the Dodgers. To reach that position, with two of the sport’s marquee franchises, made me think she must be at least ten times as qualified as any of the male GMs in the game. Ever since, whenever the GM spot has opened up for the Red Sox, I’ve been hoping she would get the job.

Alas, my wish never came true. I have nothing against Theo Epstein, Ben Cherrington, Dave Dombrowski, or Chaim Bloom. They are all smart, and qualified, and seem like decent people. But, they’re all basically the same. Dombrowski’s a little older than the others, but if you factor that in, they all even look, sound, and dress alike. And it’s not just the Sox. It seems like it’s every executive in the game. I hate to say any two people are interchangeable, but if Brian Cashman and Andrew Friedman were to switch bodies via some kind of Freaky Friday incident, I’m not sure they would notice, let alone anyone else.

It will be great to see Kim Ng running a professional baseball team. I wish it were my team, but I’m very happy for her. I hope she’s wildly successful and some other teams follow the Marlins’ lead. Baseball can really use some diversity and fresh thinking in its executive ranks. This is a great start.

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It’s Hard To Be A Red Sox Fan Right Now

Photo by Maxence Bouniort on Unsplash

I’ve been a Red Sox (@RedSox) fan my whole life. It’s inherited, on my mom’s side. I remember the first game I ever saw in person. The Sox were playing the California Angels at Fenway. Yaz was still on the team then. The crowd went crazy every time he came up to bat. He hit a home run and a double in that game. (I also distinctly remember Valentine, the Angels’ right fielder, making a spectacular play.) I was devastated in 86 with the loss to the Mets. And I was deliriously happy in 2004 when the Sox defeated the Cardinals.

I know a lot of people read the title of this, and got a little ticked off. The team has won four World Series in the last sixteen years. They make the playoffs almost every year. They’ve won MVP awards, Cy Youngs, Gold Gloves. Heck, JD Martinez actually won the Silver Slugger at two different positions in the same year. The Giants (@SFGiants) and the Cardinals (@Cardinals) are the only two teams that have been close to as successful in the 21st century. So, I feel like I have to explain myself.

For me, being a fan isn’t just hoping the team wins or being happy when they win. That’s part of it, of course, but it’s a whole experience. There’s the family connections. Following the Red Sox makes me closer to my mom, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There’s the aesthetics of the sport. It provides visual and auditory pleasures, and the storylines can be gripping. There’s a communal aspect. Baseball and the Sox help me feel a part of New England and America while making me feel connected to Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, Japan, Aruba, and other places.

But the main thing is genuinely liking the team. Teams have personalities. It’s a little like dating. Wins are looks. Good looks are great, but if that’s all there is, you’re not going to have a lasting, fulfilling relationship. (Casual fandom can be fun. It’s how I watch basketball. I want more than that from baseball, though. The real thing is way better than casual.) Lately, the Red Sox just don’t seem to want to be likeable.

It started five years ago when the team fired Don Orsillo (@DonOrsillo). He was the team’s play-by-play announcer from 2001-2015, and he is basically the best in the business. He can make a three hour rain delay after the team’s been eliminated from contention fun to watch. And, more than that, he’s one of us. He’s born and bred in New England and a lifelong Sox fan. Firing Donny O was like a slap in the face. It gave the distinct impression that the team doesn’t really care about the fans.

The next thing happened this past January when the Red Sox traded David Price and Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. David Price (@DAVIDprice24) stings just because I’ve been a fan since he came up with Tampa. He should have been the 2018 World Series MVP, and he was our best pitcher in 2019, then he was gone. Like I said, it stings, but with Price, I understand that’s it’s part of the game. Players I like get traded all the time, and I get over it.

Trading Mookie Betts, however, is unconscionable. Mookie (@mookiebetts) has been the best player in baseball for at least the last four years. One of the best things about baseball is there are a lot of different ways to be good at it. Mookie is great in all the ways. Add to that the fact that he’s incredibly fun to watch, charismatic, and seems to be a genuinely good person. It feels like if the Giants had traded a young Willie Mays. It’s the type of move that can curse a franchise and cause an 86 year World Series drought. (I know I just compared Mookie to Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, that’s how good he is.) Trading Mookie Betts does not make your team better in any way. It’s penny-pinching by the billionaire owner, and it hurts.

The most recent bad move on the part of the Red Sox is the rehiring of Alex Cora as manager. I should say that I’ve always liked Cora, as a player, and a coach, and a manager. But when the report of the Astro’s cheating came out and Cora was at the center of it, I knew the Sox had to fire him. This wasn’t cheating like throwing a spit-ball or corking a bat. This hit at the very integrity of the game. It’s likely that innocent people lost their jobs because of Cora, and it’s almost certain that L.A. was robbed of a championship. You can’t overstate how important integrity is to sports and games. By rehiring Cora, the Sox show that integrity just isn’t that important to them.

I don’t know what to do now. The Padres (@Padres) have a young, exciting team and the best play-by-play announcer in the game. The Dodgers (@Dodgers) also have a young, exciting team. And if wins are looks, the Dodgers are drop-dead gorgeous. They have Mookie Betts and David Price and Dave Roberts (who will forever be one of my favorite baseball people). Plus, my dad and brothers are Dodger fans, so there’s a family connection. I could really see myself as a Dodger fan. They’ve always been my 1a anyway.

Unfortunately, feelings can’t just be turned off and on. I can’t switch affection to a new object at will. I still really care about Jackie Bradley Jr. (@JackieBradleyJr), and Raffy Devers, and Xander Bogaerts. But if the Red Sox don’t get their act together soon, a break-up could be in order. I wonder how I would look in Dodger Blue.

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Why Is Saturday Night Live Replacing Its Cast?

This has been bugging me ever since the show cast Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump. On a show like SNL, getting face time is the key to moving forward in show business. Part of the reason we’re still watching Will Ferrell movies is because of his role on SNL as George Bush (who can forget “strategery?”). That opportunity has been closed to current SNL cast members for the foreseeable future- most politicians that show up regularly are played by political ringers.

Last night though, both Maya Rudolph and Alec Baldwin showed up in the nonpolitical Uncle Ben skit. The skit was hilarious, and I feel confident saying that it’s going to be watched in the future. That’s two cast members who have lost the chance to be seen over and over. There’s even a Black woman on cast, so why was Rudolph in the sketch? Is it that they think their regular cast isn’t funny enough?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Maya Rudolph (fuck Alec Baldwin). But what frustrates me is that this is another example of the rich getting richer. It’s reflective of everything that’s happening in our society. Opportunity and wealth continues to be sucked up towards the top, even when it comes to plum acting roles. This has also been a problem in voice acting for years, as celebrities get top billing in roles instead of actual voice actors.

It might seem silly to focus on the cast of SNL with everything else going on, but it’s a clear visual example of what’s happening to millions of people. The chance to improve themselves and get ahead is taken away from them, even after they’ve earned it! Those actors were hired by SNL to act, so why won’t they actually let them?

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Credit Still Makes Zero Sense to Me

My credit score

The pandemic has given me more free time than I’ve had since being a kid. It’s given me time to think, and I keep coming back to the credit system. I don’t get it. At all.

As I understand it, you need good credit to buy things that you can’t afford with cash in hand. You build credit by buying things you can’t afford with cash in hand (or you buy things you can afford, but with your credit card, and risk a fee…why?). My question always comes back to this: why should I buy things that I can’t pay for with cash in hand?

Most of this perspective comes from growing up. We lost our car, our business and our home when I was in middle school. That burned into my head the idea that if I couldn’t pay for it right then with cash, then I wasn’t going to buy it, because that meant I actually couldn’t afford it.

So I’ve never used a credit card. I’ve taken out one private loan in my life, for $1,000 to pay rent. I don’t have a credit score. When I share that with people, they always say things to me like, “Don’t you want yo own a house?”

But mortgages don’t make any sense to me either. How do you “buy” a house, and then spend 30 years paying for it? If I were to miss enough payments, I get kicked out, like I did as a kid. How is that “ownership?” Instead of asking for $200,000 to buy a house, I keep wanting to ask, why does a house cost $200,000?

I’ve accepted that I’ll probably die on this hill alone, but that’s fine. I just don’t want to owe people money for things that I knew I couldn’t afford before I bought them.

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Scott’s Tots

I was talking to my drug dealer a couple of weeks ago about his plans for the future. He wants to open up a music studio, but he needs money to make that happen. “I want to get a $10,000 loan, but my credit isn’t great,” he said. “I got ways to pay it back, I just need the loan. I’d settle for $5,000.”

“I know a guy,” I said to him. For whatever reason, I know lawyers and bankers. “I’ll give him a call and see if he can help you get a loan.”

I made the call and reported back to my dealer. There was no way around his credit score, so he’d have to improve that. No worries though, because there’s a free program to rehabilitate credit. After that, he can reach out to a special bank that works with new startups, but they require a fleshed-out business plan. No worries though, because there’s a free six-month program to show him how to make a business plan. Once he was done with that, he would be in good position to apply at the special bank.

“So they want me to spend a year proving I’m ready for the loan, and then they still might not give it to me?”

“Yeah.”

“This is that bullshit I’m talking about.”

“Yeah. Sorry.” He decided that adding cocaine to his menu was the most direct way to his goal.

A few days later, another friend reached out to me. I met her at Trinity, but she was now back home in Palestine. She asked me to help her with a scholarship essay so that she could enter a Ph.D program. I said sure; for whatever reason, I know what colleges like to hear.

“The program I want is very specific. Palestinians have no digital rights. Israel does not respect our rights, and our leaders can’t pass laws to protect us. I want to help secure the digital future of my people,” she explained to me. “I’ve been accepted to Ph.D programs, but they all came without funding. I need scholarships to attend.”

I went to work revising her essay, trying to help the best draft shine through. That meant lots of cutting, and I found myself asking the cynical question, “How do I connect her personal suffering to the messaging this scholarship fund will respond to?” I worked and she worked, trying to hone her refugee experience into a sufficiently brief statement.

We missed the deadline.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I will just try again. I’ll need your help when I’m working through these other scholarships.”

So all that was in the back of my head when I decided to finally rewatch Scott’s Tots. I hated this episode because it hurts so much to watch. Michael Scott is a fictional character, but I’ve met so many people like him- people who make promises about changing lives that they can’t keep. It reminds me of my experience in ConnCAP, the Hartford Courant, CREC and so many other “do-gooder” organizations who claim to help, but never solve the problem.

Michael stands there and faces the music (after being shamed into it), but still manages to feel good about himself when Erin tells him that the Scott’s Tots kids have higher high school graduation rates. That’s the ultimate rub with the do-gooder organizations: even when confronted with the reality of their constant failures, they manage to spin hay into gold by raising up the minor success they achieved and slapping the phrase, “We’re doing good work” on it.

But so what? So what if kids who were planning on college got out of high school at a higher rate? So what if there’s a bunch of free hoops to jump through for a loan? So what if there’s a scholarship process where you commodify your pain IF IT DOESN’T FUCKING LEAD ANYWHERE?

I love this episode now because it’s calling out all of that do-gooder bullshit. When that kid said, “You’re supposed to pay for my college,” I heard him say to every person who has used the word “equity” to my face, “You’re supposed to fix this.” Michael didn’t, and still managed to feel good in the end. Like I said, I’ve met alot of Michael Scotts, and my friends are forced to continually dance for them.

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I Voted, Whoop-di-doo

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I voted today. That’s no shock. I’ve voted in every election, primary, referendum, and ballot question since I turned 18. Voting is very, very important to me. Every time before today, I’ve been an enthusiastic voter. Today, I don’t think I could have been less enthusiastic. I’m lucky I made it to the polls myself. I didn’t even bother encouraging other people to vote, and that’s become something of a tradition around here (Just look at this, this, and this).

It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of the election. I’m on record saying that Trump is an existential threat to our nation, and I really believe that. Four years of Trump has been an unmitigated disaster. Four more years would be worse. You would think that would be enough to get me fired up, but it wasn’t. I’m just not the type to vote against someone, no matter how bad. I need to vote for someone.

To say Joe Biden didn’t inspire me is an understatement. Even his most ardent supporters seem to have trouble explaining why he’d be a good president. They just talk about how he’s kind and decent. Not to belittle kindness and decency, the world is sorely lacking both, but I need a lot more than that. At best, Biden is a completely average 77 year-old, white male. I just can’t imagine how he’s even going to begin fixing what’s wrong.

I’m writing this before the results are in. I have no idea who will win (which is weird, but off topic). I desperately hope that it is not Trump, which is why I’ve refrained from criticizing Biden before the election. I just wish I had some confidence in Biden. I really miss the little thrill I used to get when I fed my ballot into the machine. I wonder if we’re too broken for me to ever get it back.

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I’m Just Angry

Here’s why.

What the fuck has a Democrat done for me?- I’ve lived in Democrat-controlled cities in a state that has been controlled by Democrats for most of my life. Yet the schools I attended were segregated. My neighborhoods have been segregated. I’ve watched my friends and family die in CT in ways that my white friends don’t.

This, after voting in every local, state and federal election since I could. I didn’t expect that 17 years of my votes would alleviate these problems completely, but I did expect some fucking progress.

Barack Obama- The experience of voting with all my heart for Obama, and then watching how both he and the government failed to get anything done is the underpinning of this feeling. Even if he’d been willing to carry out the changes we needed, a racist minority was able to stymie him at every turn. That’s how our government functions on a day-to-day basis.

Then there’s the man himself. He could have filled his cabinet with young, fresh thinkers to lead the party into the 21st century. Instead, with the “team of rivals” okey-doke, he filled it with the exact same people who’ve run Washington for 40 years. Obama helped ensure Clinton’s and Biden’s runs by positioning them for it.

All the shit that DHS, ICE and CBP are doing, running rampant in American cities? They had a bunch of time to practice while harassing and murdering Muslims and immigrants during the Obama administration too.

Last but not least is the advice he gave to LeBron James regarding the NBA strike. These players had built a multi-racial, multi-sport coalition through direct action and shut down professional sports. And Obama fucking killed it by telling him to work through the system So instead of an incipient labor movement, we got NBA owners opening their arenas to vote. You know, the same NBA owners who donate 80% of their political contributions to Republicans. The same NBA who said that we should have a “return to normalcy” next season when all the Black Lives Matter reminders are removed since, you know, the normal state of things is killing niggas when you feel like it. What a fucking joke. It looks to me that Obama would rather the players transfer power from themselves to the system that smiles in their face and stabs them in the back.

The continuity of this bullshit does not serve me.

Donald Trump- I think I’m actually more disappointed than angry at Trump, because I can imagine a world where Donald J. Trump is a decent human being. Can you imagine? He really did tell the entire political and media establishment to go fuck themselves. He really realigned politics. I think we’re even going to get new political parties out of this. Donald Trump really did destroy the old political order, and could have done some great things. It’s just too bad that he’s a racist, sexist motherfucker.

KAMALA HARRIS IS A FUCKING COP-I don’t feel like I need to say much more, but consider this: the best way she thought she could make a difference was by locking niggas up? And win or lose, she’s gonna be one of the leading candidates for 2024. Trump screams law and order and everyone flips out, but I suppose I should be okay with the police state being led by a Democrat.

Joe Biden- Just a regular ass white man, passed up the chain BECAUSE he’s a regular ass white man. And to every person who has said that we should move on from his racist ass past: there are clear benefits to bussing, even with the fucked up experience it is. How many kids do you think were denied those benefits because he wouldn’t stand up for them? And I’m supposed to believe he wouldn’t sell us down the river again?

So yeah, I’m just gonna spend today watching Agents of Shield and relax.

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People Are Not Stupid

This might be the teacher in me talking, but it really bugs me when I hear people discussing politics and someone says, “People are stupid,” or “Americans are stupid.”

First of all, I don’t think anyone is stupid or incapable of thinking. Secondly, I think most people understand their own lives and how they feel about it. Feelings are what drive decision-making, not facts.

But most importantly: why do some like calling people they don’t know names? What feels good about that? Because you could say, “People make decisions I don’t understand.” I guess that would actually place the burden of understanding others on the speaker though.

People make decisions based on how they feel, given their context. Those decisions can be bad and wrong, but they’re not made out of stupidity.

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