Casualties of the Mueller Report, et al.

We Used To Talk, Until We Wouldn’t

I’ve lost a lifelong friend (50+ years).

We’ve know each other since elementary school, and for half a century we shared countless moments surrounding school, play, work, travel, entertainment, sports, food and beverage (probably more beverage), friends, family, and eventually, politics.

As with all normal friendships, especially ones of this duration, we have long lists of commonalities and differences.  Years ago those differences were largely complimentary, where one’s strengths would make up for the other’s limitations when needed.  For example, one of us is very creative, while the other is not.  One of us is very organized, the other, not.  In those situations that called for creativity or organization, we’d cover for each other (rather fabulously I might add) much to our mutual benefit, and with mutual appreciation.  The complimentary differences were as foundational to the friendship as our similarities, and perhaps even more valuable.

Again, as with normal friendships, there were also differences that were not complimentary.  However, while those differences were often in conflict, the conflict remained isolated to the behavior, or the attitude, or the idea.  We usually did not allow the conflict to rise to the level of being divisive between us.  And on those occasions when it did, we worked through it pretty quickly, because the friendship was more valuable to us than whatever is was that was the source of conflict.

Sadly, over time that changed.

And why?  I’m sure you can guess… 21st century politics.

I think of all of the other conflicts we had over the years; ego, cliques, work ethic, drug and alcohol use, money, family dynamics, girlfriends, too many hours of close proximity, too many months (and miles) of separation, and even 20th century politics.  Decades of all that were nothing compared to the devastation that has occurred largely due to recent political discussion.  In fact, discussion isn’t even the right word, for there is no more discussion.  There seems to be only posturing, pretentiousness, denial, arrogance, self-righteous outrage and narcissism, all of which make for terrible discussion.

My friend and I are a microcosm of today’s American society, and it’s a shame really, for all of us.  We’ve become so polarized that even the most prominent, deep-seated similarities no longer matter.  All that matters is the degree to which we can ardently defend our respective positions to the point of conquering (and even humiliating) anyone with the gall to have a view that differs from ours.

Differences used to be just that, differences.  Nowadays, it seems that any difference is taken by some as disrespect, an offensive form of aggression that constitutes genuine violence to some.  Most of us were raised with “Don’t hit me!” which we all agreed was wrong, and doing so often resulted in one getting (rightfully so) hit back.  Now, it’s “Don’t say that to me!” or “Don’t even talk to me!”  We’ve witnessed an increasing number of people respond to free speech with physical violence.  In the cyber world, former friends now block each other on their phones or on facebook, not because of a threat, not even because of a perceived insult, but over a simple difference of opinion.

This has to change, and that change begins with each and every one of us.

When it comes to taking a stand regarding current political topics (regardless of however contentious they are) we have to decide just how important is this really?  Is this in fact, a hill we want to die on?  If we choose to do battle, we do so fully aware that the outcome is in question, we may win, or we may lose.  However, one thing (and only one thing) is certain, eventually we will die.  When that moment comes, do we want to be standing tall, triumphant atop the kingdom of our own making, or do we want to be shoulder-to-shoulder, hand-in-hand, and heart-to-heart with our comrades in life, differences and all?

Civility is Dying, and Only We Can Save It

Civility is dying, and only we can save it.

There seems to be less and less formal politeness and courtesy when it comes to public behavior and especially public discussion.  If fact, “discussion” itself seems to be at an all-time low, replaced with argument, ranting, protest and personal attack.

I’m fortunate to associate with a great many intelligent, articulate people from all walks of life, female and male, old friends and new, encompassing a wide range of ages, economic status and ethnicity.  If you are reading this, then it’s very likely that you are among those in my life for whom I am grateful.  You support my efforts that are worthy and discourage those that are flawed.  You keep me appropriately grounded when I’m flying high, and lift me up when I’m down.  And while we certainly don’t agree on everything, we do agree to remain honest and respectful with each other, even when we disagree… even when we disagree passionately (which we sometimes do, and thank goodness for that!).

 Media – Mainstream, Social and Anti-Social

The advent of email, texting and social media has enabled me to stay in touch with countless individuals with whom I would have otherwise lost touch.  In addition, the majority of my friends and acquaintances appreciate being objectively informed, and there are selected segments of social media that enable that.  Sadly, I think we are well past the time when we need to take a very serious look at how we communicate with each other.  I appreciate spirited debate, as it was foundational to the creation of our country.  However, it seems that the vast majority of mainstream and social media (Facebook, twitter, etc.) has devolved into a public platform for people who routinely cross way over the line from legitimate, fact- and reason-based reporting and perspective into rhetoric, hyperbole, and ad hominem attack.

How We Treat Each Other Today Foretells Our Tomorrow

American citizens certainly have a First Amendment right to say pretty much whatever they please, but that doesn’t mean we have to invite all speakers into our presence, much less allow them to remain while they insult us and our other invited guests, most of whom usually just turn and leave.  Permitting this behavior unchecked contributes to the continuing decline of civility within our society.  No Boardroom in the country would allow this type of behavior, in fact, no respectful Public Forum should allow this on an ongoing basis.  One of the reasons I’m becoming less inclined to comment on Facebook posts is that I do not wish to be figuratively spat upon (privately or otherwise), much less engage in a public spitting match.  Someone once said: “Our daily behavior with each other is clear indication of our future together.”  The examination of any recent day’s public discourse could suggest that we are in store for a very undesirable future.

Civility benefits from adherence to known facts, and suffers when those facts are spun (regardless of whether they are spun left or right).  I believe mainstream media (for their own reasons) does more than enough spin, sometimes with complete disregard of foundational facts, even in the presence of irrefutable evidence.  The result is often higher ratings, and always higher emotions, helping to drive the ever-increasing divide between Americans.

The level of self-righteous outrage has clearly gone way off the rails.  I’ve never witnessed so many people do so much damage while charging forward absolutely convinced that not only are they “doing the right thing,” but firm in the belief that they, and only they know what the right thing is.  And… anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, they are evil!  It’s no longer “I’m right and you’re wrong,” it’s “I’m right and you’re a despicable worthless piece of human trash.”  Over the past few years I’ve been far more savagely attacked for things that I questioned than for anything I ever actually proclaimed or did.

The Price of Winning

This ever-increasing environment of disrespectful narrative does nothing but raise the collective ire, contributing only to the bad taste in one’s mouth.  I used to look forward to jumping online, but anymore, being deluged with posturing, lies and rage is not at all how I wish to begin, much less spend my day.  A former US Senator recently stated that his promotion of an egregious lie about a political opponent was perfectly fine because it helped contribute to the opponent’s defeat, affirming that victory was more important than honesty or integrity.

Along with honesty and accuracy, civility should be paramount.  Anything less devalues all manner of respect, including self-respect.  As such, we really need to decide if winning in the public discourse at any cost is worth it or not.  Civility is dying, and if we don’t change our behavior, our Civilization will follow.

The REAL Fight

What is all of the fighting really about?

Despite all of the rhetoric, spin and distractions, we are facing a very simple issue: Are American citizens better off with a physical barrier along our border with Mexico?

This is a simple question. Regardless of your political affiliation, or who your favorite elected officials or preferred thought leaders are, the answer should be a simple yes or no.  And, being intelligent citizens, we should be able to fundamentally explain our reasoning and thus defend our answer.

Given many of the actual words from both Republicans and Democrats in the recent past, it is reasonable to conclude that the current fight is not about the wall, it’s not even about illegal immigration.

Lately, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has expressed vehement opposition to the wall. However, that wasn’t always the case.

In 2009, as the Chairman of the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee, Senator Schumer was a Keynote Speaker at the 6th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference, Migration Policy Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

These are direct quotes from his 24 minute speech:

“… American people are fundamentally pro-legal immigration and anti-illegal immigration.”

“Illegal immigration is wrong, and a primary goal of comprehensive immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.”

“Operational control of our borders–through significant additional increases in infrastructure, technology, and border personnel–must be achieved within a year of enactment of legislation.”

“All illegal aliens present in the United States on the date of enactment of our bill must quickly register their presence with the United States Government, and submit to a rigorous process of converting to legal status and earning a path to citizenship, or face imminent deportation.”

“… illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple. When we use phrases like “undocumented workers,” we convey a message to the American people that their Government is not serious about combating illegal immigration, which the American people overwhelmingly oppose.”

“Above all else, the American people want their Government to be serious about protecting the public, enforcing the rule of law, and creating a rational system of legal immigration that will proactively fit our needs rather than reactively responding to future waves of illegal immigration.”

“People who enter the United States without our permission are illegal aliens, and illegal aliens should not be treated the same as people who entered the United States legally.”

“… any immigration solution must recognize that we must do as much as we can to gain operational control of our borders as soon as possible.“

“Between 2005 and 2009, a vast amount of progress has been made on our borders and ports of entry. This progress includes: … construction of 630 miles of border fence that create a significant barrier to illegal immigration on our southern land border;”

“… we must create a mechanism whereby all illegal aliens present in the United States on the date of enactment of comprehensive immigration reform must quickly register their presence or face immediate deportation.“

Considerably different from what he says now. So again, what’s the fight really about?

Perhaps one of the reasons that we citizens, neighbors, brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers are increasingly and enthusiastically fighting with each other is this: without clarity or consistency, it is highly unlikely we will ever reach compromise, much less cooperation.

Sadly, that seems to be exactly what too many of our elected officials want.

The Oppressed… Majority??

Taxonomy

I’m a man, living in the USA, in 2018.

It seems like every day, the airwaves are filled with virtue-signaling politicians, “journalists,” feminists, social justice warriors, leftists, and “woke” men proclaiming that we live in a horribly sexist society.  Further, I’ve been told that simply because I’m male, I am part of the misogynistic patriarchy that perpetuates an ongoing, angry, testosterone-induced oppression of females of all ages at all levels.

Never mind that I have a mother, and a wife, and a daughter, all of whom are very intelligent, independent, and who openly profess to be very happy with not only their lives in general, but also with their respective relationships with me.  Never mind that throughout my professional life across multiple careers and industries I’ve reported up to more women than men, including two female CEOs and a female University Provost.

Despite outward appearances, all of these women are oppressed, and since I’m a man, I am allegedly the problem.

Simplicity

The USA is a representative republic, a government by the people, meaning the citizenry vote on practically all matters of importance either directly on majority-rule issues, or indirectly by electing representatives tasked with championing the electorate’s wishes.

According to the US Census Bureau, females represent:

  • 51% of the total population
  • 52% of eligible voters
  • 53% of registered voters
  • 54% of actual voters

There’s more!

According to the National Center for Education Studies, 56% of college students are female, leading to the majority of both Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees being awarded to women.  Given that, one could conclude that in general, women are clearly more educated.  In addition, according to the Harvard Business Review, women control 51.3% of the nation’s wealth, some $17 trillion.

Simply put, American women collectively have more votes, more education, and more money than American men.

As such, it could be argued that American women have it entirely within their united feminine power to control everything!  Together, women can pass or defeat any balloted measure or legislated initiative, they can enact or repeal laws, and they can elect or defeat any candidate.

But evidently the fact that they don’t is somehow my fault?  Perhaps someone could share with me the recent photos or video of men blocking women from voting, and/or preventing women from declaring candidacy for elected office.

Reality

In a market-based economy rife with opportunity, there will always be those who have it easier than others, and those who have it more difficult than others.  Over the course of time, most people will experience both sides of this as they navigate through evolving circumstances, because anyone seeking to accomplish anything of significance typically faces challenges.  It’s not oppression, it’s life.  Often times, our greatest sense of accomplishment comes from overcoming difficult challenges, regardless of how or why those challenges came to be.

That being said, if you are of the opinion that American females are horribly oppressed, facing countless, unfair, male-generated obstacles impacting all aspects of their dreadfully problematical lives, then perhaps a not-so-subtle reminder is in order:  “Uh… Ladies?  I know we’re just males, but we (at least most of us) can count, and clearly you have the means by which to be in charge.”

However, if you choose to reject that premise, well then, you can always just point in my general direction and announce “This is terrible, and I think it’s all his fault!!

Our United States of America

The United States of America.  Our country, our Republic… our home.

This map was created in November 2016, and anyone paying even a marginal degree of attention to the political news has seen it dozens of times.  It represents County-level results from the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and has probably been the source of more misinformation and misinterpretation than perhaps any map in history.

For the record, we are a Nation of about 3.8 million square miles, the red covers 3.3 million (87%), the blue 500,000 (13%).

Frankly I’ve grown weary of too many ideologues shouting and spitting at me what the map really means, and I’m sick and tired of being told that I’m what’s wrong with America because I’m a white male lawful citizen living in a red county.  According to many celebrities, most of the media, and pretty much all of the Left, 87% of the country is populated by people who are racist, uneducated, sexist, xenophobic, selfish and uncaring.

EXCEPT THAT…

Racist?

We are a Nation that elected President Barack Obama, twice, and each time he received more than 51% of the popular vote, and more than 61% of the Electoral vote.  WE are a Nation where, according to the US Census, Black average household income in 2015 was $49,629, and according to The Brookings Institution, in 124 majority-black cities, black families’ income was higher than the national median household income for all races.

Uneducated?

WE ARE a Nation where, according to the US Census, 88% of adults have graduated high school, 59% have attended college, 33% have earned undergraduate degrees, and 12% have earned advanced degrees.

Sexist?

WE ARE A Nation where, according to the National Center for Education Studies, 56% of college students are female, leading to the majority of both Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees being awarded to women.  In addition, according to the Harvard Business Review, women control 51.3% of the wealth, amounting to about $17 trillion.

Xenophobic?

WE ARE A NATION that, according to the US Census and Pew Research, shows the following demographic percentage of population changes from 2010 to 2015:

    Group       2010    2015     Change
–  White        64%   62%      -2%
–  Black          13%    14%       +1%
–  Latino        16%    18%      +2%
–  Asian           5%      6%       +1%
–  Muslim      .9%      1%      +.1%

Selfish and Uncaring?

WE ARE A NATION THAT in 2015, according to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy, contributed $373,250,000,000 to charity…, $373 Billion! On average, that’s $1,166 from every single US citizen…, every man, every woman, and every child.

Considering this data from legitimate sources, I argue that the USA is not racist, uneducated, sexist, xenophobic, selfish and uncaring, for if those characterizations were true, none of the things mentioned above could have occurred or be occurring.

Fellow Americans, brothers and sisters, please, set aside the inflammatory emotions for just a moment and reflect upon the actual data.  Though we are certainly not without problems, people from all over the world go to great effort to come here.  As a Nation, we are tolerant, inclusive, educated and benevolent.  Those inherent values have helped us to build one of the, if not the, greatest civilizations in the history of humanity.  Despite what those who seek to divide us say about that map, THAT is who we really are.

Hobby Lobby

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but at least do so based upon sound reasoning.

 

Coming To a Town Near You

It was recently announced that retailer Hobby Lobby is building a store in Traverse City.

Within seconds of that announcement came the negative comments regarding Hobby Lobby’s right to exist, and Traverse City’s despicable choice of allowing Hobby Lobby to set up shop.  There were repeated indignant declarations of refusing to shop at Hobby Lobby due to things like religion, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom.  However, as the day went on, the positive comments and welcoming statements began to outweigh the negative.

All of this is of no surprise, and is actually one of the beautiful things about a free-market capitalist system.

In the interest of complete transparency, I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby.  I’m just not a bolted fabric, faux flowers, macramé and vases kinda guy, and I simply cannot get excited about a sale on miniature garden gnomes.  Give me a bike shop, a home-improvement center or a music store any day.  But I digress – back to my original purpose.  To the fervently indignant folks who choose to publically “take a stand;” at the very least, let’s all be crystal clear (and hopefully reasonable) about why we do what we do.

The “Issue(s)”

In response to one man’s expressed appreciation that Hobby Lobby was run by Christian people, one woman wrote: “Except most Christians are asshats I’d rather not be around.”  Of note – the US Census reports that over 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.  Therefore, by her own admission this woman thinks that at least 38% of Americans are asshats.  That seems a bit overly condemnatory.

Another woman wrote: “I definitely won’t be shopping at Hobby Lobby due to the owner’s policies toward women and health care.”  I think it’s safe to presume that this is based (at least in part) upon Hobby Lobby’s very public position with respect to certain forms of contraception.

Pertinent Facts and Relevant Questions

For the record, the US FDA has approved 20 birth control methods, 16 to which Hobby Lobby has no objection, including the most effective and most commonly/widely-used methods.  Hobby Lobby and their employee health insurance plan support those 16 options because they believe doing so does not violate their US Constitutionally-protected religious freedoms.  In 2014, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s position.  In addition, I think we can all agree that “health care” involves considerably more than just contraception, and I am unaware of any other aspects of common health care to which Hobby Lobby objects.

Hobby Lobby has a workforce of 34,000 people, 69% of whom are women.  Why would over 23,000 American women willingly choose to work at and support the mission of a company that is allegedly anti-woman?  Of equal importance, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of Hobby Lobby customers are women, to the tune of more than $4 billion in revenue in 2017.  Again, if Hobby Lobby is so terrible, why would independent, free-thinking American woman give to Hobby Lobby $billions of their hard-earned income?

Take an Educated Stand

We are all encouraged to shop where we wish, just as we are free to be angry with whom we wish.  However, it is in our collective best interest to be rational and factually-driven in our reasoning, especially in this day and age of what seems to be an agenda-driven mainstream media offering spin from every direction.  We need to dig deeper to learn more, increasing our knowledge beyond that which is being reported by those with whom we are comfortable.  If we’re going to be part of the discussion, let’s at least be erudite in our passion.

Siblings Day 2018


Surprise!  Prior to a few hours ago, I’d never heard of Siblings Day.  However, upon learning of this, my first thought was the irony of the name: Siblings Day.

I have siblings.  Unfortunately I can’t make a qualitative description any stronger than that because lately our relationships have been…, let’s say less than ideal.

My wife Shari has two awesome Brothers.  In more ways than I can count I am blessed they have become a part of my life.  The three of them support each other unfailingly.  They talk with each other, laugh with each other, and cry with each other.  They kid and tease each other, and occasionally will team up two against one, recounting with great hilarity both embarrassing and ridiculous moments from days gone by.

However, they never raise their voices, must less their ire with each other, and while it’s evident they love each other, what’s even more clear is that they genuinely like each other.  Though they are dramatically different from one another, they are unified in spirit.  For their parents, they are a source of immense pride and happiness, and together the three of them are an absolutely formidable force.  Again, I am extremely fortunate they have come into my world, and welcomed me into theirs.

But back to my siblings and I…  Through the course of normal life, most families have to deal with a broad range of issues, challenges, failures and even tragedies.  Some manage to usually get it right, but I think they are the fortunate exceptions.  The more I read and learn, the more I realize that my siblings and I are probably pretty normal.  We’ve had our successes and failures, individually and collectively.  We have our pride, and our regrets.  Each of us has numerous achievements.  We want for little, we meet our needs, pursue our desires, and even manage to realize some of our dreams.

And yet, together we’ve only managed to achieve siblinghood, falling well short of brotherhood and sisterhood.

This probably makes us no different from millions of others.  I used to wonder, “How did we get to this point?”  But I’ve come to believe that question is not helpful, because depending upon whom is answering, there will be innumerable different answers, and probably even less agreement on the relative importance of any one answer.  No…, though we’re definitely lost, “How did we get here?” won’t help.  A much better question is “Do we want to fix it?”  Given our circumstances, our personalities, and a lifetime of interactions, this may actually be a much more difficult question to confront, much less answer, for any answer will spawn a long list of what could be even more difficult questions.

Life is hard.  In fact, I’ve heard psychiatrists and psychologists say life is suffering.  Perhaps.  I don’t believe that any significant amount of time in my life was spent suffering, especially when you see the kind of truly horrible suffering that takes place in other parts of the world, and even in the poverty- and crime-ridden parts of our country.  In our case, “life is complicated” is probably more apropos.  That being said, I think we have to concede that even our most fervent complications are nonetheless, First World complications.

My Mom would attest that each of her children are all very different from each other, which again, makes us more normal than not.  Sadly, we have allowed our differences, and perhaps our pride, to evolve into passionate disagreements, resulting in seemingly enormous barriers.  Though Shari and her brothers sometimes disagree, they refuse to let their disagreements rise to the level of divisive.  They too have passion, but that passion also fuels an ongoing quest for an abiding, respectful understanding of each other.  One outcome of today for me, is realizing that the real barriers that my siblings and I must overcome are not between us – rather, the real barriers are us.

According to some, the purpose of Siblings Day is to honor the relationships of siblings.  In the case of my wife and her brothers, “honor” is indeed spot-on.  Unfortunately, in my case, honorable would not be at all accurate in describing my sibling relationships.  However, in that I’ve spent a good portion of today thinking (positively) about my brother and sisters, then perhaps the day is somewhat of a success after all.

Or, at the very least, a beginning.