Nov 4th, 2008

On November 4th, 2008 I took the day off from work, strapped my 4 year old daughter into her car seat and drove our minivan to the Obama campaign’s North Philadelphia headquarters. There I was handed a list of people who needed rides to go cast their vote for president. We made five trips that day, carrying about 20 people.marleevotes-2

It was mostly old black ladies who gushed with gratitude and beamed with pride. Two of the ladies commented on how strange the neighborhood looked, they hadn’t left the house in years.

No one in the long lines complained as I wheeled a lady in a wheelchair past them to the front of the line.votersinline-5

I followed one address down a trash strewn street, up to a corner being patrolled by the usual crowd of young men in hoodies and white tees. As I pulled up, one of the guys in cornrows and saggy pants, punches a buddy in the shoulder, throws up a deuce to the others, and hops in my car. He smiled, shook my hand, and said, “I haven’t done this in a long time. Could you kinda show me how the voting machine works?” I left that act of helpfulness to a poll worker. When I gave the guy a ride home he had no problem letting me drop him off right in front of his crew, as opposed to “around the corner” like an embarrassed teenager.phonebank

Looking back 8 years later, that day still holds all of its power and meaning. There was such a positive spirit of hope and cooperation that no long line or inconvenience could bring us down. It was a day full of meaningful acts. It was like seeing a world monument, the Eiffel tower or Mount Rushmore in person for the first time. It was the sort of thing you read about in books, but now confront in real life. It felt like that. We knew, in the moment, in real time, that this was that sort of day. The sort people would read about for years to come. It felt great.

It still does.marleevotes-5

On this coming Tuesday I will go to the polls and vote. Though this election could be remarkable in similar ways, it doesn’t feel anywhere the same. I didn’t go knock on anyone’s door this go round, or volunteer my time. Perhaps it is my latent misogyny, or some sort of patriarchal bias. Maybe. I’ve tried to dig pretty deep to see if that is what it is. Perhaps. But I think it is more than just that. While that event was so uplifting, this one is packed with pure anxiety. Apprehension. Fear. I would wager everything I own, that every one of those people I drove 8 years ago, would do it all exactly the same again today. Nothing, not one thing, in my rear view mirror looking back takes even the slightest bit of shine off that day.

Maybe it is because I no longer have a mini van. More likely, it is because there isn’t a current equivalent of this song.

 

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A Quagmire Caused by the Mud We Have Slung at Each Other.

This is a quagmire caused by the mud we have slung at each other. We have known exactly what both Clinton and Trump are for decades. Now is not the time to double down and give either a chance to be anything new. They are what they are and it is fair to measure them as such.img_5981

Hillary Clinton:

She attended elite schools, Wellesley and Yale, was active in politics while an undergraduate and as a lawyer published academic articles on the legal rights of children. She married an ambitious politician and engaged in a career as a political spouse. By all appearances she endured marital infidelity and stayed in the name of political expediency.  Never just arm candy and state dinner conversation haver, she has always been involved in policy and brokering. She has been running for president since she was first lady. She was elected senator and served two terms. She ran for president, lost the nomination and was appointed secretary of state. She left that post to continue her run for president. She makes an exorbitant amount of money giving speeches and her book deal included a huge advance. Since becoming a senator she has been a centrist, supporting war, no threat to Wall Street, and backed the president on health care; an issue she championed as first lady.

She is a politician in every sense of the word. Her position and experience have granted her access to power, authority, and influence which she appears to use in order to gain more of the same. She is without a doubt brilliant, ambitious, with a willingness to compromise principles to attain a goal, or perhaps more directly put, her principles are that goals must be attained and that all other things called principles may or may not be adopted depending on how they serve her agenda. That agenda almost always has at its core, the next election. She is arguably the hardest working most determined most experienced politician to run for office. She has been running for office most of her adult life and bears the accompanying scars and attributes.img_5088

Donald Trump:

He attended an elite school, obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Wharton. With funding from his father he started working in real estate buying and managing buildings. He branched out into casinos and hotels and since then has filed bankruptcy six times. His real estate company was sued by the federal government for racial discrimination. He was a founder of the United States Football League. It folded. He started an airline. It folded. He started a “business opportunity” marketing scheme which he called a university. It folded. He has always had, and touts as much in his book, a reputation for using legal and financial bullying as regular tactic in getting whatever it is he wants.

He has always liked to be in the media and has consistently portrayed himself as something akin to a caricature of Hugh Hefner. He has been married three times, had public extramarital affairs, gone on radio programs that were marketed as shocking and trashy and bragged publicly of being both those things. He bought the Miss USA pageant, which was the second best known pageant behind Miss America, and chose to differentiate it from its competitor by making it trashier. He has been the star of two reality television shows, Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, both of which are based around making money, conjuring interpersonal conflict, and supplication to Donald’s firing authority. He has spent most of his life marketing his name as a brand that stands for, above all else, wealth. His view of wealth is that it is most important and should be overtly displayed.img_5969

It is silly and rather embarrassing for us Americans to argue with each other or split hairs regarding who these people are. We know, and have always known, who they are. There is nothing new here.

Wikileaked emails from the Clinton campaign exposing manipulation and flirtation with nefarious money only confirm what we have always known, or suspected about Clinton.

Leaked video of Trump being lecherous provide nothing new but rather confirm what he has always publicly said about himself.

They are both known quantities. Please let’s stop arguing that they aren’t who they have shown themselves to be. Let’s stop arguing that they are suddenly extra things that they have never been before.  Let’s be honest with ourselves and come to grips with the truth that these people, who are exactly what they have always been, are who we chose.

If you dislike who Clinton is and then chose Trump, accept that. Accept that he is a lecherous failure at business that relentlessly chases fame and fortune giving little thought to anything else. Do not kid yourself that these negatives are the result of media bias or Clinton lies. The one thing that Donald has the most well documented trail of success in, is leveraging the media for his own benefit. Accept that either you are comfortable with who he is, or that you see these things as less nefarious than what you see in his opponent.

If you dislike Trump and chose Clinton, accept that. Accept that she is and has always been, smart enough to know the rules surrounding things like emails and servers and protocols and that she is calculating and measured enough to take intentional risks along the path to election. Accept that either you are comfortable with who she is, or that you see these things as less nefarious than what you see in her opponent.

We need to own it and not lie to ourselves or to others in some feeble attempt to assuage the cognitive dissonance we are experiencing due to our own compromised principles. Doing so is dishonest. Doing so is dangerous. Doing so entrenches us in the sort of immoral self lies that have caused America to embrace slavery while shouting the word freedom. The sort of self lies that allow us to conquer tropical islands while simultaneously standing against monarchical expansion and colonialism. It allows us the sort of self lies that put our most precious and noble values in jeopardy in order to support our darkest failings.

We are better than this. We must be. And we can start by simply being honest with ourselves and each other; recognizing our two candidates for who they are.DV IMAGE

 

I was Once Republican

Even before I was old enough to vote, I thought I was a Republican. It was part of my upbringing. It was my family, it was me, and I thought I was Republican because that party stood for what was right. img_1677Everyone around me was Republican and we all recoiled in horror, but not disbelief, when Bill Clinton’s affair moved past accusation into scientific fact. He, and the excusing of infidelity and immorality that he stood for, was what I stood against. Because that was what I thought a Republican was. And then I moved to Georgia.onknownsoldiers

In Georgia being a Republican meant you wanted the confederate battle flag to be incorporated on the state flag. That was not me. I didn’t want anything to do with that. But there was more to being a Republican than a flag, like spousal fidelity and financial accountability. I was for those things. But the other republicans made it obvious that they weren’t “for” me. Because I am Mormon. We, the other Republicans and I, were aligned politically, except for that flag, but they made it obvious at every turn that I was not only different, but bad. I was going to Hell. I was in a cult. I could not go to their Christian school; I could not be in their club, because Mormonism is bad.

I didn’t take it that hard. I understood. Growing up in Utah I had witnessed non-Mormon Christian kids being told they were bad. They weren’t welcome in homes and in clubs. They were Gentiles. Now it was my turn. I never thought it was right, not as a kid and not when I lived in Georgia, but that had nothing to do with being Republican. It was just an unfortunate overlap. But that flag thing, and everything it stood for, was enough to cause me not to register in the party of my birth. I still voted for W of course, I just wasn’t registered in a party. Then I moved to Philly.Processed with Snapseed.

Everyone I worked with in Philly was a Republican. It was a corporate job and we pushed a lot of money around. We were hard working, responsible, and deserved the associated rewards. Everyone else thought part of the rewards they deserved included strip clubs and debauchery. Not me. They were mostly married. It didn’t matter. It was just grown up fun and had nothing to do with politics. Democrats were the devil because they wanted to steal our wages, extort us with unions, and get fat on hand outs funded from our pockets. “Screw the religious right” they would say. “Stay out of my bedroom and my pocket,” they would say. “Besides, priests are messing with little boys and deserve to be fried. Democrats don’t believe in frying people and if anyone deserves it, it’s those priests.”

In Philadelphia I also got to know hard working poor people. They lived in violent neighborhoods with bad schools and toiled for every penny they got. Just pennies. Now not everyone worked hard, some had given up. Some were dragging themselves from hovel to handout, hating every minute of it, but seeing no alternative. They bought chips and candy with their EBT card, and paid their rent under the table in apartments where the plumbing didn’t work. It was hard for me to figure out. I never really did, but I learned to call a lot of these people my friends. My coworkers just called them lazy people looking for hand outs.

One day I was waiting to present a new product to one of my larger accounts. It was a family owned company in Southern New Jersey and they took pride in their history. Dad built the company up from the ground, Mom kept the books, and the two boys were running the day to day preparing themselves to take the wheel. It was election season and everyone was complaining about what the Democrats were doing to their property taxes. It was a solidly Republican room and I was waiting my turn. When the big boss, Dad, showed up, he got things under way, “Alright guys get it together. Watch your language because we have our Mormon boy rep here to go over a new product.” Everyone laughed. No problem. I have been to enough happy hours, drunk enough Shirley Temples with these guys to be used to the ribbing. Then there was that one guy. “Oh yeah, the Mormon guy. I know all about Mormons. I see them all the time in their white shirts on bikes. Supposed to be religious but all they do is cruise around North Philly screwin’ black chicks. That’s where you live right?”

I was a caught off guard. Not by his comment exactly, I was used to both crassness and ribbing, but I was more surprised by the complete lack of reaction in the room. The Dad, the Mom, the whole business, no one batted an eye, corrected the guy, nothing. This man had just made a comment designed to mock a specific set of ideals and beliefs that I hold sacred and central to who I am. It was no big deal. No one cared because there was business to attend to and everyone just looked at me, waiting for me to present this great new money making opportunity. These were the Republicans.

I eventually left that job and found myself enrolled in a university program where liberalism was baked into everything. If there were any Republicans there, they were hiding. Conversely, homosexuality and socialists were welcomed; in a way that would make my Republican roots shudder. I was happy to be in such an environment but I was unsure if I would be welcomed the same way.  I stood up the first day of orientation, in front of my classmates and all the professors, and announced my Mormonism. No one cared. Well, not no one, there was this one professor, but they, the rest of them, did invite me out for drinks. Upon realizing their faux-pa, they insisted I still come to the bar. It wasn’t a strip club kind of bar- because they thought those were bad. Ya know, because those places exploit women, promote debauchery and all that.occupypink

I am not a Democrat.  There are things in the platform I just won’t sign my name to. But since I left home, as I’ve grown, as I’ve lived, I have learned that the Democratic Party is not what I was taught it was- there is so much good there. I have learned that the Republican Party is not what I was taught it was- there is something dark and rotten. It does not stand for what I was taught it stands for and it has given a home to something to which I thought we were opposed. And so I am left politically adrift. I do not hate Republicans just like I don’t hate poor people. I do not demonize Democrats just like I don’t demonize Christianity. I am in the middle not because I lack convictions or ideology, but rather because I feel I am bound by them.

I will not give home and shelter to racism. I am devout in my religious convictions. And I stand in the middle and am surprised at the manner in which I find myself isolated. I am surprised because there are plenty of us in the middle, but most of us have gotten here mostly by a disgust at our own. We, or sort of they, are disgruntled with our one party or the other, yet still view the other party, the one opposed to the one from which they originated, as demonic. We have lost the Pollyannaish view of “our own” while also holding fast to what we assume the “others” are. And we have to assume because we venture into the middle but never look honestly all the way over into the other side.

So now I don’t know what I am and it frustrates me. It frustrates me because I have no desire to withdraw into seclusion or inaction. I have a compulsion to participate in public life, be part of society, to do good and make things better, but where is my vehicle? Where is the apparatus for me or anyone like me? I cannot go back to my roots- that party is too deep into something I abhor. I cannot be a Democrat- there is a non-negotiable technicality.

So where now? Am I alone?

 

Political Ideology and American Cement

The Tea Party drives me nuts. All this taking our country back stuff and championing the intentions of the founding fathers gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Now before we start drawing battle lines or calling names I should also put it out there that I’m equally perturbed by the occupy movement and those who are simply looking for something to gather together and shout about. All this gathering and shouting from all sides. Gives me a headache. Heartache too.occupygasmask

Let us talk a bit instead.

I love the United States of America. Really I do. Apple pie isn’t really my favorite but I love brownies, steaks from Texas, and think football was created by heavenly angels. Those angels were in no way associated with the SEC or the BCS, possibly Notre Dame, but more likely in direct ministration to Walter Camp. I feel an emotional connection to the Rocky Mountains, love the stars and stripes, and I truly believe God had a hand in the constitutional convention.

But I don’t believe that after that convention, God put his hands back in his pockets.

That idea is silly. That idea is as silly as the idea that George Washington had dinner with Abraham Lincoln where they discussed Ford model T’s. It is as silly as believing that Frederick Douglass was only 3/5ths human or that James Madison designed the Wright Flier. The world today is not what it was back then, for both better and worse, and that is why we still need some divine intervention.paradebuffalo

What that intervention should be, or in what way, in whose favor, or when, or on what subject, is surely open for debate and I in no way claim the corner on the answer market. But the debate needs to happen and I’m fine with it being a debate. A debate of ideas, solutions, and substance. Too often both of the parties or groups I noted at the beginning don’t debate, they hate. They demonize and dramatize. There is surely cause for dramatic actions, but much too often that isn’t what is called for. We don’t really call for action, we call names.

Let’s knock it off.

Let us pull our stakes out of the ideological ground and look for solutions to problems and form plans to do what is best.

Here is why I say we can’t do this while holding to strict ideologies. Here is why we can’t determine a political philosophy, set it in cement, and then move forward from there. Allow me to illustrate using race and American racism as an example.

Race is perhaps one of the most divisive and dangerous subjects to discuss. There are reasons for this. Within this debate there is an idea known as “institutional racism” or “structural racism”. Just the writing or mentioning of those words sends both the left and the right into a tizzy. The right will accuse those who say such terms are unpatriotic or America haters. The left will call those making those accusations racist. This is because we aren’t talking or debating, we are both, both sides, too busy name calling. It is a shame that there is so much yelling because it drowns out anyone explaining what those terms mean.

I will use cement as an example.

To build with cement a worker must first create a form or mold out of something else. Normally two by fours and other scrap wood is used to build the outline of whatever structure is being built. Once in place concrete can be mixed and poured into the mold and allowed to dry. Once the cement is dry, or set, the scrap wood can be taken away and the cement stands on its own.

And cement can stand solid for a long, long time.

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If something is planted in that cement when it is wet, like a street corner basketball hoop perhaps, once the cement dries you could quite accurately say that object is set in stone.

If we see the founding of the United States and its constitution, or maybe our political ideologies as a concrete object, we have some problems to contend with.

You see when the framers of the constitution, the construction workers of the time, were mixing the concrete they were using some suspicious materials. There was some freedom and liberty mixed in there, I love those things. There was also some capitalism and private property stirring in the pot, also good stuff. But then there was this integral ingredient of slavery, racism, and the money it produced.

Now make no mistake, racism and slavery were definitely in the mix. Key ingredients. A good portion of those at the convention would have never been able to spare the time, or the thoughts, to do the work they did had they been actually laboring on the farms they owned. It is where most of the American money of the time was produced. It was all mixed in. And the forms, or structure around the American wet cement, stayed in place for at least a hundred years. By the time those supports were stripped away, that cement was good and set. It was set so hard that a civil war couldn’t bust it up. Like a rock.

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Then what to do with all that scrap wood?

That is the problem with forms built of wood, they aren’t part of the mix. When slavery ended, and then again at the time of the civil rights act, there were all these people, black people, who had been used for so long to prop up the structure of American society, but not mixed into the original cement. What were they to do?

What was, and to this day is, America to do?

If America and its ideologies are set in stone there is no hope. At least not for “them”.

And that right there is really the rub. That right there is why all the political bomb throwing and name calling prevent any solutions. At least no solutions for those not in the original mix.

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You see once cement is set it no longer has to expend any energy, or try, to stay standing. It is just there, a solid mass that exists without having to try. White America today doesn’t need to be racist, or hate black people, or even think about black people at all. They, or we, the white people, were stirred in when the cement was wet. Now, the black people are on the outside and no one even has to try to keep them there. That work has already been done.

Now this is not to say there isn’t anything that can be done. Or even mean that nothing has been done. But what this surely means is that for any sort of integration or incorporation to happen for black people, something must be done.

It won’t just happen on its own.

What should be done and by whom, and how, is open for debate. So let’s discuss and debate. But for this debate to get anywhere, or rather for solutions to appear, I really hope that Americans aren’t set in stone. I hope this whole analogy is wrong and moot. Or maybe the cement is still wet? I hope this because if it isn’t wet, and it is cement, then the only hope is to get out a jackhammer. If this whole America thing was concrete at its founding then it all has to be torn up and begun again.

I don’t want to do that.

There is a lot of good stuff in the mix. Great stuff. Godly stuff. I love this place.

It can be better.

But it will only get that way if we work at it and if we really look for ways to solve our problems. It is not yesterday and using yesterday’s tools does not always work. Thomas Jefferson, as wise and inspired as he was, did not concoct a plan for what to do about air traffic control. Online piracy was not a problem then.

I think Thomas Jefferson was wise and inspired and may very well have some bits of the answers in the work he did. The problem is, that if the work he did was mixed in cement, we can’t get at it today.CIMG0971