My Life is Words
Words and ideas turn on the lights in the brain
November 4, 2020. We voted yesterday and we are still waiting for the final tally. Needless to say, I cling to the hope that Joe Biden will prevail and become our 46th president. But, win or lose, the distress and disappointment I feel about this election will, I believe, stay with me for the rest of my life.
My feelings don't have so much to do with the differences we have as liberals, moderates, and conservatives. I understand that as nation we have been divided almost 50/50 since the beginning of our grand experiment in democracy. We declared our independence from England on July 4, 1776. It would be fourteen years later after a great deal of disagreement and debate that all thirteen states would ratify our Constitution.
I understand that those of us on the left and those on the right are going to disagree on a great many things. We might agree that too many of the wrong kinds of guns are getting into the hands of the wrong people, but we will struggle to find an approach to gun management that is acceptable to both sides while at the same time, probably not completely satisfying either side, but that is the very definition of a democracy, find a middle ground that allows us to move on to the next problem. Otherwise we stand in one place, constantly arguing and never able to work the next problem.
We will disagree, maybe not on a woman's right to choose but where to draw the line on ending a pregnancy. We will disagree on the death penalty, taxes, free trade, whether or not we have a problem with racism, on how to deal with both domestic and international terrorism, and on healthcare and economic policies. That's okay. Those are the things we have always argued, and they'll continue to be the things we wrestle with as we try to perfect our government and freedoms. In the context of these debates, I'm excluding those on the far-right and far-left. They tend to be extremists or absolutists. They see no middle ground on issues.
The far-right, often religious-right, will stand firm that no woman has the right to end her pregnancy no matter how it came to be, whether rape, or incest, or end it even if her life is in eminent danger. On the far-left, the extremists may take the view that a woman can end her pregnancy within in a week of her scheduled delivery. These kinds of extreme views on any issue leave no room for discussion or compromise and consequently result in deadlock and one side or the other often resorting to violence to try to get their way. That is not how a free democracy operates.
What has me so blue, so down in the dumps about this election is that almost half of the eligible voters who did vote have sided with a despotic man and his enablers and supporters who have shown complete disregard and a lack of respect for our laws and our Constitution and it's processes.
Trump's supporters have stood by a man who has demeaned women; a man who denigrates the Democratic opposition; a man who openly courts organizations like the KKK and the Proud Boys; a man who criticizes our right to disagree and protest, and abuses his office by trying to use strong-arm tactics to suppress criticism and opposing political arguments. These voters have turn a blind eye to perhaps the most immoral individual to ever hold high office in our country, a man who repeatedly has enriched himself and his friends and family by using his influence while at the same time, demanding the repeal of healthcare for millions of people, and who intentionally lied to the people about the dangers of COVID-19, lies and a lack of leadership that have cost the lives of almost one-quarter of a million people with estimates that nearly double that number will be dead by the next inauguration. He has pursued a policy of ripping families apart at our southern border and holding infants and children in cages for weeks and months.
I cannot fathom how, people who call themselves patriots and religious believers can turn a blind eye to the malfeasance and the insolence and the degradation of both the man and the highest office in the land. It almost seems that they were only looking at one issue. Guns, perhaps, or a woman's right to choose or perhaps they cheer for Trump's racist tendencies. Again, I understand a minority holding these views but for half the voting public to take his side in this election leaves me dumbfounded.
This truly is and was an election to measure the heart and soul of our country, and we have come up very short in my opinion. I can accept that there may be twenty or even thirty percent of rage-filled zealots on both sides of the political spectrum who will vote for a candidate who will feed their hatred and who condones and exculpates their twisted views, but for nearly half of all the people
who voted to do so leaves me disconsolate in the extreme.
Over and over in the campaign leading up to this election, we have been told that this election is not about party, or whether you lean right or left, but that it is literally for the heart and soul of our nation and our goal to be a functioning democracy. We were once that shining beacon on the hill that other nations aspired to be only to have deteriorated into a morass of depravity brought on by the dishonesty of a conservative government committed only to self-serving power. And now, it appears that half of those casting ballots either ignored that message or chose not to care about the immorality, the incompetence, and the malignant speech, behavior, and policies of Trump and his supporters.
I am left wondering if I can ever again hold my head high and call myself a proud American. I don't know how any of us can travel to another country and have people look at us and wonder if we were part of the millions who embraced Trump's sick policies. How can I stand for the National Anthem when I know that many people around me don't believe in a word of that song, or our Pledge of Allegiance, let alone the Ten Commandments that those of faith have abandoned as they voted for Trump. I fear our nation is rotting from the inside out and I can't see any way for us to reverse the process.
My life story has been a mini-version of the promise of America from being born into poverty and being shuffled off to an orphanage to spend my childhood. To be the first in my family to graduate from high school; to have spent eight years in the Marines, willing to die for my country if called on to do so; to have worked long and hard, starting in machine shops and moving up through engineering disciplines to become a manager in aerospace, and to have retired and traveled to meet the amazing people of different lands.
And now, being somewhere in the last phase of my life and to see my country veer away from freedom and democracy toward greed and hatred and cruelty with little chance of it returning to its former glory leaves me, heartbroken.
Is it time to rethink and reengineer our Constitution? That is not hyperbole, but looking factually at a rather old document. Some purists may think this to be political heresy; I think it makes a lot of sense.
Our founding fathers — the fact that only men were involved might well be an issue in our modern world — did a marvelous job on their first effort. The fact that the document survives today is a testament to the job they did. What they did was to "engineer" a political and social structure quite unlike anything that had been done to that point in history. And, it was designed around a culture and a set of morals very different from today.
Aristotle (ca 350 BC) was the first to make a formal distinction between ordinary law and constitutional law, establishing ideas of constitution and constitutionalism, and attempting to classify different forms of constitutional government. The most basic definition he used to describe a constitution in general terms was "the arrangement of the offices in a state". He classified both what he regarded as good and what he regarded as bad constitutions, and came to the conclusion that the best constitution was a mixed system, including monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements. He also distinguished between citizens, who had the right to participate in the state, and non-citizens and slaves, who did not.
Over the next centuries, various states tried to create the "perfect union". Spain, France, England, The United States, there is now a long list of countries who have taken on this task and at least partially succeeded. There is a long list of democratic, pseudo-democratic, and barely democratic governments on the planet. The top ten, based on a scoring system, The Democracy Index, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, is a ranking of the countries based on their approach to governing. The top ten are:
Interestingly enough, the United States is not in the top ten; we are 25th on the list. While arguments can be made about how these rankings are developed, it seems to me that there is a general consensus that we don't measure up to most of the Scandinavian countries and a couple of others when it comes to democracy.
My argument is, that like any technology, any constitution, and our Constitution tend to be frozen in the time they were created. They reflect the values, morality, and social construct of the day. While it is true that we have amended our Constitution, it tends to be a somewhat archaic document. Since 1789 the Constitution has been amended 27 times, a laborious process as it should be to prevent willy-nilly changes driven by the whims of elected leaders.
I used the term engineer in referring to the founding father's efforts, and I believe this is a good way to view the document. It is not unlike engineering anything. The first copy machine, the first cotton gin, the first radio; these were all amazing breakthroughs as well as incorporating all the knowledge that existed at the time. Later generations of all these machines were built on the original using the modern technology of the time. Consequently, better and better machines were developed. I believe the same is true with any social/political/philosophical undertaking; it is only as good as the available social constructs of the time.
Let's look at the nation at the time the Constitution was written. The Philadelphia Convention that ultimately drew up and signed the Constitution was exclusively made up of white males. Women did not participate in governance or politics. Women couldn't vote. Children could be pulled from school and put to work at age twelve, or sometimes younger. It was a very different world with different values than we accept today. The following description of life in 1787 is from https://www.mcall.com.
"The United States has a population of about 4 million, scattered up and down the 13 states. It is overwhelmingly white and largely Protestant and English-speaking. Most people are from the British Isles, the largest number from England. Pennsylvania Germans are one of the few exceptions. They make up a third of their state's population. There are also 700,000 black people in America. About 90 percent of them are slaves. Although slavery is still legal in New York and New Jersey, almost all of the slaves are held in bondage south of Pennsylvania.
In the cities, the sweet smell of flower gardens mixes with the pungent reek of open sewers. The stench from the pits of the local tannery equals just about any odor produced 200 years later. The people you pass on the street may smell a little gamey to your late 20th-century nose. Bathing is a sometimes thing on all levels of society. And many people think it is downright unhealthy. Piles of horse manure and swarms of flies are regarded as obnoxious but unavoidable hazards of urban living. Although there are a few wealthy merchants, almost everyone is a tradesman or artisan who lives with his family above the shop.
Rural America seems like a foreign country. It is more isolated than is possible to imagine today. Flocks of the now-extinct passenger pigeon fill the sky, a bobcat's scream echoes off a distant hillside and at night unlit country roads seem strangely dark and forbidding. With a good horse on the best of roads you can make 50 miles a day. But wagons or coaches can cover only 12 to 20 miles in the same time. It is three days of hard bumpy riding from Philadelphia to New York.
Medicine is something practiced at home. Calling a doctor is regarded as a signal that death is near. And the germ theory of disease is still 100 years in the future. Old-fashioned remedies are the best you have. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. When it's time to pull a tooth or amputate a leg there is no anesthetic. You steel yourself to the pain and hope to survive.
A traveler notes that the day begins at breakfast where Americans, "deluge their stomach with a quart of hot water, impregnated with tea, or so slightly with coffee that it is mere colored water." Then, "they swallow, almost without chewing, hot bread, half-baked toast soaked in butter, cheese of the fattest kind, slices of salt or hung beef, ham, etc., all of which are nearly insoluble." Dinner or lunch follows with a mixture of beef puddings, turnips and potatoes that "swim in hog lard," and tea so strong, "that it is absolutely bitter to the taste."
But life in 1787 is not always a dreary round of chores. In cities there are amusements that range from horse racing, cock fighting and gambling to plays, libraries and philosophical societies. Drinking is popular. During the Constitutional Convention, those late-night strategy sessions among delegates are accompanied by much rum and Madeira.
Most Americans of 1787 have little time to keep track of the burning political issues of the day. White male property holders, and only those with a certain amount of property at that, are allowed to vote or hold public office. And, since polls are difficult to reach, many of those who are eligible to vote don't bother.
America of 1787 is a nation in embryo. It has no expressways or railroads, no computers or factories. It did not even have a capitol. Its loose union of states is a jealous alliance. One South Carolinian declared the residents of Georgia and New England were as different as Turks are from Russians. But it does have an idea. It is the belief that individuals have rights that no king or lord can take away. Citizens distrust too much power in the hands of any man or government."
It is against this backdrop of cultural values and social morality and norms that our founders crafted the Constitution. Radio, television, assault rifles, jet travel, computers, international relations and trade agreements on the modern scale, and the Internet and nuclear weapons were unimaginable to the folks that occupied our nation at that time, and yet they were charged with producing a document that that could withstand the test of time, and they did a pretty damn good job of it.
Today we face problems and issues that our founders could never have foreseen. There is the impact of globalizaiton, the eroding of congressional authority and the expansion of presidential authority. While the Constitution gave congress the power to levy taxes, there was no income tax until the Civil War. Many of the taxes we pay today were created in the 1920s and 1930s including the estate tax, gift tax, and Social Security taxes. Today we wrestle with the issue of same-sex marriages, and other civil rights that are argued in the courts without much guidance from the Constitution. This, and much more needs to be revisited as viewed through the eyes of not Thomas Jefferson, but the modern world. Can we provide better answers to future generations? We need to try.
What I am proposing is a new Philadelphia Convention, or Constitutional Convention - the name is irrelevant It would be a large gathering with representatives from every state, men, women, rich and poor, all nationalities and races, people of all religions, liberals and conservatives. It doesn't matter if it's a body of 200 or 300 people; it is critical that it represent a majority of citizens in our country. Their goal would be to bring the Constitution into line with a modern world, looking at the language as it pertains to the operation of our government and the system of laws and rights embodied in the Constitution.
They might have to work for two years on this. Those who need compensation should get it. There needs to be a process for replacing people who have to leave the work for one reason or another. There would undoubtedly be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and maybe even 4th drafts. It might be done like a business proposal with red and gold teams reviewing the output. In the end, they would produce a revised and modernized Constitution. It would have to pass with a super-majority vote; if there are 300 delegates, 70% or 210 must vote for the finished document. One of the provisions of the new Constitution should be a review of the document, at least every fifty years, perhaps something less, but not so often as to create chaos.
Once the document is done, it would be ratified by the Congress. Again, a super-majority in Congress would pass it on to the states where it would be ratified by using the current quota of 38 states with a deadline that must be met. Upon ratification, it would replace the original Constitution.
Because I know I have a tendency to prattle on, and I know some people (perhaps most) won't want to read this to the end of what I suspect will become a somewhat lengthy post, I'm going to do the summary up front in the hope of imparting my message to those who, like me, are skimmers and/or impatient.
Summary: We are what we learn, plus a sprinkling of genetic matter. Life is, or it should be a continuous journey of learning. If you close your eyes and cover your ears at, say, the age of fifteen, or at any age, you will stop taking in the information that will help you grow and learn from experiences; you will be frozen in time. As Terry Coleman, a fine Irish gent I worked with at Boeing responded one when I asked him about a new supervisor who was joining our department, responded, "He has been here 25 years; he learned everything he knows in his first two years and has been repeating the same shit over and over for 23 years."
We only get one shot at life and we shouldn't waste it with our eyes and ears closed to new ideas and experiences. I think we have an obligation to learn and change as we grow. We should leave life a more informed person than when we started and with any luck at all, we will have added to the cumulation of knowledge and passed it on to our children and others. That is literally the definition of evolution.
My Journey To The Left
I wasn't born a liberal; I wasn't born anything other than a small pink collection of cells with the DNA of my parents and ancestors. The rest of my life, now approaching 78 years, has been a journey of learning about myself and about the other humans with whom I share this planet. That, I believe is a universal truth for us all. In my opinion, we aren't going anywhere after this. We will leave behind our ideas, our prejudices, and our love of life, art, music, and everything else that defines us, and with time, assuming we don't become famous, that will simply meld with all the other ideas and become the new normal.
I've documented my early life in a number of places so I won't go over the finite details here except where I think it might relate to my point that I am what I have learned. I have no memories of my mother and father as a child, save one visit from my father on my 4th birthday. I was living with my grandmother, his mother. As I recall the visit, I must have known who my father was because I remember being happy to see him; that would be the last time I saw or heard from him, ever. My mother was unknown to me at all; I had no memories of her and so, in my mind at least, I first met her when I was about thirteen. At fifteen I went to live with her and my stepfather, George Wagner, a great guy and a STBF (Short term best friend).
I lived with my parents as an infant; I know I did because my older brothers told me some interesting stories. Soon, however, perhaps around one year of age and presumably because my parents separated, I was off to my Aunt Bert's house, my father's sister, and shortly after that off to live with my grandmother, Minnie, until just before my fifth birthday.
Whether I was learning anything during this period, I have no idea; my memories are mostly limited to my grandmother and brothers and events and activities with them as opposed to any sort of philosophical, religious, or political indoctrination. I'm persuaded that I was learning to accept change; a lesson that would be useful later in life.
My grandmother was not well; I learned this later. She suffered from diabetes and at around age 70 simply could not raise children, that would be me and my two older brothers. It appears there was no other family to rely on so she ended up placing all three of us in a boys' home in Omaha, Nebraska; my brothers first, then me. Thus, I feel my life story, my journey really began at age five; the rest was a serious of incidents.
The Masonic Home for Boys is now called simply The Omaha Home for Boys. If one has to be raised in an institution, you would be hard-pressed to find a better one. Later in life, I've come to think of that experience, which lasted ten years until I was fifteen, as what I imagine being sent to a military school or some sort of boarding school must be like. Life, while lacking some of the more personal touches of growing up in a family and learning to love, but provided a solid foundation of rules and life lessons that would prove useful later in life.
Please do not go aww, or feel sorry for me. Yes, my life was certainly atypical, but the adventures I had at the Home could never be duplicated in a family environment. While I saw my life as rather inflexible and constraining as most young people do, I was never abused in the common context of abuse. Again, there were situations that I've described in other writings about life in the Home that were difficult, but it was a fun and exciting childhood.
Back to learning. I don't know, and will never know if I was born with an appetite to learn, or if it was imparted in me during my time at the Home. The boys at the Home were divided by age; roughly something like this: age 5 to 10 in the Buck Building, age 11 to 13 in the Scott Building, age 12 to 14 in the Neff Building, age 13 to 15 in the Smith Building, and ages 16 to 18 in the Anderson Building. It's been a lot of years, but that's the general idea; we were divided by age groups with about 16 boys in each building and a total capacity of about 80 boys.
Life at the Home revolved around a number of things; schedule, tradition, religion, and doing chores. It was as WASPish an environment as can be imagined. There were no boys of color when I went there in 1947, and none when I left in 1956. There were no people of color on the staff. The area in and around the Home was, to my knowledge, completely white. That has all changed tremendously (sorry for the Trumpian superlative) and I would encourage you to check out the Omaha Home for Boys if you're curious. It's now full of boys and girls and kids of all colors.
What is now a Middle School, Monroe, is where I went to school. It was then a Grade School and was about a mile away, although it felt like ten miles on a freezing, snowing day walking to school and back, I enjoyed school a lot and was a good student. The school was also lily white in those days. I have no recollection of any students of color in the ten years I went there (they made it a Middle School when I was in the 8th grade, so I stayed on for the 9th)
The good news is, while I had no exposure to people of color or ethnicity, I was also not surrounded by or bombarded by racial animus The staff at the home, to my knowledge or recollection, never said one word about race, nor did teachers at school. My diversification education, as distorted as it was, came from television. Rochester on the Jack Benny Show, Willie Best (a variety of shows and roles), Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, better known by the stage name Stepin Fetchit, and Nat King Cole. They were all images on a screen as opposed to real people.
My first five years at the Home were under the tutelage of Mrs. Mable Stoft. She was a stern little woman with, at times, some strange ideas about raising boys. Still, much of who I am today probably stems from her influence on me; others will have to judge whether that is good or bad.
As I mentioned, this area of Omaha was very white. We boys went to public schools and the church of our choice in the nearby neighborhood of Benson. The churches were, to my knowledge, all Christian. There may have been a Synagogue somewhere, but not that I was aware of. There was a clutch of Protestant churches, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Baptist, and maybe one Catholic church that I avoided like the plague; I did visit most of the other Christians houses of worship over time.
Mrs. Stoft was a solid and stoic Christian woman and she made a point to having us study and read from the Bible daily, along with other educational pursuits, reading, English, and math; she was supplementing what we were learning in school. We typically spent an hour or so reading and in recitation between coming home from school and going to dinner. As I mentioned, it was definitely a WASPy childhood.
Whether I had a talent for memorization, or she helped develop that in me through reading and recitation, I don't know, but I became a bit of a minor star in that regard. I memorized a number of Bible verses as well as the Gettysburg Address and was called on to recite these at special events for the Home which usually involved trying to raise money from donors. I think I became a bit of a hot dog whenever I had a chance to speak in front of an audience; I seemed to enjoy being on stage.
What I did have as a child, or again perhaps was developed in me, was the thirst for knowledge. I enjoyed reading, and had good comprehension and retention of what I had read. Mrs. Stoft also "forced" us to watch certain shows on television. These include artists like Lawrence Welk, Kate Smith, Ed Sullivan, Eddie Cantor, Milton Berle, and Nat King Cole. I think Mrs. Stoft wanted to develop an appreciation of music in us, as long as it was semi-religious. I left before rock and roll blew up; I can only imagine her angst over that. We also got to watch cowboy shows like, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, and The Cisco Kid.
I watched Nat King Cole with fascination. Mrs. Stoft, to her credit, never said a word about him being Black or anything else that I recall, but she obviously liked his music. I knew I was listening to something special, but I couldn't stop looking at the face of this Black guy. No one had said a word to me about people of color, so I just stared in wonderment The same thing happened with the Cisco Kid & Poncho. They were two of my favorite...cowboys?
Cisco Kid was played by Duncan Renaldo, and Poncho by Leo Carrillo. Cisco Kid was a swashbuckling Mexican dressed like a Mariachi. Leo Carrillo was actually born in Los Angeles and his character dress more like a Mexican cowboy, or Vaquero. I knew nothing about Mexicans, Mexico, or Mariachis, but I loved these two guys. The funny thing is that Renaldo was born in Romania and to my knowledge didn't have a drop of Mexican or Spanish blood in him. Carrillo, at least, came from a long line of original Californians and was of Spanish and Italian heritage. The Cisco Kid visited the home once when I was probably ten, and it was a highlight of my life then.
My point in sharing this part of my life is that I had no preconceived ideas about who any of these people were. No one had instilled in me any preconceptions, dislikes, or stereotypes for people of color. Naturally, most of the Black actors on TV and in movies were playing the stereotypical Black person so I probably assumed that was what they were like. What I enjoyed was the humor I saw in their characters without associating it with anything bad.
My life went on at the Home for another five years after I was out from under Stoft's wing, but again, with no overt racist talk or with me meeting people of color. There were a few boys who had arrived at the Home at an older age than me, say twelve-years-old, or so, who did use racial slurs, but it had no meaning to me at the time. One of the terms would stick with me and to this day I tell the story about my naïveté when I left the Home; we'll get to that in a moment.
I mentioned earlier that my mother came into my life when I was about thirteen. She and my stepfather came for a visit. I spent a series of weekends with them at their apartment in downtown Omaha, and a little before my fifteenth birthday, they plucked me out of the Home and I went to live with them.
That was initially a strange turn of events, and probably a strain on me. I had spent the last ten years, perhaps my most formative years, living in dormitories with upwards of eighty other boys and being shepherded by women who seemed to us to be ancient. I was thrust into this new home environment that was very quiet and since my two brothers, who I barely knew, were off to the Navy and other adventures, I didn't have a lot of companionship.
One thing that my early life had taught me was to adjust to the situation I found myself in, and I was pretty good at that. I tended to listen and observe the environment I was in and the people around me and adjusted, to at least survive if not thrive where I was at. That is what I did now living in a family environment, even if it was somewhat atypical.
We initially lived not far from the Home in my stepfather's parents home. That setup lasted only a few months. Shortly after I moved there, his mother died, and a fairly short time after that his father died. I guess the house, such as it was, must have been sold and what money there was divided between my stepfather and his sister. Our next move was to South Omaha.
I had often referred to South Omaha (SO) as 'Little Chicago'. That was due in part to it being one of two major stockyard operations in the country, the other being in Chicago. It also attracted a great many people looking to work in the packing houses. People from Eastern Europe (post war immigrants), and Blacks, Mexicans, and Native Americans as well as white people were all drawn to the area for good paying jobs.
Thus, my education in the world of color began.
I met people of every race, color, and religion you could imagine. Now, to be sure, I heard more than my share of racist talk in the Federal Housing Projects where we lived. Many, if not most of these folks had grown up in SO. There had been race riots, and discrimination between Black and white and Hispanic. There had been issue between white people, between native born white people and immigrants from Europe. There were old issue that came from Europe with the immigrants and those didn't just fall away because they were now in America.
But, since all that racist nonsense had not been instilled in me as a small child, at fifteen, I had developed a brain that could take in opinions and other information and form my own ideas; I hadn't been programmed to discriminate. In the interest of being real, it wasn't like I fell right in with all these diverse cultures. They were strange to me, and sometimes uncomfortable or I simply didn't understand their food, music, or banter, but no one had told me it was "bad". I made my own decisions.
I found myself rejecting the "hate speech," not because I was being coached, but simply because it was who I was. I wasn't exactly a pacifist. Growing up at the Home with upwards of eighty other boys, you have to know there was a lot of testosterone in the air. I could take it outside with the best of them if need be, but I also learned the art of negotiation and that was my preferred approach. I made and rejected friendship based on my assessment of someone as a person, not on color or nationality or any of that.
I mentioned having learned a term at the Home from one of the boys - I don't remember a name — who had obviously been schooled in racist talk. The term was 'Jungle Bunny'. I might have been around twelve when I first hear that, and I had no clue what it meant. I've told people I actually had a mental image of a human-sized rabbit hopping along the trails in the jungle. Everyone laughed when the term was used, but I guess I was seeing a very different image than the others.
Boom! I'm in SO now. I'd made friends with another boy in the Projects, Tom Devaney. We were riding a bus to the SO shopping district one day and grab-assing on the bus the way teenage boys will. The bus was probably half full, and seventy percent of that group was Black. As Tom and I kind of wrestled around, I called him a Jungle Bunny. He froze and his already pale Irish tone went even whiter. I pulled back and noticed that everyone on the bus had turned to look at us; I had no idea why.
Tom hissed at me, "Don't say that you dumb shit!" And what did I do? "What? Jungle Bunny?" I said it nice and loud and again perhaps twenty Black faces turned in my direction. Tom pulled the cord to get off and grabbed me and hauled me off the bus. He then explained what the term mean. I didn't have a clue; that's how naive my little white upbringing had been. Needless to say, other than telling this story on myself, that term has never passed my lips again.
Over the years, I continued to learn. In the Marines, I squared off with more than one good old boy from down south over racist stuff, and I did take it outside with one of them. If a couple of guys hadn't stepped in between us, he would have cleaned my clock; he was fast. It became obvious to me that racism is learned and once learned, it is damned hard to erase.
One more anecdote and I'll move on. After the Marines, and marriage, and a couple of little pink things of my own, my first wife and I moved to San Diego with our children in 1966. Being form the Midwest we were bowlers. I used to bowl on a league for the company I worked for at the time and I would go right from work to get in a little practice before our league started at 6 pm. After practice I'd grab a bite to eat the cafe in the bowling alley. I used to sit at a horseshoe shaped counter and pound down a cheeseburger and fries.
One night, just as I'm finishing, I overhear two older guys who were WWii aged and maybe veterans. What I could hear was stuff like "dirty Japs," "yellow bastards" and at one point, the guy doing most of the talking said something like, "If my kid ever married a Jap, I'd disown the little bastard." By this point, I was seething. I looked over, and the guy must have been 70 if he was a day, and I was about 27 or 28, so I figured I probably shouldn't just go over there and knock him off the stool, so I walked over on my way to the alleys and said something like, "If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I can only hope that you come back Japanese." While he was digesting what I'd just said, I walked off to bowl.
Looking back on those first twenty-five or so years, I can now see that I was moving left and rejecting much of what my white, conservative beginnings were teaching me. My natural instincts were to reject racism, hate, and negativity in general. I attribute this to my natural inclination to question what I'm told is "just the way it is," and search for answers that are logical as opposed to the legendary or hypothetical postulations typically given. Since I definitely was not being taught to think for myself at a young age, I attribute this inclination to genetics.
Having once landed in Southern California, I met and became friends with a number of like-minded people. In those days; they were labeled either hippies or communists for challenging the status quo, but I knew that my belief system and politics belonged in the left lane and the much of what I had been taught as a boy was based in a conservative white Christian dogma that didn't work for me.
Over the years and after the late 60s, and events like Viet Nam and the Nixon and Reagan administrative lies and missteps, I moved even further to the left, and today, with the oligarchy of Trump and his band of felons bolstered by an illegitimate pseudo-news network, FOX, trying to dismantle our democracy and destroy our Constitution, I think I've moved even further left. The young man who was labeled a "commie" is one of the strongest defenders of our Constitution against the likes of Trump that you are likely to find.
Certainly, the focus at the moment in the US and around the world, is with the various agencies involved in the enforcement of laws and their abuse of their authority, and in particular how they interact with people of color.
The "white man" has ruled over this world for a very long time in most cases. Without turning this into a history class, and I shouldn't have to if we've been paying attention, we white people have ruled most of this planet for centuries. Naturally, in China, Japan, the Koreas, and all of Asia, after the Europeans tried mightily to rule that part of the world, and succeeded for a number of centuries, most of Asia wrested back their autonomy from the Europeans.
Until quite recently, the power and the leadership in most western countries was dominated by white males. That would include most of Western Europe, the United States and Canada as well as some parts of South America. To some extent, this is true in Russia, although Russia is almost a study by itself.
In the US, and I suspect around the world, those in power also wrote controlling documents like their constitutions and enacted laws to rule their world. They formed various government agencies to operate their society. Whether it was always a conscious intent or more subconscious, those controlling documents were designed to ensure that those in power, stayed in power. They became manifestos to white male supremacy.
Over the years, I have tried to both explain to my conservative friends what it means to be a progressive/liberal and to also try to understand what drives the conservatives to such draconian solutions to societies issues. I've decided that the basic difference between the two philosophies is whether to reach for someone to give them a hug, or to smack them with a hammer. That may sound a bit dramatic, but let me try to explain what I mean.
With the progressive/liberal - I'll simply use the PL designation for this group - it seems to me that the approach to problem solving typically takes a more compassionate approach. We see most societal problems as human problems requiring a human solution. The conservatives, particularly the so-called right-wing - I'll call them CRW for simplicty - tend to be suspicious of people. When someone is up against it and asking for help, the CRWs tend to think these people are trying to scam the system. The two groups have a very different view of people and the world and how to govern a nation, in our case, one of 330 million people.
These differences are not unique to the United States. The PLs and CRWs exist in every country around the world and are in a continuous struggle to hold the reigns of power to implement their form of government. China, one of the few remaining communist countries and unquestionably the largest is in the control of the CRWs. If you think we have a problem with crime and corruption in the USA, imagine what it must have been like in China before the CRWs came into power. Simply triple the problems in the USA to try to envision the old China. The communists took over and began to tamp down the problems of corruption and crime. Unfortunately, their approach seems to have resulted in the deaths of, and the numbers vary, of around 100 million people. Yet, for all their control, China and their "stability and order" as the top priority of the ruling elite, for the past three decades, crime in China has grown much faster than its economic development. From 1973 to 2002, the increase rate for filed criminal cases by average is 17%. Due to the Chinese government's restriction on information, details are often difficult to come by.
India, on the other hand, is the larges democracy in the world. And, yes, they are struggling with all the problems that come with being a democracy. Major problems in India include various human rights issues, corruption in government, widespread poverty, societal violence based on religion, an overburdened judicial system, so-called "honor killings" and caste bias. The relative importance of each of these issues is subjective and difficult to determine. Conflicts in India between members of the Hindu and Muslim faiths have led to violence in some cases. The rights of women are a serious issue in the country. Rape of women has become the country's fastest-growing crime in the past five years, and yet it is thought to be under reported.
Governments tend to swing from one approach, CRW or PL, to the other. In the UK, you have the Conservative Party that is generally consider center-right. They are CRWish with perhaps a few moderates. There is the Labour Party, the center-left philosophy that is PLish. We, in the US don't have the equivalent of the Scottish National Party the keeps agitating for independence from the UK; the closest we may have is Texas which from time to time seems to think it could fly solo without the support of the Feds. As I write this, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic. One wonders how Texas would be faring if they were on their own. And finally, to the left of the Labour Party in the UK, you have the Liberal Democrats who tend to push for social democracy, not unlike what Bernie Sanders is going on about in the US.
Just about every nation on earth is split between CRWs and PLs, save a couple like North Korea where a brutal dictator is in charge, or Saudi Arabia where the royal monarchy has ruled since the formation of the country in 1932. Saudi Arabia is also a brutal dictatorship held together with a coalition of tribes, bribes, and corruption wrapped in a semi-theocracy. Governments like North Korea and Saudi Arabia are like the CRWs on steroids. Inside even these strict autocracies there exists both governing philosophies, but in some of these countries any kind of criticism is stifled, often under the threat of death.
I mentioned that the PL approach is typically based on compassion and trying to understand the "why" of things like poverty, crime, deviations from the norm, and simply the day-to-day struggles of the typical American, be they citizens or immigrants wanting to become citizens.
That compassion can take many forms and, like the CRWs, can lean toward the extreme at times. A simple example of that notion might be animal rights and protections. Generally, you will find the PLs are in favor of animal protection and rights. I personally eat chicken, pork, fish, and red meat in about that order with chicken being the dominate protein in our diet and red meat at the other end of the spectrum in lesser amounts. I am strongly in favor of treating all of these animals as humanely as possible on the way to our dinner table. I do not consider price to be a justification for abusing animals.
On the extreme end of this issue are groups like PETA. While I can agree with some of their approach in terms of treating animals humanely, I find some of their words and actions to be at best, ridiculous and in the extreme, outright stupid. An example of that is their efforts to change some of our idioms such as "be a guinea pig" or "beat a dead horse". Besides being innocuous terms to describe a situation, this is hardly the biggest problem facing the relationship between humans and animals and is a waste of time, money, and casts a whack job image on the group as a whole. Instead of saying "bring home the bacon", they advocate for "bring home the bagels". Give me a break! You are sounding like an SNL skit, now.
So, within our PL group, we do have our own little bell curve that goes from moderate PLs to the whacko PLs. But, generally, the PLs are focused on making life better for everyone including animals and doing so by understanding what drives our actions.
The CRW approach to governing seems to embrace terms like control, rules, and punishment. Their view of the world seems to encompass a general distrust of the motives of anyone but themselves. They view others with a suspicion that can border on a form of paranoia. They seem, at times, to be consumed with conspiracy theories: "a theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot:"
Consequently, the CRW approach to governing can become draconian in nature. Perhaps one of the best examples of that has been the US approach under the GOP to the issue of immigration. From the Heritage Foundation, the self-ascribed protector of all things conservative, comes this statement in 2014: "Instead, elected leaders in the House should acknowledge that our immigration system is broken, but put the blame where it belongs—on the executive branch’s failure to enforce the law. The first steps to fixing the system must be taken by the president: securing the border and enforcing current laws." Needless to say, they are referring to the Obama administration and their efforts to address immigration.
To be fair, there is a bell curve within the CRW community just like there is in the PL community. This from redstate.com, "We, as conservatives, want those who are here illegally, to understand that we want those who are law abiding, productive members of our society to fully assimilate into America! This does not mean that they must give up their culture or language of origin, but simply embrace the great culture and language of America (“The great melting pot”), as well.
I say this as a man who is married to a wonderful Bosnian / Muslim woman who came here as a legal immigrant, stayed here as a legal immigrant / resident, and became a US citizen last year. We celebrate her culture, language, and religious holidays as well as ours. I respect her culture and traditions and she respects her new / ours. She also speaks our language better than many who were born here and therefore is able to understand our laws, our Constitution, and our history."
I'm not suggesting all CRWs are AR-15 carrying crazies. If the views of this gentleman represented the majority of the CRWs, we would be well on our way to resolving many of our problems.
The truth is that immigration, and here I'm talking about illegal immigration, is not a question of criminal conduct, it is a symptom of a very human problem. People all over the world are fleeing poverty, civil wars, drug cartel recruitment, any number of reasons that make life where they were born untenable. They are literally fleeing for their lives. This is a human problem that will yield to human-based solutions. You have to find the root cause for people wanting to abandon their place of birth and work to resolve that, not look for ways to punish them for trying to survive.
Here, I have tried to explain the differences in approaching problem soliving, using real world examples, between a progressive and a conservative, and in our approach to governing. One offers people in trouble a hug, the other often raises a hammer to subdue and subordinate them or sometimes to intimidate them. This has been especially pronounced under the Trump regime. Like the old saw about drawing attracting more bees with honey than vinegar, I suggest a softer approach will have both better and longer lasting results for our nation and the world in general.
I would call your attention to the fact that the official seal of the president does not have a Confederate flag or a giant TRUMP sign of any sort. It does not hold an image of an assault rifle, nor is it covered with camouflage. What the seal does have is:
So much for the history lesson.
The first question, it seems to me, would be, do we want a president who looks forward or one who looks backward? Do we want a president who will take us confidently into the future or one who pines for the past?
MAGA, Make America Great Again, wants to go back to some ill-defined point in our past. The keyword is 'again,' suggesting that we were once great, and now we're not, so let's go back to that mysterious period where we were at our apex of success. Where that might have been, depends on who you are talking to.
I'm reminded of a comment by a woman that was generally disliked and shunned when I was at Boeing. In her ramblings one day about the men in our group - she seemed to find men appalling - she talked about men from various generations and how they dressed and cut their hair. She pointed out that many of them were somehow trying to recapture their youth, a period in their lives where at least they thought they were at their best. Senior men were dressing the way they did in their twenties or wearing their hair in a style that had gone out of vogue decades earlier. I found it to be a profound observation from someone who most of us gave short shrift to and tried to avoid. Nevertheless, it described what many people do as they begin to sense they have passed their prime.
There is a tendency by every generation, as they age, to dismiss the present and long for the past. That seems to be human nature. We forget the difficult times and only remember what we thought were the good times. Consequently, I think we do need first to decide if we want a president who will move our nation forward, maintain the status quo, or go back to some time in the past that they and their supporters believe as having been a better time.
When we talk about change, we need to keep in mind that the presidency isn't a dictatorship in spite of Trump's efforts and the waving about of his Executive Orders that have the permanency of a high school romance. If we assume the winner is Bernie Sanders with all his progressive plans, understand that he can't do that without the Congress behind him. If he were to go to the White House, and we changed the majority in the Senate to a Democratic majority, the Congress won't rubberstamp all of his proposals.
There are moderate Democrats, some who may have been elected in a state that has been historically red (but can't stand Trump). Those Democrats have to keep in tune with their constituents and if they don't like Bernies healthcare or student loan relief, or any other proposal, their representative to Congress had better listen to them if they want to keep their jobs. Regardless of who the next president is, they won't get everything they want. The real question you need to ask yourself is, will they take us in the right direction?
The likely candidate for the GOP would be Trump, and we know he wants to return to the past - not at all unusual for someone of his age. If he stumbles, resigns, or is impeached, the candidate that replaces him is not likely to alter the GOP's vision or lack thereof, so I will focus on the Democratic candidates.
We have four septuagenarians in the race. They are, in descending order of age should they be elected, Bernie Sanders - 79, Joe Biden - 78, Michael Bloomberg - 78, and Elizabeth Warren - 70. While I think it unlikely that Bloomberg will survive to the convention, politically speaking, I wanted to be inclusive.
I have mentioned before that I prefer a candidate who will live long enough once out of the office to answer for their policies. Of these four, Warren is the most likely to meet that test.
Of the four, I think Sanders is the most progressive in trying to restore our democracy to the people. Next up would be Warren, who has embraced some progressive ideas but seems also determined, through a plethora of proposals, to be focused on plans and regulations to correct what she and a lot of us see wrong with the direction our country has been led.
Biden strikes me as moderate to slightly nostalgic for the old days. His old days are not as old as Trump's, but it seems to me that he talks a lot about how it used to be more than he talks about a future vision. Biden has devoted his life to public service, and for that, he deserves to be recognized and praised, but it may not make him a 21st-century president. Bloomberg is something of an anomaly for me. I'm naturally uncomfortable with someone worth $58 billion spouting off about how he's going to help the working class. He changed from a Republican to an Independent and then to a Democrat. I don't know whether to read that as his evolution from conservative to liberal, or simply playing political chess to improve his chances of election.
Next, we have the "others," and I don't intend to demean any of them with that term, only to indicate that the dwindling field of candidates still outnumbers a starting NFL offense or defense. Here are some thoughts on the others.
Mayor Pete - He's 37, so presumably in touch with the modern world, yet he continues to struggle with gaining the support of people of color. I can't decide if his handlers are screwing up, or if the community of people of color is sensing an insincerity in his proclamations. His views, like Biden, seem to be rather moderate, and his stint as mayor of a relatively small town doesn't inspire me in terms of qualifications.
Senator Klobuchar - She is 59, an age that implies experience and wisdom. She is a three-time elected Senator with high approval ratings in her state of Minnesota and is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. She has a broad range of experience on several key committees in the Senate. She is still battling to get her moderate-to-revolutionary message out and close on the front runners, but she could be a sleeper who comes on late in the primary season.
I won't detail the rest of the pack; Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick, and John Delaney simply because I put their chances of showing up as candidates at the convention at something less than 2%. That's not to say they wouldn't make excellent presidents, but we simply only need one to replace the disaster currently occupying the Oval Office.
In conclusion, as I stated at the outset, we all need to think about where we want the next president to take our nation. Do we want to embrace the future or long for the past? I understand that most of us have one or two hot-button issues like immigration or abortion or healthcare, etc., that cause us to look to a particular candidate that we think will solve that problem. Still, we really do need to step back, look at the bigger picture, and make sure we aren't overlooking a dollar to pick up a penny.
You might wonder if a discussion of government and governing is philosophy; I believe it is. The Cambridge Dictionary online defines philosophy as:
I sometimes think I'm a little obsessed with topics such as politics and religion, and perhaps I am. I don't wake up to think about things; an event usually triggers it, or a news story, or something I've read. When that happens, my brain begins to whir, and I evolve an idea, opinion, or philosophy.
That brings me to the subject of this post, the philosophy of government. At the simplest level, we have two basic philosophies, progressive or liberal and conservative. Both are dominated by a school of thought that is itself founded in beliefs, values, and principles.
Generally speaking, the liberal philosophy seems to be based on the notion that all people are created equal and thus should be treated equally or as close to that as possible. This philosophy is based on compassion and understanding that humans succeed and fail. That those who fail may be entitled to some special considerations to ensure they do not suffer extreme hardships. Liberalism believes in the rule of law but prefers those laws to focus on creating positive results rather than punitive measures. It tries to be a peaceful philosophy that is opposed to war and embraces the idea that we should be able to communicate with each other and resolve our differences. In summary, liberalism is a philosophy of trust, compassion, and progress toward a better world for everyone.
The conservative philosophy seems to take a harsher view of the world and humans in general. There appears to be an attitude that if you are in dire straights, it likely is because you made bad decisions or did something wrong. This philosophy seems more combative and ready to impose penalties on others. Conservative philosophy tends to want to dictate certain aspects of society, often based on religious principles. The conservative philosophy appears to be less tolerant of discussion and reaching a consensus on those issues about which they feel strongly. The conservative philosophy takes a hard line toward foreign policy. It insists on an active military to back this approach to governing. To summarize conservatism, it is a policy based on distrust and on the idea that strict rules and harsh punishment bring about better results than caring and compassion.
Let me remind you that I stated I'm talking in generalities. Both philosophies are on a bell curve with adherents ranging from liberal to conservative within their philosophical curve. We, humans, are nothing if not diverse in thought and deed as well as our physical and cultural differences.
I count myself among the progress/liberal faction, so let me give you an example of how we might resolve one particular problem in society. I'll use the debate over the minimum wage (MW for brevity), an issue that roils emotions from the local to the federal levels of government. This is a complex issue and one I won't try to cover in excruciating detail, but in a way that I hope demonstrates a progressive approach to problem-solving and government. I'll use the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour as an example since the minimum wage is all over the map at local and state levels.
The argument that we consistently hear from the conservative side when talking about raising the MW is the impact on small businesses, and that is true. I think there is a general agreement on this notion of a liveable wage. In a perfect world, everyone would make a liveable wage, if only we could find an approach. So, how do we alleviate the poverty of those in the MW world while not breaking the back of small business people? Here are a couple of ideas.
The poverty level income for a family of three (two adults and one child) is $21,330 per year at this point. Working a full year is considered 2,020 hours a year, regardless of whether that is one job or two jobs. To reach the poverty level of income, you have to make $10.32/hour. Remember that only brings you up to poverty - that is not a liveable wage. Per the Living Wage calculator, in the state of Washington, and Seattle-King County, that family of three has to make $30.84/hour. The poverty level is $7.91/hour, and our MW stands at $11.50 as I write this. That means our MW is just over 1/3 of what is considered a liveable wage. You can use that calculator to look at any state and county in the country. You will find a broad variation depending on the state of the economy around our nation.
Back to Seattle. I'm now a small business owner. Let's say I have a pizza restaurant that is also serving sandwiches, salads, soft drinks, and beer and wine. I'm working in the kitchen. I have a dishwasher and a server in the front of the house. Remember, I'm trying to keep this simple without getting down the weeds on the cost of pizza sauce, etc. I open at 11:00 am to catch the lunch crowd, and I stay open until 9 pm. My day crew (dishwasher and server) work the 11 am to 4 pm shift, and the night crew comes on and works until 9 pm. So, I have four employees besides myself, who are each working 5 hours a day, and I'm open six days a week (closed on Sunday). My crew is working a total of 20 hours a day times six days for a total of 120 hours a week, and I'm paying them the current MW of $11.50/hour. That puts my payroll for the week at $1,380/week. But...
If you're in business, you know there are overhead costs and state taxes, etc. I ran a pretend set of numbers for my pizza shop on something call T-Sheets (by QuickBooks) to estimate the labor cost with all the other things rolled in; something call the wrap costs. With the numbers I used for rent, insurance, etc., my cost per employee came to $27.99 per employee, and remember I'm paying them $11.50 per hour.
I said the liveable wage in Seattle was $30.84/hour for a family of three. We'll assume all my employees are married and have one child. When I kick the wages up to that number, my total cost per employee per hour goes up to $48.81/hour. That's an increase of $20/hour, and that is hard to absorb. For my crew of four, my employee cost went from $167,940 per year (that's four people working 1500/hours a year and costing me $27.99/hour) to $292.860 or an increase of $124,920 per year. That's not small change.
Any plan has to look out for the employees (trying to get them to a liveable wage) and the small business owners. It should be possible to do a ramp-up to the liveable wage at a rate that get the employee to the liveable level in a reasonable time, while not breaking the backs of small business. The goal is to build something into the taxes that give the small business owner relief for helping our country bring people out of poverty and up to a liveable wage. There could be tax breaks or subsidies paid to the business to ease their burden.
Yes, this all comes out of taxes, but if we straighten out our tax system instead of letting billion-dollar corporations off tax free, it can be done. This is an example of seeking solutions that work for everyone. It moves us toward being a nation that tries to ensure that the working class doesn't have to rely on food stamps and Medicaid to survive. There would be significant reductions in those services, and that money could be redirected to the small business subsidies. As this all sorts itself out, and it will over time, then these programs can be reduced or dismantled.
These are not simple problems, and there are no simple solutions, but these clowns in DC are pulling down $174,000 a year to find answers. It's time they earned their paycheck. What might the conservative plan look like?
Everyone has their own definition for a democracy. Some want unfettered freedom and others want a security blanket. The fact is that we have both. We have more freedoms than many countries in the world and we have social security blankets but not as many as other democracies in the western world.
Over the next fourteen or so months, we are going to hear wild accusations, the gnashing of teeth, and see the wringing of hands as the various candidates for president and their supporters and paid mudslingers work to attract or distract the voters regarding their man or woman. Along with all of that, the blunderbuss currently holding the office will engage in rage-tweets and run-on sentences...make that strings of words that make little to no sense as he attempts to enhance the orange glow of his ridiculousness.
There will be shouts of socialism (maybe even the term commie a time or two), fascism, racism, nationalism, nepotism, cronyism, and as the great orange stink-tank cranks up, round after round of name-calling and childish put-downs, like what we’ve grown accustomed to over the last several years.
But as a voter, all we need to do is decide whether we’re progressive, conservative, hard-right-or-left, or independent (whatever that means). To assist in making that decision, it seems to me we need to fly over our government at about 50,000 feet and develop a macro-vision of what kind of nation we want to be. The awful details that turn that vision into reality will be the job of those we elect based on their vision of government. If they can’t get it right, we kick their butts out and try again.
To explain the next visual aid below (I’m a visual guy), I need to explain where this brain-fart came from. One of my assignments (I was sort of Shanghaied into the job) was as part of a team that was trying to standardize processes around the Boeing Company. I think it might have been easier to train a hive of killer bees to dance the Mexican hat dance than get folks to standardize, but that was my assignment. The basic problem with standardization is that no one wants to do that. We are a bunch of innovative, creative, and to a large extent rebellious human beings.
Using the Boeing example to make the point, you hire a highly degreed engineer to design the next generation of space fighters because he or she is on the leading edge of knowledge, technology, and a seer when it comes to flight engineering. You sit them down, give them all the company manuals and say something like, “Go to work, but do everything according to the standards - the way it’s always been done.” After they stop crying, they are likely to hand you their resignation.
Unlike the cow chewing its cud in the field for hours on end, we humans are not like that. We want variety, change (as long as it was our idea), and the liberty to do pretty damn much anything we want. We do not like marching in formation.
Something was said in one of those discussions at Boeing by my manager, who will remain nameless because he was, hands down, the worst manager in the roughly 60 years I worked in and around aerospace. He was Trump-like before most of us had ever heard of Trump.
Our task was to standardize those critical processes inside the company to ensure a continuity of results as well as to reduce the overall cost of doing business. My boss’ statement referred to a “level” of standardization that helped achieve that consistency of purpose and cost reduction. He called that line the “critical mass” line. The idea was that the processes above that line needed to be standardized for the benefit of the employees, the customer, and the company (the Big3).
Very briefly, in the context of a company the size of Boeing, you certainly want the payroll to be “standard” across the company. You can’t have every organization deciding what day they want to call payday, and each using their own financial institution to issue paychecks, etc. It would be chaos and costly to operate that way.
So we drew a pyramid to demonstrate the idea. The line or base of the top section of the pyramid was the “critical mass” line. Above this would go those processes that had to be common and standard across the company. Things like payroll, accounting, company identification badges, etcetera.
In the section below that top level was where we still wanted a degree of standardization, but we also wanted to allow organizations the flexibility to be innovative and creative while functioning in a way that was most efficient for them. There might be “company guidelines” to help them establish processes, but they would still innovate. And, where possible, we wanted them to cooperate with other organizations to utilize the best ideas and practices and to standardize where it made sense, again for the benefit of the Big3.
And at the bottom level was where the most flexibility existed. Individuals had quite a few choices. If they like a particular type of pen, or computer mouse, or office chairs for back issues, they could make those changes, they were free to flex on many issues. There were flexible shifts where possible. I won’t list everything here, but hopefully you see what I’m talking about.
Running a country is very much like running a big company, at least in terms of organization and where to utilize top-down federal control, where to allow states and localities the freedom to innovate, and where to let the people have maximum freedom without upsetting the balance of a functioning society. Here then, is that notional pyramid applied to government.
The ‘A’ level is dominated by the federal government. A few of the functions that would seem to best be managed at the federal level for the benefit of all are shown on the left. In some cases, these may be hard-dictates and in some cases the rules may allow some wiggle room (democracy) as long as the top-most goals at a federal level are being met.
Some might call this progressive, others socialism, or who knows what, but I think few people would argue that the military and FAA and similar functions should not be left to the whim of state, county, and city politicians or turned over to for-profit enterprises. It is more a matter of common sense. Our safety and security as a nation demand these be administered at the federal level. At the bottom of this top section, you see the red CM line indicating that critical processes belong above that line. I’ve made that top section blue because it is an important value to most progressives that we do the right thing for and by all the people.
Level ‘B’ allows more democracy for states and localities to tailor processes to their needs. There may be some federal guidelines to assist in setting up these processes, but for the most part, it comes under the heading of state and local government rights.
Level ‘C’ is what I have labeled as “libertarian”. This is where, like the the company employee choosing their computer mouse, individuals make their decisions based on what is right for them. Things like where to work, where to live, what religion if any they want to follow, who to choose for a family doctor, whether or not to vote and who to vote for, where to buy groceries and gas - it’s a long list of personal rights.
This, I hope, is an easier way to look at the big picture of government. Naturally, there will be arguments about where the lines dividing A, B, & C should go and which processes and rights belong in which section. But, again, that is one of the tasks of our elected representatives.
I believe that if you approach it with the goal of identifying those critical processes, then the ones for the states and local governments, and finally the individual, we would find that we probably agree on about 80% and we would have to arm wrestle over the other 20%.
Now, all you have to do is pick a candidate. 😁
More to the point, what do we want our United States government to be?
Two documents are the foundation of our democracy, the Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution. Both of these documents have a preamble that attempts to sum up what the founders of our nation had in mind.
The preamble of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The intent of that paragraph is quite clear. We had been under the thumb of the monarchy of England, an authoritarian plutocracy that was anything but free.
Preamble to the Constitution for the United States: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
A third document that has come to represent the dream of our founders was the Gettysburg Address that President Lincoln gave in 1863. Eighty-seven years after we fought and died to gain our freedom from England, we fought each other in the bloodiest war in our history with an estimated 620,000 fatalities. It was a war fought over the freedom of all the people.
In Lincoln's address, the line that is best remembered is, "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The single thread running through all these statements are the words "people" and "equality." We are supposed to be a nation devoted to freedom, to the idea that no one class of people or entity within our society is better or above all others; we are a nation of, by, and for the people, all the people residing within our borders.
That idea should be the principle upon which all of our elected leaders, CEOs of corporations, and people in positions of influence, be they celebrities, sports stars, or religious leaders, should make their decisions and pronouncements. They should be asking themselves, "Is what I am about to do or say in the interest of all the people, or is it to benefit one particular interest group?" Will it fulfill the vision of our founders and the words of Abraham Lincoln?
That is also how we voters, the people referred to in all these document must measure the success or failure of our leaders. When we vote, or when we gather in public meetings to discuss policies in our towns, counties, states and federal government, we must ask, have our political, civil, and religious leaders shaped the policies and laws for the good of all the citizens, or only for a select few?
Yes, the details can be complicated, but the outcome should be measurable against those three basic statements. When we vote in our local and federal elections, that is the template we must use in evaluating those in office and those aspiring to hold office.
If we get that right, we will have lived up to the founder's dream of a United States that is, of, by, and for all the people; the rich, the poor, the able and disabled, all the genders, all the races and nationalities, and all the religions.
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Well, we Democrats now have our very own version of the Republican stampede that we saw in the 2016 election, something I enjoyed calling the 'clown car' at the time. I'm happy to say that while it looks like the Dems have matched the GOP in sheer numbers of candidates, I find our field decidedly brighter and offering more than just filling the airwaves with complaints about the current president who is more than worthy of any mudslinging that may come his way.
While most of us are very hopeful of seeing TrumPutin limited to one term (or less if we can get on with impeachment), this group of candidates will need to devote a degree of time to lambasting TrumPutin to convince voters he should never be allowed a second term. Given that scenario, we should expect the field to devote time to point out what is wrong with TrumPutin and his circle of jerks.
While it is very early in the election season; we will know more around next February and March who is likely to survive the free-for-all that is our election process. That will be determined mostly by money, but also their message and how well it resonates with voters. A couple will undoubtedly drop off either because they said something amazingly dumb, or because the press uncovered something in their past that takes them down. That is the job of the media concerning government regardless of the political party. And, let's not ignore what we learn this time.
That being said, I have looked at the candidates and arranged them in order of my preference based on what I know at this point in time. I won't go into a long dissertation on each; not now and not until the field shrinks to about four people. Here is a graphic that shows my stand at the moment.
As you can see, I've put them in tiers, one through four with one being my top picks for now. And, yes, I do discriminate between the candidates on several fundamental levels. First is what I've heard from them, their message, and of course like everyone to some degree, how effectively they deliver their message.
Gender: Yes, I am looking at gender. I think it is high time we put a woman in the White House assuming we can find the right one, and I think we already have several terrific candidates. We've had an African-American president, finally, and we've certainly had our fill of old white men, and old crazy white men; it's time to change.
Age: I know that with age comes a degree of wisdom, or it is supposed to, but I really want someone younger. We need a president who is in tune with technology, and with the changes we have achieved in our society. We don't need a president committed to turning back the clock to the 1950s. Full disclosure, I'm closing in on 77, and I want youth in leadership.
As for the rest of the crap that FOX Faux News likes to rant about, religion, partner preferences, socialism (which we already have) or any of the other political flak the opposition wants to throw in the air to distract us from the truth doesn't mean a damn thing to me. I care about democracy, civil rights, human rights, women's rights, and honesty in government.
Michael Bennett didn't make the cut because he announce just about the time I was writing this, so we'll se in time how he fits in the pyramid. Others may move up or down, depending. I'm not likely to do much with this for a number of months until the field starts to sort itself out. The so-called debates which usually amount to little more than stump speeches may or may not change my brackets.
We need leadership at home on the environment, everyone's rights, economic and tax reform, immigration, health care, infrastructure, renewable energy, and technology. And it has to be worked in the light of the impact on humanity and not just corporate profits. Yes, we need corporations and their job markets, but not at the cost of our democracy.
We need leadership for our relations around the world. That has to be a combination of strength tempered with compassion and a desire to develop an understanding of what other nations and people are experiencing.
In closing, let me say, MADA! MADA! MADA!
I think and write and talk and then do it all over again.