First off—it’s looking like I was (as I hoped I wouldn’t be) off base to cut Kevin Spacey even a hint of doubt as further credible allegations emerge. In the interest of not becoming a revisionist I’ve left the original post up with an “update” disclaimer so folks can skip to the “art vs. the artist” section if they wish as it looks like that’s the dilemma one who enjoys the actor’s work now faces. Of course I’m not one for consigning an entire body of work to the flame simply because a cog (or even the whole) in its production was a reprehensible jackass but that’s another argument for another day. I do think it’s odd that some on the right are using the sadly growing list of Hollywood figures (who are most often some degree of “liberal” politically) as evidence of a “perverted” left. If there’s really one thing we can be certain of in terms of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault it’s that it’s a bipartisan issue that affects every community. From the Fox News team of founder Ailes (a major figure in the White House and in every GOP campaign involving Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes) and network cash cow O’Reilly to Hollywood A-listers Weinstein, Spacey, possibly Hoffman (ouch) by way of the church (Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant) and up to the White House (Trump has more credible sexual harassment and assault allegations than even Weinstein) there are no subcultures or groups immune to the presence of abuse. Power is the unifying factor as those with power far too often use it to pressure, intimidate and abuse those with less or excuse questionable behavior. These microcosms now on display showcase behavior that goes on in every industry and in every town in America. So yeah, long story short—I cut Spacey too much slack too early it seems.

I’m beginning to feel it’s almost hopeless to expect more out of anyone. A friend recently posted “are there any famous dudes who aren’t total creeps?” to which I replied that I had a list of many I think (based on everything I’ve read and heard) fit that bill of being as ethical and stand-up as they are talented but that I’d be loath to list them right now for fear an old story would emerge making me eat my words. Folks make mistakes and no real hero exists, I know that. But the entire current climate of information, misinformation, historical and political ignorance, scapegoats and easy (but false) answers is exhausting.

For example, I could refer you to the Atlantic’s recent stellar coverage of the revolt at Reed College. For those interested in “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces”, and the criminalization of ideas it’s a worthwhile read. As someone who empathizes with most left positions but who is also a fan of open full-throated debate, grappling with complex ideas in a fruitful manner, and first-amendment absolutism I have long had a troubled relationship with some of the younger expressions of “idea” protest. This article lays out what’s happened in one extreme example but it at least ends promisingly as a newer generation of diverse students push back against simplistic inflammatory protest in favor of honest debate and education. But more troublingly for the left than the issues many campuses now face is the entire future of the Democratic Party.

Donna Brazile is doing her book tour and part of that is a full attack on the Clintons and the DNC in the wake of her ousting. While it should come as no surprise to any student of government and history the DNC (like the RNC, like every political, religious, and civic organization) is prone to corruption or at least political chicanery. While many of the concerns Brazile raises are troubling they are not surprising nor are they really that “new”. Righteous anger that such favoritism and political maneuvering could occur to affect the primary is understandable but unfortunately many on the left are now playing right into Trump’s hands (and words).

As someone who supported Bernie early on I recognize his appeal. I think that for the most part he is an ethical, honest person though I don’t believe he’s immune to political celebrity and it’s potentially corrupting allure (one can’t really be a politician without that).  If I had the power to wave my hand and replace Trump with anyone it would likely be Elizabeth Warren but Bernie would still be a close 2nd or 3rd. I also never believed Hillary Clinton to be my personal lord and savior and no act of political subterfuge in her pursuit of victory (within reason and with precedent) would really surprise me but I, like Bernie and like Bernie pleaded with his supporters to do, supported her when she became the candidate. Heck, Brazile mentions her conversations with Bernie took place before that endorsement so even in light of the knowledge that he’d been royally screwed by the DNC in funding and preference he still saw the bigger picture because he, unlike many of his supporters, is cause first and personality second.

That’s the thing about the so-called “Berniecrats”. That term was coined not to refer to the most “progressive” section of the Democratic Party or to Democratic Socialists. It was coined to derisively refer to those who built a cult of personality around Sanders, many of whom were frat-boys with more interest in “dank memes” than Democratic Socialism or progress for all.  So while Bernie certainly had support from Boomers, Xers, and Millennials of all styles who would have preferred him but who ultimately voted for Clinton when they had to the Berniecrats instead either stayed home, cast their ballot for some of the worst third-party candidates in a generation, or voted for Trump (an estimated quarter of Bernie supporters ultimately voted for Trump).  There’s a reason Russians included Berniecrats in their targeted audience—it worked. They shared false and inflammatory information and helped usher Trump into the White House.

Trump is now pushing the most far-right agenda to ever come from the White House. The damage he is doing to the environment, our relationships and standing in the world, and to the very legitimacy of our institutions is staggering and potentially irreparable. The bigger picture was to keep that from happening while working for reform and the bigger picture remains replacing Trump with a less noxious and damaging President ASAP (while seeking reform and incremental progress). Yet if a subsection of the left is happy to do Trump’s work for him (as they are today while Trump calls for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton live on TV), spread his message and share his Russian created memes then where are we to go? It would be easy to just say ignore this sub-section as they don’t show up in significant numbers at mid-term elections to keep the actual local and community gears progressing further towards equity but I don’t think that’s wise at all. I credit Bernie and his supporters for pushing Hillary to the left on many issues so that she ultimately ran on the most progressive platform in modern history. Those that were “Bernie or Bust” need to be in the fold because a mainstream liberal party that slides back to centrism is doomed it’s just that we need the most boldly Bernie or nobody folks to get behind the cause not the person and to find (and advocate for) young and new party figures. Sadly, however, it’s looking more and more every day like Trump, the most “unpopular” President in history will win a second term even as his entire cabinet faces indictment.

So yeah, it’s feeling hopeless. No “heroes”, no admirable institutions, no middle-ground, no respect for facts or the possibility thereof. A generation of students is coming up who report no real love of the freedom of speech or of the right to disagree. I’m thankful to love metal, horror, noir, literary tragedy and the oddly life-affirming qualities these art forms promote at a time like this while all seems to be turning to crap. So I’ll likely be picking up my lists and genre analysis as I ready my end-of-year “best of lists” and give my half-assed political commentaries another much needed rest.

Advertisements

Any Republican in the age of Trump from the Senate all the way down to the local dogcatcher that isn’t publicly denouncing Trump’s character, actions, and staff choices, who isn’t distancing themselves from him and who isn’t working to reform and update their party so that Trump and his evils are in no way indicative of the GOP doesn’t deserve to be elected to any single position anywhere in this country. If I meet you in a business capacity and you wax on about your love of the GOP in this day and age I am instantly considering doing business with someone else instead of you.

Another valid prefacing point—I have always (at least since I began to understand politics and engage politically) identified as “progressive” in the sense that I believe the goal of good governance is to grow, enhance and “better” (“progress”) society, to do more, be better, serve more folks more efficiently in the service of reducing poverty, social injustice, etc. I believe there are certain basic “rights” that citizens of countries wealthy enough to provide them are due—these are the benefits of living in a society, of paying taxes, of being a part of a country rather than a solitary tribe. In my opinion these rights include not only the constitutional rights and civil liberties we have enshrined in our constitution in America but also basic things that people need to survive—food, clothes, housing and healthcare. Every citizen of a wealthy country deserves a safe place to sleep, enough healthy food to survive, and medical treatment that won’t bankrupt them when they are sick.

However, in the wake of Trump and the resulting political environment I have sometimes found myself loathe for the first time in my life to self-identify as “progressive”. “Liberal” yes and I believe that entails the original sense of progressive but I’ve seen and heard such things lately that I can only believe the terms we’ve used previously are now dying due to bad associations and new connotations. I admit I once rolled my eyes at some of the old-guard liberals now so often derided as conservatives who warned of a “PC” left that was veering off the rails. But the only term I at the moment can muster for a certain segment of my fellow liberals is “Reactionary Left”. Like the Republicans of old and the conservatives of history the new Reactionary Left does not present new ideas, does not lead the way and instead reacts constantly to the other side…and increasingly not just to the other side but to those within its own ranks, attacking and purifying the inner circle to determine who is “really” a liberal—who uses the right phrases, holds the right positions, denounces all of the right (or “wrong”) things.

I don’t think all liberals are like this—nor will I commit a false equivalency by asserting that both political sides are equally bad today. What is happening on the modern right is wreaking irreversible harm on the environment, our standing in and relationship with the rest of the world, the dignity of the poor and the rights of minority groups. Making transgender persons scapegoats to score political points with a section of their base causes far more harm than us arguing over whether a person is “whitesplaining” or not. BUT—a sizeable and growing segment of the modern left is taking its eye off the ball and losing focus on the big picture while simultaneously culling the ranks and almost intentionally deterring those outside of the circle from getting on board.

A few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • A group of folks were discussing police brutality, specifically black folks slain by police with video evidence they were doing no wrong while the juries who found the officers not guilty anyway. Important issue, worth getting angry about, worth discussing and acting on to change the culture of why this occurs. A man the group knows made a comment that basically asserted generalizations occur across all lines and that ultimately he hoped we could grow to see everyone as part of a human family. Make what you will of that statement—it may certainly miss the point, it may certainly be loftier than statements seeking to fix right here right now the problems people of color are experiencing with police—but instantly this man was accused by the entire group of racism. Every—steadfastly non-aggressive, calm—word he said in his defense of not being a racist was met with accusations that he was “mansplaining” and “whitesplaining”. Does levelling these accusations solve anything? Does it convert the man to their point of view or advance the dialogue at all? No it likely just pushes him further in the opposite direction.
  • I know several vegans and vegetarians and while some are pretty chill on their choices the majority takes every opportunity to accuse every meat-eater they know of murder. To eat meat or not on philosophical, ethical, scientific, or nutritional merits is a complex debate but one sure way of not advancing your cause is to instantly insult, denigrate, or annoy the other side while simultaneously asserting your own moral superiority. If the goal is to reduce animal suffering, address the climate impact of the growing cow population, or to make people healthier there are hundreds of ways to advance each of these goals with footsteps that not only make sense and work but that come easier and more naturally to the majority of people.
  • Prior to the Oscars this past spring I heard from one person that if “La La Land” won the Academy Award it would prove once and for all the Oscars were irredeemably racist. This was after the Academy made efforts to double its female and people of color members and nominations of said categories was larger than it had been in years, possibly ever. The same person was in discussion with agreeing friends, all of whom declared they’d never even seen the movie and had no interest in it. When “Moonlight” ended up winning the same person proclaimed “of course Moonlight won” because it “depicted angry drug-addicted black women” and was about gay characters yet it didn’t “show gay sex”. This despite the fact that it was based on the author’s own life and was widely acclaimed for its depiction of masculinity and gender. This same person is a constant fount of examples of finding fault with every situation regardless of the outcome.
  • One last example though I could go on—let’s look at the recent McCain vote that killed healthcare repeal. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were both steadfastly against the repeal from the beginning and have rightfully been receiving credit for that. Yet since it was known they were voting “No”, McCain’s last minute reveal that he too was voting know broke the tie and sunk the bill. So reporting that McCain broke the tie and ultimately “did the right thing” was a news story worth reporting. The instant backlash to these stories across my social media showed that rather than be happy repeal was at least temporarily dead, much of the left was angry McCain was getting credit for the work of women (Collins & Murkowski).

The Reactionary Left cares more about getting the terms right than getting the results right. I’ve read story after story about those on the fence who (shudder) became Trump supporters just because they got sick of the self-righteous posturing of their liberal friends. While I don’t see how you can suddenly support a selfish, lying, hateful, ignorant buffoon who is making the country and the world a worse place every day I do get why you can suddenly become apolitical or distance yourself from the modern left. Who wants to be surrounded by those who only complain about past could-have-beens (as most Democratic party meetings I’ve been to in recent time turn out to be) rather than what could-be-next’s. Furthermore, who wants to contribute to a conversation when they have to mentally check every word they may utter in fear of inadvertently offending the crowd and being cast out puritanically from the inner circle of trve liberals?

I can speak for no one but myself but the following points are what I feel, mean, and believe when I say I am “liberal”.

  • Free Speech is paramount. A person can say, write, or sing anything they wish or believe whether right or wrong. However, said person should not be able to report said speech as news if unchecked and said person is not immune to the free speech response to their original comment. If a person says some heinous shit they may as well expect the protests to come and that is part of the free speech circle. The right is trying to co-opt free speech by saying they don’t PC police your conversation. In case you have a short memory, the right was the party that got aghast at everything from the Metropolitan Museum of Art display of piss-Christ to gangsta rap and Marilyn Manson in the ‘90s. The only speech the right cares about is protecting lies reported as news (not a free speech issue) and the right to use racial, religious and sexist slurs (which can be used but which can also be called out and pushed out of polite public professional conversation).
  • Discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual identity or country of national origin must be attacked and dismantled at every turn. Every person deserves access to the same opportunities and protections. This goes for employment, housing, education, and incarceration. We live in a country where every generation forgets they come from immigrants and so discriminate against every incoming demographic. We jail people of color at astronomically larger rates than white due to racially-motivated drug policies and policing tactics. We get angry that stores say “Happy Holidays” instead of exclusively “Merry Christmas” and those who believe differently—especially if they believe in “nothing” religiously—are looked down upon almost unanimously. Hell, we maintain “legacy” preferential status for universities bestowing the grandchildren of wealthy graduates preference over first-generation college students in contrast to every other industrialized country. Yet instead of focusing with laser-like specificity on these bigger issues (and so many more), the Reactionary Left worries more about pushing out voices from the past (“who cares what dead white guys had to contribute” (e.g. Jefferson, Einstein) or present (quit whitesplaining) from the conversation.
  • Our environmental world is in danger and it is our duty to protect and repair it. No one’s jumping down from the sky to heal the earth nor is it our destiny to strip and destroy our planet on our way out. Global warming is real and we are running out of time to do something about it. Big changes are necessary from national and global standpoints. We can do what we can to cut our carbon footprint but policing the micro-actions of our every neighbor may not only not make a difference but may also make many other things worse.

I could go on with issues of war, poverty, policing, gender relations, etc. but I’m not writing a manifesto regardless of how it might sound, I just wanted to list a few key examples. These are just a few key things I mean when I proclaim myself as a liberal. Despite the fact most of us grow more conservative with age I don’t foresee that for myself in most areas, though I’m not immune to the fact that with even slightly better income and more security almost all of us lose the visceral response to many progressive impulses. I am liberal in a traditional sense and I have huge sympathy for the modern left in terms of addressing some of these other issues and growing awareness of problems previously overlooked. I believe in a more equitable world for all. I don’t scoff at the issue of language and label either—I know misusing the wrong label can hurt be it a pronoun or racial slur. My wife is a strong Ms. (never a Mrs.) with her own last name, every transwoman I know is a she, and by god I’m never calling a black person the n word (even with an a ending) no matter how close we are. I get the importance of all such issues. My issue with the focus on language is more on the pedantic, academic sense—I spent a lot of time in colleges and universities and within that context it is very important to get the nomenclature right. But it is not our duty as liberals and/or academics to take those textbook sociological and philosophical terms out into the “real” world and bludgeon folks with them—accusing them of –isms they’ve never heard of, condemning them for not invoking the right indigenous native writer’s preferred adjective at the right time. I fear that the campus experience will drift to implosion if we allow our fear of getting it right and our fear of offense push out all fruitful debate and exclude all troubling writing. I fear we will lose a generation of progressive action by culling the herd of all but the most linguistically and philosophically pure and there is simply too much at stake to let that happen.

For many liberals, this has been the year of wrestling with the white working-class middle-aged man. From “Hillbilly Elegy” to “Strangers in Their Own Land” and a mounting Everest of think-pieces from the New York Times, Mother Jones, The Atlantic (and on and on) following the surprise election of Donnie Drumpf, suddenly educated upper middle class whites are wondering what they’ve misread in a huge swath of the country. Further complicating the waters are the 53% of white women who also helped usher Donnie into the White House. Certainly the rust belt and coal country are desperate, scared, angry and feeling marginalized. That’s been building for years–seeking to understand why and what can actually be done to better things there (and not just false promises like those they gambled on in this election) is long overdue (more on that later).

It’s been barely a week since the election and most of the things I’ve heard since–after initial shock, sadness and anger from one side (still lingering) and joyful celebration from the other (already waning to some degree) have been urges from most to “come together” “show empathy” and “be one country”: that is, from most white folks who are not from at-risk or marginalized communities. For every “get over it” or “look forward” I hear from white folks I hear “How can we?” from black, Muslim, LGBT, and Latino voices. People are rightfully scared and the recent elevation of Steve Bannon, alt-right mouthpiece and agitator, has done nothing to give them reason to not be afraid.

#ThisIsNotNormal: As John Oliver stressed on his last show of the year, this is not normal and we should not acclimate to it so if you have to , put a post-it up on your bathroom mirror so you don’t blank out and accept Trump’s America if you’re of a privileged class that can. We have just elevated the least-experienced and most ill-suited candidate in modern American history to the office of President. A man who has failed at everything he has ever done (marriage, business, humanity) and who has callously stoked hate against every non-white community in the country on the campaign trail and who is filling his cabinet with dreadful people. A reality TV personality who bragged of sexual assault and smiled as his daughter was called a “piece of ass” by Howard Stern. This is not normal.

While those who voted for Drumpf and many who didn’t but who want to let bygones by bygones urge us to let it go as just a “political” difference there are many who simply can’t yet–at least not until they find out what Drumpf really has planned for stop and frisk and an increasingly militarized police force, what he has planned for the wall and deportation, his proposed database of Muslims, if he will really repeal environmental protection laws, if he will seek to use the Supreme Court to repeal Roe v. Wade and eliminate health care access for millions of poor women and children, if Mike Pence will have any way of legitimizing “gay conversion” therapy, if Drumpf will be able to quell the violence and bullying done in his name, if he can call out the KKK and neo-nazi groups celebrating in his name…

See, when Bush (W.) won his second race I was an under-grad college student and I got pretty bummed. But I didn’t feel the pain in my bones and the shock to my system that made me seriously question the future of our country that I have now and I can only imagine what some other people are feeling. No, I was bummed but able to chat politely with Republican friends and teachers and talk about how we felt, the issues themselves, the perceived direction of our country. What some on the right are failing to acknowledge at the local level is just how different things are this time around. Things that are about to happen may seriously (and negatively) impact the very existence and livelihood of this country and the world as a whole. Maybe I’m naive– I’m sure my more liberal friends would say so in this regard–but I actually like Hillary Clinton as a person. I think she is a good person and would have made a good President. I may not have agreed with her on everything and I would have had serious concerns on some of her foreign policy positions in particular but my hope was that with a Democratic House and Senate, particularly with folks like Sanders and Warren taking on greater leadership roles we would have been able to hold her to issues and advance on Obama’s progress, curbing some of the negative possibilities. I think we could have certainly made great strides on climate change, secured social policy issues for a generation (and thus indefinitely) and so much more. Some of my most politically liberal friends think this laughable as they promote #DemExit and the like now, partly welcoming a Trump presidency if only because it will shock us all awake. But the cost I fear may be far too large.

I believe in the bedrocks of democracy–of liberalism–of progressivism. I believe in empathy checked by responsibility and strength, what George Lakoff describes as the nexus of liberal thought (in “The Political Mind”): empathy to feel the pain and share the concerns of others, responsibility to feel the need to act to address those concerns and the strength to do so. And I most certainly do not think it would be fair to accuse me of “living in a bubble” as seems to be the heart of most “empathy to the working class” pieces I read lately (you can take a pretty spot on quiz to see if you live in a left/urban/secular bubble here)–no, I’ve lived more than 75% of my life in working class (usually rural) areas, I’ve worked many service sector and labor intensive jobs in my life, my Facebook feed is regularly filled with arguments from both sides and much more. I know there are a lot of reasons below the surface affecting how we behave and act politically (I highly recommend “Our Political Nature”) from birth order to parenting style to early childhood experiences and education but I also know we have the choice to learn, to grow and to celebrate truth. I was punched in the face more than once from 12-16 years of age as I ran my mouth at bullies slurring the n word and guffawing, at racism every time I encountered it as it always made me angry to the bone. I know it when I see it “cleaned up” in Drumpf and I won’t be silent now either. You are free to have your opinion and I may even like many people who are guilty of unconscious and casual racism even though I disagree with them. But your desperation does not excuse you allowing these forces into legitimate power, blessing those opinions by elevating them far beyond workplace or popular culture. Data shows quite a few wealthy and upper middle-class voters embraced Trumpism. Though desperate rust belt and coal belt men and the women who wanted them to excel again may have tipped one of the scales that ushered Donnie in, they were not the only bloc. But empathize with them I can to that extent that I agree poverty sucks, back-breaking labor sucks and feeling like the world is leaving you behind can indeed suck. It shouldn’t make you cling to empty promises when the evidence to the contrary is clear and easily accessible though. The fact is liberal policies can and have been able to address those very real needs but too often the white working class in forgotten industries actively work against themselves. When you’re told climate change and advancing technology will end your field for 40 years and you actively avoid it instead of helping to be at the forefront of what comes next, when you fight against stimulus packages that can elevate your community, when you decry unions for “right to work” policies instead, when you oppose a raise in the minimum wage and universal health care access to all, when you keep voting in tea-party representatives who could care less about you instead of those who can work to get progressive policies through then you are digging your own hole.

All this to say–when you say “we voted different we can still be friends”–sure. Yeah. But that’s a lot easier if we’re both white and middle class. Your choices have an impact. The very minute the results started rolling in Trump supporters flipped the table to assign themselves victim status. They decried being labelled as racist, sexist or xenophobic. They did everything they could to instantly be the “winners” who would have supported the other candidate had things been reversed, they suddenly became the biggest fans ever of the electoral college despite previous opinions, they decried protestors as “sore losers” and they held themselves as martyrs unfairly labelled prejudiced. I mean, didn’t Drumpf win areas in the rust belt Obama also won? Can’t be racism can it (ignoring the fact that maybe many of Obama’s supporters were too disgusted to turn out or that voting one time for one black man like having one black friend doesn’t preclude one from loving and benefiting from institutional racism)? No, not everyone who voted Drumpf was racist–they did make a decision that was racist however, like it or not. The nationalism, racism, Islamophobia, etc. were all part of the Donnie package and white folks decided those -isms weren’t deal breakers. They decided a man who plays on hate and fear deserved a shot at the White House despite having what may be the highest record of lying on the campaign trail ever recorded by fact checkers, despite the warnings from every expert in every field, despite the rift their decision was bound to cause for generations to come. So when you ask me or any other white liberal to get over it maybe we can. We can just ignore the subjects we don’t want to talk about if rational reasoned debate is out of the question (which it clearly is due to the repudiation of the “media” and “fact checking” and “liberal education” by the Drumpf package) but I can’t offer you forgiveness for your decision as I am not one most wronged by your choice. Don’t want to be seen as racist? Then apologize to those who feel like second class citizens due to your choice, who are scared for their future and their children right now. Forgiveness can only be given by one directly wronged. I may “feel” wronged–I feel bad that expertise, education, knowledge and basic liberal principles of democracy are being jettisoned and ridiculed, that debate using legitimate journalism and research as sources will become increasingly difficult and I especially worry that climate change will wreak irreversible damage in my lifetime–but I have not been shouted at to “go back” to any country, I have not been harassed or threatened due to religious belief, sexual orientation or anything of the sort. But there are millions in our country who have, will or fear they may be and it is they who you if you are a Trump voter owe your apology to. Tell them you are not a racist or xenophobe but that you desperately believed Drumpf’s impossible promises so much (or hated Hillary so much) that you overlooked all of the vitriol and cast your vote his way any way.

Seriously–how much leeway do we give each other for bad choices? It’s a free country and I respect your choice to do anything so long as it does not negatively affect me or others. We can agree not to hate each other while still holding each other accountable for bad choices. I am sure many people would consider me a hypocrite or an asshole in many ways. But I knew what was at stake in this election and did what I could to prevent it. We’ll see how history views all of this in time but there are clear parallels in our past that provide a pretty clear indication.

Autopsy of an Election

November 10, 2016

I spent several hours yesterday calling and messaging friends to see how they were doing and to let them know how much they mean to me. Those closest to me are in shock right now; scared, angry and disgusted. Many of my closest friends work as teachers, with nonprofits or in ministry and as such most of them are spread out across the states often in towns where the local response to Trump’s election is quite different than their own. My mother may be one of the last Democrats in her small KY town and is in shock herself, made all the more difficult by a gleeful praising of Trump everywhere she goes. This presidential race and especially its result have left a lot of people I care about feeling very isolated. Many of us are seeing how fragile rights and privileges we’ve taken for granted actually are. I’ve spoken with teachers whose classes are comprised primarily of minorities and their hearts are broken for these students who are legitimately terrified of what might happen to them—or simply at how they feel the world around them actually sees them. I have LGBT friends worried that coming down the pipeline could be a decision that would invalidate the legality of their marriages. People who work with refugees are now worried about the future of refugee services in this country. Looming over all of this is also the strong possibility of environmental devastation, the specter of war(s) and so many other ills.

Many friendships and families are strained now as well. I don’t think those on the right are willing to admit this election is different than any that has come before. Those who have spent the most time working in or studying government, politics and history have incessantly warned voters of the dangers of Trump while those with the least familiarity with or knowledge of those things were the backbone that swept him into office. An acquaintance of mine summed that up inadvertently—“Your candidate lost, get over it. This is the first time my candidate has ever won and you’ll survive just like I did. Besides, just do like I do and focus on sports and ignore world events and news if it bothers you.” And therein lies the problem—ignore it all you want but it still has repercussions, it still has effects. If you don’t know or care for any people of color, immigrants, refugees, folks from at-risk communities or members of the LGBT community you haven’t had to think about how a Trump presidency and the movement that allowed him to be will affect any of those people. You haven’t given much thought to the black church burned and spray painted “Trump,” the KKK marches in the south, the joyful exclamations of former grand wizard David Duke praising Trump. You don’t know (or know that you know) any women who cried themselves to sleep upon Trump’s election because they recognize the threat Trump poses to women’s healthcare and rights; you don’t know or care that many of these women feel that our country just labeled them as second class citizens again. You certainly don’t put much stock in climate science or fear that we may easily reach the point of no return if Trump, a climate science denier, does what he says he’s going to do to environmental regulations. This is not a vague or far-off concern, this is a clear and present danger and we are in precarious times due to it, far more at risk as a nation and a world because of it than we ever will be over the national debt.

So yes, this election was different. Policies aside which we can debate rationally in Trump we have now elected someone who has consistently and thoroughly lied and denied easily fact-checked previous statements, who has threatened the press and the first amendment, who has admitted to sexual assault, who has openly denigrated entire populations of at risk communities. A reality TV star. A man who still hasn’t released his tax returns or paid taxes. Who will dismantle the progress we were tentatively making in almost every area of society. The only plausible positive prediction I can make regarding Trump’s plans are that, pending other developments, he may actually improve the economy at least in the short-term. I imagine that realistically stocks could continue to rally especially as arms manufacturers pump out supply predicting future wars, as health care industry stocks get a boost from the repeal of Obamacare and the promise of free-market price-gouging tactics and the denial of service to folks who are already sick, as dirty energy stocks jolt alive at the expense of a healthy planet and hopes for cheaper clean energy are squashed. The rich will get richer at the expense of the poor in a slash and burn campaign that will shorten the lifespan of humans on this planet.

And why has this happened? Because some voters were able to master the dark art of false equivalency and parrot Fox News talking points all while steadily shutting out facts from “crooked” mainstream media? Because of a deep hatred for “liberalism” or a subconscious prejudice against women leaders? Or is this just the dying spasms of the old order as the religious right sold out all of its principles and in doing so lost an entire incoming generation of millennials?

This election result may very well be ranked as one of the largest tragedies in national history some day and it was completely self-inflicted.

I stumbled across the following blog post as it was trending and being shared on social media by friends and acquaintances. I read it, thought about it and couldn’t stop thinking about it—so I took the time to write out a rather lengthy comment addressing most of the author’s points honestly seeking debate or conversation because despite this post apparently going a bit viral there were no comments. Apparently that’s because the author isn’t approving any comments on her page or at least on this article. So,  I’m tailoring my comment into a straightforward post for my own page since I took the time to write it.  To see exactly what I’m responding to please visit the above link and read her piece first. I want to stress that this is not an “attack piece” or anything of the sort; just browsing the rest of her blog leads me to believe she is a devout, authentic, strong-willed and genuinely good person of integrity. Which, to be honest, makes her posted endorsement of Trump all the more shocking to me—but I know many other people much closer to me (folks I actually know) that share her sentiment. It’s not just the videoed folk s shouting racial slurs at Trump rallies or the neo-nazis on the dark corners of the alt-right internet who support Trump, it’s almost half of our fellow citizens. I feel that no matter what happens in this election we have to find a way to discuss these issues, to debate and to discuss and most of all to find a way to agree on facts, tools of reason or logic and basic neighborly decency.

Also, I will note I’m just about done in every sense of the word with current year politics. They’ve exhausted me unlike any year in memory and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m over feeling shocked at an ever lowering of the bar, I’m over the visceral hatred between different groups in our own country and I’m over the disintegration of facts and discourse. So maybe this is my last political post for the foreseeable future.

First, I want to address the author’s claim that Hillary Clinton has done more to contribute to rape culture than Donald Trump. Obviously, measuring the actions of any two individuals to determine their personal role and impact on the overall culture as a whole is difficult if not impossible so in some ways we can only use them as categorical examples, representative of many other similar individuals. But the author makes two specific claims—one, that as an attorney “she [H. Clinton] has reduced the jail time of rapists” and two, that she “helped cover up the abuses done by her husband.” Regarding the first point, I assume she is referring to the Kathy Shelton rape case. I would recommend a recent recap of that event in the Washington Post, a pretty reliable source not known for a “liberal bias.” * The issues about that case are complex but of primary purpose as it relates to Hillary Clinton is that she was working for a legal aid clinic serving the poor and was appointed by the court to represent the accused rapist of Shelton. Court appointed attorneys have to represent the client they are appointed to and to do less than their best job in such cases goes against our entire legal system.  Hillary stated she was not thrilled to take on the case but she did and as a young attorney did her job just as any other appointed DA would. So unless we believe that the accused parties in court cases don’t deserve legal representation I am not sure how this incident is an indictment against Hillary. Regarding the second point, to the best of my knowledge there hasn’t been any reliable evidence from a reputable source tying Hillary Clinton to any sort of cover up of Bill’s extramarital affairs. It appears to all non-biased observers and reporters that all of Bill’s extramarital affairs were carried on without Hillary’s knowledge and thus she was a victim of his affairs. So the only thing she can be fairly accused of is of not divorcing her husband when she discovered the affairs. Of course standing by a partner and seeking reconciliation isn’t typically a bad thing in conservative minds which is why this is an odd accusation from that corner of our politic but regardless her choice to not divorce her husband is her right alone.

This author may very well  be right that we are well past picking a President based on character and I’d argue that history has shown many great leaders are of bad character and many bad leaders are of good character—in a pluralistic society character matters only so much as it influences or reinforces the culture itself however. In the case of character Trump vs. Clinton we have on the one hand a man who has used his power and wealth to harass, degrade and assault women. This is evident by his video-taped conversation with Billy Bush where he openly stated he kissed and fondled women without their permission. This is evident by claims from beauty pageant contestants (as young as 15) that he knowingly walked in to inspect them when they were in the nude. That he smiled and allowed Howard Stern to call his own daughter “a piece of ass”. Then of course there are claims from women who worked in his companies that he forced himself on them, kissed, harassed and threatened them. And a claim that he raped a 13 year old girl that is pending in the courts now. This doesn’t even account for comments he has made about women (“you have to treat them like shit”) the deaf/mute (“retards”), Mexicans, refugees, African Americans, etc.  On the other hand you have Hillary who worked at a legal aid clinic where she once defended a rapist as a court assignment and who didn’t divorce her husband and instead reconciled with him after his extramarital affairs came to light. Just on these issues alone (sticking to ones brought up in the linked article) one definitely influences rape culture and one definitely does not. Trump exemplifies that power and wealth allows you to behave how you want and that seeking permission is not necessary for sexual contact. This models for younger males and females what behavior is appropriate and what they are worth. Just last week a friend of mine in an airport overheard two college students joking about the airport workers and flight attendants loudly within her earshot, specifically about groping them. When she confronted them they said “we’re voting for Trump”.

The author is correct that a third-party vote in this election will simply be a vote by default for the winning candidate. I agree that voters should vote for a front-runner, I just happen to believe that the candidate they should vote for is Hillary Clinton because any vote not for her may allow Trump into the White House where he can do unimaginable damage to our economy, environment, international relations, domestic race relations, refugee crises and advancing rape culture.

Now, regarding what the author defines as the “real issues” of this election:

  1. National Security: The author claims that Hillary wants open borders. Trump claims Hillary wants this as well. The facts however are that all of her proposed immigration plans thus far increase funding for border patrol and call for deportation of violent criminals and those who pose realistic threats while also allowing for sanctuary cities and a path to citizenship for nonviolent undocumented workers who are contributing to US society. The “open borders” claim refers to a speech Hillary gave to bankers in which she claimed: “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders, some time in the future, with energy that is green and sustainable…powering growth for every person in the hemisphere.” She is speaking about unfettered international trade, green energy and a global marketplace though even if she also meant unfettered migration of people (which doesn’t seem likely) she is also speaking in a utopia-positive prophetic manner. This of course is a very biblical (people not commerce) vision one more traditionally “Christian” than walls and borders which the Gospel ignored and prayed to cease. A good analysis of the “open border” Clinton claim is available at Politifact. ** I am glad the author recognizes the heart-breaking reality that is the Syrian refugee crisis. Some humanitarians are referring to it as the holocaust of our time. We will be judged by history in how we dealt (or did not deal) with this crisis. I also agree with the author that refugee crisis or not we should screen those who enter our country—which we do already. We have a very intensive vetting process of refugees.  In fact, refugees are screened more extensively and heavily than any other segment of our society in the US which is why the majority of threats, violent crimes and terrorist acts on US soil have been perpetrated not by refugees but US citizens. Terrorist watch organizations estimate far-right racial KKK style hate groups are by far the most likely groups to commit terror acts on US soil. During this point the author also goes on a tangent about gun owning citizens (which to be fair can be a national security issue)  and that taking away guns from citizens just leave them at risk of attack from a criminal who does not care about gun laws. It’s worth noting that Hillary, like Obama, has no intention of confiscating America’s guns though she does want to pass basic regulation like prohibiting those on terrorist watch-lists from purchasing guns and instituting universal background checks. Most Americans, according to polls, agree with these common sense approaches. Gun rights and gun laws are a complex subject from understanding the 2nd amendment in history (“well regulated militia” to “citizen soldiers” e.g. National Guard) to debating how that applies now but a good deal of research can be done utilizing what other countries have tried and done. In short, criminals may not care about gun laws but with less guns in circulation there are less non gun-owning non-criminals to steal from but regardless, Hillary has no intention of confiscating all guns and this is a false alarm claim just as it was with Obama to sell more firearms which is why the NRA (now a lobbyist for the gun manufacturers rather than a hunting and sports shooting conservation group) loves these worries.
  2. Economic Stability: Like many others, the author believes that since Trump is a businessman he will run this country like a business and as President running our country will be his job. The author writes that Trump refused to pay taxes or bad workers as good business practices. Stories have shown he stiffed good workers as well and we’ll leave the tax question alone now other than to say that’s a lot of funds for schools, military, roads, fire and police etc. that went unpaid. But Trump’s record as a businessman isn’t that great which is likely a large reason he doesn’t want his tax returns released—he’s probably not as rich as he says he is and doesn’t like people who say so. Regardless, financial experts think he’d be richer if he’d just invested his money in index funds and left it alone. *** He started out rich with connections and since has lost a lot of money for a lot of people bankrupting companies along the way. As actual billionaire Mark Cuban recently pointed out—name one person who has claimed Trump helped them personally become richer or more successful, one person he’s mentored, one lasting business claim he successfully can make. Furthermore, you can’t run the country like you run a business. You’d never intentionally create a national debt by absorbing state debts as Alexander Hamilton did in our country’s first administration in a private business but you do in the government because it creates the index for all federal government functions. “Wealthy people are usually successful business people who EMPLOY other people” is also a highly debatable claim as a huge percentage of the wealthiest individuals do not employ anyone, run any company or contribute to society—they simply inherit a good deal of money or make money by having money invested.
  3. Supreme Court- The author is correct that this is important. She and I would disagree however as I believe severe damage could occur if the court drifts too far to the right. But even assuming a far-right Supreme Court would be a good thing, what makes you think Trump would appoint anyone you like or that such a nominee would get through the House? Heck, he may even appoint his sister who is a judge (Elizabeth Trump Grau) and she is very liberal.
  4. Pro-Life – Avoiding an entire discussion on this issue as it’s never-ending (though you can read my previous post on the subject here) I will simply say though the author and I may disagree on this issue I understand the importance of this issue to many voters and that it often pushes many to become single issue voters simply over the passionate beliefs they have about it. But if we look at history we find previous Presidents post RoevWade who were pro-life, even adamantly so and fundamentalist about it (Reagan) yet nothing happened to roll back abortion access rights. Even while George H.W. Bush “came around to the issue” at Reagan’s prompting, his son George W. as an evangelical was even more stridently pro-life; yet Laura, Barbara and Nancy remained by all accounts pro-choice and nothing did change. There have even been times in history in which the Republicans had control of the House, Senate, Court and Presidency and nothing changed to roll back abortion access and legality. It’s been alleged that keeping abortion legal and using anger directed at it works better to fire up a base and win elections. My opinion remains that if you are pro-life you should: refrain from having an abortion; support policies that reduce the desire for women to seek abortions; and encourage laws and practices that value and support life from childhood through old age encompassing the rights and livelihood of immigrants, refugees, the less fortunate and the “other”. In fact abortions go down, as they have under President Obama, more under Democratic presidencies due to policies which support the social safety net, increase access to birth control, and promote women and child health.

PS: The author adds a PS that she supports Trump because his first “hire” was Mike Pence, a man (according to the author) of “character, faith and integrity.” However it is likely Pence would have lost re-election in his own state had he not been scooped up by Trump as he failed Indiana economically and in the undermining of the social safety net. An AIDS epidemic broke out due to Pence’s delay and early refusal to sign a needle exchange bill, LGBT teens were directed into “conversion therapy” which has historic notoriety for increasing teen suicide and depression rates (not to mention no evidence of “working”), factories shipped overseas, etc. Pence’s role thus far as VP seems to be to deny Trump has said what he has said or that he meant something else and I don’t consider that indicative of “integrity” in any way.

So, these are the points I posted as my comment challenging the author’s assumptions. I do this not to be vindictive but to challenge her to consider her points and evaluate them for factuality. We are losing something in this election—respect for facts, respect for debate, respect for reason and tools of logic. We are doubting the veracity of our entire democracy, of the party system and of the value in public service and government. We are losing respect for considered rational yet kind conversation with those with whom we disagree.  Recent studies and stories have shown that we don’t just disagree on issues but WE DISAGREE ON FACTS. We tunnel-vision into our catered news while rejecting the “Media” for not agreeing with us, we reject science when it conflicts with our feelings or preferences and we overlook the parts of history that don’t justify the narrative we want to tell. This is dangerous stuff and if we don’t create a space where we can discuss with compassion the issues that face us and seek ways to equip everyone with the tools of discernment we are doomed.

I spent so much time on this author’s post not because of who she is or really even the points she makes but because her piece is indicative of those I know that agree with her but that are kind, decent and seemingly rational folks.  There’s no arguing with those who resort to character assassination and racist rhetoric, there’s no debating with those who approach this election with sheer panic and misplaced fear of their own place in the world but there should be a place to discuss the issues with those who simply disagree.

I will also end with a caveat–Hillary is by no means a perfect person or a perfect candidate and though I strongly support her now and believe her to be an honest, hard-working person who will make a solid President she was not my first choice either. Once she is elected I will be critical of her–of her military enthusiasm and role in perpetuating endless wars, of her refusal to reign in Wall Street excess, etc. But I will not dehumanize her or work against her in any way that might prevent genuine positive progress.

*https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/10/11/the-facts-about-hillary-clinton-and-the-kathy-shelton-rape-case/

**http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/oct/12/donald-trump/trump-ive-been-proven-right-about-clinton-wanting-/

***http://www.moneytalksnews.com/why-youre-probably-better-investing-than-donald-trump/

****https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/10/15/americans-now-live-in-two-worlds-each-with-its-own-reality/?postshare=5451476708300360&tid=ss_fb

hqdefault

The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade in 1973 to legalize abortion placing the decision to have one on each woman faced with that choice. Immediately after the verdict organizations formed which have since worked continuously to reverse the court’s decision, influencing countless house and congress members and even a few presidents–yet the verdict has stood ever since. It’s never even come close to being overturned, though many politicians have based their entire campaign on promises to overturn it and even one president (Reagan) made moral opposition to abortion a frequent talking point both because of his own fundamentalist evangelical faith and his close political alliance with Jerry Falwell in forming the “moral majority.” Reagan’s selection of George H.W. Bush, a social moderate, was controversial as Bush was not strictly pro-life but in time he “came around” to the position. Later on, his son would also engage in pro-life rhetoric. Interestingly, Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush were both pro-choice all the while.*

Yet for all of their talking points none of these pro-life politicians have been able to reverse Roe v. Wade. In fact, the legality of abortion was even expanded in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which removed the trimester barrier (which restrained the legality of abortion primarily to the first trimester) replacing it with a “viability” clause which defined abortion as illegal only in cases where the baby would be able to live outside of the mother’s body. There isn’t much a President can do to criminalize abortion as it was a decision by the Supreme Court that ruled abortion as a legal right related to privacy and due process via the 14th amendment. Presidents can nominate justices they believe will vote “pro life” when a case comes along that would have bearing on the previous decisions but this is often hard to predict as Reagan’s nominations proved.** In fact, there was a time when the Republicans controlled the House, Senate, Presidency and 7/9 Supreme Court justices–and no moves were made to criminalize abortion. *** Some argue that it works better for GOP campaigns to keep abortion up for debate as it gives them an additional base.

Meanwhile, life continues on and due to many factors, abortions are actually at historic lows. Abortions even went down an additional 13% during Obama’s presidency (and prior to restrictions placed in conservative regions).**** This is largely because abortions are almost always a symptom of a bigger problem–poverty–that democratic policies tend to better address through an emphasis on sustaining the social safety net. One huge factor that (obviously) reduces abortions is access to birth control and as that expands abortion numbers drop. Yet many factions of the pro-life movement extend the pro-life view to include opposition to birth control as it also prevents potential life from culminating.

Here we are 40+ years after RvW and the issue is no less contentious. Criminalizing abortion is still a rallying cry that whips up a base and creates a wave many candidates have rode to office. Where I live there is a congressperson who makes overturning RvW her primary talking point regardless of what issue is currently under discussion–local traffic and infrastructure needs, the city budget, etc.–and she is widely loved for it. Nationally, Trump has “converted” to the pro-life cause after a lifetime of quotes in which he was seemingly pro-choice. For this reason there are many one-issue voters who will vote for Trump as he is the only “pro-life” candidate running.

Many others have effectively argued that being pro-life goes far beyond the issue of abortion.***** They stress that being pro-life must be about caring for life once it is born–that if we are to insist a poor Mexican immigrant carry her pregnancy to term (for example) then we must advocate and support programs to lift her out of poverty, provide her with the education needed to sustain her and her baby’s life, provide her with healthcare and a network of support, and value her and her baby’s life–even as that baby grows into adulthood and faces tough choices of his/her own. “Pro-Life”, such advocates insist, must also oppose capital punishment, support immigration and refugees, the living wage, welfare, addiction treatment,  and all matters related to the social safety net. While I respect and admire the views of writers like the referenced Ms. Held-Evans I part ways with them in ways that will deter some readers, but here goes:

The terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are a misdirection that creates a false dichotomy. One is either for or against the criminalization of abortion, that is all. You can be “pro-life” on either side of this divide and you can be “pro choice” about any issue other than abortion on either side. Those that are pro-life believe abortion should be illegal and although some make exceptions for special circumstances many make no exception for any (even Zika-induced encephalitis as Rubio recently proved). Those that are pro-choice believe each woman is their own moral agent capable of making the decision to have an abortion or not depending on their own circumstances. I believe unequivocally that every woman has the right to make that decision for themselves based on their own unique circumstances. I believe that a government that insists every woman carry every pregnancy to term is guilty of serious overreach. I believe the health and well-being of the mother is always the first priority and I trust every woman to make that decision themselves.

Equating abortion directly to murder is dangerous. Many of the terrorist acts perpetrated on American soil over the years have been by right-to-life organizations including as recently as last year a shooting at a women’s clinic and the arson of 4 others.****** Doctors have been murdered and women threatened under the guise of “pro-life” and rhetoric that flatly compares a woman’s choice to murder directly encourage that activity by giving the armed and dangerous moral permission to prevent future “murders”. Several years ago when I was living on a seminary campus pursuing a master’s degree in religion my wife volunteered with the campus women’s center. As a progressive seminary the women’s center was pretty far to the left of similar organizations on more conservative campuses. This group went to the city’s women’s clinic to help escort women into the clinic past the protestors. Doing this greatly honed my wife’s ability to block out insults and maintain composure in dicey situations. This is because the clinic in the city was one of the most aggressively protested women’s clinics in the country. Often my wife would be escorting a woman in who having miscarried a child was having a procedure to remove the body–of course, on top of the heartbreak and discomfort the woman was already undergoing she then had to snake through a mob of loud frenzied picketers shouting at her that she was a murderer. Point is, those protestors did not know the situations of the women they were shaming–and they didn’t care. Their violent rhetoric could have easily led to gunfire any day as it has around the country for decades.

Deep down, most people realize the situation is more complicated and nothing brings this to the surface quite like the issue of “punishment” for abortion. If abortion is illegal then it would seem to follow that if a woman procured one she would then face punishment for breaking the law–and if abortion is flat out equal to murder then that punishment would be severe. Yet when Trump voiced this position earlier this year he quickly back-pedaled as even pro-life groups stressed punishment of the woman was never an option, she had been through enough; punishment was to be reserved for the doctor alone. By parsing the judgement in such a way  Slate writer William Saletan argues fairly convincingly that pro-lifers secretly recognize “that abortion is a medical procedure, that the woman is the primary patient, and that the physical and moral relationship between her and her fetus is complicated.”

But if we abolish “safe,legal and rare” abortion (as Clinton defined it) what is it we are asking for? Some sort of punishment for those women who desperately sought out an abortion. Wealthy women, even enthusiastically pro-life ones, will continue to have access to and procure their own abortions while denying them to others (As Jon Pennington writes based in his PhD work on the pro-life movement “Most pro-life women oppose abortion with four exceptions: rape, incest, the life of the mother, and me”).********

Women have abortions for many reasons. Some men use pregnancy as a means of limiting a woman’s options, trapping them in continual pregnancy to “keep” them whether the woman wants or can handle having another child or not. Sometimes women are victims of rape or incest. Some times women are simply not physically, mentally or financially capable of giving birth and if they are forced to that child will grow up unloved, unwanted and in physical and financial pain and want. Unwanted children are often victims of poverty, domestic abuse and addiction.

I have been fortunate and privileged to have never had to face a situation where a woman I love has had to contemplate abortion. I have always taken every precaution possible to ensure this was never an issue and I’ve been fortunate enough that even had I faced an unplanned pregnancy in my relationship my partner and I haven’t lacked the resources and connections to “choose life” had we found ourselves in such a situation. Yet I would never in a million years choose to judge, shame or denigrate someone who has had to make such a choice. Based on the stats a woman in America is about 30% likely to have had  an abortion by age 45.********* Though the “1 in 3” claim has been a contentious bit of data  ********** the 30% estimate is our best current estimate and it is much lower than it was 30 or 40 years ago and will likely continue to lower pending maintenance of the social safety net, promotion of sex education and the widespread availability of birth control. The point is, it’s safe to assume a woman you know, maybe a woman you love, has had an abortion. To label her a murderer and to flatly refuse to consider the complexity of the issue is not the moral high ground.

The moral high ground is in fact the issue. Because it’s over the issue of abortion many on the right get most indignant. Liberals may have “stolen” the moral issues of poverty alleviation and caring for the sick, poor, refugees, “least of these”, environment, imprisoned, etc. but the right are the ones to hold onto the hard “fact” that abortion is a moral outrage. It’s enough of an issue for conservatives that one I love could claim someone like myself can have nothing to say of value on any issue if I don’t agree abortion is always wrong.

But maybe that’s right to the extent that the reasons I am for the woman’s right to choose tie in with the rest of my moral judgements–so if you ridicule or hate my rationale for taking this stance you may as well ridicule the rest. I support a woman’s right to choose because I trust women to be their own moral agents and I would never presume to  know what is in their best interest. I am for a woman’s right to choose because I believe forcing a woman to carry a baby to term from the very moment of conception is arbitrary and cruel. The CDC reports 90% of abortions are in the 1st trimester and just over 1% are in the 3rd (almost always tied to the survival of the mother or because the baby has died). So to insist that those women who just found out they are pregnant but who are wise enough to their own situation to know they are in no shape to become a parent must just suck it up and become a parent is beyond absurd to me and against the liberties and freedoms inherent to our country. Pre-born life is potential life and there is no argument against abortion that is not rooted in religion; so if we are to maintain our separation of church and state we will not dictate what decisions women can make based on our own form of religion that they may not share. The issue of abortion is simpler than we all make it–if a person is against abortion they should never get one and they should never be forced to get one. But there is no room for them to force others to share their belief. Women can never maintain gender equality with men and be free to pursue their own visions, goals and live their own lives if we do not grant them freedom to make their own decisions about their own bodies–and that includes an embryo growing within that body.

If you are pro-life I urge you to at the least expand your vision of what that entails and support programs, resources and avenues of growth that let life flourish from adoption and foster care systems to refugee resettlement programs to addiction treatment and poverty alleviation. I urge you to support programs that reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies: expanded access to birth control, comprehensive sex education and advanced women’s health care and mentoring. I urge you to love the life of women facing terrible decisions without resorting to labeling them murderers and shaming them without even understanding their life situation. I also urge you to be skeptical of politicians and people who play on your pro-life convictions to get your votes and dollars without ever having any genuine plan or hope of changing abortion legislation who simultaneously do everything they can to destroy the programs that reduce the desire for abortion in the first place.

References

*http://thefederalist.com/2016/01/15/why-the-abortion-stance-of-a-presidents-spouse-matters/

**http://www.forbes.com/sites/ilyashapiro/2015/10/28/ben-carson-overturn-roe-v-wade-abortion/#18da2a754511

***http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithfuldemocrats/2012/09/if-you-are-truly-pro-life-youd-vote-democrat/

****http://www.politicususa.com/2014/02/03/newsflash-republicans-abortion-rate-fell-13-president-obama.html

*****http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/pro-life-voting-for-hillary-clinton

******http://www.adl.org/combating-hate/domestic-extremism-terrorism/c/anti-abortion-violence-americas-forgotten-terrorism-1.html

*******http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/04/donald_trump_abortion_comments_exposed_the_incoherence_of_the_anti_abortion.html

********http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/pro-life-views-change-if-abortion-gets-personal.html

*********http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2016/jan/19/wendy-davis/flawed-wendy-davis-claim-1-3-women-has-had-abortio/     “”We know that the abortion rate has dropped substantially since 2008, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the lifetime incidence has. There also have to be concomitant changes in age-specific first-abortion rates.” She said that until 2014 data is analyzed, likely in 2017, it’s only appropriate to say that given 2008 abortion rates, “an estimated 30% of women will have an abortion by age 45.”

*********http://www.not1in3.com/

 

As a brief follow-up to my last piece which called for discussion with those who support Trump on the fears many of us have of a Trump presidency, here is my evaluation of the most common pro-Trump sentiments I’ve read and heard from moderate supporters of Trump as we approach the election.

*His experience:

He is a billionaire, something a lot of Americans admire and aspire to become. He’s ran businesses and hired & fired employees. A lot of folks want government whether local or national to be ran like a business. Actually it can’t be as political history and theory showcase—Alexander Hamilton in his cabinet position established the national debt by absorbing all state debt early in the history of this country in order to build the foundation of taxes and legislation that a federal government relies on in order to exist. But giving that the benefit of a doubt, let’s say running the country like an effective business is a good thing. Is Trump a good businessman as his supporters claim? He has filed bankruptcy four times to rid a company holding of debt, something not possible (or desirable) for national debt.  Even more damning, financial experts claim Trump would have been worth $10 billion MORE if he’d just retired 30 years ago and left his money in an UNMANAGED stock fund. Basically, Trump inherited a great deal of money and acclaim from his father and accomplished very little with it—the definition of privilege. So what experience does he bring to the office of President—years of experience working in reality television, ghost-writing a book whose real writer now regrets writing and admits was overblown and exaggerated, starring in McDonald’s ads and robbing business students through a for-profit Trump University scam. One of America’s best historians (Ken Burns, not known for being a partisan guy) recently called Trump the most unqualified person to ever run for President in American history. Keep in mind he’s up against (whether you agree with her policies and personality or not) a candidate who the New York Times (the most respected journalists in the country) has deemed the MOST qualified candidate to run for President.

http://www.moneytalksnews.com/why-youre-probably-better-investing-than-donald-trump/

*His “impressive” children:

After the convention a lot of folks were impressed with the speeches and composure of the Trump children. Hey, they are successful businesspeople too! Keep in mind just like their father they were gifted into a billion dollar business with titles and jobs the rest of their generation were by and large barred from considering. But if you are impressed with his children, give the credit where it belongs—to his ex-wives who raised those children as single mothers as Donald was off starting new families. Donald Jr. didn’t even build a relationship with his father until his adulthood when he began working for the family business. If you want character witness to Donald’s behavior look no further than his first wife Ivana who accused him of rape—but Donald didn’t get in trouble because then it wasn’t illegal to rape one’s spouse as his lawyer argued in court proceedings.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/27/ex-wife-donald-trump-made-feel-violated-during-sex.html

*He’s an outsider:

People are tired of politicians. They blame politicians for the mess we’re in. What blanket hate of politicians has caused is to lump all into one categorical same that ignores that the bulk of our current stalemates and halted progress are the results of tea-party candidates who ran on anti-government platforms and have accomplished nothing but opposition to progress. It takes an understanding of government, policies, foreign and domestic facts and communication to effectively govern. Do we want non-dentists to perform root canals? Non-Doctors to perform open heart surgery? No? Then why do we want an outsider with no understanding of the basic function and operation of government to hold the highest office in the land? What is not needed is neophytes and amateurs but good (as opposed to bad) politicians and Trump is not that.

*He’s a unifier:

I keep hearing this but I am flabbergasted as to how this is claimed with a straight face. Trump cares about Trump and Trump alone. He has proven he does not unify disparate communities in America. There are reports of terrified Hispanic children in public schools asking their teachers when the wall will be built and they will have to leave. He has called for a total lockout of Muslims immigrating to the US causing born and bred American Muslims to wonder of their place in a Trump America. He has called for punishment on poor women who seek an abortion. He has castigated Black Lives Matter and mocked a disabled reporter with horrendous hand gestures. He has encouraged the assault of protestors at his rallies. He vows to repeal the Iran nuclear deal undoing solid universally praised (outside of the US) progress. How is this man a “unifier”?

*He’s an end to Obama politics:

This one is indeed hard to argue against. His policies, if he is honest in enacting them (he’s been fact-checked as lying 91% of the time–http://www.politicususa.com/2016/03/31/ninety-one-percent-donald-trump-false.html) are in diametric opposition to Obama’s. He claims he will end the health care crisis by repealing Obama’s AHCA but that everyone would have healthcare anyway. Keep in mind the affordable healthcare act in its original robust form would have assured all citizens of affordable healthcare and that no one has been more critical of its scaled down and enervated form than Obama himself—every act of repealing it (as Gov. Bevin did in KY destroying Gov. Beshear’s Kynect program) has resulted in less coverage for needy people. The only way to solve the healthcare crisis is to insist on full and healthy implementation of a stronger version of the original policy. Trump also stands against Obama in acknowledging climate change with the rest of the world and working to preserve this planet for future generations. He stands against Obama in most things but sadly Obama stood for things that benefit most people and any failure he has had has in large part been because of stubborn opponents in the GOP. If we really want a robust economy, like the reverse of trickle-down economics and intrepid growth of Obama’s presidency but amped up to 100 then we must vote for progressive candidates at all levels of the House and Senate in addition to the Presidency to prevent filibuster. Obama will be judged by historians as one of the top 10 or 15 US Presidents in history and the failures of his time in office will be seen as a result of tea party opposition. A Trump presidency, if it occurs, will be judged much differently—as a scared and desperate turn from democracy to neo-fascism.

This is my analysis of the top pro-Trump arguments I see from moderate supporters of Trump, people who are not racist and nationalistic but see no way of voting for Hillary. I still await any valid debate against my claims of the dangers of a Trump presidency:

  • He is a bigot promoting bigotry
  • He advocates for the use of torture
  • He denies climate science
  • He is post-factual

And I’ll add one new one.

*You will know a man by his enemies:
The religious community, from Pope Francis to the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention in addition to theologians of all stripes (Max Lucado to Brian McClaren), have spoken out harshly against Trump. The scientific community has strongly spoken out against Trump. The creative and artistic community has overwhelmingly spoken out against Trump. The charitable sector most strongly the refugee resettlement community has spoken out against Trump. All living former Presidents (both parties) and most of the strong candidates from previous presidential elections have spoken out against Trump. Who speaks in favor of Trump? His entitled children and Scott Baio?

 

I hope conservative friends will read what I write here with an open mind. I don’t write this to anger anyone but to explain, invite conversation and purge my mind of a few clamoring thoughts. I’ve seen numerous posts this morning from some of you, many of you moderate pastors, who are inviting a calm and even-handed look at the current election from and for both sides due to the anger you see from both sides in your daily feed.

This is easily the most volatile election of my lifetime. Though each election since I was old enough to vote has grown increasingly volatile this one easily takes the cake. With the stakes so high, the media so loud, and the sides so split there is little room for conversation in any fruitful manner.

I remember growing up and debating issues whether religious, political or pop culture. One of the most formative voices in my youth was a Sunday school teacher who was the father of my best friend. He and I argued week in and out in Sunday school because even at 12 I was beginning to have different views than much of what I heard at my  church. Despite this we were always friendly and though it was in his nature to tease me, he was always respectful in our disagreements. He was also my first boss and when we argued there it was also respectful. Through high school, college, grad school and beyond, debating issues was simply something I did. To this day I have great friends and loved ones who disagree with me on some pretty huge issues (is there a God, is Bruce Springsteen the best American rock star of all time) but we remain friends.

I don’t have to agree with you to love you. Heck, I don’t have to agree with you to like you. I like voices that challenge me, so long as they do so in a way that is informed, engaged and caring. Disagreeing and constructively debating began to slip away from public discourse, at least in my life, right around the time Obama closed in on the White House.  Whereas one of my favorite professors (a Republican) tried to console me in my under-grad years as I moped after W.’s re-election, after Obama’s victory I found coworkers and acquaintances who made it clear they would rather I shut up that I even cared for the new President whenever they made a negative comment. Even discussing the issues leading up to that election was fraught—I had always found even-toned, fact-based discourse to be an appropriate manner of discussing politics but that began to fade in 2008.

I have moved around a lot but I always wind up in predominantly conservative areas. The area I live in today is governed by some of the most conservative tea-party House members around yet their opponents are running against them on a platform that insists they are the true conservatives. Everyone tries to out-conservative each other here. As a result, and particularly because I’ve found fact-based debate to be frowned upon, I do not generally mention my political opinions in public places especially if it may in any way be seen as associated with my vocation or company. This however is a favor that is rarely returned. Just as most liberal friends consistently recount that when they attempt to leave politics away from the dinner table there is always a conservative uncle or two who insists on muttering “I hate Obama” out of nowhere, it is also common for conservatives to announce uninvited and out of context their often hateful political exhortations at business meetings, town hall meetings, church meetings (etc). Early in my tenure living and working in my new community I was at a community event where out of nowhere a guest speaker began shouting fairly vile and ultra-partisan political and religious opinions into the microphone inviting those who disagreed to “get the hell out of this country”. He was applauded.

Watching this week’s RNC has been frightening to me but I must be a sucker for punishment that goes beyond my political junky tendencies. I’ve read and studied politics and American history for much of my life and have increased that as of late but I know most of us do not vote based on study or rationale. Most of us vote on pure emotion or personal fear related to our own specific life situation. This can make debating politics, especially in the volatile schism we now find ourselves in, fraught with tension. But I want to tell you, especially if you are a conservative friend or loved one of mine, why I am scared and why I find this election different than any previous election I have witnessed in my life or am aware of in modern history. I invite you to consider these fears and give me your own in the comments. If we can at least acknowledge each other’s points maybe we won’t demonize each other.  Furthermore, if we can at least try to consider each other’s points in a rational manner we may find common ground and understanding.

So why do I find this election different, why does it scare me? Though I disagreed with the policies and politics of George W. Bush and voted against him, I found debate was possible on his presidency and could understand why someone did or did not support him. The same thing goes for McCain and Romney.  So why do I find Trump so different, so scary, and (in my opinion) so dangerous?

  1. Trump has made inflammatory and aggressive statements against many populations including Hispanics, Muslims, and women.

No, you are not a racist simply because you vote for Trump. I can’t even unequivocally label Trump himself a racist as for all I know he is playing George Wallace style politics by utilizing the dangerous fuel of racism to tap into votes while not actually being racist. Furthermore, I don’t deny you can hold contrary opinions on immigration reform, inter-religious relations or the role of religious extremism in terrorism without being racist, xenophobic or bigoted. I understand that once the insult of “bigot” is thrown out many conservatives feel that debate is closed. Yet you can admit that at least SOME of what Trump has said at rallies to thunderous applause does come off as prejudiced, does hurt many groups of people and can very well do lasting damage on the relations between different groups in America and between America and other countries.  There is after all at least some reason that Trump is polling at a 0% approval rating among African American voters in the city where the RNC (Cleveland) is taking place and that his approval rating among American Muslims and Hispanic-Americans is not much better. His history and remarks on women as human beings has resulted in historic lows in his approval rating among women (even Republican women). At perhaps the most critical time for race-relations, religious interaction and population diversification since the 1960s statements and policies that fan the flames of discontent are doubly dangerous.

  1. Trump openly supports torture, praises the actions of dictators, and pledges the type of military policies that will increase violence and animosity particularly in volatile areas of the Middle East.

If we believe in human rights as we should and as we expect other countries to, we must reject all uses of torture.

  1. Trump denies climate science.

Trump would be the only world leader to openly deny global warming. For some, especially conservatives, this seems a minor issue as even if they don’t themselves outright deny the existence of global warming they do not accept that human action has much to do with it or that it is as bad as is said. In many ways, this is the scariest part of Trump’s platform because there is overwhelming scientific consensus that not only is global warming real and exacerbated by human actions, it is nearing the tipping point of no turning back. We are on pace to reach a mean global temperature 4 degrees warmer than preindustrial levels by the end of this century—which will cause flooding of all coastal cities, astronomic levels of malnutrition and food/clean water shortages around the globe particularly in poor countries, violent heat waves, increased cyclones and the disappearance of the coral reef system.  What this means is, that without significant policy changes babies born today who live a normal life expectancy will have to live through the dangerous and violent affects of global climate change and population shifts. We current young adults may be the last living generation fortunate enough to daily function on a relatively normal basis with the ability (all other factors allowing) to go to the beach for vacation, turn on the tap for clean water, eat a balanced meal a day, etc.  Yet we know what causes global warming—the largest human contributor is the burning of fossil fuels particularly coal but also oil and to a lesser degree natural gas. We’re all in this together and all bear responsibility because every nugget of coal we burn and every tank of gas we run through pumps carbon into the atmosphere, adds to the greenhouse effect, melts polar ice caps and heats up the mean temperature. So rather than point fingers we have to admit our culpability for the sake of future generations and begin making the shift, from coal to less aggressive fuel sources to ultimately clean fuel sources. Trump does not admit this; in fact his platform has re-written science to say “coal is clean” in defiance of all scientific data. Of course there are economic concerns tied to the shift that MUST be addressed but the time is running out to make those shifts if we want to preserve this planet as livable for future humans and animals. I come from coal country with family members going back generations who have depended on the coal industry to earn a living, but just as miners fought the coal industry when the company store exploited them economically and when the management killed them through lack of safety regulation producing the most vibrant union in worker history, today’s miners and the connected industry must be just as strong in making adaptations, acquiring training and demanding proper stimulus packages to revitalize their local economies– and the rest of us interested in a livable future must fight this battle with them if we truly believe in economic justice as a platform and that no one is left on their own. Regardless, if changes are not made within the next 4 years it may be too late for any future generations. Trump could be the nail in the coffin of this earth even if he keeps his hands off the nuclear button.

  1. Trump is post-factual

Facts do not matter to Trump. If caught in a lie or an inconsistency he doubles down and never apologizes. He does not offer examples of how he will concretely pursue his goals. He plays on fears, prejudices and irrational thoughts to emotionally stir up his crowd which has included physically assaulting those who protest, encouraging shouts of slurs toward his opponents, and dangerously misrepresenting the actions and positions of those who run against him. If we cannot debate Trump’s policies with facts and if those who support Trump reject all facts as liberal bias, if history, science, and political theory are all thrown out as useless how does Trump build anything of use and how do we as a people have any say in how it is constructed? How do we have constructive debate to find ways to truly better this country if we can’t agree to acknowledge reality?

….and here’s where I lose some of you (if I haven’t already) with what you no doubt will call hyperbole. This is the crux of my argument and the reason I find it difficult to compare this campaign to any previous campaign I’ve lived through. Too many have cried wolf over the years to make the comparison seem anything but overblown no matter who we’re talking about but unfortunately Trump is that candidate that comes around so rarely that this comparison (scarily) may very well be apt—when Hitler began his rise to power it was just “politics” too. He scapegoated the Jews, stoked economic fears that the Jews were stealing the jobs of good Germans and controlled the economy, labeled the “others” as threats to national security and he proudly proclaimed he would make Germany live up to its glorious past again. In hindsight it’s easy to condemn those that allowed Hitler to happen in the face of genocide and removed by time. But it was average, everyday people, those who supported Hitler AND those who simply refused to actively oppose him that allowed him to rise to power. Trump talks of building a wall, of deporting Mexicans who are mostly “rapists and criminals”, of profiling and barring Muslims from entry into the country, of closing our borders to suffering refugees, of using torture to enforce American military goals. Trump is not an acceptable candidate. His policies are past the pale, they cross the line from an area where we can civilly discuss political issues into an area that is scary, violent, false and damaging. How am I to be quiet of this if I am to live up to what I know is right? I may no longer be a religious person but my lifelong study of it and its heroes has instilled in me a desire to see peace and justice reign. If I don’t speak truth as I see it and invite others into conversation to clarify the danger as I see it then how will I decry the misery Trump inflicts if he becomes President? Is vocally opposing him now prophetic in the truest sense of the word or is it hyperbolic?

I work with, live around, do business with, am friend and family to, like and love people who disagree with me on many, many issues. That is fine. That is life and the way it should be. I am sure I am connected to people who I care about that will vote for Trump in the fall and I wager that most (if not all) of them will do so out of deep aversion to the alternative. I could write a lot about why I support Hillary regardless of Trump but I could also offer plenty of my own critique of her politics as well. I feel we can debate her policies but I don’t see how we can debate Trump’s as his all rely on emotion in a post-factual world. I invite you, if you are so inclined, to tell me (if you fear) why you fear Hillary in the way I have told you my fears of Trump. What damage do you see imminent in a presidency of hers? Does it outweigh the potential damage of a Trump presidency? Are my fears listed above invalid in your opinion? If so, what about them reads false? I honestly welcome your discussion so long as you are civil. Thank you.

Reports show that as with religion and other traditional labels millennials tend to eschew partisan identification. Statistically millennials even while refraining from self-identification as Democrats tend to vote that way anyway.

I understand why many millennials abhor labels and distrust any institution to actually deliver on promises. Distrust of institutions is prevalent among the right and the left today with good reason. Yet every time I hear the scorn towards the “two party system” or the “I don’t vote based on party I vote based on person” I can’t help but think most who espouse these statements aren’t knowledgeable of politics or history or are ideologically shallow.

Now bear with me before calling me names. I’m not saying that the Democrats (or Republicans by any means) are a perfect party. Nor do I disagree there could be a wider array of choices to cover all of the stops on the spectrum of political preferences. But as it stands and has stood since the launch of the American experiment there have always been two opposing political mindsets: progressive and conservative. Those who seek to expand democracy and progress forward and those who wish to conserve it as it is or return it to a perceived golden age. Now, it just so happens that today in the US the Democratic party happens to be the progressive mainstream party–I concede the green party is even more progressive but that they’ve never had a legitimate chance at the White House and have remained on the periphery of American politics. Today the Republican party is the conservative party. Historically this hasn’t always been the case. From Lincoln and the inception of the Republican party to Theodore Roosevelt the Republican party was the  progressive party. Teddy on his failed third bid at President (after serving two terms prior to Taft) attempted to launch an official “progressive” party yet all it did was split the vote between Taft and himself and allow Wilson, a Democrat, to swoop in.

So I understand why one hesitates to call themselves “Democrat” if they perceive the party to fail to live up to progressive ideals. Yet I do not understand how one can be unsure whether they are progressive or conservative on most issues unless they just fail to comprehend those terms or their own ideology. As I see it, the constitution was a bold and progressive document that envisioned a progressive and open society where people were free to live and worship (or not worship) however they saw fit. Of course, the constitution was a document of its time and those who framed it were also of their time and often failed to live up to the scope and ideals therein. So the progressive cause  had to be continually taken up by those who sought to live out the core principles of the constitution and the American experiment, refining things each generation for a new age and bringing more and more people into the fold while simultaneously establishing a social safety net that valued people above profit. In each generation there have been those who sought to expand and progress–extending democracy to women and African Americans, instituting safeguards to protect workers and the environment and caring for the poor while providing them with a viable path out of poverty.

Today the popular sentiment seems to be that all of the choices suck. This is the safe thing to say in public. This is largely voiced by those who are or who lean Republican however. This is because the current crop of GOP candidates are caricatures or satires in action. This is the worst selection of Republican candidates in history. But really–this is a classic case of reaping what you sow for the Republican leadership. For years they have sown the seeds of hate, racism, xenophobia, misinformation, anti-intellectualism and hypocrisy and what has grown–by way of the tea party and the right-wing blogosphere–is Trump, Cruz and the clown car that has fallen to these two chief clowns. On the other side what do we have? A center left traditional Democrat who may be drifting further to the progressive side because of her political battle with the other candidate- a genuine and unabashed progressive who if possessing of any faults it is the classic political foible of promising more than is possible. Yet all in all we have two strong progressive candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. Of course there are the #Berniecrats who refuse to consider Hillary and will vote for Bernie no matter what even if by write-in but for most of us on the left we see that either of these candidates is capable and vastly superior to anything on display from the opposition.

A lot of ground has been made in the Obama presidency despite opposition and compromise. Either Hillary or Bernie can take the ball and roll with it. Those who hate Hillary do so either out of misogyny, hatred of party politics or personality politics. Do I think Bernie is the more progressive of the two? Certainly. Yet I hope they join forces and combine tickets to round each other out and secure all left votes,  #Berniecrats and all.

All choices do not suck. You are either a progressive ready to see progress continue in income equality, women and LGBT rights, racial relations and policies, immigration and refugees, climate change and education or you oppose these things for whatever reason and are left to consider voting for the worst yet most natural products of the natural evolution of your party or staying home. You also have to abandon the label of “patriotic” as you have proven in your approach to Obama for the past 8 years and to the candidates running now that you have no respect for leadership or policy or discussion that does not reflect your own biases and prejudices.

The Reagan Cheeseburger

August 27, 2015

I was never one for fad diets, ones with trendy names I loathe those based on bad and fleeting science. I flirted with “healthy” food in fits and spurts over the years though which gradually entered my typical grocery shopping list and daily diet. Then, several weeks ago I made the biggest and most concerted changes to my diet than ever before.

I get an annual physical. A couple years back the doc noted I should watch my BP—it wasn’t an issue yet, but I should keep an eye on it to make sure it did not become one. I thought nothing of it. Earlier this year I had my physical and my new doc said though everything else was solid, my BP was too high and my cholesterol was ticking up—not high yet, but worth addressing. I once again ignored it but agreed to come back in a few months to follow up–at which point, being that I had not made any changes, things were still too high and she said to avoid medication, which she thought I should do my best to do at my age, I should immediately begin a healthy “DASH” diet and increase my exercise.

For many years I had strenuous jobs that kept me on my feet running around all day. I stayed fit without trying though I stayed stressed and angry which began a slow uptick of BP.  But I have worked 90% of my hours in the past year from a desk and my 3 times a week on a stationary bike simply wasn’t cutting it. So, I began committing a minimum of 45 minutes a day 6 days a week to exercise. I also did two major things with my diet which immediately began to feed off of each other for the better—I drastically increased the number of fresh fruits and vegetables I eat in a day and I began eyeing the label on everything I bought to check for salt, saturated fat and cholesterol numbers—which in turn made me opt for fresh rather than processed and packaged options almost every time. I learned several vegetarian recipes that not only suffice but taste better than many of my meat recipes. I began eating whole unprocessed unsalted nuts and omega rich fish, small scoops of almond butter, oats and grains but less packaged bread. I began grazing through the day and eating smaller portions in my sit down meals. I stopped eating processed meats and though I will likely opt for an occasional steak or burger again soon enough, I cut out red meat for the time being.  I scaled my coffee back to a rational level and though I love a glass of wine, a craft beer or a tumbler of scotch I also began notching those units and skipping them a few days a week.

At this point I know most readers are like—who cares? And what does this have to do with anything least of all Reagan?

Well, my diet has done a few things. One, it quickly shed 10 pounds of fat from me and cut my BP numbers way down to good healthy numbers. Two, it doesn’t feel like a “diet”. It feels natural. I like what I eat and I’ve learned new foods that I enjoy whether it’s a vegetable ratatouille, mushroom risotto, roasted almond kale salad or an egg white omelet loaded with vegetables. But more than that I enjoy basic, simple fruits—blueberries, peaches, apples I enjoy carrots and tomatoes. They taste better than they used to. I haven’t had a greasy bag of chips in months and I had those almost every day for far too many years. Here’s what I, like many before me, quickly learned.

When you give yourself real food, real things taste better and it clicks that this is what you are meant to eat, what you are meant to feel like after a meal. Conversely, fake shit just tastes fake to put it bluntly. It’s funny but you know how if you drink enough fizzy sugary carbonated cola water simply tastes wrong because it’s clean, clear and doesn’t burn going down? I remember as a store manager—and even when I ate like crap and drank too much as a college student I chugged water throughout the day because running around as a retail manager one must be hydrated or miserable—but my younger employees would far too often complain that “water tastes bad I need something that burns my throat” when no soda was available for their consumption. See, if you eat the fake shit long enough you get used to the fake shit. It’s comfortable. It’s what you know, what you resort to at every convenience. It takes no effort. In its own way it’s comforting because it’s high sugar high fat high salt—it hits all your pleasure spots in a quick blast and then you feel like shit but in a few hours you can do it again. A fast food or prepackaged junk food diet is very similar to a drug habit.
As a nation we have a junk food diet relationship with politics too. Reagan was our cheeseburger. Trump is shaping up to be our Hardee’s  obscene extreme burger with fried eggs and 4 patties.
I’ll back up for a minute.

I think to fully understand American politics in the twentieth century one must deal with both Roosevelts’, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton. But I think to quickly look at where we are right here right now in the political landscape of America 2015 we need compare only Carter and Reagan. Carter was the healthy kale salad that America found ourselves with after years of eating only bad airline meatloaf. He was the healthy, balanced, right choice but he had only 4 years (or less in public opinion) to change the tastes of the populace to want what was best, what was healthy for them in leadership , governance and foreign relations. Americans, by and large, quickly responded by dumping the salad and opting for a greasy cheeseburger in the form of Ronald Reagan.

Where Carter was devoted to peace, diplomacy and safeguarding the disbursement of weapons from warring nations Reagan was most often the opposite in all matters. Where Carter was cognizant of the looming energy crisis (even installing solar panels on the WH) Reagan doubled down on fossil fuels and short term solutions. Carter urged restraint, patience and community—Reagan ushered in an era of corporate greed, unchecked consumption and unregulated industry. Reagan was America’s cheeseburger—instantly gratifying (at least if you weren’t poor, gay or a minority). He did not ask you to sacrifice in the short term for the long term gain—he was full throttle ahead for making and consuming as much as possible and damn the consequences. It was what America knew and hell, even if it was bad for us we could just repeat the process again…and again…until the market collapses, the environment dies and the wheels come off. Those who were already wealthy or on the cusp of being able to be wealthy (particularly if they were of the “right” demographics) embraced Reagan as the solution to Carter. He allowed them to unleash their most basic impulses, to capitalize and flourish in business at the expense of those who worked under them and at the expense of the country and environment as a whole.

The modern perils we face—global warming, economic policies, healthcare, wage disparity and the global landscape particularly the situations throughout the Middle East—were typified in the disparate competing goals, perspectives and actions of Carter and Reagan. Every conservative President or candidate since Reagan has aspired to his example, most often even pushing far to his right. We have seen a few candidates but few successors to Carter’s legacy though we caught glimpses of it in some of Clinton’s actions and have increasingly witnessed it (except, unfortunately, in many military actions) in Obama’s presidency but now we see its fullest potential in candidate Bernie Sanders. And here’s the catcher—there is an entire generation of people who have grown up at least knowing that the fake shit is bad for you. They know the real thing is so much better. The question is—will they outnumber the fearful loud crowd who wants to say screw it and head to Hardee’s for a sack full of thick burgers via the Trump route?

I know myself that one of these days, likely in the next few months I’ll take a hiatus on my diet and head to Red Robin to celebrate something. At which point I’m having the biggest burger covered in bacon, cheese eggs and hot sauce, a plate of fries and one of those whiskey bacon milkshakes. I’ll walk out of that place a bit happy but a bit crappy feeling. I’ll go back to my diet. The problem with America taking the Trump route is that we would be forgoing our diet for a minimum of 4 years and I don’t know how long it would take us (and the world because of us) to recover from the catastrophic damage of four years of sustained over-consumption of fake shit.