Tag Archives: Politics

A thought.

Before I go into anything else, I’d like to apologize. Not for my opinion, for my hypocrisy. I posted something on my newsfeed about leaving Facebook behind for a few days until everyone calmed down. I then posted a couple of different things as somewhat passive-aggressive commentary on different aspects of the the unfortunate events in Connecticut. I had fully intended on avoiding social media for a few days. I honestly do not like most peoples political opinions to begin with, and find these opinions considerably less tolerable in the aftermath of any impactful event, positive or negative. I can’t shut them up, and I wouldn’t dream to, to be perfectly honest. But for myself, I had intended to keep quiet.

 

I have failed. After seeing the “dialogue” (if indeed that is the proper term), I can’t just NOT say anything. So, for the hypocrisy, I am sorry. It tastes awful on my palate.

 

When I was on my way to work yesterday I heard over the radio preliminary reports of the shooting. Details emerged along the way and, with the aid of several incredibly sad stories I had to deal with independently at work, I spent most of the day teribly depressed and occasionally bordering on tears as I thought of my almost two year old son going to school in the next few years. What could have caused someone to behave like this? What was going on in their brain that they thought this was an appropriate response to…..anything?

 

I go to break and check my newsfeed from my phone and already, less than 6 hours after the event took place I am already beginning to see calls for increased gun control on one side, and secondhand reports that someone on Fox News is labeling this tragedy as a ‘…result of taking God out of school/this nation moving away from God…’. 

 

whut?

 

I have spent the entire day feeling like my blood was boiling. First it was the audacity that some people have so little regard for the loss of life at the hands of irrationality or the families of the fallen, second at the brazen politicking. Now, just to clarify, it is not the diversity of opinion that upsets me. I have a great many friends that fall literally all across the political spectrum. I am rather proud of this fact. I have never believed that politics should be any reason to refuse friendship. What spikes my blood pressure is the  immediate rush some people have made to push their own agenda. 

 

There is a very distinct and identifiable difference between political position and agenda promotion. Agenda promotions care nothing for problem resolution, they only care for the adoption of their own policies. When there is a much more clear correlation between mental illness and mass shootings/domestic terrorism than there has been in the past, and the first thing some people at one end of the spectrum screams is more gun control, you’re really conveying to me that you just dont like guns and will take every opportunity to get rid of them, even at the cost of solving the actual problem. When someone at the other end of the political spectrum witnesses the same event and their response is that such tragedies happen when you turn away from God, you’re really telling me that you reject cultural pluralism and want a Christian dominant nation.

Honestly? The horrible events that occur all around the world on a daily a basis and the only response you can muster is some shameless agenda promotion? You question whats wrong with America, YOU’RE whats wrong with it. You don’t want any solution, you only want YOUR solution, fuck everyone else. Fuck liberty, fuck intellectual  and philosophical diversity, fuck everything that I don’t agree with. Simplistic? Reductionist? probably.

 

Lets discuss this then. There are a few very basic premises that need to be recognized. I don’t mean agreed with, because you don’t have to like it. These are simple realities. Regardless of the degree of civilization we think we have, this world is wild. Humans are feral beings in strappy sandals and neckties.We comfort ourselves in the false pretext of a ‘social contract’, rock ourselves to sleep at night under the preconceived notion that we are somehow protected by the artifice of government and existence of a legal structure. Now, understand that law enforcement and the legal system does not prevent a single goddamned thing. It responds after the fact. Every. Single. Time. At best we have learned some of the tendencies of the people that desire to break these laws and we try to implement activities that would discourage them. Things like making the police visibly present as a deterrent, or installing an alarm system. We cuddle ourselves with a binky made from hollow reassurances that “people wont break the law because they dont want to go to jail” or “criminals that go to jail just made bad decisions in their life and just need to be punished and deserve it”. 

 

Jenga… Bitch. This is all self-delusion. Its selfish ignorance. We can’t face the reality that we are simply bare faced neanderthals with shitty coping skills. No amount of legislation has ever, or will ever stop someone from doing something that they particularly want to do. You want to stop mass shootings? Dont take away guns, they’ll just do it with knives. Take away knives, they’ll do it with rocks. “But Ben, at least with knives or rocks it will be more difficult to accomplish and be less fatal over all”. I refuse to settle for “less fatal”, “more difficult to accomplish”. Why can we not recognize that there is a problem, even if with only rocks, when a person decides that the only way resolve their issue is to maim and murder as many people as possible? THIS is the problem. Not guns. Not lack of God. 

 

How about, instead, we focus on opening up our arms, learning who our neighbors are, reaching out to friends and family and strangers and letting them know that its ok if they have a problem. Its ok to seek to out help and that they’ll have the support of their loved ones while they get help. Instead of removing guns, lets focus on learning resolution skills and coping skills. With a little thought and effort it is entirely possible to make guns  obsolete without ever increasing restrictions. That, of course, is entirely dependent on people becoming more rational, more caring, more compassionate and more interested in resolution and compromise than they are in domination and “winning” the argument retrospectively.

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A Preface to Any Future Political Posts…

I dont want to become defined as a political blogger, but my undergrad is in Political Science, I’m completing a Masters in Public Administration and am applying to a Doctoral program for Political Science, so sometimes political entries on here are simply unavoidable.

If you read this (or any other political piece I write) and feel like Im attacking you in some way, just assume I am and take a hike. Im not interested in partisan debate, ludicrous ad hominem attacks, or frankly, dealing with people too blind to see that they don’t actually understand how government or politics function. It would be much simpler for you to just be offended and go away.

It’s not that I’m not opposed to intellectual conflict, quite the opposite, I welcome it. I’m just violently allergic to myopic stupidity. Feel free to disagree and challenge anything, just don’t be that guy……

……… You can carry on now…


Special interests

Going after special interest groups for buying politicians votes is like going after the guy your wife is cheating on you with…Its just shortsighted and idiotic. This country is comprised of nothing but individuals with individual interests and pursuits. What should really grate your cheese are politicians that are obviously ignoring their districts and servicing primarily special interests. These are the people you put into office to represent you, but you’re getting pissed at the ones that are offer the bribes (or what amount to bribes)?! Thats the cart pushing the donkey. Turn it around, you don’t like your rep being beholden to special interests? Vote in a new guy, if he/she fails, vote someone else in… its called political evolution. Once the politicians get a whiff that they won’t have a job very long if they don’t service their constituents at least as much as they service special interests, they’ll starting getting things done that you ask of them. Its pretty simple people. Special interests aren’t the problem, your shitty vote is the problem. Start caring more about the legislative and political process and less about television and Facebook, and there might be some positive progress…

 

rant over…


Just a follow up to my last post….

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….. I REALLY love  Reddit sometimes


The Perennial Holiday Display Conflict

Ok, so below is a ‘thought-paper’ I wrote for a couple of classes in my Public Administration program and I thought it was appropriate to share with you all considering the time of year it is. I look forward to your feedback….

Part I
The holidays are a particularly painful part of the year for me. It’s not for any particular personal reason, or anything, save a pet peeve. It seems that every year there is an interminable argument regarding the presentation of religion in the public work place. As I understand it Governor Christie in New Jersey has mandated that Christmas Trees in public spaces are to be referred to as ‘Holiday Trees’ henceforth. This delineation is utterly inane, ludicrous and unnecessary. Firstly, there is a fundamental problem in that the Constitutional separation of Church and State extends to religious displays in public spaces. Generally, the Supreme Court has found that the separation can extend to equal representation in place of zero representation. This is all well and good, except given that displays are in public spaces, and by extension ‘supported’ by the government, there is an inherent ruckus caused between people that desperately don’t want any governmental backing of religion whatsoever, to the extent that it becomes a tremendous grudge that they bear, and people that that don’t see a problem with a nativity scene or Christmas Tree on the city Hall lawn or Courthouse window.

Part II
Organizationally, this creates a problem. If an agency is free to display religious symbols and dioramas, then there must be an effort to provide equal time and equal effort to all the religious pluralalities and their displays in the district. The question becomes, how much of the Agency’s resources are enough to expend for such a purpose? The time it takes to build, store and develop the displays for each religion, this is compounded by the budget resources expended in purchasing the materials and paying personnel to display the materials. All of this is for religious displays that are not necessary given the ubiquity of religious displays in the private marketplace. It seems to me that displaying the nativity scene or a Hannukah menorah in the public space is more work and more costly than is really appropriate. If there are available funds to spend on display materials then are there not some other more pressing matters that the money, however minimal the costs might be, would be better utilized for? Perhaps it can be used to support increased marketing to drive more shopping and spending in the local downtown or to support an annual winter support drive for the homeless.

This is not to say that this is an issue in every municipality, but certainly those municipalities that are economically strapped experience greater troubles than others. For example, the City of Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County is very well to do and experienced minimal economic issues during our recent downturn, has always been able to dress their downtown with quite a bit of Christmas ‘cheer’ as well as a massive 15 foot tall propane Menorah that they use to hold a special small service in public every night during Hannukah. Clearly, they have no concerns when it comes to being able to service more than one religion in their public spaces. A municipality like Merced, for example, will always have trouble accommodating this and achieving a sense of balance when it comes to assigning funds and resources to holiday displays.

Part III
In managing human capital, the holiday display dilemma poses additional issues. Firstly, as a form of resource, manpower, it shares the same problems as budgeting. What is an acceptable quantity of man-hours to spend on assembling and disassembling holiday displays and how much is too much before employees ought to be shoo-ed back to their primary work? More uniquely to Human Resources, however, is the representation of religious displays in the workspaces of a-religious and differently faithed employees? In the context of a public agency should a Muslim, devout or not, be forced to work in an environment coated with Christmas décor? Conversely, what about Christian employees that take umbrage with equal display of a Hannukah menorah or dreidel during what is regarded as a primarily Christian holiday? Although it may boost the morale of a certain specific group of the employee pool, if it causes an equally negative morale dip in other specific segments of the employee should the practice even be continued? Particularly if employees prove to be incapable of leaving the political question in their passenger seat of the commuter car and bring heated debate over the religious nature of the founding fathers and historical ethno/cultural/religious status quo of the nation’s population?

Conclusion
Ultimately, this is an issue where there is no pleasantly simple answer. The Constitutional concept of the separation of Church and state is clear, as has been the Supreme Court findings on such issues. The government, at every level, cannot bring a material or symbolic religious preference to the public as a matter of maintaining a theoretically open public space for every person of every faith to co-exist under. The Supreme Court decisions have not disallowed holiday displays on public grounds as much as they have supported equal space and equal time, ‘equal displays’ for simplicity’s sake.

Often times the side of the spectrum that spends 11 months of the year screaming about being an ‘A NATION UNDER A RULE OF LAW’, tosses this credo aside when it comes to Christmas. Likewise, many times the opposite side of the spectrum, that tries to stand forth for freedom from oppression for everybody BY everybody, brings forth a sense of dissatisfaction at the thought of anything other complete removal of religion to prevent potential religious oppression. The fact of the matter is, personally, I am MORE offended by those people that make a public display out of calling it Christmas instead of the holidays. “I REFUSE to say Happy Holidays!” They bellow defiantly, I AM a CHRISTIAN and I will tell you MERRY CHRISTMAS! HARUMPH!” Harrumph indeed. Equally offensive are the people that demand that ‘G-d’ be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance and that Christmas Parades be referred to as ‘Holiday Parades.’ “I am NOT a CHRISTIAN, I am an ATHEIST and I am offended by the preponderance of pro-Christian bias and deferment in December! Jesus was NOT my savior and I will sue you if you continue to promote this theocratic drabble!! HARUMPH!” Oh yes, harrumph; I heard you the first time.

If people took a little more time to be peaceable and friendly, and cared a little less about the insignificant details, we could avoid this ridiculous argument more years than not. Are there more important things that our resources and public employees can be doing besides putting up wreaths and ribbons? Of course there are. IS it worth the effort to promote the general sense of community, family and goodwill that Christmas is SUPPOSED to be about (or so I’m told)? If the community responds to it, then of course it’s worth the effort. What it comes down to is the expression of the sentiment, regardless of the words chosen to express, is a return to a friendlier mode of operations that we ought to be pursuing on a daily basis, year round. Instead, we wish our neighbors a happy day and promote fellowship for about a month, all while bitching about a stupid tree.