What if we saw the world through some filter other than politics? What if we were just as smart as a rat in a maze and we looked for an escape from this dead end?
Really, what have we gained from our political infighting?
I can tell you what the politicians have gained and what our global foes have gained. I can list the wins for the lobbyists, the polluters, Wall Street and trial lawyers. What about us, though? How, exactly, have we benefited from the continual focus on left and right, red and blue, us and them?
I have a ton of friends who are so caught up in the filter of politics that they cannot have a conversation without linking pretty much anything to their perceived foes, or saviors. We can’t be two minutes into a conversation before they’ll be telling me how Pelosi is to blame. Or Trump. Or Antifa. Or McConnell.
If the weather is warm, I get a comment about global warming. If it’s cold, I get a comment about, well, global warming. They rattle off political talking points like trained parrots, using the exact words and inflections AS SEEN ON TV!!!
If we want to form a more perfect union, we need to have a grown-up discussion or two about our challenges. There is a legitimate debate to be had about…
Well, we could have a grown-up discussion about these issues, but we don’t. All these issues hang interminably in limbo, because we refuse to have an adult conversation about anything today. The first rule of politics is that nobody talks about anything but politics.
There are no issues, only talking points.
There are no solutions, only sides.
Worst of all, we supposedly normal people buy into this nonsense. We divide the world between us and them, even though the “us” in question is a political tribe that might or might not really be our natural home.
Maybe it’s time for one of those paradigm shifts that the scientists like to promote. What if we considered new developments through the filter of morality or compassion, empathy or enlightened self-interest? What if we asked how we could make something work, rather than how to stop it at all costs?
We could make a ton of progress if we stopped accepting the “either/or” arguments that form the basis of political debate today. “Either/or” choices tend to be extreme, punitive, and pretty much unworkable in the real world. While we all retreat to our corners to wait for the next round of memes, our problems metastasize into crises.
These false dichotomies offer great benefits to politicians who raise funds and win votes by promising to fight for one or another option at all costs. Perversely, solving any of these problems would cost them money and support, which might be one reason that there is no sense of urgency about problem solving on Capitol Hill. If the issue is resolved, it's harder to raise money for the battle.
Could we protect the environment while also creating new jobs? Sure. Could we encourage entrepreneurship while restraining corporate abuses? Yup. Could we defend good cops and punish bad ones? Absolutely.
It’s not going to happen, though, until we can escape the political filter that drives our thinking and our conversations. As long as we echo their talking points and support their intransigence, we will end up serving their needs at the expense of our own.
When the residents of Jonestown “drank the Kool-Aid,” it’s likely that many of them didn’t realize it was poisoned. What’s our excuse?
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Constitution Day is right around the corner, but don’t be embarrassed if this major holiday slipped your mind this year. The U.S. Constitution is like a software Terms of Service agreement; we all click ‘yes,’ but almost nobody actually reads it.
That lack of familiarity leads to some hilarious consequences. For instance, many people believe they have a Constitutional Right to shop at Costco, while others think Freedom of Speech only applies to them. Amazingly, both of these beliefs are incorrect, although you’d never know it from reading internet posts.
Never fear, though, as your humble servant has read the document in the original Aramaic and will share all the insights you need to know to become a Constitutional Scholar of the first order. For example…
The Constitution was not really all that popular among the people who framed it, several of whom were nearly mortal enemies who disagreed strongly about almost everything. The only reason we ended up with the current version is that The Articles of Confederation (the world’s first Beta 1.0 release) sucked beyond belief.
The only way the Constitution got ratified was with the promise to add amendments to it immediately. (Back in 1789, everyone was still using dial-up, so “immediately” meant a couple of years. Still, Jimmy Madison made good on the promise to write up a Bill of Rights for the states to approve.)
Speaking of the Bill of Rights, Congress sent 12 amendments to the states, but the first two were rejected. That’s why freedom of speech is in the First Amendment and not the Third. It’s also why people who love the Second Amendment aren’t obsessed with Congressional pay stubs.
The Constitution was remarkably advanced for its time, but pretty backwards by current standards. Women didn’t vote, slavery was codified, and the Electoral College gave rural states an advantage that has only grown over time. (Yes, a few people still think the Electoral College is a great idea, but they are the same dopes who put mayonnaise on their pastrami.)
The framers of the Constitution were smart, but they weren’t supreme beings. They came up with a pretty good division of powers within government and between government and citizens, but they also failed to invent indoor plumbing or I-Phones or pizza delivery. Maybe it’s time we took some of them down off their pedestals and…oh, wait, that’s actually happening, isn’t it?
The concept of judicial review, which makes the U.S. Supreme Court the final arbiter of Constitutional meaning, is not granted by the Constitution. Instead, it resulted from a brilliant political maneuver by Johnny Marshall, who handed Tom Jefferson a tiny win while grabbing a big hunk of power for the court. Smooth.
We all should be grateful for that “judicial review” thing, because it’s our primary method of legislation these days. After Congress passes 12,000-page laws that nobody has read before the vote, SCOTUS clerks are the only people who actually read the laws and figure out what they mean. And when Congress fails to take any action at all, it’s up to the courts to dig up some old laws or rulings that they can twist painfully to apply to the pending case.
Yeah, I know, lots of people think SCOTUS goes too far in legislating from the bench, but that’s only when an activist* judge rules against them. When the Supreme Court rules in their favor, those esteemed jurists are merely upholding the Constitution. (*Activist = disagrees with me.)
As we look forward to this great holiday, it’s wonderful to consider how far we have come in the 23 decades since we adopted the Constitution. Hard to believe, but back then people were actually arguing about how powerful the president should be, separation of church and state, freedom of the press, what and whom to tax, federal power versus states’ rights, and the national debt. Thankfully, we have resolved all of these issues and marched forward in unison since then.
Finally, if 34 states approve, everything is up for grabs in a new Constitutional Convention. Depending on how you count “approvals,” we might already be just 6-8 states short of that benchmark, giving today’s politicians the opportunity to reframe our most important document. Fearless forecast: The sequel will not be as good as the original.
Before you get all caught up in your Constitution Day celebrations on September 17, do your patriotic duty and subscribe to Dad Writes, as required in Article LVIII.
The first thing to understand is that nobody dies from CV-19. Nobody dies from cancer or diabetes or having a piano fall on our heads, either. We die from something putting such a substantial burden on our hearts that they stop beating, so essentially 100% of us die “from” cardiac arrest.
Still, there is always something that puts the strain on our hearts, whether it is cancer or diabetes or having CV-19 taking over our lungs. In many cases, CV-19 tips the scales fatally for someone who is already battling the effects of some other malady. And when that happens, people have a disturbing habit of blaming the victims for their own mortality.
“Well, she was only 37, but she had asthma, so that’s really what killed her.”
“After three years of dialysis, the virus was just the final nail. By that time, I suspect he really wanted to die.”
“If only he’d become a vegan, he never would have gotten cancer in the first place. If you think about it, he essentially committed suicide.”
“Remember how she kept saying it was all a hoax? Hah! Karma’s a bitch, baby.”
Yes, of course, it’s a TRUE FACT!!! All of these people were asking for it and they were ultimately happy to decrease the surplus population. Coronavirus is the real victim here, falsely blamed for killing nearly a million people who wanted/deserved to die. Kinda makes you want to take the virus into your home and give it a warm snuggle and…never mind.
It’s a deflection, of course. Whenever something goes wrong and we cannot control or prevent it, we try to find a reason that it only happens to other people. Even if we have some underlying condition—a status that applies to about 80% of people over the age of 55 and a disturbingly large percentage of people under that age—we try to convince ourselves that THEY were much more vulnerable than WE are.
That kind of deflection makes it very easy to be nonchalant about THEIR deaths, especially since most of us don’t know a person who has died from the disease. Yet. On average, if each of us was going to know one person who died of the virus at this point, we would need to have a social circle of about 2,000 people.
We’re more likely to know someone who contracted the disease and recovered, of course, but that reinforces our tendency to ascribe blame to the people who succumb. The people who survived were strong, maybe blessed, much as we are, while the people who died were weaker, less deserving, even a bit guilty.
Denial is a useful coping mechanism in times like these, but it does have its limits. When we start blaming the victims of a pandemic, we just might have gone over the line.
We never went to med school, so this review of medicine and psychology might sound just a bit too simple, but that's okay. We like to keep things as simple as possible, which is why it's so easy to subscribe by just clicking here.
Way back when Bill Cosby was funny, he did a routine called Chicken Heart, which revolved around a radio horror show that terrorized him as a child.
In his retelling, he became increasingly panicked one night as the radio announcer declared that a monstrous, living chicken heart was coming to his apartment to devour him. He responded by spreading Jello on the floor (long before he was paid to do so) and setting the sofa on fire. When his father came home, he restored order by insisting that his son TURN OFF THE RADIO.
I’m reminded of that routine almost daily as I check in at Facebook. So many of my friends are posting and reposting the same memes, panicked by the steady onslaught of calamities that have turned our nation into a hellish inferno. And all I can think is: TURN IT OFF.
I get it, I really do. After I’ve spent a night streaming a bunch of cop shows, I walk out of the house the next morning on alert for car chases, exploding buses and mob hits. I’m glancing skyward in case there are bodies falling from office windows and every guy coming toward me looks like a perp. I need a ton of anxiety meds to step out of the apartment in the morning, but after a few hours without incident, I return to DEFCON 5 and enjoy the day.
Online, though, I can get just a trifle nervous as I read posts from dozens of “friends” who have found the secret websites with the TRUE FACTS and SECRET CONSPIRACIES that the EVIL CABALS are hiding from us.
For the purveyors of panic, the job is relatively simple. In a nation of almost 330 million people, we can all find at least one, maybe two or three or ten examples of pretty much anything. And if we cannot find a real-world example that’s scary enough, there are also a ton of old photos to add for dramatic effect.
All of these posts are true, of course, in much the same way that Frozen is a documentary.
I’m fond of replying to my friends about the badly doctored photos, the anachronisms, the outlandishly fraudulent “statistics,” etc. But it is increasingly clear that my friends do not care if these memes are true or not, if they are inflammatory or not, or if they blow right past the boundaries of human decency.
And I cannot stop wondering why. Why would we want to view so much of the world through the darkest of lenses? Why would we limit our reading list to sources that serve only to magnify our fears? Why do we choose to be terrorized by our horseman of choice? Were we always this way? If not, exactly how did it become normal?
In the real world, I can drink the water and talk to strangers and let the pizza delivery guy come up to the apartment door. In the digital universe, though, I can’t walk down the street without being attacked by (insert bogeyman here) and there’s a giant chicken heart on its way to swallow me whole.
There is a clear solution, though. Before it’s time to smear Jello on the floor and set fire to the couch, just TURN IT OFF.
Of course, you should never turn off Dad Writes, since we are the only people keeping the world from collapsing into insanity. Help us fight the good fight by clicking here to subscribe.
Babies in sombreros, the hot new career for binging, and a new application of the death penalty, all rattling around in my brain this week...and now in yours. Read on.
Subscribers are automatically forgiven for cultural appropriation, citing meaningless statistics and having, um, Type A personalities. Just click here and absolution is yours.
I was waxing philosophical the other day, explaining how I would solve all of the world’s problems with my superior intellect and unrivaled wisdom, when it occurred to me that I don’t know what’s what.
A friend and I were discussing the cost of government and the added cost of working with labor unions and, suddenly, I realized I was arguing on the basis of 30-year-old data. Maybe it was 40 years old, or worse. Didn’t matter. I was applying outdated insights to a current situation and I was probably wrong in my assertions.
What, for example, are the current stats on labor unions? I know many, many people who believe unions are the reason for pretty much every malady in the economy. Government bloat? It’s the unions’ fault. Foreign company cost advantages? It’s the unions’ fault. Underperforming schools? No question, it’s the teachers’ unions. But was any of that ever true, and is any of it true today?
The world is a complicated place, much more complicated than memes and bots would lead us to believe. There’s almost never a single cause of any major trend; rather, the trends flow from multiple sources acting over time.
We can find an anecdote to “prove” any point we want to make, of course, but I started to realize that I do not have a fact-based grasp of some seriously critical issues. I knew, overall, that the percentage of Americans in labor unions has declined along with manufacturing jobs and that public employee unions are a larger part of the total unionized work force than was the case when I was a kid. Beyond that, my grasp of the facts was pitiful. Has education improved in right-to-work states? Have manufacturing jobs increased as union wages and benefits diminished? I knew the slogans, but I realized that I don’t know the facts.
The same awareness hit me when we were talking about welfare programs, immigration, pollution levels, and other issues that I am uniquely qualified to resolve as soon as I am Michael the First, emperor of the United States. I read newspapers and news sites regularly, but I’m reading characterizations, mostly. I’ll read a fact that is inserted into an op-ed to make a point, but I won’t know if that fact is a true indicator of the overall trend or status quo.
Is there still a “marriage penalty” in the tax code? Do Medicare recipients still deal with “The Doughnut?”
It’s relatively simple to check out the data, even though it means spending more time looking at my phone when I should be engaging with other people. Fortunately, everyone else is staring at their phones all day, so I will fit right in with the cool kids.
BTW, all the cool kids are reading the dadwrites blog every week, staying up to date with the new and now and hip and happening. You can join them by clicking here to become a know-it-all subscriber.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.