Now they’re just insulting the people…

October 20, 2018

Our American political system seems to be slipping ever deeper into the hyper-partisan hole of hate, bigotry and distrust into which it has dug itself. The campaign ads get more and more hateful and sleazy as voting day draws near. The gloves come off (if they were ever on) and the last vestiges of truthfulness and integrity are lost in the stampede to sling mud towards the opponents, no matter how outrageous or hurtful the messages ugly face.pngmay be. This is the ugly face of politics.

The politicians and their advisers think that they are “stirring up the base” by playing to the hate and fear messages that seem to resonate with the radical groups on either side. Rather than insulting the opposition, what these hate ads really do is insult the intelligence of the probable voters. They reduce the process to one of trying to pick out the least sleazy candidate to vote for in any election or the least likely to lead us into doom.

samuel Taylert ColeridgeI’m reminded of a quote that I saw in the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Experience informs us that the first defense of weak minds is to recriminate.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

I suspect that Coleridge would have found many weak minds among the slates of candidates in modern politics.

I will be glad again this year when we get by the election and can return to the more pleasant experience of the TV ads informing me over dinner about all sorts of medicines to help with gross bodily functions or diseases. Those are less likely to turn my stomach than the current crop of political attack ads. It is probably too late to save most of the politicians, but another piece of advice from the Jack’s Winning Words blog also comes to mind –

(Mark Twain) “Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you.” Mark Twain

I wonder what Twain would write about our current political scene if he were alive today. I’ll bet it would be a fun read.

Heaven help us all to get through this mess we call an election.

 

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Turn that anger into votes…

October 13, 2018

A post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time back had this little quote – “Did you know that Dammit I’m mad spelled backwards is Dammit I’m mad?”  (Sent by Norlene)

I read an article in this week’s BusinessWeek magazine about female anger and why it is so often suppressed and allowed to fade away. The #MeToo movement brought to the surface a lot of that repressed anger from women who have been taken advantage of and abused by men during their lives, especially in the business environment. The article speculated on whether the sense of anger and frustration that boiled over this summer, culminating with the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavenaugh, will affect the angry womanNovember elections and change the face of American politics. The article pointed out that a record number of women are running for office this year at all levels of government. Certainly, replacing the good old boys in government with women is one way to overcome the issue (at least in government).It will take a longer, more concerted effort to change the business world. So, maybe the #MeToo movement is morphing into the #OurTurn movement, and that’s a good thing.

In the political world, turning anger into votes is what got Donald Trump elected. He successfully read and tapped into the anger of the voters over issues on which they felt the traditional politicians had abandoned them. He was able to cast the professional politicians who ruled Washington at the time as a part of the problem and offer himself as the solution. It worked because those same politicians had become isolated from, and arrogantdisdainful of, their constituents. They had become focused upon feeding from the trough of lobbyists’ money and doing the bidding of those who paid for their attention. It became well known that the lobbyists were writing the legislation being sponsored by their toadies in Congress and that did not sit well with the breakfast crew at the local café. Given little other outlet for their frustration, it’s no wonder that so many voters took the chance to vote for someone like Trump, who claimed that he wanted to “Drain the Swamp” in Washington. Whether he drained the swamp or just brought in a new crop of snakes and alligators is the topic for another day. He turned that anger and frustration into votes.

Now it’s the women’s turn to change things. The anger level has been building throughout the year as abuse of women scandal after scandal erupted onto the scene. The #MeToo movement may have started out of things that gained attention in Hollywood; but, it has always been there, just below the surface. It was suppressed in the homes and workplaces of America. It was hushed up in the churches and schools of America. It was winked at in Americas’ board rooms and in the Halls of Congress. But ityoung-woman-furious was still there; festering; the anger building. This time, maybe it won’t fade away. This time, maybe it will once again turn into votes. This time, maybe the women of America will do what the President didn’t do and drain the swamp that American politics has become. We shall see on November 6. That’s the day in which women have the opportunity to say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”


I don’t need to hear you talk…I need for you to listen

October 4, 2018

I recently wrote a post about getting things out of the shadows. One of those things was depression. As happens every time that I mention depression, I got several likes/comments/follows from people who are dealing with, or have dealt with, depression.

I sometimes go look at the blog sites of people who follow my blog and in this case I perused a post on one of the blog sites that had some interesting advice for those trying to be a help to someone suffering from depression. That post was titled “Why I tried to Commit Suicide”

The gist of the advice from that post was that the person suffering through depression who may reach out for help is not looking for a cheerleader to tell them that everythinggirl with smile picture will be OK. Instead, they are looking for someone to listen to them, share their pain and perhaps offer support.

This blogger also pointed out a common mistake that would-be helpful friend often make – trying to help by reminding them that things could be worse.

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, the quote that Jack used seemed appropriate –

“Knowing that there is worse pain doesn’t make the present pain hurt any less.”  (Gordon Atkinson)

I would characterize the advice of the blogger who shared her journey through the dark tunnels of depression to those who may be trying to help someone suffering through that trauma as follows:

I don’t want your pity; I want your support.

I don’t want to hear how great things are from your point of view; I want you to help me find a way out from my point of view.

I don’t need to hear you talk; I need for you to listen.

That last point may be the most important. When we try to “help” people we all tend to rush to some quick conclusion of what we think we need to do and we start talking.  Basically, we stop listening and start giving advice, even if we don’t yet understand the problem.  We usually miss the signs from that person that we just made a mistake.depression2 Unfortunately, the person who was seeking our help sinks back behind the shield that they had temporarily lowered to ask for our help. They may smile back and nod their head in apparent agreement, but we blew the opportunity to really help.

There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. (Simon Sinek)

Unfortunately, most of us are so full of ourselves that we are just waiting for the next opportunity to speak, in order to show how brilliant we are. We don’t understand how stupid phrases like “I know how you feel” or “I feel your pain” sound to the person that we think we are trying to help. A more honest statement might be, “I can’t imagine the pain that you are feeling, but I want to try to help.”

caringYou can’t really help until you understand the issues that are causing the pain for that person and you will never understand them until you listen to them. If you have to speak, just ask more questions to keep the conversation focused upon getting to the root of the problems that the person is having such trouble dealing with. Only then can we begin to really try to help.

There are many ways to approach problem solving, once we understand the problems. I have posted her a few time on approaches that might help in this situation as well as helping us solve our own problems. See –

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/03/05/problem-solving-101/

and

https://normsmilfordblog.com/2015/02/05/making-the-turns-in-life/

Those are two of those posts on problem solving.

However, the point of today’s missive is not to give advice about the solution that you may offer to someone who seeks you help; but, rather, to help you find the best way to help them by listening to them. You may not need to do anything other than that for them.

I think L. J. Isham  put it well – “Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire listento be with another which both attracts and heals.”

If you want to help – LISTEN!


#MeToo! vs. #ItWasn’tMe

September 29, 2018

The recent spectacle put on by the Senate Judiciary Committee proved to be gripping TV, even if it wasn’t much of a real hearing. Like most political hearings, it was used as an opportunity for the Grumpy Old Men who make up most of the Senate to host yet another good ole boys “let’s give a speech” show. It even provided yet another forum for airing out the old excuse, “boys will be boys”, which more than one Senator used by pointing out – “Good grief, we are talking about things that happened when he was in high school and college”.  Apparently, the kind of behavior that was alleged is OK with them if it occurred during that young phase of life. It’s possible that a close inspection of their own youthful behavior might produce similar accusations for some of them.

Now there is an argument that some also made that people change as they mature and that we should look at what they have done as adults, rather then into the deep past of their youth. That line of reasoning holds up a bit better when used against less serious youthful indiscretions, such as having to answer yes to the question, “Did you ever smoke pot?” or in this case, even the question about whether he ever getting really drunk.  It’s still not right, but there are some wrongs that might be attributed to youthful experimentation that the person has outgrown. Other offenses committed by the young are more difficult to forgive, because they may (as was pointed out in the hearing) point to more serious flaws in character. If one is being a bully or a thief when young, that points to a character flaw that may still lurk in the mind and cloud good judgement.

Being labeled a sexual predator really points to several character flaws – a sense of entitlement, lack of concern for others and devaluation of the victims. Having that frame of mind, while in a drunken stupor that removes the last constraint, the fear of the consequences of your actions; is what allows even the most model youth to become a sexual predator.  It would not give one comfort to face judgement from someone who starts the process in the frame of mind that – “I am better than you, I deserve to be here judging you, you are nothing to me, and I could care less what happens to you because of what I do.”

So, what are the Senators and we, the citizens, to do with what we saw and heard. They wavered enough to get the Tweeter-in-Chief to ask for a one week delay so that there could be an FBI investigation. That will likely prove to be a continuation of the Lose-Lose situation that we find ourselves in now. It does create a new hashtag – #WasHeThere. Kavanaugh has testified that he wasn’t even at the party, which several of his friends have corroborated; so, what happens if the FBI finds 1-2 people who say that they were also there and testify that he was there that night? What happens if they don’t? How about if more women come forward to the FBI with stories of inappropriate behavior during his youthful years in high school and college?

I don’t think there’s any way to see this as a win-win for anybody involved? Certainly not the two parties in the recent testimony; and not, I suspect, for many the good old boys sitting on the Senate Committee panel who have exposed themselves to critical public scrutiny and came out worse for it on both sides. Worst of all, not for the American people who don’t need another Justice sitting on the Supreme Court under a cloud of doubt about their moral character. We deserve better than that.

Maybe we need the hashtag #Let’sMoveOn.


Is it compassion or coercion? Speak up!

September 3, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this quote from Jane Goodall – “The least I can do is speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Jane_Goodall_2015Of course, Goodall was speaking about her life-long work with chimpanzees. Over time Goodall became recognized as the “voice of the chimpanzees”, speaking on their behalf to try to get them protections and better treatment.

Many pet owners (myself included) become the voice of their pets, sometimes carrying on conversations with them by asking and answering questions of them or expressing what we believe to be their feelings at the time. I know that my two dogs Saddie and Skippy have different and distinct voices as I speak for them.

Here is also a tendency on the part of some to try to talk on behalf of others who do have the ability to speak, but who chose to remain silent. These representations of the thoughts and will of others often start with the phrase “Everybody says or everybodydebaters knows…” In those cases, the speaker has actually usurped and perhaps distorted the thoughts and opinions of other.  That happens a loty in politics these days as various speakers loudly proclaim toe be “speaking for all of us”.

In the case of Jane Goodall it was compassion for the inability of her beloved chimpanzees to actually speak in order to communicate their needs and thoughts. In the case of many loud and outspoken people these days it is a form of coercion that drives them to speak on others behalf. They believe that they can take advantage of the silence of others to further their own causes.

So whenever you hear sentences starting with “Nobody wants…” or “Everybody knows…” or maybe “The majority of us believe…”, immediately question the speaker about who gave them the authority to speak on your behalf, or for anyone else for that arrogantmatter. Ask them what statistics they have (and from what source) to back up their assertion that their statement represents the sentiments of some portion (large or small) of the sentiments of the general population. Don’t accept the “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true” defense of the stupid statements that you may hear. Recent news has shown that unscrupulous actors trying to influence you towards some belief may plant much of what you may see on the Internet there. Certainly almost nothing on the Internet has been subjected to verification of any level of rigor.

So, are you letting someone else speak for you? You might as well be one of Goodall’s chimpanzees. Take the time to think about things, research things and form your own opinion about things. Don’t let others coerce you into allowing them to speak for you. It’s OK to belong to one political party or another, but try to be more like John McCain was,John_McCain-1 have your own opinion, based upon your own moral values and don’t just go along with the party line when it doesn’t fit those values.

McCain was called a maverick for his independent streak; but, in reality, he just decided long ago not to let someone else speak for him. He did not toe the party line when it didn’t feel right to him. We also see stories in the papers about Democrats (mostly new one or those running to replace retiring members of congress) who have stated that they will defy their party line and support someone other than Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker, if their party prevails in the fall elections. They are the John  McCain’s of their party seeking to speak for themselves and that’s a good thing. 

chimpanzeeSo, resolve to speak for yourself and not to let others usurp that role. If you don’t, you might as well sit over in the corner and eat your banana.


It’s getting harder to be patient; so, do something about it…

August 23, 2018

A series of quotes from recent posts to the Jack’s Winning Words blog kind of sets the stage this morning.

Let’s start with this recent gem –

“Truth isn’t truth.”  (Rudy Giuliani)

Followed by this piece of sage advice –

“Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you.”  (Mark Twain)

From there, it doesn’t take much to segue to this –

“There’s a point when patience ceases to be a virtue.”  (Thomas Morton)

Eventually, one ends up here –

“Did you know that Dammit I’m mad spelled backwards is Dammit I’m mad?”  (Sent by Norlene)

Anger and disappointment that got us all into this current mess, but that won’t get us out of it. That same anger has served to further polarize the country into Them vs Us camps.protesters It doesn’t much matter which of those tribes you have joined – both are wrong.

So here we are. Mad and out of patience. What now? The easy thing to do is to join the ranks of the disaffected on the barricades, to choose a side and begin attacking the opposition. That is what is fueling the continued invective pronouncements and outrageous actions that are the fodder of the nightly news.

So, what are reasonable people to do? One thing might be to step back and understand that our ancestors created a truly wonderful system of checks and balances in our government, if we allow them to work. The way to letting them work is to make sure that there is not a huge imbalance in power in any of the three legs of government. Each of the legs serves somewhat as a check and balance against the other two. Even the actions voteof a headstrong President are eventually stymied by the legislative process necessary to carry out or at least to fund the things that he would like to do. And, a lopsided legislative environment can be somewhat moderate by Executive actions or Judiciary rulings. A judiciary that goes too far may be overruled through legislative action.

We have the opportunity this November to turn our frustration and anger into actions, which will restore the balance that the founders of the country envisioned when they wrote the Constitution and established that system of checks and balances. A relatively small shift in the makeup of the legislative body would bring things more into balance and force the compromises that are so necessary to govern well. On a more local note, the efforts to get rid of gerrymandering by placing the question of how redistricting is done on our ballot must succeed.

So, if you are out of patience and ready to say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”; turn that anger into energy to work for change that will let our system work as it was designed. It really doesn’t matter which party the candidates that you vote take actionfor belong to; so long as they have the will and the backbone to do what’s right for America and not just to join one side or the other in the current melee. Look for candidates who refuse to acquiesce to the litmus tests of their party. Look for candidates who don’t just thump their Bibles and pontificate about their “Christian” family values, but who live their lives as Christians with thoughtful concern for the well being of others. Look for candidates who stay above the mudslinging and use of negative ads (that may be the hardest thing to find) and who focus instead on defining a plan for a better future.

It may indeed be harder to be patient and easier to be mad; however, patience, when combined with thoughtful actions and perseverance will out.


Can there be fake truth?

July 31, 2018

We certainly see and hear a lot about so-called Fake News these days. So extend that thought to include the concept of Fake Truths. It was, to a certain extent, Fake News that claimed to the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and therefore an invasion of the country to prevent their use against other countries in the area was justified. That news turned out not to be true; it was based upon faulty intelligence andfact erroneous assumptions and conclusions by the intelligence community – essentially fake truths. The real truth later came out that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. So, was that fake news? Not really. It was news fabricated out of false or bad information (fake truth) that was provided by normally reliable sources and embellished a bit by politicians eager to justify a decision that likely had already been made. The news media, always hungry for a good story, took it and ran with it.

In today’s post to his blog Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed uses this quote from Buddha – “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Unlike opinions or assumptions or prejudices, the truth stands the test of time and inspection and is always trying to find a way to get out. William Shakespeare said “the truth will out” in the Merchant of Venice. 

It is interesting that the definition of the word truth leaves some leeway for doubt or later correction. Look it up on-line an you will get these three definitions –

the quality or state of being true.

“he had to accept the truth of her accusation”

that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

“tell me the truth”

a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

” I believe that is true”

It is that third definition that applied to the Iraq weapons of mass destruction item of fake news that the Bush administration at the time used to justify its action to invade the country. We will probably never know how much the intelligence was fudged or faked to get to that conclusion; but, for a while we all believed that it was the truth.

These days, our attention has been re-directed to the news of Russian interference in the last presidential election. There are almost certainly nuggets of truth within the surprised emojiintelligence reports and more of them are bound to come out as the truth struggles to the surface. It is not hard to imagine a bunch of Russian hackers (be they military, the intelligence community or civilians) deciding to see what they could do to influence the election or undermine our concept of democracy. It is also not hard to imagine that a contact within the political apparatus of any of the candidates would find a receptive ear to anything that might give them an advantage. After all, politics is not practiced to the highest of moral standards. However, it might prove to be as false as the weapons of mass destruction news to jump all the way to conclusions about collusion or conspiracy. Stupidity, yes. Poor judgement, most certainly. Self-serving, of course.

However; leaping to accusations of collusion, or worse, before the truth is fully out, serves only the third definition of truth. I think we need to work our way through theFacingFactsWordCloud first two definitions before we form our beliefs about what the truth really was. The good news is that Buddha and William Shakespeare were both right and we will eventually see the truth come out. Let’s all hope that Jack Nicholson was wrong in the movie A Few Good Men. Let’s hope that we can handle the truth.  The truth will out and there will be time enough then for a reckoning.