Category: politics

When the Team Becomes More Important than the Player

I’ve been generally disgusted with politics lately. So many people involved in getting so little of real worth accomplished. It’s depressing, and that’s before you trot out Trump and take a long look at just what he’s doing to this country. (Case in point: we’re now focused on bolstering our nuclear defenses, and Congress is examining just what sort of nuclear powers the President should have. This is 2017, by the way. The Cold War has been over for coming up on thirty years. And yet suddenly we’re worrying about this, and I think you can plop pretty much all the blame right at Trump’s bloated feet.*)

But one of the things that has disappointed me the most has been the trend of people more and more focusing on what “team” each politician plays for, and less and less on the character and quality of the actual players/politicians themselves. In the presidential election, many seemed to vote simply because of what the party each candidate belonged to stood for, holding their nose or overlooking anything that candidate might have done or said personally. And I certainly believe Trump and Clinton can have this accusation lobbed at them.

This has become much clearer now with this Roy Moore nastiness. For those of you not following along, Roy Moore is a Republican candidate for Senator in Alabama. The Washington Post published an article detailing an investigation they ran, encompassing thirty interviews with people who knew Moore and connected him with sexually assaulting girls as young as 14 back in the late 1970s, when Moore was in his young 30s. Other women have since come forward, confirming the allegations.

I get that it’s basically a he said/she said situation at the moment. (Though I’ll note that when you have multiple people willing to make the same allegations, that actually turns into a he said/THEY said, and that’s quite a different equation in my book.) Is it possible Moore is innocent and wrongly accused? Sure it is. And some people are taking that line, saying he should step down from the race “if the allegations are true.”

The thing that baffles me—that has my jaw on the floor—is how some others are actually defending his actions, even if those actions are true.

“Take Mary and Joseph. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told theWashington Examiner. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

And this one:

Joel Pollak, an editor-at-large at Breitbart, criticized the Post’s report in an interview on MSNBC, saying “the 16-year-old and the 18-year-old have no business in that story” because Alabama’s age of consent is 16. “As far as we know, there’s only one relationship that’s been alleged that is problematic,” Pollak said of the encounter with 14-year-old Corfman.

You have politicians and talk show hosts and public figures defending the man’s actions, even if they are true. And the reason many of them give for it? It’s important Moore gets elected to that Senate seat, because otherwise the Republicans have an even more tenuous hold on the Senate. Better to put a child molester into power than to risk the Republican agenda. Let that sink in for a moment. These aren’t people who are defending his character or saying he’d never do such a thing. They’re saying even if he did it, it doesn’t matter as much as politics.

I don’t know why it should surprise me. People voted for Trump to keep the Democrats out of the Presidency, and Trump was on the record saying and doing awful things. It wasn’t he said/she said. It was just “he said.” And you had him on tape actually saying it.

This is not right, plain and simple. And anyone who wants to show up and start accusing Democrats of terrible behavior in order to excuse Republicans for terrible behavior is equally at fault. I literally do not care what party a child molester belongs to. I’m sure there are terrible Democrats out there. But this isn’t football. Two penalties, one against each team, do not offset each other. Play does not continue as normal. I would much prefer an inherently good person be in office, even if I disagree with that person’s politics, than an evil person who might happen to vote the way I’d prefer from time to time. I don’t think that statement should be groundbreaking, but sometimes it feels to me that it’s heading in that direction.

The best way to make it stop (that I can see) is to break up the parties, which might (in turn) break up the talk radio and biased news reporting. When it becomes less of us vs. them, perhaps Americans can start actually caring that good people represent them once more.

Or maybe I’m just dreaming.

Disclaimer: I do not actually know if Trump has bloated feet or not. Perhaps they’re very dainty. Tiny, even. I have no real desire to find out.

But How Can People Still Support Trump?

From my point of view and much of the sentiment I’ve seen expressed among many friends online, the Trump presidency so far has been nothing but a big hot mess. He’s appointed terribly inept people to his cabinet. People who are the antithesis of what that role is supposed to do. He’s had numerous scandals. He’s got these ties to Russia which are only snowballing in potential impact. The list goes on and on.

It’s so bad that the big takeaway from his speech to Congress was that he didn’t royally screw it up. He read the teleprompter and didn’t start ranting about random things. He hasn’t Tweeted anything wildly alarming in the last 24 hours!

It would seem like if any other president in the past were doing even a quarter of the things Trump has done in 40 days in office, they would have just thrown in the towel and quit.

The question I’ve heard a number of people bring up is simple: how in the world can people still like him? Sure, he’s got a disapproval rating around 55%. But how is it that 45% of people still think he’s swell?

In my opinion, the answer is pretty straightforward. I’m going to assume most people asking this were Obama supporters, so I’ll address them directly. Think for a moment about all the negative things that were said about Obama over the years. Think of the allegations, from Benghazi to trampling on the Constitution to bowing to other heads of state. Think about what a big deal Fox News made about all those things.

Now think about what sort of an impact those things made on you. Were you upset about them at all? Or did you just shake your head and dismiss them as overblown accusations that didn’t really amount to much? Were they just the right wing media doing their thing, playing to their base?

I’m imagining that for many of you, you didn’t think twice about them. But realize that for a good portion of the country, those things were a big deal. A very big deal. And for years, that group of people was told by the group that’s currently upset that the fears they had were unfounded. That they were making too big of a deal about it.

So is it any wonder that now the situations are reversed, that it’s playing out in a similar fashion?

Trump supporters call the stories that deride or criticize him “fake news.” And while the term might be loaded, how is it any different from how liberals treated Fox News during Obama? If a story came out on Fox News, it was dismissed as being “on Fox News.” Same process at work. Just a different f-word.

This post isn’t about whether the stories about Obama or Trump ever had any merit. It’s seeking to explain how a group of people can look at what one side views as overwhelming evidence that the President is corrupt or inept, and then ignore it. Both sides have accused the other of doing it now. My hope is that at some point, this partisan politics completely breaks down as citizens stop choosing Red or Blue and start pushing for sanity.

Too bad that hasn’t happened yet . . .

Create Your Own Trump with this Handy Pop Culture Recipe!

I’ve been quiet on Trump for his first real week on the job. Not because I didn’t have anything to say about  him, but rather because there was so much to say I didn’t know where to begin. I’d already thought the man was as awful as you could get as far as prospective presidents went, but even I have been shocked by just how quickly he’s been able to screw up even the most basic of tasks. I’ve been trying to come up with some way of encapsulating just how terrible he’s already proven himself to be, and in the end, I’ve come up with four pop culture references that just might do the trick. Each of them doesn’t work to completely describe Trump as a whole, but added together, maybe the recipe works.

First, take one part Amelia Bedelia. (Except instead of funny misunderstandings, Trump’s purposefully screwing everything up as fast as he can. Also, I have yet to see a delicious cake or pie come from him that manages to make all his screw ups forgiven. That had better be one tasty pie.) Trump seems to have an innate ability shared by Amelia to take things that should be totally, completely simple and easy, and the screw them up in next to no time.

But Amelia is somehow always expected to do a good job. People keep putting her in charge and thinking the house won’t be in ruins before she comes home. Let’s be honest. Trump wasn’t like that. So many of us knew what he was going to do ahead of time. So to keep the recipe going, add in a good amount of Chunk (from The Goonies). Chunk’s the guy you give something to if you want it broken. Good ol’ reliable Chunk.

The problem is that Amelia and Chunk are both sympathetic characters. We like them, and any good recipe for a Trump is going to have to get rid of that trait pronto. The solution? Stir in some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Now we’re cooking with gas! Hannibal the Cannibal is just about where Trump’s morals lie. But the problem is he’s too personal. He operates on too small of a scale. We need to finish the recipe off with someone who really knows how to dominate an entire society.

Top it all off with Immortan Joe.

Let that simmer for an election campaign or two, and you’ll be all set!

But seriously, whether you view Trump as simply inept or as machiavellian, it all boils down to the same thing: he’s exploding this country, and he’s doing so as quickly and effectively as possible. If the end result is the same, how much does it matter if we got there through ineptitude or willful destruction?

I don’t know what to do with Trump. I don’t know how to maintain a steady effort against what he’s doing to this country. I have no desire to turn this blog into a steady drumbeat of anti-Trump messages. And maybe that’s some of what he’s up to. If he just keeps a steady firehose stream of awful spewing out, then there’s only so much of it people will have the desire or means to stop. Plenty of it will get through.

And how depressing is that?

So for now, I’m speaking up online where and when I can, but I’ll try to reserve blog posts for when things just get too terrible for me to stay silent. Thankfully it appears many many people are speaking up for me. Judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds, many many others are shouting their discontent, and that many voices inevitably are heard. I have to believe that.

It’s what’s gotten me through the past week.

Meryl Streep, Donald Trump, and Speaking Past One Another

Meryl Streep made a passionate acceptance speech at the Golden Globes Sunday, and I’ve seen two responses to it on my social media news feeds. Trump supporters are annoyed by it. They feel this is another example of Hollywood elites trying to tell normal people what they should think and how they should act and what they should believe. The anti-Trump crowd loved it. They feel like she made a wonderful plea for accountability from our leaders and the press.

This post isn’t about her speech, though. It’s about my dismay in the inability of both sides to be able to come to the middle and find ground for discussion. I haven’t made any effort to hide the fact that I’m against Trump and pretty much everything he stood for in the election. I was very disappointed he won, and I’m concerned about the direction our country is headed under his control. But at the same time, I also see people I know and respect who like Trump and believe he’s going to fulfill his promise of improving America.

Some of my friends would say that those people should be unfriended right away, or that I should stand up to them and confront them. Make them see that they’re supporting a racist, sexist troll of a human being. There’s a popular sentiment that everything Trump and the Republicans try to do for the next four years must be fought, tooth and nail. That now is the time to dig trenches and do our best to survive the coming years, so that when Trump is voted out of power in four years, we are in as good a place as possible to try and move forward again.

But trench warfare does nothing but destroy the ground its fought on. I’ve watched the Republicans try the same tactic for the last 8 years as they did their best to obstruct anything Obama tried to pass. It made me mad then, and Democrats using the same tool against a different foe is no better of an idea.

Politics seems to be a game where the speeches and accusations remain the same, it’s just the people making them switch sides periodically. We need to move beyond that somehow, even if it seems impossible. Here are a few suggestions I have for ways we might achieve it.

  • Avoid ultimatums. Telling the other side they need to do X, or else.
  • Don’t label the other side (or yourself). We’re all complex human beings. We all make what we believe are rational, sane choices. We all think other people make some truly terrible, impulsive reactions.
  • Get to know people who disagree with you. Don’t try to jump straight to a debate. Let them speak. Listen. Don’t worry about changing minds, and don’t accuse. Listen.
  • Find common ground. I guarantee it exists. It will be in different areas for different people and groups, but it’ll be there.
  • Don’t accuse or point fingers. Even if you feel justified. You don’t always know the whole story. Acknowledge that.
  • Don’t speak in absolutes. They’re (almost) never right.
  • Don’t give up.

The more of these bullet points I wrote, the more I realized that what I was advocating for was no different than the same basic principles of any relationship, be it friendship, co-workers, a marriage, parent/children dynamics. You name it. Go figure.

I understand the fear that Trump is breaking the rules and that he must be treated differently. And that might well be true. But Trump shouldn’t change the way we treat each other. I certainly understand and sympathize with the people who are afraid and upset about what might happen to them and their family under a Trump presidency, and I want to do everything I can to help them and keep the many good things I see in this country. But I believe the path to that is through dialogue, collaboration, and compromise.

When we start going against those bullet points I mentioned above, we get nothing done.

Why I’m Okay with Motab Singing at Trump’s Inauguration

I have been a very vocal Trump dissident. I’m far from pleased he’s going to be my president for the next four years (unless maybe he pulls a Palin and just resigns. One can always hope, right?). And so to see the news that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be performing at his inauguration disappointed me at first blush. I’ve got close family ties to the choir, after all, and so in a way it feels like part of my extended-extended family is turning out to celebrate the weasel.

That said, after some consideration, I really don’t think the church had another choice. Once the invitation was sent, they pretty much had to agree to do it. I mean, they could have “been busy doing something else,” but unless that “something else” had already been very public and very well-established, then they were stuck. (Of course, it might have been a good idea to find “something else” to do that day the moment the results had been announced, but I can’t really blame them for not doing that.)

Motab has performed at many inaugurations. To decline to perform, they’d have to have a reason other than “We don’t like Trump.” Why? Because it might be seen as the church being partisan. Making a political statement about the president-elect. And the church can’t do that. Why? Because then it would start to really violate some of the basic rules of being a religion in the US. Run afoul of those laws, and you lose a whole bundle of benefits. Tax exempt status being a huge one, but I could see the change impacting many different ways the church operates in this country and abroad. Employment rules, BYU, contracts, wedding ceremonies . . . I’m not a lawyer, but my guess is “You’re not a recognized religion anymore” would mess with a ton of those.

And what would it benefit the church to do that? To risk all that so they could thumb their noses at the next president? I don’t think that would have been a wise decision.

In the end, they can argue that they’re honoring the position, not the man. And that’s really how it should be.

There are many things to be upset and worried about with Trump coming to power. That the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing at his inauguration comes about as low on the list as I can think.

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