Political Nihilism

“The United States has fallen into a state of utter political nihilism, where there is no limit to what one party can say or do in order to achieve and maintain power.  Worse, there is no meaning other than political theater behind it.”

And…

“Trump and his people play by the reality TV rules. All that’s required is a plausible facade, while we expect adherence to actual facts. ***  All that Trump’s followers want is a powerful fiction, something they can sink their teeth into, something with which to taunt us college-educated Atlantic readers.”

(via The Atlantic)

Guns, Conscripted Religion, Mental Health and Other Horrors

Like everyone else I have been heartbroken by the senseless murder of children and those who teach and nurture (and protect) them.  That goes without saying.  What needs to be said is a few things about the way people are, not unexpectedly, using this tragedy as a springboard to rattle on about whatever social or political issue they feel strongly about.  Can’t we just be sad for a little while?

First, a word about politics.

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I am so completely uninterested in politics that it defies description.  Other than Wake Forest basketball, there’s literally nothing that bores me more.  Mostly because politics is a game, played by plutocrats for the benefit of other plutocrats and nobody really cares what the rest of us think.  Again, sort of like Wake Forest basketball.  I am also uninterested in labels, though if I were awarded a political one, it would be decidedly left of most of the people I know in the real world.  They lean (or in some cases tumble wildly) to the right, while I lean, in many respects, the other way.

But I may be about to jeopardize my membership in the liberal knee jerk reaction club.

Because IT’S NOT AS SIMPLE AS JUST MAGICALLY TAKING OUR GUNS AWAY.

And because NOT EVERYONE WHO OWNS AND WANTS TO KEEP A GUN IS AN NRA NUTCASE.

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But maybe it’s OK because IT’S ALSO NOT AS SIMPLE AS PUTTING THE GOD YOU HAPPEN TO PRAY TO AND THE RELIGIOUS RITUALS YOU OBSERVE “BACK IN SCHOOLS,” and stuffing them down everyone’s throat.  You know what: anyone can pray any time they want, anywhere they want.  I pray all the time (to what or whom is a mysterious and complex topic for another day, maybe).  But I rarely feel compelled to pray out loud in public and I would never, ever force others to pray with me.

Now about this mental health business.  The sympathy I feel for a mentally ill person is an atom in a universe of universes when compared to the sadness and rage I would feel if children were harmed by said person.  Let me be blunt.  If I start to lose my mind and there is even a slight chance I am going to hurt some babies, then whoever is responsible for me should lock me up and throw away the key.  Err on the side of the babies.  Sure, we need better mental health services in this country.  But we need to keep people from killing children more.  A lot more.

What we don’t need is more people shouting solutions from one impractical end of the spectrum to others at the other impractical end of the spectrum.

Taking guns away might be great in theory.  Sort of like taking alcohol away.  Or nuclear bombs.  Or Keisha.  But it doesn’t work in practice because some Nucky Thompson or another will fill the demand.  Only thing is that only the people who live around the edges of the law will know how to get the illegal goods.  Think about it this way.  Marijuana is illegal most places.  While that may keep some yuppie kids from lighting up, it doesn’t do much to keep committed smokers from finding weed whenever they need it.  It also creates a shady industry of suppliers and dealers who get rich off of inflated prices.

There is no doubt that making all the guns disappear would reduce violence.  Zero doubt.  There is serious doubt, however, about whether you could- in the real world (e.g., outside of Facebook)- actually make enough of the right kind of guns disappear to make a difference.  And whether doing so can be reconciled with the rights of legitimate gun owners who have legitimate reasons to legally own a gun.  In other words, it’s complicated.  There is a balance to be considered.  A middle ground.

No one ever wants to talk about the middle.

I have guns (and a CHL for crying out loud).  I absolutely do not want anyone to take them away.  On the other hand, I don’t have, don’t want and don’t need a machine gun.  I think Ted Nugent is an idiot and I think the NRA is the lunatic fringe.  Ban automatic weapons.  I could care less.  That might stop some killing.  But most killing isn’t done with machine guns.  It’s done with handguns, shotguns, bombs, cars, pit bulls and whatnot.

And about this God thing.  I completely believe in God.  Yet I cringe almost every time people who purport to speak for religion open their mouth or touch their keyboard.  Because too many times people are using religion to go on some digital crusade against someone God would tell you to love and be compassionate towards.  Stated simply, lots of people all over the place are wrongfully using religion as a means to launder hate.

So let’s recap.

One, you can’t have my guns.

Two, stuffing your version of God down people’s throats will make things worse, not better.

Three, help those who have mental issues, but first and foremost help others to not get killed by them.

Four, people need to stop giving the lunatic fringe all the attention and rediscover the silent middle.

Finally, it’s OK to be sad without immediately attacking someone who doesn’t share your beliefs.

Idiots Gone Partisan: Facebook, Plutocracy and the Rise of the Cyber-Pundit

People say a lot of stupid stuff on the internet.  After all, that’s what it’s for, right?  The stupidity level rises significantly in election years, when scads of people who don’t really understand what they are saying begin to wildly post and share memes and blurbs spoon fed to them by their preferred plutocrat, who has cleverly conscripted them into some political war that, regardless of outcome, has little or nothing to do with the prospects of the person dutifully regurgitating such nonsense.  In other words, Facebook walls that used to be filled with posts about cats, photos of lunch and whatnot suddenly become a contest to see who can make the most factually challenged and outrageous claims about the rich guy they have been told they hate, while conveniently ignoring all the bad things about the rich guy they have been told they love.

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Prime example of a stupid Facebook post.

Wow, that photo suddenly made me rethink my entire philosophy.  My moral compass is spinning.  Not.  My moral compass is thinking that the Dalai Lama may be onto something, not because I am losing my religion (I’m holding on for dear life), but because somehow extremists have far too often been permitted to be the face of it.

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As an aside, if I were the leader of a religion (of any kind), I would be spending most of my time leading cease and desist efforts against the opportunistic zealots who, far too often, claim to speak for religion while simultaneously acting in ways completely inconsistent with it.  Unchecked, this hate-mongering will destroy religion (again, of any kind) from the inside a lot faster that any so-called competing religion will.  Fortunately, young people don’t generally drink the haterade to the same degree as some of their elders.  And more than they need to crap on others who don’t happen to share their beliefs, churches need young people.

Now comes some alleged study happily announcing that Facebook posts can influence election behavior.  Well, it might influence me to vote- solely to cancel out this guy’s vote:

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But it is never, ever going to convince me to change my ethics.  If anything, it will only add to my growing belief that the political party system in this country is broken beyond repair.  It’s not about issues any more.  It’s about how much you hate the other group.

I’ve been keeping a rough tally, and I’d estimate that 97% of the Facebook political posts I’ve seen criticize or make fun of the other guy.  Almost none actually discuss why the poster’s rich guy is better than the other one.  It is idiotic, and anyone swayed by this level of discourse will forget who he’s supposed to vote for long before he stumbles his way into a voting booth.

It’s clear to me that these posts are not intended to persuade.  They are merely cyber-tattoos, designed and displayed so people at the same extreme end of the so-called political spectrum can identify each other, congregate in the Comments, pretend they have the first clue what they are talking about, and revel in the camaraderie of extremism.  In order to stand out, to get noticed, you have to be more extreme.  Louder.  Angrier.  Dumber.

The same forces that have ruined our political process and are trying to corrupt organized religion (once again, all of them) are on full display on our social networks.  Maybe this sort of insanity will drive sane people to the middle and to the voting booths.  I hope so.  The problem is that, on Facebook and at the polls, no one cares about the middle.

We’re alone on there and out here.

The Sad State of the Union

I spent last night listening to Fred’s Radio and tonight reading his State of the Union post.

I won’t mince words: it is the best post I have ever read and it sums up the way a lot of us feel about the people and political parties who wage a war of weapons against an unseen enemy, a war of words against each other, and a war of bullshit against the American people.

You’re not alone Fred. Not by a long shot.

American Jihad?

I think President George W. Bush may have finally lost it.

According to the BBC:

President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.

“I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.'”

If these are accurate quotes, I understand this.

I thought for a minute I was reading The Onion.

As a general rule, almost everything about politics bores me, so this is in no way a comment one way or the other about the various wars we are fighting or the possibility of a Palestinian state. But those quotes bother me a lot.

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A Joke I Saw

At John Dvorak’s blog. It’s that interesting combination of funny and sad, which is the recipe for a good politics joke. I especially like number 5. I don’t find number 10 to be all that clever.

How many members of the Bush Administration are needed to change a light bulb?

Answer: Ten

1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed,

2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed,

3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb,

4. One to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the light bulb or for eternal darkness,

5. One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb,

6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner “Bulb Accomplished,”

7. One administration insider to resign and in detail reveal how Bush was literally “in the dark” the whole time,

8. One to viciously smear #7,

9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along,

10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

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