End of an Era

“Armchair warriors often fail
And they’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie.” — Don Henley

We see these events occur on the regular. Someone important in some line of work calls it a career. We saw it a couple of years ago in the talk media game when Rush Limbaugh got the congressional medal of freedom from the bottom of a Cracker Jacks container and then rode off into the sunset. Star athletes also get their last day in the sun as well.

Pat Robertson ended his run as the head of the 700 club after 55 long years. For those that don’t want to go through the pay wall you can also view the news here. I couldn’t imagine lasting 55 years doing anything and there are moments where I’m not sure if I will last 55 years period. For most teachers, that age seems to be right time to call it quits.

There are some religious scholars that classify heresy as the worst of the sins. Others would simply say that everyone is allowed to believe what they want. While that is true, there can be nothing worse than wrapping up your heresy and selling it as religious doctrine. So, those religious scholars are really talking about blasphemy. It’s hard to disrespect a God one does not believe exists. It’s only those that know and then choose to pervert it anyway that get into the real trouble.

It’s often been said that no one leaves Washington poorer than they came. The same could be said of televangelists. Some reports have Robertson privately worth between 200 million and a billion dollars. I’ll settle for 100 million. Of course, people will often argue as to whether the money was a byproduct of the hate being spewed or if it was the end game. It could just as easily be said that no one got poorer preaching hate.

I could go through a litany of things Robertson has said over the course of 50 plus years and I’ll attach a few here for those that want to go down the rabbit hole. That article obviously doesn’t exhaust them all. Volumes of books would be necessary to tackle his sordid legacy on this front.

Suffice it to say, when we have a platform we have a certain responsibility to use it to make the world a better place. We can do that through truth telling. We can do that by urging people to do the right thing in each moment they can. We can do that by welcoming disparate people into the flock. We can do that by showing compassion to the least of those among us.

Goodness knows that none of us will get it right 100 percent of the time. We are human. Goodness also knows that most of us will get nowhere near that kind of platform. It takes a certain kind of cowardice to know the truth and speak the opposite. It takes a scoundrel to pick the message that will get them the most money and not the message that will make people better than they were before. Robertson is obviously both.

Robertson reduced faith and Christian belief down to a math equation. If you get only ten percent of the population on your side you are still talking about 35 million Americans. If each gives just ten dollars to the cause you are now worth 350 million dollars. Obviously, they have more than ten percent to bank on and their followers certainly donated more than ten dollars a piece to the cause over the years.

And what exactly is that cause? Like Jerry Falwell and others, he somehow married Christianity to the Republican party. He simultaneously managed to soil both at the same time. A small government and low taxes party has somehow melded into one focused on petty slights, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and racism. Sadly, we’ve watched countless friends become radicalized one by one over the intervening decades.

The pews are also more sparse these days. Sure, a lot of it is pandemic oriented, but even that is a loaded statement. It’s hard to square a benevolent God, peace loving Christ, and what we see people of faith do and say on a regular basis. So, millions still believe but don’t participate. Others simply don’t believe anymore. This kind of erosion took decades to manifest itself and those are decades we can never get back. Robertson is at the life stage where he can exist on the fruits of his labor. He doesn’t have to worry about lack of faith or lack of attendance.

Like Limbaugh and others, Robertson has definitely left his mark. I guess that’s something by itself. Most of us could never dream of having such an impact on people. Most of us are glad about that. When my work here is done I can only hope that people think I made a positive difference. I’m sure Robertson tells himself that. It’s the last lie told by a blasphemer and opportunist.

The Spaces Between Friends

“If I were a good man I understand the spaces between friends.” — Roger Waters

We take a bit of a break from the political today for something else. At least we take a break from the overtly political to something that’s definitely hard. Our daughter is getting to an age when friendships become hard. As parents you always worry no matter what’s going on. You worry about whether your child has friends. You worry about whether they have the right friends. You obviously worry about whether your child will eventually gain the perspective that we have on life.

As children, our friendships were usually built on proximity. We were closest to those that were closest to us. So, those were the kids we also knew on our street or in our neighborhood. If you are fortunate then you go to a school that is in your neighborhood. Therefore, you theoretically know everyone there.

As we get older, those friendships either evolve or they go by the wayside. Our friendships become built on something else. Typically, they are built on different interests. Maybe we are in scouts together or maybe we play on the same team in school. These friendships probably sustain us all the way through the end of high school.

What’s hard and where kids need some guidance is in what happens after that. Friendships naturally evolve from sharing a common set of activities to sharing common interests and a common temperament. Obviously, a combination of these is usually involved. Do we go to the same college? Do we have similar career paths? Do we have similar attitudes about things?

The last one is where politics can enter into the equation. It never used to before, but these are trying times. Essentially, everyone has to come up with a short list of non-negotiables. This is a list of core values we have that if someone doesn’t share then it will be difficult for them to be my friend. It is the act of limiting our circle that ultimately becomes the most difficult and most tricky thing we teach our children.

Our daughter is generally a loving person. She has always been a people pleaser and has always had a gregarious personality. It’s to the point where we aren’t sure where she got it from. It isn’t so much that she doesn’t have those same feelings we had as children. She has all of those and more, but she is somehow able to overcome the fear that occupied us and slowed us down.

Yet, she struggles to understand why some people don’t want to be her friend. She also struggles to see the people that she probably should keep at arm’s length. Some people aren’t good for us for one reason or another. It isn’t even so much that they are bad people, but that they are different people with different goals and different interests.

Striking the balance between being civil and friendly without bending over backwards to remain friends is a difficult lesson to learn. Before social media this was actually relatively easy. We naturally lost contact with people that we didn’t share common values or common interests with. We found new friends that we shared more with and had a deeper relationship with. Social media has made it possible to reconnect with everyone, but in the process we have to negotiate those same dilemmas we had to negotiate earlier in our lives.

Negotiating these things is new for us, so passing on wisdom to our children is a daunting task. What happens when a friend becomes radicalized? What happens if we are the ones that become radicalized? Suddenly, we have to consider how much effort we want to invest in a relationship that might have become toxic. As John Oliver said on his show, the Facebook phenomenon makes us utter things like, “Oh geez, that’s too bad. I guess John is an asshole now.” Without that access we never would have known, but we also never would have been able to engage or even felt the desire to engage.

Friendship should ultimately be a benefit to our mental health. It should happen between people that look forward to their time together. It should be with people we laugh with, people we can cry with, and people that can lean on each other during good times and bad. No friendship is perfect and yet we should monitor our relationships to see if we can do any of these things. If our relationships are lacking one or more of those key traits then it might be time to trade it in for a newer model. It doesn’t mean the other person is bad or beneath us, but that we are moving in different directions. That’s life sometimes.

Shape Shifting in the South

“Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”– John Lennon

The governor’s race in 2022 is beginning to take shape. We essentially have three doors to choose from. Door number one involves our illustrious governor and his numerous challengers on the GOP side. Essentially, they are one and the same. If you could imagine the twice impeached former president as a governor then you’d be on the right track. All of them are jockeying for position to be the most Trump they could possibly be.

We will assume for the time being that Abbott will win that primary going away. After all, he’s made no bones about doing the former president’s bidding. The latest example involves an audit of three counties that presumably all voted for Biden. Remember, Trump won Texas. So, what exactly are they going to prove?

This is a mind-numbingly stupid endeavor. Everyone knows voter fraud is rare. They’ve done dozens of these across the country and they’ve discovered one thing throughout: there is more fraud on the GOP side than on the Democratic side. This is where those childhood chants of “takes one to know one” come into clear view. Yet, even with that caveat, there has never been enough to make a statistically significant difference one way or another.

So, we spend millions of dollars potentially in order to do what exactly? If we discover rampant fraud are we going to give 45 two sets of electoral votes from the state? Obviously, that’s not it. What would be hilarious is if they discover what they’ve discovered in Arizona and in other locations: the incidences of fraud have been on the GOP side. Either that or they missed some Biden ballots along the way. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Biden really won Texas?

Thus, we see the problem with door number one. It’s not that Abbott is crazy. He really isn’t crazy. He’s just a spineless jellyfish bending to the whims of a mad man. It’s at this point that we openly wonder what the difference is. If any of his opponents win the primary you get the exact same thing. Texans are fiercely independent people. At least, they always had been in the past.

Door number two involves the guy I will call the Lincoln man. He is calling himself a philosopher-poet. I’m not even sure what that means. Is he going to play his bongo drums naked in the governor’s mansion or will he give fireside chats in his Lincoln? Sure, I’m probably overselling his past. Everyone deserves the dignity of looking beyond their past. Yet, it’s hard to see what he has done in his life that would prepare him for this moment.

Door number three involves Beto O’Rourke. The former representative and senatorial candidate from El Paso seems to be the front runner on the Democratic side. O’Rourke has star power and fund raising capabilities, but we aren’t sure yet what he will bring to the table in this race. The tragedy is he already becomes to lesser of three evils.

You can tell the GOP is worried. Ted Cruz went to the mat to tell us how if O’Rourke were elected then Texans wouldn’t get their barbecue. Naturally, he says he was joking. I’m not sure any of them can be that funny. Humor takes spontaneity and thinking on your feet. These guys and gals can’t have a bowel movement without asking permission first.

The usual course of these things is that when someone loses, they ride off into the sunset, play their golf, and accept hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking to various groups about their salad days. This time has always been different. Whether 45 runs again or not, we’ve already seen the damage. Governors rush to curry favor by conducting a race to the bottom. I’d normally start handicapping this race, but nothing I’ve seen so far makes any sense.

Forgiveness and Redemption

“But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness Even if, even if
you don’t love me anymore.” — Don Henley

I occasionally have conversations with people about my writing. On another site, we get frequent comments to our posts. Many of the comments are intelligent and add to the conversation. Some are humorous anecdotes or even corrections. Yesterday, I had one such conversation with a friend who read these posts and another was a commenter on the other site. The combination brings you this topic today.

The first conversation concerned racism. See, a few of the people who read this space are people I graduated high school with. One of them in fact is part of the original inspiration for writing these. There was a Facebook conversation about racism in the summer of 2020 that eventually turned into these commentaries. In the scant 14 or 15 months my readership has grown to almost a dozen strong. At this rate I might be able to retire in a few decades.

The second comment came from the other site I write for. It was from someone asking about redemption and whether it would be possible for people we’ve come to know as “covidiots.” As funny as that sounds, this is no joking matter. There is a significant difference between forgiveness and redemption. On a human level, that difference is the difference between maintaining friendships and familial relationships and not.

Theologians tell us that God forgives and forgives absolutely. It has taken a lifetime to understand that what they are talking about is really redemption and not forgiveness. Forgiveness is really a human condition. It means we simply drop those negative feelings and move on. That has always been the secret. Forgiveness is more about us than it is about them. We don’t allow that anger and pain to consume us. Yet, it doesn’t mean that the relationship returns to normal or even at all.

Redemption, on the other hand, is a return of the relationship. That’s what the theologians call forgiveness from God. The slate is wiped clean and all transgressions are forgotten. Most of us aren’t capable of that. We have to protect our psyche and someone that repeatedly runs roughshod over our psyche cannot return to the previous condition. We can leave the pain behind and refuse to allow that person’s actions to occupy our thoughts. We can’t treat them the same way as before though.

This is where racism, xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia comes in. It is where the Q nonsense comes in. It is where the anti-vax nonsense comes in. This topic is the one topic that ties it all together. Yesterday, we looked at conservative social media and whether they could have a safe space to spew their hatred. There’s a reason why they want and need that safe space. When we shun that kind of thought we don’t get rid of it. We just drive it underground where it can’t readily be seen.

The question comes on whether someone can let their hate flag fly and then later live to regret it. If they do then is there a path back to redemption for them? We have seen numerous people recant their feelings on the vaccine once they’ve landed in the hospital. Should they survive, can they be forgiven and can they be redeemed? They can be forgiven relatively easily, but that doesn’t mean they are redeemed.

It comes down to recognizing windows of opportunity. Hundreds if not thousands of anti-vaxxers and Q devotees are realizing that they backed the wrong horse. They realize they were lied to. They realize they were duped. The question comes on whether we are capable of extending the olive branch to welcome them back to normal society.

The same is true of racists, homophobes, sexists, and xenophobes. There is that key moment where everything comes tumbling down. I say this because I’ve experienced it myself. Those feelings were more private because I knew they were wrong. I was able to cast them aside and be welcomed in. However, I have to admit that I had not gone out on a limb to make an ass out of myself either.

That’s how I know there are a lot of these folks out there. They feel the way they do, but they are too polite and even too ashamed to be publicly outed. Without a path to redemption they have to stay in that space. They exist in the shadows between everything we know that is good and everything we know that isn’t. It’s the main reason why we are left wondering how some of our elected officials get where they are in the first place.

There is something within ourselves that doesn’t allow us to redeem. In ourselves it is obvious that shame overwhelms us. In others, it is anger and jealousy of a former scourge getting credit for their conversion. These are all understandable feelings. For others, it is a lack of trust that the conversion is real. We’ve been burned before. We have to take that chance. Otherwise, it will always be us versus them.

An Actual Conundrum

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — First Amendment

Lately it seems that we get to complain about obvious things. I enjoy discussing things that aren’t that obvious. It stretches the brain to have to consider multiple points of the view. The recent breach of the conservative social network Epik brings this kind of debate to life.

This kind of discussion always begins with the first amendment. I included the verbiage above because it is one of the most misunderstood amendments in the constitution. Too many people seem to think it means you get to say whatever you want without consequences. That has never been the case and the folks discovered in the Epik breach are learning this the hard way.

In particular, this story came to a head when a Florida realtor was fired because of his social media presence. In essence he had set up numerous domains with controversial content. The end result is a classic case pitting someone’s misunderstood free speech rights against a business’s rights to have people they want to represent their product.

All that being said, the bolded portion of the first amendment is the key part in this case. The whole idea behind sites like Parlor and Epik was that people wanted a “safe space” to air their grievances. They knew they couldn’t regurgitate their bile in public, so they were seeking a private place where they wouldn’t get in trouble.

The operative word there is the right to PEACEABLY assemble. The trouble with these right wing sites is that they don’t seem to peaceably do anything. Sites like these are where a lot of the January 6th actors coordinating their efforts. Again, they are mistaking the nature of the freedom. Congress cannot outlaw people from meeting in groups as long as the meeting itself is not against the law or that those groups break the law during their meeting.

A classic example of this scenario might involve NAMBLA. As most people know, this is an organization of pedophiles. If they describe their love for pedophilia they technically aren’t breaking any laws at the meeting itself. If they exchange pictures or any other materials then they would be. The question is whether the government has the right to identify who is at this gathering in the first place.

From there, that information would be readily available and employers and consumers could handle that knowledge as they saw fit. So, the ultimate question here is whether individuals have a right to privacy when they meet in groups. We can allow the Klu Klux Klan to meet as long as they don’t break the law. Do they have a right to have their identities kept secret?

These are all interesting questions given that all of these groups know full well that the majority of the population does not accept the validity of their point of view. So, individuals avoid voicing unpopular opinions because they understand the fallout. They join private groups in the hopes that they can voice their true feelings without facing direct consequences. These hacks obviously made that impossible.

The difficulty here is that these are not groups just idly sitting around and talking about how much they hate black people (or any other group). Such a group would be reprehensible, but basically harmless. What creates this issue is that some people in the group (or even most in some cases) are using the assumed anonymity to plan actions that are obviously dangerous and against the law.

The ancillary point is the duplicity of understanding that a point of view is at the very least considered to be repugnant while seeking a private forum to safely voice those views. In other words, they know its wrong and want to find a safe space to say the wrong things. The first amendment clearly does not shield anyone from the consequences of their speech. Yes, you can say it. Yes, you can meet with like-minded curmudgeons, but employers and consumers can use this information to their own benefit.

Moreover, while we have the right to free speech, we do not have the right to social media. We do not have the right to amplification. Anyone is free to set up social media with their own terms of service, but we can also be judged for what happens on those forums. It’s not cut and dried and it’s never easy. I can sympathize with someone hoping to keep their views private, but if a group is planning the next insurrection then that right to privacy should go out the window.

Hometown Politics

“I’m thirty-five, we got a boy of our own now
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good look around
This is your hometown.” — Bruce Springsteen

Every once in awhile, someone puts something in a way that turns the light on. The discussions have been ongoing for months now as America is split between those that want to get the vaccine and those that don’t. Those that don’t are seemingly subdivided into groups of people that simply don’t want to get the jab and those that are willing to try any number of experimental treatments at the suggestion of who I called “Uncle Sal.”

Tip O’Neill (former Speaker of the House) once famously said, “all politics is local.” He also famously used to share a beer with Ronald Reagan after a tough day’s fight over legislation. Of course, the last part was one of those legends that is probably hyperbolic in nature. It’s an anecdote loosely based on something that never really happened, but feels good to bring up as a kind of morality tale. See, look the two bitter enemies used to get along. Why can’t we do that now?

Anyhow, the point in question is that many of the falsehoods going around about the virus and about the multitude of methods to prevent it are coming from the cliques that we used to belong to in high school. Shocking I know. Coming from a community where many people stay afterwards, makes this kind of notion make more sense. I probably run into people I graduated with on a weekly basis and it’s been nearly 30 years since I graduated from high school.

So, the point that this person was making was that you have people who were influential in high school. They were the leaders of the pack. They know things. Any number of us can say that we are beyond all of that stuff and maybe we mostly are. Yet, social media has managed to keep us all connected. It’s managed to allow us to brag about our kids. It’s allowed us a way to keep those bonds alive in a kind of competition over relevance.

That competition extends to our own lives as well. See, I’ve been successful. See, I have a nice family. See, I have a good job. See, look at all the stuff I’ve been able to accumulate. Maybe I was an ugly duckling that turned into a swan. Maybe I was always the swan and am desperate to still be one. Maybe I’m desperate just to be one of the ducklings again. I think everyone sees where this is going.

Social media has allowed us to stay tethered to those groups. I have Facebook friends that I might have had one conversation with in high school. I’m sure many of you are the same way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Trips down amnesia lane are good sometimes. The key thing is remembering that for people my age, it has been longer since we have been in high school than all the way up to graduation. In other words, we’re getting old.

Demographics clearly show that party affiliation and political ideology are broken down by population density. It’s staggering to think that with more population density comes more independent thought and progressive attitudes. It doesn’t seem like it would be that way, but in smaller towns we get stuck into these generational relationships. Bubba was the football star. Bubba is successful now and has a good family. Bubba was calm, cool, and collected when he led us to victory over Possum Holler High School. I should listen to him when he tells me to ingest Clearasil to fight off the Covids. He knows stuff. He’s good under pressure and God knows this is a pressure situation.

If we look back with a critical eye we will remember that Bubba was the guy cheating off of the cheerleaders during the Biology and Chemistry tests. He was the one that could never tell the difference between mitosis and meiosis. It’s not a point of judgment since I can’t either, but it does reinforce the point that Bubba might not be the person to listen to when it comes to COVID prevention. Yet, when you have 40 or more years of history with Bubba as a group leader you can see why some people would rather listen to Bubba than some egghead that spends their time in a lab all day. Except, they are the ones that really know and Bubba is the one spouting bullshit.

The New Normal

“Strangers passing in the street, by chance two separate glances meet and I am you and what I see is me.” — Roger Waters

The reading material often reveals a lot about us these days. I have made a habit of reading John Pavlovitz’s blog over the past couple of years. It’s interesting how some people have a way of putting things that make perfect sense. He seems to be able to do that to the point where it must seem like I’m plagiarizing him.

That’s unintentional and unavoidable at the same time. Good writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs other good writing to cultivate it and nurture it. Of course, I don’t know how good my writing is. I suppose I finish my sentences and correctly punctuate almost everything, so maybe that is good enough these days.

The overwhelming thought over the past few days has been the new normal. This is my daughter’s school’s homecoming week. It is usually accompanied with daily activities like thematic dress and a parade. It used to have pep rallies, carnivals, and a dance as well. Some of those things are gone. They’ve become COVID causalities. Open house was also sacrificed to the COVID gods.

In a past life, I used to coach volleyball. When my daughter came along those days were quickly numbered. One of the more difficult decisions was how to handle discipline of good kids. Most coaches have a policy of holding kids out who have missed practices and/or previous games. It is a policy meant to reward kids that are dedicated for being there and also incentivizing attendance for those less dedicated.

However, theory and reality often take two different paths. Do you hold out a good player to make an example out of them or do you play them and give your team the best chance to compete? These are hard questions I don’t envy and I’m glad I don’t have to make them anymore. COVID has punched another hole in this dilemma.

Two kids have been held out of school at different points to be tested for COVID. Thankfully, neither tested positive, but since family members tested positive they were required to quarantine for a time. Except, they weren’t required by the state. The district strongly suggests it. So, does the coach hold out those kids for missing practices and/or games? They were being responsible by staying home and we want to encourage responsible behavior. Plus, holding them out could possibly make it harder on the team to compete. It’s a difficult position to be in.

We’ve become numb to the process overall. We get daily emails from our child’s campus about positive tests that day. These emails have come daily. I know I just said that, but I feel it needs to be repeated. These emails have come every day they have been in school. At the same time, my campus will send out an automatic voicemail with the same exact message. I think we’ve had a day or two here and there without a voicemail, but on most every evening we have gotten the email immediately followed by the voicemail.

We have nearly 350 million people in the United States. So, talking about 680,000 COVID deaths can sound like an enormous abstraction. That’s not even one half of one percent of the overall population. Yet, it is more deaths than any single war in U.S. history and it has surpassed the Spanish flu pandemic as well. So, do we focus on the abstraction or the real loss?

What is most painful is that most of these deaths could have been avoided. We are now seemingly at about 2000 deaths a day again and all of those deaths could be avoided. All it takes is a willingness to get vaccinated and a little common sense along the way. Instead, the virus comes closer and closer to our view.

Most people are lucky in that they haven’t had the virus. Most people are lucky in that they can’t name anyone they know or knew that succumbed to it. Yet, as the numbers mount those facts will quickly change. As we get more emails and more phone calls we will soon stumble on someone we know well. It’s already happened to us. It will happen to you too if it hasn’t already.

Sadly, COVID is still too much of an abstraction for some people to take seriously. They still believe it is just like the flu. These are the folks that seem to be taken first. They count the prominent and the obscure on an almost equal basis. Some might call that irony, but it’s really just science. Mother nature is undefeated and she’s never met an opponent that could even compete. That’s not ironic. It’s just the plain, honest truth.

A theory of Elasticity

“Your wise men don’t know how it feels
To be thick as a brick.” — Ian Anderson

I heard an interesting theory as it pertains to all of the nonsense that has been going on lately. I can’t take credit for it. My wife is a Biologist by training even though she primarily works in physics. So, understanding certain symptoms and conditions comes with the trade. Essentially, our bodies lose their elasticity as we age.

Of course, that’s nothing new or groundbreaking. Our skin starts to sag or show more wrinkles as it loses that elasticity. Our bones become more brittle and easily broken. Our muscles stiffen and become more difficult to use. All of us of a certain age know all of these things all too well. As I am fond of telling kids, I can do the things they do, but it takes me a lot longer to recuperate. At a certain point, it’s difficult to do even that.

The theory came in that we can mentally lose our elasticity as well. My wife called it “getting old” but I’m sure there is a more official sounding term for it. The old-timers would call it “getting set in your ways” but there are all kinds of euphemisms to describe this condition. As you might expect, there is more psychology than biology around this phenomenon.

Psychologists called this process the process of schema. Essentially, all of us have our own conception of the world and that conception is built on what we have been taught, what we have learned, and what we have experienced in our lifetimes. Our world view could be called schema. Occasionally, something happens that goes against that schema. How we react to it can help determine how much elasticity our brains have.

Sometimes, that new information causes us to change our schema. However, all of us get to a point where our minds stop growing. So, that new information becomes false information (or fake news as it were). It is not to be believed. It can’t possibly be true because it doesn’t fit our conception of the world. Thus we have reached a point where we have no more brain elasticity.

When that occurs depends on the person. Some people reach that point relatively early in their lives while others hold on for decades. It also helps explain why some people buy into bullshit like Q’anon or the malarkey with the vaccine. It sounds so fantastical and difficult to fathom based on what is being said and the sources saying it. Yet, if it fits your schema then you might be tempted to believe anything.

Try to throw logic and reason into the conversation and you find you’ll be hitting a brick wall. It just doesn’t compute. The information you are giving doesn’t fit the schema and they simply don’t have the mental elasticity to take in new information. Thus, the person you are debating has become thick as a brick.

Tying this in with yesterday’s conversation then becomes very easy. If roughly a third of the population believe fantastical things to be true, you can waste all kinds of time and energy trying to convince them otherwise. Their schema isn’t changing. As I’ve said of administrators throughout the years: don’t waste time asking me what I think if you already know what you want to do. Just do it. Science (those pesky biologists) have told us what needs to happen. We can waste all kinds of time trying to come to a consensus or we can simply implement what we know needs to be done and let the crying masses fume. They’ll do it anyway.

The Dangers of Timidity

It’s always interesting where a conversation goes when a subject comes up. Yesterday, some readers were very passionate about vaccine mandates in the wake of the news that Pfizer has had some successful tests of children between the ages of five and eleven. We obviously aren’t there yet, but hopefully we will have a vaccine for all school aged children before the end of the year.

This of course begged the question: why aren’t all elementary schools and daycare centers mandating that every adult in the building take the vaccine? You have a captive audience of young people that cannot be protected against the virus. Forcing everyone else around them to be fully vaccinated just seems to make the most sense.

That conversation morphed into a conversation as to why we aren’t mandating every abled body adult get the vaccine period. The FDA has give full approval to at least one vaccine. We have plenty of it to go around and the vaccine has been free for quite some time.

The Democratic party and the Republican party approach politics very differently. One seems to have a conscience and the other does not. Republicans in recent years have governed for a clear minority of the population. Their policies are favored by a minority and yet they implement them with reckless abandon. They don’t seem to care that most people don’t want them to do these things. It’s almost breathtaking to see.

The Democratic party should be working from a position of strength, but they can’t seem to get out of their own way. Heavy majorities want vaccine mandates. They want a higher minimum wage. They want stiffer environmental protections. They want voting rights protected and expanded. We know all of this. Yet, little seems to happen because some within the party are worried about the fallout.

See, we know a loud minority will protest any of these things. We know this because we’ve seen it before. When President Obama was negotiating the Affordable Care Act, he took very popular planks like a public option off the table. There was no way the Republicans could support it. Except, they didn’t support any of it. They’ve been spending the past ten years trying to get rid of all of it. So, why are worried about what planks Republicans find objectionable? They find everything objectionable.

Conservatives are up in arms about mandates. It’s antithetical to freedom they say. Except it’s the exact same thing we’ve been doing with other vaccines for decades. In order to attend public school you have to have certain vaccinations or documentation from a doctor of why you cannot comply. There’s none of this “I don’t know what’s in it” or “it’s a way for them to track you.” Sure, there are those that have always believed that, but they had to suffer the consequences of their decision.

The end result this time around is that one of the wealthiest countries in the world has one of the lowest vaccine rate in the developed world. Sure, developing countries lag behind, but they also have institutional barriers to consider. A country without those barriers can’t seem to get to 70 percent in full vaccinations. Sadly, giving people to freedom to choose means too many make the wrong choice.

Whether you mandate it or not, the Tucker Carlson’s and Sean Hannity’s of the world will spew their garbage comparing a government to fascism when doing something we’ve done dozens of times before. You can tiptoe around it or you can simply shove it down their throat. If people are going to complain let’s give them something to complain about. In the meantime, maybe then we can properly protect our children and anyone else that is vulnerable instead of hoping only the idiots weed themselves out of the population.

The politics of humor

“And what exactly is a joke?” — Syd Barrett

Norm MacDonald died this past week at the tender age of 61. Of course, most of my friends know him as Turd Ferguson. That was the alter ego he chose when he played Burt Reynolds on SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy. What everyone remembers is Sean Connery from those sketches, but the sketch was supposed to be a vehicle for MacDonald.

I read a fascinating retrospective on him this weekend. Of course, he was famously fired from SNL and after that he didn’t seem to do a whole lot. However, those around him talked about how tirelessly he worked on his craft. The delivery seemed so natural and so understated, but it was the result of a lot of hard work.

This entered my mind when I saw three different examples of political humor that were attempted this past week. Of course, political humor is unique already. It is part humor, part performance art, and part trolling these days. The key is how to strike that balance. If you do then you live rent free in the opposition’s head.

We start on the conservative end of the ledger. Greg Gutfield proved there is such a thing as comedic timing when he made everyone feel icky in his response to Sarah Palin. For those that don’t want to go down the rabbit hole he creepily asked whether her position or she were sexier at this point. The joke obviously felt flat because Palin was obviously uncomfortable.

I really can’t say that I blame her. I’ve never been a Palin fan and it will be hard for me to forgive John McCain for foisting her upon the American public, but no one deserves to be treated like that. She became the fodder for people that like to alter women’s images to make them look sexier than they really were. She obviously hoped she was beyond that and I can’t blame her. Gutfield is equal parts creep and jackass and zero parts funny.

The key to political humor is the knowledge that you are joking or trolling. Naturally, everyone’s mind immediately jumps to the past president. The problem was that it was obvious he was trolling in some circumstances. but in others you had no idea whether he knew or not. They always have to know you’re joking.

AOC is living rent free in conservatives’ heads and she did it again when she wore a provocative dress to a Gala this past week. The dress had “tax the rich” prominently written on it. People were up in arms about her wearing an expensive dress with that message on it. They fumed about the cost of the dress. They fumed about how much it cost to get into the Gala. They just generally fumed.

It was similar to when Melania Trump wore the infamous jacket that gave the message that she didn’t care about the kids on the border. The debate was on whether she grasped what message she was giving based on where she was going. Of course she did. Whether the troll job was worth it or not obviously depends on the eye of the beholder, but the result was pretty much the same. The Left fumed.

The final piece came this weekend when a company painted a provocative message on a truck. The message was from a “funeral home” and it told people not to get vaccinated. Apparently, it lists a website that presumably is for the funeral home, but instead takes people to a website with information about the vaccine.

Obviously, I just about fell over laughing when I saw the picture, but I imagine anti-vaxxers probably didn’t take too kindly to it. Oh well. When you are willfully stupid you deserve to be trolled and trolled something fierce. At the end of the day this proves nothing about comedic timing in politics except that it remains up to the individual and we know it when we see it.