The Death of a Star

“Love, slowly stripped away
Love, has seen its better day.” — Paul Hewson

We stopped subscribing to satellite nearly ten years ago. Who would have known we would have been on the cutting edge of a growing cultural trend. The hipsters call it cutting the cord. We bought a couple of Apple TVs and subscribed to Netflix and Hulu. We bought one of those Amazon boxes and have added Amazon Prime and Disney Plus to the repertoire.

We did it because our cable bill effectively went from over 100 dollars a month to around 25 dollars a month. It has a number of advantages in addition to the savings. Essentially, it is like having an unlimited DVR. We can watch what we want and when we want without having to worry about when shows actually come on. Unfortunately, it comes with a few disadvantages as well.

The main disadvantage is that you can’t watch live sports. Naturally, there are some streaming services that allow you to do that now, but they come at an extra cost which would put us close to the price we were paying before. That’s a relative non-starter. It also does not allow you to watch news networks like Fox or MSNBC. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword.

We can watch YouTube and catch clips of whatever we want. I often binge different clips of MSNBC at night along with other commentary. Lately, I’ve been looking for distractions following a long day. I’ve settled on videos about different aspects of space. Sometimes I look at pictures of the Mars or Venus surface. Sometimes I look at other pictures and commentary about the solar system. There have even been some footage from beyond the solar system of planets that could sustain life. Theoretically.

Watching these videos is equal parts fascinating, ironic, and finally humbling. The primary focus has involved getting away from the current news cycle. It’s ironic because I’ve grown up with NASA in my backyard. I’ve known some astronauts, many that have worked in space, and even married someone in the space industry. It’s never brought a level of fascination before.

The humbling part is when you realize how intricate everything came together to support life on Earth. We had to be a certain distance from the sun. We needed a certain mixture of gases in our atmosphere. Earth needed to revolve around the sun in a certain way. You get the idea. Even focused outside of the solar system you see planets that have some of those components, but to my knowledge they haven’t found anything that has the exact combination that Earth has.

It obviously won’t always be that way. The sun has a shelf life just like anything else. Obviously, billions of years is well beyond any of our lifetimes or even active imaginations. However, it will come to an end. The sun will start to expand and when it does it will engulf the earth. This will happen before it finally disappears.

I’m usually not one for extended metaphors, but this one seems to fit where we are at. Our political ecosystem is pretty well balanced. We have had a pretty steady two-party structure for over 200 years. They haven’t always been the same parties, but even if you take just the current two parties you have had the same two for 150 years.

This is the main reason why Democrats should care about what happens to the Republicans. If this situation isn’t handled in just the right way then this whole internal strife could engulf them as well. It could end up engulfing us all. It all comes down to what you choose to value in this moment. There are no guarantees on either side of the aisle.

The question comes down to whether you choose party of country. Liz Cheney is seeing this first hand. She is in the third most senior position in the House. Her state party has censured her and the folks in the GOP delegation in the House are proverbially coming for her head. The aforementioned Majorie Taylor Greene might actually come for her head. This is because she voted for impeachment.

As for the Democrats, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the right way to tiptoe your way through this minefield. Letting Trump and his accomplices off the hook is definitely not the right move and certainly doesn’t feel right. Yet, you wonder how much damage all of them cause on their way down. Yes, all of them may go down and that star will be destroyed, but what happens to us in the meantime? Will we be engulfed along the way?

It’s all downhill…

“Any social occasion, it’s hello, how do you do
All those introductions, I never miss my cue
So before a question, so before a doubt
My hand moves out and, I have the touch.” — Peter Gabriel

I usually opine about matters political, but I thought I would shift to the wild world of sports for a day. Sports serve as a distraction for our daily lives and Houstonians have certainly been distracted by the goings on at NRG Stadium this season and beyond. They just hired a new coach and he is being introduced today.

When I first heard the name David Culley my mind immediately started making the jokes. The Texans just hired Luther Van Damme. Of course, I then immediately realized that this reference immediately went into obscurity when we left the 1990s. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was David Culley once upon a time.

Culley has been an assistant coach for over 30 years and has only been a coordinator once. That was at UTEP back in the 1990s. In the NFL he has only been a position coach. My coaching career was relatively brief. I only toiled a few years and essentially quit shortly after my daughter was born. My sport of choice was volleyball.

Like Culley, I was once in over my head. I took a varsity position at the high school in Galveston. They had gone over 20 years without winning a district match. I don’t mean finishing in last place. I mean without winning a single match. Needless to say, I didn’t last long. There were fumbles and foibles along the way and the results didn’t change. Of course, I got the job because few wanted it. That’s usually how these things work.

So, why did Culley get this job? Well, that depends on the timeline you choose to believe. Either the team believes Deshaun Watson (the star quarterback) was already gone or they don’t. If they believe he was already gone then Culley’s place is similar to mine. Few with better credentials would want this job. It is a certain rebuilding job and the coach is almost certainly being hired to be fired in a few seasons. Younger coaches don’t want to torpedo their careers that way. So, enter David Culley.

If they believe Watson is not gone then the selection of Culley is just that much more of a head scratcher. Sure, the two know each other from the Pro Bowl last season, but what Watson wants is so much simpler than that. He wants to win and he wants an organization that does everything it can to win. It’s hard to see how hiring a coach that has never even been a coordinator at the NFL level is really going to convince the quarterback you are trying to win.

From here there is only the explanation of how we got here in the first place. I won’t bore you with the details. Essentially, Watson is upset with the decision making process. One can hardly blame him. One of the chief architects that has been in the building the past two years is whispering in the owner’s ear at all the wrong moments. He was intimately involved in shaping a roster that was once a division champion into the worst one in the division.

For David Culley this has to be a nightmare. This is supposed to be his day. He has been in football in one form or another since the 1970s. There are only 32 of these jobs and he has one of them. He is signing a five year contract to be head coach. His kids and his grandkids are set for the rest of their lives. Whatever will happen next season and beyond, this is supposed to be a day to celebrate him.

Yet, he will get questions about the quarterback that likely won’t be here in September. The owner will get questions about the Rasputin-like figure that seems to be controlling things behind the scenes. Of course, that same figure won’t make an appearance because why would he. Finally, there are the fans that almost universally wanted someone else, anyone else, to be the coach of this team.

As much as I want to make fun of him or be angry at him, I just can’t do it. I’ve been David Culley and I know how much it sucks. It’s also hard to continue to be angry at an organization that finds ways to screw up without provocation. There’s a simple solution to all of these problems and it won’t get done. That’s largely because everyone is screaming for it now. Human nature is to dig in your heels at that point. The sad thing is that I don’t think any of the McNairs are hemophiliacs. At least the Romanovs had a good excuse.

The long walk down

“I’m a desperate man
Send lawyers guns and money
The shit has hit the fan.”–Warren Zevon

We are witnessing something I have never witnessed during my lifetime. At least it is not something I cognizantly remember happening. We have seen impeachments and impeachment trials, but I have never seen a serious resolution to expel a member of Congress. What makes it more unusual is that it seems like they took the oath of office just 13 minutes ago.

Majorie Taylor Greene could end up leaving Congress before her term really begins. It takes a two thirds vote for a member to be expelled, so we would need more than a handful of Republicans to agree. I think we all know the chances of that happening are slim and none. However, let’s take a little stock in how we got here and what it means exactly.

The idea of expelling a member of Congress is extreme enough. However, when you consider it would be for things she said that voters should have known about during the campaign it becomes that much more harrowing. Usually, the provision would be used to expel someone for something they did while in office. The idea is that they have done something so horrible that we can’t wait two years for the voters to get another shot to get it right.

In this case, the Democrats are saying the voters got it wrong to begin with. I obviously tend to lean that way (so much so that I might fall over), but this is one of the precedents that is problematic at best. Imagine the Republicans expelling Sheila Jackson Lee. She overwhelmingly wins her district every two years. Expelling her would be telling her voters that they were wrong. That’s a dangerous message to send in a representative democracy.

Yet, here we are. It isn’t so much her support for Q’Anon that makes her unfit. I personally would never support anyone that went there and neither did Republican leadership when she ran in the primary. Yet, it was her comments calling for the murder of Nancy Pelosi and other leaders that brings us to this point.

I think in some cases the social media controls on the Q conspiracy theories has hurt more than its helped. It’s a fine line. The makers of South Park were effective in this strategy when they poked fun at Scientology in a few of their episodes. In one particular episode they simply flashed “this is what Scientologists actually believe” on the bottom of the screen. The message was quite clear and they ended up being sued. It wasn’t successful because they have some creative license and what they said was largely true.

If normal people understood what Q followers believe they might come to their senses. As harsh as it would be to tell residents of the Georgian district that they’ve failed and need to try again, that’s what needs to be done. This is what comes in a world where we pull the lever (figuratively) for an R or D without really paying attention.

The Marjorie Greene’s of the world used to top out as school board members before the community woke up to a crazy idiot that wanted to burn books and cancel the Halloween party. They didn’t stumble their way into Congress. Now, we have a handful of them. Before you know it, that could turn into a dozen or a few dozen if we aren’t careful.

No one is a big fan of Congress telling the American people they know what’s good for them. We want a Congress that reflects us and who we are. Unfortunately, who we are is what is currently in Congress. There are more than a few of us that have lost their ever loving minds. While having an unhinged member of Congress might reflect current national demographics, we can’t govern that way. We can’t have representatives threatening the lives of other representatives no matter how many Georgians want to put her there.

The Politics of Glory

“Fame makes a man take things over
Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame puts you there where things are hollow (fame).” — Carlos Alomar, David Bowie, John Lennon

Rarely do I ever get to see two of my biggest passions intersect. As some of you know, I have written two books about the Baseball Hall of Fame. Then, this site was taken over with political and social commentary. I never dreamed these two would collide in any significant way until this week. Well, it’s actually been brewing for awhile, but it spilled over this week.

Bill James wrote a book about the Hall of Fame as well. The original title is the one you see in the headline. It’s sold a few more copies than mine have. It would seem that politics and baseball have no place together, but the bylaws of the Hall of Fame have a character clause and the commissioner has barred players who are on the banned list from eligibility. However, all of those have always concerned what has happened within the white lines. That is true up until now.

Curt Schilling officially got 71 percent of the vote and came up short again for enshrinement. I say officially because a number of voters called the Hall of Fame to see if they could take back their vote for him. He responded by requesting that he be removed from next year’s ballot and immediately be considered by the Veteran’s Committee. Such a threat is as empty as they come, but I’ll have to go into some mechanics to explain why.

You need 75 percent of voters to say yes to you to get in. Each voter can vote for up to ten players, but most vote for five or less. 2021 saw a meager class of new players on the ballot. That led to some thinking that the likes of Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens might sneak in. 2022 will have some notable newcomers on the ballot. That and the recent events would seem to indicate that his chances are now slim.

What’s changed? This is where I have to be Solomon and split the baby. Curt Schilling has always been a conservative asshole. He has made numerous statements over the years that were either insensitive or inflammatory. However, most if not all of these statements came after his playing days were over. You could credibly claim he was a good teammate and played by the rules while he was playing.

So, why did some want to change their vote? He made statements in support of the insurrectionists on January 6th. For some voters that was a bridge too far. It is one thing to utter politically incorrect thoughts. It is quite another to support a coup. Disagreeing with someone politically isn’t a good reason to withhold your vote. Watching someone support treason is something else entirely.

Supporters of Schilling will correctly point out that the Hall of Fame has a whole host of racists, spousal abusers, and drug users amongst its ranks. That is all true. However, it should be said that we may have learned of those things after the fact and the folks that did know were not the same folks making the decision now. Using whataboutism on Ty Cobb or Cap Anson is not as cut and dried as it might seem.

Both men were reportedly unrepentant racists and their records off the field besmirch their records on it now. Was that necessarily the case then? Did the voters see that as a problem then? How many of them were unrepentant racists themselves? One of the troubles with a character argument is that good character is in the eye of the beholder. Current voters can only use their own rubric. They cannot be forced to use a rubric a voter 80 years ago used.

I’m fairly confident in calling Curt Schilling a scumbag. That being said, I’m not sure his record on the field and his statements off of it have any relationship with the other. Was he seen as an asshole by his teammates? Was their relationship adversely affecting their collective performance on the field? I’m not sure we could say that and judging by the success of his teams I think we can confidently say that’s not true.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is a high honor, but it is also a museum. Museums record history and Schilling is definitely a part of history. His plaque can always reflect the negatives we are debating here. If I were a voter I would be inclined to vote for him. I’d have to hold my nose first and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone else’s opinion, but I would still do it.

The best defense…

“Seasons change and our love went cold
Feed the flame ’cause we can’t let it go
Run away, but we’re running in circles
Run away, run away.” — Louis Bell / Adam King Feeney / William Walsh / Austin Post / Kaan Gunesberk

On some level you have to appreciate a guy like Josh Hawley. The vast majority of us would have buckled under at some point before now. The Democrats are all opposed to him. Many in his own party are against him. The national press and the press in his home state have called for him to resign. This level of obstinance is something to behold.

For those that have been living under a rock, he is one of the two primary senators that brought objections to the final count in the Senate when Congress was putting the final stamp on the presidential election on January 6th. He was seen pumping his fist to the crowd as they prepared to storm the capital. There are open investigations as to how much or how little he and Senator Cruz knew going into that whole event. It doesn’t take that much of an active imagination to foresee charges of conspiracy in his future.

Keep in mind that from a legal perspective, one doesn’t have to know about all of the elements of a conspiracy to participate in one. You don’t have to prove that Cruz and Hawley knew the Capitol would be stormed. You just have to prove coordination on any level with the Trump administration. The administration asked them to raise objections. Whether they knew that it was attempt to stall or what it was meant to stall for is certainly debatable.

When one participates in a failed coup there are a few options at your disposal. The first option is to put your head down, stay quiet, and hope it all goes away eventually. A second option is to apologize and beg for forgiveness. The third option is to resign your position like many people are calling for you to do. Hawley has chosen a fourth option. Attack.

He is launching a counter ethics complaint against Democrats in the Senate. On some level you have to appreciate the unmitigated gall. The link below describes this nonsense in more detail, but suffice it to say it is a calculated effort to gaslight the country into believing this is a legitimate point of view.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/25/hawley-ethics-complaint-democrats-462053

Rand Paul went on ABC peddling the same nonsense. The liberal media is being unfair because they have the temerity to call a lie a lie. It’s just incredibly unfair. Meanwhile, the GOP continues to call for unity without admitting culpability. They can continue to call the election stolen and suffer no consequences for it. The ex president shouldn’t be made to suffer any consequences for anything he did in the last four years because he isn’t president anymore. You shouldn’t arrest me for murder officer. See, the guy is already dead. What’s past is past.

When you take political science classes you eventually take a class in political philosophy. I took several. One of my professors called it learning about “old, dead, smart guys.” However, the professor that taught these classes was my advisor and a nice guy on top of it. One of the the things he taught us was the greatness of the circular argument.

Essentially, it involves starting with the end in mind and then using that end to prove the components of the argument. Trump perfected this when he asserted that any election that did not have him as the winner would be fraudulent. So, the proof that it was rigged comes in the fact that he in fact lost. If you accept the first premise then you must accept all the components of that argument.

Like most conspiracies, it breaks down when you consider the logic of it. Why would Democrats rig an election to gain the presidency but then lost seats in the House and barely win the Senate? How do people in those six affected states manage to declare the election that elected them invalid? If the ballots that were “switched” to Biden are invalidated then shouldn’t their ballots be invalidated too?

This is simple. The election was fair and Biden was the rightful winner all along. Hawley, Cruz, and Paul know that. They’ve known it all along. They each have tried to overthrow a fair election and failed. 99 percent of us would experience some shame and take one of those three options above. It is quite the marvel that those three (and more) apparently have no shame.

That uneasy feeling

Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one.— Robert E. Lee

One can only imagine the shame that someone like Robert E. Lee must have felt. It isn’t so much that he or anyone else necessarily internalized that they were on the wrong side of history. Such a thing is always subjective in the moment. They have always said that to the victor go the spoils. One of those spoils is the story in the history books themselves.

One might imagine many in the GOP feeling the same thing these days. They are still putting up a battle to keep from convicting the ex president in the Senate. Part of that is due to the real desire to move on. A bigger part of that is due to what such a trial would reveal. If you reveal the evil in him and his administration then that somehow reaches out to all of those that supported him.

The “his” in this case is Joe Biden. Many of us watched his inaugural address. I don’t seem to remember him calling anyone out by name. He didn’t even mention a particular party or group. However, he did allude to white supremacists, racists, and people who didn’t tell the truth. Maybe I misinterpreted it. Maybe I’ve slept since then. I’m fairly certain Rand Paul’s name never came up.

The specter of Lee is an interesting one. I originally got the idea for quotes at the beginning of posts from a historical novel that used the same trick. Good writers borrow from other good writers after all. In the case of the novel, all of the quotes were fictional. They were obviously designed to make you chuckle if you knew anything about history. The Lee quote above is real and also makes you chuckle some when you consider the source.

The civil war is the only major historical event I can think of where the losers have been allowed to dominate the history of it. There are a number of high schools named after Lee. There are a number of statues of Lee throughout the United States. When else do we honor traitors? Are there a bevy of Benedict Arnold statues around I don’t know about?

The trick following the civil war is the same as it is now. Ironically, we are in the position we are now because we didn’t necessarily get that one completely right. When we allowed the history to be written by the losers we allowed them to shape the narrative of U.S. history for the next 100 years or so. I actually encountered a guy online that called it the war of northern aggression. This despite the fact that the south fired the first shots at Fort Sumter. This obviously bleeds into that whole opinions should be based on facts discussion we had last time.

The trick was how to bring the rebels back into the fold. Once you’ve lost you either get slaughtered (proverbially or literally) or you get assimilated. How does assimilation work? How can someone reenter the union and feel included and yet understand that what they did was terribly wrong? The challenge then is the same as the challenge now. They felt included, but that second part never really happened.

Part of that was due to the blame shifting that was allowed to happen. A war over slavery turned into a war over states rights or worse (a war of northern aggression). The struggle of assimilation turned into a blame game where slavery was shifted into Jim Crow. The north was either unable or unwilling to stop this from happening.

Now, the battle is not regional. Sure, the south seems to be stereotypically filled with backwoods hicks and racists that were on board with Trump. Yet, it would be a mistake to characterize this situation that way. You could even couch it as coastal elites versus the heartland. Again, that would be a mistake. The fault lines are really on a much more micro level.

Being a Trump backer is not the same thing as rooting for Ohio State in football. The sting of defeat for the dedicated fan is not the same as the sting of defeat for someone that put their political allegiance behind the outgoing president. The sycophant must come to grips with what exactly they were supporting and why. Watching him exposed in a Senate trial and court is only a matter of time. His exposure is your exposure. There is no getting around that now.

In the meantime, we might be wise to consider what Mr. Lee said and not necessarily what he did. As our parents used to say, “when you lie down with dogs you are bound to get fleas.” If you support a racist and white supremacist then it is fair to assume you are. If you lie and cheat to help someone that lies and cheats then it is fair to call you a liar and a cheater. Fair is fair after all.

Everything Else Being Equal…

I have no quote to start today’s post. I thought about quoting someone I was having a Twitter conversation with, but I eventually decided that would be disrespectful. Essentially, the discussion centered on the idea of opinions and respecting everyone’s opinions. It’s a difficult topic and one that has a number of layers.

It also brings to mind topics like “cancel culture”, censorship, and what I like to call proportionality. Those topics weren’t discussed expressly, but they are always in the background. I’ve discussed all of them before, but they all came to a head here.

Essentially it boils down to this: not all opinions have equal value. It sounds harsh, but it is true. The problem is that those with discounted opinions are dedicated to the notion that their opinion should be worth as much if not more than someone else’s. When one sees their opinion discounted they immediately cry censorship or cancel culture.

How do we determine which opinions carry weight and which ones don’t? There are few factors that determine this. The first factor comes from the weight of the source. Is it coming from an expert or just some average Joe? This is one area where we have really seen a decline in our judgment. A number of people seem to want to look at a Youtube video from some yahoo as equally valid as that from a subject expert. Nope.

That dovetails into the second point. There are opinions and there are facts. Opinions must be based on some level of agreed upon facts. You cannot take something that is objectively proven false and call it an opinion. You cannot objectively say it is your opinion that the Earth is flat. At least you can’t do it and object when everyone laughs or discounts your “opinion.”

The third consideration involves whether your opinion is morally, ethically, or socially repugnant. This is usually where “cancel culture” comes into play. It is also where the whole idea of respecting everyone’s opinion comes up. I should always give everyone respect. I should not respect everyone’s opinion. Those two statements sound the same and look the same, but they are not the same.

The past decade or so have seen an explosion in offensive content. Some of that is due to the explosion in social media. Some of that is due to the backlash against political correctness. Some of that is due to the last president making it okay for people to air those views because of his own speech. Believe it or not, that is not necessarily all bad.

Political correctness has its place, but one of the pitfalls with political correctness is that it kept these opinions hidden. That’s not a good thing either. We need to allow these opinions to come out in the open. We just shouldn’t give them any value. The people that hold them may have value in our lives. They may be family or friends. They could be coworkers or people that we went to school with. They could be neighbors or people we share a pew with at church. There has to be a balance between acknowledging their value as people without acknowledging that their opinion has value.

That’s how this thing eventually changes. When you cancel someone, socially shun them, or unequivocally let them know their opinion is repugnant then they have the opportunity to see the impact it has. They also have the opportunity to grow and change. In our most honest moments we would all admit we have been there. We might not have uttered any cringeworthy words or phrases out loud, but we have thought at least some of them and hopefully grown from it. We won’t get there insisting that every opinion has equal value. They just don’t.

What do we do now?

“I am I said to no one there. And no one heard at all not even the chair. I am I cried. I am said I and I am lost and I can’t even say why. Leaving me lonely still.” –Neil Diamond

We talk a lot about bigots and bigotry, but at the heart of the Q’Anon conspiracy is fear and loathing. Fear is always at the root of hatred and bigotry. There’s also a certain amount of self-loathing at the heart of every conspiracy theory and cult. The most dangerous time is when something shakes that single-minded faith. That happened this week.

According to the Q orthodoxy, Donald Trump was supposed to remain in power somehow. First, he was supposed to win reelection. Then, he would find a way to invalidate the election. When that failed he would declare martial law and remain in power. On Wednesday, that all came tumbling down as Trump slinked out of Washington.

On some level, watching the collective reaction to reality is fascinating. Clinical psychologists probably love the exercise. Some double and triple down on the belief structure. They simply shift the final apocalyptic moment further down the road. That’s convenient. Others abandon that conspiracy and immediately link up with another one. Finally, there is a group that wakes from the stupor a whole lot worse for wear. A large part of them feels betrayed somehow.

We make generalizations all the time about who succumbs to these things, but there is never a hard and fast rule. Sometimes they are stereotypically uneducated and underemployed. Yet, others are very educated and otherwise somewhat successful people. The whole point is where one ends up and not necessarily the path it took to get there.

It’s a lot like watching the show The Biggest Loser. Occasionally, they populated the show with former athletes. It made you wonder how someone could have been a world class athlete at some point and wind up weighing more than 300 pounds. It can be overwhelmingly depressing to consider what was once possible with our bodies that some of us have let go. I used to be able to run a sub six minute mile in high school. I’ve run marathons and half marathons, but I’ve never come close to that again. In just the past few years, I really haven’t been able to run.

The same thing happens with our brains. I love watching people on social media brag about this degree or that degree from this institution. They could have graduated from Harvard or Hollywood Upstairs Medical College. It really doesn’t make a difference. If you don’t use your brain regularly it starts to soften. It gets weaker. You become susceptible to these kinds of things.

It’s also not necessarily a left wing thing or right wing thing. Populism seems to find its way into both ideologies. What they have in common is a framework to explain why you aren’t as far as you think you should be. Sometimes that dilemma is imagined and sometimes it’s very real. Some people legitimately have been left behind by the economy and by elites. Some people just think they have.

You can always spot a populist when they tell you it isn’t your fault. They point to a group or individual for you to direct your anger. That group or individual is never yourself. That’s the whole point and that is why coming out of the stupor is so dangerous. By the time you get to a certain age it becomes increasingly difficult to meet your expectations of how your life was supposed to go. It is never impossible. They just want you to think that it is.

There is always a kernel of truth in what they are telling you. Some people have made it harder for regular folks to succeed. Over the past forty years there have been countless new millionaires and billionaires. Just in the last year there have been an astonishing number of new billionaires. That’s not a mirage. That’s very real.

The question is who is responsible. The trouble with conspiracies is that they try to simplify everything. There is no one clear answer. Part of it is us. We have the power to make our lives better, but we either choose not to or we need a little help along the way. Part of it rests at the feet of those in power. There have been real policy shifts that have caused this to happen. People would be smart to look into that because often the people selling you the bill of goods are those really responsible.

A part of it is a fact of history. We don’t deliver milk or ice door to door anymore. There are any number of industries that have simply gone away. Politicians didn’t do that. We didn’t do that. It is just part of the evolution. We adapt or die.

So, I think everyone (or almost everyone) has empathy for the feeling that the world is passing you by. Most of us feel it at one point or another when we don’t get the job we want or wake up one day and realize that the career path we chose isn’t as fulfilling as we thought. Maybe married life is not what we thought it would be. Maybe we look around at people we perceive to be less than us that are somehow more successful. These feelings are all too real to dismiss. The problem is when we don’t do the hard work to overcome them, reconcile them, or make our situations better. Conspiracies rob us of our ability to do that. They feel good in the moment, but you wake up one day with the worst hangover of your life.

What exactly is unity

“While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long.” — Paul McCartney

The term unity has been used a lot recently and it helped articulate an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for quite some time. I’ve danced around it on these pages. The new president has talked about it and so we bring it up again, so we can put some things to bed.

Today, @POTUS pledged to be a president for all Americans. It’s unclear how all Americans are served by opening travel from terror hot spots, proposing a giant amnesty, or halting the installation of security barriers along the Southwest border.” — Stephen Miller

Mr. Miller has articulated the point perfectly on the conservative side. He seems to feel that unity means that we do what we have always done and certainly don’t do anything to piss off conservatives. Yet, it’s difficult to look at controversial policies that cause disunity and inflame passions and argue for keeping them.

Governing is about choices and ultimately you have to make them. The new president has chosen to immediately retract many of the past president’s moves. This is not unique. Trump did the same thing. More and more it just seems that “unity” for conservatives simply means agreeing with them and accepting that they should be in power.

The cognitive dissonance is staggering. In a discussion with a colleague, he put forth the idea that the attack on the capital happened because progressives were constantly attacking the president and therefore were attacking these folks by extension. We simply didn’t understand the 74 million Trump voters enough. We’ve heard that for time and memorial. The fly over states feel disrespected by coastal elites that just don’t get how hard they work and how difficult they have it.

Yet, I got back exasperated silence when I explained that by giving into the 74 million and “understanding their pain” that you would be disenfranchising the 81 million people that voted for Joe Biden. It simply didn’t compute. You are what you do. There isn’t a ton to understand there. The collection of your words, deeds, and beliefs is the sum of what you really are.

Think of what Miller was proposing. He wanted to continue a travel ban on Muslims, continue a crackdown on immigrants, and to continue building the border wall. Ask yourself how that achieves unity. It certainly doesn’t achieve it with those affected groups. Yup, we love you and want to be friends as long as you stay the hell out. Sounds really unifying.

The whole idea behind unity is that we share a common destination. Astros fans, Texans fans, and Rockets fans are all united in wanting their team to win a championship. They may argue vigorously in how to get there. America is the same deal. We have unity as long as we have a common goal in mind. The trouble is that we may not.

What conservatives object to the most is the insinuation that they are small-minded bigots. Yup, I can see how that stings. I also firmly believe that being conservative doesn’t necessarily make you a small-minded bigot. However, when you support and promote racist policies it is hard not to come to the conclusion that you are a racist.

Unity does not demand that we give everyone a voice. Unity does not demand that we understand every little nuance of their perversion. I do not stand arm and arm with domestic terrorists. I do not stand arm and arm with people that would abuse women, children, or anyone else. You can tell me your sob story until you are blue in the face. Understanding you doesn’t change what you are.

The vision for this country is simple. We want to move forward guaranteeing everyone an equal opportunity at success and everyone equal protection under the law. That’s the goal. That’s always been the goal. It will always be the goal. Suggesting something else and calling for unity is like rooting for the Texans to go 0-16 every year and then calling yourself a Texans fan. It just doesn’t make sense.

The problem the 74 million have is that they seem to think we have to understand them and where they are coming from, but they get to discount our challenges, beliefs, and obstacles. We have had everything given to us while they work hard and never seem to get ahead. If only those silly minorities would understand their place then all would be well. The success of everyone doesn’t limit your success. This is not a zero sum game. Unity doesn’t mean accepting bigotry. It means bigotry needs to get out of the car while we drive this thing in the right direction.

Morning in America

“Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.”– Cat Stevens

It’s morning in America. There is nothing more exciting and refreshing than hope. We search for it everywhere and sometimes find it in tiny places that have satisfy us in the moment. Today marks a beacon of hope that you only see every four or eight years. Yet, there’s something special about this day.

Every writer, whether they be a non-fiction, poet, novelist, or hobbyist, dreams of writing words that become immortal. Most of us never get there. I can barely remember my own words much less have anyone else remember them. Yet, with each day hope springs eternal. There is nothing more immortal than the inaugural address. As of this writing, we only have to wait a few hours before Joe Biden delivers his.

Back in 1974, Gerald Ford uttered the now famous words, “our long national nightmare is over.” I was less than one when those words were uttered. Obviously, I have no idea of how people felt back in those days. I’m a student of history and my parents went through it, but it is hard to capture a feeling and pass it down to subsequent generations. We can only hope that we never have to feel this feeling ever again.

The past four years have been a daily barrage of pain for many Americans. It’s a combination of factors that have collided to create a collective PTSD throughout the country. The outgoing president had the assistance of the internet. social media, and 24 hour news. There was always something to be outraged about and we’ve become addicted to outrage like a three pack a day habit.

In many ways, Biden is in a perfect place and in many ways he is in a horrible place. On the one hand, by simply showing basic human empathy and normal emotions he soundly defeats the outgoing president. On the other hand, there are now so many things that have to be done that he has an impossible bar to clear.

Realistically, he has two years to do it. There are no guarantees that the Democrats will keep both chambers in Congress in 2022. Often changes spur anger and there will be a lot of change that needs to happen. However, like Opening Day of a baseball season, you don’t worry about how shaky your bullpen is or whether the shortstop will hit his weight. You bask in the glow of hope in another season anew.

Our long national nightmare is over. Like many of you, part of me is still nervous about the remnants of the insurrection of two weeks ago. Apparently, some in the national guard were relieved of their duties when it was determined that they belonged to right wing hate groups. Hopefully, their last round of vetting caught them all. We will be talking plenty of policy and plenty about justice in the coming days and weeks. Let’s try to enjoy the day.