Real Life Interruptions

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon

I had naturally assumed my next piece would cover the final vote in the Senate on impeachment. I’ll get to that in due time. Last night I had a run in with local law enforcement that was equal parts scary, eye opening, and absolutely enraging. I delayed writing this so that I could collect my thoughts and come off as dispassionately as I possibly could. It will be difficult.

Our daughter went out with a friend to go skating at a local roller skating rink. I went out at nine to go pick her up. It had already been a long day as the three of us (her mother, her, and I) drove early in the morning to participate in a 5K on the beach. Yes, we are that stupid. So, her mother and I spent most of the afternoon resting.

As I walked in, the officer on duty asked me if I had seen anyone bending down and hiding behind cars and looking inside of them. I said I hadn’t and walked inside. At this point I made the only mistake I’ll own up to. I walked through an open door to go collect my child and go home. I was tired and wanted to go home. Apparently, I bypassed the front ticket counter. I was only going to be there for maybe five minutes anyway.

The same officer approached me at the back of the facility as I was trying to find my daughter. He asked me why I was hiding behind cars and looking inside of them. I obviously wasn’t. I was just there to pick up my daughter. He then grabbed me by the arm and forcibly walked me out of the premises. We walked by my daughter and her friend on the way out. We confirmed that I was there for her.

He proceeded to take my license to ostensibly look me up to get my extensive criminal record (I have none). After he confirmed that I was not a criminal and that I was there to pick up my daughter he escorted both of us to my car. Then, he pulled me around to give me a field sobriety test. I failed a rapid eye test and one of those gymnastic challenges where you are supposed to walk heel/toe on a line in 35 degree weather and a 20 MPH wind.

He refused to return my license until my wife drove the 20 minutes in the cold to come pick up my daughter. I offered to take a breathilizer and he could not accommodate that. I explained to him that I am diabetic and don’t drink (I may have an occasional beer but never more than one and I hadn’t had anything yesterday). He finally relented and let me drive home when my wife also explained to him that I normally have horrible balance. I’ve had horrible balance going back to my childhood days.

Reflecting on the night, you always try to reflect on what you could have done differently. I obviously could have gone to the ticket counter to explain to them that I was there to pick up my child. Maybe things would have happened differently. However, I can’t help but think I wasn’t the one that escalated the situation.

The officer could have asked me to walk with him outside to answer his questions. He could have simply asked me to leave and wait for my daughter to come out. There was no reason for him to put his hands on me. There was no reason to forcibly walk me out in front of my child, her friend, and numerous other witnesses. I had no committed a crime at this point. The only evidence he had was that someone said that someone was outside looking in vehicles.

It’s easy to imagine this situation turning out much worse than it was. I was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie because it was cold and we had worn those clothes to go to our race earlier. I didn’t exactly look like a captain of industry at that point. What if I had resisted when he grabbed me by the arm? What if I had raised my voice to him when he accused me of stealing? What if I didn’t look like how I look?

I come away from this situation with a lot of realizations that I knew academically and anecdotally but that I had never experienced first hand. It is so easy to have a situation go sideways through no real fault of your own. The expression goes that when you are a hammer you see every problem like a nail. The police are trained to use violent/forceful means to get things done. I understand it on some level, but a situation that could have been resolved in five minutes took over an hour.

A stone cold sober self managed to fail a field sobriety test. I had not had any medication in over eight hours or any alcohol that day. Imagine how easy it would be for others to find themselves in the same situation. Imagine how easy it would be for others to find themselves in a worse situation. I’m as easy going a guy as there is. It takes a lot to make me angry and while I was certainly annoyed and probably sounded annoyed, I was not angry.

Still, the end result was that my daughter, her friend, and countless others thought I had done something wrong. They either thought I was some pervert, or the guy trying to steal stuff out people’s cars. Maybe there was someone doing that. In wasting his time on me, the officer lost the opportunity to catch the guy in addition to embarassing me and my child uselessly.

I have always been in favor of police reform, but now I see the definite need for it. One can only imagine the extremely negative events that can happen when cops come in like their Rambo into any situation no matter what it calls for. I can definitely now empathize with people that have their lives ruined forever because of how police mishandle a situation and overreact when they don’t have to.

I’m not necessarily smart enough to know whether defunding the police is the answer or if they could be trained to handle situations differently. I do think we have to be more careful about who we give the honor of being a police officer. I would say the same thing about who we make a teacher. Once someone becomes a cop or a teacher it is increasingly difficult to move on from them because of the protections that unions and teacher associations have fought long and hard for. Most if not all of those gains are well-deserved.

I didn’t get this particular officer’s name and badge number because I want to leave well enough alone. I also don’t want him fired or even officially reprimanded necessarily. What I want is for him to understand that there was an easier way to ascertain who I was and why I was there. I want him to understand that his actions could have led to a horrible event that could have endangered my life, the lives of everyone there, and his own had I not reacted the way I did.

If a normal person had grabbed me by the arm without warning I don’t know that I would have reacted the same way. There are numerous people I know that wouldn’t have even if it was an officer. What is equally painful is realizing how many people face this kind of treatment on a regular basis. How many people live in fear of interactions like that or worse? How many people would have found themselves in jail following a sequence of events similar to mine? Like I said before, it is something I always understood academically, but until you experience it you really can’t know completely.

Psychological Differences

“We run like a river
Runs to the sea
We run like a river
To the sea.”– Adam Clayton/David Evans

Anyone that has done a cursory study of psychology has run into Erickson’s stages of development. It came after Freud’s stages and was revolutionary because it included stages for later in life. Proving his mind might have been in the gutter, Freud somehow stopped at puberty and completely ignored the crises that occur later in life.

Those in my age group are in the generativity vs. stagnation stage. We either have families and good paying jobs or we don’t. However, I don’t think that’s really the crisis behind the stage. Hollywood and creative writers do a much better job of capturing what goes on in the mind than a psychologist with a cookie cutter theory.

Time may move forward at a steady pace, but our minds do not. We move forward for years at a time without incident and then suddenly stop to dwell on the past. What would have happened if I had taken a different path? What if I would have chased a dream here or made a different decision there? Would I be the same person?

Memory is a fluid kind of thing. Events that happened 30 years ago seemingly happened yesterday in our minds. Fortunately or unfortunately, we cannot play the game of life like a choose your own adventure book. Maybe it would be better if we could dog ear those pages and choose both options just to satisfy our curiosities.

We are coming to the memories stage of the pandemic. This whole thing started nearly one year ago and when you get to a calendar year the mind starts to chronicle where it has been. For many of us, we can look at every major holiday and normal life event and list the numbers of activities and experiences we have lost forever.

Many will focus on the loss of life and health and for good reason. We can never trivialize the loss of life in any context. However, millions have lost something very meaningful even if they haven’t lost anyone close to them. They’ve lost experiences they will never get back and there is no alternate timeline where we can see what we missed.

Of course, the flip side is that if you’ve never experienced those things then you don’t know what you’re missing. Psychologists talk about stages of grief and those are well-documented and established, but most if not all of them target the loss of a loved one in our lives. What does grief look like for those experiences that we miss? Acceptance is the last stage supposedly, but do we ever really come to terms with what we’ve lost?

At every step in this thing we have battled the competing desires to finally beat the virus once and for all and the desire to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. Often, the second goal interferes with the first and vice versa. A large part of the problem is that we just don’t know how long. If someone could definitively say that we can hunker down until April then this whole thing will be behind us then all of us could resign ourselves to another six or seven weeks of playing it safe. Unfortunately, no one can make any such definitive statement. There are just too many variables.

An Extended Analogy

“Sunday morning when we go down to church
See the menfolk standin’ in line
I said they come to pray to the Lord
With my little girl, looks so fine
In the evening when the sun is sinkin’ low
Everybody’s with the one they love
I walk the town, keep a-searchin’ all around
Lookin’ for my street corner girl.”– Jimmy Page

Hulu ran an original series this year titled simply, “A Teacher”. I get an uneasy feeling every time I see a drama about teachers on television or in movies. They always seem to short-change us somehow. This particular series is a unique mini-series that looks at an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student over the course of ten episodes.

So, as subjects go it is an interesting way to do it. It ended up being between three and four hours of running time, so it dedicated more than a typical movie and less than a drawn out series. As you might expect, I have a number of critiques, but that’s not really the purpose of this particular post. We are simply using it as an extended metaphor of sorts.

In the series, a teacher (Claire) has a relationship with a male student she taught in senior English. She of course loses her career and ends up going to prison. The series sped its way through the relationship building and immediate fallout (no trial scenes or scenes of her career fallout) but showed how both parties were emotionally damaged after the fact.

Again, that’s neither here nor there. What is prescient is that while her relationship wasn’t technically illegal since the boy was 18, it was certainly unethical and morally wrong. Now, she could have resigned and simply gone on her merry way, but the state chose to press charges (again, it isn’t quite clear what they actually convict her of) and I’m assuming that the state went after her to pull her teaching certificate.

Why did they go to so much trouble to punish someone that had already resigned? Couldn’t they have just left her alone to pick up the pieces of her broken life? Maybe she had learned her lesson. Maybe she could teach in a different district in a different school and do so without committing major ethical violations.

I think most of you see where this is going. Claire was emotionally damaged to the point where she could not see what she had done even years after the fact. The victim in this case had to tell her exactly what she did and how it impacted him more than it impacted her. One can only imagine that if she had been allowed to continue teaching she would have done something else to another student. No, it might not have been sexual, but she clearly had a moral/ethical blind spot that wasn’t going away.

Senator Susan Collins now famously said she did not vote for conviction in the first impeachment trial because she felt that Donald Trump had “learned his lesson.” Most people thought that was hilarious even at the time. He has been acting this way his whole adult life. He doesn’t “learn lessons” and I would argue that few that have reached full ass adulthood, learn lessons in the sense that we ascribe to children.

The state of Texas and the TEA went after Claire for the same reason that Congressional Democrats have gone after Trump. Yes, he is no longer president, but he is still the defacto leader of the Republican party. He did something wrong and we want to make sure he can’t hurt anyone ever again.

Grading inciteful speech isn’t an exact science. It is difficult to connect the dots definitively. Criminal conspiracies are often that way. You don’t catch the don on the phone tap telling Paulie to go kill someone. The don uses euphemisms and innuendo, but everyone involved knows exactly what needs to be done. Sure, the ex-president never told the crowd outright to attack the capital and kill Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. So, you could certainly question the merits of the case on those grounds.

He also never told the Georgia secretary of state outright that I want you to commit fraud so I can win the election in Georgia. Those words were never spoken. Yet, what he did say was pretty brazen and pretty direct. I think if you got the GOP senators in private they would tell you that Trump committed impeachable acts. Heck, some have even said that in public.

So, what are we doing here? Are we going to say that Claire never should have slept with a student but she did it and has since resigned, so it is okay? Trump committed impeachable acts, but he is no longer president, so it shouldn’t matter? If you believe he didn’t incite violence and shouldn’t be held responsible that’s one thing. If you think he did but shouldn’t be held responsible I’m just not sure how we justify that. People in the GOP are still looking at him as the standard bearer of their party. If the standard is that corrupt and that dangerous it must be dealt with.

Fun with numbers

“I – I don’t believe it!
There she goes again!
She’s tidied up, and I can’t find anything!
All my tubes and wires
And careful notes
And antiquated notions.”– Thomas Dolby

In my professional life and my amateur one I tend to run into a lot of numbers. As a support facilitator and case manager I swim in them. It could be testing numbers in a students full and individual evaluation. It could be grades. It could be performance on state testing. Name a number and I’ve probably seen it.

Shift to home and some of you know I’ve written five books and four of them are on baseball. I would be what you would call an amateur sabermetrician. It’s a fancy sounding term that simply means I enjoy taking baseball statistics and breaking them down to analyze players. I definitely highlight the amateur label as the dream of working in baseball was once alive, but those days are gone.

Political science is a bit of a hobby on the side. It should surprise no one when I say that I am interested in numbers. I’m obviously no Nate Silver, but I find the whole thing fascinating. This is especially true when we come to significant events like the impeachment trial.

I decided to look up some numbers as the trial begins because it will definitely be informative for later on. I saw CBS conduct a lor of polls surrounding the impeachment and all of them were interesting. I’ve hyperlinked the article for anyone that wants a more direct look.

At this point, 56 percent of the voting public wants Trump to be convicted in the Senate. Oddly enough, that seems to match the votes on the constitutionality of trying someone after they’ve left office. I think it would be reasonable to expect that the final verdict will likely come down to the same numbers. We can each hand pick about five or six Republican senators we see voting for conviction. The rest have already turned their head and refuse to listen.

So, what’s the goal here? Obviously conviction is a long-shot at best. Yet, a majority of the people can’t be ignored. More than that, as more and more details become public, that 56 number is going to move. It won’t move much. It never does, but it will move some. The movement is the whole ballgame. If 56 percent becomes 60 percent then we have reached a critical point in the evolution of American politics.

Another landmark poll question in the article asked Republicans if they would leave the party should Trump form a new party. Only 30 percent said no outright. That’s downright scary and just one sign that the GOP is becoming less of a political party and more like a death cult. One pictures Trump mixing the Kool-Aid now for his followers to enjoy.

One of the great myths in the American system is the myth of “bothsidesism”. It’s essentially moral scorched earth. People use the notion to defend not choosing either side. That makes sense. Perverse people use it to defend their side. Essentially what their guys and gals do isn’t so bad because the other side does it.

Except this isn’t true. At least it’s not true in the same degree. If I get caught jaywalking and you get caught committing mass murder you could say we are both criminals with some fidelity, but the context is just outrageously off. Yet, people do the political equivalent everyday. There are still memes that talk about Joe Biden’s corruption. When they compare that to the obvious virtue of Trump and his “obvious sacrifices” for the American people it makes you wonder what world they are living in.

That brings this next poll question into further focus. 57 percent of Republicans view Democrats as the enemy. That’s opposed to 43 percent that view them as just a political opponent. When Democrats were asked the same question, only 41 percent viewed Republicans as the enemy. That’s still not good, but there is clearly a difference in the orthodoxy of both parties.

Cults have a number of defining characteristics. I’m not an expert and I haven’t stayed at a Holiday Inn Express lately, but life experience has taught me a few things. You never succeed when you take the whole cult straight on. That’s usually when you have a mass murder-suicide pact on your hands. We don’t want the political equivalent with the GOP. It will obviously get messy and there is no telling what will happen with the collateral damage.

A vast majority of Republicans view a vote to convict as disloyal (71 percent). So, even if you see all the evidence and it clearly points to Trump you are still being disloyal if you vote to convict. Political parties have jumped the shark when they ask their members to be loyal to the party in lieu of being loyal to the country. That’s how we know this thing has become a death cult.

You beat cults by winging off a member at a time. If there are a 1000 members then maybe you wing off two or three percent. If you keep whittling that number down then 1000 might turn into 700 or 800. In electoral politics, it doesn’t have to be much. Biden won by four percentage points in the 2020 election. Imagine if that number were six or seven percent. Imagine if it were eight or nine percent. That’s a virtual landslide in presidential elections.

Similarly, if the congressional elections have a similar swing then you could see Democrats add another 10 to 15 House seats and maybe add four or five Senate seats. That’s just 2022. If you keep the pressure on you can have a similar effect in 2024. Suddenly, you are looking at huge advantages in both houses. The remaining members of the cult will have to recalibrate what they are doing. So, instead of taking them head on, they will come to the realization themselves that something needs to change. That’s how these things work.

Custard’s Last Stand

“Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need of
some strangers hand
In a desperate land” — Jim Morrison

The impeachment trial begins today. Depending on the number of witnesses, the arguments could be done by the end of the week. So, it is highly probable that we will know Donald Trump’s fate in the next week and a half. I think most of us know his fate by now. That leads us to the overwhelming question on everyone’s minds: why are we still doing this?

I think it’s a fair question just in the sense that we already know the outcome. Except we don’t necessarily know the outcome for a fact. Sports fans certainly are familiar with this phenomenon. We’ve watched 100s of games where the outcome was all too obvious. Except occasionally it’s not. We have to allow for the opportunity for a piece of evidence to be so incendiary that even the GOP can’t ignore it. Political winds could also shift significantly in the next week. It’s doubtful, but there is always a chance.

However, let’s assume that the outcome is what most people would predict. He gets acquitted. So, what is the point? Well, there are three benefits to going through the process. I’ll address those in order of real importance in lieu of perceived importance or political importance.

Fact Finding

This is simple. A public trial puts evidence out in the open for the public to see. While the senators are the jury members, the public also gets to weigh in unofficially. Public opinion on this will be important. What we noticed last time is that public sentiment was against the first impeachment trial until information began to come out. It wasn’t an overwhelming majority, but a majority were in favor of his removal last time.

Yet, attempting to strongarm a foreign leader and inciting insurrection are two entirely different things. I have to imagine that public opinion will be more one-sided this time around. A full-throated telling of the facts could also expose all of those that helped Trump in his quest to overthrow a legal and overwhelming election result. Some of those people will be sitting in that room.

Those facts will lead to further court and legal proceedings. Maybe a senator or two will be forced to resign. Maybe some of those that worked for the ex-president will be identified and brought under investigation. Maybe the Justice Department will pick of the mantle and start throwing more people in jail for the events of January 6th.

History

We talked about history a few posts back. Everyone is entitled to their own view of history and certainly every impeachment trial has people that weigh in on both sides. However, you can’t deny that it happened and there is no denying the overwhelming nature of a president being impeached twice. As someone joked on Twitter, we should all get a free taco.

Certainly, there are risks to going through the process multiple times. We already saw the notorious MTG file articles of impeachment on Joe Biden’s second day in office. There are obviously people in office that see tit for tat in lieu of looking at the actual merits of anything. Yet, these events are etched in stone permanently.

When you combine the fact finding with the historical angle you get narrative that someone pushed back against the ex-president. They didn’t just stand around and shrug their shoulders while he attempted to overthrow the government. The biggest mistake people keep making with the ex-president is that they think he should be excused because none of his attempts to subvert democracy have worked. We don’t excuse the madman that shot aimlessly at your house because he’s a horrible shot. Eventually intent has to enter in here.

Make them Choose

People typically remember results. Aaron Rogers played better than Tom Brady in the NFC Championship game. Brady had three interceptions to Rogers one. Rogers also completed a higher percentage of passes. No one cares. The Bucs won the game and the Super Bowl. In a similar way, no one is really tracking the GOP vote on stripping MTG of her committee assignments. It ended up happening, so people were more concerned with the result.

With the last impeachment trial and this one, We need at least 17 GOP senators to vote for conviction in order for their to be one. Now, I would contend that Senators Hawley, Cruz, and Graham are co-conspirators and should not be allowed to sit on the jury. Of course, I’d be in the minority there. However, by going through the process you are making all 50 GOP senators publicly choose sides.

Are they for the United States of America or are they for Trump? We’ve already seen a number try to walk this tightrope. They say that Trump is the leader of the party and yet they hold him partially responsible for the event. It can’t be both ways. Your leader can’t commit seditious acts against the United States. He is more than capable of voicing his opinion even without social media, but we don’t get to foment violence against anyone. Now, I can honestly say I hope that they step up and defend the country, but I’m not holding my breath. I can also honestly say that this vote should be used by the Democratic party to defeat every damn one of them coming up for reelection in 2022.

I’m Opting Out

“So we’re different colours and we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you, so what could I have done?” — Martin Gore

I do some occasional moonlighting for another site. I hope everyone here can keep it a secret. See, no one there publishes under their given name. It’s not so much that any of us are ashamed of our opinions. I say stronger stuff here than I do there, but it’s just the way things are done. At any rate, I have to give credit to the site for relaying this story.

If you click on the main story within that little blurb you come to find out that the school is no longer allowing parents to opt out. That’s awfully white of them. That’s one of those reactions that they probably didn’t want to get out there. It was similar to the Denny’s in Denver that had a sign that said, “now serving everyone.” Gee, thanks.

On the one hand, I get why some people find the idea of a Black History month or Hispanic Heritage month offensive. Why should they have an entire month dedicated to them. They are right, it is offensive that we should have to do that. It’s like the people that complain about a LGTBQ+ pride parade. Why isn’t there a straight parade?

The answer is simple. Everyday is a straight parade. Every day is a white history day. When I taught history the state curriculum might as well have cut off four continents from the map. Kids for generations have grown up thinking Europeans invented the world. If you doubt that you should check out the public comments from Steve King.

There were too many to quote here, so I included a reference above. It’s hard to categorize that level of bigotry, but I could simply categorize it as the belief that Western Civilization is the only civilization worth a bucket of warm spit. I wonder where he got that idea from. Simply put, if you teach history the way that the state curriculum guide thinks you should teach history then the contributions of African-Americans, immigrants, and women are just a blip on the radar.

Obviously, good history teachers augment the state curriculum. They include other source material to give students a more well-rounded view of history. I know I tried to do that. It’s hard to know if you succeeded or not. The greatest thing you can foster is a desire to learn more. Certainly, there is only so much you can do in 185 days, but if you can foster a desire to learn more then you may come out ahead.

I’ve certainly found that to be the case. There are so many events they simply didn’t teach us in school. However, I’ve learned more as I watched more documentaries and read more history books throughout my life. So yes, I concede that the idea of having to have a black history month is offensive. The idea of cutting that history out entirely is much more offensive.

On some level I get it. There is only so much you can teach. Back in the good ole’ days, history teachers had a favorite unit. They could really throw out all the stops and slow down on a particular period or event in history. Those days are gone. That also means that deviating from the plan is discouraged. Walk down a history hallway these days and you see all the U.S. History teachers and World History teachers on the same PowerPoint.

That kind of world guarantees that every student will be exposed to what they “need” to be exposed to. It also destroys the joy of taking a history class. It destroys the discovery of what a history teacher finds to be important. I usually slowed down when we got to the Greeks and Egyptians. Others loved covering wars. A few even look more deeply at the contributions of women and people of color.

There aren’t enough of those though. That’s why we have a Black History month and a Hispanic Heritage month. Along the way we have acknowledged a need to expose students to the great contributions of all people. To think that some don’t want their children to be exposed is just incredibly sad. What’s the harm? I’m sure they have something invented in their minds.

It wasn’t me

“But she caught me on the counter (It wasn’t me)
Saw me bangin’ on the sofa (It wasn’t me)
I even had her in the shower (It wasn’t me)
She even caught me on camera (It wasn’t me)”– Shaggy

We deviate from the world of classic rock and roll into the world of hip hop for today’s opening quote. Obviously, the news dictated today’s topic in part, but it was inspired a whole lot closer to home. In a fit of honesty, I’d admit that this came immediately to mind when reading a friend’s Facebook post and while his post is forefront in my mind, we’ve all seen this numerous times before.

I’m almost certain that I’ve mentioned it here before as well. Lets begin with current events and then bring it a lot closer to home. Marjorie Taylor Green (the notorious MTG?) had her committee assignments stripped from her in resounding fashion (even 11 Republicans voted in favor of it). However, she said her piece to the Republican caucus the night before. The fact that reportedly half of the caucus gave her a standing ovation is telling.

She sort of apologized. I mean she kind of walked things back. Except she didn’t apologize and she didn’t walk things back. She admitted that 9/11 happened. However, the most peculiar statement was that “she was allowed” to believe the things she believed. I’m not even sure what that means, but I have an inkling after dealing with my friend.

He posted a copy of someone’s tweet on an issue. We were bumping along and having a decent enough discussion when another poster questioned him on the offensiveness of the language in the tweet. Well, he didn’t say it. It wasn’t his tweet. So, he is expecting us to absolve him of any responsibility because he was just quoting someone else.

I’ve run into this before with other friends and family on other issues. Someone posts a meme or copies a post from someone else that throws out a bunch of conspiracy theories that have been proven false. They usually do the online equivalent of pumping their fist at what they just posted. Yet, when challenged and questioned about whether they believe the conspiracies or wild statements they plead ignorance. It wasn’t their tweet or meme after all.

So, whether the problem is a conspiracy theory, wild statement, or simply offensive content they carry no responsibility. It wasn’t their opinion. They were just being kind enough to share it. Of course, this begs the question of why they were sharing it in the first place. Naturally, some people share offensive content to highlight things they are against. This diatribe isn’t really meant for them, but then again if you are opposing an idea you make it well-known that you are against it.

This brings us full circle to MTG. I’m guessing that the meaning of her cryptic statement is that many of her offensive posts and videos weren’t really her opinions. She was just forwarding on other people’s ideas. It was so kind of her to share. So, even though the words were coming out of her mouth and the vitriol seemed so real it really wasn’t real. At least it wasn’t her. At least half of the people in that room the other night seem to buy that load of BS.

Yet, this is how stuff like this spreads. It is spread by “good” people that simply repeat offensive or questionable content because they are able to be insulated from criticism because the opinion they are sharing isn’t theirs. Except it is. That’s the whole point. Who we are is made up of the combination of what we do and what we say. When we tell an offensive joke or share demonstrable lie, that is who we are. We aren’t perfect and all of us have said offensive things. So, I’m not burying anyone on that level. I just want people to own what they say whether it was them saying it or simply forwarding along someone else’s crap.

Turnabout is fair play

“You had me several years ago when I was still quite na├»ve
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair and that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved.” — Carly Simon

There’s a predictable arc to these stories these days. Someone on the right says something outrageous and dangerous that would normally cause them to have to resign or slink underneath the nearest rock. Republican leadership will say something that seems like a rebuke, but nothing seems to be done about it. Everyone returns to the spot to play another day.

In the case of Majorie Taylor Greene, the playbook has been completed. There were a number of options to deal with her and her outrageous and dangerous rhetoric. Kevin McCarthy even has done it before when he stripped Steve King of his committee assignments before King was voted out of Congress. Given the opportunity here, he has done nothing and he’s all out of ideas.

The Democrats have a multiple choice of options at this point. The GOP choice would be for them to do nothing but decry her behavior. At this point, that is untenable. The second choice would be censure. We will cover that one in more detail shortly. The third option is to strip her of her committee assignments. Finally, they could expel her.

Those options are mentioned in order of severity. Censure is the government equivalent of scolding a member. It has no real force of law other than being an official condemnation from the body. It takes a simple majority, so they could do it now without a problem, but scolding Greene at this point is akin to lecturing your teen after they went out on an all-night drinking bender and then committed vehicular manslaughter.

It sounds like they have decided to try to strip her of her committee assignments. That’s a prudent middle option. It would take a two-thirds vote to expel her and that isn’t very likely because a GOP member could kill someone on the House floor and their membership wouldn’t vote to expel them. Maybe they could be reasoned with. They would call an attempt to expel such a member as a sign of disunity. They either refuse to get it or they just don’t get it.

It seems like hyperbole, but I’m not so sure. Pelosi blasted McCarthy by labeling him as Kevin McCarthy (Q-CA). For those that don’t read political news regularly, the normal course is to report the member’s party affiliation and state after his or her name. So, Pelosi is putting him in the Q party. Simply hilarious. It was clear that it wasn’t a typo since she also said in her statement that McCarthy had ceded power in the GOP to Greene.

Predictably, the outrage machine kicked in full force. How could she treat the minority leader with such disrespect? We need to be moving forward in unity and bipartisanship. Such an insult is beneath the dignity of her office. I’m sure a cursory Google search would find commentary saying all of these things in some combination.

Let’s remember one key thing. In addition to Jewish space lasers, denying school shootings, and vast Q conspiracies, GREENE ACTUALLY THREATENED PELOSI’S LIFE! I don’t normally scream like that, but I feel like somebody needs to do it. If your response to that is to have a private sit down meeting with her and then to do nothing then you have either been neutered as a leader or you tacitly approve of her statements. The time for being nice and polite ended a long time ago.

For me, just stripping her of her committee assignments is over the top in terms of generosity. If I were speaker she would be thrown out of the House and her ass would be in jail. Vote or no vote I’d have her arrested on the House floor in front of the cameras for all the world to see. I would make it be known that any member not voting for her removal is a traitor against the United States. It is long past time to give these stupid sons a bitches any due or deference.

The time for playing nice is over. That time passed when the former president launched an insurrection on the Capitol and your caucus excused it. Not only did they excuse it but they are threatening the few GOP members that saw it for what it was. They are eating their own. So if your little feeling are hurt over the minority leader being called A Q I honestly don’t give a shit. Put on your big boy and girl pants and deal with it. You either follow the ex-president and Q or you defend the United States. Get up off your ass and pick a side.

What’s the point?

“Papers in the roadside
Tell of suffering and greed
Fear today, forgot tomorrow
Ooh, here besides the news
Of holy war and holy need
Ours is just a little sorrowed talk.” — Simon Le Bon

The defense of the ex-president in the upcoming Senate trial is based on two primary points. One of those is the president’s. He has gone through multiple legal teams because no one has been willing to take up his narrative. His narrative is that the election was stolen. That has been demonstrated overwhelmingly false. I’d love to spend a lot of time on that, but we will set that aside for now.

The second point is one that is imminently more persuasive. It is essentially that it is unconstitutional to impeach someone that doesn’t hold elected office. Since that has never happened before it is fair to question whether it should ever be able to happen. It’s a fair question that is slightly undercut by the fact that the impeachment vote happened before he left office. The Senate (Mitch McConnell) slow walked it to the point where January 20th came and went. It’s the government equivalent of the four corners offense in basketball.

The obvious retort from here is that we shouldn’t reward people for running out the clock. The Supreme Court has already done that with some of the lawsuits around the Emoluments clause. Essentially, Justice Roberts didn’t want to deal with the ex-president obviously using his office to fatten his wallet, so he stalled until it wasn’t an issue anymore. Quite simply, that isn’t justice.

However, the more important point comes down to the simple fact that we are sending a message from here on forward. The rule of law is not trivial. The rule of law has no expiration date. The rule of law doesn’t leave when someone leaves office. We have an ex-president that spent four years (or more) launching an all-out offensive against the rule of law. It’s time for the rule of law to fight back.

My very favorite unit to teach in Government was the Bill of Rights. I was very saddened when I found out that our current Government teachers don’t teach it. Supposedly, it is covered in U.S. History, but I’m skeptical about that. To me, there is nothing more important for a citizen to know than the rights the government gives them. This is not only those rights but the logical and legal limitations to those rights.

No right is absolute and freedom of speech is no different. There are legal limitations and what I might call natural limitations. Free speech is not the same as consequence free speech. If you tell a knowing lie you will suffer blowback. If you shout speech that most in society find to be morally repugnant than you will suffer blowback.

The legal limitations are simple enough. If your speech causing injury then you are liable. Period. That could be in the form of a libel or slander lawsuit. In the case of the ex-president it could be in the form of criminal prosecution. You have a right to your speech, but you also are responsible for it. If your speech incites a riot then you are partially responsible.

The question from a legal standpoint is how responsible you are. One could argue that the intent was not there to incite a riot. That is a fair argument to take because no one can prove outright that the intent was clear. Unfortunately, that counterargument falls short. For one, the ex-president has a habit of inciting violence and riling up his base. He has been warned on multiple occasions. Many of us have long maintained that this would happen at some point. It’s hardly a surprise.

More importantly, his actions after the fact negate any reasonable defense that his intent was anything other than what happened. He didn’t respond in horror. He didn’t immediately call for backup for the Capitol police. His video asking protesters to stand down was the combination of a hostage video and one where he abandoned the message half-way through. Everything he did reinforced the idea that this is exactly what he wanted to happen.

The last point asks us to consider the current political reality in comparison with what is normal. What we currently have is not normal. Normally, an ex-president has no significant power whatsoever. So, if things were normal I would get the argument that we should let bygones be bygones. I certainly felt this was the case when Bush left the White House. His power was done.

Just in the last couple of weeks a host of Republicans including Kevin McCarthy and Majorie Taylor Greene have met with him. Why? He’s the ex-president. He has no power. Except that’s obviously not the case. He still holds power and influence over the Republican party. He’s threatening to run again in 2024. He likely won’t, but he will use that threat as a way to grift people out of their hard earned money.

The ex president is a cancer on the Republican party. If they don’t excise that tumor it will kill them as a national party. Furthermore, you could claim that the Republican party is a cancer on the United States as a whole. Mind you, I know many conservatives that will read that statement of become angered. That visceral reaction is understood. However, it needs to be read carefully. It is the Republican party and not conservatism that is the cancer. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility. Conservatives believe in law and order. The problem is the Republican party doesn’t seem to want to stand up for those values. If you don’t stand up for those values that you yourself espouse then you cease to exist as any meaningful positive force in American politics.

The audacity of hope

“But among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time.” — Paul Simon

Sometimes you have to embrace the contradictions. The best artists are the ones that can highlight them without bashing you over the head with it. I don’t know if Simon is writing anything new these days. He has been in the public eye for nearly sixty years. He has probably done his due and then some.

This particular song (the one referenced above) balanced the contradiction between a world that is overpopulated and seemingly bursting at the seams with the joy and hope that comes from every new birth. Even amidst all the chaos, anger, fear, and uncertainty there is something beautiful and forever hopeful about new life.

Of course, the Catholic in me takes extra significance with these lines. It will forever be the hardest issue when it comes to balancing the teachings of faith with the political realities of the world. Simon managed to do the impossible. He made his point without bashing you over the head. That’s where you see true beauty.

In a world full of political turmoil, internet trolls, social unrest, and toxic positivity on the other side, it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance the desire to hang on to hope with the desire to give into reality. Toxic positivity’s bastardized cousin is the historical whitewash. I think most of these people mean well, but the results are still nasty.

Think about any conversation you have had with your parents or older relatives. They’ll tell you about a time when things were simpler and almost certainly better. Maybe it was getting into the movies for a quarter. Maybe it was the absence of drugs, violence, and sexual exploitation on television. Maybe it was the fact that if you worked hard and kept your nose clean you could make a decent living. They walked to school five miles a day in the snow. Uphill. Both ways. They killed a grizzly bear with their loose leaf notebook. You get the idea.

I have no doubt that things were simpler back then, but simpler does not always mean better. The pictures and stories of political opponents sharing a beer after proverbial battle on the floors of Congress are also distorted and overblown. Many of those people hated each other just as much as government officials do now.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have unique challenges now. There were not nearly as many kooks in Congress back then as there are now. Whether it be the changing of the political winds, the advent of social media, or the far reaching cable networks and interwebs, there seems to be more intrinsic rewards for going the crazy route than there was back in those days. There is an interconnectedness between the crazies than there ever was before. Your crazy uncle now has friends on Facebook and belongs to a number of online groups there.

I say all of this to make this main point. Yes, we have unique challenges, but we are not unique in having challenges. Every time and place has its own issues and its own problems that the people had to collectively overcome. Our issues come from within. Who will have the political will and intestinal fortitude to stand up and say enough? There aren’t nearly enough people on both sides. That’s the challenge. That’s the crisis.

But down among the reeds and brushes and baby boy was found. His eyes as clear as centuries. His silky hair was brown. Never been lonely. Never been lied to. Never had to scuffle in fear. Nothing denied to. Born at the instance church bells chime. The whole world whispering, born at the right time. Each life brings new hope. Each days brings new opportunities. We can make the world what we want it to be one day at a time.