Generic election rant

Yep, that’s all I really have to say about that. Remember to vote, everyone!

Advertisements

Is that all there is?

I was looking forward to a lot more substance from the first presidential debate tonight. I had hoped that one or the other candidate would clearly differentiate himself and make his case clearly of what he can do for this country and why I should vote for him.

Instead, the two men had a well-controlled, generally polite conversation full of sweeping statements that may or may not be factually accurate, each listening to the other with a disbelieving smirk that probably looked a lot like the expression on my own face.

lies

The challenges facing our country and our world are so tremendous right now that it’s a wonder anyone would actually volunteer to be the man in charge. I already feel sorry for whichever one ends up with the job.

Make your mark

You might have heard that there’s a general election in November, just about a month away now. You have? Good, then I hope you are planning to vote. In fact, I hope you have already checked with your local elections office to ensure that your voter registration is current (especially if it’s been awhile since you punched a ballot), and maybe even located your voter registration card. Changes are afoot in this country with regard to the ballot box, and every U.S. citizen is well advised to check and double-check that your access to it will not be infringed on Election Day.

My voter’s guide came in the mail today, and I’m going to make some time this weekend to go through it and try to get a handle on the issues on the ballot in my city and my state. I generally vote along party lines for individuals, and tend to favor school levies when they come up, but sometimes I just have to guess when I don’t know anything about the issue at hand. That’s not a satisfactory execution of my duties as a citizen. My country asks me every two to four years to make my mark on a ballot and thereby make my voice heard in my government. The very least I can do is make a good-faith effort to educate myself about what I’m being asked to vote on so that I can fill out my ballot responsibly.

vote

I hope you all will read your local voter’s guide, too, and give some serious thought to the issues facing your town, your state and your country. Whether you’re liberal or moderate or conservative, Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green, your voice needs to be heard. We’re all in this together.

And remember, after November 6: If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

Pushing the buttons

As an American and a former member of the Fourth Estate, I fully support both the theory and practice of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, as a decent human being, I do not support using these freedoms as an excuse or a means to offend, oppress or endanger other people.

Which brings us to the matter of recent media depictions of the prophet Mohammed that have set the Muslim world ablaze. In particular is a crummy, low-budget film called “Innocence of Muslims” that was written and directed, apparently, by an Egyptian who hired his cast under false pretenses and edited their performances in post production. But since it was made in America, protests have erupted in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and many other predominantly Muslim countries specifically targeting American embassies, some of which have resulted in the death of American diplomats. Some Muslims say President Obama should apologize to them for the actions of this Coptic Christian Egyptian man who has insulted their faith. I am completely dumbfounded by this issue for three reasons.

First, how is it that America–its people, its government, its diplomatic corps–is in any way to blame for the existence or message of this film, except insofar as the laws of this country protect the freedom of speech that makes the production of a film like “Innocence of Muslims” possible?

Second, what right do Muslims have to kill anyone simply for “insulting” their faith? As Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times, “an insult—even one as stupid and ugly as the anti-Islam video on YouTube that started all of this—does not entitle people to go out and attack embassies and kill diplomats. That is not how a proper self-governing people behave. There is no excuse for it. It is shameful.” All the major religious figures–Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, the Dalai Lama, and so on–have all been dissected, mocked, caricatured and “insulted” by somebody somewhere, yet their followers do not go to war over it. Recently I have read articles suggesting that Jesus might have been married, or possibly gay, yet no attacks or demonstrations of any kind have resulted from the publication of this information. What makes Islam so special that nobody can say a word against it or its prophet without inciting the wrath of the faithful?

And finally, with all this said, I still have to ask: Knowing how Muslims feel about their prophet and what they will do to defend his name, why do Western media continue distributing words and images that they know are unequivocally insulting to Islam and/or Mohammed? What purpose is served by jamming a thumb in the eye of one-quarter of the planet’s population whose beliefs we do not share? Is this something we (meaning non-Muslims) should do just because, according to our laws and traditions, we can?

I say no. To quote Friedman again, “There is no excuse for it. It is shameful.”

 

 

What we owe and what we deserve

Everybody’s talking today about this video of Mitt Romney telling a group of donors how he really feels about nearly half the American populace. Please take a minute to give it a listen so that rest of this post will make sense.

What upsets me is Mr. Romney’s apparent assumption that anyone who votes for Obama is, by definition, a freeloader who is sucking on the government tit. I am a life-long registered Democrat who leans to the left socially and to the right fiscally. As such, I do (somewhat gingerly) support Obama–he’s not done all he promised he would do, of course, and his tenure has certainly had its failures and disappointments. However, I am a Democrat and he’s our man. Also, and this is important: I am not on the government dole in any way.

I have never used food stamps, never been on any kind of welfare, didn’t take the “tax credit” (a loan in disguise) for which I was eligible when I bought my house in 2008, didn’t participate in the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and have not in any other way expected or accepted an “entitlement” from the government. Even so, I have gotten a small tax refund every year but one that I have ever filed taxes, so perhaps Mr. Romney counts me among the 47% of Americans who “don’t pay taxes”?

[Aside: One year I had to pay a few hundred dollars because my small business had a good year, and I considered it an indicator of my success that I had made enough that I was required to pay taxes–to give something back.]

I believe that “government of the people, by the people and for the people” has to be paid for by those same people. “We the people” must each contribute our fair share (I know, even that is a loaded term, but let’s stipulate that fair is fair for the sake of this discussion) toward supporting the functions of democratic government: “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” So I don’t have a problem paying my fair share of taxes, and don’t understand why everyone who enjoys those “blessings of liberty” and so forth doesn’t feel the same. We want government to do things for us: build our roads, protect our waterways, educate our children, defend our borders (among thousands of other responsibilities). Regardless of how well one believes these mandates are being carried out, the fact remains that governments are enacted primarily to “promote the general welfare” and as such, contributing to the nation’s funding is a responsibility of every citizen. We owe one another that because we’re all in this together.

And here’s another fact: EVERYBODY PAYS TAXES. Sales tax, gas tax, utility tax, income tax, property tax, inheritance tax, luxury tax, capital gains tax, you name it–everybody pays something, somewhere, some time because, like death, there’s simply no escaping it. So Mr. Romney is mistaken is saying that 47% of the American people only take from the community chest without contributing anything to it. Have I paid taxes every single year of my working life? You bet. I have always felt it was my duty and I have always been glad to do my little part to promote the general welfare. Those of us who get refunds from the government every year get them because we paid more than our fair share of income tax already and the difference actually is owed to us.

This statement is so offensive on so many levels that I cannot help but reject everything else the speaker has to say out of hand because he is willing to tar me and a lot of other decent, honorable, hard-working, independent American citizens with a very ugly brush. If he truly doesn’t care about me and millions of people like me, what right does he have to ask to be our president? What does he know of my responsibility, of my care for my own life as well as that of my family, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country and my planet? Not one thing.

This is simply hate speech masquerading as political rhetoric. I hope this country will have the decency not to elect as its leader a man who disdains so many of us so deeply. We deserve better.