Monthly Archives: September 2013

Balancing Act

Despite the cliché, perception is not reality. Subjective reality and actual reality can be two very different things. There’s often a big difference between perception and reality, especially when one’s perception is confounded with maniacal predispositions. Despite what a schizophrenic might perceive, the voices in their heads aren’t really there.

… And despite what a Tea Partier might believe, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Scott Walker are not really Republicans.

As such, the political perception of what constitutes a Republican has changed drastically over the past few years. Although I’m often called a RINO (a label that I wear proudly) so too would Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater wear that same label in today’s partisan discourse. Although the perception from the GOP electorate has changed regarding what constitutes reasonable socio/economics for the party, that doesn’t deter from the reality that today’s Republican perspectives are an utter departure from what they were when the GOP helped build the largest middle class and strongest economy in the world in the years following World War Two.

But now the manner in which we choose our political affiliations is more akin to how we choose our sports teams. We are a nation of Yankees and Red Sox fans, whose ideologies are rooted in the disdain for the other. We’re reflexively rooting for D’s and R’s. But that’s not how rational people make determinations, especially when the reality is, that as Americans, we all play for the same team.

Regardless of what political party anyone identifies themselves with, rational people remain independent until the reasons for said affiliation are warranted. Will most people find themselves leaning one way or the other? Sure. But anyone who is reasonable will not make their political determinations by who proposes legislation, but rather by what the legislation proposes. Somewhere along the line, my fellow Republicans have lost sight of that.

Which is why political centrism is so important.

Contrary to popular understanding, centrism is not about being in the middle of every, or for that matter, any issue. It is about not allowing a coalition to make determinations for you. The center relies on socio/economic facts in favor of party affiliation. If facts tend to coincide with a particular political ideology, then so be it. If that dynamic occurs disproportionately, then so be that, too.

Balance for balance sake has no place in our political discourse. The journalistic obligation is to report stories in successive order as they pertain to national importance, and to do so truthfully. It is not to make a concerted effort to counter-balance it with something random from the other side of the political aisle. What the false “balance” dynamic imposes is a license for special interests to run amok, secure that regardless of how many socially regressive or economically nonsensical items of legislation they propose, “balance” requires that something from the opposition deserves equal media scrutiny.

The reality is that the TEA Party, Corporatists, and Theocrats have taken over the GOP, and they are not only not Republicans. Neither are they mentally stable. The political right has gotten so irrational that when one speaks truth to stupid, and exposes the socio/economic lack of reason continuously exhibited by TEA-publican candidates, they are accused of “Liberal Media” bias. It’s political hipster-ism for those who lack introspection, and/or acumen.

In the present political climate, there is no Democratic equivalent for the sheer crazy that pours from TEA Party Republicans. There are no Alan Wests, Michele Bachmans, or Todd Aikens elected to public office with a (D) next to their names… nor are there any celebrity equivalents to Ted Nugent, Donald Trump, or Sarah Palin who get regular spots on FOX news. However the far right wingnuts require balance in reporting, despite the lack of balance from where the crazy originates. The idea that a responsible media would have to counterbalance a disproportional amount of lunacy emanating from the political right by manufacturing items from the left is not reasonable.

As the political “middle” moves further right in the wake of the Republican Party having been hijacked by extremist ideologues, the political center remains beholden to facts. It is incumbent upon rational centrists who identify as Republicans to make the distinction between the TEA Party/ lunatic fringe, and the socio/economic principles that defined the GOP from a generation ago. Because the political center is not the political middle. It is where the facts lie. And if the discourse cantilevers overtly to the right, –although the perception of where the center is might change– that does not alter the reality of where the facts of centrism reside.

The perception, and the reality of the political center are two very different things.

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Spoons and Guns

It’s been a few days since Aaron Alexis ambled into a Naval facility in our nation’s capital and with his new, legally bought shotgun, articulated his angst. Twelve people who were going about their normal routine were killed. As such, with yet another on a long list of mass shootings under our nation’s increasing belt size, our legislators and news-ertainers will begin their monthly debate on guns and their relationship to bullets ripping through the vital organs of innocent Americans. It should continue, with the utmost sincerity until –at least– the next celebrity meltdown.

Predictably, the same vapid arguments for the escalation of gun sales will commence. As has been the case since the Republican party has been compromised by Capital interests, they will find themselves on the wrong –not to mention factually inaccurate– side of this debate. Thus, gullible middle Americans will be frightened into over-arming themselves to their own detriment, and a false narrative will be blathered that the government (read: Black guy in the White House) is ‘coming for our guns”. The constitution will be bastardized to make a convenient case for capitulating to the gun lobby. And how one interprets the second amendment will become a metaphor for how they express anxiety over the cultural topography in our nation becoming darker skinned.

The racial dynamic of the NRA is the part of the gun debate that is being left out of our discourse.

The common rationalization is, that there is no correlation whatsoever between the common use of guns as mass murder weapons and ease by which said murders might be committed. Vapid, apples to armchair analogies are continually made by myopic gun advocates such as “if guns kill people, then spoons make you fat”… or some similar drivel. As if one person overeating had the capacity to kill thirty people around them in a single spoonful of carbohydrates. Or that criminals won’t obey gun laws anyway, as if that is a rational explanation for legislating the statistically proven lie that more guns will decrease violence. For that matter, why have any laws?

But in a way, the gun lobby is kind of right. Guns –by themselves– don’t kill people. Nor for that matter do nuclear bombs. However psychologically and emotionally damaged people, who don’t have to engage in background checks –not to mention convicted felons or those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list– who bring guns into crowds of people with malicious intentions do kill people. With ease, I might add.

So it is incumbent upon rational people to call out the lies emanating from the political right regarding guns, and moreover the irrational, post-Obama interpretation of the second amendment. It is of vital national importance to expose how the GOP’s and the NRA’s position on background checks have contradicted themselves since a black President was elected office, how this pertains to a bigoted cultural reaction, and how a false narrative has been created around the actuality of gun culture. Many gun advocates –whether they admit it or not– are preying upon cultural apprehension. The reality is, gun sales is all they care about, not the second amendment, you, or your lives.

Here’s the thing… Good middle-American gun-folk are under the general impression that their singular, covert background in whatever job they might have –be it in a cubical or lifting things– and their extensive training watching action movies and playing Grand Theft Auto will adequately prepare them for that moment when a homicidal maniac opens fire in a crowd. Somewhere in their attenuated synapses, the GOP/NRA electorate envision themselves heroically springing into action with a Rambo-esque disregard for their own safety. With bullets flying, pistol-packing Patriots would undoubtedly be there to protect their fellow citizens thanks to their constitutional right to carry a firearm and “pew-pa-ching” — gun down villains holding the very automatic weapons that the NRA claims every American sociopath also has the right to carry. Because true Americans like themselves will unwaveringly quell any carnage bad guys might impose on the populace.

Then afterwards perhaps a few news interviews and a spot on Letterman.

But the reality is that you’re much more likely to cower in fear and duck for cover. You’re much more likely to be Fredo than Sonny. The hero fantasy tends to fade when ones instinct for self preservation kicks in. I understand that armed brown people might seem scary in a lily-white suburban paradise, and that carrying a loaded firearm in Applebees in the company of other people’s children might appeal to your cultural anxiety. However statistically, you and your gun will do more harm than good.

The rational thing to do would be to juxtapose how we interpret the second amendment, against the constitutional mandate to insure the domestic tranquility. Perhaps we can even say aloud in public that the words “well regulated” precede the words “shall not be infringed upon” in the second amendment. But rationality doesn’t seem to have a place in our national discourse anymore, either.

Fox Hole Christians

From the time we were children and old enough to comprehend, most of us have been taught to believe in an afterlife. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we adhere to specific behavioral paradigms and sacrifice critical thought in this lifetime that we’ll be rewarded in the next one. We were told of an eternal paradise that could only be had via whatever religion we were geographically fortunate enough to be born into. As such, many have invested in a guilt driven, earthbound proprietal savings account that they hope will bear interest after they die. In doing so, many pass on life’s opportunities. And many resent those who aren’t afflicted with the fear of a post life consequence.

It is with this in mind that a recent interaction with a delightful, albeit imaginatively banal Christian fella whose “if I can’t have fun than neither should you” resentment towards anything libertine was so blatantly transparent that it would not take much of a suspension of disbelief to surmise that his secret porn stash probably contained some pretty freaky stuff, allowed for several vapid, nonsensical Christian platitudes to be blathered in my direction. Among them was that “There are no Atheists in fox holes”. This meant to infer that my disbelief in a deity would fade in the face of desperation.

Perhaps.

But what that anemic logic fails to acknowledge is that the same can be said of one who claims to believe that their faith will grant them entrance to an ethereal utopia. Sure, there are non-believers who –when faced with the proposition of their life ending– grasp at cognitive straws. Even atheists yell “Oh God” when they’re having sex. But what makes a Christian cowering in fear in the very same fox hole, and who believes they are bound for heaven, so afraid?

For if the faith is pure and the war just, and if God is truly on your side, then why not perform daring acts of heroism in his name? Why not jump from the fox hole where the Atheist is mentally juxtaposing mortality and oblivion and show your devotion to God? Your Christian options are either doing Yahweh’s earthly bidding, or being called home to paradise. Sounds like a win-win to me. So what the hell are Christians doing crapping themselves in the same fox holes as Atheists? For that matter, why dig the fox hole in the first place?

I will maintain that deep down, sane people understand how silly the entire notion is. Christians don’t want to die any more than Atheists do because on some intellectual level, we all understand that death is the end. Moreover, the “heaven” Christians describe –to quote Christopher Hitchens– is more like a “Celestial North Korea” where the inhabitants must pay constant homage to their ethereal dictator, lest they be tortured for eternity in a fiery pit of hell. The things most of us enjoy are not permitted in heaven. Unless your idea of fun is sitting in detention with your hands folded, then the Christian heaven sucks. Actually, by comparison, North Korea sounds like an improvement.

The thing is, a lot of people say they believe in “God”, but what they actually believe in is a version of a supreme being who’s interests and bigotry are eerily similar to their own, and which allows them to tap into the darker parts of their nature when they have the desire to impose their will on others. If Christians truly believed in God the way the claim to, then he will either protect you if it is not your time to die, or he will take you if it is. At least the Islamic suicide bomber puts his faith where his mouth is. So regarding atheists and foxholes, I will maintain that there are actually no Christians in foxholes, either. There are just a bunch of scared men and women fearing the end of their existence.