Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘United States Politics’ Category

Insist on Facts, Please

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Folks, as I watch the wrangling in Washington, DC, I get more and more frustrated.

The Republicans don’t think anything they do is wrong. So whatever the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, says or does must automatically be right.

And the Democrats don’t think anything they do is wrong, either. So whatever they say must be right, too.

What this does is alienate literally everyone. Because no one takes responsibility for anything. And no one ever admits wrongdoing.

And I’m tired of it.

The thing is, as I watch all this nonsense, I want to remind you of one thing: No matter what is being said, get the facts.

Insist on facts, please.

Do not allow your own biases to be confirmed or denied unless and until you have facts.

And when you see something like a release of a memo by one party (as reportedly will happen within days) about the FBI supposedly doing something wrong, where a whole bunch of stuff can’t be confirmed or denied due to being classified — when the memo by the other party is blocked by the party in power (as the Republicans are going to release the memo authored by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, but won’t release the memo authorized by Democrats) — you must absolutely, positively insist upon facts.

If one party — in this case the Ds — says that the Justice Department and/or the FBI should at least be consulted before releasing the memo due to possible classified information being there, and that the other party — in this case, the Rs — refuses to even consult with the professionals in the area, that is deeply troubling.

And it looks like facts are being ignored, at least from here.

Still. Even now, when all sorts of things look wrong and are annoying and frustrating and nonsensical, get the facts. Get as many facts as you can, before you condemn.

So, while I continue to condemn tribalism and reflexive thinking — if you’re an R, everything the Rs do is good (even if it’s not), or if you’re a D, everything the Ds do is good (even if it’s not) — I urge you to be smart, be prudent, refuse to be snowed, and dammit, to get the facts before you make up your mind. (Please?)

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Unwritten Rules, Social Norms, and You

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Folks, recently I read a book by Mike Duncan called THE STORM BEFORE THE STORM. It was about the fall of the Roman Republic, which preceded the fall of the Roman Empire…and about the various things that happened that caused the Roman Republic to fall.

Something called Mos Maiorum had been followed up until that time, you see. Those were the unwritten rules and social norms that every Roman professed to follow, and none seriously transgressed until things started to fall apart. These were especially important for Roman politicians, as they dictated how often you ran for office, how long you should stay there in some cases, whether or not you should run again, and what you should do while you actually were in office (including treating other office-holders with respect rather than disdain, whether you liked those people or not).

This rang true with me in our contemporary American society, because it was the breakdown of the unwritten rules of the Mos Maiorum that led to the rise of Roman demagogues, who exploited rising economic inequality for fun and profit…and that is what we’re seeing right now, at least in part.

Mind, by the time a demagogic politician takes command, those rifts are already there for him (or in some cases, her) to exploit. The loss of the unwritten rules of conduct everyone is supposed to follow may seem negligible, but we saw it play out in the 2016 Presidential election, where Donald Trump refused to release his taxes (as every other politician had done for many years), criticized many people (including those in his own party) and called decorated war heroes such as Arizona Senator John McCain unimportant (because hey, Trump only likes people who weren’t captured). Trump even complained about a Gold Star family — that is, a family who lost a loved one while serving the United States as a military member — which is something I couldn’t have imagined anyone doing for any reason before 2016.

Mind, as in the fall of the Roman Republic, some pols still do follow the unwritten rules. (For example, Hillary Clinton released her taxes, and while she certainly criticized Trump — and he returned the favor, in spades — she did not go after anyone outside of the campaign. She left Scott Baio alone, Kid Rock alone, and any other celebrity or personage that expressed a strong affection for Trump strictly alone as far as I could discern.)

So it’s not an exact science, no. But I am still struck by the parallels.

When the civil discourse breaks down, it’s hard to remember that we all need to pull together. And that sort of division can be exploited by anyone with demagogic leanings, which is why we all need to educate ourselves as best we can, read widely (and not just to our own political leanings), and challenge our assumptions as that is the best way to deal with demagoguery I know.

That all being said, people may still prefer the demagogue in the future. I can’t do anything about that. But what I can ask you to do is to please, please, for the love of little green apples, do your homework. Vote for someone who represents you and your interests as closely as possible…but yes, someone should stick up for the unwritten rules of civil discourse and most importantly civility in politics, too, lest we follow the Roman Republic into oblivion.

That way, it’s less toxic to watch. And we may stay better-informed.

Why I Can’t Stand Roy Moore

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Folks, Roy Moore is a candidate for the United States Senate in Alabama. He’s a Republican. And he has been accused of serial sexual assault, with many of the women he’s allegedly kissed, groped, fondled, or worse being under eighteen years of age.

And I can’t stand him.**

Maybe this sounds weird to have to point out. But in this day and age of extremely partisan, tribal politics, I have to do so.

Mind, I didn’t like Moore before this. And had good reasons for disliking him.

Why?

Well, the man has always been a holier-than-thou sort. There was the whole issue of putting a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Bible up, commissioned by Moore while he was the Chief Justice of Alabama, and how he refused to remove it until he was successfully sued.

To my mind, while I dislike that, it’s not so horrible I’d be writing this post. (Not without the allegations of serial sexual assault, many of his accusers being under eighteen at the time, some as young as fourteen.) But one of the other things he did before all these other allegations came out was extremely troubling, too.

What was that, you ask?

Simple. Moore told judges and justices in his state of Alabama not to honor the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that LGBT couples would now be allowed to marry legally in all fifty states, and was removed from his post as Chief Justice because of it.

So, Moore doesn’t seem to believe the rule of law applies to him. We know this by both of these decisions.

And getting back to the current accusations against Moore, I must point out that some of the accusers who’ve come out against him — again, some being as young as fourteen — have said Moore was a District Attorney (and in his early thirties, at minimum) at that time.

I have a real problem with that, too.

Look at the evidence of the things we do know for absolute facts, that of the Ten Commandments decision and the refusal to allow LGBT people to marry legally in Alabama despite SCOTUS’s decision. These two things show that Moore seems to believe only in himself, and his own views, and dislikes, distrusts, and disbelieves everything else.

If that’s the case, it’s much easier for me to believe that Moore may well have believed that anything he did, said, or felt was right, and didn’t even hear any of the young (or younger) women who have apparently said “no” over and over again.

That Roy Moore may still win the Senate seat in Alabama really vexes me. He is, at minimum, hard-headed, difficult, frustrating, and believes only in the most narrow-minded version of Christianity (the type of Christianity, I think, that Jesus Christ himself would neither condone nor accept). He hates the LGBT community, he doesn’t seem to like women, he doesn’t seem to like anyone other than himself…

And at maximum, Moore has probably assaulted many women. Some as young as fourteen. Which should be an immediate disqualification from office…period.

So why am I writing all this? Because Moore has no shame. Anyone else would’ve gotten out of the race, but not Moore. Instead, he’ll stay until the bitter end, and is making a great deal of money from small, grass-roots donors (who either don’t believe Moore’s accusers, or don’t care; I’m not sure which is worse).

That is disgusting. Shocking. Reprehensible. And should not be borne.

And yet, the GOP Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has said two contradictory things:

  • She believes every single last one of Moore’s accusers.
  • But she will still vote for Roy Moore.

This makes no sense.

So, here’s the upshot, folks. I am appalled that this man is running for the Senate. I can’t stand him, and I wish he’d get out.

But since he won’t get out, I hope the voters of Alabama will do the next, best thing: vote for anyone else. (Including their dogs, their cats, or a wet piece of carpet lint.) Because any of them would make a better Senator than Roy Moore. Guaranteed.

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**Before anyone asks, I am against this sort of behavior. I detest it with a passion. I would hate it no matter who did it, and no matter what his/her political party affiliation. (That I have to even say this in 2017 is both maddening and frustrating. How tribal have our politics become, that I can’t even say I am very angry that a man accused of serial sexual assault is running for the high office of United States Senator without pointing out I’d detest that a Democrat, a Libertarian, or an alien did the same thing?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 17, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Staying Stable in an Unstable World

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Lately, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve had the feeling that the world just isn’t as stable as it used to be.

Granted, maybe it was all illusory, that feeling of stability. But feelings need to be taken into account, or you can’t keep yourself stable no matter what’s going on around you.

In the United States, we have a President who shoots from the lip (or at least from “the Twitter”) as often as he possibly can. He doesn’t seem to care if this bothers foreign leaders, or his own citizens, or anyone else; he just does it, because “Trump’s gotta be Trump.” (Yes, I’ve heard this a great deal.)

We’ve never before had a President like this in the U.S. We’ve had blustering Presidents, sure. (Some might say Teddy Roosevelt qualifies, here. And certainly Warren G. Harding.) We’ve also had Presidents that got in under odd circumstances (witness the 1876 election of Rutherford B. Hayes). But we’ve never before had someone who seems to delight in recklessness and obnoxiousness in this particular way.

That President Trump doesn’t seem to understand the pain of new widow Myeshia Johnson, the wife of deceased U.S. Army Sergeant LaDavid T. Johnson, just adds the cherry on top of a whole bunch of unadulterated rudeness and disrespect.

And as an American citizen, I can’t help but feel terrible about this. I don’t understand why this particular man can’t seem to understand that being the President requires empathy as well as logic, and caring as well as commerce.

Not that Donald Trump is alone in seeming to bring the caricature of “the ugly American” to a new (and highly disgusting) sheen. There are all those people who marched in Charlottesville in a white supremacist march, too, pointing out there are still plenty of others in this country who have no interest in tolerance, respect, or basic human decency.

And that also makes me, as a rational person, feel less stable. Less like the light I can bring, and the creativity I keep trying to use, will make any difference.

Regardless of anything else, those of us who have a shred of creativity need to keep using it. This is when it’s needed most. And we can’t stop when it’s hard; we may have to take more breaks, and we may have to give ourselves time to rebalance ourselves sometimes, and we may have to remember that what we do still matters no matter what it looks like…but yes, indeed, we must use our creativity as best we can.

Why? Because we need to do everything we can to stay on balance. Live the lives we were born to live. And refuse to let anyone, regardless of pride, position, or Presidency, take us off our course.

So, in addition to doing my best to stay creative, I’ve also resolved the following things. I’m going to reject bad behavior, whoever it’s from. Reject words that make no sense, whoever says them. Reject those who just don’t seem to get it that we all need to pull together, and do what we can to bring more rationality and respect and tolerance and (dare I say it?) kindness into this world.

And if I can do all that, I believe I will feel more stable, centered, and whole.

What do you do to stay stable in an unstable world? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 24, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Bridges, Walls, and Transgender Rights

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This past week was a very frustrating one in many senses, folks.

First, we had the “announcement” of a transgender ban from military service by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, via a Tweet. (Something the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no idea was coming, much less the ordinary rank and file.)

Next, we had utter chaos at the White House as one of the new staffers (a guy I won’t name) decided to go on a profane rant. And rather than be fired, as anyone else would’ve been from any job anywhere, this particular new staffer was more or less praised by the President. (Or at least excused by him.)

Look. I believe in building bridges, not walls. I think we need to learn more about each other, in order to become more compassionate, much less wiser, people. And trying to understand the other person’s point of view is essential, or you can’t get anything done in that regard.

But I don’t understand the President’s point of view at all, here.

Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, talked about how he was for LGBTQ rights. And the T in that stands for “transgender.”

Granted, if you had to ask me to ask one person whether the sun was rising in the East and setting in the West, I would pick anyone instead of Donald Trump. (I might even pick my dog, Trouble. He’d not be able to answer me, but at least he’d look cute.)

Still. Since transgender soldiers were allowed to serve openly in the military, they’ve done a fine job. No one’s seemed to have any trouble with them. They’re soldiers, like anyone else. They do their jobs, like anyone else. And no one’s ever questioned the fact that the United States military contains some of the best trained fighters ever seen.

(And make no mistake about it: I fully expected this to be the case. A trans person is a person like anyone else. And trans soldiers want to serve their country like anyone else does, too; give them credit for that fact, Mr. President. Please?)

I would’ve rather seen a bridge built here, rather than the wall of Donald Trump’s Tweet. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to the transgender soldier retired from Seal Team Six, who could’ve given Mr. Trump a very solid education on the entire subject. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to any soldiers, including Senators Lindsay Graham and Joni Ernst, who would’ve told him that soldiers of any persuasion, creed, color, sexuality or gender preference are worthy of care and will do the professional, thorough job that soldiers of the U.S. military are known for.

I tried to say that myself on my little-used Twitter account, but I was immediately given short shrift by a few of Mr. Trump’s more rabid followers. They believe that Mr. Trump was right to do this, because supposedly being trans is a “mental disease.” Or that it really is too expensive to give trans soldiers the care they need, which is absurd considering the immense amount of the military’s budget. (Supposedly, the military spends more on Viagra for male soldiers’ impotence than they do on the care for their trans soldiers. I wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.)

I know, myself, that as a writer and as a human being, I want to know more about people who feel marginalized and misunderstood in order to give them hope that someday, they will feel completely accepted and fully understood. That’s why I wrote my book, CHANGING FACES, and it’s why I believe firmly that we need to build a bridge to the trans community, and learn more from them, rather than exclude them out of hand as if they don’t matter — or worse, pretend that they don’t exist.

The Deity must have a reason for people coming in all sorts, shapes, creeds, sexes, genders, and yes, even differing political philosophies like Mr. Trump’s. But I don’t understand why anyone needs to be obnoxious in spreading his or her own political philosophy, especially if he hasn’t studied the subject at all, as it appears Mr. Trump has not.

For someone who said he was for LGBTQ rights, Mr. Trump had a horrible week.

But the trans soldiers had a worse one. Because they realized, perhaps for the first time, that this President does not have their back. And that is a very sad, even shameful, thing.

Unsettled Times

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Folks, the times, they are unsettled. (OK, Bob Dylan, it isn’t. But it does happen to be true.)

We have unrest here in Wisconsin, as there’s an important trial going on in Milwaukee that, depending on its outcome, may set off another round of riots and looting and fires. (Last year, I wrote a post called “Milwaukee Burning” about that, I believe.)

We have unrest throughout the United States for various reasons. Some comes down to how our politicians continue to make the same mistakes, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats (right now, the GOP is in the barrel over their mishandling of Trumpcare, otherwise known as the AHCA), some because of the bombastic nature of our current President, Donald Trump (a man Hillary Clinton quite correctly called “unfit” due to Trump’s willingness to shoot from the Tweet at any hour of the day or night). Some is because we’ve possibly forgotten we have more in common with each other than not…

But I think a lot of it is because too many people are working jobs that are below their ability levels. They’re not making the money they need to pay their bills, much less have any sort of decent quality of life. Way too many people work so many hours, they barely see their children, spouses, or any of their friends, all because they’re trying hard to stay ahead of their bills.

This is called “income instability.” It is not easy to deal with. At all.

Historically, when things like this happen — too many people either out of work entirely or working too many hours for too little money — we end up with a great deal of unrest.

Or, as I put it above, unsettled times.

It’s not easy to live in such times. There’s a lot of inequality out there, whether it’s income inequality, racial inequality, the fight for LGBTQ rights…and then, so many people are so very, very exhausted, they come home, aren’t able to think as well as they would if they had enough time to see their family and friends and decompress a little.

I’m wondering if this — the overarching inequity people can’t help but see —  is why the folks in our society seemingly are more likely to get angry and stay angry.

And then, we have a media that likes to push sensationalism, and only rarely talks about what binds us together. (That does not sell papers. Or buy ads for TV programs, either.)

So we hear only that people don’t agree. That they don’t get along. That maybe we shouldn’t, that our “tribe” doesn’t get along with theirs…that only Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians/Independents/fill-in-the-blank are worth talking to, and no one else need apply.

What I know, though, is different.

I have friends from all walks of life. They are all interesting, funny, special people, who have something worthwhile to say, and worthwhile to share.

Yeah, to some of them, I’m a “token liberal,” one of the few they can tolerate. And to some, I’m too conservative for them, not nearly liberal enough.

But I’m always, always myself.

That got me to thinking…if I can handle all these different people doing different things, saying many different interesting things, why is it that we can’t get it together as a society? Are we too big, too monolithic, to admit to individuality any longer?

I don’t know.

What I do know is, whether we live in unsettled times or not, we have to keep doing our best. And since we’re here on this Earth for some reason, we may as well try to learn from one another rather than insist ours is the “one, true way” (hat tip to author Mercedes Lackey).

So, this week, try hard to listen to someone you don’t normally think is worthwhile. See if there’s even one grain of anything you can agree with, and then talk civilly and with amity about the rest.

Who knows? You may make a new friend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

GOP Congressman, 4 Others, Shot in VA

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Folks, I’m getting tired of talking about innocent people getting shot while doing innocuous things. But here we are again…

Anyway, GOP Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana (also the House Majority Whip) and four others have been shot in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman has been identified as a sixty-six-year-old man from Illinois (beyond that, as is my policy, I am going to refuse to identify him); no one knows, as of yet, why this man opened fire today.

Making matters worse, this guy shot the Congressman during a baseball practice.

Yeah. Shot at baseball practice, after shagging flies, taking ground balls, and taking batting practice…one of the most all-American activities there could possibly be. (Does anyone but me remember the ultra-old Chevy commercial touting “baseball, hot dogs, applie pie and Chevrolet?”)

And supposedly, the guy asked, “Are those guys Republicans or Democrats?” before he opened fire. (The story is not clear there, but I’ve already seen this reported at least three times online and via TV in three different ways. There does seem to be some truth to it.)

At any rate, because Congressman Scalise is a ranking member and has a powerful position as party whip, the Capitol Police were there as a security detail. If they hadn’t been there, as newscaster Brian Williams just said on MSNBC, the potential for injuries (or worse, deaths) would’ve been even worse.

But to say “it could have been worse” is damning with faint praise.

The fact is, we have to get a handle on two things right now. First, we must somehow lower the partisan rancor in this country. (Virginia Governor McAuliffe is right about that.) If this guy shot at Scalise solely because he’s a Republican, that’s beyond unacceptable, and goes into the sort of reflexive hatred that was seen in the shooting of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords back in 2011.

I don’t understand hatred very well, to be honest. But we must identify it, and deal with it, and try to defuse it, before it ever gets to this level, if we possibly can.

Second, we must make it easier for people to access mental health care. It’s difficult now for people to go get needed help; they often can’t afford it, and yet without decent mental health, what kind of life can you have?

At any rate, I deplore this violence. It disgusts me. I do not want to ever see anything like this again.

But as it’s now happened so many times — at theaters, at various public events, now at a baseball practice — I can’t say that is likely.

And that makes me very, very sad.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 14, 2017 at 10:41 am