Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘United States Presidents’ 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.

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

Quick Wednesday Thoughts

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Folks, I continue to deal with hand issues, and I also have a number of projects hanging fire…so this will be a quick “hit-and-run” type blog, where I tell you what’s on my mind in blurb form.

Ready? Set?

First…what in the world is up with President Donald Trump? I mean, every day, there seems to be a new scandal, something worse happening than the day before. He seems to have come into the office completely unprepared, and due to his impulsivity and other issues, he seems to enjoy scaring the Hell out of people, at home and abroad.

My primary thought here is, “Please stop doing this, Mr. President.” (And that I have to call him Mr. President still irks me something fierce. What did we ever do to get this guy?)

And my secondary thought is, “If there have been criminal — or worse, treasonous — acts committed, the Republican-dominated Congress has to grow a spine or some testicular fortitude. Because we can’t have this happening in the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ at all.”

Second, the weather in Wisconsin has been all over the place lately. We’ve had cold weather, hot weather, not too much medium-range weather, and it either is raining in buckets or it’s dry as a bone. I can’t figure it out.

Except for one thing…as weather forecasters can seemingly be wrong every day of the year and still get paid, why didn’t I sign up for that gig? (Yeah, they need more math and science than I had, but I’m sure I could’ve learned it. Ah, well.)

Third, I wonder sometimes about relationships. Why is it that we can try so hard, and get nowhere in them?

I was very fortunate in finding my late husband Michael, but before him I made a couple of bad mistakes. (Of course, what is the definition of a “good” mistake, anyway? One that leads you to the New World when you’re looking for China?)

All I know is, if you’re the only one trying in a relationship, it’s not a relationship. It’s you talking to yourself, and pretending like fire someone else cares when he or she really doesn’t. (Or doesn’t care enough to be useful to you.)

Learn from my mistakes.

And learn from my lone success, too…there is someone out there who will get you, completely, even if you don’t know who that is right now. Refuse to settle for anything less.

Fourth and last…I refuse to give up. I will keep trying.

I just wish I could get a small break in the action where something completely positive happens for a change, that’s all.

Anyway, that’s about it.

What’s going on with you, and what are your thoughts? (What annoys you, or makes you smile, or anything?) Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 17, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Presidential Recount in WI — History in the Making

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During the last couple of weeks, as I recuperated from the move (and all the sturm und drang thereby), I’ve been watching the United States and its politics with more than my usual share of bemusement.

Why is that? Well, we had a Presidential election where one person, Hillary Clinton, was fully expected to win. Yet she was not the winner; instead, Donald Trump somehow came out of nowhere and took the election away from her.

(Yes, I’m phrasing that precisely. Give me time, please.)

Because of the many statements Mr. Trump gave over the past eighteen or so months, (he confessed to disliking and mistrusting Muslims, to name just one example), many ordinary Americans were concerned at his election to the Presidency of the United States. Marches ensued, most of them peaceful, to show Mr. Trump and those who stand with him that the United States is not a racist, sexist, misogynistic, or LGBTQ-hating country.

Now, to Mr. Trump’s supporters, these marches seem nonsensical. Why protest something that hasn’t happened yet? We’re supposed to give every new President-elect time to show his or her true colors, and we usually do as a nation.

And yet, this was far from an ordinary election. Mr. Trump said many incendiary things. And people are already concerned about Mr. Trump’s apparent lack of impulse control…plus, when you add in all the statements Mr. Trump made about the election being “rigged,” that gave many a cause for concern.

Including Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, of all people, who was one of two people to file for a Presidential recount in the state of Wisconsin after raising millions of dollars in just a few days to do so. The Green Party has said they don’t expect to find many improprieties, but they do want to know what happened in Wisconsin.

As a Wisconsin voter, so do I.

I don’t know what happened in Wisconsin, but I would’ve bet money — a lot of it, if I had it — that Donald Trump could not win this state. Considering Democrats were highly motivated to vote, and there was and remains a sizable #NeverTrump faction as well, I don’t understand at all how he won here.

A recount should answer that question, once and for all.

And lest you think I’m only asking for this as an avowed Hillary Clinton voter, think again. I am all for recounts. I’ve even taken part in one before as a neutral observer — the recount of the state Supreme Court race between Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. What that recount found was that there were uncounted votes out there, and it did narrow the gap between Prosser and Kloppenburg slightly — not enough to swing that election, mind you, but enough to show that there were indeed some additional votes that hadn’t been properly tallied the first time around.

This time, though, may turn out to be different.

Already, in three Wisconsin counties, votes have been taken away from Mr. Trump — enough of them that Mr. Trump’s lead over Mrs. Clinton has shrunk by 5,000 votes. (And when you only win by 27,000 votes to begin with — less than 1% difference — that’s a sizable difference right there.) This is before the recount; this is what county clerks have found on their own, without prompting — errors much bigger than any found during the Prosser-Kloppenburg recount.

So, if the county clerks are already finding problems before the recount, just how many other problems are they going to find during it?

Before you ask, I fully believe that the county clerks of the state of Wisconsin are reliable, sober professionals. Regardless of their party affiliation, they want to do a good job. (Kathy Nickolaus, former county clerk of Waukesha County, did not seem to know what she was doing. But thankfully, she’s out of office now.) They certainly don’t want anyone to believe that the vote was tampered with — or if it was, they want to know about it first, and figure out how to stop it from happening ever again.

But something odd happened here. Something that does not sit right with me. I am a long-time political observer who’s called at least 25 elections successfully, and yet this one, somehow, I didn’t? When there was no raw data to suggest silent Trump voters before the fact? (And considering how loud and proud some of those Trump voters have proven to be nationwide, the whole idea of silent Trump voters seems like an oxymoron anyway. Just sayin’.)

So I’m happy we’re going to have a recount of the 2016 Presidential election.

No, I don’t expect it to flip the state of Wisconsin for Hillary Clinton. But if it does, I’d not be entirely surprised, either…because it’s been that sort of year, hasn’t it?

Anyway, expect more posts on this subject, as I am vitally interested in the results. (And I do intend to be a neutral observer, again, if I can. Why not?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2016 at 9:18 pm