We the People…

by on Oct.18, 2013, under politics

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

To most it should be self-evident, but this is the opening paragraph of this nation’s Constitution – a document forged over 200 years ago by an array of men from various walks of life and differing and often contentious opinions. It was written by these men over a a period of years of deliberation and revision and I have no doubt with a great degree of argument. Back then there were semblances of party lines, but not in the form we are familiar with. The most common delineation was between Federalists (those who were in favor of a strong central government) and the Democratic-Republicans (those who were in favor of leaving the majority of governing in the hands of the states). It would be difficult to paint either of these parties as either strictly conservative or strictly liberal. What could be said about them though, is this – these individuals who came together to form this nation and then later make effort to govern it clearly had a common and clear agenda: to successfully establish and maintain a nation of, for, and by the people that could serve those people fairly and justly and that they could be proud of.

I don’t believe they would be proud today.

While certainly the recent government shutdown was a strong inspiration to my writing today, it was certainly neither the first nor the last catalyst to my discontent. I’ve long held the somewhat cynical belief that to a degree our representative government, however flawed, is in fact representative of us as a nation – that their faults are our own faults and that the only real catalyst for change would be when enough people simply said “enough” with their words, with their votes, maybe even with their wallets. But certain events have led me to believe that perhaps ‘we the people’ may not even have that sway anymore, at least not fairly or as readily as we should.

So I need to do more than just speak with my vote. Small ripples aren’t enough anymore. I’m saying “Enough!” as firmly and loudly as I can, and I hope that doing so inspires others to do so as well.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

While our nation’s history may only be measured in centuries, humanity’s is in millennia. And over that time there have been numerous nations, kingdoms, and empires that have risen and fallen. And while few may have launched under the idyllic pretense that ours was, there were certainly common goals. Given the history of nation’s whose wealth disparity has been great, I am left with great fear for our own nation’s fate. While I’m not about to advocate Communism, there is something to be said for wage equity. And if the following video is as true as it claims to be, then gender-based pay equality seems like the least of our concerns:

What this video doesn’t speak to is how we as a nation arrived at this point. I am certainly not an economist, but there have been trends and shifts in recent decades that I believe had played a part in this shift to make the “middle class” far from solidly in the middle. What I DO know about economist is this – for every winner, there is a loser. Every dollar gained in the market is a dollar spent by someone else. In recent history the stock market has felt more like a casino than an engine for business promotion and investment. And we all know with casinos the house always wins. In the case of the financial sector, they won with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, they won with the bailouts, and they continue to win our hard-earned dollars day by day without culpability for any economic instability they may cause in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of 1%-ers who do take the high road – people such as Bill & Melinda Gates who are literally putting billions of dollars into charitable good. But there are plenty of faceless members of this upper class that would more readily use their wealth to reward their puppet Congressmen for creating such a press field-day as the recent government shutdown. They won’t be the ones to feel the ripples of such actions, and they seem perfectly content letting those of us who will be awash in them. John Stewart recently compared the actions of the House Tea Party to the movie The Jerk, but I feel there is another 80’s movie analogy that feels more apropos – Trading Places: where the likes of the Koch brothers are the Duke brothers, and the Tea Party is Billy Ray Valentine.

The point is this: between campaign finance insanity, repeal of key voting equality legislation, and bizarre redistricting, our nation is barely within our hands – a fact that is brutally apparent when we have a government with a 10% approval rating and a 90% incumbency rate. It is clear that our approval is moot, and if our voice is moot, then our government is no longer representative. While it is still technically of the people, it is no longer by the people or for the people. And it’s time we take it back before we no longer have the power to do so.

We the people have had enough, and we want our nation back!

There are many steps in this road. One is to speak up to the government we have. I’ve already started by submitting one petition to our President (see here) and signed on to a number of others. Feel free to sign or right some as you see fit. If you do, let me know and perhaps I’ll add my name to other worthy causes.

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by on Mar.27, 2013, under money, music, philosophy, politics

It started with silence, empty air. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the radio in the car even though I still appreciate new music. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, so my morning and afternoon commutes became a vehicle to slake that thirst. I can certainly bore you with the details of my podcast consumption habits that formed from there, but that isn’t really the point of this story. The point is that with the recurring set of shows I had come to listen to, I had gotten ahead of my supply with plenty of road ahead of me. So, recalling hearing good things about The Nerdist from somewhere, I queued up the latest episode and was instantly hooked.

Two weeks later (late last week), I’m listening to Chris Hardwick chatting with this YouTube Rap/HipHop artist named Macklemore. It was a compellingly interesting episode, but without clips of his songs my curiosity was only mildly piqued. But over the weekend, on an evening after the kids were in bed, I sought out his supposed breakout hit, and here is what I found:

Say what you like, but this thing is hilarious, catchy, clearly not kid friendly (glad I listened after bedtime), fun and light, and also has a message nested in there.

Jump to today – there has been a bit of a Facebook movement where people are changing their profile pics to red squares with pink equal signs on them (or some variant thereof). This is in support of marriage equality and coincides with the Supreme Court’s initiation of hearing arguments about California’s Proposition 8. I’ve read the arguments that this is a weak move and that a stronger action would be to donate money to causes, etc. I don’t care – I partook and I stand by the sentiment that it stands for – we all deserve to live and love equally.

So this evening as I’ve relaxing (once again having gotten the kids settled for the night) and perusing the musings on Facebook when an inkling tickles the back of my brain from that Nerdist episode – Macklemore also spoke of another song he did that got some mixed reaction called Same Love:

I watched this and got goosebumps and nearly cried, emotions swelled – a mix of pride and hope as well as shame and sorrow. Watch it, and you will get it (or you won’t, you are entitled I guess). This is more than just a music video – it is a short film as well as an anthem for the marriage equality and gay rights movement. I immediately posted it to Facebook.

The point that I’m getting to here is this: I could sit here right now and write entire blog posts about each of these videos. And if I did, the Venn diagram of their traits would be a small sliver of awesome. The one – a serious and moving story and diatribe about the plight of a yet oppressed minority within our nation and world, the other – a light, pompous romp about making fashion gold out of Goodwill fare (with an unveiled jab at the fashion/consumerist establishment). Together, these songs (and many others) paint the picture of a complex, intelligent individual who has a decided talent for expression through verse – one whom I now have a great appreciation and respect for and had otherwise no knowledge of two weeks ago.

Am I about to start clothes shopping at thrift stores now? Not likely. Am I gearing up to march on Washington over political issues? Not this week, but I wouldn’t rule it out. What I’ve really learned from this is two things: First, never underestimate a medium – I was never a big fan of HipHop and mostly dismissed it as the messages were all gold, guns, and girls, but here I was proven wrong. Second, labels don’t always fit – Macklemore doesn’t get much radio airplay as he is unsigned and pretty much a YouTube artist. But Billboard is starting to get where the audience is, and as such, he made it on the charts AS an unsigned YouTube artist and has since been on SNL and various other gigs (again, I could likely do a whole blog post on this topic as well).

The bottom line is that if I can still have my mind opened further at the age of 37, we all can if we let it happen. If it’s from this, you’re welcome. If it is from something else, that’s great too. But the moment you close out new experiences you stop living in the world, and the world is a variegated and interesting place.

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Faded Colors

by on Sep.04, 2009, under politics, sports

I’m going to start off with an analogy regarding birthdays.  As children, birthdays are absolutely great days – days of celebration of a milestone, days of cake and presents and family and friends.  Every child looks forward to celebrating birthdays – their own or even those of people to whom they are close.  But as we grow older what birthdays symbolize changes – they become reminders of our mortality and moments of introspection.  In some cases we may even opt out of celebrating all of them – a choice that may seem unfathomable to our younger selves.  Wow – that analogy went deeper than I expected.  The real topic I want to discuss for which I drew such an analogy is patriotism.

As I was watching the Eagles game the other night, I became aware that at one point in NFL history the Eagles and the Steelers had merged (a team-up informally known as the Steagles).  Upon looking up this event in history, I came to find that this corresponded to World War II and was due to many of the players volunteering to join the service and fight instead of stick around and play games.  Such patriotic actions also greatly impacted baseball – a much more prominently appreciated sport at the time.  And players who couldn’t serve for medical reasons were often looked down upon.  Yet today such uniform patriotism no longer seems prevalent and few are judged as being un-American for not wanting to serve in the armed forces – wartime or not.

Perhaps it was the questionable engagements of the 60’s and 70’s that lead us to our loss of innocence.  Maybe the war games of the 80’s made us more skeptical and cynical regarding our government’s military decision-making.  Surely the recent series of questionable maneuvers have subdued our appetite to join the fray.  But I have doubts that one or several changes in administration will wash away this new mentality.  I think that the American people may have grown up, and the zeal we once had to be all we could be may be, at least as a collective mindset, an experience that is permanently in our past.  We know that struggles will continue and we still have respect for our great nation, but we may never again look forward to taking on the evils of the world in the name of God and country.

This is not to say that American patriotism is dead, but rather that it has evolved.  Much like we grow past the cake and party favors we clung to as children, we are learning that loving our nation isn’t so black and white.  We can show our respect without being compelled to be on the front lines.

Perhaps I’m wrong – perhaps my own cynicism is too deep for me to see the forest through the trees.  Maybe a time WILL come when we, as a nation, will face a struggle that will compels us to a greater unified purpose.  But it isn’t where we are today … which seems perfectly fine to me – hell, I think it makes me love this country even more.

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Point, Set, Match

by on Mar.14, 2009, under money, politics, TV

I’ve been a proud fan of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show for some time now.  Across the spectrum of the poignant political commentary and the ridiculously humiliating antics carried out by his crew, Jon Stewart and the show he hosts acts as the court jester of America.  While everyone should know that the jester’s main goal and duty is entertainment, much of this entertainment comes naturally in the form of poking fun at the status quo and exposing the truths that many prefer not to bring to light.  In this task, Stewart is often up to the task and does his due.  This week – and most pointedly Thursday night – he has taken his game to a new level. (continue reading…)

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Who’s the Cat That Won’t Cop Out When There’s Danger All About?

by on Nov.05, 2008, under family, parenthood, politics

OBAMA!  At a little after 11PM last night, my wife woke my daughter to let her know the history-making news.  She came down and we had a round of champaigne in celebration (my daughter had ice water in a wine glass).  It was an exciting and profound moment.  And hearing Barrack’s victory speech only made it feel more monumental. (continue reading…)

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