This is not a political statement…

…no, we’ve had and will have enough of those in the past few days, weeks, and months and in the days, weeks, and months to come.

This is not a political statement…this is a statement on American politics.

The American political process is a deeply flawed and broken system.  It needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.  In speaking with people throughout this recent political campaign, regardless of which way they voted in the end, Republican, Democrat, or third party, the common theme I heard was that people were embarrassed with our nation and this system. They were frustrated with the candidates put forth, and they felt that they were voting for the “lesser of two evils” rather than a candidate that they truly believed in.

I sum up my personal thoughts on politics and politicians as this:   I believe that our nation’s leaders should be people we hold in high regard, people who would and should act as role models for our children and the rest of us in society.  Unfortunately, I view most politicians as reverse-role models. I point them out to my children as a symbol of how NOT to conduct yourself.  The pettiness, the nastiness, the unethical and immoral behavior; these are not the traits that I have striven to instill in my children and it is embarrassing that these are the traits that our politicians display on an ongoing basis, and in front of the American people and the world. They are no different than the classic sleazy used-car salesmen. They will say whatever needs to be said to get elected, then wash their hands and walk away while we drive off in our clunker.

So how do we fix this system, and can it be fixed?

The second part of that question is the easiest part to answer: Yes, it can be fixed. Of course, it can be fixed.  By involvement, by speaking out, by voting not against a candidate, but instead, for a candidate that you believe in. By knowing that there is no “wasted vote” when you vote your conscience, contrary to what many would have you believe. Twenty hours ago, a CNN headline read: How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein helped elect Donald Trump.”  This is a profoundly foolish statement. It implies that voters who voted their conscience “wasted their vote.” I would argue that their vote was LESS wasted than that of someone who chose to simply vote against “the lesser of the two evils.”

The first part of the questions, however – how do we fix this system – is not as easy to answer. Here I will present my thoughts. I hope that others will see some logic in some of these and perhaps add to them, and that a firestorm demanding changes that benefit us – the people – be ignited.

The Two-Party System and the Debates

democraticlogoIn this nation, we have created a belief that we operate on a two-party system. This is in fact false. The Democrats and the Republicans are by far the largest U.S. parties, but not the only ones. There is the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Worker’s Party, and on and on.  The Democrats and Republicans would like you to believe otherwise, though.republican-elephant

We need to reform this attitude with our system on who can and can’t be a part of the Presidential debates.  This year, only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took the stage for the debates. This is due to an arbitrary decision that a candidate must be polling at 15% to be invited.  This is wrong.  If a candidate achieves the right to be placed on the ballot in all 50 states, they should automatically be included in the Presidential debates. I, for one, would have really liked to have seen and heard more from Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. I am sure many would have liked to have heard more from Jill Stein. We have forgotten that third parties have a following and a right to be heard. We have libertarian_party-svgforgotten that once upon a time it wasn’t the Democrats and the Republicans but the Federalists and the Whigs. Other parties rose however, and now they have a voice, and that should be no different for third parties today.

The Debates

This is a section all in its own, but a short one.  The debates need to become just that – debates. Not two (or more based on my previous idea) sour-faced individuals spouting rhetoric and innuendo: DEBATES. Asked a question; answer the question. Answer with what THEY will do, not their opinion of what their opponent WON’T do.  We are not interested in opinions; we want your plan. Moderators need to take greater control of the debate. When a candidate gets off topic, or makes the famous green_party_of_the_united_states_earthflower_official_logostatement “before I answer the question I want to go back…,” the moderator needs to firmly cut them off and tell them “No, answer the question posed.”  When the candidate, as they always do, continues on, the moderator needs to have the authority to shut off the candidates’ microphone.  I have grown tired of debates that are rhetoric-filled “pissing” matches where I learn nothing substantive about the candidates’ positions. This needs to be corrected.

Election Funding

As with the debates, any recognized party that meets the criteria for placement on the 50 states ballots should receive equal federal funding to the other parties. The ability of the ustaxtwo major parties to outspend the third parties keeps additional thoughts and voices from being heard a time when we most need to hear them.

Additionally, Political Action Committees (PACs) need to be abolished.  NO ONE in America should be able to “buy” or financially influence any candidate or party. The era of political favoritism needs to come to an end.

Election Day News Coverage

So, this one will peak a bit of controversy due to the constitutional right to “Freedom of the Press,” but I think we need to place a moratorium on election day news coverage.  No exit polls, no state-by-state electoral college updates, no analysis from newscasters who really aren’t qualified to give analysis so what we really get is their opinion. Just for the 24-hours of election day. It influences many voters to act in opposition to what they may really be believing is the right course of action. It effects the stock market. It causes to much unnecessary disruption to the operational and election well-being of the nation.

The Nastiness that has become Politics

This is probably the biggest area that needs to be reformed. How do we make it explicitly clear to political candidates that we DO NOT want to hear the relentless negativity and nastiness that campaigning has become?  I find myself embarrassed for our nation and the candidates during the election season. I fail to understand supposedly intelligent, successful, educated individuals acting more childish than 5-year-olds on a playground fighting over a toy.

As a citizen, and a citizen who DOES exercise his right to vote, I am not interested in your opinions of your opponent. I am not interested in your thoughts on your opponent’s platform. I am intelligent enough to make those decision and determinations on my own. I want to know, in fact need to know, your thoughts on your platform. I need to why and how you plan on making changes. I want to know your thoughts on foreign policy, defense, domestic affairs, terrorism. I DO NOT want your opinion on your opponent’s lifestyle decisions, their charitable contributions, that they drive a foreign car, or eat too many hamburgers.  Tell me about you, your team, your policies, and how those policies will improve my life.the-golden-rule-quotes-5

I stated at the beginning of this article that I would never view a politician as being able to be a role model for my children.  That is sad. It is also true.  As children, we are raised to believe in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Why does this go out the window in one of the most important times, and on such a public stage, as it does in politics.

Let’s hope that we will see positive change in campaigning by 2018. While I am not hopeful, I can still have hope.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Faced with the growing depths of the Great Depression as he entered office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to lift the spirit of Americans in his first inaugural address.  His famous statement that we

Franklin-D-Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States 1933 – 1945

have nothing to fear but fear itself,” has become one of the great and oft-repeated lines of our nation, and it is a line that bears repeating today, not only as we climb from another recession, but as we find ourselves at the forefront of a new war, the war on terrorism.

In the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the rhetoric against Muslims has grown immensely.  Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a halt to immigration into the United States from those countries that are on our “watch” list.  Many Americans have taken up his cry and are standing behind this man whom I personally find more treacherous than any outside power. I would argue that we are simply allowing ourselves to become victims of our fear, and not of reality, by doing so.

In recent weeks and years, not just since San Bernardino but really going back to 9/11, the amount of hateful vitriol that I have seen people post on places like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter is shocking.  People whom I consider educated, well-reasoned people post and re-post messages of hate and fear. They make odd, unfounded arguments that the Koran is a book of evil and that all followers of it are enemies of Christianity and thus the United States. They are equally shocked that radical Muslims think Christians to be infidels and believe the bible to be an equally evil book.

How can we think we have such an incredible insight and world-view when in reality our eyes are so tightly shut? Hasn’t history shown us that to lump all people together based on their race, gender, national origin, religion, or any other means that differentiates them from another group is a recipe for disaster; a recipe that fosters and creates a “stew” of hate, pain, oppression, and ignorance.

We have to accept people for the individuals that they are. We have to separate the actual human being – the words, the actions, the DNA – from the labels. Are there evil Muslims in the world? Without a doubt.  Are there evil Christians in the world? Again, without a doubt.  In fact, we can list every religion or other factor of human difference here and we can find both immensely evil as well as immensely kind people.

Arbeit

The gate at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp – WWII

The consequences of painting any single group with a wide brush is that we paint over the detail and create a blank, flat expanse.  Perhaps we need to ask a holocaust survivor, or any one of the millions who did not survive, if they deserved their imprisonment and loss solely for being Jewish.  What about all the Japanese-Americans who found themselves in internment camps during World War II solely based on their ancestors national origin?

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Japanese Internment Camp, USA – WWII

Many will argue that today’s situation is not the same.  I argue that it is.  We are allowing fear to rule us. We need to let our common sense guide us. We need to use that fear to come together for good, not to push us apart.  Another great president, Abraham Lincoln, made the famous statement that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” That was in 1858, three years before he became president and the onset of the American Civil War. Almost 160 years later, we still need to learn this. If we drive our fellow American’s apart, based on what happens elsewhere in the world, it is ultimately our “house” that crumbles.

Lincoln 1858

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States 1861-1865

America has always been the great melting pot of our world.  We are a nation born of “rabble,” of those who felt they weren’t accepted in their homelands. On that premise we have built a great, strong nation; a nation that endures its hardships. We should not seek to turn others away, but embrace them, show them what it means to be American, and why we fight so hard for what we have. We need to create allies in the faces of our enemies.  Subjecting certain populaces to scorn and fear does not accomplish this task.

We need to unite. Unite as Americans. That means unite as one cohesive group: not a group of whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, etc., but as a human wall who hold shared values and will not allow fear to tear that wall down.coexist