Sunday, June 19, 2016

Juneteenth II: Politics

Got a lot to say this time around, so I've separated it into three 'blog posts: life, politics, and music. This is the politics edition.

I've been trying to steer clear (mostly) of political posts and discussions on social media. Mostly it's because I know most people care as little for my opinions on the subject as I do for theirs, but increasingly it's also because too many people are getting way too incensed and enflamed when others don't feel the same way they do. I've got my convictions and my beliefs, too, but that doesn't mean I have to hate you or think you dangerous and/or an idiot just because you feel differently.

Much as the Prophets of Rage have declared that they "can no longer stand on the sidelines of history," however, I've decided that I can no longer stay silent - though I'll try to contain it to just this one post. Yes, I think Donald J. Trump would be bad for this country, and I don't think my opinion comes as a surprise to anyone who knows me even a little. No, I don't think Trump, or Clinton, or Sanders would be able (maybe not even willing) to fulfill all the campaign promises made. The people yelling shrilly about how Trump will destroy this country and the people yelling shrilly about how Clinton will do the very same thing are as reactionary as each other, and all part of the problem.

While I would love to see a real change and shake-up in Washington, D.C., I don't think Trump is the change we need. (In the interests of full disclosure: yes, I voted for Sanders in the primary, but I don't agree with everything he says, either. Still prefer him over Clinton, though.) I'm not going to level charges of "fascist" against Trump, but don't think he'd be the great leader that some seem to think he would, and it's clear that he doesn't hold the same inclusive views of what makes America great that I and many others in this country do. To be fair, it's clear that there's no overwhelming consensus in this country about what makes America great. (And yes, I do think America is great, even with its flaws and problems.) That's not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but the fact that there's so much anger, so much rage, about these conflicts of opinion should give us pause.

I consider myself pretty liberal and progressive socially, though I've got a few libertarian and even conservative stripes. I think everyone should have the right to live the way they want, worship (or not) the way they want, and love the way they want as long, as long as they're not harming anyone else or infringing on someone else's rights in the process or forcing others to do the same. (For those of you who don't get the "Juneteenth" reference, it commemorates the date the Union Army announced the abolition of slavery in occupied Texas after the Civil War ended, and ideally should be a day for recognizing equality and freedom for everyone in the US.)

I think free speech covers the right to be offensive, but I also think there can be circumstances where that offense might be considered threatening; also, the right to free speech is not the same as a right to evade consequences for what you say. I think adherence to law should trump party politics. I think corporations and lobbies need to have far less influence in the political and legislative processes. I think government needs to be smaller and more cost-effective, but I think a helping hand and a safety net of sorts for people truly in need is just human. I don't think everyone should make the same amount of money no matter what they do, but I do think that too many people make too much money for not doing enough, and too many people make too little money for doing so much. I think this nation should strengthen its own position in the world and its own citizens' security and standard of living before giving billions of dollars in aid to other nations... but I don't believe we should isolate ourselves, or build a wall, or pour billions of dollars and thousands of lives into wars and conflicts that haven't been thought through and linger on, and on. I know that there are radical Islamists committing acts of terror, against the West and against their fellow Muslims and others, but I also know that the percentage of Muslims committing or supporting such heinous acts is small, and portraying these events as a jihad of Islam versus the West only bolsters the arguments and the appeal of Daesh and al Qaeda and the groups like them. I think a licensed handgun (or a shotgun, or a rifle) and a small quantity of marijuana for personal use are equally OK; my eyebrow is raised when someone wants larger quantities of drugs or magazines holding larger quantities of ammunition. I think most police officers, and most deployed members of the military, are doing an extremely difficult job to the best of their abilities, and being human they're prone to making mistakes; honest mistakes should be addressed appropriately, but bad apples will turn up everywhere, and bad apples in law enforcement or the military (or Congress), who forsake their oaths and treat the lives of others with impunity, need to be dealt with severely and stripped of the ability to do so again, after due process of course.

Bottom line is, I don't have all the answers. Hell, I don't have any of the answers. But I do know that we all have to stop screaming at each other and accusing each other of ruining America and being responsible for Americans being killed. It's not that simple, and if you truly believe it is, you're not thinking for yourself and you're not actually listening to the sane people on the other side of the argument. Yes, there really are sane people on both sides, no matter what some would have you believe. Don't get all your news from one source, and don't build yourself an "echo chamber" where you only hear one side of every issue. I'm subjected to opinions with which I disagree on social media every day, but I'd rather hear them, and maybe think about the issues differently, or at least consider how other people view those issues, than convince myself that I'm right and they're wrong and that's that.

Anyway, that's that. Don't forget that everyone you talk to is human, too, and that most of them do want what (they think) is best for this country, too. I'll stop ranting now, though maybe it's time for an updated recording of "Dangerous Babies. Then again, perhaps I should wait 'til November...

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