So many thoughts, questions and feels. I go back to my 5th grade social studies class where I was first taught about the 3 branches of government: the system of checks and balances. It was a relentless year of memorizing details, dates, names, and information I wouldn’t need to draw on for most of my remaining life, especially given I never saw myself as a civil servant. (Don’t worry, Kanye, this piece is not me announcing my run for President.)
The one thing I do remember was learning about how the judicial branch was about the law and not about the politics. It wasn’t created to be about left or right. It was meant to be free from political agenda and special interest groups. It was created to be the gate keeper. Full stop.
Or so I thought.
As I got older, I started to learn that the highest court was, indeed, partisan - made up of moderates, conservatives, and progressives. The entire country knew what most every judge was going to do long before the arguments were ever heard before the bench. Not always, but more often than not. And it’s only gotten more transparent in recent decades. So, I re-asked myself - wasn’t that precisely what we were trying to avoid? To have this entity not be swayed by politics or personal values and merely make their decisions based on the law, as presented by the various counsels? Judges are simply not meant to lean. Their very existence as judges is based on their ability to stand tall and upright.
Or so I thought.
In the last few months, I’ve been called everything from naïve to sore loser to Libtard to gang mentality supporter to dumbass. I think one Facebook “friend” even managed to call me all of those in one day. (That was the same day I learned there was a difference between discourse and troll feeding. A mistake I won’t make again.) I do tend to see myself as passionate. Sometimes to my own detriment. I see myself as someone who is now, in earnest, trying to live up to a specific set of values and ethics - my own moral compass. But, I want to stress – MORAL compass. How I value myself and how I value the lives of others – whether they are close to me, or people I’ve never met. And I believe there is nothing wrong standing up for one’s moral compass. But, standing with a sign, a fist in the air, or, dare I say it, taking a knee, is NOT the same as marching with tiki torches spewing words of hate towards a specific race. Or getting in a car and mowing down innocent people.
Or so I thought.
I haven’t always been woke. In fact, I’ve spent the better part of my life trying not to be woke. I figured that living in the moment and sucking at the teat of immediate gratification was far more fun than standing up for something bigger than my own little sphere of good times.
The 2016 election saw me sticking my toes in the woke pool. I made some mistakes – got emotional and waged verbal wars against people (even some friends) without thinking twice. I argued with my feelings and not with my brain. I stayed away from the deep end of really understanding what was going on. I wasn’t reading much news, watching much news, or following anyone on Twitter. I would soapbox whatever felt right in the moment. And more times than not, the woke lifeguards would ask me to sit out – like our grandparents did when we ate lunch and they made us wait 30 minutes before getting back in the pool. (thank g-d we debunked that myth).
But, when you are barely woke, married to a woke person and are father to woke kids, you get your ass handed to you when you go head first in to a discussion about something you realllllly shouldn’t be discussing – but, rather, you should be listening.
Along came Kavanaugh. From the very beginning, I went full woke. I read more. I listened more (though, I could stand to listen even more, still). I stood my ground more. That said, with this week’s confirmation vote, I don’t feel defeated. I’m actually energized and feel guardedly hopeful. Singularly, because I don’t seem to be the only newbie woke person. (Though, I do believe strongly the world could do with more woke men.)
I want to be very clear. (And this likely separates me from my woke colleagues.) I firmly believe we need to take a step back from partisanship – rather than dig our heels in even further. I feel we need to, as a country, do what I am trying to do as a person. We need to re-evaluate our moral compass as a country. Are we, as a country, voting with our values or merely blind allegiance to a party? If it’s the latter, then we truly have gone backwards as a society. If it’s the former, then, yeah, those I tend to disagree with have some values rooted in places I just don’t understand. And while they are entitled to those, I will no longer turn a blind eye to those whose values are based on antiquated belief systems where women and minorities are second class citizens. Where gays and lesbians should be in the closet or at a conversion therapy school in some backwoods part of some backwoods State. And if we truly are voting based on values and morals, I am dumbfounded, that in 2018, these things are still keeping some people from doing the right thing – then again, that’s just me forcing my version of what the right thing is on other people. It sucks, because sometimes the right thing just seems obvious and humane.
When it became clear that Trump was going to be in the position to appoint two Supreme Court justices, I wasn’t foolish enough to believe he would pick people that would lean the court “my way.” So, herein lies the checks and balances quandary - the President nominates the bench position. And the Senate confirms the bench position. Meaning? In a time where the White House AND the Senate are one in the same party, that appointment IS, by default, partisan, thus breaking the system.
Now, some would make the argument, that’s how the governmental cookie crumbles – don’t be a sore loser. To which I merely suggest, well, no, it’s just not how it was set up to be in the first place. And, if it was, there is a massive flaw in a system and in our expectations of what these civil servants are meant to be doing.
Let’s try and leave politics at the door for a moment and ponder the following:
• Being a Senator is a job. Yet, it’s the one job where they don’t actually have to show up day to day. In fact, rarely do they ever show up if that day’s agenda involves someone from across the aisle discussing policy change they most likely don’t agree with. So, on any given day, you have Senators preaching to people of like minds, while the other party’s Senators are off meeting with special interest groups or some other duty that meets their needs or lines their pockets. What other job allows you to pick and choose what days you go to work based on whether or not you are interested in the activities of the day?
Senators make $174,000 a year. The Senate is in session roughly 133-140 days a year. The normal Joe or Jane works 240+ days a year at an average of $60k (it’s actually less for women). On days when there is no voting, they simply don’t need to show up. On days when there IS voting, Senators don’t need to show up. In fact, the only group that is capable of enforcing such truancy are the voters themselves. Oh, and then there is the special interest group money. Money that can double, triple, or in some cases reach factors of 5x that of their base salary. And we, the people, think this system works?
• Which brings us to being the President – it, too, is a job. I am not going to spend this paragraph preaching which Presidents I think treated it like a job vs treated it like a title. In the end, it shouldn’t be a conversation we have. It’s the single highest honor in the land, the single most powerful JOB in the land. It should be treated as such. You can’t do your job from a tee box or a vacation home. You sweat it out in your office – the White House – until such a time you take a break like everyone else. You show up. The average Joe or Jane gets two weeks off. The average President (counting both D’s and R’s) is on record spending upwards of 20% of their term “off,” as described by vacation days or spending time at a secondary residence. The average Joe or Jane spends .05% of their year “off.”
When did it fall off the rails so badly, that rather than keeping track of things a President is doing on the job, we have become more focused by that which they are doing away from the office. It’s simply mind blowing that our expectations have dropped so low. At least, some people’s expectations. It’s the mentality of “well, I got no problem with the time off as long as shit is going my way and my freedoms aren’t being impinged on in any way.” And yes, the argument goes the other way when that time is taken and you feel hung out to dry by a President who isn’t doing shit or is stepping on your every freedom or right – all the while on a day off.
• Not having term limits is simply bad for the system. How does a country grow with the times, if the people who govern aren’t of the times? So, to this, many would say, “well, they won their elections, so if the people keep voting them in, then they earned it and clearly that’s who people want.” Well, I gotta live with the fact that is the system in place. The majority put the person in the seat, but that doesn’t mean I can’t challenge it as being dated in its thinking. It simply shouldn’t be the same person term after term after term. Presidents have term limits. Senators should too. Whether you like the seated majority or not, real change comes from new ideas. New ideas come from fresh blood. The old guard is just that. Old. Stuck in their ways that for many of their constituents works. It works because many of their constituents don’t weigh the alternatives or the young are too apathetic to challenge the system and vote. This isn’t about draining the swamp. It’s about circulating the water.
• When did compromise go out the window in favor of black and white? Since a clear, and heavily contested, example seems to be guns, let’s talk about guns. But, let’s not talk the politics of guns, let’s talk the theory of gun ownership and how compromise comes in to play.
You have those who are “come and take them” and you have those that say, “no more guns, period!” But, you also have those that merely want to talk about specific things with relation to gun control, but not leave people unarmed. Suggesting a ban on certain types of clips or certain types of guns doesn’t equate to eradicating the rights given to us in the 2nd Amendment. It’s a conversation about human life and how things have changed since the words were first written by our single shot musket carrying founding fathers. It goes far beyond the scope of politics. And if the argument is “well, people will still get the guns,” and that’s the only argument that gets exercised, then why so adverse to trying? Oh, that’s right, there’s the “it starts with that and then it becomes all guns.” Well, again, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The move from one thing to all things can’t just snowball without the same conversation that led to the first compromise. It’s another ethical quandary for me – are you suggesting that your perceived infringement of your 2nd Amendment right is more important than the possibility of saving someone else’s life? When in fact, you will still have countless other weapons to hunt with? Or, stand your ground with? Why is compromise seen as defeat in today’s day and age? Why is candid, civilized, and informed conversation considered mingling with the enemy? Are those the values we teach our kids in team sport? “See those kids over there? Go kill those motherfuckers, dance on their dead bodies, and let’s go home!” Nope – we tell our kids, “go out there, do your best, and, at the end of game, shake their hands and tell them ‘good game.’” At least that’s what good parenting suggests we tell our kids.
• When did the attitude of “I just don’t want to think about that kind of stuff,” become the overriding feeling in this country. If we, as a society, don’t think about this ‘stuff,’ and don’t talk about this ‘stuff,’ then this ‘stuff,’ is going to get worse and we are no longer going to be the land of the free or home of the brave. We will simply be land of the entitled and home of the silenced. When those on social media are criticized for discussing their views, in lieu of a photo of food or fun (yes, I am guilty of both), it creates more divisiveness. When those that post their feelings or views are met with violent, verbal remarks, it creates more divisiveness.
In a recent neighborhood post, there was a conversation about a number of recent car break ins. It was all very informative - for a while – people extending their sincere thoughts for those who lost this or that at the hands of some very bold kids riding bikes around stealing. And then came the suggestion that the only way to deal with this is the good ole Second Amendment. I am not going to out the poster, but I think quoting them accurately is important: “Would love for them to roll through my backyard. Security cameras with motion detection and motion lights and your second amendment will handle that.” Well, I got news for you Cool Hand Luke – this neighborhood that we so lovingly call a bubble? It has kids who belong to parents who live in this very bubble – kids who also dress up in hoodies and go out petty stealing loose change from unopened cars. And when your Second Amendment bravado drops your neighbor’s kid “by accident,” are you still gonna stand there and be all tough? This time they weren’t neighborhood kids. But, I know for 100% fact, it has been in the past. So, table your wild west bullshit and let’s go back to helping each other call this stuff out and let the authorities handle it.
• When did the logic of “well, I didn’t mean it that way,” or “I was just kidding,” take precedence over what is decent and right. Why does the dad with a gay son get to make homophobic gay jokes out on the golf course? Why does the dad with a daughter get to make comments about drunk sorority girls, when their very daughter is soon going to be one of those sorority girls – and likely, at some point – a drunk sorority girl. Why the double standard? Why is one friend calling out another friend for saying something inappropriate considered taboo. Does that make you less of a friend? Is there any chance it makes you a better friend for pointing out the harmful duplicity? The #metoo movement is not about crucifying men for what they have done. It is about giving men an opportunity to understand the things men take for granted and, ideally, could do better.
• Finally, news. It’s a pervasive problem in our society. It hardly even exists anymore. If you are right, you watch Fox. If you are left, you watch MSNBC. There simply aren’t many (some would argue none at all), credible news stations any more – ones void of commentary. Void of opinion. Straight up news – without all the clever, often times over the top, graphics and finger pointing. Yes, there is a place for the opinions and pundits. But, while I may believe that MSNBC is largely more based on telling it like it is, I would never make the argument it’s non-partisan.
In the end, if I had my wish, we would hit reset. On all of it. We would clean the slate and discuss new rules that speak to the world of 2018, not 1776. Or even 1960, when many of these life long Senators first took office. We would encourage more teachers, scientists and philosophers to take part in our government. Scratch that – we would demand it. In order to fulfill the needs of the people of 2018, we need leaders who understand the people of 2018. After all, that’s how this whole country thing started. Our first “politicians” were printers and educators and farmers. And they got a lot of things wrong, but they also got a lot of things right. And over the years, we, too, have gotten a lot of things right. But, as well, a lot of things wrong. This past week was not us at our best. It is not how the system was meant to or should work.
I believe in my moral compass and will be unwavering in trying to follow it best I can. I have not been victimized by mob mentality. I have unconditional respect for those that I see as our new, modern day heroes. Women who hold private sector jobs and share the same passion and moral values as I do. Cecille Richards. Ilyse Hogue. Brittany Packnett. Emma Gonzalez. They are using their voice and are making decisions based on where they want humanity to go. And they are trying to get those voices heard across party lines. Those voices are hard to hear when people see them as party operatives, merely pushing the liberal's agenda. Can we please just see them as people who want to see all people move forward not backward?
I don’t turn my back on discourse. I welcome it. But, if you want to come at me with an oppositional argument, I merely ask you have the facts to back it up. Not the feels. In the end, facts should have kept Kavanaugh off the bench. While there may have been no hard facts in the judicial hearing proving that he committed the abuse, there were facts that he lied (multiple times), that he is partisan, and that he seemingly has an axe to grind. And there were facts and accounts that could have been investigated by the FBI, but they were told specifically to ignore them. In the end, as so many have said, this wasn’t a criminal case, but a job interview. Yet for those wrong doings, he was confirmed. He passed his interview. This certainly couldn't be a decision based on our values. It was pure, unadulterated political agenda.
In the end, the words of Dr. Ford fell on deaf, partisan ears. Kavanaugh was going to get confirmed. There were no two ways about it. And why? Because checks and balances gave way to power and money.
We are better than this. And if we aren't, we sure as hell need to be.
Or so I hope.