Strong suggestion for Democrats

I have a strong suggestion for Democrats who are not happy with the Roe v Wade verdict, watered down gun governance and restrictions on civil rights and are fearful of climate change inaction, environmental degradation and health care attacks, they need to vote. Know the rules that have been altered to keep you from voting and get out and vote. You could throw a few million people marches to get their attention as well.

There is a canary in the coal mine that is saying more voters are switching to the GOP (I read 1+ million), including the suburban educated women voters. To me, this tells me that people are listening to messaging coming out of more conservative channels that rakes Dems over the coals. I am not saying that messaging is correct, but people are listening to it.

Dems better crystalize key talking points that will appeal to all Americans and hammer them home. If they appeal to only progressive Dems, they will need to look up what happened to George McGovern in 1972. Watergate was in part related to Nixon wanting to run against McGovern and not Edmund Muskie. He knew he could beat McGovern but knew Muskie would be a tougher challenge. He ran against McGovern and won 49 states to 1.

Note, I am not saying progressive ideas are not good, but they need to be ideas that are saleable to all Americans and not offensive because of poor word choice. For example, “Defund the police” may have not meant exactly what it said, but the term was a gift to Republicans. My old party is bereft of good ideas in my view which is one reason conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the GOP is in “decay.” But, the GOP spin doctors do a better job, aided and abetted by Fox News, QAnon, and Infowars, et al, to focus on over-exaggerated issues where a label can be slapped on it and a bumper sticker created.

And, Dems please note, they are winning at this and expect to take the House and Senate majority. I have said before we need a viable Republican party, but this is not it. The best way to rid the country of this extreme party is not to vote for them.

Mark Shields, longtime voice of reason has passed

For the longest time, my Friday ritual was to end the news week watching the commentary of conservative minded David Brooks and liberal minded Mark Shields. Their banter exemplified the civil discourse of their host PBS NewsHour, whether the discussion was led by Judy Woodruff or the now deceased Gwen Ifill or Jim Lehrer.

Sadly, I learned Mark Shields passed away last week. Shields was an affable historian and shared his opinion and added context to any discussion. He commented on PBS NewsHour for thirty-three years, the last twenty of which with Brooks. As Brooks noted in a piece in The New York Times:

“We’ve had thousands of disagreements over the years, but never a second of acrimony. Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light.” We all could learn from this.

Judy Woodruff, “PBS NewsHour” anchor and managing editor, tweeted that she was ”heartbroken” to share the news of Shields’ death, and noted his wife Anne was at his side at his death. For decades, she said, Shields “wowed us with his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, his sense of humor and mainly his big heart.”

Shields retired from the show a couple of years ago. Brooks would continue on with the terrific Jonathan Capeheart, but it is not the same. It is like one of a long time couple has passed and the new spouse is nice, but you don’t have history with the person. Rest in peace, Mark Shields. You were one of our lights on the hill.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.

The response to an inane remark

Having been in consulting for over thirty years before I retired, clients would on occasion say things that were not the most vetted of ideas. Sometimes the ideas would be too costly, sometimes too administratively burdensome, sometimes too hard to communicate and sometimes the idea may be stretching or breaking the law.

I had a colleague who had a disarming way of digging deeper, putting the onus on himself. This would prevent the client from being too offended by questioning. They may not be right, but they are still the client. My colleague would say “Help me understand….” as he asked why the client thought this was a good idea.

I mention this today as people have been writing about how to push back on people who are parroting untruthful information or conspiracy stories. Depending on the audience, one action is to simply vote with your feet and walk away. Or some version of “I do not believe that to be true” might suffice. Yet, those do not qualify as good rebuttal.

If you choose to rebut, you must get into a dialogue. This is the reason for my recent post on the Chicago song of that name. You do not want a shouting match, if you want to get heard. So, take my friend’s suggestion as a lead in – “Help me understand.” This will allow further conversation to delve further without being too offensive. Remember, people just want to be heard. So, hear them out and maybe they will do the same. This is how Daryl Davis talked over 200 members of the KKK into quitting.

Our blogging friend Clay used as an example yesterday about the North Carolina man who went to jail for four years for believing the conspiracy story that Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring from a pizza parlor in Washington, DC and acting on it, by storming the place armed with a weapon. Clinton is not perfect and has been made out to be a bogeyman, but really, a child pornography ring?

If he told a friend this plan in advance, the friend might have said, “help me understand…” and saved this person from himself. After hearing the story, a few simple questions may have diffused the situation. The friend could have said something like “I don’t like her either, but c’mon, a child pornography ring? There is no way that can be true.”

I am not naive to think that this will solve our problems and it may be less effective with the most strident. Yet, if Davis can get KKK members to shed their robes, then it must have some validity. One thing is for certain, returning fire with fire by yelling and name calling, will not get you heard. Just watch any talk show with people of divergent opinions. Those folks are not listening to each other, because you cannot listen when shouting.

Let me leave one final thought. As a father of three adult children now, if you really want your children to listen to you, do one key thing. Lower your voice, even to a whisper. That will get their attention.

We need you to be better than you are being

I keep thinking of a message that needs to be universally communicated to all elected and appointed officials serving our needs and what I keep coming back to is the simple statement – we need you to be better than you are being. I recognize this blanket statement applies more readily to large handfuls of elected officials and it varies in degrees of needed improvement, but it could be said to each one.

The corollary to this statement is we need you to stop the tribal BS. The last time I checked, the oath that these officials pledged was to the constitution of the United States of America. Not Russia. Not a political party. Not a populist who couldn’t spell truth, even though the first three letters begin his last name.

Before the segmented marketing and pseudo-news shows began in earnest back in the 1990s, elected officials used to campaign off rhetoric and govern off facts. Now, with this segmentation, 24×7 news cycle and opinion guard dogs, the officials are governing off rhetoric. And, rhetoric is a nice name for sales schtick. In essence, use or create a reason to sell a product or story and hammer the message home. Fear sells. Always has. We are told to fear the other. It is not your fault.

What continually frustrates me is many of these folks know they are being untruthful. Some know they are blatantly being untruthful. And, sometimes the lies are overt. Yet, they do so anyway. To me, that is Machiavellian. It is also a breach of trust. They listen too much to spin doctors and their sycophants who tell them how to pivot away from negative news.

We must let them know we are frustrated by their lying and embellishing. We must let them know we need them to honor the position they hold and do their best to serve us, even on tough issues, where the message is harder to swallow. We need them to be closer to among our better angels, not our worst demons. At the very least, we need them to be better than they are being.

I have actually communicated this message to several elected officials, some I can vote for or against and many I cannot. It is heartfelt and pleading at the same time. It very likely does not do any good and I am sure my name is on a list as a squeaky wheel. I ask that you email, write or call your elected officials and beseech them with this or a variation of this plea. I also encourage you to write to various news sources and share your concerns.

Maybe, if more than a few of us do this, it might sink in more. I would start with those you feel are more reasonable than some of the more strident folks in office. They may at least understand your plea.

Are we really that far apart?

Too many people are arguing points of view that seem to be antagonistically created by Public Relations (PR) folks to divide us. Fear sells. It always has. So, to win elections and sway opinion, certain PR folks and candidates create a we/ they mentality. The other tribe is painted as evil.

But, are we really that far apart? I feel we too often are arguing the points of view of the most extreme among us. I feel most people are closer together if we only talk about it. If we could only discuss what we agree on as much as what we don’t, then civil disourse could occur. If we do that, those areas where we don’t agree may not seem such a high hurdle to overcome.

A good example is before the last former president, Republican leaders would not attend CPAC conferences. Why? Because CPAC represented the extreme side of their party. Republican leaders knew this and stayed away. Now, CPAC is reported as a main stream part of the party, which has taken the Republicans down a narrow path into the woods. To me, that is unfortunate, because I believe most Republicans would not favor some of the extremism of this wing of the party.

On the Democrat side, what is reported online is the more progressive thoughts of the party. To me, they are interesting points of view to consider, but don’t represent fully what more moderate Democrats might believe, at least in tone. I am not dismissing these thoughts at all, but what we lose sight of in this country on both ends of the spectrum is at some point we have to step up and pay for things.

Here are a few common themes that many of us may hold, but it is worth the discussion to confirm agreement.

-elected officials do not work very hard to serve the needs of the people; they focus on helping their major funders and marketing for more funding.

-collaboration to solve problems long term should not be such a foreign concept.

-freedom to do things is important, provided we are not hurting other people and we understand that freedom has a price tag of responsibility.

-name calling is not civil discourse; it is an intended short cut by someone who has not thought through an argument.

-shouting over comments by someone who does not agree with your comment is not an argument, it is playground taunt.

-opinion hosts online, on TV or on radio are most often not sharing facts, they are sharing opinion. The old saying is true, opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one.

-finally, people who name call, who shout and who share opinions as fact (such as “everyone knows this”) have earned the right that what they say should be taken with a grain of salt. This is especially true, if their track record indicates a highly untruthful nature.

Thinking of the above, the one comment that I can make in conversation that will resonate with even the more strident fans of the former president is “Donald Trump is his own worst enemy. He would serve himself better if he did not tweet so much.” That simple comment conveys an awful lot.

Issues. Let’s discuss issues, not personalities. What is the problem and the underlying reasons? What are the possible solutions? Who benefits, how long does it take, how can it be implemented, what is the cost and will it solve or help solve the problem? I could care less what teams wins or loses with a decision. Plus, it must stand the test of time and be monitored and improved or eliminated if it is not working well.

May I ask you a question?

Opinion hosts, politicians and people in general get in a habit of sharing phrases, labels or names meant to be shortcuts to get people to believe the speaker or writer’s point and dismiss another person’s. Far more often than not, these terms are denigrating in nature and are a form of lazy argument.

The name callers and labelers are actually hoping no one will ask them what this label means in this context. Because, they do not really know the answer. As an easy example, have you ever used a common acronym like NASA, HMO, PPO, ERISA, NATO, etc. and then someone asks you what the acronym stands for? And, you don’t know the answer. The same holds true when people use terms meant to be derogatory short cuts.

So, how do we remedy this? Listen and read, first. Converse in person or in writing. Then ask questions. What does that mean? Do you really believe that this is akin to (evil word)? And, listen to the answer. Then follow-up with another question, but do it in a manner to understand.

If you listen to people first, it gives you more license to follow-up. Yet, I would encourage people to do so in a manner that you want in return. In other words, treat others like you want to be treated.

I often use as an example Daryl Davis, an African-American man who has successfully talked over 200 KKK members into quitting and giving him their robes. He says he starts with conversation, often because he is a musician, and then asks them questions that make them think. Think about that. A Black man convincing a White supremacist to change his or her mind by talking with him or her.

If Davis can have those kinds of conversations, so can we. After listening to someone, I have been able to ask something like “Do you really believe that or are you just saying that cause it sounds good?” “Do you really believe asking someone to (insert issue) is akin to Nazism, Apartheid, Slavery, or Genocide?”

I don’t know about you, but those four things are heinous things that happened in our global history, so if something is going to be legitimately compared to them, it better be a heinous action. A mask mandate to protect people is not Nazism. Nazism led to the murder of over 6 million Jews, while a mask mandate is trying to protect the world from COVID deaths that now total 6 million. The contradiction is staggering.

Converse. Listen. Ask. Follow-up. Be nice. Treat others like you want to be treated. To be frank, if I had an opinion that was inane because I believed a source who disinformed or misinformed me with intent, I would want that inane opinion to be questioned. Diplomatic push back. Civil discourse. Those are the keys.

You know the rules of the road going in

Last week, an airplane departing from Miami headed to London had to turn around after 500 miles due to an unruly first-class passenger who refused to wear a mask. The first-class ticket may have given a sense of entitlement or maybe the free drinks unleashed her inner jerk, but yet another plane had issues with a passenger. It should be noted being a jerk is not restricted to first-class as a plane has many passengers

What is frustrating to all of the other passengers is you know the rules of the road before you get on the plane, so all one has to do is abide by them. If a store says no shoes, no service, one should not be surprised if they get no service. If a club says a tie is required, one should not be surprised if the Maitre’d walks up with a selection of ties to wear for the dinner.

The same holds true if a store or airline says a mask is required. That means you should wear a mask or not be surprised if you are handed one to wear. Civility should not be an art. It should be usual and customary. That Jesus fellow said treat others like you want to be treated. So, if you are treating others poorly, it only reflects poorly on the actor not the victim. This unruly passenger will be temporarily banned from the airline pending an investigation, but is yet to be fined or charged with a crime. But, she also caused people on the plane inconvenience. If they had connections or important events, they may have missed them because of one person who chose to not follow the rules.

It truly matters not if you agree or disagree with the veracity of mask wearing. The rules you have been given say wear one to enter and be served. You may not like wearing a seatbelt, but you know that it’s a law you must wear one. On the flip side, I cannot believe there are some states that allow helmetless motorcycle riders. Given how fragile the human head is, if I rode a motorcycle in one of those states, I would be wearing a helmet even if not required. Yet, those who don’t are OK as the state permits them to ride sans helmet. Those are the rules of the road in that state.

Let me close with one final thought. People who treat wait staff, cashiers, maids, nurses, teachers, et all poorly do not impress me with some false level of importance. They actually are offensive to me. I have worked in business a long time to see how people treat others based on some perception of status, with some narrow-minded folks treating perceived subordinates worse than peers who are treated worse than more senior officials. Quite simply, being a jerk does not give you importance, it just means you are being a jerk.

A second Saturday in 2022 – a plethora of potpourri to ponder

Since I woke up to a plethora of thoughts and news nuggets, let me offer a potpourri of topics to ponder. In no particular order:

  • This headline says it all – “Ahmaud Arbery’s killers get life sentences; no possibility of parole for Travis and Gregory McMichael.” A black man should not fear for his life when he is out jogging. Given we are almost sixty years removed from the passing of the Civil Rights Act, it would be my hope that stuff like what happened to Ahmaud Arbery and countless others should not be happening anymore. We have made progress, but we seem to have backslid some.
  • The world lost one of its finest actors in Sidney Poitier yesterday. Several outstanding movies include: “To Sir with Love,” “The Defiant Ones,” “Guess who’s coming to Dinner,” and “In the Heat of the Night” to name only a few. “To Sir with Love” ranks on a short list of the best teacher movies. Seeing Poitier in the final scene tear up his offer letter to go teach elsewhere is poignant. Also, to see him and Rod Steiger in the last film is powerful as they showed what institutionalized bigotry looks like. He won an Oscar for the movie “The Lilies in the Field,” but I think each of his roles in the above films were more impactful.
  • In the midst of all the year-end deaths, the world lost a peacemaker and humanitarian in Desmond Tutu. Along with Nelson Mandela, Tutu helped bring attention to the rights of the disenfranchised during Apartheid. God bless the peacemakers. Seeing Tutu interviewed always brought a smile to my face as he seemed to ooze joy and kindness. Here is one of many wonderful quotes of Tutu’s along those lines: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
  • Reading Tutu’s quotes and knowing what he has overcome, I encourage folks to find ways to look past differences and find some commonality. There is far more good in our world than people realize as the bad news makes the headlines – “if it bleeds, it leads.” This may be one reason Tutu’s passing went by too unnoticed. Look beneath the headlines and find the good in people. We should celebrate those peacemakers, the truth tellers, the kind spirits that exist in our world. They usually don’t beat on their chests with false bravado, so sometimes you have to look harder.

Have a wonderful 2022. Be safe. Be wise. Be kind. Be civil.

A little bit of this and that for 2022

Happy New Year everyone. May your resolutions last longer than your hangover. I have celebrated New Year’s in a number of ways, but this old soul is less inclined to stay up until midnight these days. Living on the east coast of the US, we have resorted to celebrating the New Year’s on Greewich time, so we are done early.

I learned yesterday the legendary actress Betty White left us just shy of her 100th birthday. She has always been a character and has played many different types of roles over the years. She played nice girl roles for the longest time, so when she played the back-stabbing Sue Ann Niven in the 1970s on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” it was a shock. Yet, she went onto many other roles in the 1980s and 1990s on the “Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.”. And, she was a terrific humanitarian and friend to animals. May she RIP.

Going in to 2022 and its insane campaign season which started about eleven months ago, we must try to regain some level of civil discourse in our society. Since changing politicians and opinion entertainers seems nigh impossible. we will have to make this a ground up change and force them to notice.

Here a few rules of the road that might help:

-if someone speaks or writes with name calling, labelling and cursing as their modus operandi, do what I often do and stop reading and do not respond. If this is the how the person wishes to argue, then his or her argument is poor.

-cease watching opinion entertainers who are dressed-up spin-doctors at best and disinformation peddlers at worst. Some do their homework more than others, but you are being told an opinion, often times not a well-supported one.

-if you are getting your news from someone on social media who you like because you agree with them, please do not consider that news and refer to the first two items above.

-if you are getting your news from a politician, check other sources; some have more veritas than others, but too many are just spouting BS without doing much homework. I used to think elected officials knew more than we do (and some did), but I stopped thinking that long ago. They also expect us to have short memories.

-you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Ask more questions of people and listen to their answers. Listen to understand, not to respond. Only then can you follow-up with comments, but make sure you give like you want to get. Calling a person an idiot is not a good sales pitch.

-be civil to each other. Sometimes the best thing to say, is not to say it. Look for common ground, by doing that listening thing noted above. You may disagree on five points, but agree on two. That is a start.

One final thought to drum in your head. An old friend used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Engage. Converse. Catch-up. And, thank the other person for their time and interest. Time and interest are the best gifts someone can give you.

Be safe in 2022. Be well and be wise.