Civil discourse and truth are needed – letter sent to the editor

I sent this letter into the editor of my newspaper yesterday. I hope they publish it. Please feel free to adapt and use.

It continues to trouble me that too many Americans are following the lead of extremists and committing violence when they don’t agree with something. It also troubles me that we are letting sources of disinformation and propaganda like QAnon, InfoWars, select politicians, et al inflame our opinions. Please ignore these folks as they are doing our nation a disservice.

As an independent who leans progressive on some issues and conservative on others, I can assure you neither party has all the good ideas and both have some bad ones. We must have civil discourse and bipartisan agreement to move important solutions forward. And, we need to use facts and speak truthfully or the solutions will miss the mark.

Politicians owe us the truth. If they cannot shoot straight with us, they need to resign or not run for office even if they happened to have served before. Full stop.

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Note sent to RINO hunting Republican candidate

After seeing the Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens double down on his RINO hunting ad which has been panned as dangerous rhetoric, I sent the following email to his campaign.

Thank you for your service as a Navy Seal. You should be commended for that. Yet, as an independent and former Republican (and Democrat) voter, I must call upon you to be mindful of your words about RINOs. We have far too many extreme folks in our country who are inflamed by such rhetoric and they are placing themselves and others in danger when they act on their worst instincts.

As a former Republican, I could easily be next in people’s cross hairs. I do not mind people being more conservative or liberal than me on various issues. But, what gives me pause are politicians who are not representing our better angels and heighten our divisions rather than bring us together. For example, I disagree with Rep. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger on several policy issues, but I applaud their political courage to call out our former president for his seditious actions in the face of known vitriol and violence threats.

Please consider my plea. Many thanks for your consideration.

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.

Letter to the editor – concerns over attacks on others

I sent the following brief letter to my newspaper this weekend. It will likely go unprinted, but I want to share it with you in case you would like to modify and use. Maybe it will get printed somewhere.

Reading about the increase in verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQ+ citizens or the denigration of the rights of women or people of color concern me. This is especially troubling when it comes from people who espouse the teachings of Jesus. When he said treat others like you want to be treated, he offered no caveats. Full stop. If we would only follow that one rule, which is so important it is called “golden” and also appears in in other religious texts, we would be in a much better place with our civility. We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. We all deserve such treatment.

People died for our country to preserve the freedoms for all its citizens. That guy Jesus chose to spend most of his time speaking to and hanging out with the disenfranchised people in his time. We should remind ourselves why would they choose to do that. Our country has had fits and starts of trying to live up to our ideals. Yet, we should never stop trying to be the best version of ourselves.

Workshops designed to reduce the we/ they polarization

Yesterday, I heard on NPR a report about a group workshop held in Lagrange, Texas. The workshop consists of eight Republican and Democrat voters each with a purpose to reduce the temperature on polarization. In the piece called “Red/Blue Workshops try to bridge the political divide. Do they really work?” by John Burnett of NPR’s “All things considered,” we learned more about this and other sessions.

Here are a few excerpts with a link to an article at the below.

“‘I just see our country being torn apart with polarization. And so anything that we can do to work together as Americans and depolarize our conversations is important,’ retired tax lawyer Karl Schmalz tells the group before they get started. He’s serving as a co-moderator for the workshop.”

“Betsy Harwood, retired family therapist, Democrat: ‘I think that what we see here in this room is the true America. It’s a group of people who can get together and talk politely with each other and understand each other. It’s not what we see on the news or what we see in social media. That’s not the real America.'”

“Doherty is a Minneapolis family therapist and professor who modeled the workshops on his counseling experience: get antagonists to meet face to face. A recent paper by a group of political scientists concluded that the Red/Blue Workshops ‘significantly reduced polarization’ among undergraduate students at four universities, though the results dissipated over time.”

These sessions will not be panaceas, but they head us in the right direction. They are climbing a large mountain that has been built rock by rock by public relations strategists advising politicians to “fear the other.” It is their fault the PR people tell us. They are the enemy. They will destroy our country if we let them. My purpose is not to debate the veracity of claims, but instead to say we must be better at understanding the real issues, not what we are spoon fed by opinion hosts, conspiracy parrots or politicians whose currency is not consistently truthful.

So, what can we do? Be more informed by considering multiple sources of news. Recognize opinion hosts are not news people. One news network in court said in a defamation lawsuit do not misconstrue their most popular opinion host as one of their news people. And, some opinion hosts are less inclined to be truthful to garner ratings. My suggestion is to either not watch or listen to them, or just understand better what you are hearing.

Do not get your news from social media. As Bill Maher said in an ad for a comedy tour, do not argue about Brett Kavanaugh with someone on Facebook that you knew in the fourth grade. More than a few of these opinions recorded on social media are gleaned from questionable sources. Just because someone is smug when they argue with you does not make them right, it just means they are being smug.

Demand our politicians to be more truthful. To ask them to be always truthful is a bridge too far, as politicians like to pat themselves on the back and give more credit to themselves than is due. Yet, do not let them get away with overt untruthfulness or name-calling. The blame game and name-calling is now standard fare in the lexicon of most politicians. And, we need them to work together to solve problems and serve our needs. One sided legislation will not stand the test of time as most of our problems require time to be resolved or mitigated.

We need our politicians to be among our better angels, not our worse demons. If they cannot more consistently tell the truth, then they need to step aside and let someone who can take on the role. We deserve better than this.

https://www.npr.org/2022/04/06/1090910863/red-blue-workshops-try-to-bridge-the-political-divide-do-they-really-work

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.

Travel safely, be well, respect flight attendants

Here in the US, my favorite holiday is upon us, Thanksgiving. I encourage everyone to travel safely, use meditation and patience to remain calm and be well. A little more walking or aerobic activity to counter vent the calorie intake would be wise.

Also, try not to accost the flight attendants. When wound up passengers do that, they are like the monkey climbing a tree – at some point they bare their hind end. I did see where airline attendants are learning self-defense techniques to ward of those wound up few

For some reason, these wound up few believe being made to follow the rules to protect everyone is a personal affront to their liberties. Just like any set of rules, you know them beforehand. If you don’t like it when on the plane or after a few drinks, then you missed your chance to vote with your feet. Once on the plane, the best advice is to sit down and shut up.

I mention this as I learned yesterday that seven anti-vaxxer doctors have now come down with COVID after attending a conference together. This follows on three months of five anti-vaxxer radio hosts, unfortunately getting and dying from COVID. One of the now sick doctors was mad at his father, who at the age of 99 had gotten both doses of the vaccine. I do not wish COVID on anyone, but I am not surprised when unvaccinated people come down with it.

As for me, I am scheduled to get the booster after Thanksgiving. My sister got the booster two weeks ago and had zero complications. With her job and other health issues, being fully vaccinated is key. My wife will, be getting hers after me.

I am aware of over fifty people who have had the vaccines, with only a few sore arms, some fever or body aches just afterward. What I find sad and amusing is some folks would rather take an animal de-wormer which is not meant for humans than a vaccine that has been tested and has data to support its overall efficacy. No drug is perfect without some side effects for a small few (just read the warning labels), but a de-wormer? Really?

So, count me in the vaccine camp, the human one. That is what I am going to do, as it protects me and others. Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet, as the numbers are expected to uptick again. Getting things closer to fine takes some effort, a community effort.

That is what communities do. They help each other out. Some guy named Jesus said that. Also, Gandhi talked of a community’s greatness being measured how they take care of the less fortunate. Neither person mentioned beating up flight attendants.

So, travel calmly and safely. And, be well.

Fines, fines and more fines for unruly passengers

An airplane is hurtling through the air at over 500 miles per hour and contains a couple hundred people in a confined space. Whether you like wearing a seat belt, you do so while the plane is taking off and landing. You also pay attention to the signs to remain seated as turbulence could cause you harm. Now, the turbulence is within in the cabin – the culprits are your fellow passengers.

A CBS News piece called “Assaults, a death threat and mask refusal: Fines for unruly passengers this year top $1 million” by Kathryn Krupnik and Allison Elyse Gualtier is revealing (see link below).

“Assaulting passengers and crew. Threatening to kill flight attendants. Refusing to wear masks. Unruly passengers are still wreaking havoc on flights, and the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday it will request $531,545 in fines against 34 passengers for a variety of alleged bad behavior, including bringing drugs or alcohol on board. The agency said the new requests bring the total fines for 2021 to more than $1 million.”

The fines range in number, but include fines of $52,000, $42,000, $30,000, $17,000, $13,000 and $10,500 to mention only a few. Just this year, there have been 3,889 complaints about passengers, 2,867 of which are due to refusal to wear a mask.

The fines will make someone contrite rather quickly. Of course they can appeal the fines, but that is more court cost for a crime, some may not even remember very well due to their intoxication. Or, maybe they do remember it because they are just being a Class A jerk. And, the jerks are not just men, as women have shown an ability to be equally as rude as the harassing and assaulting males.

Let me speak plainly. For some reason, people feel they can simply ignore the obligations of civility and following the rules of the road. Being allowed to be rude is part of their freedom they say. But, with freedom come consequences. If your being a jerk endangers others, then you deserve to be held accountable. That is how it works.

If the requirement is to wear a mask to enter, then I suggest you get a mask. It does not matter if you are red, blue, purple or polka dot. Assaulting or cursing out a retail staff member or airline attendant does not improve your gripe. It just makes you look very small. And, in some cases, poorer due to paying fines.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/unruly-passenger-airplane-fines-1-million/