Good words, now let’s walk the talk

I have now seen South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy interviewed twice on their book released this week called “Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country.” Scott who is Black and Gowdy who is White speak openly of their friendship.

I think it is excellent the two legislators are speaking of their relationship. I am delighted they are getting along well and feel their relationship can serve as a guide to better discussions. Yet, when asked if the same guide could help Congress, Gowdy spoke of the desire to win and the other side lose getting in the way of better relationships.

Frankly, I don’t buy that. I think they need to walk the talk in Congress. When anyone on their team is being uncivil, untruthful or callous, they need to call them out. I actually called each leaving a message with one and speaking with a staffer on the other.

I complimented their efforts and wished them well with their book. But, I said Americans want members of Congress to work together to solve problems. It matters not who wins or loses – it matters if we the people benefit. And, when someone denigrates another, which happens too often from the White House, they need to act like their fellow SC legislator Lindsey Graham did when he called the President on the carpet for his infamous remark about sh**hole countries.

Gowdy is retiring from office as still a young man saying he is tired of this zero-sum game of politics. To be frank, he played that game to the hilt, even as late as January with his role in the Congressman Devin Nunes’ memo which was highly political and sloppy work. On the flip side, while he does not believe the Presidenf colluded (see previous reference to political and sloppy work), he did say if the President is innocent, he should act like he is. Then there is his role in the endless Benghazi hearings, which was referred to by fellow Republicans Condaleeza Rice and Colin Powell as a “witch hunt.”

So, seeing his name with this book was a little surprising. Yet, I will treat his intentions as a sincere effort and applaud both of their mission. They just have to be more than words. Words are cheap – we must walk the talk. We need them and their fellow legislators to walk the talk, as well.

 

 

 

People make a difference

The significant majority of the news is about what is not working in the world. What we focus on far too less is what is working well. People make the difference. People can overcome bad structure and even governments.

We see it first hand during disasters when people help those who have lost their homes and loved ones. But, it also happens everyday in the normal course of living.

We see it in helping homeless families climb a ladder out of poverty and into sustainable housing. We see it as someone delivers meals to shut-ins and speaks with them about their day.

We see it when people volunteer to read or tutor kids who are failing behind. Or, as my wife says just give them a soft place to land. This also helps the teacher who may not have the benefit of a teaching assistant.

We see it in the people who greet and speak with customer service people in stores or on the phone. We see it in the many donation drives for coats, school supplies or food. We see it in the countless volunteer coaches, choir leaders, scout leaders and school leaders.

We see it in people who listen to the point of view of others. A Black man said he was able to get KKK members to give up their robes and change their ways by listening first and then asking questions. Our friend Jill has written recently about the loss of civility. We need to follow these examples and practice it more.

A famous person once said the only way to change the world is one person at a time. That has always been the case. So, let’s embrace civility and celebrate what is good about it. And, please remember, kindness is not a weakness.

What this independent voter believes

As an Independent voter who has been a member of both parties, I have been frustrated by the lack of civility, lack of truth and lack of due diligence shown by the President. I am also frustrated by the ongoing rationalization by his party for his behavior. When he was elected, I said let’s give him a chance as his success will be ours and that is how this works. I did have low expectations which he has failed to achieve. After I made the above statement of hope, within days he appointed Steve Bannon as a Senior Advisor. That made a huge statement to me meaning white supremacy and nationalism had a chair at the table.

The President consistently is more untruthful than he is not. His lying has been measured at 69% of the time, which is kind as it gives him credit for partial truths in the 31%. This is not news as Politifacts said he lied 70% of the time during the campaign and his five biographers and ghost writer for his biggest selling book all said Trump has a problem with the truth. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with Trump, wrote last June, 2016, that “Trump lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” Other leaders in the US and abroad do not trust this man and why would they? So, I keep it simple and do not believe a word he says as the odds are in my favor.

Then there is the demonization of everyone who dares criticize him or did things he did not do. Everything Obama or Bush did is “horrible” and every thing he will do will be “beautiful” or “make you happy.” But, it is the transactional, zero-sum game he plays with critics that is so childish. He must crush critics to make it alright in his mind. He rarely criticizes on issues or policies as he is not steeped in details. He prefers a mud fight. This lack of civility to people who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, civil rights, etc, is downright un-Presidential and un-Christian. It would not be confused with the right thing to do and to me is very telling.

If this were not bad enough, almost every decision is made off rhetoric, not data. Our problems are too complex to solve them without knowing what caused them. Or, trying to solve a problem that has been over-simplified or does not exist is more commonplace. Right now, the Department of Defense says not reacting to climate change is a threat to national security. If you take this one step further, then a President who ignores climate change, must also be a threat to national security. Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent piece this week about the holistic problems in Niger, which include the impact climate change has had on desertification. This has caused farmers to lose crops and to invite in ISIS to garner some level of income.This is what a President should consider in his decisions. (Gronda has written an excellent piece on this whose link is below.)

The sad part about the last issue is the President does not show any desire to learn things. We have woeful staff shortages and he has a limited attention span. This is severely crimping our diplomacy abroad, which is much needed. Without such, the President has already elevated the risk with North Korea. Michael Lewis has written about how Obama’s people made transition books and invited the Trump people in to meet. Department by department, very few took them up on this, so this learning curve baton was never passed.

We now need more Republican leaders to remember to whom they swore their oath – it is to the Constitution, not their party or this President. He needs to be censured and he may eventually need to be impeached, if what appears to be true about Russia, in fact is. That is what I believe.

Thomas L. Friedman Connects The Dots Between President Trump And Niger

The enemy is incivility

We are about to inaugurate a President who is the most unpopular President-elect in over forty years per more than one survey. Yet, he is our future President and our fortunes as a country are tied to this man.

I hope he is successful where he can truly help America and the planet. And, when he is headed down a perilous path, it is our right to take issue with his actions or lack of decorum.

But, it is our duty to raise issues with civility and a focus on the issues or the actions. The enemy is not our fellow neighbors who may passionately disagree with our position. We should treat each other with civility and expect the same in return. I welcome feedback that focuses on the issues and not me personally. Name calling and labeling are the tools of a lazy arguer or a child. When I see or hear labels, I am less impressed with the argument.

Earlier this week, we celebrated a true American hero for all races, Martin Luther King. He advocated for civil disobedience, when some of his proponents argued for more forceful action. He was heavily influenced by Gandhi, who practiced the same kind of discourse in both South Africa and India to successfully improve the rights of dark-skinned people in those countries.

It is more than OK to disagree with our leaders and each other. But, we must treat each other with dignity and respect. And, quoting an old boss, we have two ears and one mouth – we should use them in that proportion. Listening will significantly improve civil discourse.

Of all the people…

I had an old boss who was not only a great storyteller, he had funny lines to give little digs that sounded nice at first. He would do this to avoid saying something overtly negative, but get his point across. A good example is as follows, “of all the people in the world, he certainly is one of them.”

Another example is “he was talking about you, so I started to defend you, but recognized he was making some good points.” This one is more teasing of a friend than it is getting in a dig, but it can be used for either.

In my previous post, I spoke of civilly offering your differing opinion in the manner in which you would like to receive such. That is a goal, but sometimes we are dealing with insufferable people who, in short, think only their opinions have merit and you are stupid not to believe as they do.

Try as we may to offer our counter opinion, it is not heard. much less heeded. Often the purveyor will double down calling out more names or labels. As I have said many times, I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but offer valid points and not labels.

This weekend, a blogger who is a consistent name caller followed his modus operandi on another blog. He started with an insulting label and comment denigrating the blogger and ended with more slams, even adding that intelligent people agree with his point implying that if you do not, then you are obviously not intelligent.

He actually did a disservice to his main argument, which was reasonably stated, even though I mostly did not agree with it. Yet, by bookending it with snarky comments and labels, his reasonable discourse was overshadowed. Plus, by being consistent in his labeling and snarky comments, he has earned a reputation that does a disservice to what he has to say.

So, I responded to his point where he said intelligent people agreed with him, by saying I guess I am stupid and shared why I disagreed with his point citing others who felt the same. I do not like to be flippant like this as it is not representative of how I want to receive feedback, so I apologized later for my tone, but not my point. Yet, that does not condone his tone or denigrating of a blogger who does her homework.

I do my best to stay informed using reliable news sources. I try to support my opinions with corroborating data or citing leaders or experts who feel likewise. Yet, at the end of the day, my opinions remain such, no more, no less. I will do my best to not call someone’s opinion stupid, but my and other opinions deserve similar respect.

Or, as another boss once said, “I am not going to pee down someone’s leg, but he should not pee down mine.” I just need to practice what I preach by giving feedback like a want it and not smelling like urine.

 

 

A few suggestions for a better 2017

As many blogs have highlighted, 2016 has been the most interesting of years. My biggest concerns go beyond any electoral issues. They are the decrease in civil discourse and the increase in fake news and misinformation.

On the lack of civil discourse, we must start listening to each other and not just to respond. We need to listen to understand the other’s point of view. We need to decrease the decibel level and the use of name-calling and labeling.

The louder people are and the more shortcuts they use by labels show their argument is poor. I personally find labels to be a lazy form of argument to dismiss the other’s point of view. I have been called a tree hugger for this purpose, but I usually counter that I am also a capitalist to make that person think a little more.

On the fake news and biased news sites, we must do a better job of labeling the veracity of these entities. If you are going to call yourself a news source, then you need to be doing what it takes to be right far more than you are wrong. And, you need to have an errata where corrections are made public. We must also do our part to understand the veracity of our news sources.

So, what can we do better in 2017? Treat others like we wanted to be treated would be a huge plus. Listen and provide feedback like you want to receive it. Also, know the following statements:

– neither political party has all the good ideas and both have some that are not so good or don’t factor in the holistic causes of the problem.

– political incorrectness does not give anyone license to lie or be a jerk. One can be candid without taking someone’s head off.

As for the fake news sites, be on your guard. If it reads like a tabloid, then that is a sure sign. If mainstream news is not covering an issue, but this source is, check out its veracity. If it says Sponsored Advertisement on it, that is opinion, not news. If you are getting your news from shock jock entertainers, that is opinion. Also, be guarded of Facebook forwarding of news and even blogs on this source (by the way, my site is not news and represent the opinions of its user).

These fake news creators are very good as they make a nice profit through advertisements. They can afford to be good at it. So, it does take effort and homework on our part.  I read a variety of sources, Reuters, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, news summaries and watch or listen to several others – PBS Newshour, BBC World News America, NPR, some mainstream news, etc.

Our issues are hard enough without us debating over the facts. We must gain common ground, listening and asking questions. Otherwise, we will solve the wrong problem.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind

The above song lyric is from a great song by Lynryd Skynryd, a southern rock band hailing from my home town. It is a fitting song, since the initial band left us much too soon after a tragic plane crash that took its lead singer and others and altered its course.

With this song lyric in mind, I want to note a few other things that seemingly have “gone with the wind” or at least are eroding away:

– Civil discourse seems to be on the demise at a time when we need it most. If you disagree with someone, you need not take his or head off. Respond the way you would want to be responded to. And, listen to hear and not to respond.

– Handwritten letters are a lost art it seems. To me, it is a treat to get a note or card in the mail. When my first son went to college, I sent him a letter a week. When we moved him out, I stumbled onto the saved letters.

– Political correctness can be over done, but abandoning it for frank dialogue does not give the speaker the right to lie or be a jerk. One can be frank and still have a sense of decorum. See Civil discourse above.

– Privacy continues its decline, with Social Media, marketing segmentation and mining, hacking, and the absence of filters between people’s brains and fingers or mouth. Just because you think it or did it, does not mean we need to know about it.

– Our world remains a beautiful place. The biggest threat to it is us. All religious documents encourage us to be better stewards of our earth. There is no Planet B, so we better take care of this one.

If there is a theme above, it is we must treat each other and our planet better. We could start by treating ourselves with more respect. We are an imperfect lot, so we should cut each other a break. We can have civil discourse to discuss our problems. We stand a better chance of solving them that way.