WE Alone Can Fix It

The Big Lie that helped bring us the Age Of Trump flows from that wellspring of bullshit — Libertarianism. “I alone can fix it” is laughably absurd.

But, as much as some of us roared the first time Donald Trump spewed those words, some in the crowd — their ears perked up. They, too, think they alone can fix it, having convinced themselves that Ayn Rand was a genius who saw the rugged individual inside of them that ached to be a Master of His Own Fate.

Ayn Rand died in poverty on the public dole. So much for rugged individualism and “I alone can fix it”. Those are literary conceits — and, in the hands of Ayn Rand, horribly written literary conceits on top of it. I bet she even sucked as a typist.

As we all know about Trump, he couldn’t even “fix” his own election alone. Russia did that for him.

If the Democrats really want to draw a clear distinction between their message and the GOP’s (not that there’s any similarity between the two), they could focus in on the nonsensical Republican belief that “I alone can fix it”. What pretty much every single Democrat is already touting, the Democratic message is “WE alone can fix it”.

If I were running for office — that’s how I’d explain what needs to happen. For starters, we need to stop seeing a president as a fix-all. Great leaders — not fixing anything alone — know how to get the best from everyone around them. Great leaders don’t pilfer from the people supporting them (claiming credit for their ideas), they embrace the ideas — not just giving credit but demonstrating how the more ideas we get from more places, the better and more inclusive our problem-solving will be.

This is a rare moment in modern American history. For all the pride Americans take in the benefits of citizenship, too few accept the responsibilities that also come with being an American especially the responsibility to vote. Suddenly Americans want to vote. Suddenly Americans feel the tug of responsibility.

If the trend lines started in 2018 continue, the American electorate is pretty much woke. We’re paying attention as never before.

Americans, being Americans (with a very short attention span), this won’t last. We’re racing toward a resolution of Trumpism. Too many people who know the Truth are stepping forward now. 2020 will absolutely be a referendum on Trumpism — and it will be turned out utterly and completely. But, in the moments just before Americans revert back to deep-seated apathy, we can change how they think about being an American.

I would tell my fellow Americans that their being “woke” is essential to our health as a republic. Before they revert though, they need to pay attention for a little while longer. How we resolve Trumpism — how we go forward — how we think of “us” — how we think of The Rule Of Law — how we think of the taxes we pay and what we expect that money to do FOR US (not in spite of us) — all of these things need to be on the table.

Especially the last thing — how we pay for fixing us.

Americans view paying taxes the way they view death. A terrible, terrible inevitability. We believe our tax dollars buy us nothing except an army and a lot of useless bureaucrats.

I would attack that idea first. I would remind every American that we are the greatest experiment ever in human SELF-GOVERNMENT. We do this. WE.

If every tax-paying American were given a statement that showed where every penny of their tax dollars went — including things useless and things useful — they might not be happy (not at first), but they’d start to feel a little more in control. At least they’d understand their relationship to the government in practical, day-to-day terms they could actually relate to.

It’s a thought anyway.

America’s motto is not “I alone can fix it”. It’s E Pluribus Unum. From many, one.

That’s our strength. It’s our saving grace, too.

Immigration – And The Diversity It Brings – THAT Is “American Exceptionalism”

Rich Christian white guys, pumped up on cheap beer (they don’t drink it for the taste, they drink it to get plastered) think THEY are American Exceptionalism.

What Republicans think “American Exceptionalism” looks like…

Rich, Christian white guys with real money — we’re talking Koch & Mercer level wealth — don’t care about American Exceptionalism. They care about maintaining power and cultural hegemony. They don’t give a damn if enriching themselves far beyond ANYONE’S ability to spend the money even multiple generations onward results in the demise of the greatest experiment in human self government ever.

But American Exceptionalism is a very real thing. While white Christian men — already advantaged because they brought the money with them — may have placed themselves at the center of power in their new-fangled Democratic Republic, they weren’t actually the generators of the new ideas and vitality that would bring more money (and more new ideas and vitality) to the country — all those diverse OTHER PEOPLE were and still are.

Money is important to realizing great ideas. But money doesn’t “make” the ideas. Great minds do. And most every human has the potential for greatness in one way or another if given the chance (and the training, education and encouragement).

Take just a cursory glance at the biggest ideas of the last century — who did the innovating, whose cleverness solved a challenging problem, whose genius made lots of people lots of money — and you’ll see a sea of diverse faces staring back.

If American authoritarians continue to hold power (minority rule, remember) — and they drive every immigrant away — it will only be a matter of time before somewhere else becomes “Exceptional” in the way we used to be.

But then, looking backward — to how it was — is what rich, white, Christian men are all about. They’re “conservatives” remember — hell bent on conserving. The exceptionalism they have in mind exists only IN their mind.

The ‘Good News’ Is The Bad News: We’re ALL Making It Up As We Go Along…

What “is”?

Maybe the better question is: “What ISN’T?”

What isn’t TRUE?

Every single one of us faces that question multiple times every single day.  We base the success of a day on how well we navigate that question.  “What should I wear today?  The weather forecast said rain but they’re wrong so often…?”  In our home lives and our business lives, we need to feel as connected as possible to what we think is so — the concrete of existence: what “is”.  That leaves our “spiritual lives”.  How do we approach the question of “is” in this less certain realm?

Some of us go for all the information we can handle.  I’m a string theory guy myself — at least I think I am; I may not grasp its mathematical nuances and complexities but there’s something satisfying about its core logic — as I understand it.  It’s not necessarily a given that the Universe works in a way we can easily comprehend.  I guess that “mystery” becomes “God” in other peoples’ minds.

And that cuts right to the chase: how do you explain the nuts & bolts of the universe?  Do you choose astrophysics or faith?  Do you trust math or do you trust wonder?

Even the astrophysicist will get to a place where her equation doesn’t quite balance.  Something is missing.  Dark matter perhaps?  The astrophysicist will suggest one or two theories based on what she does know and then, if she’s any good as an astrophysicist, she’ll say: “I don’t know.  Yet.”  It’s the “yet” that really matters.  As an answer to a question, it’s a blank space.

The other path — faith — couldn’t care less about science.  It’s got its own story to tell.  A story that looks a lot like reality but isn’t bound by it.  To explain the “I don’t know yet’s” it doesn’t worry about proof or evidence, it’s perfectly happy to accept MAGIC as an explanation: “Let there be light”.

The biggest mystery that faith tries to answer — it’s the draw, really, for most people: what happens after we die?  Aside from physical rot, science offers nothing; not a jot of hope.  Faith offers nothing but HOPE.  Faith offers an “Afterlife” where you get to live a better version of your current life, surrounded by all your loved ones in a lovely place that you’ll get to be in forever!  Sounds awesome!  Sounds phony, too.

Faith can’t offer postcard views of this after life. The can’t point to all the great ratings on Yelp.  No one, as yet, has sent back any sort of verifiable communications from The Undiscovered Country.  It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it?  But, in fairness, it’s the biggest “I don’t know” we have.  Well, it’s the one with the most emotional baggage.  It’s the one where the answer — the REAL answer — we’re not going to like it.  So we invent a better one — one that assuages the terror of knowing that the very fact of “being” is all any of us has.  When that’s taken from us — the fact of our “being” — we’re done.

Our terror is justified.  But the part where we make up a kinder, gentler story to make us feel better — that’s bullshit. We’re making it up.  Doesn’t matter why.  We’re MAKING IT UP.

Let’s zoom in a little closer to quotidian life.  Set aside, for a moment, what’s true and what isn’t.  We humans live in complex, stratified societies built on a myriad of rules, laws and habits.  Some things we’ve done a certain way for so long that we assume it’s as permanent a thing as a mountain.  A weekend, for instance.

We all look forward to our weekends, right?  We need them.  Without them, we’d go bonkers.  We’d work ourselves to death.  Good thing we invented weekends to solve that problem.  Weekends are a human fiction.  They don’t exist in time.  They’re an invention — that we made up to frame time off from work.

Work, too, is something we made up.  We do it, most of us, to afford living.  We work to get the money we need to pay rent or mortgage and all our other financial obligations (it’s complicated and expensive living in a complex society).  We need more money!  Money, of course, is a made-up thing.  Humans invented money because bartering in a complex society is hard.  How many unstopped toilets should the plumber charge to get a pound of ground meat?

Humans invented Democracy as a way for people to govern themselves (in theory) — without a king or ruler.  American humans invented a Constitution to guide that self-governance. They made it all up.  Before they did — it “wasn’t”.  Ever since this country’s founders did invent Democracy though — it’s fallen on those who’ve followed to maintain this invention — making it better (by amending it) as needed.

Law, too, is a fiction.  It’s a vital fiction — but it’s a fiction we all agree to go along with.

At least, that’s the theory — that we’ll all go along with the same fiction — follow the same rules — and agree to be constrained by the same laws.  Constrained from doing harm to other people, that is.  Experience continues to teach and re-teach us: a certain percentage of human beings are outright rat bastards.  They can’t be trusted to maintain the fiction. They think or act like the fiction doesn’t apply to them.

They’re criminals.

Right now, as we stand here today, the United States of America is in the hands of criminals.  For real.  Criminals have seized control of our Ship Of State.  But not just criminals — traitors.  The very worst kind of criminal.  Donald Trump and the Republican Party have placed themselves squarely outside the rules (made-up as they are) that the rest of us live by.

That has to stop.

But how?  How do you stop someone operating outside the rules while you’re constrained by them?

The quickest way — We admit to ourselves that we’re living inside made-up rules.  We agree that we want to continue living under these rules.  If that’s so then we agree to reconsider the rules in the context of criminal behavior bent on destroying those rules. We don’t have to be led to our own political slaughter just cos the rules we invented say we have to.

That is utter bullshit. And all we have to do is “confess”: we’re making it all up as we go along.

Our Retail Politics Are Killing Democracy

In theory anyway, Democracy’s simple:  In self-government, the majority of the people get to call the shots.  It’s understood that the majority is made up of a multiplicity of views because it includes so much of the citizenry.

“What do the citizens want?”  That’s the first question.  But it needs to be accompanied by ‘But, what do the citizens KNOW — do they understand what they want in its proper context?’  A citizenry yearning for Unicorns and Jetpacks for all might be a little too hopeful for their own good.  We count on our elected representatives — we expect their perspective to be better than ours,  In order to do their jobs representing us, they simply need to know more of the nuts and bolts details about how we run things.

Can we assume they went into that line of work because they liked it — and thought themselves good at it?

Some people go into politics for genuinely altruistic reasons.  Yeah, sure — everyone wants to ‘make things better’.  The question’s always ‘for whom?’  Guys like Beto O’Rourke — you can hear it in their voices and see it in the way they practice politics: He’s in it because he actually cares — about people, about the commonweal — about the whole notion of what ‘America’ is supposed to be.

Ironically, Beto’s opponent Ted Cruz is the cynical opposite.  Ted thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us — and knows better.  He doesn’t know better what WE need — but he knows damned well what HE needs — and what those giving him money need.  Ted Cruz is ‘clearer’ than an Upper Thetan Scientologist on that.

American Retail Politics isn’t about doing what’s best for anyone.  It isn’t about believing in anything other than getting more votes (however you need to accomplish that end).  It is, by its nature, an exercise in anti-democratic cynicism.  And yet — every two years (on a national level), we demonstrate to the world how little we value actual Democracy and how much we value money.

Our media loves the horse race.  They ADORE it.  They see it through the most narrow Horse Race-y lens.  A zero-sum game where one group of Americans wins while another loses.  Then they wonder — after crowing about winners and losers — whey Americans are perpetually at each others’ throats.  Elections don’t take place in vacuums.  This one certainly isn’t.

Yet the News Media wants to tell THIS story as if it’s happening in a world where the President of the United States — and his political party — aren’t TRAITORS.  When indictments drop — whenever they drop — the News Media will act as if the crime started to be committed AT THAT MOMENT.

No — all the time the News Media behaved as if this was Normal World, a CRIME was being committed — right in front of them.  They even asked some of the perps questions — and got lied to.  The TRUTH didn’t matter, the ‘correct answer’ did.

It’s the ‘correct answer’ that drives Retail Politics.  It ain’t about what anyone believes.  It’s about the getting and keeping of power.

That’s NOT how Democracy works.

We are living inside PROOF that THIS — what we’re living in — is how Democracy dies.