mourning in america

I’ve been in a great mood thus far today. The election is over and maybe there will again be something substantively interesting for this Curmudgeon to blog over. It has been a hard couple of weeks for the de facto disenfranchised because all anybody has wanted to talk about is the election.

For the record, I was way off on my election prediction: I expected a Shrub victory at quite a bit larger of a margin than what he achieved. I based my prediction on the exploitation of fear by the GOP and apparently that was broadly the case, though it would appear that the fear of homosexuality was at least as great as that of the terrorists.

Nope. I didn’t see that coming.

But as the hours go by and my the energy fades from my personal jubilation at the nation finally choosing its preppy potentate of choice, I do sense that mourning is probably in order. As I survey the message boards, I detect unmasked triumphal ecstasy on the part of the 43 apologists and extreme bellicosity on the part of the Kerry crowd. These feelings are unlikely to be buried by today’s calls for healing.

I did see one news story that directly stated the obvious truth: this election was fantastic for incumbents. Very few of the incumbents were turned out though of course there was the notable firing of Daschle. I would like to think that the re-election of incumbents was notably high for good and honorable reasons. It would be comforting to believe that these politicians are doing a great job and that the voters were confident in casting their votes, but of course that is not at all what happened.

The problem is there are no real choices in elections for most Americans. We have for the most part neatly divided into two camps, and Cowboys do not vote for Indians. The actual number of swing voters is small and shrinking. So we repeat this cycle over and over, casting our vote for our party man and ensuring that the same old politicians get returned to office year after year.

Instead of calling it Election Day, they should call it Ground Hog Day.

Third party voting appears to have been virtually non-existent this election and that saddens me far more than returning the Shrub who would be King to office. While I firmly believe that the damage that will be done over the next four years may well be permanent and unrepairable, it would nice to have a little hope that people might actually wake up to voting for change rather than the lesser evil.

If you want to really get down about things, realize that a lot of the voters subjectively were voting for change.

But a gadfly such as myself needs much to complain about and I have been assured by this election of a cornucopia of good material-or at least that might be my attitude if I didn’t actually care about America. Rather, what begins today for me is a renewed quest to make a difference in our society and my vehicle for this endeavor is this blog for now.

And in regards to the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon, I would ask for your prayers. For those of you who castigate me as a Liberal, I would ask that you pray for my greater wisdom in expressing my steadfast confidence in our traditional values of personal freedom. For those of you who condemn my imputed Conservatism, I would ask that you pray for a strengthening of my compassion so that I might more effectively advocate for those in our society that are the most needy. And lastly, for those of you who understand that I do not fit into these political moulds and find some form of common cause with me, please pray that my readership can grow and that together, we can have some small part in changing America for the better.

Please hurry. Tempus fugit.

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don’t worry, vote preppy

Americans will be going to the polls in a fortnight to chose which modern American aristocrat they wish to reign over them for the next four years. As you might easily guess, I will not be joining those of you who choose to participate.

I wrestled with that decision considerably and the abstention is not something I do whimsically or even happily. If you have read the earlier discussions here regarding this matter, you know that I have been properly chastised and hopefully sufficiently penitent for my dereliction of civic duty. My political angst is real and painful.

DavidR quite correctly pointed out that my choice not to vote stands for nothing. And I do agree with him on that point. But, I still just do not have the stomach to vote for any of the options that are available. I am weak-I know this. Though I will not be joining you at the polls, I would like to share my prediction on the outcome. And of course, I’d like to invite my readers to share their predictions as well.

Nothing has happened which has changed my opinion that Shrub will be re-elected. As I read the chicken bones, I do not see a landslide in the works, but I do think it will be a more solid victory than the last time.

My rationale for anticipating re-election continues to be the GOP’s extraordinary success in feeding and exploiting the fears of the American people. While it is true that there is a motivated contingent of Shrub haters out there, hatred does not even come close to fear as a motivator. I anticipate that the Religious Right and other John Wayne fans will be out in numbers that are unprecedented. The anti-Shrub crowd has nothing in its arsenal comparable to patriotically clad religiosity that Shrub uses to marshal the minions of the Religious Right.

You have to see this phenomenon on the inside to understand what I’m talking about. Its scary.

But if that is the bad news, the good news is that I do not think Shrub’s coattails will be long and we could see a Democratically controlled Congress. This could bring back the “bad” old days of “deadlock” so at least that possibility brings me some cheer. The only thing that disturbs me more than failing to achieve radical reform, is continuing on the path we are on. Political deadlock at least throws an obstacle in the way of the ruling class.

I am still wrestling with what I should do over the next two or three years to change my Disenfranchised status. Alas, it seems that other than casting a vote for the lesser of the evils that I will have no more choice then than I do now. Perhaps I should make an attempt to get my name written in on a few Texas ballots as a protest vote?

One thing is clear to me now: I would like to grow the readership of the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon. Originally, this was not a goal of mine but arguments here and elsewhere have convinced me that it is a small contribution I can make to attempt for a better America. Certainly no smaller of a contribution than casting a vote in the upcoming election. Any suggestions on how to broaden my circulation would be appreciated assuming you think I have something worthy to offer.

So there you have it: my predictions and predicament. I’m happy for those of you who feel that one of these two preppies represent less of a problematic vote than the other. Thrilled for those few of you who are actually pleased with your candidate in a positive way.

I’m genuinely jealous of that.

its the stupid, stupid

When you are a schoolboy, you do not necessarily stop and think about the education you are receiving in any structured way. Like you, my gentle suffering blog readers, I learned to think critically as a part of the process of learning. This is a most normal and natural thing.

I did not give it a thought that is until my Sophomore year in High School when I began tutoring. What stunned me in my experiences as a tutor was the discovery that most of my students were actually extremely bright and though obviously intellectually capable, they amazingly, had never learned how to think deductively. This was stunning because I never gave much thought to such matters. Stunning because the lack of these basic intellectual tools substantially impaired my student’s abilities to comprehend anything that required more thought than simple memorization. Suddenly it was brought into clear focus for me how poorly our schools were serving the majority of it’s students.

This whole experience jarred me in a profound way.

So, from a very early time in my life, it has seemed blindingly obvious to me that there is little in this world of greater importance than the proper education of our youth. It did not take any special insight then or now to see that a citizenry that does not possess even the most fundamental tools for critical thought dooms its nation to ultimate failure. How is a citizen who must exert themselves strenuously in order to make the simplest of deductions, if they are capable of even that much thought, to be expected to cast an intelligent vote? How can they be expected to hold any but the most menial of jobs? They obviously can not and the social ramifications of the resulting mass stupidity are of empire destroying proportions.

Sadly, very few Americans are concerned about the state of American stupidity. A bit of Googling unearthed an interesting summary of polling information about the priorities of voters that can be found here. What is clear both from my personal experience and this data is that though education may be on the list of the concerns of Americans, it is down there among the list of “other” things that people worry about in addition to the “big” problems.

Education is not a problem. Education is the problem.

It may in fact be reasonable to question my assertion that education is the most critical problem facing our society. Issues such as Global Terrorism and the Healthcare System meltdown have a rightful place at the center of our attention. But the present state of American stupidity is such that it exacerbates the pressing issues that typically top priority lists and therefore education assumes a position of greater significance than the politically minded might suggest.

A superficial examination of current events demonstrates the centrality of the role of stupidity in our current affairs. An America whose citizens reasoned well would have better understood the Middle Eastern powder keg and taken action long before the fuse was lit. If We The People were equipped by our schools to think critically, we would understand that not proactively fixing our healthcare system is inviting disaster. Eschewing substantive analysis, the people instead passionately respond to the sound bites that invoke symbols such as Patriotism and Socialism.

The undeniable passion of the people’s response can sometimes be so overwhelming that you can almost lose sight of the fact that there is no real content buttressing the convictions.

The political elite have learned to play this game well. A stupid America consistently elects politicians with no concern about any future which might exist past the next election. Politicians do not need to concern themselves with the Future because stupid Americans do not hold them accountable in a serious analytical sense of accountability. Rather, the political elite only need to concern themselves as to how effectively they can “spin” the outcomes when experience demonstrates their sweeping rhetorical flourishes to be nothing more than salesmanship.

That the word “spin” has become so much a part of our language that I could have properly omitted the quotation marks in the previous sentence speaks volumes regarding our intellectual devolution.

It is clear then that ranking education among the other issues confronting our society is dangerous and short sighted. While it is true that the incremental cost of additional stupidity is low, when you take the longer view there is nothing so certain to produce our downfall than a poorly educated electorate.

This process of destruction is in full swing already-just look around you. Or better yet, watch the upcoming Presidential debates. It will be sobering if you understand that the presentations, which are only nominally debates, are packaged for the level of education which is actually out there in our formerly great nation.

Once you understand the state of stupidity in our land, it is better for your mental health if you avoid the next step of logical deduction. Better to not realize how irrelevant you have become to our political process.

Far better to not grasp that swaying the stupid people is all that matters.

the manchurian electorate

It is difficult to render an opinion regarding the nexus of politics and religion without offending someone, if not in my case offending nearly everyone. This President’s contemptible exploitation of the Christian Right, however, has left me no choice but to weigh in on the subject.

If you have not picked up on the fact that I have a real distaste for our President, you probably have not read the rest of my Blog. Just in case you missed it, let me state clearly that I truly loathe the man. What might surprise you if you are someone who doesn’t know me except through these epistles is that I am a devout Christian who in matters of Essential Christian Dogma-though certainly not politics-would align generally to those who purport to be Fundamentalist Christians. So this President is supposed to be my kind of guy, right?

Wrong.

Nothing could possibly illustrate more effectively why I do not think this guy is representative of Christianity as does the particular story that prompted this rant. When I read the Kerry quotations, my reaction was an enthusiastic “Amen brother John!” It is refreshing and almost exciting to me to hear someone talk about the difference between what our leadership says and what it actually does.

That Kerry’s remarks hit home is clear from the reprehensible response from the White House. I quote from the linked New York Times story:

President Bush’s re-election campaign later released a statement criticizing Mr. Kerry’s use of the verse about faith without works, saying it was ”beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse, and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack.”

Nicolle Devenish, a Bush spokeswoman, said Mr. Kerry was ”walking a fine line” by campaigning in a church, adding, ”I think that’s a sacred thing.”

Ms. Devenish (interestingly, my spell checker suggested devilish as a substitution for devenish) is of course necessarily implying that her boss manages to walk that line in a sacred way. Frankly, this continual sanctimony from this administration puts this Curmudgeon in a serious lather. Shrub, I trust, has never stumped from a physical pulpit, though he has never stopped campaigning from a virtual one. And I’m not talking about the “bully pulpit” either. Joseph Goebbels could not have maneuvered these waters with more maleficence.

As Christians, we are commanded to not judge the hearts of others. This oft cited directive of our Lord is certainly clear, but so is it equally clear that we are affirmatively commanded to measure others based on their deeds-and that of course is the whole point of Kerry’s biblical citations. I would not purport to know Kerry’s heart in such matters either, but the circumstantial evidence is that Kerry has a firmer grip on Biblical Principals than does our Bible thumping Head of State.

So you tell me gentle reader, how do you weigh this particular political act of the current administration? What do you call it when a President who has touted his own faith continually and loudly has the goebbelsian audacity to criticize a political opponent for proffering highly relevant and insightful passages from the book that he purports to hold so dear?

Failure to acknowledge the hypocrisy here constitutes willful denial or perhaps something deeper still. While I hesitate to equate the state of mind of my Christian Brothers and Sisters who continue to support such an obvious hypocrite with that of brain washing, there is clearly some deep psychic chords that this Administration is adept at plucking. I am incredulous of the prolific bumper stickers I see suggesting that our President was hand picked by God or comparing him to King David.

Please.

Suddenly I have a new respect for Mr. Kerry. Seldom in recent years has a politician so artfully called out his opponent. Having set the trap, Shrub and Company could not resist the bait and their very rejoinder demonstrates with extraordinary clarity the truth of Mr. Kerry’s remarks.

While Kerry chose the words of Paul, I think Jesus put it better still:


Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

(Matthew 7:15-16 KJV)

Waiting to pick a few grapes and figs from this Presidential garden is starting to feel like waiting for Godot.

anyone but these two parties

I am no stranger to hating a sitting President. My early political opinions formed when I was a child watching the Watergate hearings on the television. While I did not have a mature appreciation for the magnitude of the events unfolding before me, I knew that it was a pretty big deal and I was determined to get an understanding of it. And I knew without a doubt that my Grandmother blamed pretty much everything on “Nixon and them fat cats”.

Little did I know then that I would end up pretty much in agreement with Grandma.

By the time of the bumbling Carter administration I was an extremely aware teenager and I loathed the man. I was too young to appreciate that Jimmy was probably to be the only occupant of the Oval Office during my life time with even a shred of personal integrity. I remember clearly my personal angst over not being able to cast my vote for Reagan in 1980 because I was 26 days too young to vote.

My first awakening that I may have placed my Faith in the wrong party was the Iran-Contra affair. I had bought the party line on most of the issues, but the whole shadow government thing left my faith fairly shaken. It was a rapid downhill slide from there.

“Read my lips: no new taxes.”

“I didn’t have sex with that women – Monica Lewinski…” {insert finger wag here}

“Look, I don’t care about the numbers. I know the facts.”

Hate is an ugly word, and deep down, I do not feel hate for these men as individuals. I do, however, hate most of what they have stood for and so I understand well the sentiment behind the Anyone But Shrub campaigners. And it is very tempting for even me to succumb to the apparent reasonableness of this line of thought.

The problem with the ABS view is that it is too short sighted.

I will confess that I am not positive that I will not vote for Kerry this fall. I do view Shrub & Co as the worst threat to American freedom extant. My quandary is whether President Kerry would be a sufficiently less of a threat to my freedom as to warrant my vote-and for the time being, my answer to that question remains a “No”.

The circumstantial evidence that Kerry is sold-out to the ruling class is pretty strong I think. His distinguished pedigree, personal wealth, Democratic Party roots and relative success at high levels inside the ruling class for many years are marks of the American Aristocracy that are hard to ignore. Certainly Kerry says the right things with some regularity, but how different do we really expect this blue-blood to be?

I realize from my stats that nobody reads these epistles, but I will ask the ether this question: in your heart, do you really expect great things from Kerry? Really? And if you aren’t answering yes, ask yourself if your dislike for Shrub is enough to hang your vote on.

People I know and respect are planning to vote against Shrub and by implication cast their vote for Kerry. In the mean time, I am keeping my fingers crossed that a legitimate third party or independent candidate will arrive that I can actually cast my vote for, rather than simply voting against Shrub.

Is it too much to ask that I be allowed to vote FOR something positive? I fear that perhaps it is.

musings on howard dean

By the close of September 2001, I had begun to put the shock of the 11th day of that month behind me. It occurred to me then, as it did to many Americans, that out of this tragedy we might be able to rebuild more than the mere structures of steel and glass: We might be able to rebuild the dream which once was America.

Our ruling class wasted no time in grounding my flight of fancy. While on September 12th, the attention of America was riveted to public matters with a breadth and depth which we had not seen in over a generation, the political class was hard at work transforming our national unity into political capital. And now, a mere two years post 9-11, I find myself as disenfranchised and disillusioned as I was on September 10th.

It may be naive optimism to suggest that the window of opportunity has not yet entirely passed. Indeed, there has been little to suggest to those of us paying attention that anything of substance will change as a result of recent trials. But the optimist in me continues to hope for the emergence of leadership with character.

Which brings me to what prompted me to start this blog on this particular day: the Howard Dean campaign.

You see I don’t vote. Or at least, not anymore: I once was a faithful red, white and blue blooded American who pulled the lever faithfully. I’m a little slow, but I finally figured out that our two parties, that hold themselves out as some sort of patriotic structure right up there with Congress and the National Football League, are corrupt beyond redemption.

Grassroots is good and that reason, along with the excitement of some friends, kept me curious about Howard Dean. I have been longing for someone of stature to arise to the occasion and transform American politics by taking it out of the hands our ruling parties. I certainly don’t agree with Dean on many, many things, but I wondered if maybe Dean would be the One. I was pretty much dismissing him at a practical level given he has hitched himself to the Democratic party, but I still had a little faint vestige of hope.

The hope was of course shattered by the endorsement of Dean’s candidacy by none other than Al Gore. Anyone other than me hear the sounds of the withering of the grass roots?

If you don’t hear it, just give it time. And do yourself a favor and read the recent Wired (12.01) story on the campaign. In there they quote Dean, “If I give a speech and the blog people don’t like it, next time I change the speech.”

Lovely. Another soulless politician.

Perhaps more telling was a statement in the story that though not attributed to the campaign, sounds about right for things as they stand in the USA: “But for today, the Internet remains the key engine of Dean’s election bid and he has yet to merge his grassroots movement with the traditional Democratic power structure.”

Maybe that sound isn’t the withering of the grass roots. Maybe it is a DNC weed whacker.