Sunday, July 22, 2018

I Know You Heard What I Said But Did You Understand What I Meant?

I titled this article after a oft used quote from a good friend of mine back in my Navy days. His name was "Nick', although we all called him "Moses" because of his thick black beard. Nick was forever making quips which, unfortunately, were sometimes taken out of context. This occasionally led to some intense verbal discussions mainly with folks who didn't understand Nick's personality very well. Nick's response was usually the above quote. Nick was fond of saying that so many times people see and hear what they want to see or hear; usually as a result of societal preconditioning. It's almost like they were subconsciously preconditioned to pick up on specific words or images without considering the rest. I used to kid Nick that, for a "Yankee", that was pretty insightful, and it was.

I've been writing Another Opinion since 2005, but my articles go back a lot further than that (I've got some 500 or so articles under my belt as far as A/O goes). I've had articles published in numerous professional journals, magazines, and newspapers. I've appeared on television and been a guest of various radio shows. I've even co-hosted a top rated Independent radio show of my own. My opinions have sometimes changed on various topics as new information became available, but I don't think its affected my core beliefs. One of those core beliefs has been to be open minded; to at least actually listen to the other person. While rarely my opinion was changed, I've have often learned something new or became aware of something I wanted to know more about. If you don't change and evolve, you stagnate and decay. It applies just as much to ideas as to life, and dogmas aren't very good at change.

However, I've noticed a decided change of late where an exchange of opinions, especially opposing opinions are increasingly not tolerated any more. It's like one side or another has decided that what the other person's has to say is not only automatically "wrong" because it's different, that person doesn't even have the right to express it. We're seeing it on college campuses (which should be the last place where freedom of expression and speech should be denied), high school and elementary school, and even in the corporate world (where a single comment or even word, taken out of context, almost automatically leads to manufactured condemnation, boycotts, and public ridicule).

We've seen individuals attacked, protests which have turned into near riots with businesses vandalized. Even those who have been invited to speak have found themselves assaulted, the stage swarmed, and deprived of the opportunity to express their opinion, all because its differs from the current "groupthink" or "echo chamber" mentality which simply reinforces one's beliefs and values by being exposed to one narrative only. People are then left assuming that their particular opinion is the only valid one. Meanwhile, the other side is demonized.

This type of thinking carries with it the implied belief that the other side has no "right" to their opinions or to express them. I think, at its core, this "groupthink" goes back to our education system, from grade school through college, with students not being taught critical thinking skills; the ability to research and reason out logically an argument. I remember being taught to not just know the other side's position as well as our own, but actually having to defend their position in order to know how to best validate ours. In addition, students are not taught Civics or history (at least to any meaningful degree). What they do learn is very narrow and limited in scope and typically one sided. As an aside, we need to focus on practical skills and trade schools which provide near immediate entry into the job market with good pay and benefits. Not everyone should or need to go to college.

Some college administrators have recently had to cancel speakers over threats of protests and possible violence. Even I have had individuals complain about some of my posts; usually claiming that I write, post, or comment about just one side and not the other. A few have directed their comments (or emojis) at me personally if they happened to dislike an article I came across and posted. I've even had fellow writers, vloggers, and talk radio jocks who've been attacked verbally and in some cases, physically threatened over their articles or comments What happened to civility folks?

I recall an old quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, an English writer of Voltaire, which goes something like this, "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it", which reminds me of another quote which is equally important, especially these days, "Your freedom of expression stops where my personal space begins" (paraphrased from Judicial philosopher and civil libertarian Zechariah Chafee Jr, who said "Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins"). Again, it all goes back to civility and the right of individuals to express their opinion on various topics in a mutually respectful matter and environment.

Of course, much of the disrespect these days is manufactured by paid political operatives hiding behind fake shill groups and amplified by the corporate-owned media for the purpose of shutting the other side in an effort to control the political narrative. It's a coordinated effort to end or discourage public discourse in order to control the political (and thus social and economic) direction this country pursues. What this reminds me of is the running street battles between the SA (Brownshirts) and the Communists during the early 1930s in Germany. Each side would attack the other's speakers and/or disrupt meetings and events, except here most of the attacks and disrupting are being done just by one side (so far).

An increasing number of writers and social commentators (your truly included) have noted that this has contributed greatly to America's widening social, economic, and political divide. Many noted political scientists and historians have pointed out that America hasn't been this deeply divided since the decade preceding the Civil War. The same can be said of Germany in the 1930's as mentioned above. One thing for certain, is that this divide, which began with Bill Clinton and continued through George W Bush and Barack Obama, may have already reached and passed the point of no return.

As I've often pointed out (and been equally criticized about for reminding people), Hillary's defeat amid charges of repeatedly lying to Congress, illegal weapons and uranium sales, rigging of the Democratic Primary (in conjunction with the then DNC Chairperson, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was fired for her role but immediately hired by the Clinton Campaign), the Benghazi Scandal, and other charges along with the election of Donald Trump, the non-Establishment Republican candidate, may historically represent the tipping point
Some would argue that Obama was the tipping point, and there's certainly a good argument for that given his gutting of ICE and suing the State of Arizona for enforcing immigration laws (and allowing Mexico to join in the lawsuit---a first), Eric Holder's illegal arms deal with the drug cartels (resulting in the deaths of border agents as well as DEA agents), and repeated efforts to invade Syria just to mention a tiny few. Of course, one could equally argue George W Bush was the tipping point. Lord knows he bungled enough! We could start with the invasion of Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, which destabilized the entire region and led to the rise of ISIS and Boko Harem and the genocide of Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, and Kurds. It also triggered the mass influx of "migrants" into Europe (thanks also to the imbecilic political "leadership" in Europe), but there's so much more than just that. The point is that regardless of their political parties, we've witnessed a recent history of disastrous policy mistakes.

It's this point which is so often overlooked by critics (even friendly ones) of Another Opinion. From their preconditioned perspectives, I must either be Left or Right. It's one or the other. There are no other choices because the corporate-owned media has told them there are no other choices. The fact is that there are other choices. It's not all black or white (or red and blue in this case I suppose). I don't ascribe to any partisan party dogma. Been there. Done that. No thanks. I prefer to think for myself, which often means doing my own research and studying the pros and cons of every argument. But, that kind of thinking is viewed almost as heresy these days because it doesn't fit with the established political narrative which says that what ails you and society---whatever it is---is the fault of the other side.

Listen folks, if the Democrats were all they claim to represent, there wouldn't be a Republican one in office anywhere in America. By the same token, if the Republican Party was all it claimed to be, you couldn't find a Democrat anywhere. The fact is they aren't. They both represent Corporate America because they underwrite their campaigns. Their lobbyists help them write the bills and then provide summaries of those bills along with recommendations on how to vote. These corporations provide a revolving door into some very lucrative positions and back again. Meanwhile, you and I get the illusion of thinking that we make a difference by voting when in actuality, we simply get to pick between two pre-approved candidates. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if we chose between red "Kool-Aid" or blue "Kool-Aid".

The system is broken, at least as far as we are concerned. For the ruling elites which make up America's Oligarchy, it works just intended. It is this game which I won't play. I want our democratic Republic back. I believe that when someone is elected to office, they should cease being a Republican or Democrat or whatever. They cease representing a political party and it's myopic dogma and represent Americans and what's best for all of us, not just a few, and certainly not just the uber-wealthy and powerful. I believe in representatives not dependent on corporate money. I believe in a transparent government with public input (taxes, pay raises should all be voted on by the citizens). I believe there should be term limits.

I believe Congress and the Presidency should be bound by the same laws that we are (and that includes their insurance. They also should not receive lifetime salaries or security---they can pay for it if they want it). I also believe that the United States, like every other nation, has the right to protect their borders. Any group which aids illegal immigrants should be fined and lose their business or tax exempt status (suspended for six months with their first offense. One year with their second and permanent with their third). Only US Citizens should be entitled to any taxpayer based social services.

Everyone graduating from high school should be required to have two semesters of Civics minimum, which includes volunteering for some charity like Meals on Wheels or at the VA; maybe helping out with the Board of Elections doing voter registration drives. In addition, students graduating from high school should have a basic comprehension of math, science, history, and English (of course, I would love to see teachers paid on par with coaches too). I couldn't care less what kind of athlete they are. If they are on a sixth or eighth grade academic level, they don't graduate. On a unrelated note, the LBJ's "War on Drugs" is a failure. We need to legalized marijuana and focus more on rehabilitation for misdemeanors (being sure to segregate them from felony cases, especially violent and/or career criminals). Those convicted of violent crimes involving premeditated murder should be given a choice---solitary confinement for life or execution. Their choice. I don't want to hear about their sad little childhood. They're adults who made adult decisions, albeit bad ones.

I support the 2nd Amendment. Period. It wasn't written for hunters or weekend target shooting. It was written to protect the people from a tyrannical government. I support the right of employees to organize, be it as a union or an employee association. If you look at the history of unions, they developed in industries where employees were abused and taken advantage of. However, I think many of today's union leadership are little better than corporate bosses. That needs to stop, and unions should return to the employees if unions are to have any chance of surviving. At the same, if you're a business and you want to avoid unions, then stop treating your employees like crap and pay them a decent wage. Problem solved.

While I'm at it, fully support a social safety net. We also need help at some point, and sometimes that help has to come from society (preferably as a last resort). However, never should living off of taxpayer charity be a "career choice". It should be temporary; just long enough to get retrained or find another job (and no, you shouldn't continue to get more money for continuing to have more children. If the national average is 2.5 for instance, the maximum amount of assistance should be three kids. Families on public support should not be penalized for having the male remain with the family. I don't support Affirmative Action. Sorry. I see it as simply legalized reverse discrimination. Employers should be able to hire the best qualified candidate. It's good for the business and its good for society in the long run.

I don't support intervention in the affairs of other nations, especially their elections unless there is a legitimate need. We get bent out of shape with claims of their alleged intervention in ours. The US has been overthrowing governments and assassinating duly elected leaders and backing military dictatorships. It's not our business who another country freely elections or what kind of government they want (for that matter, we need to stop propping up governments. We need to seriously start closing overseas bases where we don't have a real security need to be there, and that includes withdrawing from NATO. While we're at it, we need to reexamine who are our strategic allies are today instead of basing them on war which ended in 1990.

So dear reader, there you have it. If any of this makes me seem "Right" leaning or "Left" leaning, so be it. I see myself, and this blog as Centrist (it's been consistently ranked among the top 25 Centrist blogs in the country for several years now). I see issues and look at addressing them based on the facts at hand, not through a blue or red prism. I also feel free to change my opinion as those facts change without fear of not being a ideological purist. I have no use for political dogma, either Right or Left, and I refuse to fit neatly in some prepackaged "either/or" box. I will consider myself free to praise or criticize Republicans or Democrats or anyone else based on what they actually did. I am very good at tap dancing on toes and tipping sacred cows. The nice thing is that I know I'm in good company. Independents such as myself are now the political majority with 44% of the electorate and growing, while Democrats and Republican are stuck in the 20% range and shrinking. I eagerly await word of their impending demise. It's time to take back our country from the ruling plutocracy---the Oligarchs---and their trained media attack dogs. I refuse to chose "either/or" politics and instead, chose a democratic Republic with We the People in charge. Now that you've heard what I have to say, do you understand what I mean?

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