Civic Duty Calls

Civic Duty Calls
I might be an old tired curmudgeon. But civic duty sometimes demands that we stand up and speak up. (image from

Feb 15, 2017

Why I Might Run .. I have my reasons

I recall the time when my interest in politics was something akin to, but less than, my intense interest in the NBA, MLB and the NFL. Winners and losers in local, state and national elections were mostly a matter of "Did the person I like win or lose?" There was very little if any interest on my part in initiatives, law-making or the rising and falling fortunes of our political parties.

Today I'm an old veteran with no hair, high blood pressure and military memories going back to the early 1970's when Jane Fonda was a swear word and my cousin somehow got into the National Guard and I didn't. Had I waited another six months before enlisting, the new draft lottery which placed my birthday at the 350+ level would have meant that I, like Mr. Cheney, could have pursued my "other priorities."

Somewhere I've got an old hard-cardboard Schlitz beer-box with enough military records in it to prove I went and to prove I did. There's a bunch of ribbons down there in a glass jar where sometime I'll go down and look at them. There's an air-medal (and maybe a cluster) that are still in their containers. There's little sterling silver wings that my commander told me I could wear even when not on flying status after completing ten combat missions. They're all down there to prove I went and did.

When I was studying Russian at Syracuse University, Woodstock happened less than 100 miles away. I wasn't about to drive over and see that. I was too mad at Jane Fonda - mad about her movie Barbarella and its flaunting R-rated morals-challenged images which had offended my youthful moral view of the world. Oh and I was incensed by her Hanoi activities.

Funny how time changes perspectives. My Millenial kids are outraged that in 1968 I deliberately refused to go to Woodstock.

I agree with them. What was I thinking?

Was my patriotism so shallow that rain, mud, outlandish music, naked women and pot smoke could rock my foundation as a true American?

I'm embarrassed about what I thought was important when I was 22 and what I did and didn't do about it.

Yet, here I am today, a retired and stay-at-home repository of all my experience which is the only source of wisdom I have to offer my kids and grandkids.  I sure as heck am not going to teach my kids that military veterans are long on judgment and condemnation and short on forgiveness.

Most veterans have seen enough in life to know that there's not much useful in taking an "I'll never forgive you for that!" attitude in most areas of life.

No, I'm not retired from the military. I got out after 6 years and served 2 more in the reserve. 35 years later, I'm still aware of a sense of difference between the civilian world of sound bites and consumer loyalty and military world where you have got to trust somebody before you follow them.

I first voted in 1968 after I had enlisted and was waiting to go to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. I was so mad at LBJ that I voted for Nixon. I guess that made me a Republican.

In 1972 I thought McGovern was a peacenik and I was a war-nik so I gave Tricky Dick another vote.

In 1976 I was genuinely offended at Ford for pardoning Tricky Dick so I voted for Carter. Guess that was my first vote a Democrat.

In 1980 when Reagan asked "Are you better off now...." he got my vote. Back to being a Republican.

In 1984 he looked tougher than Mondale so I voted for Reagan again. I look back at that and suspect that within my mind were more conservative attitudes than liberal or progressive. Given my Mormon background, in retrospect, I'm not surprised.

But by 1988 though, I didn't trust Bush the First and didn't have any idea what the hell voodoo economics were, so I went into my vote-for-the-outsider mode and voted for Dukakis. Democratic fool am I?

1992 and I'm mad at Bush Sr. who seemed to think looking like Patton would fix the economy. So I  voted for Bill Clinton with the following little sentence in sotto voce: "Ok you SOB, you'd better not blow it."  Still  thinking in a Democrat way.

By 1996 I began to suspect I was more of a liberal than a conservative and just couldn't bring myself to vote for Bob Dole.

So there I am, trying to vote the man instead of the party, flip-flopping and waffling with the best of them.

By 2000 I realized that my veteran's instincts were alive and well. I saw only form without substance in George W. Bush. He's my age and I could never vote for anyone who at best was no smarter than me. Besides, an old NBA fan like me thought Bill Bradley was the smartest guy for president and I was disappointed that he didn't get nominated. Nevertheless, I voted for Gore, the military veteran.

By the time George W. invaded and occupied Iraq and lied to me and lied to you in order to get away with it, I was having problems with the political behavior in this country. My problem then finally seemed more important than the Red Sox beating the Yankees or the Oilers smacking the Cowboys.

When my wife Lietta took off for Texas to help Cindy Sheehan beat up on George Bush, I also decided to get involved ... as a citizen ... rather than as a party partisan.  This despite the fact that my dissent and opposition to a sitting president almost demanded that I support the opposition party's candidates and issues - to the degree I could stomach them - and could stomach their lack of stomach for a fight.

I soon learned that lock-step support of a sitting president and public  patriotic grandstanding had very little to do with civic responsibility; with holding the government responsible.

I was in good company .. folks like Tommy Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight the Eisenhower.

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. -President Thomas Jefferson
“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right.
Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” - President Theodore Roosevelt
Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President. - President  Theodore Roosevelt
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. -President Theodore Roosevelt
Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionist and rebel men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. -President Dwight Eisenhower

Good enough for me.

So I began public dissent and never regretted it. I didn't stop no wars;  didn't get anyone indicted or impeached.  I didn't impact the outcome of any elections despite all that Lietta and I could do.

But ... I felt good about myself for trying, for taking a stand and for standing for something of merit.

After a lot of manipulative antics and with the help of religious and social conservatives, Bush's 2004 re-election was a shock for me. I came to recognize things about American voters as a group and their diminished or absent attention spans. I've never forgotten how that worked. Predominantly Republican congresspersons, television commentators and talk-show jocks all acting and speaking almost in lock step synchronicity; all saying the same things and sticking almost sickeningly to the same talking points and slogans left me with a vulgar feeling and foul taste in my mouth.

Democratic voices were mostly mealy-mouthed. They seemed almost afraid to throw down any gauntlet against what I began calling the Kindergarten Konservative Klamor.

By 2008 there was no visible Republican worthy of my vote and perhaps with one or two exceptions the Democrat would get my vote. I attended the only country party convention I would attend, thinking to support Hillary but being persuaded to support Obama. For me the eventuality was either Hilary or Obama because Bush was departing with too great a bad odor about himself and by extension his party. When McCain nominated the Konservative Kindergarten Kween Sara Palin, my voting choice was going to be totally obvious.

I am not a Democrat but I can say with total honesty that there has appeared to be no Republican worthy of my vote so long as the party itself is beholden to the tea party crazies and so awash  in lock-step obstructionism.

Voting to re-elect Obama was a no brainer. And although I respect his class, charisma and competence, I have not happy with his party.

Again here I am, stubbornly insisting on competence rather than trying to support a party - neither of which has put my well-being above party priorities. That will always keep me flip-flopping and waffling -from a party perspective - with the best of them.

So here I sit at my keyboard, disgusted with the new sitting president and maintaining the disappointment in both parties. I remind myself why I got involved when one president and his administration lied their way to all those dead soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

We have civic responsibilities that include critical thinking, striving for common sense and an ability to wade through or ignore bullshit so we can help do something about the bullshitters. If I could fire and replace them all I would ... but I can't.

However, there's no requirement to sit quietly in the tavern while the blowhards waste everybody's time and money with political silliness. We must stand up to grandstanders, bullies and drugstore cowboys - no matter the color of the ice cream on their boots.

That's why I'm taking my mind off the shelf and going back to the scuffle. If it takes offering myself as a candidate to help feel good about myself and my country, then that's what I'll do.

Look seriously at the independents. Help them get where they want to go with a beholding relationship to Big Money. 

Feb 13, 2017

Essay: On America’s Core Values

The notion of "America's Core Values" is nothing more than that, a mythical array of benign images and buzz words that has been used for generations.

These are silent assumptions for the most part, and predominant among many citizens who furthermore remain captured in the familiar conceptual image of an American Dream. Nowadays The American Dream has become an idea that does nothing more than drive “earning and spending” as our patriotic duty.

Most do not register feelings until someone - primarily in a position of political ambition or an appeal to loyalty touches that tender nerve of idealism. 

Most recently the Democratic Party ran on the idea that their candidate was experienced, tough and quite capable of plowing around in the cesspools of D.C. politics.  Too many voters were tired of such a concept and rejected the appeal, accomplishing a rude recognition that the Democrats had barked up the wrong tree.

Republicans were had a disadvantage with their own handicapped political morality that had consisted mostly of obstructionism and almost constant attacks on a sitting president.  That particular disadvantage was overcome by the perceptual gall of our current president who proceeded to exploit the mythical core values with promises to “make America great again.”

Yes yes ... baseball, Mom and apple pie are internally reinforced images. However, such images constitute merely the gate to the family homestead. The homestead itself is where the house, the property and the family members sustain themselves. Those "homesteads" most successful do so through mutual trusting dependence on a value system based on love, tolerance, economic equality, industry and opportunity.

Sadly, such a homestead as a common national entity has never existed in this country.

Nevertheless, as an internal visualization, it has driven the grandest, most successful and most popular events, changes, adjustments, creations and repentances that we've seen in our history.

But only as an internal visualization:

·       Such an idealized homestead never included a unanimous endorsement of supposed free-market economics.
·       Such never included subordination of individual rights and freedoms to the priorities of corporate dominance.
·        Such certainly did not include evolution of the government into a source of camouflaged corporate welfare.

In that regard, a pure and successful free-market society has never existed, has never proven itself a success nor as a universally beneficial system for public well-being.

When pondered and considered honestly; when valued for what they truly represent, our mythical core values ought to reflect the undeniable rebuttal to politicians who declare that government should be run as a business.

At best, the notion of government as a business walks and talks more like a criminal syndicate that reflects a very narrow view of economic reality in this country. The notion has been perhaps best exemplified by the candidacies of Donald Trump and, previously, Mitt Romney. Both typified most capitalist politicians who have come to equate their personal financial success as a blend of entrepreneurial wisdom fortified by civic understanding of the laws of economics. The implication as expressed rhetorically by Donald Trump is that entrepreneurial wisdom somehow generates a natural entrepreneurial compassion for the less successful.

Most of these prominent megaphones want you to believe that justice for all is found on the back of a dollar bill more so than in any Constitution. We seem to hear this nonsense more from conservatives and/or the Republican Party who have for the last 50 years portrayed themselves as economically wise fiscal conservatives.

The truth is that the Democrats are no strangers to this way of thinking and again have proven just what informs and enables their political strategy.

In reality, Republicans, once unleashed by their political successes beginning more powerfully after the 2000 election as opposed to the Reagan/Bush era of the 80's and early 90's, with great fanfare wrapped themselves in robes reform and change to accomplish a "fiscally responsible makeover.” In truth, that makeover - even after 8 years of mostly obstructed Democratic power in Congress and the presidency - still reflect our time's most powerful contemporary economic embarrassments.

For example we saw a welfare reform in the 1990's that has only marginally resolved even half the problems of poverty in this country. We also saw a rebuttal of the Clinton presidency's attempt to address national health care inadequacies. 

In truth Republican resistance to the Clinton efforts was foolish, ideological, partisan and primarily greed-based. During the Obama administration Republicans as pure and unabashed obstructionists acted out their truly un-American refusals to reform or change health coverage in this country because the few are more important and significant than the many.

We saw how the "fiscally responsible" party of change actually changed many American core value freedoms into unprotected vulnerabilities subject to the whims and greed of corporate capitalism.

It is obvious to those who are not blinded by partisan advocacies that neither party's victories in the future will guarantee any movement for genuine reform unless among those victories a specific mandate is included. It must be a mandate that reflects the will of the people; a mandate opposed to bought-and-paid-for civic policies enacted at the behest of moneyed lobbyists.

Voters must simultaneously have opportunity or means of formalizing a mandate to remove, severely restrict or equalize the playing field when it comes to lobbying our representatives for change.  We need more than ever to intervene in the ongoing attempt to run government as a business - particularly in the hands of capitalist moguls who have little or no regard for individual private citizens. 

We need to get involved and move to force corporate lobbyists out of our elected officials’ waiting rooms.

Such was of course the substance of what was in the snake-oil bottles that candidate Trump sold to enough gullibles in enough states to capture the presidency - regardless of a 3 million vote deficit in popularity.

Pay attention to the cut-and-paste writings on the Facebook news feed, for example. You frequently encounter an almost mindless and tragically immature assumption that idealism matters not at all, that standards of thought and values are negotiable and that pragmatism usurps any desire or commitment to an ideal.

Partisan activists who consider themselves wise and who are intimately involved in the campaigns of their most beloved candidates almost always seem to belittle idealism as a civic value. They use the chestnut that you have to play the game in its forever-deteriorating manner in order to win power.
Only then - once in power - can the victor look up the core values even he/she have probably forgotten and restore America to its mythical former glory. 

Such thinking neither proves nor wins anything and justifies little more than points scored in individual advocacy duels.  It also demonstrates and reveals a cynicism that fuels the ever-increasing loss of a civic appreciation for how things need to work in this country.

That's why too many of us - and I mean this literally - are too stupid to see through political tactics generated by polls and political consultants. 

We’ve lost our trust in whatever the Mythical American Core Values ever were. 

Nothing is taking the place of that trust except perhaps cynicism and an ever deepening self-absorbed behavioral pattern; a pattern that only underlines what historians will eventually describe as the reason for the fall.

What assumptions can we or ought we make about America’s Core Values? 

What ought we assert in terms of what it means to be a civically responsible American citizen?

Could the effect of civic immaturity be the reason for our almost mindless lack of the most important of our attentions?

·        the consequences of unquestioned acceptance of political promises;
·        to political rhetoric based entirely on hostility to rival candidates and/or parties;
·        to the almost criminal manipulation of facts and truth by paid amoral spin doctors?

Are we in fact afraid to ask ourselves such questions and seek the answers by our own efforts as opposed to someone else's magic (opinion)?

American Civic Values and Duties

“If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. 
We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography, the routine torture of political prisoners in many parts of the world, the crime explosion, and the random violence which surrounds us.”
― Francis A. Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

Francis Schaeffer was an American Evangelical Christian who was considered by many to be the godfather of the Christian Right’s entry into political activism beginning in the late 70’s and early 80’s.?

Schaeffer’s most famous writing was the book How Should We Then Live? I’ve always liked the quote above which for me serves as an introduction to what I want to personally advocate with my interpretation of what civic understanding and duty ought to look like.

Borrowing from Francis Schaeffer, I ask then, “How Then Should We Then Live as civic-minded citizens of the United States of America?”

In addition, borrowing from The Universal Declaration on Human Rights,
I wish to list my thoughts on both the rights and obligations connected to myself and my fellow citizens regarding what it means to be an informed citizen who participates in the life of his country:

All American Citizens are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

All citizens ought to cultivate skills in reasoning and critical thinking. We need a sense of conscience regarding the impact of societal values on the individual lives of all. 

All American citizens are entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in our Constitution without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

All American Citizens have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law under which all are equal before the law and entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

All American Citizens have the right to an effective remedy by competent judicial processes for acts violating the fundamental rights granted by the Constitution. No American Citizen shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. Everyone is entitled in full equality to fair and public judicial hearings in the determination of rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against them.

All American Citizens charged with a penal offence have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defense.

No American Citizens shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon their honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

All American Citizens have the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.  They also have the right to leave the country and to return.

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.  
Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family - no-matter how constituted based on gender - is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

All citizens have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.  No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

All citizens have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change their religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest that religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

All citizens have the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Every citizen has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

All citizens have the right to take part in the government of this country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

All citizens have the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

All citizens without any discrimination, have the right to equal pay for equal work. Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for themselves and families an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

All citizens have the right to pursue a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services. In addition there is the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Everyone has the right to education. Universal education in this country should be a priority of the greatest significance and priority. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Civic participation - like organizational participation or religious participation - is part and parcel of a way we should perceive what citizenship means in this country.

We cannot take for granted the rights and freedoms we enjoy.

We cannot take for granted the notion that others in this country are doing and will always do enough on our behalf to allow us to function like “civic couch potatoes.” We cannot expect to live lives of all-consumption and all-self-absorption with little obligation to participate. We are not excused from a responsibility to participate; to make our thoughts known and to attend to civic duties, whether formal duties like jury service or town-hall duties which are based on voluntary engagement.

We ought to be inquisitive. We ought to be critical thinkers who – even if only during an election cycle – ask questions. We ought to always seek answers, look for verifications, confirmations and sources of political opinions when ideas and promises are expressed by candidates and advocates.

It is a sad circumstance when candidates essentially hope you will not fact-check their claims. It is a demeaning circumstance that they might expect you to gullibly accept their assertions; to buy their snake oil.

Our active participation will reveal more and more the assets and liabilities of our political system, of our parties and their candidates. We might even   conclude that someone else is needed to do a better job than what is being doing ostensibly on our behalf right now.

We cannot be citizens who are all-talk, all-complain, and no-personal-action.

Speaking out should be second nature. When such times come into our lives, we speak out as we must. 

It is at that point that an honest sense of civic duty might suggest that a job not being done propels us to consider taking the next step to which civic duty calls us. There comes a time when it falls on us to step out of the sidelines and get in the game in whatever form that “getting” takes.

Perhaps then the time comes when we need to put your life where our mouths   formerly ruled our civic attitude.

When it comes to governing embarrassments, there is more to it that assigning blame. 

If the tire goes flat, don't sit there and hope someone will come along and fix it for you. Get out of your car, take off your sport coat and change it yourself.