Observations from the Nerd Left
On Delusions and Dreams
British writer and critic Terry Eagleton wrote: “Cynicism and naivety lie cheek by jowl in the American imagination; if the United States is one of the most venal nations on earth, it is also one of the most earnestly idealistic.”
This describes both the strengths and the weaknesses of our country. We expect the worst out of the country, but demand the best. Those demands, however, have a tendency to be delusional. We hold our nation in such high esteem because, you know, #Murica. Yet, we look with disdain upon our public servants. These irrational contradictions come in multiple forms.
Delusion #1: We assume motive and see conspiracy when the reason is more likely incompetence or laziness.
This occurs on both the left and the right. We desperately want there to be villains in our story. It makes more sense to us, with our rational brains, if there is a conspiracy. More accurately, it makes more sense if there is a pattern. I think we want our real-life stories to have these patterns because it fits our hopes of our stories having happy endings. If it is all an evil conspiracy, one day they will be defeated by some unknown force of good. If it is incompetence, that is something much more difficult to combat; and laziness is even worse. We would rather our villains be cold and calculating, rather than humanized and relatable.
The problem is that patterns can be illusory. To put it another way: what we see as patterns are actually incidental to what is really happening.
For example, President Trump lies constantly. It affects the opinion of the American public. It affects his relationships with his colleagues in Congress. Is his presidency an exercise in corporate-fascist takeover? That has yet to be seen. His lying and inflammatory rhetoric aside, he is not doing things that are drastically different than previous GOP presidents Reagan and Bush (43). Is it a conspiracy between his administration and Vladimir Putin? Maybe, but more likely, he is in way over his head. He is incapable of doing the job to which he has been elected.
Seek out facts and evidence. Be willing to accept that what appear to be patterns may, in fact, be unrelated events.
Delusion #2: We believe one political side to be forcing the opposing side to do its will and believe that that is how politics is supposed to work. This is absolutely not true; political views are usually not black and white, nor does healthy discussion contain fact and alternative fact. Healthy discussions and politics should be based on facts and the understanding that opinions surrounding facts (morals and ethics) can differ.
No one wants to admit their opinion is wrong. Every issue is life or death for someone. We can’t compromise because that is selling out. We must always believe that we are right 100% of the time. The only way to solve problems would be to do exactly what we think, instead of working toward a mutually agreeable outcome.
This may feel true, but that is what politicians want you to think. They want the people to view compromise as bad, to view things as “it’s my way or the highway.” When our political culture associates every decision as a moral decision, it makes the concept of compromise a complete anathema to both sides. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of issues that are rooted in morality. However, many of the decisions related them may not be.
Pause and, you know, actually listen to one another. Compromise is a method to actually find common ground, not necessarily sell out your beliefs. Maybe, by listening, we can find that common ground.
Delusion #3: The people in lower and middle classes consistently elect candidates who actively vote on behalf of the very wealthy (i.e.: the corporations) often at their own expense, yet yearning for the opposite.
We have a money problem in this country.
And it is a problem.
We cannot continue to elect candidates who constantly choose to represent the corporate interests over their voters’ interests. We also need to stop believing them when they claim to be “of the people.” Donald Trump is, was and will never be a man of the people. Hillary Clinton never was a woman of the people. They don’t truly know the experience of not knowing if they will be able to put food on the table. They don’t honestly know what it is like to have to decide between paying rent or having a needed surgery. They don’t know what it is like to stand in a line waiting to get food at a local church food giveaway. Most of our representatives do not. Yet, not only do we keep voting them in, but we limit our choices to elitists on both sides.
I know that a representatives’ wealth does not mean a lack of empathy; there are many of our elected officials who know their lives are blessed and look to help others, too. We need to (1) listen to our representatives, (2) pay attention to their voting record, (3) constantly tell them when they deviate from voting for the people, and (4) hold them to their words when they talk about their love for the American people. There are lots of American people, not all of them can spend even $30 let alone $3,000,000.
Look for candidates who actually stand for the people. If they claim they do and don’t live up to it, vote ’em out of office. I realize campaigns need money; let’s put our money toward candidates who can do the job they promise to do.
Health Care and Budgets
Within the recent weeks, the House of Representatives released their health care proposal, the American Health Care Act of 2017. Rather than summarize it here, I will point you to Vox that has great breakdowns of it: here and here as well.)
Suffice to say, I do not find this program to be sufficient in solving the problems of the ACA (Obamacare). And believe me, the ACA had problems. For example, my mother-in-law’s payments went up with Obamacare; that does not make care affordable. My brother, however, was able to find a way to get health insurance. But look, the ACA made access to health care available a net gain of 16–18 million people depending on who you listen to.
So what do the Republicans plan to do, after their candidate promised to never cut Medicare/Medicaid and that everyone would be covered? They promised to cut the extension to Medicaid. They set a system to raise prices for the older and the sick. They severely lowered taxes on the top 1%. This is a robbery, and even worse, it steals from the people who voted them in. Simply put: people will die because of this. People. Will. Die.
Then, on Thursday, the Trump administration released its budget plan. There is an excellent graphical representation here. Three departments are labeled to receive budget increases: Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans. Of those, the only one, in my view, that needs it is the Veterans. Every other department is cut. People are rightly calling this out because of the harm it does to programs like Meals on Wheels, after school meal programs, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Environmental Protection Agency. So, the Republican House presented a health care proposal that will not help sick people and a Republican White House budget proposal that calls for seniors and children to lose food. #MAGA, indeed.
The American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” according to historian James Truslow Adams.
That dream, for many Americans, is either dead or on life support.
Many times in my younger life, I was told that if you worked hard and were a good person, good things would come to you. That if you pulled yourself up by the bootstraps, success would come to you.
This is a lie. A lie that has become so ingrained into our culture that, even when you know it isn’t real, you still try for it over and over and over again. Looking to scheme your way into somehow putting food on the table or paying your rent or your hospital bills. You work hard, earn some salary, but still can’t pay enough.
The American Dream, like the wrestler Dusty Rhodes (aka “the American Dream”), is dead.
Hard times, Dusty. We live in hard times.
Steve King and the Delusion of the Concept of “American Culture”
This. This. This one. Here’s a classic. Here’s another.
Representative Steve King is an ill-educated, culturally-myopic buffoon. He has no earthly concept of how this country actually has ever worked. He has defined “American Culture” as Western European/Anglo-Saxon.
Honestly. What America has he lived in? (Insert corny Iowa joke here…get it…corny?…)
American culture has always included groups from all over the world. Native American tribes and colonists mixed together. African slaves both brought their own and developed a unique culture, especially in the American south. Europeans, Asians, Mexicans and South Americans have all contributed to this country. Go to New York or San Francisco’s Chinatowns and talk about “American Culture,” Steve King. Come here to California and eat at one of the taquerias on every corner. Frankly Mr. King, the culture you are describing is called “white bread” for a reason: it is tasteless, bland and not good for anyone.
One Name to Watch
The media has been hit and miss through the campaign into the Trump Administration. The Washington Post and the New York Times have been the standard bearers in their industry that they should be. Jake Tapper of CNN, however, has been holding up the television news media in a strong way. We need more of the media to call this administration for what it is. People like Tapper and Shepard Smith from Fox News (this is my shocked face) are speaking the truth. Whereas Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell from MSNBC, for example, need a bit less ego and a bit more gravitas (like they had before they became popular).
I wrote about immigration last week. There was one type of story that I didn’t mention. American soldiers, who also happen to be undocumented immigrants, are facing deportation. In case you think this is solely a Trump issue, it happened under Obama, as well. They serve our country. They defend it and are then kicked out of it? Disgusting. No matter who the President is.