Sunday, October 9, 2016

We're All To Blame

Yes, I read it. Yes, I heard it. Yes, I cringed at the frat-boy bile that came from the mouth of you-know-who, a decade before he became a candidate. I have heard how people are recoiling from him, castigating and condemning him, disassociating from him, disavowing him -- and how people are still supporting him.

I have also heard the replies about you-know-her. What about the emails, the speeches, Benghazi and Bill -- especially Bill and his womanizing and sex sins? In their warped comparison of hormonal fiendishness, that guy isn't as bad that former guy.

I am choosing to place those arguments aside because the bigger elephant in the room is this: from sea to shining sea, that thumping sound you hear is consultants, pundits, and political types banging their noggins against hardwood trying to discern how they could have been so wrong, how you-know-who beat a clown car of competition, how all their predictions of imminent implosion failed so spectacularly, and how that guy prospered on insults, lies, bullying and ignorance that would've sunk at least two dozen candidates.

I read every theory of how we got to this lonely junction, and I have a few more. The shortest is we're angry and we don't care. The slightly longer version is we will put up with or give a pass to all the imbecilic rhetoric and causticness so that we may have a candidate who will do what all the others would not. I've also read the theory that our collective ignorance led us to this point. I agree, but only so far. Here is my admittedly unscientific but exhaustively thorough explanation of why that guy is where he is. This builds upon what I have told you already but adds a few more uncomfortable facts. You may not want to read it, and if you don't, fine. This is my opinion; it's not gospel. But I will quote from that great sage Nature Boy Ric Flair: "I don't care whether you like it or not, you better look at it!"

Here's the "too long, didn't read" version of why that guy rose to where he is: we're all to blame. Yes, all of us.

Now, the long version.

Republicans, you're to blame. You wrung your hands about reining that guy in. You feared another Ross Perot. You let him bully you into submission. You let your fat cats with the dark money sit on the sidelines and wait for him to flame out, which he didn't. By the time you all realized that wouldn't happen, the game was over. You didn't have a backup plan. Your candidates complained and cajoled and criticized, but ultimately, they capitulated. Your last best hope, Sen. Ted Cruz, had one bad night in Indiana and he decided to take his marbles and go home. That voter who got in his grille and said "we don't want you" must have really deflated his soul. His fight leeched out of him suddenly and inexplicably. You feared a chaotic convention. Then this senator -- the one who-know-who verbally abused and demeaned -- mysteriously flip-flopped on a non-endorsement because, you know, party unity. Protocol above principle.

Tea Party, you're to blame. You didn't dump the birthers and the haters. You tell us you're not really a party; you're a caucus. Fine -- don't call yourself a "party" then. Or get off your duffs and become one instead of riding the Republican coattails. You made it okay to shout down your opponents. And worst of all, many of you did it in the guise and garb of our Revolutionary War ancestors who fought and died so that you may have the freedom to conduct yourselves like abhorrent parasites. I find that aspect of your so-called caucus offensive above everything else, being a re-enactor who has brought people together in cheering and celebration for the nation we love, regardless of politics, educating them about their heritage, and giving them pride in their heritage whether they've been citizens since birth or since they took an oath.

Democrats, you're to blame. You gave us a president who spent all his political capital in the first half of his first term and left nothing in the tank. He did an end run around Congress when he couldn't get his way. Whether it's legal is a question for the courts. But what's legal isn't always practical, beneficial or productive. You further alienated half of America who didn't vote for you. You let an unabashed socialist run who wasn't even a member of your party. Yeah, he got to caucus with you, but that's not the same. Telling somebody they don't get to milk the cow for free is not in the platform.

Libertarians, you're to blame. You sit on the ballot and take up space every election cycle, not bothering to lift a finger to campaign or put forth effort to win. You blow every chance to show Americans a third party might actually be viable and necessary. A former presidential candidate of yours decided to run for president as a Republican. Shouldn't that tell you how much pondwater you're sucking?

Congresspeople, you're to blame. You still won't do the three things that would show us you are committed to public service over power. Those are 1) ditching the filibuster, 2) passing a balanced budget amendment, and 3) giving the president the line-item veto. You keep kicking the tough issues down the road. You let dark money do your dirty work. You run never-ending campaigns. You don't even read the bills you pass. And in your gridlocked existence, you still get plenty of recess time to do even more of nothing.

Talk radio, you're to blame. You consistently parade before us all the reasons why America stinks with little or no solution to fix things. You say you are exercising a First Amendment right, but you will never admit when you're wrong. You don't care, and you don't have to -- just like Lily Tomlin told us about the phone company. You say you want to restore America's glory, just like that guy, but nobody voted for you, and you're accountable to nobody but your advertisers and management. Who are you really working for?

News media, you're to blame. You let that guy play you like a slot machine in one of his casinos, and he kept on hitting the jackpot. You jumped on every one of his outrageous tweets without pausing to think about whether he was surreptitiously getting free campaign ads out of it. You deployed your army of talking heads to discuss that guy, perhaps exposing his issues and contradictions along the way, but mostly, you just talked. You let him suck up airtime and push other campaigns off the air in a real-life game of "The Apprentice." Even before all this, your cable nets decided to remake themselves more in the image of news-talk radio rather than all-news, all the time -- except for that measly little network with the Arabic name where idealistic journalists went to see their careers die.

Churches, you're to blame. You decided to make GOD's word into a salad bar, picking and choosing what parts of the Bible you would stand on, or misinterpreting and marginalizing it. You decided some sins weren't so bad when it came to getting people in the door and money in the offering plate. You forgot love sometimes has to be tough as well as tender. When you asked, "What would JESUS do?" you forgot getting out the whip was within the realm of possibilities. And many of you support that guy, willing to give him a pass on his despicable behaviour because you think some greater good will come in the end. That's called moral relativism.

Social media, you're to blame. You make hating and incivility convenient and trendy. You reduce complex issues to 140 characters or less. Then, you turn them into hashtags. You allow people to troll without consequence and hide behind pseudonyms. You allow bullies to take their crass craft to new audiences. Then, in the name of stopping bullying, you end up censoring rational-but-unpopular discussions.

Social justice movements, you're to blame. You're so busy being angry, you forget you need to carry an olive branch with that sword. You tell us black lives matter, but you don't have time to seek out and praise police officers who are setting examples of leadership and justice. You say immigrant lives matter, but you forget about those who have put up with the waiting, the bureaucracy and the runaround to do it legally. You say higher wages matter, but you demand those dead-end fast-food jobs pay what you consider to be a living wage rather than demand our leaders figure out ways to create new, higher-paying jobs that are career-focused and don't involve cleaning the grease trap. And too many of you act like posterior orifices in the process, diluting your chances of winning friends and influencing people.

Corporate America, you're to blame. You continuously come up with new ways to unburden yourselves from your pesky employees and customers. You create soulless voice-response systems when we call for help and shove the business of assisting your patrons onto outsourced foreign call-center workers who are given Americanized names and taught a bit of pop culture but are left powerless and clueless to resolve sticky issues. You tell us off the record you would like to hire more people in this nation, but it would hurt your bottom line or stock price or earnings potential or whatever. Did you have one dollar left over after expenses last year? Good. You're profitable. Maybe it wasn't as much as you would've liked it to have been, but any year where you didn't lay people off, close offices, slash salaries or mandate unpaid leave is a good one.

Labor unions, you're to blame. Your mission to protect the dignity and safety of workers has crept into padding their paychecks with benefits your bosses can't afford anymore. Maybe you conceded a few things. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you went on strike. Maybe it worked for awhile. And now, maybe you realize you had a finger, if not a hand, in the outsourcing of America.

Wall Street, you're to blame. You can't kick the derivative habit. You continue to embrace financial instruments that do nothing to create wealth or hedge against risk. You sell investments you don't understand to people who don't understand. You've legalized gambling under the ruse that it's beneficial to our global marketplace. You still can't explain to my satisfaction why bundling up mortgages and selling them as investments was ever a good idea.

Schools, you're to blame. You scream if anybody mentions the word "voucher" and kick teachers around with low pay and obnoxious students. You pepper your boards of education with Congress-seekers who are not ashamed to use kids as pawns to achieve political goals. You teach standardized tests instead of the three R's. You push parents to put kids on Prozac and Ritalin rather than demand the grown-ups engage in drug-free behavior modification, more commonly known as discipline. You have done your best to disillusion the creative and caring and reward the slackers and seat-fillers. You cut music, art and recess. (These kids should run for Congress; they'd certainly get more recess.) And your students aren't educated in civics or history or why they should care about our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, or our Bill of Rights. Many don't even know what any of those are.

Universities, you're to blame. You allowed political correctness to own you in the all the wrong places. You have wanted a diverse student body, a big and open tent. Nothing wrong there. But is that your number one priority over actually educating and researching? Every incoming freshman should receive a statement similar to this: "This is college, not utopia. Try as you might to create a perfect world here, you still have to face the world out there. That means hard knocks and hard work. We will set standards to combat racism, sexism, and those inexcusable discriminations. But we will not get it right all the time, and you won't either. That's life. We will expect you to understand this is an institution of higher learning, not a petri dish. You did come here for a degree, right?"

Voters, you're to blame. As I have said before, you held your nose and marked the lesser of two or more evils too many times when you should've just gone down to the write-in line and penned any of the following: "None of the above," "Somebody else," "Somebody better," "Somebody wiser," "Somebody with a brain," "Somebody with a soul," "Somebody with a clue," or "Try again." You have discouraged the noble from running and let slimeballs ooze in. You have dashed between parties like a spoiled child who plays estranged parents off against each other, darting to the one who will give you what you want, throwing a tantrum when you don't get it, and then running to the other one. You say term limits are the answer, but less than half of you vote in the first place, making it the lazy alternative to exercising the Constitutional right your Patriot ancestors have died for.

And I'm to blame. I have been the good little Facebook member, largely embargoing myself from political discussions when I should have stood up. I picked my battles because I love my Facebook friends and I don't want to unfriend any of you. I can honestly tell you I have never done that, and I want to keep it that way. But maybe I should've started talking about all these things earlier and brushed off fears of trolling and bullying. I have been bullied before. I can deal with it again. But I didn't want to.

Even so, I'm not lifting my Facebook embargo, except for those occasional breaks. Much of what I have needed to say on the things that have, I have said. People can take it or leave it.

So all the blame has been doled out to all those responsible, to more people than I have fingers for, not even sparing myself, and I probably left out a few. When you blame the other guy, you have to realize you're also the other guy's other guy. In major and minor ways, knowingly or unknowingly, intentional or accidental, we are all contributing to the problem.

Just don't blame me at the voting booth. I'll be casting my ballot for George Washington.