As I noted yesterday, I’m trying to limit myself to one political post a day. So here goes:
- There’s been a meme going around Facebook about the importance of criticizing our leaders when appropriate. I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I want to emphasize some things related to that. First, there’s a distinction between what you say, and how you say it. If you are going to criticize our leaders, or be critical, be an adult about it. Don’t call them names (Drumpf is just as insulting as Obumbo was), and don’t use insulting names for the movements or followers (yes, libtard and conservatard as are stupid as they sound). Watch out for using a broad brush, such as treating all members supporting a politician or a political movement a particular way. If you are writing “All Conservatives…” or “All Trump followers” or even “That’s how they think…” — think twice and don’t do it. Watch out for sensationalized news stories, and don’t spread fake news (especially if it plays to your biases). Check your sources; Snopes and other fact checking organizations are your friends (and for those that think Snopes is biased — they always give their sources, so check their sources). In short, we (and I’m referring to the liberal side here) got to see some of the worst behavior from many folks on the Conservative side during the Obama administration. We should not act the same way.
- Be aware that what you see on Facebook is biased. There’s a great site provided by the Wall Street Journal called “Red Feed, Blue Feed”, that presents an active display of feeds from both sides. Note how the stories are biased. You’re seeing sensationalized information that is playing to your biases, on order to keep you on pages longer, click on pages to improve rankings, and otherwise manipulate you and your political thought. Think for yourself, and don’t surround yourself with only people you agree with. Much as it may be painful — much as it might make you cringe to see what they write — maintain some friends from the other side of the spectrum and occasionally like what they write. You don’t have to agree with everything, but you need to understand.
- Understanding will be the key to getting through this. There is much talk about a Liberal agenda, and those of us on the Liberal side don’t see it because we believe in it. We believe it is just and right to do the things that we did, for it is helping those whom we see as poor and disenfranchised. The problem is: (a) we’re not hitting all the poor and disenfranchised, and (b) we don’t stop to think how it looks. Many in the country — many in the blue class non-urban heartland — were left out of the economic recovery. They saw the life they knew going away, they saw hard work not being rewarded, they saw people they believed were cheating the system promoted before them and receiving benefits they couldn’t. What we might have seen as “white privilege” wasn’t life as they saw it, for although there is white privilege, it is often trumped (Trumped?) by blue-collar stereotypes and class warfare. These folks believed that Trump could change that, and overlooked his flaws.
- That last sentence is important. I’ve been listening to the Gimlet podcast on Dov Charney and the fall of American Apparel and the rise of his new company Los Angeles Apparel. As Dov Charney said, “In America, if you’re making money, everything is forgiven. Trust me.” Sound familiar? Charney was someone who lost his company through mismanagement and sexual harrassment lawsuits. He had a temper problem and an extremely thin skin. Yet his new company is succeeding because of the power of his personality, his ability to make money, and his ability to sell himself and not look back at the past. Sound familiar. It’s a multi-part series, and worth listening to for the parallels to our incoming President.
- The nature of Social Justice as we see it is disputed by the Conservative side. I believe the goals are the same — helping the poor, helping those in need, ensuring equality. But the way we get there and the speed we get there differs drastically. The Democratic attitude since the rise of the “neo-Liberal” (i.e., since the transition from the Democratic Party of Hubert Humphrey to the one of Bill Clinton) has been one of redistribution of wealth and fast change. The speed of change upset many, and the government enforced redistribution of wealth upset more. If you look closely at many Republicans (at least those active in the churches and stuff), they often give more and more of themselves to help others, at a personal level, than anyone. The deep south is one of the largest supporters of “Make a Wish”. The problem is that attitude doesn’t exist in many of the millionaires and billionaires that exploit the attitude for their personal gain. In this, Bernie Sanders had it right — the real issue is not a party distinction but a class distinction and a wealth disparity, and we forget that at our peril. The answer comes in not giving everyone a handout through redistribution of wealth — the answer comes in giving them a hand in however they need it. Think of what the “Computers” did in Hidden Figures when they were facing automation. They didn’t give up; they learned how to program. The answer is not to prop up dying industries or to help via welfare — the answer is to support families while we retrain people to capture the new jobs created by new industries.
- This brings us to the upcoming inauguration. In particular, the question of whether Jewish leaders should participate and whether it is proper to bless Trump. The Coffee Shop Rabbi Blog captured why such blessings are actually very important:
We are living in a time in which strong feelings run high. There are those who are happy about the change in leadership in the U.S., and those who are very concerned at what it might bring.
We pray for the government not only to ask for Divine help, but also to remind ourselves that the government in place is the only one we’ve got. Even in the worst case suggested in Fiddler, Jews prayed for safety under the government that existed.
In a democracy we have a participatory role that Tevya couldn’t have imagined. We fulfill our sacred duties within our democracy when we vote, and when we express our opinions to our elected officials. Without our active participation, it ceases to be a democracy.
We pray that God not necessarily bless our leaders for what they have done, but that God leads them to making wise decisions, selecting advisors with wisdom, and to making our country strong and a safe place for all of the inhabitants (all creeds, all colors, all orientations, all sexes, all genders — everyone). We pray that God helps them work within the bounds of what is legal, and that God wants them to know that there are no “favored religions”: and thus National law takes precedent over religious teachings, and that everyone should have the ability to practice their faith or non-faith in the privacy of their own home, but not to the point where they are using their faith to impact others. We pray that God leads them on an ethical path, putting the needs of the country before their personal gain.
That’s the sort of prayer we can stand behind.