Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Every nation gets the government it deserves." (Joseph de Maistre)

Minnesota is testing Ranked Choice Voting [RCV]. Minneapolis is using it in municipal elections. I'm very frustrated with a two party system that too often these days presents me with picking the lesser of two evils. However, it just occurred to me that we had best be careful, very careful, about how RCV is structured. What if RCV were the only way for the GOP to pick a presidential candidate and they had the field they have now?

earth, we're all in this together
we're all in this together
Let me be clear that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I've never voted for a Republican in my life, nor have I voted for every Democrat on the ballot, but I don't think I've missed an election yet. Years ago I hung around with a true political junkie who used to argue that voting a "Bullet," just the one vote for the one candidate you really cared about, was an effective way to help ensure victory. I didn't understand that strategy then and I still don't which may explain why I'm a policy, but not a political, junkie.

As dismayed as I am at yesterday's slaughter in San Bernardino, I'm disgusted at the knee-jerk reaction blaming the availability of guns, the NRA, gun manufacturers and Republicans and Democrats who take campaign donations from the "gun lobby." A good part of my disgust stems from my knowledge that it's all too often liberals who find something more important to do on election day than to get to a polling booth. (For the record, at one time I was a member of the NRA. I hunt, fish and own firearms.  I believe we have a major problem that isn't limited to "gun control.")

I am cynical, have been for a long time. I don't expect Exxon to tell the truth about climate change. I laugh at the idea of politicians keeping campaign promises made to voters when much of the campaign's funding came from corporations. (Thank you Citizens United.) Perhaps that explains why I seem to be the only one wondering about a linkage between the United State's distressing and unacceptable acts of domestic terrorism and the fact that the U.S. leads the world in the number of citizens killed by police. Do we, as citizens, see ourselves as a small, armed rebel force ready to overthrow an evil empire? Do we think we're still a young, frontier country? John Muir wrote what has become one of my favorite quotations: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." I believe there's some connections between our failure to show up at the polls, our distrust of government, and our frustration with mass shootings and perceived lack of gun control. 
I recall when Bill Clinton was running for president, there was popularity behind the slogan "it's the economy, stupid." These days it seems to me we could replace that with "it's the culture, stupid." Too many of us think that "US" is comprised only of me, me, me. The truth is it has to be we, we, we. A common good isn't simply the sum of individual goods, no matter what our corporate overlords would have us believe. Back in my fundamentals of sociology course, we were taught that you can't legislate morality (see Eighteenth Amendment). Norway and Britain have unarmed police forces, but, as many politicians remind us, "we're not Europe." Might it be that before we can successfully address gun issues, we first need to (re)learn to talk to each other with respect and see if we can retrain our politicians how to reach a compromise. Winner take all strategies leave lots of "collateral damage." Perhaps we need to study the Great Law of Peace and adopt a constitutional amendment requiring us to use a talking stick.

White Spine

By Henri Cole 

Liar, I thought, kneeling with the others,
how can He love me and hate what I am?
The dome of St. Peter's shone yellowish
gold, like butter and eggs. My God, I prayed
anyhow, as if made in the image
and likeness of Him. Nearby, a handsome
priest looked at me like a stone; I looked back,
not desiring to go it alone.
The college of cardinals wore punitive red.
The white spine waved to me from his white throne.
Being in a place not my own, much less
myself, I climbed out, a beast in a crib.
Somewhere a terrorist rolled a cigarette.
Reason, not faith, would change him.

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