RJ on the Election

make-kindHere’s a rare political blog from me,  where I will pretend that anyone cares to know my thoughts on the Presidential election. I see the anger, pain, sadness and dismay all over my Facebook wall from my friends and colleagues. Of the many perspectives, I can only offer mine, a straight college educated man slightly whiter than a bleached polar bear and with all the privilege that brings and whatever filters others may apply to my view. Many may say that I had the least to lose in this election, and who am I to disagree? Those who know me I hope would say that social issues, equality, and justice are a matter of great concern to me, that I stand as an ally for minority rights, and like you, this is why the election was so important to me, why I took the loss hard, and have great concerns about what it may mean.

So let’s get right to the reason I chose to write this, the thought foremost on my mind as I continue to process what has happened. Last night, the people have  spoken and chosen their next leader, and, I feel quite strongly that to wish and hope for that democratically chosen leader to fail, regardless of consequences to our country and our standing in the world, is a selfish and ultimately self-destructive view, and disrespectful of the very democratic process that makes this country unique and great.

Please keep hearing me out.

I imagine that, like many of you, I’ve spent the last eight years shaking my head at a fringe demographic as it wished for, and in some bizarre instances, actually prayed for Obama to fail as President. I also watched and, in certain circles, spoke out against an array of outrageous lies and fabrications flung in his direction with shocking regularity. As this nonsense continued, I told myself that if, some time in the future, my candidate for the office ever failed, I would never be one of those bitter, angry, paranoid people, but respect the process and the majority’s pick. (Since I’ve been old enough to vote, I have, for better or in at least one case for worst, always voted for the winning POTUS…that is, until last night.)

Although I did not vote for him, come January (to paraphrase Obama in 2008) he is my president, too. Trump’s acceptance speech last night was mild toward Hillary, with a tone of wanting to unify and go forward, In the first couple of minutes, he specifically reached out to those who did not vote for him, asking for their help to do the best job possible. Well, okay then.

Hillary said many times during this contentious season, “when they go low, go high.” Even more important, when they go high, don’t go low. As I look over my wall today, I am seeing a shocking number of posts from people already declaring their intent to disrespect and “go low”, and it’s two months before Trump has even taken the oath of office.

If we can agree that unreasonable resentment was wrong eight years ago, we have to see that it’s wrong now.

I get it. If you take him at his word, we will soon have a leader who seems willing to roll the clock back on American’s rights a good 40+ years. Fortunately, he also seems clueless about how to accomplish any of the things he says he wants to get done, and it’s this process of checks and balances (dubious as it is) that we need to count on in the months ahead. We have a person whose “plan” was so vague and poorly constructed that we don’t even know what to be fearful of first, because we don’t know what’s possible and what’s empty rhetoric. We have put in charge of our nation the most unqualified individual in the office in recent history, if not ever. Taking all of this into account, it’s safe to say that he is going to make a lot of mistakes, and I have genuine fears over the consequences of those mistakes.

Look–we should absolutely hold our future president accountable for his legitimate terrible decisions, just as we have past leaders. We should absolutely let our voices be heard when this administration threatens to pass injustices into law. We should absolutely fight like hell for the social progresses that have been made and push for whatever forward momentum we can achieve, and use our voices, our platforms and our cell phone cameras where needed to document exactly where this path is going, just as we do with our current leaders.

Trump has asked us to hold him accountable, and you can be sure I will be adding my voice to block any actions where he gets it wrong. But as I do so, I will not succumb to mirroring the behavior that led to the Birther conspiracies and the blatant unreasoning nonsense that caused me to dig in my heels over the past eight years whenever it came from the fringe on the other side.

And I will never, ever, hope that a President fails.

White, black, Muslim, gay straight, Christian atheist, transgender…we are also Americans, and we have a lot of control over the tone going forward. I encourage each of us to remember to go high..not JUST when they go low, but AT ALL TIMES. That’s how we will Make America Kind Again.

On geeknerds, social media, and politics

In my world, people are divided into two types: geeknerds and those who are not geeknerds. If you’re a geek, then gender, skin color, sexual orientation, source of spirituality (or skepticism of), or who you voted for don’t matter to me. If your interests lie in any of the various subjects that qualify as “geeky” or “nerdy”, you’re one of “my” people.

If you’re not a geeknerd, that’s fine, you’re welcome to hang out, you may even have a good time, if you’re willing to meet me halfway. I don’t chase anyone off on purpose, but I understand if geeknerding isn’t your vibe.

When social media developed, I missed the whole “My Space” thing, but Facebook caught my interest, and I jumped in with enthusiasm.

I could have geeky discourse with like-minded people on a broad scale. I liked this aspect. But it didn’t take long for Facebook to morph into something very different from its intended purpose. There was a constant noise on my wall, about, broadly speaking, “politics”. And I spent a lot of time caught up in those conversations.

Generally speaking, no one wins those discussions (maybe someone, somewhere, but I doubt it). And most of the time, people end up with hurt feelings. Eventually the balance on FB shifted for the worst, and I found myself distracted by the noise more than doing what I was there to do.

These “hot button” discussions are good conversations to have, but, I have learned the hard way, I, personally, suck at them. I make zero positive difference, I’ve caused fights, and built zero bridges. And then a thing happened about a year ago I am not here to discuss, specifically, but must acknowledge. A couple of heated exchanges cost me friends. Long stupid story short, I accept my part of the fault for what happened and the stupid, arrogant words I spewed in the heat of the moment that contributed to the problem.

Where I have had the opportunity, I have apologized. Where I have not, I hope to one day make amends. That may never happen, and personally, that would be tragic. But I accept that I brought the situation on myself, that I had a big lesson to learn, and the best thing I could do for everyone, including myself, is learn it. So after some reflection, I adapted a strict “no politics” policy on my own wall. Before too long, I found that I didn’t miss all those fights.

Facebook politics had changed the discussions I had about geeknerd topics to something less interesting, less friendly, and certainly more aggressive. And that’s not who I am. In the months since, my FB presence much better represents what I want to do, why I’m here, and who I am. And hey, I get a lot more writing done during my day, so there.

Not that I don’t fight. If you want to say you loved Iron Man 2 or criticize my choice of Titanic as one of the greatest films ever, we ARE going to throw down. And that’s okay.

So what are my politics? It shouldn’t matter, but it does to some. I stand with women. I stand with the LGTB community. I stand against any situation in which someone is harassed or treated disrespectfully. I am fine with the right to bear arms, but I would rather we not return to the Old West, and think some common sense measures can satisfy both. I am a pro-science, pro-choice, Christian and Humanist, and yes, all those pieces play together just fine in my head.

If that sends you running for the “Block” button, well, that’s your choice. For the rest, I won’t be discussing this sort of thing, but an author’s politics tend to show up in their art, so I thought the time had come to put some cards face-up, if only this once.

One of my favorite songwriters, Edie Brickell, famously wrote: “Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep.” That’s where you’ll find me, in the shallow water. After all, that’s why I engaged in social media in the first place.

And now, back to geeknerding out.