Exceptional criticism

I love America.

Our republic is unlike any other.  With my mouth, thank goodness for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  In our country, you can be who you are, and dream of being anything you want to be.  We have a say in who our leaders are, and what they do.  And in how many countries can I spend a weekend sitting on my ass watching four straight episodes of Undercover Boss?

But this blog proves I’m also critical of my country.  I think the Iraq war was a huge mistake.  I believe universal health care is a right, not a privilege.  I absolutely abhor the divisiveness, name-calling, and lack of real debate.  And I wish the hyphenated last names fad was just that.  I prayed for years Joseph Gordon-Levitt would marry Jennifer Love-Hewitt just to see if she would take the name Jennifer Love-Hewitt-Gordon-Levitt.

Please don’t tell Rudy Giuliani.

Apparently, the former mayor of New York City believes President Barack Obama doesn’t love America because he criticizes it.  Giuliani said it at a private dinner event last week featuring Wisconsin governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker.  He believes the President does not love you. Or me. Or him.  And what’s not to love about “America’s Mayor,” right? (Thank you for that one, Oprah!)  He seems so cute and cuddly.  Giuliani backed up his claims by saying President Obama never talks about America’s exceptionalism like past Democratic presidents did.

The backlash towards Giuliani’s comments honestly surprised me.  It’s like attacking Kim Kardasian for talking about her butt.  What else does he have to talk about?  Giuliani’s just taking a page out of the GOP playbook–“Paint Democratic candidate (blank) as ‘not one of us” if they are rich, went to an Ivy League school, criticizes Israel, may be non-religious, refuses to accept American exceptionalism, etc.  Interchangeable with the words ‘elitist’ or ‘socialist.'”  It’s red meat for those of you still pushing Obama’s Muslim, Kenyan, not born in the United States myth.  Giuliani didn’t address you directly.  But we all knew what he meant.

And what he did NOT mean is black.  Some of you need to stop using that “dog whistle.”  Yes, some Republican voters are racists.  And by some, I mean those few who still deck out their Ford F-150s with a Confederate flag, camouflage and Truck Nutz.  But you can’t continue to defend Muslims with the “all Muslims aren’t terrorists” card, while playing the “If you pander to racists, you are one” card.  As I said in a previous blog, it’s not him. It’s us.  President Obama represents a changing of the guard, if you will.  He gave marijuana smoking, gay-marrying, tree-hugging, immigrant-loving, non-religious voters a voice.  And the GOP hates him for THAT.

And American exceptionalism is just another weapon to attack him for that. Republicans have a long history of tying the belief of our exceptionalism to “love of country” while using criticism as proof of the lack of love.  Remember the political fight over whether you support our troops if you do not support the war in Iraq?  It works because we naturally respond emotionally to it.  As an “exceptional” child “unfairly” criticized by his parents, I always wondered how you could criticize something or someone you claim to love.  I found a way to get a “B” in my high school Composition class without having to write one of the major papers assigned to me.  Instead of using my library time to research and write, I read the newspaper right in front of the teacher.  Pure genius.  But my parents believed I was better than that.  And gave me a tongue lashing for it.

And guess what?  They were right to do so.  They loved me and believed I was better than that.  They told me I wasn’t living up to my full potential.  They wanted me to use the DNA they bestowed to me to be the best I could be, not to find ways just to slide by.  As Voltaire said, and Uncle Ben reiterated to Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I believe that.  And I believe the President does too.  And that’s why I criticize our country.  I receive the benefits of one of the best emergency health care systems in the world.  But the Commonwealth Fund ranks our health care system dead last among developed countries, despite spending more money on it than anyone else.  Eight of the top ten universities in the world reside in the U.S., but overall, our education systems ranks 17th.  Similarly, eight of the top ten richest people call America home, causing one of the most unequal income distributions among developed countries.  At least we rank #1 in incarcerated citizens.

That’s why we need to stop criticizing the criticism.  We need to embrace the fact nothing is perfect, including our beloved America.  We should want people to find ways to improve our systems instead of attacking them for not accepting the status quo.  Let’s have a real conversation about what we do and how we do it by giving everyone a seat at the table and allowing all voices to be heard, critical or otherwise.

That’s what’s so ironic about Giuliani’s criticism.  American exceptionalism begins with the right to criticize our leaders without retribution.  Yet, he believes our leaders shouldn’t openly criticize the country giving him that right.  No one doubts this country has done, and continues to do, exceptional deeds.  But those deeds, from the Constitution to the creation of the Internet, from the end of slavery to the election of our first black president, sprung from a want for change or improvement.  Our greatest leaders, inventors, capitalists, and athletes prove it to us time and again.

You can only be exceptional by believing you are not.

The Definition of Insanity

I have a “love-hate” relationship with law enforcement.

I like seeing officers patrolling my neighborhood.  I consider them heroes.  And I know plenty who love the job and do it well, a job I could never do.

But I get angry when they ticket me.  I’ve cursed officers before.  Sometimes when I pass a patrol car I tell them they’re “#1” in my own, unique way.  I believe they could use their time more wisely, looking for the thieves who continue to break into cars and homes in my community.  Other departments call my hometown department “assholes with guns.”  And sometimes, I tend to agree.

That’s why when I heard about Michael Brown, when I saw the video of Eric Garner, my emotions kicked in.  I grew angry.  I felt they crossed the line.  I wanted justice.  Debate.  Change.

But I waited.  I wanted to let those emotions subside.  I wanted to see how others reacted.  I wanted to let it play out before flying into the maelstrom.

It went as I expected.  Similar cases usually lead to similar reactions.  Outrage at an armed white police officer killing an unarmed black man.  Outrage at the lack of indictments.  Outrage at the protesting and rioting.  Outrage about people’s outrage.  Debate about race, police militarization, body cameras, and the relationships between cops and citizens.  Same conversation, different case.  As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

The results:  two New York police department officers are dead, gunned down by a mentally ill felon who wanted retribution for what happened on the streets of New York.  A tragedy.  Like the 377 or more police-involved deaths in this country since officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown on August 9th, 2014.  If you’re doing the math at home, that’s about three a day.

That number proves I was wrong.  You are wrong.  Wrong about the role race plays.  Wrong about police militarization.  Wrong in our beliefs about law enforcement.  And wrong about how to prevent these incidents from happening again.  We continue to debate the symptoms while ignoring the cause.  It’s not criminals, bad cops or bad laws.  It’s not race.  It’s you and me.  The “law-abiding” citizens are the cause.

I base my theory on our views of crime and crime fighters.  The FBI says violent crime is down 37% over the last 20 years, its lowest level since 1978.  And your chances of becoming a victim of violent crime at the hands of a stranger are less than 1%.   And yet, our fear of criminals continues to rise.  A Chapman Survey on American Fears released a couple months ago found the majority of us not only fear crimes like sexual assault and child abduction, we actually believe these crimes INCREASED over the past twenty years.  “Criminologists often get angry responses when we try to tell people the crime rate has gone down.”  We believe we are the next victim.  States continue to pass laws allowing us to shoot someone we deem a “threat.”  The popularity of “conceal and carry” grows.  Many of us live in constant fear of crime, even if it never touches our lives.

And those fears color our beliefs about law enforcement.  We expect them to “protect and serve.”  We want cops on every corner.  We want them to respond when we need them.  We want investigations into every stolen bicycle and car break-in.  And when we feel under-served, we joke about the job they do.  “When seconds count, officers are minutes away.”  They still hang out at the doughnut shops.  Go five miles over the speed limit and a cop is right there handing you a ticket.  But when someone gets shot, they’re nowhere to be found, right?  National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre even uses these beliefs in a new advertisement promoting membership.

Yet, we cause this “under-serving.”  We want the service without paying for it.  We think taxes are too high, and budgets too big.  Since the economic downturn in 2008, local police forces shrunk by 7%.  “In a series of surveys, more than half of police chiefs across the country have reported multiple rounds of budgets cuts, forcing layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, loss of specialty units, cutbacks on training and equipment, and service cuts.”  Communities find other ways to get revenue and resources.  “Protect and serve” starts to feel like “ticket and arrest.”  Red-light cameras replace real officers.  Departments turn to the federal government for free, used military equipment.  SWAT teams carry out raids to stop people from “barbering without a license.”  I recently spoke with a West Palm Beach police officer who believes his department will stop investigating property crimes altogether because it lacks the manpower and resources.  In other words, we ARE paying.  Paying the price.  More tickets, less protection.

With more guns, higher expectations from us, and fewer resources, law enforcement may be more difficult than ever.  And it shows.  In 2012, 48 officers died in the line of duty–44 involving firearms.  As for police-involved deaths, there’s no real tracking method.  Law enforcement agencies “self report” to the FBI.  And, in 2012, about 750 agencies reported 400 “justifiable homicides.”  However, with about 17,000 agencies in the U.S., independent tracking shows much higher numbers.  D. Brian Burghart runs the not-for-profit website www.fatalencounters.org.  He puts the yearly average of police-involved deaths at around 1,150.  And he says a vast majority of these victims fall into at least one of three categories–minorities, mentally ill, or poor.  Some are true criminals.  Most just need help.  But that help will never come without a “real conversation.”  The cycle just continues.

How do I know?  Because of this:

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After the shooting of the two officers, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio tried to start the “real conversation.”  He candidly told us what he teaches his biracial son about interacting with law enforcement.  And this was the response from New York city police officers.  Instead of embracing a white leader for speaking honestly about a controversial topic, they turned their backs on him.  And continue to do so.  They protested, just days after admonishing people who protested against them.  They turned their backs on the “real conversation” just like we continue to do.  Instead of rioting and protesting, let’s talk openly about the relationship between minorities and law enforcement.  We need frank conversations about what law enforcement needs to keep us safe.  Face the facts of crime, and stop perpetuating myths about it.

Put your hands down.  Take a breath.  Don’t turn your back.  Open your mind.

Or, continue to prove Einstein right.

 

 

 

‘Tis the Season

“Christmas time is here.  Happiness and cheer.  Fun for all. That children call. They’re favorite time of year.”

It’s my favorite time of year, too.  I love the music and the displays.  I own nearly 30 Christmas movies.  Two years ago, my wife and I hosted a “Jammy Jam” where we invited two other couples to spend the night at our house in our Christmas pajamas.  We ate, we gave gifts, we played a drinking game with the movie “A Year Without a Santa Claus.”  Yes, I was 38 at the time.  And I wasn’t the oldest person there.  So shut up.

But it also puts us smack-dab in the middle of another war.  Yep, the “War on Christmas”  {Cue scary music}.  Take a look:

Merry Christas bumper sticker waronchristmasbookfoxwari_support_war_on_christmas_sticker-re842a47bca9942ec9f293d0d619ff3c0_v9waf_8byvr_324

Like the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” you’ll hear “War on Christmas” so much you’ll want to go out on Black Friday and club Kirk Cameron to death to get a TV three inches bigger than yours at half the price.  After all, Jesus is the “reason for the season.”  We need to keep “Christ in Christmas.”

Let’s just put the credit cards down, and step away from the $50 Xbox.  Think about this rationally before we go stampeding into a Best Buy at 5am.  No, Virginia, there is no “War on Christmas.”  Like the “war on women,” “war on religion.” and “war on the middle class,”  it’s just another way to wage war on a far more serious issue.  And just like jolly, old St. Nick avoids states with the “Castle Doctrine,” we avoid the real political conversation:  what religious freedom really means.

I’m an atheist.  Yet, I don’t care if you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays!”  I’m too busy staring at the bright lights and shiny objects.  I celebrate Christmas, albeit by remembering the lives of Rankin and Bass instead of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  And if you’re one of those atheists who gets offended by “Merry Christmas,” a nativity scene, or a Christmas tree, you are just as bad as the people you claim take away your religious freedoms.

The same thing goes for those of you who believe there’s a “War on Christmas.”  If your boss tells you not to say “Merry Christmas,” it’s not infringing on your religious rights or freedom of speech.  Those are rights the government can’t take away.  Your employer can tell you what to say, and fire you if you don’t follow the rules.  Do your Jewish co-workers complain they don’t get time off for their holidays while our entire country celebrates the two biggest Christian ones, Christmas and Easter?  How would you feel if a Muslim co-worker received five breaks a day to pray?

No, you’re angry because people like me no longer make Christmas about religion.  For businesses, it’s about money and materialism.  For “Chreasters,” it’s a chance to let your church know you’re still a member.  For families like mine, it’s just a holiday, a time to get together, overeat, talk about all the wonderful and stupid memories we have, and discuss how it’s really a secret welfare program in which some old, fat, white guy uses hard-working stiffs to give free shit to the undeserving.

That’s what makes our country great.  Freedom of religion allows us to choose how we want to celebrate.  You can teach your children about the birth of Jesus Christ.  You can go to church. honor it as a season of giving, and spend time with those you love.  But I don’t have to.

That’s why the “War on Christmas” remains such a contentious debate.  Because, as an atheist, I feel the right to religious freedom in this country doesn’t mean believing in any religion you want.  It really means believing in any religion you want as long as you believe.  You hear it all the time.  People constantly say America is in decline because we have gone away from “good Christian values.”  I hear politicians talk about and defend their personal religious beliefs, as if going to church makes them more or less electable.  Over 16% of the country says they are unaffiliated with a specific religion, making it the fastest growing group.  4% say they are agnostic or atheist.  And yet, we will probably never elect a president with those beliefs in my lifetime.  I see states pass laws banning gay marriage and marijuana based on personal religious beliefs and not personal freedom.  As a former member of the news media, I never understood why we care so much about the Pope when only 24% of the country is Catholic, or about Israel with a Jewish population under 2%.  I hear people call our President the “antichrist” or “devil” just because his views differ from theirs.  And I can’t help but think, “Is that what you think of me?”

Please remember that before you complain about your child’s “holiday” program at school while camping out in the Wal-Mart parking lot Thanksgiving night.  Otherwise, we may need to start talking about keeping the “Han in Hanukkah.”

han-in-hanukkah

 

 

 

Rock the boat

I’m growing a mustache.  Got a wig.  Flip flops.  A NRA t-shirt and shorts.  My costume is complete.

No, this isn’t what I’m wearing for Halloween.  I’m not a fan.  I’m wearing it on “Political Geek Christmas.”  November 4th.  Election Day.

You see, I plan on voting twice.  First, I’m going to vote under my real name.  Then, I’m going to dress up like my neighbor Alejandro.  I look like an Alejandro, right?  He’s a little shorter than me, sports a Colombian accent, and from the bumper stickers on his car, likes guns and the Tea Party.  But I think I can pull this off.

Who wouldn’t want to vote twice?  I’d risk years of jail time for the pure joy of getting two votes for the price of one, especially since Florida doesn’t require a photo ID.

And I’m not alone.  Just look at all the fraud.  In the past few weeks, the New York Post wrote about 850 people listed on the voter rolls as being 164 years old, a boon for the Republicans.  I would bet at 164 years old, not one of those people will vote Democrat.  Then there’s the “vote flipping” machines in Illinois and Maryland.  That’s when you vote for one candidate but the computer “flips” it to the other person.  And the journal Electoral Studies found a large number of non-citizens vote and could change the outcome of close races.

And since the media established that three Ebola victims equals an “outbreak,” this is a downright epidemic.  But, have no fear, our state leaders are here.  The Supreme Court recently upheld Texas’ new law requiring a state-issued photo ID to vote.  Own a driver’s license or concealed handgun license and you’re golden.  Student ID or voter registration card, not so much.  Virginia’s new law allows for a college ID, but only if you go to an in-state institution.  So getting into Harvard shows you’re smart, but it doesn’t show you are who you say you are.  In total, seven states now require photo IDs.  That should put an end to any of those “vote flipping” computer problems, right?

And, of course, there’s the other side.  Those of you who believe it’s “voter suppression,” claiming ID laws “disenfranchise” hundreds of thousands of poor and minority voters.  That’s true.  Those people don’t drive, don’t need a passport to travel, and have lived all their lives not knowing where their birth certificate is.  It’s like someone buying a gun and saying, “You don’t need to run a background check.  I’m sane.”  No, real voter suppression happens every Election Day.  It started long before states even considered these laws.  And we just let it happen.

As this Washington Post article shows, you and I don’t perpetrate fraud.  A professor who studied “voter impersonation” found 31 incidents in one billion.  That’s billion with a “b.”  There are more UFO sightings in this country.  Seriously.   The fraud doesn’t happen in the voting booth.  It happens at the ballot box.  Look at the beginning of this Wall Street Journal commentary.  Notice something?  They’re all elected officials or local party leaders.  Look back at history.  The Mafia helped get John F. Kennedy elected in 1960 by buying votes, paying off officials, and raising the dead.  Forty years later, many believe Florida’s “butterfly” ballots, “hanging chads,” and family ties handed George W. Bush the election.  Hopefully, they had to show a photo ID before doing it.

As for those laws, that same Electoral Journal study above found 75% of the illegal immigrants said they still voted AFTER being asked for a photo ID.  So that works well.  Want another astonishing fact?  Some of the people studied BELIEVED they had the right to vote.  Yep, they didn’t commit fraud on purpose.  They just thought, “Well, everyone else can do it.  I guess I can too.”

So, to recap, voter ID laws don’t really suppress voters because if illegals and 164 year olds can still vote, the poor and minorities can too.  They don’t prevent fraud since it’s perpetrated by our political leaders, not us.  Those laws simply add another layer to the real problem.  The system.  It suppresses real voters.  It commits the fraud.  The Constitution gives us the right to vote.  And the system then tries to take it away.

The real political conversation needs to revolve around the suppression of participation.  The United States ranks 120 out of 169 countries in that category.  In 2012, 59.3% of the voting age population actually voted.   We deal with long lines at the polls, untrained volunteer poll workers, and malfunctioning machinery.  In 2007, Estonia held the world’s first general Internet election.  Estonia?!  Its citizens can vote from home if they wish.  And they not only like it, they trust it.  On Tuesday, if you want to vote, you need to find time to leave work, or make time outside of work hours.  Over 50 countries hold elections on weekends, or make Election Day a national holiday.  Many of those countries provide automatic voter enrollment and a constantly updated national database.  Our government leaves it up to us to obtain our constitutional right.  Fill out forms and mail them in.  Or register at the DMV.  And now, in some instances, show a state-issued photo ID at the polls.  And if you don’t follow the steps or make a mistake, guess what?  You lose your right.

You see, those countries want and expect their citizens to vote.  Our system not only makes it harder to vote, but our political pundits actually talk openly about hoping we stay home.  Conservative Ann Coulter’s said if women didn’t have the right to vote, we’d never have a Democratic president.  And last week, on Fox News, two hosts said young women don’t have the “life experiences” to be on juries or vote.  They should just stay home and look for men on Tinder.com or Match.com.  Yes, we should leave the decision on the future of our country to elderly people who still pay with checks, think Ronald Reagan is on the ballot, and will probably die before seeing the results.

I think it’s time we rocked the boat, not “Rock the Vote.” “Turn out for what?!”

Leader of the pack

“Czar wars.  Nothing but…czar wars.”

Ah, where’s Bill Murray when you need him?  Yep, we got ourselves an “Ebola czar.”  And it’s about time too.  We needed someone to head the fight against this plague.  Like a Marvel Comics movie, he joins a team of plague-fighters.  “Czars assemble!  Ebola czar!  Drug czar!  Faith-based czar!  Asian carp czar!”  I can’t make this up.  We have an Asian carp czar.  And what could possibly be more czars than Russia.

Of course, it’s not enough, is it?  Another health care worker returned home with the virus, this time to New York.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz and other fear-mongers say we need to stop flights from West Africa.  He wants to shut down the southern border.  Several Republicans who pressed for a czar came out against the choice of Ron Klain  because he’s a political insider and not a health care professional.  As Dr. “Bones” McCoy would say, “Dammit, Jim!  He’s a lawyer, not a doctor!”

And the “leadership” bandwagon’s getting mighty full.  In the last couple weeks, former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta released a book slamming President Obama on his leadership.  Our two favorite war-mongers, Arizona senator John McCain and South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham brought up a “lack of leadership” in the White House in talking about ISIS.  Even former CNN host Piers Morgan went on Fox News and ripped the President for the same thing.  Looks like it’s time to revoke that petition to deport him for attacking the Second Amendment.

If Morgan sees it, it must be true.  This new Washington Post poll shows the President’s underwater on his handling of the Ebola crisis.  We wanted him to do more.  Prevent the six infected American health care workers from returning here for treatment.  Stop West African travelers from coming into the country.  Make sure the CDC and local hospitals were prepared to handle Thomas Eric Duncan and any others who may become infected.

And these aren’t the only issues.  The President pulled our troops out of Iraq too soon, and let ISIS take over.  He played golf right after a press conference on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.  He lied to us when he said, under the Affordable Care Act, “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  He allowed Justin Bieber into the country.  All these things add up to one thing:  a failure in leadership.

But, in my opinion, the failure lies elsewhere.  I believe we, the people, set our presidents up to fail.  We’re like that woman who asks if she looks fat in her jeans.  Guys, you know what I’m talking about.  You stand there, nervous, reluctant to answer, not knowing if she wants the truth, or just wants you to reinforce her hotness.  You’d rather have your toenails ripped out than answer the question.  That’s what we do to our elected officials.  After 238 years, we still haven’t decided whether they should do what we want, or what they believe is best.  Do we want them to tell us what we want to hear, or what we NEED to hear?

Scholars and political insiders back up my claim.  This commentary on CNN.com talks about why a president MUST lie to us.  That’s right, lie.  And not only lie, but do it well if he or she wants to succeed.  Why?  Because nothing would get done if they didn’t.  Think about the movie Lincoln.  I assume most of you saw it.  My wife and I did recently.  And after watching it, I thought, “We bitch and moan about presidential leadership, about honesty, integrity and trust.  And I just spent three hours watching one nicknamed “Honest Abe” lie, buy votes, and admit he may have violated the Constitution in order to get the 13th Amendment passed ending slavery.  And we LOVED it!”

You can’t just blame past Americans for it.  We act like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton deserve places on Mt. Rushmore.  We love them for crossing party lines, building up the economy, and talking to us in ways we understood.  Did you forget they lied to our faces on national television?  Reagan’s lie about not trading arms for hostages with Iran nearly led to an attempted impeachment.  “Slick Willy’s” “slick willy” almost got him impeached after he lied about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

As Col. Jessup yelled in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!”  And the truth is, we don’t have any idea what we want.  This Washington Post article backs that up.  Some of you disapprove of President Obama’s gun policy because you think he wants to take away your guns.  Others disapprove because he hasn’t done enough to pass tighter gun laws.  On immigration, disapprovers either don’t like the President’s push for amnesty, or believe he hasn’t pushed hard enough to get it.

And now he faces the same situation with Ebola.  Experts tell us a travel ban doesn’t work.  They say we need to take the fight to West Africa, and take the time to learn more about the virus and how to fight it.  But some of us don’t want to hear that.  With Ebola on our doorstep, many of you want a president who simply locks the door.

I tell my wife, “If you come home from work and find your mother dead in the living room with me holding a bloody knife, the first words out of your mouth should be, “Where do you think we should hide the body?”  I need that support.  Presidents need that support.  To be a good leader, you need good followers.  People who trust a decision and hope it works even when they don’t believe it will.  When everyone criticizes a president, they can’t succeed.  And when they succeed, we all succeed.  Isn’t that common sense?

Maybe we need a “Common sense” czar to join the team.  Czars assemble!!

America Goes Viral!

A virus spreads through the United States, threatening to destroy it.

We’ve known about it for decades.  But it’s starting to infect more and more Americans.

Outbreaks pop up daily.  And it’s deadly.

Ebola?  Nah. I’m talking about the myth “virus.”  You know the one.  You catch it from reading chain e-mails and listening to Glenn Beck.  And like the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, and black Michael Jackson, America is more myth than fact.

From George Washington’s wooden teeth and cherry tree to President Barack Obama’s Muslim faith, we, as Americans, are the most gullible people on the planet.  Look at this 2013 Pew Policy Polling conspiracy theory poll.  It found 12 million Americans believe “reptilian humanoids” control our society by gaining political power.  Yep, you read that right.  12 MILLION.  Now, I can’t prove “lizard people” don’t exist.  But I think the odds are in my favor.  The good news is, according to posts on its website, most believers think the president and vice president are just plain, old human beings and not “lizards” or the “devil” or the “antichrist.”  Which, of course, is what 13% of the people polled believe.

While he may be of this Earth, “Birthers” believe President Obama is not from this country.  “Truthers” call 9/11 an “inside job,” somehow pulled off by President Bush’s administration and kept a secret for 13 years.  Government and big business broadcast subliminal messaging to control us.  An alien spaceship crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, leading to “Area 51” and a federal cover-up.  Lady Gaga is a man in meat clothing.

British philosopher Alan Watts said we use myths to try to “make sense of the world.”  It’s true.  It’s happened for centuries, long before people even knew North America existed.  The world was flat, and sailing too far would send you off the edge.  Mermaids lured sailors to their deaths.  Thunder is just God bowling.

Many stories end up becoming myths.  And because so many people believe them, they become “fact.”  I learned in grade school George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree.  And it’s hard to tell a lie when you have wooden teeth.  Of course, neither one of these are true.  Washington’s neighbor told the cherry tree story, and since no one refuted it, we believed it.  As for his teeth, he actually wore dentures made from other people’s teeth, including his slaves.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Many of the “facts” taught to us as kids start as fables or legends, handed down from generation to generation, becoming more and more engrained in our society.

But I believe there’s a third reason why the myth “virus” infects us, something pervasive in American culture.  Fear.  This article backs it up.  America is the most fearful, stressed out, anxiety-ridden country in the world.  We’re afraid of everything.  Socialism.  North Korea.  Shia LeBouf.  I worked at a local news station in Illinois on 9/11.  The whole day was a complete blur.  But the one thing I remember is fielding calls late at night from Cambridge, Illinois.  The callers all saw an airplane flying low over the town.  At first, I understood and tried to calm their fears.  But as the calls persisted, I started thinking, “Yes, sir or madam, the terrorists are striking at the heart of America–The Pentagon, the World Trade Center, the White House, and a rural, farming community in the middle of Illinois with a little over 2,000 residents.”

Myths spring from this fear.  Look at the “crises” we face today.  We bomb ISIS out of fear over a potential terrorist attack, even though most experts say they have no means of doing so.  New polling shows a majority of us want “boots on the ground” if the airstrikes don’t work, after years of wanting our troops out of the region.  Fearing an Ebola outbreak in the United States, some want to prevent our own citizens from coming back for treatment, despite the fact most epidemiologists say it’s very difficult to contract.  Others think we need to close our borders to travelers from West Africa.  But it’s very easy to get around those restrictions if someone really wants to fly here.  It’s okay for law enforcement to shoot unarmed citizens.  Hell, it’s okay for me to shoot someone in my home.  Not because of an imminent threat.  The only reason we need is fear.

And because of these fears, our politicians replace facts with myths to get our vote.  Many Democrats claim Republicans wage a “war on women.”  Yep, because the losers of five of the last six popular votes want to piss off the majority sex.  Despite an overwhelming majority of scientific data, Republicans still see climate change as a myth.  I mean, after all the polluting, drilling, fracking, and killing of animals, we can say with 100% certainty humans have little to no impact on the environment.  “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  Yet we continue to debate the “guns” but not the “people.”  Gun-control advocates continue to push for stricter gun laws while gun advocates counter with arguments about the Second Amendment and protecting themselves from criminals.  But these are all myths.  No one knows for sure whether stricter gun laws work.  The non-partisan National Constitution Center says the Second Amendment was never intended to protect individual rights.  As far as protecting yourself, more people die each year by turning their own guns on themselves or family members, than at the hand of an armed criminal.

These are the symptoms.  Author Robert Anton Wilson said, “Most people live in a myth and grow violently angry if anyone dares tell them the truth about themselves.”  This is what happens when the myth “virus” infects you.  You become immune to fact and reason.  You begin to dislike others who believe differently.  Division.  Gridlock.  Name-calling and fighting.  Riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Protests against illegal immigrants in Arizona and California.  The hatred of a president.  The death of real political conversations.

Is it incurable?  No.  You are the cure.  We are the cure.  Unlike a cold, rest doesn’t help.  We need action.  Push past the myths, and get to the root of our problems.  Talk fact instead of fiction.  Stop believing the unbelievable.  Help people get past their fear.  Otherwise, as a wise…eh….”man” once said, “Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate….leads to suffering.”

Yoda was a genius.

Hate me

I want you to hate me.  That’s one of the reasons I started this blog.

Hate me like Boston Red Sox fans hate Derek Jeter.

Hate me like Ray Rice hates elevator music.

Hate me like some people hate President Barack Obama.

Now that’s a latte hate….

The “Salutte” incident reaffirms what we already know, right?  President Obama hates the military, an elitist who drinks Starbucks lattes instead of a real American coffee like Folgers or Sanka.  Of course, that contradicts this story about the President’s plan to use the military against U.S. citizens.  Then there’s a GOP donor in Alabama telling voters they need to elect a Republican sheriff to protect them when the President suspends the 2016 elections and seizes power.  Why will this happen?  Well, he’s a Kenyan Muslim who hates America and Israel.  He’s a half-white man who hates whites.  He’s Robin Hood without Kevin Costner’s bad accent, stealing from the “makers” to give to the “takers.”  I’ve heard people call him the “devil” or “antichrist.”  He’s not the President, he’s Sasquatch, with the believers constantly trying to catch him on video to prove their myths are true.

As Martin Lawrence said in Boomerang, it’s all “racial,” right?  Must be, because no one would make up so many lies and myths about a black man without being racist.  Rosie O’Donnell said it on the View, so it must be true.

But I don’t believe it.  There’s no way Speaker of the House John Boehner, or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or anyone on Capitol Hill could keep that from getting out.  Hell, last year a Secret Service agent revealed the President is gay AND a radical Muslim who trades his suit for a tunic when no one is looking.  No secret is safe in Washington, DC.

Actually, I think this quote from conservative commentator Ann Coulter in a New York Observer 2007 blog post gives away the real reason:  “If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about a Democrat president.”  Haters, you don’t hate President Obama for who he is, or what he’s done, but who he REPRESENTS.  Yep, you’re mad at me.  At your friends and neighbors.  The people who voted for him.  We went rogue.

Think about it.  The Republican Party has always believed in tradition, experience, and succession.  And from 1968 to 1992, they won with it.  The GOP won five out of six elections with only four candidates–Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.  All except Ford either ran in the parties’ presidential primaries, or became the actual presidential or vice presidential candidate.  All four of them became president.

Then 1992 brought a double whammy.  Grunge music.  And a good-looking, smooth-talking young Arkansas governor with a sordid private life of inserting but not inhaling.  And we liked him.  He beat a Republican incumbent.  We reelected him.  And even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the “close but no cigar” impeachment, he’s more popular today than he ever was.

Including that election, Democrats have won five of the last six presidential popular votes.  And just think about how much changed since we elected President Obama in 2008:

  • 17 states and the District of Columbia passed gay marriage laws, and the courts struck down bans in several others.  Before 2008, only Massachusetts and Connecticut allowed it.
  • Two states legalized marijuana, with at least six others moving towards it.  And many more considering legalizing medical marijuana.
  • The passage of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” puts us on a road to universal health care.
  • Women push for abortion rights, equality in pay and contraception, among other things.
  • Immigration reform and amnesty for illegals will probably happen, possibly in the next two years.
  • Support for climate change/global warming grows.
  • Cities and states passed laws to raise the minimum wage.
  • Pew Research Center, in a 2011 poll, found 18-29 year olds view socialism more positively than capitalism.  It also found atheism is the fastest growing religious group in the country.  And a June 2014 poll broke down voters into seven different areas.  Three of the groups lean Republican, four lean Democrat.
  • More Snookis and JWowws have gotten pregnant under President Obama than under all other presidents COMBINED.

Republicans, I’m sure you look at this list and see the death of America.  You’re scared.  You’re stressed.  You don’t know what do to.  I understand that.  But President Obama didn’t do this.  Those of us who reelected him did.  You’re killing the messenger.  White, older males and religious voters don’t control elections anymore.  Independents, women, minorities, gays, environmentalists, and young people do.  And you’re not going to change it with name-calling, bashing the President, or winning the Senate in November.

You change it with acceptance.  Stop yelling “socialists” and “racists.” It’s not “homophobes” vs. “gay-lovers.”  There’s no “war on religion” or “war on women.”  Let’s put an end to it.  I want this blog to become a conversation starter.  A place to talk about differences yet find common ground.  Promote real debate by getting to the root of the problems.  Finding solutions acceptable to all.  Or at the very least, make you think.  I know that’s hard.  As American humorist Don Marquis mused, “If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.”

Please hate me.