Divisiveness in the current election?

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It’s something a lot of people are talking about, usually blaming those who think differently than they do.

The fact is that we were already divided, but people who held certain opinions didn’t feel free to express them till a leader came along and showed they can do so with impunity. The things we are learning about our relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors were true all along, but they were hiding them.

I think it’s important to always remember that the fact that people are publicly following the rules of civil behavior does not necessarily mean that they accept the rules, that they believe as their public behavior might indicate. That they don’t say racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic things in public doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t believe them. They may just be waiting for their chance to safely go public.

It’s discouraging, but appears to be true, that while conditions have improved (with still far to go in most cases!), over the course of my lifetime, for minorities, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and some others, and while many people have changed their viewpoints–their hearts, their consciences–over time, not everyone has. Some just took their hatred and prejudice into private until a man came along who told them they are right.

Election 2016

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I take this presidential election very seriously and very personally.

My children are immigrants and people of color. So is one of my grand-nephews. One of my nieces is Latina, and also my grand-niece. Among my cousins, through marriage and adoption, are black, mixed, Asian, and Latina/o people. There are people with physical disabilities and chronic medical conditions, including my son who has the same condition as the reporter whom Donald Trump publicly mocked. I don’t know of any Muslims, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I have LGBTQ relatives.

So I take the possibility of a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic president damn personally.

Hillary Clinton was not my first choice for Democratic nominee–Bernie Sanders was. But I saw no one in the Democratic or Republican field who was as unqualified as Donald Trump. I couldn’t imagine he would be a presidential nominee–and now he is. Hillary’s politics have much that I don’t like (mainly the same things I haven’t liked about Obama’s politics), but she is highly qualified to be president, and on many bases I agree with her viewpoints.

People matter to me. Even if none of Trump’s odious behavior and viewpoints touched me personally, I would still oppose him for his lack of qualification, for his reckless and ignorant approach to both domestic and world affairs, including nuclear weapons, as well as for his racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic spewings. But the latter are directed at people I love, along with all the other people like them. I’ll bet that if you think carefully, you’ll find they are directed at someone you care about, too.


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Partly because I have some bisexual friends, I have been seeing posts on Facebook and elsewhere, both from them and with links to others, about “bisexual erasure.” (If you don’t know what it is, please use Google.) This erasure comes, it seems, from both heterosexual and homosexual people.

I just can’t wrap my head around the idea–which seems to be the basis here–that EVERYONE is either gay or straight and that there is no way for a person to be honestly attracted, romantically, sexually, or both, to people of both genders, all genders, no gender, or all of the above. In other words, no way for a person to be attracted to, y’know, other individual humans and not to a specific configuration of genitals.

I have never been romantically or sexually attracted to another woman, even though when I was not monogamously partnered I was open to the possibility. There have been a few women about whom I have thought/felt, yes, she has the characteristics of someone I could have a relationship with–IF I felt a romantic/sexual attraction, but I didn’t. I suspect pheromones, but who knows.

The attraction that I have felt to these women is very much like what I have felt for the men I have had romantic/sexual relationships with, but minus the romantic/sexual attraction. So it’s obvious to me bisexuality is possible.

But–as I think we all know well–a lot of people believe that if they don’t experience something, it doesn’t exist. Others feel that if anyone thinks or feels differently than they do, it’s an implicit criticism of their thoughts or feelings. Add those two groups, and it’s a powerful lot of folks who won’t accept thoughts or feelings outside their personal experience.

Their world is so small.

Believing and Me

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Everyone who goes online, I think, has heard the line “someone is wrong on the Internet.” I find myself less bothered by those who are wrong (in my opinion) than by those who are absolutely unshakably convinced they are right–even if I agree with them on the point at hand.

I have said many times that I do not BELIEVE anything (or “believe IN anything”). The farthest I will go is “This is what I think, based on information, experience, and observation up to this moment. It is subject to change at any time based on new information, experience, and observation.” This is not just something I say, not some facile description. It is the way I approach the universe at the deepest level I can (“can” literally, “am able to”). It is not always easy not to cling to a viewpoint in the face of new contradictory evidence, but I try my very best not to cling, and I could cite specific cases where I have not. I find it hard to grasp how anyone can claim to be rational and not stand there, yet it seems an uncommon viewpoint on life.

(My favorite biblical scholar, John Dominic Crossan, has written of having a similar viewpoint, and I was intellectually thrilled.)

I one wrote on Facebook that I am seldom _______ enough to satisfy people, except when I am too ________ to satisfy them. I am not a movement-joiner, and those “issue” groups I do join are generally those that offer me opportunities to take action but make no demands that I prove my bona fides: Another Mother for Peace (back in the day), ACLU, Amnesty International.

I am dismayed by the tendency of so many to take a sincere “why?”–trying to discover the basis, the reasons, the reasonING–as opposition or doubt or challenge. And when I generally agree with an opinion or viewpoint, I am particularly dismayed by hostility to my pointing out flaws in its development or expression; I see those flaws as weaknesses that others may exploit to cast doubt on the entirety, and I think they should be fixed. Yes, I am a pain in the ass at times.

What I am not, and doubt that I ever will be, is a True Believer … in anything.

2016 Presidential Election

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I know this will not go down well with some, but when did I ever let that stop me? But I ask that if you read this at all, you read it through to the end, and I beg you to THINK about it.

I was an ardent Bernie supporter from the beginning of his campaign. I gave money; we had his sign in our street-facing window. Noam Chomsky has said that Bernie is a New Dealer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btJfkPBLULg), and I agree with that. It’s the political tradition I was raised in.

I disliked some of Bill Clinton’s political actions and viewpoints when he was president, and I disliked Hillary’s support of the same. I have disliked some of President Obama’s political actions and viewpoints during his time as president, and I disliked Hillary’s support of same as secretary of state. I still dislike some of her viewpoints.

But I understand why the DNC has pushed for her so hard, and I am puzzled as to why other Bernie supporters don’t understand. Bernie was a long-time independent who, honestly, joined the Democratic Party just to run in their primaries in his quest for the presidency. It was–let’s not be mealy-mouthed about it–a move of expediency.

That’s OK. Expediency is a big factor in politics. But so is party loyalty, and Hillary had been a faithful party member since she left the Young Republicans in college. Why would the DNC not favor her over a Bernie-come-lately?

Expediency and party loyalty–why be OK with one and condemn the other? Because neither makes the good of the country or of the American public the center of it all? Fair enough, but true of both.

Whether you’re a Hillary-hater or a Bernie-or-buster, just disgusted with the DNC or calling down a plague on all their houses, get off your damn high horse and look at the reality of the possibility of a Trump presidency. Read history. Pay attention to people who have studied deeply–or lived through it–and are warning that this is how it happened in Germany in the 1930s. Pay attention to the cyber-security people who are pretty sure that it was Russia that hacked the DNC (https://www.schneier.com/…/arc…/2016/06/russians_hackin.html), and pay attention to Trump’s ties to Russians (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/…/trump-putin-yes-it-s-really-…).

If you are white, male, straight, cis-gendered, and middle class or above, you may not have much to fear from Trump. But are people “like” you the only ones you care about? And don’t be sure you have nothing to fear. Trump has spoken against or belittled or disparaged women, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, people with disabilities…remember Martin Niemöller’s famous words, and ask yourself, when will they come for me?

Magical Thinking

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“Magical thinking” has a lot of different specific definitions, but I use it to mean thinking–though it is often less conscious than that–that because one wants something to be so, or needs it to be so, or thinks that it must or should be so, it is so.

I think that much of “blame the victim,” or just generally of placing responsibility for misfortune of any kind on the person who experiences it, is magical thinking. It is thinking that the person must have done something to cause the misfortune, so it can’t happen to me because I don’t do that thing, can’t do that thing, would never do that thing. And the further that person’s circumstances, behavior, beliefs, are from mine, the easier it is to think “I’m so different, therefore it can’t happen to me.”

Besides the overall problems posed by people operating on false premises, I immediately see one bad consequence of this: being irrationally judgmental. People make judgments of others as being careless at best and evil at worst because something bad happened to them. It must have been their fault, because that’s the only way it can’t happen to me. And these judgments become, as I said, easier and easier to make the more different the person is from me. From there it’s a small leap to entire categories of people being careless, or evil, or something in between–a small leap to “that group is like that.”

But the fact is that, in the vernacular, shit happens. Yes, everything has a cause, but the world is complex. Things have many causal factors, or more often a synthesis of them. And all of them–every one–is beyond a person’s control except what that person directly does. That’s very hard for humans to accept, so magical thinking.

Are there careless people? Of course. Are there evil people? Yes, though people have different definitions of “evil.” Do people make poor decisions? Sure. But most of the time, most people are doing the best they can in the moment, under the circumstances. Some actions that have bad consequences are taken to avoid other bad, maybe worse, consequences. There is not always a decision, a course of action, that will make everything work out right. And sometimes the universe messes with what was from the human viewpoint absolutely the best, most informed, most responsible course of action. Again, hard for humans to accept, so magical thinking.

If I have a philosophy of life, it can be summed up as “it is what it is”–“it” being whatever the situation or circumstance is. I may be angry or sad or frustrated at what it is; I don’t deny or repress those feelings. But then I try my best to deal with the situation or circumstance as it is. Being human, I probably fail more than I succeed, but I try.

You can walk a mile in another person’s shoes, but you can never walk with another person’s feet. (OK, that’s ableist, but bear with me.) So if you engage in magical thinking, I will try not to judge you. Maybe you need it. Maybe it’s the only way you can stay sane and functional in your own situation. It has been so overwhelmingly prevalent among humans throughout history that it must serve a useful purpose.

Memorial Day, 2016

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Today I honor the memory of my ancestors and relatives who fought in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam.

Today I remember:
+Two uncles I never knew: Lt. Gerald Kennedy (KIA, WWII) and Sgt. Cecil Kennedy (KIA, WWII).
+My father, Charles, between them in age, who was 4F because of his knees and childhood rheumatic fever; he tried to enlist in every branch and was turned down, and then served as a firefighter at Ft. Lewis, to free others for military service.
+Their brother, my Uncle Larry, who served in the military, came home safely, lived a long life, and is much missed.
+My dear Uncle Don, who served in the military, came home safely, and enriched the lives of all around him, living to age 95.

+I remember–and miss–my brother, WO Dennis Kennedy, 1948-96, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He lived through it, but I think he left a piece of his soul there.

I think of my many, many relatives, friends, and acquaintances, my peers, who served in Vietnam. Some came back, and some didn’t.
+IC1 James Sampers (KIA, Vietnam)
+PFC Thomas Orr (KIA, Vietnam)
Marc, Jim, Tim, Bill, Steve, Doug …

I grieve for all those lost in our current ongoing wars, and hope for the safe return of the rest.

And so I say “Thank you” to all who have served in our military, and to all who have supported military family members while they did so. I will always respect those who fight because they believe they are defending their own people–even those who fight against causes I believe in. I will always honor those who fight to protect others–even to protect them against “my side.”

As much as I believe in anything, I believe in the utter futility of war, that war is almost never the right course–not absolutely never, but almost never. But with humans being what they are and the world what it is, I do think the U.S. needs a military force. So I thank those who do that job, and I support their being taken care of both during and after their service, including their families’ being supported well while they serve.

If we ever again have a draft, I want it to be absolutely universal but not entirely military, with no deferments or exemptions on any basis other than a disability so great that the person cannot perform any useful function. I was part of a working-class family and a working-class neighborhood during the Vietnam years, and I see the same pattern today I saw then: those in lower socioeconomic groups paying a disproportionately higher price.

Are there things worth dying for? Are there things worth killing for? I am not an absolute pacifist; I think there are. But I’m not easy in my mind about anyone making the decision for another about what those things are—and especially with leaders making that decision for their people, particularly for the ones who will have to do the killing and the dying.

Are there things worth dying for? Are there things worth killing for? Those two are so intertwined. Chicken and egg? But I think it starts with killing. War always starts with someone deciding that something is worth killing for.  Yet no one ever calls someone a hero for saying, “I will kill for my country”; “I will kill for the cause.” Heroes say, “I will die for my country”; I will die for my cause.” But war isn’t about dying, it’s about killing.

Maybe if we were more honest about that, there would be a bit less of it. Maybe.

“I am tired and sick of War. Its Glory is all moonshine. It is only those who
have never fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded
who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell!”
— William T. Sherman

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Carrying It with Me

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. -Ralph Waldo Emerson