A Real American Value

Earlier this week, I saw this (see above) posted by a friend on facebook. In the context of other messages he’s posted, I know it was posted seriously, that is to say unironically. He means to assert the message contained in the image, not poke fun at it.

So, let’s unpack what my friend seems to believe.

He believes that if I vote for the re-election of the president, I am either ignorant (wittingly or unwittingly), “a communist” (almost humorously anachronistic), or just generally anti-American. (I’ll leave for another time a discussion of what the generally accepted list of “American values” might be.)

What this image doesn’t say is what I believe: Americans (that is, smart, engaged, well-intentioned, good-hearted, patriotic Americans) can disagree sincerely and passionately about policy, assessments of fact, political philosophy, understandings of history and world affairs. We can argue. We can do so civilly.  We can support and vote for different candidates in elections and for or against ballot propositions.

I know a great many well-educated, productive, decent, hard-working Americans, some of whom are voting for Mitt Romney, some for Barack Obama, and some for other candidates for the presidency. I agree with some and disagree with some others but, either way, I don’t necessarily think those who disagree with my particular choice to be traitors, delusional and/or idiots.

And none of that disagreement means we’re any less American; quite the opposite. Civil public expression of the divergence of opinion is one American value I treasure greatly. In fact, any list of American values without it is, in this American’s opinion, fatally incomplete.

Don’t like who others are voting for? Don’t call them stupid or suggest you – and only you – have the keys to what it means to be a “real” American.

Discuss. Argue. Persuade.

In short, be a real American about it.

Why Marriage?

There are many purposes served by marriage, the public declaration of the permanence of love between two people: social stability, the encouragement of certain sets of behaviors, provision of loving and positive infrastructure for children and families, financial and legal benefits, among them.

Why should one class of Americans be allowed to avail themselves of these benefits and not others? Specifically, why should only heterosexuals be allowed to marry?  Further, why should our society as a whole be deprived of the strength and goodness arising from same-sex marriages?

Here are my thoughts in defense of marriage, posted previously on this blog. Briefly, based on my personal experience and observation, I believe couples of all types seeking to be married should be fully supported in that goal. And now, it seems, our president does too.

Let certain states express bigotry, fear and loathing, if they feel so compelled. There is no defensible justification, there is no positive social purpose served by denying the right to marry to anyone – not on the basis of any single religious philosophy, not on the basis of race, not on the basis of gender, not on the basis of sexual orientation or preference.

If marriage is to exist at all, it must exist for all who desire it.

It’s Money That I Love

We might at times get distracted by soaring rhetoric or stadium-sized crowds or even policy-wonks on TV but leave it to Randy Newman to remind us in song what really keeps politics going – money.

In his recent reversal on accepting money from so-called ‘superpacs,’ unregulated, untraceable, and limitless sources of campaign funding, President Obama acknowledged as much.

I’ve read numerous articles over the past couple of days outlining the ‘secret’ ways candidates amass war chests, both to fund their campaigns and to keep their potential challengers at bay, as if such was really a secret to anyone paying attention. Today’s Los Angeles Times says the president’s ‘superpac’ reversal reflects a ‘new reality.’

Nothing could be further from the truth, as this turn-of-the-century (that is, the last century) cartoon from Thomas Nast shows. Our politicians have always sung along with the tune, ‘It’s Money That I Love.’

State of the Union – Inside John’s Head

Focus, dammit!

No matter what happens, must not applaud. It’s what we all agreed to. Wouldn’t be a good example for the younger guys if I was up here applauding.

He just talked about our servicemen. What the hell do I do now? Just sit. Wait it out. He’ll be onto something else in a minute.

Well, crap. The Joint Chiefs are up and clapping now. Can’t just sit here. Got to clap now too. Crap.

Okay, he’s back to the economy. Won’t need to worry anymore. Budget this, economic opportunity, that. Doesn’t this guy ever get tired of hearing himself speak? Blah blah blah…

Can’t look bored. Those Goddamn TV C-SPAN cameras always get me when I’m yawning. I’ll look like I’m listening, just to be polite, but can’t look like I’m listening too hard.

Here he goes again, introducing some “regular” American in the gallery.  Going back to school to learn a new-economy trade. Hmmm. Good sounding story. No. Must not react. Wait a second, is that college in my district? Damn. Well, now I have to applaud.

Talking about energy. Natural gas. Oil shale. Renewables. Who gives a shit? Now, no one is listening. Even Chu is glazing over. Christ!

How long’s he been talking? Can’t look at my watch. Goddamn C-SPAN. I look at my watch, and that’s exactly when that Goddamn camera guy is sure to get me. Damn.

More crap. Is he winding up? Please. And here it is…”God bless the United States of America.” Finally.

Now we can get back to pursuing the people’s business. Hahahahahahaha. Little joke there. I say “pursuing the people’s business” when we all go into the caucus room for cocktails after a session. Pretty funny, huh? Hahahahahahaha.

God, I hate this thing.

Paying attention to our state

There was a time, now long ago, when the American people might have listened to the president’s State of the Union message huddled around the family radio. Now, many more Americans will be watching (no longer listening to, of course) basketball’s Toronto Raptors take on the Phoenix Suns.

The State of the Union address, once the president’s primary vehicle for telling Congress and the American people of his take on our country’s current situation and priorities for the future, is now generally considered little more than a pro forma snooze. There are plenty of other communication vehicles available to the president that don’t carry all the ritualistic baggage.

That said, I’ll be watching, and watching carefully, with a group of people who might still appreciate the event for its potential seriousness of purpose. Like voting, paying attention to our elected representatives as they go about their work is an obligation of living in a democracy – which I, for one, still like doing.

If you’re so inclined, and don’t have a bet on any NBA games, you can watch the president’s address here.