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An Open Letter To the President-Elect

November 21, 2016

I don’t usually write political posts on this blog, because 1) I don’t want to be castigated, 2) I don’t want to divert from writing about happier things, and 3) I don’t want to turn away from  writing about books and the writing life. But, I have to write this letter to the President-Elect or I’ll explode. Fair warning: the opinions expressed in this letter are strictly mine. With apologies to Daisy the Curly Cat whose image graces this post.

 

Dear President-Elect,

Before I go any further, you should know I didn’t vote for you. I voted against you when I cast my vote for another name on the ballot. I liked little of what made up your platform. You can guess what I didn’t like, because I’m one of those awful over-educated women who actually follows politics, thinks about what she believes would be good for the nation, and votes accordingly. I don’t think what you ran on is good for the nation.

That said, you are the president-elect of the ENTIRE nation, not just your followers, or those who shouted hateful rhetoric at your campaign events. Now, as the president-elect, I implore you to put these hateful things and those angry people aside.

You don’t like the Affordable Care Act. A lot of people don’t, but for many it’s the only insurance they’ve ever had. It has major flaws, which I think you and your administration can fix without dumping the entire act and leaving a void for what could be years. There are 20,000,000 people with insurance under the act, many of whom will vote your party out if you allow it to be trashed without any replacement plan.

You don’t like any of the trade agreements that previous presidents worked so hard to create. If that’s truly your position, then stop buying cheap steel from China. Bring back your own manufacturing from Mexico and other countries where labor costs are so much lower. You can set a good example by putting actions behind rhetoric.

You don’t think global warming is real, that China made it up. Please, just once, listen to scientists who can tell you this is real. You may deny that greenhouse gases play a role, but denying the oceans are rising will turn your beloved Mar-a-Lago estate into beachfront property. You said you have a very good brain. Listening to experts in this field will show the rest of the voting public that you are willing to learn.

You won the Electoral College vote, but over 1,000,000 voters gave your opponent more of the popular vote than you got. What you have is not a mandate to govern; it’s a warning that if your initial choices prove unwise, the 2018 midterm elections could leave you in a very awkward place.

I may not approve of your cabinet choices. I may not approve of your advisers. I may not approve of how much attention you pay to members of your extended family who have no experience in governing. I may not approve of your rhetoric about draining the swamp in Washington. No, wait, I do approve of getting started with that last point. You have the right to assemble a cabinet you are comfortable with, but I don’t think every appointment is going to be rubber-stamped by Congress. Be wise with who you nominate.

You have a right to show the world that you can be a decent leader. I’ll be watching every appointment, every law you sign, every speech you make. As Harry Truman wisely said, “The buck stops here.” It does. Everything you put your name on will be part of your legacy of public service. I pray that it is a wise legacy.

Signed, a voter who is watching and waiting

Featured, Politics, Uncategorized

Thoughts Define Us

June 27, 2016

All that we are is the result of what we have thought–Buddha

I wish that more people would think before they speak or act. Whether it’s political discourse (my fingers want to type “discord”) where we listen to people calling each other names or it’s an overheard conversation waiting in line at the grocery store (where two men gossip about a neighbor down on his luck — “all his fault. He should have…”), we are a collection of what we think.

Does anyone really think that politicians believe what they say? Or are we hearing the thought de jour designed to sway our thinking for the few minutes we listen? We hear that no politician tells the truth but only the truth as he or she sees it. We hear that politicians live for the moment when giving speeches, playing to the crowd, and bowing to applause. We wonder if people can be so duped to believe voting for a referendum won’t have serious consequences.

Take the referendum thing for a second. Back in the ’70s, Californians voted on Proposition 13 to freeze or severely limit the percentage property taxes could be raised. That proposition is still on the books, which means it cuts into badly needed revenues the state could use to rebuild its infrastructure. What the voters didn’t realize was there was no “sunset” clause where the proposition would end if the legislature didn’t take action. And now, bridges, highways, schools, and other things used by the populace can’t be improved or repaired.

Just last week, the United Kingdom voted on a referendum on leaving or staying in the European Community, the EU. From the number of Google searches the day after the historic vote, a whole passel of citizens didn’t know what that meant. They searched for all sorts of issues surrounding Brexit, with many saying they didn’t know what leaving would really mean. Really? I’m shocked that people believed the bellicose rhetoric of the leave side. Jon Stewart may have said it best when he turned the vote into a Jane Austen moment. To paraphrase, the Brits voted either for Sense and Sensibility or for Pride and Prejudice. Only time will tell what the unforeseen consequences will be.

In the US, we have elections coming in November. The summer promised to be long and hot, full of accusations, hopes for an indictment before one convention, mud-slinging, outright lies, and declining voter morale. I for one have campaign fatigue. Living in a so-called swing state exposes me and mine to a barrage of commercials, a barrage which doesn’t look like it will ease until after the election. Like the residents of the UK, many US citizens appear to be falling for one set of lies or the other. Too bad they don’t or won’t educate themselves on what is really at stake and vote accordingly.

I rather fancy the Australian way of voting for top leadership. If I remember correctly, all Australians must vote. That’s right, must. Voting becomes an obligation not a privilege. Aussies also have something on the ballot the US and UK don’t: the choice of voting for “none of the above.” Would that we had such a choice this time around.

Okay, political rant subsiding. It’s not over, but it’s back under control. Have a terrific summer. Try not to listen to too many campaign commercials. They are certain to turn your stomachs and ruin your day.

Peace out.

Journalism, Lake Writers, Politics, Reporters, Sound Bites, Truth

NPR and Me

October 8, 2008

I had been working on an essay about voting, spin, not believing what candidates say, and checking facts when one of my colleagues at Valley Writers suggested I send it in to our local NPR station, WVTF. At first, I was sceptical, but the more I thought about it, I decided I didn’t have much to lose. After all, nothing ventured, nothing sprained.

The long and short of it is that I recorded the essay below, Listen Carefully, on Friday, Oct. 3. It aired on Monday, Oct. 6, the last day for voters to register in Virginia. To access the recorded essay, please go to WVTF.

I believe in the power of words, written, spoken, and thought. I believe that freedom of speech is inviolate. I believe words can be helpful or harmful, supportive or hurtful, constructive or destructive. I believe my beloved grandmother was wrong when she said “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me,” because sometimes words can be ugly, demeaning, and misleading.

Words bind communities together and the same words spoken derogatorily tear communities apart. I believe as a crafter of words I have an awesome responsibility to know the difference.

We receive much of our information today intangibly – on television and on the radio. Less often, we receive it in written format, reading yesterday’s news printed on a dead tree with ink that stains our hands, but leaves little impact on our minds.

A few decades ago we began receiving dumbed-down messages — news stories became shorter, language became simplistic, reporting became entertainment. The “sound bite” has done more to damage our understanding than anything else. We rarely if ever hear the entire message.

It is difficult if not impossible to reach an informed decision from a sound bite. It is too easy to skew a message in less than fifteen seconds.

A dozen lake friends have met regularly this election season. We watched the early debates, the main convention speeches, and the most recent Presidential debate. We represent both major parties; several remain uncommitted. And we have been watching the political ads more closely this year than in elections past. I am horrified at the misrepresentations and outright lies fed to us as truth.

Last weekend, this group argued loudly after the final credits of the first Presidential debate faded from the screen. I was stunned at the number of my friends who still believed lies that had been debunked months earlier: the Obama Muslim hoax, the Palin “thanks but no thanks” misrepresentation, and McCain distancing himself from President Bush.

Suddenly, we became fixated on a political ad, a black and white picture of a bearded Tom Perriello, darkened and distorted with striations across his face. Each point the voice-over narrator made was accompanied by a crack like a gunshot. No mention was made of the fact that the photo was taken when Mr. Perriello was in Darfur working with refugees. And then came the tag line: “I’m Virgil Goode and I approved this message.”

The argument stopped. It didn’t matter whether we supported Mr. Goode or Mr. Perriello. We gaped in shock. We wondered if voters would check the facts or believe the fear factor clearly implied with this spot.

As sentient beings we have the onus to review and think carefully about the messages fed to us like so much mush. We have the responsibility to sound off, make our voices heard, and combat disinformation.

The Constitution provides us the right to freedom of speech. It does not provide us with the right to lie, misrepresent, or spin. It is up to us to listen carefully, check facts, and repeat what has been verified as truth.

I urge all of us to question the information we receive. When we embrace the truth, we can work as a group to regain the high ground we once held in the world. If we succumb to negativism and believe the lies, we belong in the mud. To prevent that from happening, I urge all citizens once again to exercise a sacred privilege and vote.

This I believe.

Update: On Oct. 9 I learned that this essay is being used in a Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University class on news reporting as an example of what everyone reporter should consider before putting fingers to keyboard. Thank you, Bill Loftus.

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