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Election Anxiety

Every four years, like clockwork, my internal stress level increases dramatically for maybe 4-6 months.

Election season.

I actually take politics seriously, because for all of the stupidity and messiness of it, there are major issues at stake that impact both the present and future. It’s certainly true that politicians of both stripes don’t live up to their principles, but principles do matter.

Hence the anxiety. I worry about leadership. I worry about finances. I worry about consequences. I just worry!

Then I read this morning about a man named Simeon. Residents of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago had plenty to worry about – Roman occupiers, divided religious/secular leadership, political and social turmoil – we’re really not so unique here in 21st century America.

Simeon, however, while undoubtedly quite aware of what went on around him, had his mind also operating on another, higher, level. He is described, in the Gospel of Luke, (2:25-32), as being righteous and devout – “the Holy Spirit was upon him…it was revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit…he came in the Spirit into the temple…”

Simeon managed to live with a 2-track mind. His nearness to God and faith in His purposes gave Simeon a steadiness of mind I truly envy. He was waiting for a Messianic King, not simply wrapped up in the machinations of earthly thrones.

I am constantly trying to suppress (not always successfully) a longing to swing verbal swords in the political battlefield. To fight for the here-and-now. But while that is not wrong in and of itself, what I really need far more is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit. To live with my hope and longings fixed on a higher plane. Emperors and kings and presidents and senators will all pass away. Lord, grant me grace to follow a much greater King!

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We’re in the season when social media gets hot and heavy with opinions – sometimes blisteringly delivered – from people who passionately advocate for their political points of view.

Or social points of view. Or religious points of view. Pull it all together, and it’s your worldview.

I’ve always considered it a fallacy to embrace the old saw, “discuss anything but religion and politics,” because this implies a very truncated and unrealistic view of human nature.

We all have a worldview. And, it’s showing.

Some believe President Obama is something akin to a savior; others see him as the devil incarnate. Sprinkle in a wide range of viewpoints in between. Same person being discussed – but we each see through our own set of glasses. Same thing happened with Presidents Bush, Clinton, Reagan, and on and on.

I believe that everything having to do with the lives of Hollywood types is utterly valueless. Others spend hours per week devouring magazines and TV shows on the subject. We have very different worldviews about where value is found. I’ll tell you right now that I don’t get it, and that I think it’s a waste of time – but if I then write you off as a sub-human being, I’ve crossed a line of disrespect. Even if I firmly believe you’re “wrong” and can argue a really strong case for it!

You may turn out a light bulb because, by that small action, you feel like you are helping to save an endangered planet. There is an entire narrative of beliefs feeding that sensibility. Whereas, another person may turn off a light bulb simply to save a few pennies, while quite convinced that there is sufficient energy for the world’s needs and no real danger is posed by the consumption of those watts.

Same action. Very different worldviews. Very different core beliefs.

Our opinions are shaped by our worldview – how we see and feel about the world, its origin and destiny, its occupants, and the laws by which it operates. How we assess “right”ness and “wrong”ness. And undergirding our worldview are our (consciously or unconsciously held) core beliefs – our first principles. Our intuitive moral framework. What are religion and politics and social causes if not expressions of worldview?

Face it, folks – by and large, we don’t believe because we see. We see because we believe. That goes for naturalists and supernaturalists, of every stripe. <—-(this statement is an expression of one of my core first principles of belief. Don’t share it? Fine. Happy to talk. Respectfully.)

If someone shares our worldview, we feel an affinity. But what if, in the body politic of our society, we encounter others who have a very different set of assumptions, whose embraced narrative about reality differs from ours? What then?

Unlike those who think that religion and politics should be “off the table” as subjects, I advocate for an honest and consistent worldview, embraced with appropriate measures of both passion and humility. If Tim Tebow believes that Jesus has helped him, let him say so in any way that he prefers. No laws are broken. On the other hand, if a gold-medal winner wants to say, “All praise to Allah for my performance,” and another athlete wishes to say, “I did this all myself through my hard work,” and another says, “I didn’t build that – it was my parents and society and government,” and another says, “the stars were in alignment for me today” – whatever. Own your beliefs. Don’t be shy about your worldview.

And respect the fact that other people don’t share it. I’m not going to shut up about how I see the world because someone says, “Dude, I disagree with you,” or, “that belief system offends me.” If I say to you, “I believe that the world was created through random processes of mutations and unsupervised evolution (or, alternatively, it was created by a Supernatural Being),” then you are free to disagree and to state your beliefs (and vice-versa). And I’m perfectly free to express my worldview in a blog post, a book, TV interview, or a banner trailing behind an airplane. We live in a land of first amendment rights. However, if in a dialogue together, I say, “I understand where you’re coming from, but I find this particular aspect of your belief system to be distasteful and don’t want to discuss it further” – then the correct thing to do is to move onto other subjects. That’s being respectful in our differences.

Suppression of the expressed beliefs (even publicly!) of others isn’t the goal. Mutual respect is.

But here’s the other danger we face – denigrating stereotypes. All Muslims must be terrorists – or all Bible-believing Christians are dumb rubes – or all liberals are elitist communists – or all conservatives are greedy haters. The possibilities are endless. And if I’m associated with one or more of these labels, you might be tempted to lump me into a group of straw men that you can conveniently flail and then write off. Pretty disrespectful.

Because, ultimately, no matter which hot-button topics you try to avoid publicly, through your many words and actions and associations and tweets and status updates, your worldview is showing anyway. So put on big enough panties to express yourself clearly, debate others intelligently and forthrightly, learn about the glasses others wear, and make friends with those who may not share your first principles.

We all might learn a few things that way. Even while agreeing to disagree.

We don’t live in a theocracy. Or an atheocracy. This is America, where we can have possess our worldviews and speak of them freely. Thank God for that (or, don’t, if you prefer!).

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Generalizing and Hypocrisy

On rare occasions, I will put up a post that touches on politics – sometimes, directly regarding political issues; other times, what political situations can teach us about something even broader.

This post is one of the latter.

I saw on the Facebook wall of one of my friends (yes, I consider him a friend, though we are polar opposites in political leanings!) this statement, cheered on by various comments from others: Didn’t we already learn the Texas Republican Governor lesson? (referring to the imminent entry of Gov. Rick Perry into the presidential race).

I called him out by adding a comment (maybe with a bit of edge to it, I’ll admit!):

I was excoriated by someone else in the thread in the following fashion:

I thought the reply was pretty funny, actually, but it really missed the point I was trying to make – which is that generalizing is bigotry, and it doesn’t simply happen in one direction (and, by the way, I was not maintaining that “the left does all the demonizing” – it’s just that I think liberal acts of demonization are somehow viewed as acceptable among many media and political elitists. How else can we explain the NY Times getting away with repeatedly categorizing tea party folks as terrorists?)

Anyway, let’s use a little basic logic on the original Facebook post, and see where it takes us.

Assumption/opinion – Republican George W Bush, former TX governor and U.S. President, was a colossal disaster.

Fact – Rick Perry is a Republican, a TX governor, and now is running for U.S. President.

Implied conclusion – Perry as President must therefore be another disaster.

Now, many would take issue with the assumption/opinion, but even if one agrees with it – what right does anyone have to generalize that Rick Perry, who is a different individual, should therefore be dismissed out of hand and assumed to be a bad choice? Is it OK to demonize conservatives from middle America – especially Texas (or heaven forbid, Alaska!)?

Note that nothing is stated about Rick Perry’s qualifications, principles, stances, character, or track record, no logical rebuttal is made. He’s just another Republican Texas Governor. Guilt by association.

That’s what I consider a cheap shot. But there are principles much larger at stake, and let’s expand the discussion beyond what this particular person may or may not feel. Everything below is meant to ask questions, broadly, to any who would identify themselves as political “progressives.”

Now, why do I think it’s hypocrisy? Here’s why: what if the original poster had, instead, put this in his Facebook status: Didn’t we already learn the black Democratic Illinois politician lesson? Now what would be the reaction? Think about it. What does your gut tell you?

In a bigoted fashion, that would be dismissing someone via guilt by association. Just throw the race card in there and what happens? Now the knives come out about generalizing!

As for me, I’d vote for an African-American, or Indian, or Hispanic, or half-Chinese, or 3/4 Filipino, or Caucasian woman for president in a heartbeat, no matter what state they came from – as long as I agreed with their principles, witnessed their proven character, and saw a track record of competence that led me to believe they could govern successfully at that level. I would be an ardent Obama supporter if I believed all of that was in place (I never did believe it was).

So, let’s talk about character. Let’s talk about track record. Let’s talk about principles. But to casually flip off people via guilt-by-association cheap shots, or because of what part of the country they’re from? To oppose individuals because of, perhaps, a lingering case of Bush Derangement Syndrome? To regularly call mainstream, productive, patriotic Americans extreme? How is that commendable?

What’s next – demonizing experienced leaders because they’re attractive women, or religious, or from a blue-collar background? Why, that could construed as misogyny. And xenophobia. And bigotry…such behavior would certainly be more regressive than “progressive,” don’t you think?

It’s a free country. Believe what you want, say what you want. But if you think you’re justified calling huge swaths of American citizens bigots, nutcases, racists, and terrorists, because they differ politically from you – take a look in the mirror and see if you like what’s staring back.

Because ultimately, this is not at all about one person’s feelings toward or convictions about Rick Perry or George Bush. It’s about a toxic atmosphere of disrespect. And it doesn’t go in just one direction.

btw – I’m not from Texas or Alaska. I don’t know who I’m going to vote for in the upcoming election – but it will be based on the three main qualifiers mentioned. Any attempt to generalize me into a certain sub-group and thereby make numerous gratuitous assumptions will likely fail to be accurate. And if you choose to respond – reason, logic, and principle are appreciated. Stupid and abusive sound bytes are not.

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My grandparents are long gone. One grandmother we called “Nana,” and the other we called “Granny” – if you average the two out, you might come out with “Nanny.”

Well, Nanny is alive and well. Here in the Land of the Free, we’re increasingly being hectored by the nanny state. Let me illustrate…

Today, outside our front door, we are taking part in that good-old American tradition of a yard sale (along with 2 neighbors – hey, why not do a multi-family and make it more of an event?). Just put out your stuff, fill up a money box, set up some signs, and have at it – right?

Wrong. We live in a town in New Jersey.

Here’s the way it goes down here:

  1. You actually have go to the town hall and buy a permit – for $10.
  2. You must display said permit at your yard sale.
  3. You must place the permit number on all your yard sale signs scattered about to promote the event.
  4. Some town official actually goes around and checks the various yard sales to ensure “compliance” with whatever nanny says a legal yard sale is nowadays.

Now, if you’ve lived in certain blue states long enough, or if you’re a card-carrying “progressive,” this might seem like normal behavior. But for the rest of us, it’s an affront. The message is clear: the citizenry cannot be trusted. People must be supervised and monitored by the government. Right down to selling crap for quarters to neighbors.

We’re 3 hours into the sale as I type this, and so far OSHA and the state health inspector have not yet closed down my son’s lemonade stand. So if you’re thirsty, please come fast. We forgot to get a restaurant permit.

I’d like to think this is an exception. But when I see the TSA’s assaults on citizens, when I see my state and local tax bills, when I see government meddling and distortion in every corner of the marketplace, I fear that nanny state enslavement is simply the new normal.

No wonder blue states are collapsing and people are fleeing in droves.

Oh, and by the way – don’t let your kid play dodgeball. Or use a swingset. Or eat a french fry. They just might get…hurt. Nanny knows best – it’s safer to stay in the cage…

(of course, not all Nanny-state meddling is so minor. NJ’s DYFS is in the process of destroying the Jackson family – read the story here)

(this blog post was submitted to the State Board of Blog Post Approval for official review by Correctness Commissioners and may be revoked at any time based on the findings of the NJ State Truth-in-Blogging Deputy Adjunct Assistant to the Director of Approved Citizen Speech. If you see any blog posts that do not meet state standards, or that might be offensive to anyone currently favored by the political class, please call 1-800-Get-Nanny. Union-sponsored blog posts excepted. No barn swallows were harmed in the writing of this disclaimer. Blogging permit #679).

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Hijacking Tragedy

By now, pretty much everyone knows about the horrendous shootings in Arizona – made even more high-profile because a political figure was at the center of it.

Early indications are that the perpetrator in custody is an unhinged person whose mind and motivations may never be understandable to the rest of us. It’s one thing when a clear-thinking and plain-speaking individual states why they’re doing something. But the bizarre ramblings of this young man brought forth thus far don’t give us any kind of clear understanding of a coherent agenda.

That hasn’t stopped many from projecting their own agendas onto the tragedy however, which is only compounding the problem.

“It’s Sarah Palin’s fault!” “He read the Communist Manifesto!” “Society is guilty of executing those it disagrees with!” “The NRA is responsible for that gun!” “It’s Beck’s responsibility”…”Olbermann’s fault”…”Tea Party hate-mongering”…”Obama made him do it!”

To which I have just two words: SHUT UP!

For crying out loud, there’s an investigation that has to happen. There may be a nutcase involved. And what are we thinking, trying to hijack this tragedy to advance some pre-packaged political/social/personal agenda?

This is a time for mourning and reflection, not partisan screeching. Let’s grow up, people. Are we behaving any differently than the person who pulls a gun and tries to hijack an airplane to some pre-determined destination? What right do we have, based on a few early shreds of incomplete information, to try to use this awful occurrence to score political points and move the ball downfield in our chosen direction? Do we not thus cheapen the very values we stand for as a nation?

I would ask nicely under normal circumstances, but really. Just shut up!

Update: The blame frenzy in the media.

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We hear, with regularity, that we’re a deeply divided country. There’s some truth in that statement; however, many times the explanations given are overly simplistic and don’t really get to the heart of the matter.

Red state vs. Blue state. Liberal vs. Conservative. Republican vs. Democrat. White / Black / Hispanic. Boxers or briefs. Etc., etc.

Well, I’m going to step right into this minefield, and propose an explanation for what truly divides us as a people. I’m sure what is being put forth here has flaws, but having given this a lot of thought over months and years, I’d like to sketch out a continuum with 2 deeply divided end points, and then dig a bit deeper into what makes up the continuum between the two.

On one end of the continuum is what we might call, for lack of a more imaginative term, the AmeriCAN spirit. On the other end, just to be sure  at least some people reading this have a chance to take offense, the AmeriCAN’T spirit (in this context, spirit = the animating perspective that shapes how one views life and country).

The AmeriCAN spirit, in short, appreciates this country’s founding values and traditions, has positive feelings about America’s political and social distinctives, focuses on this country’s opportunities and blessings, and takes pride in his/her identity as a citizen of this country. The AmeriCAN’T spirit tends to denigrate the historical roots of the nation, feels that American society is loaded with unfairness and oppression, focuses on things that are perceived to be wrong with America, and may feel an enduring sense of shame and grievance about the nation.

I’d venture to guess that most of us would self-identify as being influenced in both directions, to one degree or another along the continuum. And, we all have the capacity to be both grateful and critical, and we can all live together in peace with quite a diversity of views. But what polarizes us, in my opinion, is a certain cynical view of our national identity, which is what I’m pointing to as the chief characteristic of the AmeriCAN’T spirit. Which, again, we can live with in this great American experiment of freedom…until it takes the form of extremism.

One side of the continuum tends to view progress as continuing to build on a sturdy and reliable foundation. The other sees progress as dismantling and replacing a foundation seen to be archaic and relatively defective. To put it in more recent historical terms: the AmeriCAN’T spirit has a lot in common with the turmoil of the 1960’s, and in many ways grew out of it.

(full disclosure: I’m a recovering cynic, a former semi-AmeriCAN’T who grew up in the ’60’s and 70’s. And my voyage along the continuum has taken decades. Just so you know.)

Now, in our quest to avoid overly blurry or binary explanations of things, let’s think about what actually makes up the classic AmeriCAN spirit (and its opposite). To say that someone embraces or rejects “classic American values” is too simplistic – certain perspectives that have marked us as a people may be embraced, while other perspectives, perhaps, not so much. It seems to me that there are perhaps six elements that will help us delineate some core values, each of which we will tend to embrace or reject somewhere along a continuum. Tending to be a mnemonic kind of guy, each of the six key word starts with the letter “P”:

Here’s my thesis: the real division between us stems from the vastly differing attitudes, behaviors and policies between those holding to lower “p-values” compared to high “p-value” people. And the lower/higher the combined p-value of the person or group, the more apparent and acrimonious will be the division. A highly productive, patriotic, independent (personal liberty) and pragmatic American (as described below) will be at polar opposites with someone who rejects a personal work ethic, trash-talks the country, and seeks to impose collective government solutions.

You might say, “well, that’s just conservatives and liberals!” But let’s dig below those labels, shall we, and see how the spirit that animates us, and specific values we hold, shape the debate. And then let’s identify where the real danger is for all of us, which is radicalism.

Let’s note right now that you can have high or low p-value people on either coast, of any race or ethnic background, etc. It’s not race or geography that divides us (though there may be tendencies of people-groupings to occupy various places on the p-value continuum), it’s the spirit embodied by the presence or absence of these six values and their opposites. You can find high p-value African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and people of every other background – and lower p-value folks of every stripe as well.

Yes, each of these could be a book chapter. No, I’m not going to attempt to do them justice with links, historical footnotes, quotes from the Founding Fathers, etc. – for the sake of this quick overview, I’ll just give a quick snapshot of each of the p-values. And, ask you to ask yourself – what’s the spirit you have imbibed?

The classic AmeriCAN spirit is Productive – that is, we believe that we are here to create value and produce goods and services. When the country was founded, everyone (who could) worked. Everyone contributed. It was a key part of the ethic of our European settler-forefathers; this view of labor and vocation and self-support was rooted in principles of both religion and practical living. The idea was not to find a free ride, but to maximize skills and efforts to contribute to individual, family, and the community good. Instinctively, we tend to resent freeloaders, and with good reason – everything being consumed by those not pulling their weight and contributing by positive labor is being actively taken away from the productive by thievery or excessive taxation. Low productive-value people tend to be value-destroyers, viewing life as unfair and themselves as deserving of unearned or disproportionate benefits (you can easily see the outworking of this in both unprincipled “capitalism”, as well as those who make a lifestyle of government handouts. And tort lawyers and career politicians are definitely not excluded!). You can be a productive card-carrying Democrat, and a value-destroying staunch Republican voter. And vice-versa.

The classic AmeriCAN spirit is Pragmatic – that is, we tend to be a figure-it-out and get-it-done people. It’s embedded in our DNA – we tend to have a can-do, whatever works best approach, a trait which spans our political spectrum. Americans have typically possessed an instinctive drive to balance ideals and principles with realities on the ground. The entire structure of representative government assumes this give-and-take, balanced, pragmatic approach. And this is why extremists and utopians have, historically, not been able to usurp power for extended periods. Utopians of every stripe will always be among us, but these unrealistic thinkers are rarely too dangerous unless they have the levers of power or the tools of destruction. Folks with a low-pragmatic value tend to only see one side of the coin, and often are so arrogantly self-righteous they will seek to game the system for the sake of some “higher cause.” Pragmatism, for such, may only take the form of “the end justifies the means,” which is another way of saying petty tyrant instead of practical citizen.

The classic AmeriCAN spirit has always embraced Personal liberty and responsibility – meaning, “We the people…” and our individual pursuit of liberty and happiness (within the boundaries of lawful society) are at the core of culture. Our Founders ventured out on the radical idea that Americans did not need oppressive regimes or detailed, externally-imposed codes of conduct, but that we’d instead be motivated by enlightened self-interest and self-control. Most people on the planet have never known such an astonishing foundation, which is why so many flee to come to these shores. Every employer covets high p-value people on this axis! Citizens low on this p-value trade off individual freedom for the false security of some form of collective leveling, where carrying the load to better one’s lot in life is cast off in favor of raiding someone else’s camp, and whining about being a victim.

The classic AmeriCAN spirit is Pluralistic – that is, we believe that we are enriched by people of various backgrounds who legally and willingly take on the mantle of American citizenship, and embrace our (historical, current, and evolving) culture – even contributing to it. Unlike many nations of the world, where privilege and power reside only with those of specific family and ethnic backgrounds, our ideal as a nation (which we have NOT always lived up to) is to be blind to external characteristics, and to value any and all who contribute and live lawfully among us. The opposite of this is inflaming divisions among us by constantly agitating about real or perceived oppression, or, in those most extreme form (like a theocracy), seeking to impose some alien form of uniformity, with stonings reserved for those who won’t conform. This is at the heart of our enduring friction with elements of the Muslim world – we have utterly incompatible worldviews. Those who want to impost a mono-culture with a fixed set of beliefs will always be at war with the American spirit.

The classic AmeriCAN spirit is Pious – by which I mean, this nation was founded, by our European forefathers, on the basis of religious principles and religious liberties. Anyone who has access to historical materials and our founding documents has to be willfully blind to miss this – and while we’ve never been a uniform people as to the content of religious belief (yes, we had Christians, Deists, Rationalists, and others among our forefathers), and we are a nation that does not require a religious litmus test, the indisputable fact is that Americans have always been recognized for their general, if not universal, piety. Yes, we’ve always had “believers” and “unbelievers” of every stripe, but the pious and the not-so-pious are not stoned here. America has a very unique flavor of religious tolerance, and it’s not abandonment of one’s chosen form or belief or disbelief to recognize the role that piety and tolerance has played in our culture. The divisions occur when low piety-value folks seek to commit a form of secular intolerance by actively denying the rights of others to practice their religion or even have it culturally recognized, out of some arrogant form of elitism (and, by the way, any oppressive form of civil intolerance for those that don’t share a certain form of religious belief is also a violation of American-style piety). The AmeriCAN’T spirit is not rejection of forms of religion for oneself – it’s active suppression of religious expression for others.

Finally, the classic AmeriCAN spirit is Patriotic – by which I mean here a personal pride for, confidence in, appreciation of, and attachment to one’s country, including a glad acknowledgment of its unique strengths and a sober assessment of its weaknesses. This type of patriotism is rooted in a grateful sense of blessing, and, in the case of the United States, includes (in high p-value folks) a sense of what is generally referred to as “American exceptionalism” – not some arrogant notion that American people are somehow inherently better than others (a nonsense idea), but that the American experiment includes numerous positive values that bear healthy fruit and are objectively superior to the systems of governance and social structure that mark many less fortunate lands. It is fully American to be self-critical with an eye to improvement – that is both intelligent common sense and patriotic. Ignoring all that is good while continually talking national trash really isn’t. A low-p value citizen on this part of the scale will tend to feel somehow guilty and uncomfortable with our privileged position among nations, and may try to defend the fiction that national differences do not carry moral or cultural weight and value (while, of course, voting with their feet to remain in the land of freedom and plenty). The AmeriCAN’T spirit here isn’t questioning our direction or holding our leaders to account – it’s holding up a middle finger continuously to the nation at large, and seeking to bring it down.

Those are the six “p-values” I’ve managed to distill down over the months – maybe you can think of others. By and large, the AmeriCAN spirit is marked by a confident positivism – a steady assurance that those perspectives which marked the launch of the American experiment really don’t need a major overhaul. The AmeriCAN’T spirit is more tied up with what we aren’t, can’t, shouldn’t, didn’t, and mustn’t, and may be more inclined to measure our nation, not by its own ideals, but by the standards and expectations of those outside its borders.

If we were to turn it into a personal assessment scale (and let’s skip trying to place numerical values!), someone’s p-scale might look like this made-up sample on the right. And so we see that it’s not a simple recipe of “left-right” / “liberal-conservative”, but there are going to be areas of common values, and areas of divergence. The major cultural divide is among those whose p-values diverge greatly on multiple levels.

Now, by portraying these two spirits in this fashion, I am not saying that those with a measure of AmeriCAN’T cynicism in their bloodstream have no sense of appreciation for some American values; nor am I implying that those who possess a good bit of AmeriCAN spirit are incapable of critical thought, or acknowledging what is wrong with America. But there tends to be a basic outlook animating these spirits; America’s founding principles and documents and identity and traditions are essentially good and worthy of preservation (and even extension), vs. the gnawing perspective that traditional America needs to be seriously overhauled into the image of something less…American.

As Americans, we expect to differ on many ideas and beliefs, and we seek both reasoned discourse and representative governing structures to move the cultural needle in accordance with our convictions. But…the real danger, for all Americans, is extremists – those of any stripe who despise personal liberty, seek to overturn constitutional structures, and impose whatever set of beliefs on others without regard for the rule of law and the American spirit.

There are many implications that come out of this AmeriCAN <–> AmeriCAN’T continuum, and the p-value elements that make it up. Let me just briefly highlight one. Do you have a hard time understanding the appeal of conservative talk radio? Here, in two summary paragraphs, are some core perspectives that drive it:

There’s a combustible mix on the dance floor when those who (at core) deny personal liberty, and overthrow sensible pragmatism for a utopian view, propose to waltz with those who have surrendered true American pluralism and patriotism. When zealots meet an angst-ridden and tentative people, then every form of extremism is invited to the table. When the AmeriCAN spirit is displaced by the AmeriCAN’T perspective, then the ability to say “This is really stupid!” begins to be lost. That’s because the low p-value people have been given the dictionary, and allowed to define themselves as smart and everyone else as dumb and old-fashioned. Which is why those who stand up for classic AmeriCAN values are regularly drawn and quartered in the AmeriCAN’T media machine. Can’t tolerate those kind of traditional values in our pluralistic society, after all!!

You see, not all extremists come with a turban and a bomb. Many cross the border of our souls with words and a guilt trip. They plant IEDs – Improvised Extreme Declarations – to maim reasoned discussion. They harp on fear and grievances, and display a readiness to impose their will via intimidation or unprincipled judicial activism. And given the choice of ramming a radical agenda down your throat or respecting your freedom, guess what comes out on top?

Now, whatever you may feel about the accuracy or tone of what’s depicted above, the driving force behind the AmeriCAN revival is this: a profound fear of the erosion of freedom because radicals (not just people with different political views along the p-value scale, but extremists) are increasingly pulling the levers of power and seeking – unrealistically – to re-shape that which has been handed down by our forefathers. If you don’t grasp the deep concern and anger of people who aren’t all that enamored with the spirit of the ’60’s, this is your key to understanding it.

Furthermore, people who hold to classic American values profoundly resent being portrayed as “right-wing extremists”. Yet that is how they are depicted, over and over again – as out-of-touch rubes trying to impose their morality on an unwilling nation. I can assure you that tolerating this type of intellectual and cultural deceit does not advance the national discourse. Extremists are those that reject what America has always been about, not those who uphold it.

Across the political spectrum, there are smart, productive, freedom-loving people. We may differ on many things, but one thing we can certainly agree on – those that most endanger our society are those who run roughshod over our personal freedoms and erode the value of personal responsibility and productivity in headlong pursuit of narrow agendas that do not serve the common national good. Doesn’t matter if they are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, male, female – we all stand to lose if extremists of any kind seek to undermine core American values.

That is the cultural divide we face. It’s a matter of spirit, and it’s all in the p-values. Or is it? Your thoughts? Feel free to add your perspectives in the comments; I only ask 2 things:

1. Please refrain from name-calling and shallow repetition of dumb stereotypes. We’re here to reason together.

2. If you disagree with aspects of what is written, please explain by using logical thought processes instead of being dismissively shallow and attacking the messenger.

Only abusive and spammy comments will be moderated out.

(note: for those who think the CAN…CAN’T dichotomy may be a bit simplistic, I agree – as do a couple of my early advisor/reviewers. I spent many hours trying to come up with something simple, catchy, and reasonably accurate, and that’s the best I could conjure up!)

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Let me begin by saying that I very rarely make public any voting choices that I make, especially in advance. And, generally speaking, I vote for the candidate that most closely reflects my principles (what are those? -see this post from a year ago on Principled Independent Patriots, or PIPs).

I’m going to make an exception this time.

DaggettThere’s something I’m going to vote against, and it’s not a person. It’s a dysfunctional and broken political system in New Jersey, dominated by two parties who seem utterly unable to govern effectively. Like the Newark Star-Ledger – and for similar reasons as that newspaper expressed in this editorial – I plan to repudiate both major candidates/parties and vote for the independent, Chris Daggett.

And, for me, it’s a matter of one principle overriding a whole other set of other principles.

You see, I don’t agree with a fair number of Mr. Daggett’s positions. I would be considered far more “conservative” than he is in a lot of areas, and it is very rare that I will vote for anyone who is out of alignment with those principles.

But this state needs intelligent, bold leadership that is not part of the problem. And the parties ARE the problem here. I would like to use my vote to give a loud Bronx cheer to both major parties in NJ. And to say YES to independent candidacy. Especially when that candidate can best the favored sons of both parties in an open debate.

Even more – I believe that the future of this country rests on the repudiation of this out-of-touch 2-party system on a national scale. We need independent candidates.  More specifically, we need High-P-value Confident Americans (what is that? -stay tuned to Steve’s Leaves. Much longer writing on its way!) We need to break the stranglehold of self-interested partisan drones who have no interest in governing wisely. And so, even if I wouldn’t align with Mr. Daggett on a number of specific issues, I DO align with one overriding principle – we need to throw the bums out and start electing people who will govern for the people. That statement needs to be made. Now.

If Mr. Daggett can make a good showing here in NJ – and maybe even send both Democratic and Republican parties packing – it will be an important symbolic and practical victory in and of itself.

So, I’m going to go to the trouble of searching for and finding the Daggett/Esposito spot on the ballet (it actually will take a few seconds of effort – they don’t make it easy here!) and voting for the hope that New Jersey can halt its slide by repudiating the rusting, hulking machine in Trenton that has R painted on one side, D painted on the other, and I (and u) nowhere in sight.

Yes, I’ve always been a bit of an independent cuss. And after 25 years in this state, I’ve had my fill. As individual citizens – not party-voting drones – let’s throw the bums out and give Chris Daggett a message, and a mandate, to change the mess in Trenton!

(for you on-line types, Chris Daggett’s web presence with all the social media links is here)

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