Politics, Poe & The President

Politics, like an Instagram filter, enhances nearly every memory I have of my father and me. He and my mother stuffed envelopes for Goldwater’s campaign; he painted soda bottles with elephants just like the GOP symbols I saw when we watched the Republican Convention. One year, to his great delight, I trick-or-treated as “a Republican,” draped in patriotic bunting. But what I remember most is watching his face as he watched the Watergate hearings. I tried to arrange my 8-year-old face into his, mirroring the squinting eyes, the brows pushed together. He chewed on his right thumb, an indicator of his anxiety; I bit mine, too, glancing at him sideways to keep checking.

“This is a damn witch hunt,” he said, disgustedly. Which left me wondering why Samantha from Bewitched, the only witch I knew at the time, would be involved.

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School Isn’t Uber And Never Should Be

My dad was an oil and gas equipment salesman for most of his life. He raised the four of us in a refinery town where the town’s fortunes rose and fell with oil and gas prices. Growing up in a boom/bust cycle imprinted itself on me, giving me a visceral sense of capitalism and business before I could intellectually understand ideas like profit/loss and return on investment, or fixed and variable costs.

So when I see yet another argument for draining public money from public schools, I feel like I’m standing in the middle of the boarded-up Main Street of my home town. All that looked so solid when I lived there decades ago is dust and plywood now. Except my high school. My high school looks the same and is still vibrant. That’s what comes of investing in a public good. Continue reading School Isn’t Uber And Never Should Be

Discomfort By Design

“Everyone had a very top-down approach, and it brought the same individuals as always to the table.” — Antionette Carroll

This quote, from the founder of the social justice nonprofit Creative Reaction Lab, struck me as astute and succinct.

Top-down approaches are easy. They’re controlled, predictable, and efficient. Those aren’t bad things, but they risk becoming the central values and vision of any enterprise if you exclusively rely on them.

The second part of her quote — bringing the same individuals as always to the table — is another simple, but overlooked truth.

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Ripe For Ruin: Why Facts Matter

Does it matter if a fact or two gets messed up? I mean, does anyone really care if their name is misspelled or their business gets called by another name. It’s not that big a deal, right?

It was a big deal to get everything right – down to how we used numbers and spelled names – when I worked at the Amarillo Globe-News. I was thinking of that while I read this line from Charles M. Blow’s column:

The press may sometimes get things wrong, but it most often gets them right.

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Losing The Ability To Listen and Discuss

This has been one of the saddest weeks, nationally, that I can remember in years. Two men executed by police and now five Dallas PD officers killed by snipers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.

A constant in all cases: guns. When you pair rage and fear with a gun, horrible irreversible things happen. This is something we tolerate and I’m not sure why.

We are in love with guns and we are afraid. We believe that guns will save us, that guns grant us respect, that guns settle scores for us. And they certainly do scare people. I’ve seen them pointed at people and know how quickly it can shift an attitude. I know how I feel firing one.

When you don’t get the respect you think you deserve, a gun will make people fear you — which can feel like the same thing as respect, if only temporarily: If I cannot make you respect me, I will make you fear me.

I understand the impulse. I’ve watched my own fear and rage hold sway over me this week. But I know that words and actions are more powerful. They’re harder — much harder — but no one dies. No one gets paralyzed or blinded or crippled. Guns can’t kill the biggest monsters. They can’t kill fear or hate or rage or prejudice or bigotry. They can’t kill objectification and marginalization. They can’t kill blame.

People say they are “tired” of “political correctness,” which is what they consider any objection, criticism, or discussion of these issues. Yet they seem to have boundless energy for killing, for defending killers and guns. That’s because a gun is fast. A gun doesn’t think. A gun doesn’t have to be patient or tolerant or put up with your bullshit. A gun is a way of saying, “Shut your mouth. End of discussion.”

As someone with little to no patience for discussion of difficult issues, I can see the attraction of trying to solve problems with guns. I want to claw my face off when I’m forced to listen in a conversation. I want to be heard. My skin crawls when I have to understand the other person. I want them to understand me. Especially if I completely disagree with him or her.

We are not “tired” of discussing these issues — we just don’t know how. We’ve lost the ability to truly discuss. All we have are shouted talking points, pithy tweets, maudlin Facebook posts. We’ve lost the ability to sit with people, to sit with complex topics, to sit with our own complicated hearts.

Image credit: Discussion by Tim Nelson/Creative Commons CC BY 2.0