little update and some political observations

Photograph I took this past wednesday of fresh produce from the local farmers market. I plan to get over there again today even though it's raining.

My leisure time is drying up a bit so it’s getting harder to find time to sit down and blog. I shorten the time by not putting as many pictures up. I know this makes it a bit less interesting to many readers. But it takes about half the time then.

Yesterday after class, I came home and printed out tax withholding papers and other stuff for my new job at Hope (the dance class accompaniment thing).  Then dropped them off. I have more leg work to do on this on Monday. Did bills (Eileen’s and mine and my Mom’s).  Tried to get my Mom to get out of her apartment to no avail. Her back is hurting her.

Spent the rest of the day trying to choose anthems for the choir to rehearse at our first post-Service rehearsal tomorrow.  I do better at that when I have more time to reflect.  I did come up with a few more. I want to spend most of today making sure that I am ready for that particular rehearsal. In addition I have to do some serious preparing for the Grace Jam Session next Tuesday. I want to have my Holy holy arranged for various instruments and also the closing hymn the following Sunday: “I’m so glad Jesus lifted me.” This means arranging and then printing out parts.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s prelude and postlude. They are both by Dimitri Shostakovich.

The prelude will be his D major prelude and fugue from Opus 87 for piano. It’s a lovely little thing and I have been working on it for about two weeks. The postlude is also from this same opus. I took the prelude in Eb major and adapted it for organ. I chose it because I think it sits pretty nicely on organ with a little shifting around of octaves and omission of doublings of some of the notes.

I had a nice chat with a dance student yesterday. She introduced herself to me as someone who goes to my church and recognized me from the dance floor yesterday. It fascinated me to learn that she disagrees with the theology of our little church but manages to overlook it because it’s the “only Episcopal church around.” Our conversation ended abruptly before I could gently inquire what she disagreed with.

I suspect we are not “conservative” enough for her. I use quotes because I am coming to think that what is called “conservative” these days is quite radical and reactionary. I could be  wrong about the young college student but I don’t think I am about movements like the Tea Party and the shouting pundits who seem to want to return to a time of lesser government and reduced taxes.  I see the denial of the role of government and its funding entirely as a radical notion that contradicts the basic idea of a republic democracy.

Tony Judt points out that all nations and governments can only really do one or two things at all approaching competently. Most of what they do they will fuck up. So democratic societies have to choose what they feel the government should do.

I think public welfare is important and also education. Judt talks about the “culture” of the society and its attitudes toward what it expects from government. He was an expert on contemporary Europe and provides some fascinating examples that contrast with the US.

Also it’s not a “conservative” idea to be libertarian right up to the point where someone else’s behavior offends you (without harming you, of course).  Whether that’s burning a flag or a book or having an abortion, I think it’s not only not conservative to build one’s personal values into a political stance for everyone, I think it’s pretty inconsistent if you say you want less government in your life as you put more government in other people’s life you despise.

Of course there are moral values in governing, but in a democracy they have to be bigger than what John Scarzi calls the Leviticans (He uses the term to identify brain dead Christians who get stuck on the rules in the Bible, particularly those in the Old Testament books like Leviticus.)

But so many people don’t seem think very clearly these days when they talk in public. Of course it provides fodder for John Stewart’s and John Scalzi’s wit. But I’m sure both of them would gladly see less stupidity in the public discussion.

I watched Rush Limbaugh’s brother, David, talk on C Span briefly last night.

David Limbaugh, brother of Rush

I find myself listening more and more to the reactionary crazies trying to figure out what it is they are saying these days.  David Limbaugh seemed to think that Ronald Reagan was a saint and that all Democrats are sinners. He (and supportive callers) “framed” their ideas in metaphors of being at “war” with the opposition.

I watch this in amazement because it so reduces complexity to nonsense. But nonsense seems to be the soup du jour of this country right now.  I believe that Obama is a pretty lousy president. But I think it’s an impossible job and I prefer conservatives like him and Clinton to radicals like Reagan and George W. Bush. Obama and Clinton are actually conservatives. Clinton’s whole notion of “triangulation” is based on co-opting agendas from people who are right of center. Obama appointed some of the same financial advisors who made the mess to fix the mess (e.g. Rubin) He is very conservative in how he tries to govern, that is he changing less than people say he is and conserving or keeping the status quo in areas I would like to see changed (Guantanamo and transparency of government).

But I guess right now I would definitely vote for him as the lesser of two evils unless the Republicans were to nominate someone who had more obvious sense.  I think that Obama is acting pretty coherently. I try to think critically of how people lead and speak in public. His rhetoric is an improvement on the past few presidents. But the rest of the rhetoric from both the right and the left right now is full of nutty stuff. What does it mean?

America could really be changing direction from heading toward a democracy to heading for something else. Hard to tell.

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0 thoughts on “little update and some political observations

  1. I am a conservative who once was an extreme liberal. I changed my views through many many years of experience in government,in public owned businesses and finally in privately owned businesses. I love you Steve, because you are true to your convictions, a believer in people and a friend to all. Your passion for music is your life and I admire that. I have always been your friend and will continue to be. (I regret the lost years, though) There is very little difference between us. So, why do we think and express ourselves. I believe it is because we can. Maybe someday we won’t be able to express ourselves. That, I believe, is my fear, a society filled with political correctness to the point of restricting freedom and expression of ideas. We are all conservatives and we are all liberals at different times. Examine Dr. Parkins comments about liberal and conservative ideas in a recent post on his Blog;

    “As between genuine conservatism, seeking to preserve valuable experience, and a genuine liberalism, concerned with extending experience in instances where experience has proven to be inadequate, there may exist large areas of agreement. Also, careful study of history and honest reporting of contemporary experiences provide bases for extending as agreement.”

    The fear that most people have,in my opinion, is a government which is overbearing on all aspects of your life, restricting freedom and expression and with no accountability.

    I have said much more than I intended. I do believe that civil discourse in expression of ideas may be more important now, than ever before. Dr. Parkins said something to me the other day which has stuck with me. “This is the beginning of the third great awakening in America”
    Maybe so, I am not sure. But it is evident with most of the people that I have talked to, they have had enough.

  2. I have had you pegged as someone whose politics I disagree with ever since you mentioned over a meal at the pub that your daughter had taken down your Bush poster in 2004. Let me say quickly that I don’t approve of taking down other people’s signs. But my instant guess was that my politics were closer to your daughter’s than yours. No problemo. Western Michigan is a very reactionary area. Many people I know here are in reactive stances when they talk about politics.

    And I often say things like “who wants to live where they agree with everyone.”

    Civility in exchange is important to me. Important enough that I wrote a letter to President George W. Bush in 2000 congratulating him and encouraging him on his promise to pursue civility in public discourse.

    And of course I care a great deal about you as a person and am very happy to rekindle our relationship.

    I disagree with the free market/economic approach to life on many levels. I think we are in trouble right now because of Margaret Thatcher and her influence on Reagan. Granted government fucks things up. But business fucks up things even more and has largely lost its social conscious and sense of civic responsibility.

    I have done some reading in business philosophy (theology?, heh). Peter Drucker, Robert Greenleaf and others. I admire many of the things they say. But then I notice that the rule of the free market right now seems to be if you can make a buck, that’s what you do. Short term thinking.

    I know people are angry right now. But I think it is largely out of ignorance and in some cases (not yours!) stupidity.

    I think the majority of public discourse I hear from politicians, public pundits, tv and radio people and business people is unconscionable. David and Rush Limbaugh are examples on the right. I detest those on the left as well.

    I disagree with your idea that the government is invading our lives right now. I gladly pay taxes because I want to have roads, schools, and a social contract that enables the freedoms that we all want. Freedom, the etymology of liberal.

    At the same time I would love to conserve(!)our heritage in the West and our democratic way of life. I would like us to retain an understanding of what makes us all good humans. Things like creating, preserving and understanding the world around us. Not to mention learning and building on the knowledge and stories handed to us.

    I believe that what we are witnessing is a debasing of life into one of consuming. Neil Postman years ago wrote a book called “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” He pointed out how entertainment has totally subsumed all public discourse. Titles of chapters were “Shuffling on off to Bethlehem” (religion), “Now .. This” (the disconnect in logic and coherence as evidenced by this little tag phrase sometimes used by commentators to “link” unrelated reports), “Reach out and elect someone” (politics)… and so on.

    Postman has been dead for a while. He was an educator who was concerned about the direction of the country.

    I think we are living in age where disinformation and ignorance prevail.

    I went to college at WSU with a woman from Romania. When we were discussing politics one time I remember her looking at me with amazement and saying, “Don’t you understand? All governments are jerks.”

    Granted. But the theory behind democracy is that the government is “Us.” If we don’t like it we should absolutely change it. But I believe that the Tea Party type rhetoric and the anger that I see and hear over and over right now is very related to a sense of “entitlement” among people who are not thinking very far beyond their own selfish interests (again I don’t include you in that).

    I agree with your idea that relativism is a bane. I just think that even though I don’t believe in God most of the time, Jesus was right about taking care of the poor and the marginalized and doing unto others and all that. This means facing our own selfishness and seeking a life that is largely about others.

    I also like that you seem to be keeping your brains on, even as you come to radically different conclusions about what you have experienced and are experiencing in your life.

  3. I am not against government. I have paid and created many jobs in my tenure in business which paid many thousands of dollars in taxes. I believe that government does have a role in our society. It is our government and mostly local that impacts our lives.

    I am against government that invades and is intrusive in peoples lives with aspects of social engineering which treats people as cattle. That is what I am against. This makes people more dependent and less responsible. Free to Choose, and the ultimate responsibility that this entails is not something that most people understand. Free to speak, free to express, and the responsibilities that go along with freedom are what I am afraid of losing.

    Most people know how to spend their money. I am against labels and try to avoid them. I am a defender of people who express their point of view.

    I am commenting because, I have great respect for you. I do not think that you believe much differently than I do. But if my perceived point of view is intolerable to you, I will not bother you with further comments.

  4. Au contraire, Mon Capeetan.. I seek conversation. And I am especially interested in your ideas simply because I know and respect you. At the same time I try to give you room to be who you are now and not let my memory of our previous friendship totally shape our new relationship. I’m kind of tired right now, so I’m not coming up with much in response to our comments on this stuff, but maybe tomorrow I will…. who knows? In the meantime, hang in there dude! I hope you and Susan are well….

  5. Now I’m writing the next morning and am feeling a bit more refreshed. I am curious about your comments about fearing the loss of freedom to speak and express opinions. I don’t understand exactly how you experience this. I’m also interested to know more about how you perceive the clumsy efforts of our government in terms of “social engineering.” For example, where does concern for others leave off and social engineering begin? Are you talking about what is sometimes referred to as the safety net? I was reading Scalzi (who like me is a dang liberal in the loose language of today) and he had a great article called “Lazy people irritate me.” In it he criticizes people who choose not to earn money to their potential. Specifically educated artist types. And then use public services thereby usurping their use by others who actually need it. His point (which I agree with) was that the safety net is for people who must rely on it, not for people who could be earning a living.

    I think that we as a society have a responsibility for those who are trapped in circumstances of one kind or another and need help. I also think it is a measure of respect to continue to assist people to find ways to help themselves.

    But I think that we have a lot of middle class types who don’t recognize their own sense of entitlement (again, understand that I do not mean you). I think the anger around taxes is an example of people who haven’t thought out their citizenship. Do they vote? Years ago, the reactionary visionary Grover Norquist talked about getting control of government and make it small enough so that the rightwing could take it into the bathtub and drown it.

    This is the underlying extreme rhetorical position I object to.

    People like Norquist also cynically manipulate this anger and that bothers me. The whole concept of “framing” an argument these days has done tremendous damage (from both sides of the political spectrum I might add). Clarity of thought and accuracy of information is much too rare. Anger and fear cloud civil discussions. Lapsing into solely ad hominem attacks contributes to this and I try to avoid it even as I seek interesting ways to write down my ideas.

    I think that fear, anger, lies and ad hominem language is what I see on tv, hear on the radio and read in various sources. Admittedly it takes effort to avoid these. The only person I really can control is myself, I guess. But I do try to make sense of the country I live in and love.

    After reading your conclusion to your comment yesterday that asks if I find this kind of exchange “intolerable,” I should add that all of this is my opinion and if this kind of conversation over the interweb makes you uncomfortable we can easily desist.

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