pay attention.

so i’ve been away from writing for a bit. not because i was underwhelmed with thoughts. that rarely happens.

i’ve been thinking a lot. probably too much.

there has just been so much going on, i haven’t figured out a way to get my brain to slow down enough to let me write some thoughts down. i’ll just call it a writing sabbatical.

since the last time i really wrote anything:

the president has been re-inaugurated and the ugly politics in washington has continued in its usual ugly fashion. the politicians who we elect through our beliefs and morals and consciences and then pay through our own paychecks have continued to thoroughly ignore the same people they took an oath to protect and serve. however, i’m at a point with this where i don’t know who to blame more, the politicians or the people who vote but turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to politics in america. we are the ones who let this sort of chaos rise up when we, in typical american style, pass off the sincere responsibility due to all voting citizens to pay attention, to care, to simply not be apathetic. it is not difficult for us to form an opinion on who the bachelor should give his roses too or what “kimye” should name their baby. yet when our nation faces a crisis, all we can muster seemingly is this dispassionate eye roll and say ‘dumb idiot politicians’ and flip the channel to duck dynasty.

now i can easily get sucked into a sunday evening marathon of ‘keeping up with the kardashians’ as quickly as anyone. that isn’t hard to admit, yet i know that our country functions at its peak when people from both sides of the aisle speak intelligently about their passionate belief systems. i’m not really talking about the gun control debate or whether we should nuke north korea. i will say that while i was raised to not really like guns, i have to hand it to the NRA. somehow they found a way to scare a whole bunch of people into buying a whole lot of guns and memberships to their club in a very short amount of time. it’s actually pretty impressive. but anyway, the point i’m trying to make here is this: pay attention.

for too long i’ve heard this “i don’t care” ideology from too many americans. “as long as it doesn’t affect me!” that’s another gem i hear from among others, good solid christian people. you mean to tell me that it doesn’t matter what happens to the little guy as long as you get yours? interesting theory.

in this country we have let the rich (corporate america) get richer, while the poor (middle-class and lower-class america) get poorer. we have done this by not caring enough about the politicians we elect. we haven’t done our homework. we do this by fighting any reform that allows for the crumbs of our tables to fall to the dogs of the streets. ( as long as i get mine!) sometimes we barely even notice the dogs. i’m not talking about the people who stand outside in the rain shivering while holding a “help me i’m a poor college student” sign while their buddy takes his break in the SUV around the corner drinking starbucks. i’m talking about the single mother who is working double shifts just to buy formula for her baby. the famous line i always hear from compassionate christians is “well she shouldn’t have gotten herself knocked up!”makes me think of the verse where Jesus draws the line in the sand. i’m talking about teachers who are saddled with crowded classrooms and lowered funding because well, “we don’t have the money for it”. i’m talking about the laid-off worker who just had his unemployment cut because, “he needs to stop being so darn lazy!” meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has never been larger. CEOs on wall street are bringing home more money than ever before. for some reason however, instead of finding solutions, all we want to do is blame the other guy.

america was built on a premise that, here we can enjoy freedoms unattainable anywhere else. sure, that does allow for anyone to have the freedom to not care about a single thing. how prosperous will that get us if that becomes the prevailing opinion? our great country, has awarded us the ability to think freely and share openly a discourse not enjoyed in many parts of the world. yet we are more focused on finger-pointing and issuing blame. it’s never our fault. it’s always the other side who doesn’t get it. we teach our children to take responsibility for our actions and then when talking about taxes we nearly break a finger pointing so hard at the other party.

it’s about time now for us to start caring more, but in a way that cultivates a better relationship with those who have differing views. it’s time to actually care. to care about what the other side has to say. it’s time we start working toward a solution one issue at a time. some say that the problems facing america are too big to really care enough because well “we’re screwed anyway”. it’s like that saying: how do you eat a whale? one bite at a time. we won’t solve everything just by simply having an opinion or being more passionate. but it ‘s a start. it’s a way to begin our journey from here to there.

coming clean.

okay here it is. it is time for me to come clean.

  if you don’t know much about me, i’m a people watcher. and i’m a thinker. those two ideals run concurrent to what i’m about to say.

i’ve been observing a lot the last few months, if not years. i’ve had many conversations with people like-minded or not and have overheard even more. i’ve read facebook posts and read online articles regarding different individual’s opinions. i’ve discussed political issues with close friends, my wife and even some family members. though usually politics and family don’t mix well. especially when you have different ideals. and mainly, on this blog i have been quiet. a little too quiet.

 over dinner, i was discussing this conundrum with my wife: how do i keep my thoughts private and still be a writer? especially a blogger where most of my writings are personal thoughts? the answer is that i cannot. it’s that simple. no matter that i am sure that i have much different views than the rest of my family, i’m at some point not being true to myself if i do not write about what i believe. especially if what i write about is supposed to be based on what i believe. make sense?

so that’s the background for this. i almost have butterflies as i write this, for some reason. i guess maybe because i’m taking that venture that i knew at some point i’d have to. which is talking specifically about my political beliefs.

so here it is.

i’ve tried to maintain a strong independent position when it comes to politics for a long time. truth be told, i’m really not that independent. and i think that’s okay. the beauty of this country is that we are allowed to have our own thoughts and opinions and we have the right to choose. so yes, i am much more democrat than republican. it’s really not that close actually.

i’m going to vote for president obama.

living in west michigan for the past 20 years has taught me a few things, mainly that if you have an opinion that is different from the mainstream, you better keep it to yourself. which i’ve abided by for far too long. especially as a writer. being a christian in west michigan with different ideals makes it even harder to follow the rules. which i never intended on doing anyway. at some point i think i just got tired of keeping my voice down, keeping my thoughts to myself. my close friends understand how hard that is for me to accomplish.

why president obama? for me it is more of a, why wouldn’t i vote for him? if the last four years have taught me anything politically and even spiritually, it is to follow what you believe closely and don’t let others filter your own thoughts and beliefs. and if you are a writer, my goodness, don’t censure yourself for fear of others opinions. anyway, why obama? because i am proud of him. i am proud of his leadership in some of the darkest times we have faced in my adult life. i believe in the premise that if you work together, you can achieve anything. one of things that i began to believe were unachievable was being part of coalition with our allies again. but we have done that under the leadership of the president. when he came into office, we had lost our good standing around the world. we were becoming proud of being mavericks, both domestically and globally. we didn’t care whether we had any friends around the world. we would just say “to hell with it” and continue on. but now we have a president that is willing to work with our allies. when we go overseas as civilians we can be proud again yet not in that arrogant, “ugly american” way that we had become known. i’m proud of this.

in the past few years, my dad has had heart surgery, two brothers have had cancer, my niece has undergone treatment for thyroid issues, my sister-in-law has been hospitalized with health issues and my brother-in-law has undergone emergency surgery. this is just a sampling of family members and friends with health issues and i’m not even mentioning my own.  i cannot imagine if we had all been turned away from medical care due to lack of insurance, or worse, the lack of ability to obtain health care. i’m sorry but it isn’t a privilege for health care. saying that means that some people deserve it based upon their economic conditions and some people don’t based on their lack of an economic advantage. we are all normal people. middle class. if my dad couldn’t have his quintuple-bypass surgery that was available because he either had a pre-existing condition or just couldn’t afford it, that would not have been okay to me. so i am voting for president obama because i believe that everyone should have the right to health care. not just the chosen few who have the blessing of working for a good company that offers it.

what about abortion? i think it is funny that republicans run on an anti-government platform. i think it is even worse that people fall for it. and i think it is downright sad that people only wish to use the government to push their moral agendas. i am very pro-life on a personal level. as someone who was adopted by two loving parents when i was only 8 months old, i am more aware of the fact that there are simply other options besides abortion. i hate abortion. on a personal level, i don’t think it is okay to undergo an abortion for any reason. we don’t have the ability to be God and i don’t think we should try to play him either. and that extends to the government. i do not believe in using the government to push my moral agendas. i do not think it is right for me to use the government to tell other women what to do with their bodies. i simply do not think that is right. i absolutely believe that abortion is wrong. i also believe that until the church and other faith-based organizations are ready to truly welcome single mothers and those struggling with this decision with open and unconditional arms, then we are not ready as a society to abolish abortion anyway.

the economy? sure it is not where it used to be. but to me that is precisely the point. going back to the 1980’s under president reagan, our government began de-regulating agencies responsible for our financial mess. yes, i would love for our government to step aside and not have its hand in our banks and what not, but that is unrealistic and we have seen what happens without regulation. think about it. when you were little, and your mom left you alone in the kitchen with a jar full of cookies, how many would you eat? that’s right… all of them. why? because she wasn’t watching and you knew you could withstand the punishment later. that’s what happened here. so i support more regulation, not because i like it, but because it is necessary.

taxes? all i will say is that in this great nation we have been given a great deal. we have also worked very hard for it. the premise that allowing the wealthy  tax breaks will result in re-investment in the industries is laughable. millionaires become billionaires by NOT spending money. believe that. too much is given, much is expected. and yes i include myself in that statement.

i don’t profess to be right about everything. i don’t profess to be right about anything. but keeping silent on my opinions this close to the election, well i couldn’t do it. not when people are all too eager to tell me why governor romney is the right choice. not when i see friends and others refer to the president as a  “moron” or “idiot” or “deceiver” or “retard”. you can think whatever you would like. i will never use this platform to tell you what to think. that is just not me. however, if people have a right to voice their opinion, than i guess i do too. i’m not asking you to vote as i do. in fact, all i wish is that you would simply vote. vote for someone, even if it is the other guy.

so there it is. these are just some of the reasons why i will vote for president obama in 2012.

The Facts, please.

“it’s always a good idea to start by asking about the facts. Whenever you hear something said very confidently, the first thing that should come to mind is ‘wait a minute, is that true?’”

Noam Chomsky

ahh, the power of a word spoken confidently. it’s true isn’t it? you can hear the absolute truth in the meekest of ways and find it hard to believe, yet when an outright lie is spoken boldly, it is difficult to argue. it is important, especially during this debate season that we analyze the words, not the tone. it is essential that we pay special attention to the truth in the sentence, not simply how strongly the sentence was delivered. you will hear it from both sides. just because it was spoken with absolute confidence and gusto, does not make it absolute truth. 

un-hinged.

these are fascinating times aren’t they? the world just seems a little un-hinged. just a little bit.

we want to be connected, but really only digitally. that’s what is so nice about facebook and twitter and linkedin, we don’t actually have to “talk” to people, we don’t have time for that, or the desire.

we want to fight for justice and freedom, but mainly from our macbooks and ipads. we criticize the good for pointing out the bad. we tear down jason russell as if he is the bigger threat to children than joseph kony.

we mock tim tebow for… praying. nevermind the hundreds of players we’ve seen “tebow-ing” through the years. just don’t tell me anymore that america loves a feel-good story. as soon as we can find a reason to cut into a person, trust me… it will happen.

the other day i was watching fox news and of course they were complaining about the “liberal media” controlling who wins the white house, that is to be expected from them. however, unbelievably, they attempted to make a connection tying obama using the outrage from the trayvon martin case to springboard his re-election campaign. really? a bit of a reach i’d say. even for fox news. it is sad how a young man walking the street at night, and against geraldo rivera’s wishes is wearing a hoodie, with his skittles and ice tea could suddenly become a danger not only to a community but to the conservative base of america. 

which leads me to this. how proud are we of our treatment of our leaders in office? it’s humorous how often people think they know better than the man in charge. this goes back decades if not centuries, we always think we know best until we have to do it ourselves. it is amusing to watch senators and congressman and mayors and… rush limbaugh or sean hannity… criticize someone for the job they themselves have never done nor have the desire or even ability to do. what is the term our mother’s taught us? if you don’t have a solution to the problem you are complaining about, just shut up? i think it goes something like that.

we are in a strange world these days. unlike any other. we fight active apathy with facebook campaigns. in america we wonder “how would that ever work?” yet it did in egypt, didn’t it? goodness, they are naming their children facebook in egypt because of how much it worked. it is a scary world these days too. we don’t really know what is next anymore. it isn’t the cookie cutter world we are used to. and it’s not just because of 9/11. it is because we have become engulfed against each other. our focus is becoming more about hearing ourselves being right instead of doing what is right. our moral obligations to each other have been thrown out the window.

our world has become un-hinged just a bit.