Friday, January 29, 2010

State of the Disunion

Well, I made my prediction, and it didn't pan out. This is why I don't gamble at the race track. Or at the casino. Or anywhere, for that matter. (Except, one day, I hope, the stock market.) Looks like the freeze on government spending is not being done as a reciprocal countermeasure to the likely failure of healthcare. Instead, the President openly scolded the Republicans for requiring 60 votes in the senate to get anything done. I'm sure that they'll lose plenty of sleep over that chiding for weeks to come. (Not!)

Oh, there were some bi-partisan moments. Like when Obama supported the building of new nuclear power plants. Both sides cheered. That's something I've backed on this blog, too. Our President also pointed out that even if one doubts climate change, the transition to cleaner energy is the right and necessary thing to do, and this also got bipartisan cheers.

Say, I wonder if they might actually be reading this blog?

Still, for the most part, I noticed the same sort of partisan lack of cheering for stuff that should be universally endorsed, making me recognize that there really isn't going to be much bipartisanship. Because, of the Republicans currently in office, there isn't a single Obamacan among them. Not one! And that's amazing since it was arguably the Obamacans who got our President elected. So where did they all go? Well, they're still there, but it seems they just haven't been elected yet. I hope some of them do get elected, because that's the only way any deadlock is going to get broken. I hope some sitting Republicans get challenged by some more centrist Republicans and get defeated.

It wasn't too long ago when being Republican didn't necessarily mean you were a conservative. Nor did it mean you were a liberal if you were a Democrat. There used to be a lot more crossover. And it pays to remember that Abraham Lincoln, the founding father of the GOP, was quite liberal, while William Jennings Bryant, the creationist conservative battle-axe who prosecuted the Scopes trial, was a Democrat. It would be nice to see the days return where people could disagree, yet still listen to and comprehend the views of the other side. Right now, it seems that sitting Democrats, especially our President, have that ability, while Republicans don't. Eventually, that closed mindedness will cost the GOP dearly, but at the cost of everyone.

Yes, it was one hell of a State of the Union speech, and one which illustrates two things: One, we have the right President for the job. And two, we have the wrong congress! It's as if you put Peyton Manning in as quarterback of a high school football team, and then tried to win the Superbowl with it. Can't be done. We've got a general, but an army of stumblebums who think that they're generals, too. 2/5ths of them want our President to fail, fuck all of us.

Just for the sake of discussion, let's say they succeed. Let's say that they derail all of Obama's plans, and he loses re-election in 2012 because he couldn't get the job done. Is that really anything but a Pyrrhic victory? And what about the aftermath? Obama is such an iconic and intelligent leader, that losing with him in the Oval Office would feel much the same as the Patiots failing to go to the Superbowl after a 16-0 season! It would ignite a pro-liberal backlash the likes of which have never been seen before. I would seriously hope that's not the future conservatives are boneheadedly aiming for.

Simple formula: The president succeeds, we all usually win. The president fails, we all usually lose. That's why, even with George W. Bush in office, the President had my respect and support. One may disagree with him (and I did!), but damn it all, he's President. So the best strategy for our nation is this, if you happen to be conservative:

Let Obama win some legislation!

You know, the best achievements of both Democrats and Republicans came when there was a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, and a Republican Congress. We could do with that again.

Of course, back then, the Republicans in office were young, idealistic members of the Contract With America, which brought about a sweeping breath of fresh air and fresh thinking. These guys were just the sort of mavericks brave enough to balance a budget and boost an economy. They were good people.

And let's be honest: What today is the Conservative movement, the neocons of today, are largely the aftermath of those brave people who DIDN'T march in lockstep with party leadership. They are the wishful memory of what once was. They look back to those days, not realizing that it was their LACK of partisanship which made them great! It was their centrist thinking which was their primary strength.

Today, there's very little left of those brave souls. The ones who were elected took a pledge of self-imposed term limits, because they believed, quite rightly, that a two-term limit was enough for Congress -- that career politicians make poor choices. The ones who are still around today from that movement are there precisely because they took that two-term pledge and pitched it out the window, which lets us know how much they truly valued their promises then. Or now.

We need a new Contract With America. Both Conservative and Liberal. Republican and Democrat. Let's get some new, fresh faces in there. Let's impose a two-term limit on Congress members. Because right now, we've got a bunch of stodgy old farts who care more about party loyalty than about American loyalty, and it's killing us.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls & SOTU Prediction

I just went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls yesterday. Quite interesting. Mostly, it's the same sort of dramatic music and wind-sound effects that the Milwaukee Public Museum has done for its Titanic and Pharaohs exhibits of the past. There's lots of Greek, Roman, and Israeli coins, together with assorted bric-a-brac like oil lamps and alabaster flasks. An impressive small-scale model of the old city of Jerusalem is something to behold. But the real attraction, of course, is the scrolls. Mostly, they are exact facsimiles, which are so perfect in their reproduction that they must be marked with a special stamp on the back so as to prevent them from being mistaken for the real thing!

As an aside, this in and of itself should give us pause, because if our technology can so exactly reproduce these genuine manuscripts, think of the other things that it could produce to fabricate evidence of not-so-genuine manuscripts. There are already, I've heard, reproductions of famous paintings which also require an identification stamp so as not to be mistaken for the genuine article. Not far off in the future, creationists may finally be able to fabricate a fossilized human in the jaws of a T-Rex! Or moon-landing-hoax progenitors will be able to falsify some government document suggesting a cover-up. So if there were ever a time for science to win out over pseudoscience and superstition, it's now!

Anyway, there are, amidst the reproductions, some fragments of the actual scrolls themselves, along with one hemi-cylinder of the two copper scrolls. There is also the controversial Jeselsohn Stone, which some claim portends to Jesus and the resurrection. There's also a Milwaukee connection in the form of a tribute to James Trevor, who was born in Milwaukee, and was the very man who photographed the scrolls for posterity. But it's mostly a bone thrown to a largely Christian audience. It features pages from ancient codexes of the New Testament: A page from Matthew, a page from Luke, a papyrus page from one of Paul's epistles, and a sizeable collection of Bibles, including a Gutenberg Bible, a Luther Bible, and an original King James.

What's impressive about all this is just how much sway these little scraps of parchment and papyrus have had throughout the years. They eventually persuaded enough people to allow one key Roman emperor to establish Christianity as the official religion, and that watershed event pretty much led to religion as we know it today. It also meant that other scraps of parchment documentation, such as ones describing the religion of Mithras, will never be seen in a museum, because they were consigned to the book-burning pile. On second thought, perhaps it isn't si amazing how much power these little scraps of paper have had -- we only get to see the scraps of paper preserved by the victors.

But what really altered my perception of the scrolls is just how tiny the letters are. Often, when I've studied the Bible, and seen how large the book of Isaiah is, for example, I've often wondered how you could fit such a huge book into a mere pair of 27-foot scrolls. Now I know: these letters were tiny! So tiny, in fact, that they rival our modern-day print! It must have taken master-scribes years just to copy one book! Each letter painstakingly reduced to the smallest size, each word carefully spaced to ruler-line perfection, and the teeniest little mistake meant you had to start all over again! I have a new respect for the scholarly pursuits of the ancients. Considering that most people were illiterate, they really put a lot of effort into preserving what few, if any, would ever appreciate!

So if you get a chance, go see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the MPM. You won't be disappointed.

And now for something completely different...

I've heard that our Trophy President is set to announce a 3-year spending freeze in his first State of the Union address.


What could he be thinking? Less government spending during a recession? When an intelligent person does something which seems to make no sense, it always makes me think that there's a deeper agenda of some sort. After all, people of high IQ don't make boneheaded moves unless it means they're sacrificing a metaphorical chess queen for a checkmate. So this has set the wheels of my mind to turning, and I knew I'd need to blog about this today, before our President speaks, just to make sure I've documented this well beforehand. You see, I'm about to state what I think is going on, and make a prediction at the same time:

The health care reform bill is basically every bit as stuck in quicksand as the Mars rover, Spirit. And while Dems have said that the "reform" will save costs, Republicans have claimed that it will increase the deficit. Frankly, I don't know which side is right, but I do think that Obama thinks the former rather than the latter. So, I think what our president is about to say is that the spending freeze is something he has no choice but to enact because the health care bill may fail. He's setting the stage for the Republicans to be blamed for a forced stoppage of all but the most necessary of government spending as a direct result of their obstructionist tactics.

Will it work? Who knows! Certainly the only thing predictable about politics these days is that its unpredictable, especially in Massachusetts. But if I'm right in this prediction, it could be a pretty smart move. The President will basically have said, in the tone of a scolding father-figure, "Look, either you pass health care reform, or I'll have no choice but to take away your allowance money." That might, just might, persuade a few Republicans to get off their fat asses and vote for what is basically an all-but-Republican bill anyway. It will also boost the value of the dollar, as it will let foreign investors know that the U.S. is firmly committed to remaining solvent.

Well, if congress acts like children, I guess they should be treated like children. We'll see if I'm right in this prediction this very evening!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Purpose of Government

Such events in the recent news. Turns out, John Edwards has admitted he fathered his mistress's baby. Wow! What a shock! (Hear the sarcasm in my text?) I mean, who would have thought? Next thing you know, Mark McGuire will be admitting he used steroids!

Oh, yeah, right.

But now Massachusetts has voted for a Republican to go to the U.S. Senate. No, wait, let me rephrase that. The people of Mass. have decided that they would rather vote for Charles Manson than send Barbara Coakley to the U.S. Senate. And so, horrors, a Republican is going to represent the bluest of states. Mr. Brown is going to Washington.

That's what you get when you try to run a dark campaign, and take voters for granted. Apparently, in Massachusetts, you can win an election even if you are a terminal alchoholic, a cocaine abuser, and a murderer of Mary Jo Kopechne, but damn it, don't you dare try to mail it in! That sin is just too great!

I suppose that's the situation that has made me ponder our current state of affairs on Capital Hill. I've blogged before about the insanity of partisanship making it impossible to get a moderate elected. Perhaps Mr. Brown will be more Purple than Red. But why is it that Republicans have decided that everything Barack Obama tries to do must be opposed, no matter what? Why are they continually opposing what is essentially now a Republican-themed health care reform bill? Why?

It can only be that they're afraid of Obama being skilled enough to build a legacy that will essentially render the Republican party a minority for decades. He's FDR and JFK rolled into the dream of MLK, and if he succeeds, they're out for a very, very long time. So they're determined to stop him at all costs. Including, and especially, the well being of our country.

Sorry, but I don't think that our entire nation needs to be sacrificed just to stop the Obama juggernaut.

You see, what ADULTS do, is find some middle ground. They find ways to compromise to get something, anything, done. But these overgrown babies are so blinded by their Polish thinking (see my previous blog post on being Polish) that they're willing to throw the American Dream into the gears of the machine just to make it grind to a halt. What unbelievably juvenile bullshit!

Yes, people are pissed off about what they perceive as the socialization of health care. Let's understand that this "health care" bill is about as socialist as Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society! But even if it weren't, what's the point of this "Tea Party" phenomenon, if not a misunderstanding of the purpose of government? Or rather, The Purpose of Government (capitalized).

You see, The Purpose of Government is, at its most basic, the protection of its citizens. That's it. All other reasons for government's existence all boil down to that one. We protect our citizens from crime, so we establish laws, courts, police, and so forth. We protect our citizens from foreign invasion, and so we have a military. We protect our citizens from fire, from flood, from natural disasters. It is this protection which is the very purpose of why we bother putting up with a government at all.

So, by definition, a government must protect us from viruses, from bacteria, from injury and illness. It therefore must pay for health care. It is not optional! And if a government does not bother to protect us from sickness and disease, then it has failed us in The Purpose of Government. Our response must be to revolt, and put into place a government that will ensure health care is available!

We've seen a revolt. But, amazingly, the revolt is to prevent health care from being provided! This is the "Tea Party."

Of all the bass-ackward, upside-down, inside-out, turned-around fucking bullshit of public stupidity! Just what does it take to get people to understand that by fighting for health care, we're just trying to get government to do its damned job?!

Okay, Thomas Jefferson famously said: "That government is best, which governs least." And at the time he said it, it was very much true. As a person with libertarian leanings, or as my friend Charlotte put it, a "progressive libertarian" (I like that!), I want government out of our lives as much as possible. But we have reached a modern technological age where we have no choice but to turn to big government for certain things. Why? Because there are other forces out there with big money and big special interests who would run over us rampant if a big government wasn't there to protect us from them. Again, that's part of The Purpose of Government.

Big government is needed to counter the big interests of Exxon-Mobil, of BP, of Royal Dutch Shell. It needs to balance out Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens and Sears/K-Mart. It needs to be the one thing feared by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Glaxo Smith Kline. It needs to be bigger than McDonalds, Coka-Cola, or Pepsico. If Big Government weren't there, these giants would inadvertently crush us, much like Gulliver crushing the Lilliputians in some Dickens novel.

So the days of small government are, sadly, over. Thomas Jefferson, were he alive today, would concede that. And Tea Partiers who lobby for smaller government are just plain living in an 1800's dream world.

But we can still lobby to get Big Government out of our personal lives. We can tell Uncle Sam to quit telling people which God to pray to. We can tell government to quit telling consenting adults that they can't get married because they're the same gender. We can tell government to quit forcing fake science into our classrooms. We can tell them to not wiretap us, and that we don't care what excuse of fighting terrorism they use. We can tell them to stop outlawing harmless recreational drugs.

In short, we can tell them to finally give us FREEDOM! Isn't America supposed to be about freedom?

Stick that in your teabag!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Deal With Terrorism

I love the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He's funnier even than my stupid mistake in my last blog post in misspelling Harry Reid vs. Harry Reed. He somehow finds a way to boil away all the irrelevant sound bites so that what's left is a clear, concise, and unbelievably funny look at the news. So, while I was catching up with all of his most recent episodes on (oh, how I love Internet Television), I heard a blip from Rudy Giuliani that called to mind something I'd been meaning to blog about for a long time. He said that there had been no terrorism attacks under George W. Bush, but there's been one now with Barack Obama.

Now, as Jon himself pointed out, he meant to say, "no terror attacks since 9/11." Only, he said it funnier. But haven't we heard stuff like this now for nearly a decade? Stuff like, "Bush's policies are working because we haven't been attacked again. Bush's policies are working because we haven't been attacked again. Bush's policies.... working... attacked again... yadda yadda yadda."

Time for somebody to blow that myth right out of the water! You see, the last time any Al Quaida attack took place on U.S. soil before 9/11 was, hmmm, let's see... back in 1993! Yes, that was the failed bombing of the World Trade Center as botched by Mohammed Salameh when he parked his damned white van in the wrong spot of the underground parking area. (Could someone please tell me why the bad guys always use a white van? That seems rather odd.) That was during the early part of Bill Clinton's presidency. Eight years passed before there were any other Al Quaida attacks on U.S. soil, with NONE of George W. Bush's Orwellian anti-terrorism tactics.

So, a "fair and balanced" evaluation of George W. Bush's anti-terrorism policies would be if no other attacks would take place within eight years of the LAST one, since that's how long it took before!

The result? It took almost exactly eight years for the next Al Quaida attack, just like last time!

You know, I remarked in my last post about how eerily similar each early cycle of a presidency seems. A repeat of Iraq, a repeat of a Haiti crisis, and a repeat of a terror strike in the first year of a two-term presidency. (I think we can assume Obama will win a second term.)

So the conclusion must be that Bush's attempts to throw all our freedoms away and wire-tap all sorts of people he had no business listening to resulted in EXACTLY NO CHANGE. It's just a three-peat of a terror strike every eight years or so, with or without the Patriot Act. So KNOCK IT OFF about how successful Bush's policies were!

You know, I've noticed that in response to a major crisis, congress goes and does something massively stupid. 9/11 crisis results in the Patriot Act, and America flirts with becoming a police state. A financial crisis hits the banks, and congress responds by bailing out the rich. And these aren't the only times when a little piece of the constitution has been sacrificed over some crisis somewhere. Whether it's with Reagan in Grenada, or Bush I in Panama, or Clinton with Haiti, some crisis seems to erode some area of governmental restraint.

I only hope the next crisis doesn't sink us.

But the question was raised in that very episode (last Monday) of Jon Stewart's show, regarding torture, and how you deal with terrorism without it. Should torture be allowed for terrorists who have been captured?

Alan Dershowitz toyed with this idea by proposing a hypothetical scenario: Suppose there were a nuclear bomb about to go off in a major city like New York. You have, in custody, one of the terrorists behind this nightmare, and he's not talking. If you torture him to make him talk, you could save millions of lives. If you don't, they could all die. What's to be done?

Most people say that torture is justified in such a situation. But here, some conservatives argue that this is a legitimate reason for letting interrogators of terror suspects have the latitude to use methods like waterboarding in Gitmo, and this is where I disagree. The issue is not whether torture is sometimes justified. The issue is whether torture should be legalized, in some circumstances.

I argue, no. Never.

Putting aside the travesty that our nation would consider legalizing torture before it considers legalizing cannabis, it should be remembered that keeping torture illegal does not guarantee that torture will not take place. It just means that the one doing the torturing would be in violation of U.S. law. This is important to remember, because it means that no one would engage in torture unless it were ABSOLUTELY necessary. And that's the way it should be.

We should also remember the phenomenon of jury nullification. A jury has the power to find a defendant not guilty, even if that person actually committed the crime. This has been a factor in situations where a murderer who keeps escaping justice gets gunned down by an avenging family member of one of his victims, and has frustratingly also been a factor in court cases long ago in the deep south, where a white man tried for his role in a lynching would be let off by an all-white jury. But in the case of torture to extract information about a bomb or other terror threat, a jury could find that such a torturer is not guilty, even though he committed the crime. With that in mind, this is the means by which someone who engages in torture as a last resort could have a legal way out -- a jury simply wouldn't convict such a hero. And, if that somehow doesn't work, the President has the power to pardon.

But consider the alternative: Suppose we give some area of the government the power to torture? Suppose we give military tribunal authority to nab suspected terrorists and torture them without benefit of civilian trial? What then?

The answer, frighteningly, is that the government has a loophole to be able to grab anyone, at anytime. Simply declare that person a terrorist, and away they go to Gitmo, or some similar off-shore establishment. Suspected Al Quaida today, enemies of a particular administration tomorrow. Then soon afterward, homosexuals. After that, all non-Christians. And after that, those declared to be phony Christians, such as Mormons. After that, the Catholics. Long before then, there's no America left.

So that's how we deal with torture and terrorism in our modern age. We keep torture illegal, thus guaranteeing that it won't be done unless we have no other choice. That way, we keep our freedoms intact, and make sure our rights to fair process are not yanked away.

And regarding those talk show hosts who insist that torture is necessary, that it should be legal, and that closing Gitmo is a mistake?

They are violators of human freedom, traitors to America, and enemies of democracy!

We might not be able to get such people arrested, nor would we be able to put them on trial for treason. Freedom of speech really does go that far. That's just American Freedom for you.

But it would be nice if Clear Channel woke up and at least took these assholes off the air.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Catching Up

Well, I need to get some thoughts out quickly before I forget. So much I want to comment on keeps happening, and I can't seem to keep up sometimes.

Haiti, of all places, has been hit with an earthquake. I've always said the political situation in that country needed a severe shake-up, but this isn't quite what I meant. One can only hope that as an accidental consequence of this disaster, we can find out why the hell Haiti has over ten thousand charities working within it, yet the country remains one of the poorest on earth. Meanwhile, the news media has apparently decided that this is the only news story, and that nothing else is happening. Granted, this happened once before when Michael Jackson died, but this time, it's actually a news story worth reporting. And, for once, the media has actually decided to report a disaster where thousands of brown-skinned, poor people get killed. Ordinarily, that's not even a back-page news story. Hutus and Tutsis can massacre each other, Mogadishu can go completely tits up, and the media doesn't seem to care. This time, it's news, perhaps because it's so close to Florida.

Or perhaps because the Carnival Cruise Lines can no longer park cheaply at Port Au Prince, or, as the brochures call it, "The Lovely Island of Hispaniola." Quick! Somebody call the Coast Guard!

Oh, wait, somebody DID call the Coast Guard. Okay, how about this: Quick! Somebody pass health care reform with a public option! Now, while the media's distracted!

Does anybody else feel like early-term presidencies repeat themselves? Early into George W. Bush's presidency, we were right back in Iraq just like with George Bush Sr. About a year into Obama's presidency, we're having a crisis in Haiti, just like in Bill Clinton's first term. Jeez! Deja Vu all over again! Okay, granted, the Hatian crisis during Bubba's first term wasn't brought about by an earthquake. Rather, it was brought about because the election process down there was only slightly worse than Florida in 2000. (Har, har!) But still, eerie parallels!

So let's examine the news items the media has decided no longer need covering because Haiti should eclipse everything. First, Harry Reid commented that Obama was electable because he didn't have a "Negro dialogue unless he wanted one." Republicans are crying for his resignation, calling a parallel with Trent Lott when he supported Strom Thurmond.

This is screwy on so many levels. What, precisely, was the offense? Was it because Reed pointed out that Obama didn't talk like some inner city gangsta? It can't be that, because it's true! Or maybe white politicians simply aren't allowed to use the word 'negro' in any context? Nah, even politicians can use the word in an academic setting. No, I think the true offense is that Reed called inner city slang, "negro dialect," in spite of the fact that so many "wiggers" talk exactly the same. What he meant, of course, iz dat u cant win no damm elecshun if u tawk lik sum fuhl uvva luzer. True dat! You CAN'T win if you talk that way! At anything, much less a presidential election. But that's not a 'dialect,' nor is it exclusively for inner city blacks. It's disturbingly spoken by an increasing number of suburban white kids and rednecks in trailers.

But is it the same situation as Trent Lott? Hardly, because of who was offended. In Reed's case, the offense was against Obama, and he's forgiven him. End of story. In the case of Lott, the offense was agaisnt the entire black American populace, and they didn't forgive. And let's not forget just how big a DICK Strom Thurmond was -- a man who built his political career on being a segregationist asswipe. Anyone who would defend that old shit deserved to get fired. There's no double standard, there.

Next up, the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in New York. Conservatives have been calling this a miscarriage of justice because he's going to receive a civilian trial instead of a military tribunal as though he represented a specific country in a time of war.

Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we? Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist. Arguably, he was even worse that Khalid Mohammed, because he was raised in the U.S., enjoying all its freedoms and privileges, and still took up arms against it anyway. That rat bastard was given, yes, a CIVILIAN trial! He was tried, sentenced, and given the death penalty. And we had less of a case against him than we do against Khalid. So to those who think it's a travesty to try this 9/11 mastermind in a civilian court in the city which suffered his actions, all I can say is, WHAT THE FUCK!?! You really think someone like Timothy McVeigh gets a civilian trial, but someone like Khalid Muhammed doesn't? You really think it's realistic to say that this guy could get off? Or maybe you're one of the few damned fools who think that CHRISTIAN terrorists get a fair trial, but Muslim terrorists dont?!

This all ties in to the terrifying notion conservatives have had lately of presuming people to be guilty before trial has begun. Oh, maybe not necessarily in Khalid Muhammed's case, but certainly in the case of Guantanamo Bay. The repeated mantra I hear is a presumption that just because someone's detained at Gitmo, that person must be guilty. Why? Well, they were detained, weren't they?

Honestly, we don't fully appreciate just how close the Bush administration took us towards George Orwell's 1984. Presumption of innocense is a vital safeguard that's present for an overwhelmingly important reason: Without it, it's mob justice!

So, as our trophy president, Obama, seeks to rebuild the democratic freedoms we nearly lost, let's all of us help "rebuild" Haiti. (As if it were all that "built" to begin with. You know, with all the buildings knocked down, the city of Port Au Prince looks rather much the same.) But it's certainly interesting that the Obama administration seems to have already done more for Haiti in a day than the Bush administration did for New Orleans in a year.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

America is Polish!

I think it’s time to redefine Polock. It’s traditionally used to describe someone of Polish descent, but it should mean something else. After all, it’s often a term that’s been used as an insult. T.V.’s Archie Bunker repeatedly called his son-in-law a “Meathead Polock,” invoking the once-common prejudice our grandfathers had regarding Polish people being generally stupid. At least two generations of children, including my generation, has grown up telling “Polish jokes” on the playground, and now that we’re all grown up, we wonder why. Polish people successfully built a church here in Milwaukee so grand that the Catholic Archdiocese officially dubbed it a Basilica. (St. Joshophat’s on 6th and Lincoln.) Pope John Paul II was Polish. Poles have repeatedly been successful doctors, lawyers, and scientists. Yet the perception that a Polock is tantamount to being a dunderhead has persisted throughout recent decades. The saying I’d always heard was that the three people you should beware of in this life are an American with a contract to sign, an Irishman with a favor to ask, and a Polock with an idea to offer. Where does this perception of Polish people being stupid come from?

I think it probably has something to do with World War II, when Poland was invaded. The Polish army attempted to stand up to tanks and airplanes with cavalry and rifles. That’s all they really had to defend themselves with at the time, but in retrospect, it did look pretty stupid. Poland was the only country which did not prepare for war in Europe of the 1930’s, hence the stupidity stereotype. The country ended up bifurcated, with one side going to the Soviets, and the other to Nazi Germany.

Poetically, that’s the perfect image for my suggestion to re-define what “Polock” means. Because currently, we are being “polarized” in exactly the same sort of way. Half of our country going one way, and half the other.

I see this repeatedly as I listen to the news broadcasts and talking heads shows. I see this on the college campuses and talking to people in bars. People don’t see issues in terms of ethical questions anymore. They don’t see them in terms of right vs. wrong anymore, either. No, they see them in terms of liberal vs. conservative. If you’re batting for Team Conservative, nothing liberals do is right. If you’re batting for Team Liberal, everything conservatives do is wrong. The liberals see conservatism as evil, and the conservatives see liberalism as super-evil. In other words, we’re “polarized,” making us “Poles,” with one pole going one way, and one pole going the other, just like a North and a South “pole.” We’re a “Polish” country! Or, perhaps it’s best said, a “poll-ish” country.

This is important, because it really divides us unnecessarily. Dates end on a perfunctory note because of political differences. Old friends who have known each other since kindergarten end up bickering instead of getting together for a beer. Coworkers argue with each other. Entire news networks bend towards catering to one side or the other, and when one political side begins moving the rope their way in this endless tug-of-war, angry mobs of people assemble to ruin town hall meetings and drive out any rational discourse in favor of utter chaos. How the hell did we end up fighting with each other like this?

I think it has to do with the fact that we’re so information overloaded that we have a hard time gathering news. We have family, work, kids, school… and maybe a few precious moments alone, or half an hour to watch a favorite TV show each week. Who the hell has the time to keep up? So, many of us turn to news outlets which give us our news in quick bursts, and political interests have successfully taken those news outlets over to constantly feed politics of only one side or the other during that limited time. For young busy people, quick news wrapped in humor is the ideal choice, such as the Daily Show. To older, busy adults, news outlets which talk about current events while you’re working or driving in your car, such as talk radio, are preferred. So , in reaction to the perception that major news networks were too liberal, investors with grandpa’s values started buying up A.M. radio wherever they could, and this started sometime during Reagan’s administration. Two years after Clinton’s election and debacle over gays in the military, radio had gotten so completely polarized towards the conservative side that it won congress back for the Republicans. In reaction, cable T.V. seemed to become more liberal. In reaction, FOX news was launched. In reaction, Air America radio was launched, along with MSNBC. But cable news is for young people while radio is an old-man’s format. So Air America largely failed, while MSNBC was successful. Now, mega-corporations with partisan interests are constantly trying to buy up our last 15 minutes of free-time to influence our opinions – and it’s working! We’re partisan, and we’ve taken to hating our fellow Americans!

That’s the problem. What’s the solution? The solution is to remember that being polarized, that is, being “Polish,” is tantamount to being a dunderhead! If you think that conservatives are always right, and liberals are always wrong, or vice-versa, you’re just a dumb, meathead “Polock.” In the REAL world, conservatives are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. In the REAL world, liberals are also sometimes right and sometimes wrong. That’s just reality of the world in which we live. To equate either conservatism or liberalism with evil is just plain childish!

Here’s a true gem: You always learn more from those with a different view than your own. So the way to learn the most is to actively seek those views out! Only half a political perspective, conservative or liberal, is only half the story. And here’s another one: Half a political perspective is the same as only having half a brain! We have right and left halves of our brain, but they function well because they cooperate across that all-important bridge called the corpus callosum.

Our society needs a little more corpus callosum.

So here’s your assignment: Take some time to listen to the other side’s news outlet. If you’re liberal, watch FOX News awhile. If you’re conservative, watch the Rachel Maddow show, or something else truly liberal. (Public radio doesn’t count. No, it’s not liberal. Seriously!) Also, read some news sources from other nations who don’t have the political polarizations we do.

I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that if you have the same views today that you held four years ago, that you’ve wasted four years of your life.

Now go climb the other side of the mountain!