Monday, August 27, 2018

Week of 08/27/2018

A Lesson For Third Party Haters
Once upon a time there was a young man who found himself attracted to a young woman working in the same company but in a different department. 
It was easy to see why he would be attracted to her.  She was beautiful.  She had a model’s body, a beautiful voice, a friendly attitude, and she never looked like she was ever angry or cross with anyone.
This young man was by no means a slouch, but it was clear to everyone but him that his affections to her were not reciprocated.  Still, she never could come out and reject him when he asked if they could go out.  Instead, she’d say she didn’t have the time.  The workload is really bad.  The pressure is on to work long hours and weekends.  There was always “something coming up” for her.  
One day, instead of saying she couldn’t go out with him, she asked him to get her a soda at the nearby fast food place.  It was a long day, she was a little run down, so she asked him to get her a soda.  He did so gladly, and she seemed so appreciative of that… even if she said afterward that still she couldn’t go out with him yet.
Some time later, she then asked him if he could get her some lunch.  Not go out for lunch, mind you, but that he would get lunch for her.  She started to reach for her purse, but the young man offered to pay for the lunch himself.  Again, she was really appreciative of that.  However, after delivering lunch, she said things really got bad at her department so she’ll have to put lunch aside and concentrate on work.  But, again, she thanked him for being a “true gentleman”.
At this point his friends are telling him that she’s just using him.  But he didn’t want to hear that.  He said that she’s opening up to him.  She likes what he’s doing.  Soon they’ll be going out.  He really believed that.  He just had to wait it out.
So this goes on and on.  He’d get her lunches and snacks and drinks at his cost.  If she ran short on office supplies, he’d go out and get her some.  Pretty soon, she’s asking him to get her dry cleaning and run some minor errands for her, which he eagerly did, because he believed that this was all going to pay off in the end with them going out and becoming a couple.  After all, he’s already doing things for her like they are already in a relationship.
But then the truth came out.
While bringing her the package she asked him to get from the post office, he overhears her boasting to a coworker that she was going on a weekend trip to the Bahamas… with her longtime boyfriend.  And she believed that her boyfriend was going to pop the question to her.
He didn’t stick around long enough for her to try to explain it.  He finally accepted that, no matter what he did for her, she would never go out with him.  Ever.
The strange part is that she continued to try to call on him to run errands for her.  She missed having someone bring her lunches and getting her dry cleaning and picking up her packages.  She missed having someone at her beck and call that would do things for her without ever giving anything back in return except a smile, and she didn’t understand why he now wouldn’t want to have anything to do with her.
I happen to know this story all-too-well, because many elements of this story come from my own miserable attempts at relationships with different women.  And when it comes to people who bash independent candidates or third parties, this is the story that goes through my head.
I understand that there are some people who believe strongly that they should get every vote they can by any means necessary.  We are in a hyper-partisan environment right now, and that makes some people downright nasty to anyone not sharing their zero-sum extremism.
I used to be that way too.  I used to be a fervent card-carrying member of the GOP.  How many of you can actually say that and have the card to back it up?  Sure, the members of the GOP that got elected didn’t support the things I did.  They had a very narrow definition of what “freedom” meant.  (And by that, I mean they really didn’t care for it.)  But I had believed them when they said that, as long as I supported them, they would eventually get around to the things that I support.  I just had to be patient, I was told.
But then I realized that, much like the women I found myself attracted to, that same party that claimed to be a “big tent” didn’t really care about the things I cared about.  They liked “small government” as long as it was getting rid of all the liberal programs so they can then put in their own programs.  They liked “freedom” as long as it was for the things that they personally liked and that they had the “freedom” to oppress everything else.  All they really wanted was my blind support, even when they were carrying out things that I objected to.
So there is a part of me that understands when the hyper-partisan extremists spew hate and try to guilt-trip third party supporters like myself.  I’ve been there.  But there’s also the side of me that wants to get in their faces and throw that hate back at them, bile for bile, until it suffocates them and they drown in it.
Let’s get brutally honest here… just who the hell do you haters think you are when you go after third party supporters?  Where do you get off thinking that any of us owe you or your candidate our support?  Your candidates do not own our votes or our support.  In fact, you and your candidates do not own anyone’s vote or support!  You are not entitled to them.  At all.  They are not yours to assume, and they sure as hell are not yours to claim!
I’ve talked to many people who have supported third parties, and they pretty much have similar experiences as my own when it comes to the two dominant and domineering parties in America.  They used to buy into the false promises in exchange for their vote.  They used to believe the zero-sum myth of one candidate or the other.  And then they realized, just like I did, that they were being used.
In other words, all you hate-spewing zero-sum hyper-partisans, you and your candidates have already let people like me down.  You lost our support.  And you have no right whatsoever to demand it back.  None.
So I’ll ask again… just who the hell do you think you are?
And if you’re talking numbers, then why don’t you talk about the vast majority of voters that don’t even bother to show up at the ballot box?  You know, the ones that you chased away with your hyper-partisan extremism and negative campaigning to the point that they don’t even bother to care.  Or would that be asking too much of you?  Are you too much of an extremist to change tactics and actually earn that support instead of chasing the others away?
I find it insulting that the haters want to guilt-trip the people whose support they’ve already pissed away.  What do you have to offer them other than fear and loathing?  What can you or your candidate give them in exchange for that support?  What, because “the other side is worse”?  You’ve played that card too many times for it to have meaning!  In fact, you’ve played that card so many times that the other side has become worse!  That is precisely how we ended up with President Donald Trump!
The guy that does favors for the woman that he can never have doesn’t do that because she expects him to.  He does it because he thinks it will win her heart.  He does it in the hope that she’ll give him what he really wants.  He puts up with doing any kind of task for her, no matter how degrading, because he believes that at some point, he’ll be rewarded for it.  But the minute he realizes that he’ll never have what he’s looking for from her, he stops doing those things for her.
The same holds true for anything else in life.  Romance.  Friendships.  Business.  Politics.  Support is earned when it is appreciated by those giving it.  Fidelity is earned when it is rewarded.  If you can’t figure that out, then you have no business whatsoever telling other people how to vote or who to support.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Week of 08/20/2018

The American Tease
There are two kinds of teases.
The first is the method by which we mock or ridicule someone’s shortcomings and flaws.  Sometimes it’s done out of love and friendship; a playful reminder that we do know these people in ways that others do not.  But sometimes it’s also done out of maliciousness and spite.  Like the way President Donald Trump does on Twitter and at his ego-gratifying rallies against those that he hates.  Even I’m not immune to that habit, as evidenced in the many ways that I refer to people like Trump on my column and through social media.
But there is another kind of tease, and that is the kind that is more notorious and more prevalent.  It doesn’t mock you, at least not directly.  It plays on our desires and our dreams.  It is often something that we can never have, but it tells us that we can have it... or at least have a taste of it.
Every day, I start my day with teases.  My social media feed is full of beautiful women who tease me with beautiful locations and alluring poses and exciting lifestyles.  They make the most boring things in the world exciting simply by seeing them do it.  Of course, they don’t really do the truly boring things such as shopping for groceries or doing laundry, but they will be out in nightclubs and concerts.  They’ll be at pricy restaurants and show off the cuisine, or they’ll be at the cheapest places in the world that serve vegan food.  They’ll visit museums and lay around on beaches and take pictures of their toes in front of the sand and the surf.  They’ll share pictures of themselves working out.  Or they’ll take bubble baths and show the faucet and their painted toes and the bath bomb they just dropped in.  They’ll playfully show their smiling faces in the morning to say what a beautiful day it is, and here is their favorite dog or cat curled up with them.
And some of them sometimes go for the immediate sell.  They’ll show off some intentionally-placed product and they will come out and say “buy this and you’ll be beautiful like me”.  Or it’s a health product they’re pushing.  Or they’ll say “I’m going back to this exclusive adults-only resort in two weeks.  Come see me here.”  Or sometimes it’s a convention they want you to go to.  Or it’s a website or a service they want you to sign up for.  “Come talk with me.  Come chat with me.  Come hang with me.  Come see me.”
But it is all just that... a tease.  A promise of something that they know they can never truly deliver for you and they know that you will never truly have.
You will never truly have that kind of beautiful company in your life.  You will never truly share that kind of life with them.
Here is what will happen if you do see them in person: if it is at a resort, they will welcome you, they will spend maybe five or ten minutes with you, and then they will wish you well as you go find something else to do for the rest of your time there.  If it’s at a convention, they’ll wonder if you want to purchase some photo or video, or they’ll give you a handout for some service and a price list and wonder if you want to make a sale.  Because the hard reality of this tease is that it is all done for sales.  They want you at that resort so that the resort can make money.  They want you at that convention to bring in sales. 
They don’t want you.  They want the sales.
It’s all about money to them. It’s not about sharing their lives with you or bringing you into their lives.  It’s all about making money by teasing something that you want but they know that you will never have.
And the scary part is that even when some of us realize this, we will still be suckered in.  Because we still have that dream, that desire that can never be fulfilled.  And, because it is not fulfilled and can never be fulfilled, we will still come back for more.
I have come to the realization that what we used to call the “American Dream” is really now just the “American Tease”.  It is something that is hyped up, propped up, and sold to us continually... but also something that we will never truly have... ever.
The “American Dream” was sold to us as something we all can attain.  Study, graduate, get a job, get a car, work hard, get married, get a house, have a family, raise your kids to become parents themselves, then retire and live out your sunset years in peace and harmony.
Beautiful dream, isn’t it?
I grew up being told this dream could be mine.  We all were taught this.  This is what is sold to us on TV and movies.  Politicians and media personalities swear by it.  They all promise to protect it or preserve it or to restore it.  But what they don’t do is promise to see it delivered.
Education is key, right?  That’s what is promised will get us those better-paying jobs.  So we’re told to study and go back for more education and sign up for more education and take more and more courses.  Go online.  Go to night school.  Sacrifice our personal time to get that education.  But that education is not free.  It costs money.  So we are convinced to get student loans.  And then we find out that the education we just took out loans for does not guarantee a better-paying job.  So we have to work harder and take on a second or third job to pay for that loan for the education that was supposed to get us that better-paying job that never materialized.
Buy a car.  Get some autonomy in your life.  Can’t afford one?  Well there are loans you can take out.  Even for used cars.  Even if your credit is crap, you can get a loan.  It just will mean you have to work harder still and longer to pay that off as well.  On top of the loans for that education that promised your better-paying jobs that never materialized.
Having a house is important, right?  Everyone wants to us to buy one.  Or two.  Or a whole bunch of them and flip them for profit.  That seems to be the fun game that is on the cable channels.  But at least have one.  Can’t afford one?  Oh there are plenty of institutions that will lend us the money.  Hell, we can do it through our cellphones now.  Download their app, fill in the blanks, and they’ll get us set up with a mortgage.  Bad credit?  No credit?  No problem.  That just means that we’ll have to work even harder and work more jobs to pay for that loan on top of the car loan and the student loan for that better-paying job that never materialized.
But, wait, I’m not done.
Let’s talk about that job that you are working hard at.  Or two of them.  Or three of them.  How’s the pay?  Not so good, is it?  Well according to the Pew Research Center, real wages have not increased at all for most Americans since 1974.  Adjusted for inflation, that same job worked in 1974 is being paid the same as it does in 2018.  Even with increases in the minimum wage and the tax cuts given to the corporations and businesses and upper-level people, the rest of us have been paid the same for forty years.  Forty years! 
No wonder you’re having to work two or three jobs!  Because even though real waves have stagnated for four decades, the cost of everything keeps going up.  Those mortgages and loans go up.  The cost of living goes up.  Healthcare is going up.  Education is going up.  It costs more and more and more to keep your kids educated even through public schools.
And that presumes that you get to keep your job.  Because even if Trump didn’t start imposing tariffs and start a trade war, businesses are padding their profit margins by cutting your benefits and even cutting your positions.  For all the talk of immigration, nobody’s saying anything about the continued run of H1 visas going to people coming into America who have more education than you and will work cheaper than you.
So you’re struggling to make ends meet.  Are you able to enjoy that home?  Take pleasure in driving that car?  Watch your kids grow up?  Spend time with your spouse?  How’s your retirement plan?  Is there one?  Is there one that does not involve the words “Lotto” or “Lottery” or “Sweepstakes”?
Well if you’re struggling, then there’s “help” as well.  Take a cruise!  They have payment plans.  Get a credit card!  You can buy the things you need online with a credit card.  Can’t afford the shiny new medication on TV?  There are services that help!  It just will cost a little more and you’ll just have to work even harder still.
Let’s get brutally honest here... there is no such thing as the “American Dream” anymore for most Americans.  It’s all just a tease.  It’s just an endless parade of sales pitches and payment plans and loans on top of loans.  Much like the beautiful ladies that want you to buy that energy drink or go to that convention or go to that resort, the “dream” that is being pitched in the media and by politicians is just a sales pitch.  It’s all about getting us all on the hook for more and more money.
And forget getting help from the two dominant political parties in America.  They’re not there for us or for the “dream” we think we’re trying to get, because it is not our dream to begin with.  It’s just the sales pitch of corporations and banks.  They own that “dream”.  They control who gets the privilege of “having” that “dream”, and, unless you’re part of that elite few, that list will never include you.  For the rest of us, all we get are bills.  And loans.  And payment plans.
The first step to overcoming a tease is recognizing that you will never get what you want or need from them.  When it comes to the “American Tease”, more and more of us need to start accepting that we will never get those things that we were sold on.  They’re nice to look at.  Wonderful to fantasize about.  But if we can’t afford them, then we have to give up the idea we can have them, and we need to stop listening to the people and corporations that try to sell it to us.