Can we stop, with the swamp?

26 07 2017

DC

Flying out of the city twice over the past few weeks I realized yet again how much I love where I live!  Even though my home is in Northern Virginia, I consider Washington, DC my home.  And it’s NOT . . .  a swamp.  Oh, it sometimes feels like that: in the middle of July, when it’s 100 degrees, with 200% humidity.  But it’s not a swamp.   

Since I first visited our nation’s capital on a family vacation back in 1976, I have been enthralled with the place: the beauty, the history, the people, the work, and of course, the food!  I lived here for four years while in college and even after moving away upon graduation I continued to return whenever possible.  For the past 30 plus years it has been one of my family’s favorite vacations spots; and so when my wife and I moved back to the DMV in 2013 we were delighted.

Needless to say, I’m offended by all the ‘swamp’ references!  Sure, there are government workers, institutional bureaucrats, and elected officials everywhere; but it is grossly unfair and demeaning to refer to them as “swamp-dwellers.” No doubt some, seduced by the lust for power, have forgotten what public service is all about; but the vast majority do what they do because they love this country, and because at the heart of their careers is the desire to . . . yes!  serve the public!  And this is especially true of our elected officials.  By far, most of them are committed to our national values and have given their very lives to the healthy functioning of our government.  They work tirelessly to live out the reality that all people have been created equal, that our nation is committed to the promotion of the general welfare of all Americans, and that few things are more important than “ensuring the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity!”

Sadly, some would like us to believe that the very word – politician – is a dirty one; and that people who have given their lives to public service are nothing more than “swamp-dwellers.”  Further, they would also have us believe that the solution to the many problems facing our nation is to ‘drain DC of the politicians’ and repopulate it with . . . businesspeople!  Yes, business people.  That is the solution to all our many problems.

Consider the current Cabinet: the CEOs of Exxon Mobile and Puzder Fast Foods, a former hedge fund CEO and Goldman Sachs partner, the former CEO of New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center, a WL Ross & Co. exec who has amassed his billions by ‘betting’ on failing companies, a WWE business magnate, and now, a Wall Street executive and financier who will attempt to serve as the new White House Communcations Director.  These are the people that far too many believe will rid our government of the bureaucrats, do away with the gridlock in Congress, and set our country on a course toward greatness.

Now to be clear, generalizations about the business community are no better than generalization about politicians; but one thing does need to be said.  In their purest state, the ultimate and final goal of a politician is public service.  On the other hand, the final and ultimate goal of a CEO is profit.  So while both politicians and CEO’s can and do accomplish great good, and while neither has the corner of the market of behaving badly; when push comes to shove, the goal of the CEO is vastly different from that of a public servant.  And if the practices of so many in the current administration are even the least bit representative of the practices of the business community, then we are in serious trouble.

While seeing President Trump’s tax returns would be extremely worthwhile and informative, we all know that he has paid little if any taxes over the last 25 years. And even if he has done nothing illegal, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that his singular goal has been to make money.  He has as much as said this very thing! Serving the public has never been on his mind: and this is not to deny that at times he may have acted in the best interest of his employees, or been concerned about the quality of the products he offered.  But in the eyes of Trump, his family, and so many of his associates, we, the public, are nothing more than consumers.  And any ‘services’ they offer have one and only one purpose — personal profit.  His work over the years has been about nothing even close to public service!  

Further, Donald Trump’s philanthropic practices also reveal a great deal about his goals in life — and caring for others, or doing good for those in need, are clearly not on his radar!  Such behavior would only reduce his annual income and the growth of his assets, neither of which will help him to accomplish that central goal, which remains the maximization of profits.

Unlike so many of the small business owners I know, Donald Trump and Associates are only about the maximization of their own personal profits and individual wealth. They do not understand ‘recusals’ or conflicts of interest.  They avoid comprise, and regard everything in terms of gains and losses.  And they sue those who would challenge or obstruct their goals and objectives.  They will employ us; but never pay us what we’re worth and always seek to restrict our ability to organize and fight for more.  They will grow our economy; but not by increasing OUR wealth, only theirs.  And they will expand our interests around the world; but they will do so by sacraficing the common good on the altar of private consumption.  This is why today, it is estimated that 40% of America’s wealth, can be found in the portfolios of 1% of the population: a statistic that is only worsening with each passing day.

No!  DC isn’t a swamp.  It doesn’t need to be drained; and the vast majority of our politicians are not “swamp-dwellers.” I wouldn’t even put this new administration in that category!  However, the team that has been assembled to lead this country over the next four years is made up of business people; and while they would like us to believe that their goals are to create jobs and grow the economy, to make better trade deals and not allow concerns for the environment to put undue burdens on America’s middle class, and on and on and on . . . in the end, their primary goal is profit. And that profit goes into their pockets, not any of ours.

If the rich getting richer is what it means to make America great again, and if putting the Trump family first is the same thing as putting America first, then we’re well on our way.  Fortunately, some, perhaps many, are beginning to understand these conflicts.  So to all who somehow justified voting for him because they thought that someone new and different was going to be able to magically make their lives better, and who are now seeing the absurdity of such a belief; be patient.  He can’t possibly last long.  Eventually, we’ll get someone back in the White House to clean up his mess.

Until that time, if you’d like to join those of us who have known this all along, as we seek to make the changes that our nation needs, feel free to do so. You see, we know you’re hurting. And we’re willing to work with you, and for you.  But that can’t happen  until more and more people realize that Donald Trump is not the answer.  Donald Trump is the problem.   And I for one, love our nation, and this city, too much to let him stay here too long!  

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m that guy!

12 07 2017

Talking

Yes, as hard as it is to admit, I’m that guy!

I’m that guy who’s going to challenge you when you tell a racist joke or when you mock your Muslim neighbors.  I’m that guy who is going to stop you when you complain about how the ‘gay agenda’ is destroying this country, or how ‘those people’ are talking away all of our jobs!  I’m that guy who is going to call you out when you make gross generalizations . . . about lesbians ‘always’ being so butch, about Latinos who ‘still’ can’t speak English, or about ‘all’ Native Americans being alcoholics!  And if you’re going to in any way disrespect a woman, watch out.  ‘Cuz then I’m really going to hold your feet to the fire!

Yup!  I’m that guy!  And I’m not afraid to call you out!

In spite of the behavior of the current President and so many of his followers: I’m not going to ignore or tolerate such behavior, or in any way pretend that it is either normal or acceptable.

I’m sorry to be that guy on social media who actually reads what you post: who doesn’t just stalk you – voraciously reading all you have to say, but then pretends to be above such trivial pursuits, and acts as if I don’t know what you think about certain things.  I actually want to be ‘social’, and so I will engage you.  When you post Facebook articles that have been proven to be false, or tweet 140 character sound bites that grab peoples’ attention but convey little truth, I’m that guy who’s going to question you.  And not because I think we always need to agree with one another, but because some things are just wrong!  And some things are just not true!

I’m sorry to be that guy who sees you cut in line, and says something.  And I’m sorry to be that guy who sees you talking on your cell phone when you check out of the grocery store, completely ignoring the cashier, and then tells you how rude your being.   I’m sorry to be that guy who honks his horn when you throw trash out your car window. And I’m sorry to be that guy at church who calls gossip what it actually is . . . gossip!

I’m not angry, nor am I really all that annoyed with you.  I’m not trying to be mean, and I don’t even think I’m trying to police the world!  I’m just not willing to let you go on thinking that everything always revolves around you.  And so I’m going to hold you to a higher standard: one that simply respects others, that displays a certain modicum of kindness and sensitivity, that seeks to bring a little more love to the world, and that helps nudge our society as a whole toward becoming more intentionally mindful of the common good.

I’ll try to do it kindly, and gently, and with as much gentleness as I can muster!  But I’m going to do it!

And here’s the thing, I want you to do the same for me!  I want YOU, to hold ME, similarly accountable!  Because that’s what it means for us to be part of this great human family.

All of the great religions of the world call their followers to something akin to the words of Jesus — “Do to others what you’d have others do to you!”  Unfortunately, today, far too many seem to be living under the banner of “Do it to them before they can do it you, because all they want to do is hinder, hurt, or harm you.”  And the result is that we’ve lost respect for one another.  There’s a rampant fear today that has led many people to treat those who are not like us as if they are less than us; and so we’ve begun to normalized rude, irreverent, and downright mean attitudes and behavior.

But I’m that guy who’s not going to accept it.  And I hope you won’t either.  Maybe if a few more of us continue to speak up, these trends can be reversed.  Perhaps if more of us had spoken up when our nation was founded, slavery would never have become that institution that is still destroying lives today.  Perhaps if more of us had spoken up in Germany during the rise of Nazism, Hitler wouldn’t have sent us all into the Second World War.

So let’s all be . . . ‘that’ guy!  . . . who is not going to allow anyone to be marginalized!  Let’s be . . . ‘that’ woman, who is not going to allow fear to win, and thus lead our nation down a road of divisive hatred.  Let’s all be . . . ‘that’ kid, who is not afraid to speak up when it’s time for injustice to be named.

Perhaps if we were all a little more like . . . ‘that’ — the world would become a kinder place in which to live, and a more loving place to call home.