I try to stay on topic when I write for this blog, but the problem is that I am not sure what the topic really is. Sometimes I feel a compulsion to write, though, and the good thing about a blog is that we both have freedom – me, to write as the Muse directs, and you, to hang around or not, as you see fit. I hope you hang around, of course, but I typically don’t shy away from expressing opinions and describing and interpreting the world as I see it, and that doesn’t always make everyone happy.
I am fortunate to have friends and acquaintances from across the social and political spectrum. I’m a Texan middle-class former military constitutional conservative gun-carrying Christian, and I have friendships with rich draft-evading progressive liberal atheist Californians with a sincere hatred of firearms and a contempt for the principles embodied in the Bill of Rights (not CLOSE friendships, but friendships nonetheless). There is always a point of commonality; something to use as a basis for building a broader understanding. Even if it’s just an agreement that the other person is a dangerous idiot, we at least agree on something. Recently, I’ve even come to understand that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with those who have made the choice (and it IS a choice) to attend Texas A&M University. As I get older, I am learning that there are very few never-get-over differences between well-meaning, thinking people, and that most of the conflict that whips the collective “us” into a froth is merely sound and fury, signifying not a damn thing. There are differences that matter, though. I’m going to try to talk about some of them. This should be fun, so let’s see where it goes.
This is an election year in the US, and it’s “sound and fury” season. I am anything but an expert in politics, but I’m not Joe Sixpack either. There’s nothing wrong with being Joe Sixpack, but I don’t drink beer anymore and the only football I can stomach is Texas Longhorns football (and that’s easier to admit in some years than others).
More than in any election year I can remember, this election cycle confuses me. It could always be the Parkinson’s talking, but there just doesn’t seem to be many differences in the candidates on either side of the political fence. To be sure, they claim different viewpoints and beliefs, but with very few exceptions, they’re like fast food; briefly satisfying, but bad for you in the long term with a tendency to upset your digestion. At this point, I don’t see anyone I would vote for, even to avoid voting for someone else. I think it’s a sacred obligation of an American citizen to exercise the rights that so many have fought to defend and safeguard. One of those rights is to help to choose who leads us, but it’s damn difficult when there are just no good alternatives, and “None Of The Above” seems like an odd name for a President.
So, what matters to me? I’ll always be an engineer at heart, so I did an informal system engineering trade study one night (put another way, I ate chocolate ice cream one night when I couldn’t sleep, and thought a little bit). I came up with a short list of things that matter to me, and which I heartily wish I could find in the same skin in a candidate for president. Each of these qualities is present somewhere in the field, but I don’t believe they all exist within the same body. Time will tell if I’m wrong.
Truthfulness matters. Not just the telling of truth, but the ability to recognize it when it presents itself, and the ability to recognize its absence. People lie. Politicians lie whenever their lips are moving, according to some. I myself, bastion of truthfulness that I am, have told a whopper or two (sometimes with good reason and intent, but more often for low, self-serving reasons). We all lie, but most of us don’t make it a way of life. We know when we’re lying, and we recognize the truth when we hear it and when we say it. It disturbs me that there are people who wish to be Leader of the Free World who use the truth as a tool, and who apparently believe that a lie is just as good as the truth if it serves their purposes. As an example, and not for any partisan political purpose, does it really make sense for Hilary Clinton to maintain that she never, not once, in any way shape or form, mishandled classified information, only to have the FBI determine that she not only did, but did more than a thousand times? If she didn’t know what she was doing was wrong, she had no business being SecState, and is not qualified for the presidency. If she did know what she was doing was wrong, she had no business being SecState, and is not qualified for the presidency. If she thinks that what she was doing wasn’t wrong, she had no business being SecState, and is not qualified for the presidency. I think that about covers the decision space.
We have a right and an obligation to expect more from our leaders. It’s more than an administrative error; mishandling national security information at that level not only results in “grave damage”, it kills people. Excuses and “it wasn’t on fire when I sat down on it” don’t wash. There are times when the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth doesn’t work in international politics or military operations, of course. However, we were taught as children that lying to protect yourself from the consequences of bad behavior is wrong; it’s understandable in an eight-year old, and reprehensible in a presidential candidate. Any presidential candidate.
Toughness and strength matters. There’s no doubt it’s a dangerous world, becoming more dangerous every day. It’s not a popular viewpoint among some, but I think evil exists, both human evil and the more pervasive kind. Not all viewpoints and philosophies are of equal value, and I believe that ways of living that disregard the rights of people to determine their own course are evil. They must be resisted and destroyed, not tolerated and appeased. It seems to be fashionable to ignore evil, or make it go away by renaming it. That works about as well as closing your eyes and claiming that you’re safe because since you can’t see the bad guys, they can’t see you either.
Humility matters. None of us has a lock on the right course, and we (most especially our leaders) are prone to error and misjudgment. We insist that our leaders be self-confident. We should also insist that they have a healthy regard for their own fallibility and rely on not only their own wisdom, but the wisdom that comes “from a multitude of counselors.” Bombast makes good theater but poor statesmanship.
Practicality matters. Our leaders must be guided by their conviction, but they also have to do what works. Ideologues make great speeches, but don’t get much done. Taking actions that don’t have any clear benefit but give the illusion of progress just wastes time, and is more often harmful than helpful.
A love of America and Americans matters. Our “experiment in self-government” is unique in the world, and we have been a great nation not only because of the principles upon which we were founded, but also because of the people who have participated in the experiment for almost 240 years. We are exceptional not just because of what we are and what we have accomplished, but also because of what we strive to be. Our chief executive needs to be unabashed about his or her love of America and its people.
The conclusion? Unfortunately, I think my preferred candidate for President is either Superman, Wonder Woman, or Captain America, and they all have day jobs. I’m shocked to discover that my preferred candidate is not a choice between Democrat and Republican, or between liberal and conservative. It’s between Marvel and DC Comics.
I can see it now: Cap for president, with Supe for vice (just to get him out of the way). Tony Stark for SecDef, and Black Widow for SecState (as a Russian, she has as much foreign policy experience as they usually do). Professor Xavier as Director of National Intelligence (with Cerebro, of course – deadly for intel collection). The Hulk as Director of Homeland Security (“Hulk smash” is an elegant solution to a variety of problems). Secretary of Education: Dr. Doom (has a PhD, and handles discipline problems efficiently). And Deadpool for National Security Advisor (an indestructible smartass, kinda like Henry Kissinger).
It’s simpler than I thought – I’m neither GOP or DEM; not liberal, libertine, or libertarian; not conservative, conservationist, or constructionist.
I’m a Marvelite. Avengers, assemble!