Category Archives: Insight

Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 5

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…white people.

Dammit, white people, what is your problem?

Hold on. Maybe I jumped the gate there a bit. Let me back up a step.

I’m an American. I’m a white guy. This was not my choice of course. It was just the universal flow of things ordained by whatever cosmic dust gathered the moment I was conceived and born into this world…and here in America.

Despite the current state of things, I’m generally proud to be an American and whatever comes with that. I’m also good with being a white guy. What’s my option? I can’t change the facts of my existence, nor do I disavow what or who I am. I suppose, if I felt awful enough about it, I could move or I could go about appropriating someone else’s culture, but that seems like a lot of work considering I will always be found out to be a white American male. Anything else is just…phony.

Let me say too, that I feel I work hard, that I have my struggles and challenges the same as anyone else and that I am a good person at my core. It has never been a goal of mine to hold power over, or oppress another for any reason, personal gain or otherwise. I feel we are all just trying to get through it the best we can.

However, the recent flare-ups of truly awful behavior from people whom I’m categorized with, causes me great distress and great embarrassment, forcing me to ask what’s up with the white people.

You’re calling the police on others who are doing nothing wrong at all beyond being different than you. You’re calling people out or physically attacking them for expressing something related to their personal heritage or whatever because what…they stepped on your delicate sensibilities?

There are real crimes being committed in this country that require the focused efforts of dedicated police forces everywhere. A family having a cookout, a kid cutting grass, an elderly man taking a walk, a women wearing a t-shirt that shows the name of some other country on it and the like are not crimes. These aren’t even things that should draw your attention. If they are, you should take a moment to determine what sort of jacked-up thinking is going on in your head to make you so mad and irrational.

And…as if that weren’t enough when you aren’t calling the police, you’re attacking these people (verbally and otherwise) yourselves… in public… because I don’t even know why. Some sort of superiority complex? Some sort of inferiority complex? Plain old numb-butt ignorance?

This is just dumb. I thought we were all better than this.

Now, of course, this does not apply to all white people, so don’t lose focus and spin-off on that. But as you lump, so you will be lumped and there are enough white people doing enough dumb things to make us all look bad and that should be generating a sense of grave concern among us.

You see, what I have learned over the years, is that while I may not recognize it or feel as though I propagated it, or have in some way seen a direct profit from it, I am likely the beneficiary of what people call the “white privilege”. We all are.

Get clear on this. The notion of white privilege, or anything that serves to put one person or group over another, is not a good thing. It doesn’t make you superior to anything or anyone. And should you decide to act as though it means something, the only thing that “white privilege” has done is make you an asshole.

If you judge someone else to be so different from you that you are compelled to call the police, or try to impose your will on them, or are going out of your way to tell them, whom you don’t even know, that they are bad, or don’t belong, or are destroying the fiber of whatever and should go back to their own country and whatnot, you are not being a good person. And you pretty much miss the point of whatever they taught you in Kindergarten and the very essence of what America is supposed to be about…entirely. And you should shut up. Because your ignorance is showing. Hell, it’s not just showing. It has crawled into the tiny driver’s seat of your consciousness and has taken over to make you do stupid things.

It makes the rest of us feel like we have to apologize for a drunk uncle who shows up to a wedding with no pants on, who then tries to make out with the bride and finishes with a face plant into the cake…every day.

There is no good reason for this behavior. We are supposed to be an evolving species that strives to be better. You are not helping. And if you can’t help, seriously, at least try to do no harm. Try to use any privilege you may have, perceived or otherwise, to lift someone up, not tear them down. Think before your act. Take some deep breaths. Count to ten or one hundred and ten or whatever it takes for you to chill out a bit. Everyone has a camera these days. We know who you are. We see you and you reveal the truth of your ugly self to everyone. Is that what you want? I hope not.

We all come from somewhere. Remember that.

If you can’t, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 4

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…all the rage over comedy.

Go ahead. Pour yourself a fresh one, grab a bowl of pretzels and get settled in. This nut takes a hot minute to crack, but I’ll try to get at it as simply as possible.

Lately, there seems to a lot of uproar over the things we hear from comedians and their related comedy.

Over the course of human history, leagues of comedians have been labeled offensive. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Ricky Gervais and more have all been labeled offensive or worse at one time or another. As some would have you believe, they are dangerous to all that is good and holy in our delicate society. While that is some serious bullshit, the ultimate point is that offensive comedy is nothing new. Technically speaking, neither is our love/hate relationship with offensive material. While a lot of it seems like bravado, we seem very easy to offend. But, come on…really? I can think of about a hundred things that upset me way more than the comedy stylings of the offensive.

Now, I want to be extra careful about saying what is offensive, because ultimately, the definition of offensive is subjective.

I don’t know a good definition of comedy off the top of my head. I can’t tell you, from a textbook point of view, what the value of comedy is to our society, but I’m pretty sure we need it.

Comedy is a reflection of who we are in our moment in time, presented to us in often disruptive, outrageous, inflated and absurd ways. It needs to cut through our common sense defenses to get to our more primal selves in order to elicit a response. The desired primary response is laughter and levity. The secondary desired response is some level of awareness, a chance to reflect on who we are or what the message is and why certain things are funny to us.

While we may think the times we live in are the very darkest and most troubling, so did our fathers and our father’s fathers and so on. Everyone lives through the worst of times depending on how they see it. Through all that struggle, there is a human need and desire to laugh, if for no other reason than to forget for a moment about how freakin’ miserable things are and the need to just blow some steam.

As times change, our sensitivities change. What we laughed at years ago, may be unacceptable material today and that is OK. There is plenty out there to make fun of. It’s a live and learn thing. The challenge we face now is that virtually everyone in the world has access to everyone else in the world and we all have the ability to label something we experience as “offensive” – based on our own biases – and can propagate that belief, incite rage and all kinds of things – globally – in an instant.

So what’s offensive? I laugh at a lot of stuff because funny is funny and I’m not that easily offended by comedy because I believe I understand the intent.

My friend Jeggs says everything – e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g – is funny, all the time…until it isn’t. I think I understand that, but it’s probably more complex than I imagine.

What we sometimes get caught up on, is the difference between the comedic message and the messenger. That, and this herd-level, bandwagon mentality where we demand instant “justice” for things that upset us without really doing the work to define intent.

Like I said, comedy is supposed to make us see how ridiculous we can be. Our common understanding of how silly we are as a species is what makes comedy work. So the message of comedy – the content – is the social commentary, the mirror we hold before ourselves so that we may better understand our shortcomings and learn not to take ourselves so seriously as we try to work through them.

Comedians, and their associated vehicles, like TV sitcoms or a live performances, are the delivery systems for that social commentary.

Let me be clear that I’m not advocating or approving hateful, inflammatory material that has the intent of shredding the moral fiber of our existence, intentionally causing pain or intentionally causing damage. That is not comedy. And there are plenty of tone-deaf jokes which can be found offensive, or at the least insensitive, and miss the mark on delivery. But while the intent may be to shock, it is rarely to do harm. Comedians feed off laughter. There’s no value in your ire.

Like an actor, or a singer or whatever, there should be a clear delineation between what a person does as a person and what that person does in a profession. I mean, we don’t consider an actor to be a Nazi, or hold them accountable for Nazi beliefs or hate crimes, just because he is cast somewhere in the role of Hitler. It is a representation of information with the intent of getting some kind of awareness into the social consciousness.

We need that. We need different ways to learn about what we do as we trip through our daily lives. We need to know when we are doing something stupid, dangerous, insensitive and needs to be changed and we need to be able to celebrate when we discover we might be doing something right. That is the beauty of art in all its forms, whether it pokes at your delicate sensibilities or not.

Now, if that actor who played Hitler goes home after work and in his own time and space, and in the skin of being regular old John B. Actor, hits the couch to start spewing his personal beliefs which are racist, hateful, divisive, threatening, harmful and more on social media or wherever, there is a problem.

That person can’t hide under the loose protections that comes with being a social commentator because instead of making a point through content, it is a reflection of that being’s personal belief system which they need to be responsible for. They still have the right to say whatever stupid, vile garbage they want. That is the right we get for living here. But they can’t expect that others will not want to respond in some way or that there could not be repercussions, like being called out on it or being fired from the company or group that they may represent or be associated with.

It is definitely a very fine line and the shades of gray that shift between dark and light can turn on an instant depending on who seems to be defining what is offensive in that moment. Generally, if you give it a moment, it will change.

Correction is good. We make course corrections in our lives every day, probably subconsciously, to make sure we continue going in what we perceive to be the right direction. But waging an all out assault on the notion that making fun or providing social insights through comedy with a coating of laughter to soothe the delivery are dangerous waters to tread.

Ultimately, comedy is like music. Some of it is offensive. To you. Or me. I have my preferences and you have yours. Who is to say which is correct? If you don’t like it, turn it off. Don’t listen to it. But you can’t make that judgement for everyone. Nor should you.

These are delicate times for everybody. Personally, I want to laugh as much as possible because it gives me hope that we aren’t as far gone as I fear. The moment we start taking ourselves too seriously, we are truly doomed. I hope we figure that out.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old, same old – more dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 3

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy, and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…political zealots.

Let’s get at it.

My friend Louis says there are basically two things that guide him along his path and they have never let him down. They are common sense and beer.

If something doesn’t make sense to him, he works on it until it does. If it’s something doesn’t make sense and it’s beyond his control, he finds the best way in his mind to cope with it. It’s sort of a zen-like “let it go” philosophy because basically, it doesn’t make sense to him to waste energy grinding on it, especially if he can’t do anything about it.

He sees common sense as anything that can be figured out in a hot minute and that under the same circumstances, and with the same set of considerations, anyone else (in their right mind, as he puts it) would come to the same logical conclusion.

If you take a bite off a slice of pizza that just came out of the oven you are bound to torch the roof of your mouth. Anyone knows that. It’s common sense. If you know that and you do it anyway, Louis would say you are probably not right in your mind, because again, it’s common sense.

What stumps Louis these days, and me, and several of the others I speak to or hear from regularly is what seems to be a large step away from common sense. It’s evident in a  lot of things but most clearly illustrated by the latest wave of political vitriol generated from hardcore, short-sighted, mean-spirited, uninformed, under-informed, pig-headed, irrational, party loyalists who spew venom and ignorance as if it were their right, ordained to do so by God.

Now, we crawled around on that for a bit, because we all believe people have the right, at least as outlined by the constitution, to speak their piece, no matter how ignorant others may deem them to be. Intelligence, perceived or otherwise, is apparently not a condition for gaining the right to speak freely.

However, Louis will tell you that an ignorant man’s desire to speak his truth is like having the desire to dress a rhino in a tuxedo. While you may have the right and the notion to do it, it makes no sense and no good comes from it – for him, for the tuxedo or for the rhino. Louis is a Class A bar stool philosopher for sure.

Of course, all this comes at the risk of judging others. Which we know we should try to avoid. Then again, somebody has to say something.

I don’t really care much about what people have to say. As crazy as it gets, most of the time if you let them say it, they get it out of their system and go away. I don’t have to agree with them and if they say things that are offensive to me or to my people, I have the choice to go away myself, or handle it in a way that diffuses my frustrations.

What I care about is when actions overpower conversations. My granddad will tell you that a bad conversation is better than no conversation at all, because at least you are talking. And if you’re talking, and listening, there is a pretty good chance that the conversation will turn into something positive. Eventually.

What we are seeing in our politics today is actions overpowering conversations. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of words being said, but few actual conversations are taking place. The intent of the words are less about achieving anything and more about spewing anger, ignorance, self-righteous ideology and negativity. That all spoils the ground for fertile conversation.

Everyone is dug in and polarized. These hard-charging nubs seem so embedded and invested in their political rhetoric, and I mean dug in deep, that the opportunity for consideration, cooperation and rational, productive discussion is being extinguished like a lit match trapped under an inverted bar glass.

There is a clear “us versus them” mentality coming from both sides. Louis calls them Demi-don’ts and Republi-can’ts because they each blame the other for all the bad going on, promise the stars and moon in the spirit of change and accomplish absolutely zero. It makes no sense and it’s just dumb.

I liken this widespread, communally ignorant behavior to that of the Zax in the story by Dr. Seuss. Look it up. Two creatures intent on going to their destinations and getting their way in doing it without giving a single thought about the other. They end up blocking each other’s path. They are stubborn, unwilling to learn or change or even make a small adjustment to their mindset or process because of the entitlement they feel to self-actualize. It’s just blind, dumb ignorance for the purpose of principle.

And this is where the problem is. We can’t seem to suss it out. Common sense dictates this is an unhealthy and ultimately, self-destructive behavior. It’s behavior we would admonish our children for and yet these folks see no problems with it, or are at the very least, aggressively comfortable with settling into their ignorance and sharing it broadly.

Common sense dictates that someone along the line is gonna have to blink. They will have to set pride aside and suggest there may be a better way to achieve resolution beyond demanding everything go a certain way – because that’s the way they want it –  and undermining everything that may crimp the pure crazy.

America was built on compromise and cooperation. There are good people here who work hard to get through the day to day they best they can and would rather not have to deal with the philosophical zealotry that ultimately makes their jobs harder and provides fewer rewards. It’s frustrating and it’s soul-crushing to know that there are people out there, people with power and influence that would rather serve an ideology than to put the energy into honestly working for the common good. If everyone could see that and maybe try blinking, just a little bit, and take a little step back toward common sense, we might be able to see the bigger picture and paint it properly.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 2

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…the Biden/Trump fight.

As you probably heard, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have taken turns telling the press that, at some point or other – based on whatever the other has done – that each is confident he could and would give the other a solid beat down in a physical fight – to teach him a lesson.

Did you get all that?

Let’s face it, the whole kerfuffle is dumb! They can talk like that because they each wallow in the safety of being out of range of each other. Just like you putting stuff on the social media about folks you don’t like. You probably wouldn’t say it face to face, because if you did, someone might slap the shit out of your head.

These two nubs are never gonna fight. This nonsense is just taking up space that could be better used for the bigger stuff we should be talking about. I mean, it’s more embarrassing than amusing. It’s stupid.

However, I would be lying to you if, when I first heard this bubble up, that there wasn’t a small part of me that would actually like to see these two suit up and crawl into a ring somewhere. I mean, I’m not condoning any violence here (not that they could muster up enough energy to produce even minimal levels of violence) and I don’t believe there is any element of sport involved, but, if anything, the notion is so bizarre that for a moment, I thought, “Yeah, we should have them do that.”

I mean, it keeps coming up and they won’t let it die. Apparently, they are just not capable of moving on to the point that “threats” have been made or “gauntlets” have been thrown down. It’s like when you bump into that drunk guy in a bar – absolute mistake – totally innocent – could happen to anybody – but you caused a little bit of his drink to spill and instead of his hearing you say your very polite, “Gee, man I’m sorry,” (which is what I said, Louis) he hears you say, “Watchitdick!” and now wants to kick your ass.

It must have something to do with their perception of manhood, or manliness, or virility, or reliving some golden moment of their youth when maybe they could deliver a punch or two -or something other like that – that pushes them into this ego-driven, moronic, blind rage…or in this case, ego-driven, moronic, blind bravado. I wonder if they actually hear the words that dribble out of their mouths.

Look, not to take anything away from them, but these are not young men. They are older men who, instead of embracing the dignity and wisdom of their elder years, are acting like tired children who played outside too long on a hot summer day, but who are still so jacked up from all the Kool-Aid®, they can’t think straight. Maybe they need a nap.

These are supposed to be our esteemed leaders. The ones who we task with setting a vision for the country and leading us into a better future. Instead, they are embarrassing themselves and proving to be an embarrassment to all of us, partly because they are actually saying these stupid things out loud and partly, and probably more importantly, because I think we can all picture how it would go in our heads. The vision is…disturbing.

My mind instantly conjures two, slow, sweaty, puffy (one puffier than the other for sure), winded, crepy, veiny, elderly men standing opposite of each other with boxing gloves on bigger than their heads. They wear giant pairs of shiny boxing shorts that start at their armpits and end at about mid-calf. They glare at each other with angry eyes that make statements and professions that their bodies are just no longer capable of delivering on. And should they start an actual bout, all you would hear is these wheezing gasps for breath in between the soft pat, pat, pat of feeble punches. I’m pretty certain they could each muster up the intent to do the other one harm, but the delivery system just doesn’t exist.

When my Uncle Larry got old to the point where he started talking crazy, saying stuff like he wanted to punch the paperboy to teach him a lesson for always tossing his paper into the hydrangeas or his wanting shoot the squirrels in his backyard because they ate too much of his birdseed, we took his car keys away and made sure he had more company to keep an eye on him. Is anyone keeping an eye on these guys?

Like I said, a lot of this is bravado. Bluster and noise wrapped in the notion of teaching someone else a lesson on how to behave (note the irony). And despite the intentions, these are actually prominent displays of old-school, bull-headed mindsets of men who appear to be incapable of taking a more enlightened approach to resolving even the smallest of issues. If you want to teach someone a lesson, I think leading by a better example or setting a higher standard is the way to go. The knock your block off stuff is counterproductive and like I said…just dumb.

Thanks for listening, – Tommy

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 1

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…the gun thing.

And before you get your shorts in a knot, it ain’t the current attention over guns that’s dumb. That’s important. The dumb stuff has everything to do with people and their current “response” to the gun thing…of course.

There’s a lot of money,  paranoia, misunderstanding, a whole lot of misinformation, a lot of rage and a bunch of other stuff that continues to take this issue way off the tracks.

Thing is, I don’t think we’ve seen all the dumb stuff related to this come to surface yet. There’s more to come for sure. But it don’t take a genius to know we’re doing it wrong.

Here’s the bit. We got a problem with guns here. You can say we don’t, but that would be blind ignorance talking. But instead of looking at it directly and naming it what it is, people are calling it a lot of other things like it’s bad immigrants or crazy people, not enough God, political philosophy, or drugs, or the decay of our collective moral fiber and all kinds of things. But when you boil it right down to the bones, it’s guns. Technically, it’s guns mixed with a double scoop of stupid…and bullets.

I grew up around guns. Not military grade weapons and the like, but still…guns.

I had some pretty shitty days growing up.

Still, I can’t recall one time when I ever thought of fixing my shitty day by running home and grabbing me up some guns…and bullets.

Why? Lots of reasons. Maybe, after a moment to consider my situation, my shitty day may not have been as shitty as I imagined. Maybe I’m not that kind of crazy. Perhaps it’s my practical understanding that shooting people is bad and that prison sucks pretty bad and it is not the place where I want to end up spending my time. As far as guns go, once you shoot them, you gotta clean them, so maybe I’m just lazy. I generally don’t carry around that kind of hate for people, despite how awful and dumb they can be and despite how much they might piss me off. Not on my worst day. But, that’s just me.

So, why do other people do it?

Well, we still need to think on that one. Super bad days? Mother issues? Father issues? Bullying? Feeling of power? Lack of belonging? Futile outlook? Some sort of supremacist, anti-establishment bull shit? Tiny genitalia? God told them to do it? Satan told them to do it? To be determined.

The dumbest thing of all is that we can’t get to the bit and fix the problem.

The gun people say there ain’t enough guns. They say everyone has a God-given right to have all the weapons they want and that the world’ll have to pry those weapons from their cold dead hands to get them. That seems to cover everything from a tiny pop gun to an all-out urban assault vehicle…and beyond.

The anti-gun people say the only way to solve the problem is to flat out get rid of all the guns. The end.

There’s a group that says if you take away all the guns, the people intent on doing others harm will just weaponize something else – like their cars or something. Then they ask, “What are you gonna do then? Outlaw cars? What then?”

Some nub in Kansas named Tyler Tannahill, is giving away the same type of assault rifle used on those kids in Florida as part of his Senate campaign. He says it’s OK though because he planned on giving that gun away before the shooting took place and he sees no reason to change the plan. Good call Tyler. You’re gonna fit right in. It comes off a bit tine deaf to the situation though.

No longer relevant Washington nub, Newt Gingrich wants to give guns to teachers. Apparently, that nub Trump thinks that’s a good idea too. Bite into that one and taste it for a minute. They say it would come in handy if another shooting occurs. You know, it’s just for self-defense and protection of others. Like that could never go wrong. First, neither of them had Mr. Terriman for eighth-grade English. That dude was itching to bring a little old West justice to the classroom…ass. Plus, solving the gun problem with more guns just doesn’t seem to make good sense on any level. Has anyone suggested the answer to the opioid problem is giving people more drugs? No? Of course not, because people understand that’s a dumb ass idea,

The nubs in the Florida legislature voted down having a conversation to consider an assault weapons ban. In the same afternoon, they declared pornography a public health risk. You read that correct. Whatever you happen to think about pornography and what it does to folks, I have yet to hear of how it was used to extinguish the lives of innocent people. Did you ever hear of a  porn massacre? Of course not. It’s more like an individual sport. Dumb.

Finally, after a whole bunch of useless posturing and bluster comes the great debate – which is a dumb thing – because there ain’t a real debate, just a bunch of noise and finger pointing with pointed fingers that look like guns.

A real heart to heart needs to take place between folks who can step away from the pandering,  look at the issue clean and who can generate some kinda solid, workable solution.

We’re not gonna get that.

We’re gonna get four giant truckloads of stupid from every political blowhole that cares less about the issue and more about how they look on TV and what their polling numbers say. We’re gonna get rants from our goofy friends on the fringe who have no idea what they’re talking about but parrot rage just the same about losing their second amendment rights. They don’t really know what that means of course. Before now, they thought the right to bear arms meant they could cut the sleeves off all their t-shirts without government interference.

It’s a sad state when the bulk of us, the ones who are just trying to get through the day to day the best way we know how without losing what we have worked hard for, to sit in the middle of this tempest of stupid and know that whatever happens – we’ll have to pay for it. We got kids acting like adults and adults acting like children and common sense is getting lost in the noise.

I figure this could probably be worked out over a couple of beers, a bowl of pretzels and a couple shots of “let’s get some stuff done” – if you turn the TV and the Internet off while the talk goes on, but that would be giving people a whole lot of credit.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

Thanks for listening. – Tommy

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

 

An open letter to America…and maybe the world

java-1

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations…

An open letter to all Americans…and maybe the world.

Dear Americans (or…Worldians?):

You don’t know me…well, I suppose some of you do, but the bulk of you don’t. And that’s OK.

It’s been a hot minute since we last spoke and that’s on me. It seems that the latest presidential election threw me for quite a loop. Not like a “damn, I didn’t see that coming” kind of loop, but more of a “KER-POW”, tiny cartoon mouse clobbers the cartoon cat so hard with a giant frying pan that his head flattens out kind of loop. And when I sat down to write to you all about it, to try and “work through it” as they say, I found the only things coming out of me were just awful. Anger and frustration bubbled up in me in such a way that I just could not put something down here without it turning all bad, just counterproductive maniacal ranting really. Who needs that?

So I stepped away for a piece. Took a moment to search for that inner calm, many of us seem to seek out so regular. I unplugged my TV. I read a couple books and learned some new things. Did you know there are over 40,000 different kinds of rice? News to me too.

Eventually, I felt the harder edge of my frustrations dull a bit, at least to the point where I could consider a different perspective. After a while, I did plug my TV back in and I took a “baby steps” approach to reacquainting myself with what the world was becoming. And through my calmer, deep-breathing induced, more rational state of mind, I realized – the world is a mess and we made it that way.

It’s awful to say, but that realization is not the culmination of frustration and vitriol as much as it is just an acknowledgment of the fact that, collectively, we have lost our way. We are on a path that needs to change or we will do great and eternal harm and it seems like we just don’t care all that much.

My friend Stella likes to say over and over that, “the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.” She says it a lot. Like a parrot. But there’s truth in it. We have a problem, and by a problem, I mean a whole slew of them.

I’m not talking politics here, although politics surely feed the beast. I’m talking about how we seem to have stepped away from our lofty, yet primary objectives that define us as a species. Where is our decency, our compassion, our interest in helping others up so we can move forward together, or our interest in making a better world over slowly destroying it?

Understand that I am not so newly enlightened and calm that I believe we can all get along all the time and gather in some sort of eternal kumbaya moment like the Whos around a Christmas tree – nice as the thought may be. I mean, there are long-time neighbors and blood relatives that can’t stand to be in the same room together. Everybody has their shit and everybody loves their drama. But over the short term as those types of things work themselves out, or don’t, our job is not to proactively make things worse when these situations arise.

First, do no harm, right?

If you are a stranger to the obvious, let me share some of the things I’ve learned in addition to that tidbit about rice. We are divided. We are selfish and self-serving. We don’t listen. We are unforgiving. We are unyielding. We are inflexible. We are demanding. We are intolerant. We are irrational. We are easily amused. We are easily manipulated. We are lazy. We prefer style over substance. We go for the popular and discard the less so. We strive to be adequate. We spend billions on things that don’t matter. Comparatively, we spend little on what does. We gather and hoard. We crave fame and notoriety. We want to see and be seen. We are superstitious. We are frightened. We are weak. We are fragile. We are damaged. We are damned lucky to be alive at all and more.

Remember when I talked about stepping away from our lofty, yet primary objectives? That’s probably wrong. Truth be told, we probably never embraced the concept of those objectives. They are merely platitudes. We talk about how we should live. We have A LOT to say about how others should live, but we can’t keep up. The real work is hard. Too hard maybe, since we can’t seem to commit to it.

Now, I’ve heard people say, we all aren’t all those things and that it is unfair to use such broad and negative generalizations. You may be right. But we will be judged by who we are as a collective society, and not by the actions of our singular heroes.

We’ve had centuries to try figure out how to get along with each other and we can’t manage it. We keep making the same mistakes. The more people we squeeze onto the planet, the bigger those same old mistakes become. We progress far slower than our full potential because the masses rely on the work of a few to get things done for everybody.

You want an example? Pull up to the corner of virtually any intersection, look down at the curb, then count the cigarette butts you see sitting down there.

Even one is one too many. And that’s my point. We know smoking is bad, but people do it. We know littering is bad, but people do it. We know bombs are bad, but we keep making them and we keep using them. These are not the unfortunate byproducts of things beyond our control, like mold after a flood or whatever. These are things well within our control, but not within our immediate interest or sphere of caring. So as long as there is a person out there who feels it is their God-given right to smoke and flick cigarette butts out the window, or blow something up every time there is a disagreement – everyone else be damned – we will be a lesser species.

So what then? What happens now? What do we do? Whatever we can.

We have one world to live on and Heaven help us and whomever, if we find another one out there we feel we have the right to mess up. If you aren’t helping, you’re hurting or hindering. You’ll say no, but inside you know it’s true.

Think. Breathe. Get involved. Demand more from others, yes, but demand more from yourself first. Be humble. Be understanding, Let go of the anger and whatever else pollutes your day. Try.

Good luck to us all.

Your friend in the cosmos,

Java

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Java at the top of the page.

An open letter to all American voters

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Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to all American voters – Dear Voters:

You don’t know me…well, I suppose some of you do, but the bulk of you don’t. And that’s OK.

You see, we don’t need to know each other on a super personal level to know that we are all part of a giant community of Americans who share the most important, and some might say daunting task that is electing our new president. That’s right, come November, we – collectively – get to pick who is going to represent us, protect us, nurture us, guide us, promote us, support us, inspire us, engage us in combat, embarrass us and calm us over the next 4 years.

Thing is, as I watch you on TV and such, campaigning or protesting or sharing your views with the world as to which candidate you back and why, the thing I keep coming back to is the notion that very few of you – OK, very few of us – really know what we’re talking about.

First, understand that I want every able-bodied and capable American to vote in this election. It’s our right to vote and it’s important to participate in the process. Secondly, every able-bodied and capable American who wants to vote in this election owes it to himself, herself and every other American to do the homework.

You see, I don’t really care who you vote for if you come to a responsible, educated, well-informed decision that suits your personal ideals of where this country should go. But – if you’re gonna pick who you vote for based on your gut, what spews forth from whatever news channel you favor, who slips you a fresh $20 bill, what your mom tells you, what lies in the bottom of your tea-cup, what Ben Franklin told you in a dream, what way the wind blows or whatever other magical seventh-sense, mystical voodoo that motivates you, stay home. If you’re gonna guess, stay home. If you just don’t like the way somebody looks, or you just want to vote the way you’ve always voted, stay home.

If you feel all those things above, or you driven by spirits or whatever and you still want to vote, just go ahead and jot your choice down on a piece paper and cast it to the wind. I assure you that the magical elves of Clannor will gather up your vote and see that it gets where it belongs. No harm, no foul.

It’s like this. Let’s say you watch a thousand hours of a medical drama (or a combination of medical dramas – there are some great ones out there) how likely would you be able to safely and successfully remove somebody’s appendix based on what you’ve seen? I think most of us would see ourselves as absolutely unqualified no matter how many hours we’ve watched and would step away from the challenge entirely. Why? Because we know we would likely do more harm than good. We could kill somebody.

It’s not a sign of failure. It’s the human brain being reasonable. You realize that the only way you will likely, successfully remove somebody’s appendix is to actually learn how to do it. You need to understand the anatomy of the body, where to cut, what to take out, what to stitch up and a whole host of other things plus, you need to know how to react if something goes wrong. It’s complex. Body parts aren’t conveniently labeled.

Now, there are those out there who would take on the challenge and want to step up, grab that knife and give taking out that appendix a go. These are the truly dangerous among us and don’t kid yourself, these people do exist. They will push their way up to the body and maintain that not only do they know what they are doing, but they can probably do it better than most because they are just all that. Even when things turn sour and they find themselves in trouble, they will maintain they know what they are doing and keep at it rebuffing help and wisdom, until it is way too late. Finally, as the body cools after their tragic ignorance does its terminal damage, they will not take ownership of the loss. No, they will likely blame the darned fool who let them have the knife in the first place. They are forever and always without fault.

You see, the average American voter is lazy, yet pompous and full of bluster. They don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to invest the time to figure things out. Rather, they pick, they commit, then sit back and have a fit when things don’t go as they thought they should. They are ready to go poking around for America’s appendix without having so much as an inkling about what lies under the skin and we can’t afford that. The world is a complex place. The issues we face are complicated. You just can’t pick a stance out of the blue based on a headline. It just doesn’t work that way.

The average American voter stands solidly behind the candidate that tells them the prettiest story or stirs the greatest anger within them. They don’t allow themselves to believe that the stories are stories and that solutions are useless unless people work together to make them a reality. They refuse to understand and accept that the backstory of our decaying government was written by their own hands and that they made the world we live in by filling the government with people who sit under their favored label or are apt at stroking the voter’s frail and fragile ego.

You can’t invite separatists, extremists, isolationists, egotistic, narcissistic bigots and zealots into your government and suspect that things will go well.

You need to get at those folks who are willing and able to do the job and who actually understand that the job is doing the work of the people, for the people and not the just relentless task of constantly getting re-elected. Seriously, we have enough of those do nothing career politicians.

I truly believe people spend more time looking at a dinner menu than they do evaluating their prospective elected officials, their qualifications, or what they really bring to the table.

I hesitate to blame the politicians. They only do what politicians do and that is press their advantage. If they can get voters to put them into office with pretty words and platitudes, they’re going to jump on that opportunity like a crow on roadkill. However, their work is a matter of public record. You can see what they do and don’t do. They’ll tell you they’re doing the good work, but it’s easy to see there’s not much work getting done.

We are the ones that keep putting people into places they don’t belong. Then we expect that we will get some sort of magic out of them when they get into office. Like they really heard us or something. It used to be cute; voters being all naive and aw shucks and such. Now, it’s just sad.

It’s time for each and every American voter to get off their proverbial backsides and start rubbing some brain cells together. The bluster and partisan pageantry of the conventions are over and now the real work begins.

How loud you yell, doesn’t make you a good voter. The size of your sign doesn’t equate to how well you get the message. You don’t “win” by being able to shout someone else down. You don’t “win” by vilifying another because their beliefs don’t align with yours. You don’t “win” by voting for one because you hate the other.

This ain’t a TV show folks. Do the research. Check the facts. Demand information. Ask questions then shut your mouth, open your ears for a moment and listen. Resist the urge to attack and disparage the moment you think you hear something that bumps up against your tender sensibilities. Dare to hear and understand the debate that takes place on both sides. Dare to expect more.

I’m talking to you American voter. You’re never going to teach someone else a lesson by wasting your vote. In fact, every wasted vote, every voter who withdraws from the process or treats the right to vote as anything less than the real and sizable responsibility it is, is an insult, a slap to the face of every person who fought for, died for and still fights today for your right to continue to vote.

The world is watching. We can show the world we still know what we’re doing and that we do it with mindful purpose and intent. That we give the right we have to vote the respect it deserves by taking the time to push beyond laziness, ignorance, apathy, bitterness, dogma, prejudice, spite, anger and more to ensure that our decisions truly reflect and serve the needs of our people. Do the right thing the right way. See you in November.

Your friend in the cosmos,

Java