Once Again, the Fiscal Cliff

We’ve all heard the gassy rhetoric from “the right” about the “woke left,” the border crisis, and runaway urban crime. And now, as if the verbal bomb-throwers in Congress and the right-leaning media weren’t enough, we can add the shop-worn sloganeering of reborn “fiscal conservatives” over the “debt ceiling.”

Social Activists Versus Fiscal Conservatives

Classically defined, fiscal conservatism means small government and lower taxes. Thoughtful fiscal conservatives with an eye to history recognize the limitations of those tenets. The notion of growth in perpetuity and laissez-faire capitalism gave us The Gilded Age, wild boom and bust swings, not to mention conspicuous wealth imbalance. An imbalance surpassed only by the wealth inequality we see today, accompanied by an increasingly hostile climate.

But unbridled spending in the name of social justice is equally unsustainable. Ultimately, we must pay the bills and there needs to be a plan for that. While there are good reasons to run a deficit — war, national emergencies (COVID-19 for example) and investments in infrastructure all come to mind.

That acknowledged, we cannot allow deficits as a percentage of GDP to get out of control, for the same reason families cannot borrow their way to financial solvency. But while we’re considering resolution of the national debt, there’s another thing we need to acknowledge. The debt limit does not affect spending. It affects borrowing. As defined by statute, the debt limit (or ceiling) is:

“…the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments.” (Emphasis mine).

Why a Debt Limit?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. The U.S. is one of the few nations in the world to have a debt limit. The debt limit (or ceiling) came into being during World War One, as part of the 1917 Liberty Bond Act. It was enacted to give the treasury “…more flexibility in managing finances, by not restricting the purpose for which new debt was issued.” It seems not to have been a problem until 1979, when the government nearly blew through the debt limit.

The Gephardt rule was adopted in response, allowing Congress to raise the debt ceiling to conform to appropriations enacted by Congress, without requiring a separate vote. Until its repeal in 2011, the Gephardt rule was used to pass 15 consecutive increases in the debt limit, without fanfare. Irrespective of which party contributed the President occupying the White House, we should note. Since then, we’ve been treated to this periodic game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the most powerful nation on Earth. As Business Insider recently summarized the problem:

“…every so often, Congress has to ask itself permission to pay America’s bills, and roughly half of it usually doesn’t want to. That’s the ‘ceiling’ that has to be raised.” (Emphasis mine.)

And if you have to ask which half of Congress doesn’t want to, you either haven’t been paying attention or you’re being disingenuous. Republicans seem to be allergic to taxes—especially those levied on corporations and those least needing relief from them. Pop quiz. Does anyone really think this is about fiscal responsibility? To be clear, attention to the national debt is needed. But the time for that is during the appropriation process, not when the bills come due.

A Question of Law?

The 14th Amendment, states:

              “…the validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned…”

Monday night, Laurence Tribe, who has argued 36 cases before the Supreme Court opined on national television that he’s had a change of heart over the debt limit. He has long opposed the notion that the President might (hypothetically) act unilaterally in a debt crisis, based on the 14th Amendment as quoted above.

But in the course of his appearance Monday night, he explained that he believed we have collectively been asking the wrong question, to wit: “What powers does the President have?” The right question, he explained, was “What duties does the President have? Article II, Section three of the Constitution states:

                 “[the President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed…”

Professor Tribe noted that appropriations in the budget process create a duty to execute that budget as mandated by Congress. The Budget—it’s expenditures for the public good and its limitations are in fact law. Professor Tribe then asked the follow-up question, (paraphrased imperfectly): “Does Congress have the power to then hinder the President in the execution of a budget it has already passed—a budget that is now law and it is the President’s duty to execute?”

In his opinion, it does not. The 14th Amendment does not give the President the latitude to ignore the lawful debts of the United States, or to decide which debts will be paid. It is his duty, then, Tribe concluded, to act when Congress does not or cannot do so.

Missing the Point?

As much as I wanted to be persuaded by his argument, I wasn’t. Which is not to say the dilemma—and the danger—isn’t real. But does not the “separation of powers” outlined in the Constitution exist to limit the power of each branch of government—obliging them to work together? So, what happens when both sides dig in?

No one wins if we crash through the debt limit. All due respect to my former party, austerity by sabotage is not a solution. Similarly, Democrats’ laudable efforts toward progress on climate rescue and social justice will collapse if Republicans conclude it’s in their best political interests to make good on their threats. Interestingly, Republicans and Democrats appear to have learned different lessons from the 2011 Fiscal Cliff adventure. Senator McConnell has learned that holding the economy hostage is a valid way to negotiate—while President Biden’s experience from the same event has learned negotiating with hostage takers is disastrous.

Once more, the divisive nature of American politics today seems to be hardening into impasse. But is our political division the disease, or is it a symptom? Isn’t the real disease a failure of stewardship and citizenship?

Both sides have their points and as a former Republican turned Independent, I can see them both. But aren’t both sides missing the critical point? The very essence of governance is not the government, or the political survival of representatives increasingly out of touch with the larger society they serve. If we continue to let them get away with it, then we have the government we deserve. Isn’t it time to demand better? Just wondering out loud…

D.B. Sayers is a decorated Marine officer and former corporate trainer turned full-time author with six titles in print and two more works in progress. Grab a free copy of his anthology of short stories here.

America’s Mid-Terms & Weaponized Resentment

We used to know better...didn't we?

Divisiveness in antithetical to good governance...and we all know that.

At any level, in any organization however large or small, weaponizing resentment not only closes minds, it works against cooperation and problem-solving. Republican talking points in the 2022 mid-terms are almost wretchedly illustrative.


It’s pivotally important to self-appointed “thought leaders” on the right to pin the current inflationary spiral on Uncle Joe. And to be fair, it’s a tempting target — rendered all the more irresistible by Joe’s reluctance at self-advocacy on this issue. If he were a little less shameless, his opponents might find it a little less attractive issue.

Suggesting inflation is the current president’s fault ignores the “minor” details of the inherently inflationary effects of COVID-19, the unmanageable snafu that the global supply chain has become in the pandemic’s wake and the multi-faceted effects of the war in Ukraine.

However little comfort we may derive from this little factoid, it’s worse by orders of magnitude in many places globally. Investment Monitor reports that, out of 171 countries analyzed, over half the world is experiencing double digit inflation. And much of the developed world has inflation rates greater than the U.S. Which isn’t to say that inflation is good or that we should do nothing about it.

But laying whole can of worms at the current administration’s door, is myopic if not transparently deceptive. It demonstrates (at best) an adolescent appreciation of the degree to which world markets, production and distribution disruptions drive our own economic realities.

The notion that the President, Congress, or the Fed can regulate them out of our lives is demonstrably false. It also ignores the degree to which corporations are leveraging the current situation to price gouge. As the Economic Policy Institute notes in their April 2022 analysis of inflation:

“Strikingly, over half of this increase [to inflation] (53.9%) can be attributed to fatter profit margins, with labor costs contributing less than 8% of this increase.”


The outrage over the “invasion” at the border is understandable. Who is happy about the images of what looks for all the world like a cattle stampede? The barely managed chaos at the border can’t be making thoughtful citizens happy. But blaming it on the current administration in general or Biden in particular ignores pressures we don’t control. Climate change and political/criminal churn down south is only part of it.

And while the response may not meet our lofty standards for order and security, there are international laws governing asylum to which civilized societies must (or at least should) adhere. Nor is it unfair to point out that the immigration system in the United States has been broken for decades.

Rather than weaponizing immigration as an issue for the midterms, would it not make more sense if both political parties worked together to solve it? Blaming one administration or even one party for the ineffectiveness of our immigration system today ignores decades of neglect by both parties.

Should it be fixed? Sure. But border walls aren’t going to do the job. What might help are sensible policies most Americans can get behind. Policies balancing security, humanity, and our continuing need for regulated immigration into the U.S. With unemployment as low as it is, we need more workers than are currently available, across a broad spectrum of sophistication and skills.

While I’m not particularly impressed with Democrats’ handling of immigration, McCarthy’s “Commitment to America” isn’t an answer. Beneath gassy rhetoric about “fully funding effective border enforcement strategies,” and “ending catch and release” policies, there’s no actionable alternative plan.

And it is in the details that effective policy lies. Precisely the thing Republicans have in recent years repeatedly shown themselves to be unwilling to tackle.


Is crime “up?” Yep. And the crime statistics the Republican House Minority Leader has been decrying are both real and illustrative. But what House Minority Leader McCarthy hopes we overlook is that, despite his attribution to the rise in crime in “Democrat-run” cities, the truth is a bit more convoluted.

Let’s start with the fact that over time, crime rates have been trending down since 1991. Which isn’t to suggest that a rise isn’t something that should concern us. Perspective, however, might make sense.

It’s also probably worth noting that despite McCarthy’s claims that crime is worst in “Democrat-run” cities, in fact the per capita rate of violent crime which gets most of the attention is higher in Republican-run states. Alaska, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Arkansas, for example, all have higher per capita violent crime rates than either California or New York, long Republican bugaboos as examples of “Democrat-run” cities/states.

And Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas and Arizona, (listing just the Republican-run “A”states) — have higher per capita property crime rates than either California or New York. So, while Mr. McCarthy is correct in noting that crime is up, , the statistical realities make it hard to buy the notion that electing Republicans will do anything to lower it.

Nobody asked me, but...

Weaponizing statistics and resentment is something of a tradition in American politics, so it would be an exercise in futility for me or the Dems to cry foul. That’s how politics in America have been played as long as I’ve been old enough to follow them. But thoughtful citizens should not be taken in or swayed by them.

And while the first two years of unified Democratic governance have not been perfect, it has succeeded in getting us through the pandemic, taming COVID-19, restarting the economy post-pandemic, and enacting historic climate change mitigation legislation to mention just four significant achievements. Compared to Republicans’ record during the previous administration I’ll roll with the flawed governance of the Democratic Party any day. But by all means, if paying more of your taxes on a percentage basis than CEO’s floats your boat, vote Republican.

And if you needed a final reason to vote Democratic in this election, listen to the nearly three hundred Republican election deniers running this year, some promising Republicans will never lose another election in their state if they win. If you would like your vote to count in the next election, you know what to do this year.

What’s on the ballot this year, along with thoughtful policy aimed at responsible governance is the right to throw the louses out, when necessary. Reporting for Reuters, Linda So, Peter Eisler & Jason Szep write:

“Election workers in Arizona’s most fiercely contested county faced more than 100 violent threats and intimidating communications in the run-up to Tuesday’s midterms, most of them based on election conspiracy theories promoted by former President Donald Trump and his allies.”

And that, perhaps more than any other factor, should make us all cringe at the thought of Republicans taking over.


D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel, former corporate trainer turned published author with six books in print. He is also a former Republican turned Independent who above all other things, believes in balanced, centrist government.

America the Flawed

If you're wondering, you're not the only one. (Images under license-colllage by the author)

An American Identity Crisis?

Everyone has an opinion (and is entitled to it) as to how we got here. And to be fair to so many thoughtful and thought-provoking writers here on Medium, a lot of what I read on this forum resonates with me, including many of the observations about where America is today. Opinions vary, of course. Some opine that the demonstrably dysfunctional state of our “union” can be attributed to:

(a) Trump — A favorite of many. And I get it. He’s a bit like herpes — the gift that keeps on giving.

(b) Systemic Racism — A favorite of many angry disenfranchised, especially of color. With credible evidence justifying the inference.

(c) Money in politics — Another strong contender. Is there anyone left who ever gave a dime to a candidate of either party who doesn’t get dozens of emails daily asking for more?

(d) Stove piped News Media — A favorite of eight in ten Americans surveyed. Predictably, it’s always “the other side’s” news sources to blame for the existing polarization.

I suspect most thoughtful readers on this platform would agree at least in part with all the above. As do I, not that it matters. But as thoughtful readers have also already anticipated, I’m about to propose some additional causative elements, together with thoughts suggesting partial (if imperfect) solutions.

Why didn't somebody warn us?

Somebody did. A couple, actually. In The Power Elite, (1956), C. Wright Mills made a starkly compelling case against big government, business — and against large, monolithic organizations in general. It met with mixed reviews. A few years later, President Eisenhower in his 1961 farewell address warned against, “…the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.”

Eisenhower and Mills had perceived how the emergence of American power post WWII was already affecting domestic society. Whatever average Americans of the day thought of the United States and its global intentions, the potential pitfalls were obvious to both Mills and Eisenhower. In retrospect, their warnings seem uncomfortably prescient. Despite some of Mills’ observations resting on a political homogeneity of the time, neoliberalism remains an uncomfortable and toxic reality in the third decade of the 21st Century.

Change...the Lei Motif of Our Age

Fast forward 7 years, from Eisenhower’s farewell address and we see the warnings continued. In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, warning of the dangers of overpopulation. At the time, world population stood at 3.5 billion. Fifty-four years later, we’re 7 billion (plus), and well on the way to fulfilling many of Ehrlich’s most disturbing warnings.

Two years after Ehrlich’s book debuted, Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock warned of a world in which an accelerating rate of change would shift the once-familiar frames of reference. It would leave significant portions of society disoriented and struggling to adapt, he warned. Among other things, Toffler observed:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn…”

There is a practical upper limit to how much sensory input humans can process. In self-defense, we filter out what seems irrelevant, allowing in what we perceive rewards us. In an age of information overload, we consciously or unconsciously choose what gets past our filters.

And now, a thought experiment for you. How much of our collective “social dysmorphia” can be attributed to change rendering portions of our population uncertain of their “place?” The growing body of writings dealing with information overload suggest it’s not a trivial question, but I’ll leave that for readers to decide.

Why #MAGA Worked

Fast forward again, to 2015. As noted earlier, there are a lot of hypotheses explaining 45’s appeal to so many men and women we would have thought should know better. Disaffection with the Clintons or dissatisfaction with “politics as usual” are common explanations. But if we’re honest with ourselves, didn’t “Drain the swamp” resonate because Washington truly is a swamp? Whether you voted for him or not, it’s hard to argue with Trump’s observation.

While among the least likely to actually drain the swamp, most of us knew Trump was right about the need to do so. “Make America Great Again” resonated with many of us because we sensed the American century was over. Unless we’re a statistically rare “meritocratic” exception or privileged by luck of birth, most of us are subject to the whims of the powerful who neither see nor hear us.

So we focus making the most of the talents we have and “minding our own business.” But in so doing, might we guilty of ceding power to the very people people addicted to it? What we permit, we encourage and even some of our best-intentioned representatives in congress have been seduced by lobbyists. This was evident even before Citizens United effectively forced legislating to take a back seat to fund-raising as a top priority.

Today, throngs of lobbyists representing monied interests drown out our voice while our congressional representatives and PACs of impenetrable origins bombard us daily for contributions. It’s not hard to find reasons for disgust at how governance works today — even on the occasions when it works at all.

And while all the foregoing trends were emerging, the self-appointed “thought leaders” in many organizations were busily down-sizing/right-sizing/streamlining “traditional” employment. As a result, the still-employed have been obliged to work longer and harder, while many others have been obliged to take multiple jobs in the emerging gig economy to survive.

So Where Are We Now?

The combination of overpopulation, runaway change, and the multi-faceted effects of shifting climatic phenomena have combined with an increasingly divisive political landscape to render consistent, effective governance all but impossible. In a system that seems tilted at least, if not consciously rigged, many of us have checked out.

But inattention — irrespective of how we justify it — has enabled the very conditions of which both Eisenhower and Mills warned. Arguably, our collective disgust and/or inattention, justified by relative calm and comfort may have hastened it. Power abhors a vacuum…

Having ceded power to those addicted to it, should we not have expected the outcomes we now deplore? Or that someone addicted to it, might try to hold onto it, Constitution be damned? If we despise our politicians and the political process, how long will it be before we have despicable, self-aggrandizing politicians?


The America We Have Made

Effective representative democracy relies on a delicate balance of a reasonably well-informed and well-intentioned voting citizenship — and reasonably enlightened stewardship. Leadership if not entirely devoid of considerations of personal power and gain, at least tempered by civic interest in the public trust. Is it reasonable to expect the latter without the active, consistent engagement of the former?

My gut feeling is no. We are not simply affected by the policies our elected representatives enact; we are responsible for them. Democracy thrives on citizens’ sense of personal responsibility for outcomes. We might do well to remember that, in 2022 and beyond.

How that sense of responsibility manifests itself remains a personal decision. But if ever there was a time for informed voting based on a clear-eyed understanding of who stands for what — and the long-term impact of what they stand for — “now” must qualify. Honest, solution-oriented engagement is the necessary accomplice of vibrant democracy.

I can think of no time in recent history when the issues have been more important. Or the margins for error less forgiving. So…in 2022 and beyond, what are all of us doing for our country? What form will our engagement in our governance take and how will we teach it to our children?

D.B. Sayers has six books in print with two more works in progress. If you would like a free copy of his anthology of short stories, Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives, click the link above and receive Smoke Signals, his monthly update as well.

How Marriage Works-Or Doesn’t Time to Rethink?

Traditional Cathedral Wedding

Medium, one of the online magazines for whom I write, regularly publishes articles about marriage and relationships. The takes on marriage and relationships run the gamut, from what could only be described as “traditional,” to a proposed socio-political-financial re-think of what we have come to think of as marriage.

One take particular stuck in my mind. Written by Matt Sweetwood, the article was entitled,  “It’s Time to Change the Way Marriage Works.” It’s still there and I don’t think it’s behind the paywall, so you can read the whole post yourself. But summarizing imperfectly, Mr. Sweetwood opined that marriage as currently practiced was a failed institution, to which failure he proposed the following remedies.

  1. Marriage should have a two-year expiration date with an “automatic renewal option, provided both parties agreed within 60 days.
  2. The marriage contract should specify the division of assets and custody (as applicable). If you can’t agree, Mr. Sweetwood suggested, you shouldn’t get married in the first place.

This approach, Mr. Sweetwood concluded, would: “fix the fundamental issue with marriage, to wit: “…a lifetime contract that requires no performance.”

His post elicited comments and for anyone who knows me well, they will be equally unsurprised I was one of them. To my surprise, a gentleman commented on my comment, suggesting I should share some of my thoughts under a post of my own. Having more guts than brains, I took his suggestion. Here it is.

Marriage…what is it today?

Can we start by agreeing on what we mean by marriage? Because like so many other things, in the the 21st Century, it has become something of a moving target. To illustrate what I mean, consider the following definitions from my “go-to” dictionary.

Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary defines marriage as: “The state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship as recognized by law.”

Alternatively, my older, hardbound Merriam-Webster dictionary (circa 1998) defines marriage as: “1 a: the state of being married. b: the mutual relation of husband and wife. c: the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding & maintaining a family.”

Traditionalists & free thinkers alike recognize the needle has moved with respect to marriage. After reflecting on both Mr. Sweetwood’s post and the responses it elicited, I caught myself wondering if we aren’t collectively chasing the butterflies while all the elephants get away? Is there maybe a deeper embedment at work that most of us miss with respect to habits of thought? 


Marriage and Myth.

Even if you’re not an anthropologist or historian, it the thought experiment of how partnered couples (and groupings of partnered couples) might have formed isn’t much of a struggle. procreation and protection. Given our relative individual frailty as a species & unusually long maturation process, procreation and protection seem like blinding flashes of the obvious, even setting aside any emotional component. But many of us can’t resist coloring the bunny.

Quote attributed to Plato on Love with hearts in the background

Plato seems an unlikely source for this flowery quote, but it serves to illustrate how deeply myth and magical thinking have become embedded in our notions of marriage. As empathetic humans, the foregoing quote, whoever was responsible carries a lot of truth in it, despite how ephemeral that truth proves in the harsh realities of life. Isn’t there more going on besides attachment? To a former organizational man, the answer seems obvious.

As societies grew more complex and we settled down around fixed crops rather than simply following game and gathering as we went, it’s easy to puzzle out how our fondness for stories and myth might have become interwoven with our pragmatic relationship options. Nor is it much of a reach to see how a relationship we now call “marriage” might become first expected, then codified to protect the social fabric.

Marriage...Fortress of the Establishment

Are not those myths (including the religious myths to which many of us fearfully cling) so ingrained in us now that we are simply blind to them? Or (alternatively) did priesthoods and “divine emperors” weaponize our vulnerabilities, exploiting until we began to believe our own propaganda? As a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer, and sometime Board member, that’s been my experience.

Organizations irrespective of size are self-protective, not unlike the individuals who gave rise to them. Organized behavior almost certainly arose out of the notion of safety in numbers. But I’ve come to believe that over time, organized behavior evolved to serve a broader social purpose. Do we not now join organizations to leverage the power of many to ncrease our own?

Is this rather cynical interpretation open to alternative spin? Perhaps. But in many of our socio-religious, economic & political traditions, it’s hard to miss reason and change are amending our view of many of our most time-honored traditions and habits of thought. Habits at least in part responsible for the internecine strife of America’s culture wars. Maybe it’s time, as Mr. Sweetwood suggests in his post, to re-examine what we mean by marriage.

Marriage and Shifting Paradigms

The simpler societies in which our antecedents lived and died (often within walking distance of where they were born) were radically different than the society we have now. And if you’re anything like me, you may already be muttering under your breath, suggesting we really don’t have to go back very far to make that case.

And arguably, it not just the contextual realities of our times that have morphed. It’s both the paradigms that gave rise to marriage as we’ve traditionally thought of it and marriage itself. So in defense of the question Mr. Sweetwood raised, might we be better off acknowledging the validity of the author’s question, while also recognizing that traditional marriage still has a place?

Someone commented in response to Mr. Sweetwood’s post that social expectations have led us  to see marriage as what mature, productive members of society do, encouraging many to marry who (maybe) shouldn’t. If you’re one of those who have been single “too long,” I’m sure you can relate. Marriage has become a kind of default, and many those opting out will invariably characterized as “commitment-phobes,” irrespective of how well-reasoned their decision to opt out may be.

Marriage and the Ecosystem

With 7+ billion humans on this planet, with many, if not most apparently doing everything they can to render it uninhabitable, might not some of the reasons we used to marry now be counterproductive?

Yes, we need children, and yes, they tend to do best immersed in the love and nurturing traditional marriage often but not unfailingly facilitates. That said, if with fewer children overall, might we be (collectively) better at loving and nurturing them?

But if we remove children from the marriage context, what is the pivotal argument for marriage as we’re inclined to practice it? Perhaps marriage for the childless becomes an aesthetic choice with profound practical implications. Perhaps there’s valid place for Mr. Sweetwood’s modest proposal in some form.

Room, if you will, for more than one paradigm of love/passion/marriage - if we can all get over our own prejudices. And maybe taking the pressures of financial ruin and (in my opinion) misguided notion that marriage necessarily should be forever, maybe we can save a lot of unnecessary angst and heartbreak. Just speculating out loud…

D.B. Sayers is a decorated Marine officer, former corporate trainer/manager, and unredacted multi-genre author of thought-provoking contemporary fiction, whose characters are all dealing with the maelstrom of change that is our age.

May 30, 2022 Another Memorial Day

Airports Tell on Us

It was few years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in an airport, on my way somewhere when I saw her. She would have stood out from the rest of the throngs milling around the luggage carousel, even if she hadn’t been in uniform. She had that “just got back from somewhere” look I recognized immediately, having seen it in so many others—and from personal experience. The culture shock of stepping back into the “real” world, so at odds with your reality from 24 hours before. Was she home on emergency leave or…?

An old B-4 Valpak came down the luggage chute and onto the carousel, conspicuous in it’s worn drabness among all the civilian luggage. The young woman snagged it with a practiced hand. She didn’t look old enough to have been around while they were still issuing B-4 bags. Perhaps it was handed down to her by her father or her mother?

B-4 Valpak, circa Vietnam Era (Used with permission).

But as she turned from the luggage carousel, I caught another glimpse of her face, the momentary disorientation sapping purpose. I grimaced in empathy. Even if you’re not returning from combat, returning for overseas service reminds you of what you’ve missed. Loved ones, of course. Time you’ll never get back.

But goes well beyond that. The music, the idioms, and dozens of other little cultural milestones we sense without noticing consciously have changed. Things others take for granted are foreign to us. As though emerging from a time capsule or year long amnesia, the sense of disconnection is even more profound if we’ve left someone (or ones) behind.

Echoes of Loss...

After multiple deployments, veterans inevitably become strangers in their own land. I often wonder what those who have died for us would think of what we have become. A nation perpetually at war, with a bloated defense budget at the expense of infrastructure and the less fortunate in our society they gave everything to defend.

So as we close in on another Memorial Day, remember the fallen and honor them. But when you vote in the primaries and later on in November, may I gently suggest that your honor also all those still living? We have many things we need to attend to if we are to have a future even remotely as illustrious as our past. And if we expect our elected representatives to do it without a rude nudge, we’re clearly not paying attention. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And the wait is over.

Are We in the Midst of a New Civil War?

Uh, maybe...

Civil War Reenactment Photo
Civil War Reenanctent (Courtesy of Chris Chow on Unsplash)

As long time readers of my blog and subscribers to “Dirk’s Tribe” know, I’m periodically active of Quora, and if you’re familiar with how Quora works, you also know that active members on that forum frequently have questions find to them for answering.

One such question was recently forwarded to me for comment and is the catalyst for this post.

The question was:

It feels like we are living in the middle of a battle zone in a political civil war that never seems to end. When will it be over?

My answer (and opinion) follows.

It's over when we decide we want it to be

A lot to unpack in this question. Standard disclaimer/caveat emptor follows. This is just one history student, turned Marine officer, turned corporate trainer and (now) published author’s take.

The “political civil war” to which your question refers will be over when enough of us tire of focusing on what makes us different and acknowledge all that unites us. I grew up in fly-over country, spent half my military career overseas & the other half on the left or right coasts. I’ve lived in the Deep south & still has family living in Texas. And other than the odd (& inevitable) personality clash or two, I’ve not only been able to get along with pretty much everyone, but I also genuinely like them and recognize our essential kinship.

So the short answer…one I’m sure everyone has heard before in some form is:

The political civil war’s over when we start listening to understand instead of argue.

 Another respondent to the question observed that Newt Gingrich is one of the principal architects of the divide and he’s right. Gingrich is by no means the only one, but for the intellectually curious, I’ve included a link to an article written by McKay Coppins in Atlantic. It’s important reading for all, whether you’re a true conservative or a progressive.

In it the philosophical underpinnings of conservatism as we’ve come to know it and the operational calculus used to advance it are laid bare. Collectively, the conservative reaction to the Civil Rights Movement writ large is as the article suggests, is one of the principal barriers to the kind of fact-based civil discourse necessary to thrash out constructive solutions to the philosophical differences inevitable in a body politic of 300 plus millions constituents. And end the “civil war” referred to in the question.

But in order to answer the question adequately, might it be helpful to first consider whether the political civil war alluded to in the question is the disease or a symptom of it? Work with me here.

A Maelstrom of Change

It’s a blinding flash of the obvious to state that we are in age of great change. My own reading of history leads me to conclude that in modern history, only the Industrial Revolution comes close to the dislocations we are experiencing now. Change has become the lei motif of our age.

It’s not like we weren’t warned. Future Shock (Alvin Toffler 1970), & The Population Bomb (Paul R. Ehrlich 1968) are only two notable authors predicting some aspect of the changes we’re experiencing. And while they were often mistaken about some of the details, they were uniformly correct about the effect.

As Toffler predicted, when the rate of change exceeds our capacity to process it, we become disoriented and overwhelmed by it. Change erodes predictability and with it, any sense of security, with (ironically) predictable results. Rapid and unpredictable change affects how we deal with literally everything. It tends to lead to hyper-alertness bordering on paranoia. Watch any recent returning veteran from an active combat zone and you’ll precisely what I mean.

And as Ehrlich predicted, explosive population growth such as we experienced over the past 50 years, has strained not only our ability to feed the collective population if the world but placed increasing and unsustainable stress on the ecosystems by which support life itself and (obviously) the production of food necessary to feed the world.

Change erodes predictability, certainty which in turn erodes, the perception of security. The actual fact(s) of one’s security may not have changed all that much, but how we perceive them may…and profoundly.

So. Caught in the midst of multiple, overlapping paradigm shifts, (think climate change, the demise of a middle class and Covid-19) it isn’t difficult to understand how self-appointed political pundits and political operatives have made it their business to leverage our uncertainties & fears to stoke division. Whether you’re working in the for-profit media, a politician looking for a way to get or keep power, nothing lends itself to exploitation like fear, anger and desperation. And in times of uncertainty, it’s all too easy to stoke all three.

So...now what?

The obvious problem with doing that, however, is that the more you stoke those fires, the more likely it is that the fire will get out of control. Whether you’re a politician, a pundit or an organization with skin in the game, the immediate often overwhelms the necessary. The next election, the next podcast or the next quarter’s profits obscure what our hearts tell us we need to do.

As individuals, we’re as guilty as the politicians & pundits I mentioned earlier. Who among us haven’t neglected, sometimes for years, our duties as citizens to not only stay informed with respect to what our political operatives are up to, but what the (often) disturbing trends tell us about our long-term survivability and sustainability? The problem isn’t an “ism,” whether it’s capitalism or socialism, republicanism, or corporatism in and of themselves.

It’s how organizations tend to leverage those “isms” to for purposes of their own. Sooner or later, organizations co-opt their lofty original purposes…the ones that attracted adherents in the first place…for self-serving agendas of the self-appointed thought leaders at the top. Leaders who often take those “isms” to the illogical extremes. All organizations do this and it only when we the people who have leveraged the power many to increase our own tell them “enough is enough!”

Only when we decide not to “otherize” each other will this civil war to which you refer end. When I see you and you see me and we all seek truth together will we be free not only from the internecine civil war to which you refer but from the slavish adherence to oversimplified talking points and ad hominem mischaracterizations of each other.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer/manager and author of four books with two more on the way. You can subscribe to his newsletter, “Dirk’s Tribe” here.

Burning Out…

Of Course Journalists are Burning Out

I subscribe to Medium, in part because I write for the site but also because there are compelling (and some not-so-compelling) posts on the site. With (literally) no effective barriers to entry, that’s to be expected.

Recently, a post entitled Of Course the Journalists Are Burning Out posted by Sarah Stankorb really stuck in my head because it touches on something that’s been on my mind for some time.

Speaking of how SARS-CoV-2 has combined with other significant events, Sarah wrote tellingly of how it has affected her and other freelance, traditionally retained journalist  and a few others she knows, for illustration of her points.

“I see pastors who have tried to hold their churches together virtually as members sparred over masks and QAnon conspiracies, while shouldering the emotional burden of being the one many people call, when they don’t know who else to call.”

Sarah goes on to say:

“…my baseline level of exhaustion is much greater than it was pre-pandemic. Maybe that was coming through.”

I feel you, Sarah, in common I suspect with most if not all of my readers. She then goes on to add her own nod to the plight of her generation.

“I also recently read an interview with Anne Helen Petersen who wrote the book Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. Petersen had her start at Buzzfeed and describes a round robin of intense stories that left her getting in fights with her editor and crying. Her editor told her she was burned out — and that opened a lens into what she now describes throughout our generation.”

There’s a temptation on the part of us with a few more years’ runway behind us to admonish her to suck it up, buttercup, but beneath her lament for her generation and journalists, there’s more…so much more going on.

“And all that hurts the people whose stories need to be told in order for any systemic change — such as those within the denominations I increasingly cover. Gritters [another journlist she knows] wrote, “I can’t rely on this ship to take me anywhere safe. If I bank on this industry any longer, I’m afraid of where I’ll end up.”

“I keep banking on it because it’s the only ship I know, the best one for shining light where it’s needed. I ignore the sweltering stress headache as yet another publication trims, another place for these stories disappears, and I find myself afraid of where the people I write about will end up even with my efforts.”

The article winds to a conclusion you can probably guess from the foregoing excerpts. My own response follows wandering off in my usual inimitable way, on what I hope is a relevant tangent.

Angst, Anxiety & the Crossroads

I feel your pain and (not that you need it) validate it. But I wonder…are you perhaps describing the symptom, rather than the disease? As someone whose own careers have exposed him to a fair share of angst-inducing tragedies, I assure you it’s not your imagination.

As a journalist writing about all the symptoms outlined in your post, are you not the very definition of the canary in the coalmine? It’s hard to look ANYWHERE today without sensing it’s all going sideways. And this sensing isn’t confined to Journalism.

Do not your observations point to fundamental flaws in our rewards systems? Rewards systems bequeathed to us by the industrial revolution, Ayn Rand, and the self-appointed thought leaders of this world. Is not the central issue that we have a dying system incapable of saving itself? That’s my take. So long as we seek to use the ashes of the industrial revolution and the ideas spawned by it as a foundation, we’re unlikely to arrest the down spiral leading to profound and ruinous collapse. As a freelance journalist,you’re witnessing the death of an entire system through a macro lens. I can imagine few things more likely to induce angst and anxiety.

Will we realize in time that we need a more wholistic solution, rather than a technocratic, piecemeal approach to problem resolution? Will we collectively take the risks associated with creativity? As an eternal optimist, I hope so, but the coexisting saddened realist in me has reservations. Most of the people we have elected to do what passes as governance in the 3d decade of the 21st Century suffer from a profound lack of imagination. Often the will to take the attendant risks of being caught trying while being wrong.

In fairness to technocrats, they can solve individual problems if properley resourced, but as long as we keep to trying to “build back better” or “make America great again,” we’re figuratively chasing butterflies and letting all the elephants get away.

Aren’t we…and the assumptions we’re dragging along behind us… the problem? I’m not a fan iconclastic measures for their own sake, but it seems to me there’s not much substance left in the society we’re trying build back better or to make great again. I can’t say for certain of course. I’m not that wise. But I also can’t help but wonder…

Is it maybe time to demolish the sluggish and (often) cumbersome relics of our past and examine the assumptions we drag along behind us critically with an eye to keeping snippets that work and toss what’s clearly worn out.

A retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer and district manager turned author, D.B. Sayers. has 4 books in print with two more on the way.

My Secret Life

As a self-appointed "answer man..."

Recently, a question popped up on a forum I frequent that kind of blew my mind. As anyone who spends much time browsing online forums knows, you sort A LOT of chaff before you get to the wheat. On rare occasions, for someone like me, the chaff actually is the wheat, as in this case. I confess I was moved to respond. The question was:


My take...

Seriously? Who said voting Republican (specifically as opposed to voting for the alternative, i.e.,  Democrat) results in many people dying? And to which dying are you referring? The interminable “War on Terror,” SARS CoV-2, the Capitol assault of 1/6/21, the unnecessary deaths at the border or uncritical support of police implicit in implied in Qualified Immunity & it’s most profound affects on our brothers and sisters of color? Maybe you’re referring the tacit acceptance of the carnage in Yemen or the asinine unqualified support of 2nd Amendment Rights at the expense of commonsense firearms control laws. All valid  as far as they go.

But can we agree both Republicans & Democrats have made political calls that have resulted in deaths? A lot of them? Vietnam, Korea and Somalia all come to mind, all optional wars of interference initiated by Dems. It’s the nature of governance that governing officials, (elected and appointed) will be confronted life & death choices. Choices that must usually be made with incomplete information.

That’s why it’s so damned important to choose people with a conscience. People who (at the very least) recognize when they should be ashamed, either of their decisions or their reasons for making them.

Does this mean you should stop voting Repubican?

Oh yeah! It’s difficult to arrive at any other conclusion, if you’re paying attention and you’re at all committed to effective governance. Just compare what occupies the attention of both parties and their public comments with respect to policy and it should be transparently obvious.

Let’s use the period since the election as a demonstration case of what the two parties’ respective actions and public pronouncements say about them. Since the election, elected Republicans in both the Senate and the House have hewed to their defeated former president’s taking points, to wit: “the election was stolen.” Most of us know better. Literally dozens of challenges to the certified election results in several critical states have revealed no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Indeed, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of Texas offered a $1 million dollar reward to anyone unearthing evidence of voter fraud. Sadly, he must not have meant it. Lt. Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania offered several proven cases of fraud…by Trump supporters.

While President Biden focused on (and made considerable progress combating the SARS CoV-2 pandemic, Republicans have busied themselves with the weighty matters of cancel culture. One of the most preeminent examples being (according to Republicans) the “cancelling” of Mr. Potato Head and (more broadly)  our country’s traditions and values. Seriously? Our country’s values are embodied by a Hasbro toy?

Any other examples? I thought you’d never ask. Recently, the Daily Mail represented that Biden’s climate plan could limit Americans to one burger a month and pay $55K for electric cars. These days, it’s getting increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Republican party decides what its policies are based on whatever they think will piss off the Dems or will help facilitate their gerrymandered but slipping hold on power. That’s assuming you can characterize their pronouncements as policy.

Recently on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” Congressman Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) opined that we need a healthy Republican Party. By which I took him to mean, an opposition party effectively balancing Democrats’ liberal leanings with a cogent conservative perspective. His statement assumes that political parties will always be with us, and he’s probably right. Gathering, organizing and working on concert toward common objectives is profoundly human. But it does not follow that the opposition must necessarily be the Republican party. Ideas, people and organizations come and go. Change is the lei motif of life.

Far more necessary than an opposition party in the form of Dems Vs. Republicans are honest, fact-centric stewards of the public trust. In order to have that, we must have informed, attentive citizens who keep their eye on those stewards and send them packing when they fail in their stewardship. In order to do this, we as citizens must do our homework and not let Fox Noise or MSNBC tell us what to think. We used to be a little better at this. But somewhere along the way, a significant number of us seem to have lost that intellectual muscle.

Now about that guilt you say you’re feeling. You know what? Nobody’s perfect. We’ve all got that going on in our lives, if we’re honest with ourselves. Just do better next time. Focus less on your mistakes and more on the solutions. Singularly or collectively, we’d all do well to move on and keep (or get) better informed & spend more time thinking about the issues and the probable outcomes of the various courses of action being proposed. Take the time to figure out who has the best ideas & vote for them. Just one broken-down, baggy-eyed old Marine officer’s opinion.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel, former corporate trainer and district manager turned full-time author with four published books in print and two more on the way. He rights thought-provoking tales of adventures of growth and a fresh perspective of old problems, real and (sometimes), imagined.

Future Shock Came of Age in 2020

The Caress of Time

Some things we just can’t get more of. Time is one of them. As a pithy (and illustrative) quatrain in the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam illustrates better than I can:

“The Bird of Time has but a little way 

To fly—and Lo! The Bird is on the Wing.”

So on that hopeful note, why would you invest even the few minutes of your time it takes to read this?

Used with permission-Thomas Bormans &Unsplash

It’s a fair question. After all, you could be watching entertaining cat videos on TikTok, right? Seriously. Why should you read Dirk’s Tribe?

A fresh perspective, perhaps? Even a measure of peace in exceedingly turbulent times? A ray of optimism? All the above. If you’re of the belief our times are painfully chaotic, you’re not alone and it’s not your imagination. That said, we’re up to the task. It’s all about perspective and (maybe) a sense of proportion, of balance. Work with me, here.

Future Shock Came of Age in 2020

Future Shock the Book

For many, I suspect the foregoing strikes them as a blinding flash of the obvious. Quite apart from the pandemic and the attendant economic upheaval, it’s hard to miss the profound dysfunction of our current  political/social/spiritual reality. Or to long for better.


People familiar with my writing know that change and its affects on the protagonists in all my stories is the underpinning theme uniting virtually everything I write. So most of my readers won’t be surprised to learn I tend to see paradigm shifts in most of the changes defying simple explanations. As the old wheeze goes: “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Noted, acknowledged and I’m (probably) guilty. That said, you don’t have to be fascinated by or hypersensitive to change to be aware it’s happening or to note that (these days) it borders on overwhelm. It’s not your imagination and there a reason for that. Or more accurately, multiple reasons that make perfect sense in context.

"The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind..."

Nobody asked me, but it’s actually been going on while a lot of us slept. If, like me, you read Toffler’s Future Shock and Brzezinski’s Between Two Ages and Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb when they came out, you saw this coming. What was missing in all of them, however, is the unifying, contextual truth about humans as a species, both individually and collectively.

In future editions, I’ll go into all of it in detail, including of the origins of the changes we’re seeing, as we stumble into the second decade of the 21st Century. But for now, I’d like to offer a warning and a ray of hope.

The warning, first. This has been coming since the mid part of the last century, and it’s only just begun. If you’re experiencing a measure of disorientation now, take a deep breath. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re in the midst of multiple, overlapping paradigm shifts that will alter our reality for all time…assuming we survive it. (That’s not a foregone conclusion, btw). It very much depends on multiple factors, only a few of which have already occurred to some of us. My guess is, there are others of which we’re not even aware. The “unknown unknowns,” as a thankfully now-gone public figure who coined the phrase once said.

Good News, Bad News

If you recall your history from the Industrial Revolution, you will also recall how dramatically that period altered our lives. The changes sweeping through our culture today will dwarf the changes brought on by that period, socially, economically, technologically, politically & spiritually.

For the adaptable, challenge and opportunity come hand in hand. The future will belong to you as it once did for the industrialists who saw the future with imperfect but hopeful clarity.

For the resistant, dig in all you want, but there’s no holding any of this back. We can shape, adapt to it and even harness it in some cases, but the only way out is through. The dug-in resistant and backward looking are in for a very bumpy and painful ride.

Now for the ray of hope. As people who know me well also know, I’m a hopeless optimist who hiding behind a cynical front. The truth is, while humans often behave foolishly, especially when we’re ill-informed, we’re also almost infinitely adaptable. Folly and foresight often coexist side by side. Sometimes even in the same human.

But anyone who bets against species Homo Sapiens hasn’t been paying attention. Often we succeed inspite of ourselves There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which deep down, we’re social creatures, capable of cooperation and the very best of kindness. And this never more true than when we have most to fear. It’s only when we allow ourselves to be misled by liars, cheats and value-stealers that we fall short of our own ideals. As Winston Churchill is once said to have observed about America,

“The Americans will always do the right thing…after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”

Whether Churchill actually said that is open to debate. But buried in this quote, whoever said is a more broadly applicable truth about humans writ large. We tend to learn by trial and error. This is feature, not a bug. We are at our best when we fear less and try more.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer and manager & the author of West of Tomorrow, Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey and Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle, among others. The sequels to the above, The Year of Maybes, Act II of Nyra’s Journey and Eryinath-5, Vol II of the Knolan Cycle are due out for publication in 2021.

Do conservatives have a point?

Yeah, but...

Auguste Rodin's The Thinker under fair use license

As frequent readers of this blog thread and subscribers to Dirk’s Tribe know, I’m active on several online forums. Recently on one such forum, the question appearing as the title to this post was raised. After reading several responses, I felt more or less obliged to respond. I’ve decided to share my answer here, because I think not only the question deserves serious consideration, but because I think that we have to even ask in the first place screams volumes about America, at the tailend of the second decade of the 21st Century.

Ultimately, what we “buy” we have to pay for. So yes, there needs to be a plan for that. It’s called revenue in the form of taxes, tolls, etc. That doesn’t mean we can’t borrow for the purpose of investment, or to do things that government is best suited to do. It also doesn’t mean that taxes are a dirty word, Grover Norquist’s opinion notwithstanding. Some of our most prosperous times have been periods of high taxes, especially on corporate America. Most discussions of corporate taxation ignores the maze of deductions that make it possible for many of them to pay little or no taxes. In our current low interest rate environment, it’s hard to come up with an argument against borrowing now for thoughtful long-term investment. Which brings me to my next item.

A caveat emptor, first...

One caveat emptor before I answer. I don’t really think of myself as liberal so much as a progressive. Some may consider that to be a distinction without a difference. It isn’t, IMO. A liberal as practiced today as someone who is kind of a knee jerk “if it’s new it must be better.” A progressive, IMO, is someone who tends to agree with a liberal most of the time, but has more of a cautious anchor out to windward. Liberals say, “yeah let’s try it, while a progressive says, “uh, maybe…but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Fiscal Conservatism

Ultimately, what we “buy” we have to pay for. So yes, there needs to be a plan for that. It’s called revenue in the form of taxes, tolls, etc. That doesn’t mean we can’t borrow for the purpose of investment, or to do things that government is best suited to do. It also doesn’t mean that taxes are a dirty word, Grover Norquist’s opinion notwithstanding. Some of our most prosperous times have been periods of high taxes, especially on corporate America. Most discussions of corporate taxation ignores the maze of deductions that make it possible for many of them to pay little or no taxes. In our current low interest rate environment, it’s hard to come up with an argument against borrowing now for thoughtful long-term investment. Which brings me to my next item.


Used under fair use license

It’s a very conservative idea to build things that promote prosperity and to take care of them. (Roads, bridges, port facilities, airfields, schools & hospitals) all come to mind. The things that help the economy hum. Recall that (for example) the interstate highway system was begun during the Eisenhower administration and was responsible in part for pole-vaulting America into prosperity.

And in maintaining that infrastructure, we also promote fuller employment. I should add that as we maintain/replace infrastructure, we need to incorporate new technology & to rebuild in ways that environmentally sound & sustainable. No one with the sense to avoid falling over backwards in the toilet really believes climate change is hoax. I should add that innovation in the energy and conservation sectors not only serves to facilitate efficiency and a better quality of life, it also encourages innovation.

Immigration and Border Security

If we’re perfectly honest, most of us recognize that an open border, isn’t smart, over the long pull. What the Trump administration has been doing at the border isn’t either. Comprehensive immigration reform is a better answer than a border wall or the draconian measures of separating children from their families. True conservatives I know are as appalled by his practices as are liberals. 

From wikipedia under fair use protocols

It isn’t just principles that matter…so does execution. In the long run, a balanced immigration policy that welcomes contributors (especially contributors with innovative ideas) keeps the American experiment young and vibrant.

Strong Defense

Under Creative Commons License

. Long a conservative cause, I’m firmly behind that. It isn’t yours if you can’t defend it. Note the word defend. Over the past few decades, we’ve poked our collective noses in places it doesn’t belong for (often) the flimsiest (even demonstrably false & self-serving) reasons. There’s a difference between a strong defense and an officiously interfering foreign policy. We used to understand that difference and we’d do well to remember it. It’s also worth remembering that every dollar we spend on unnecessary defense expenditures are dollars not available to invest in the things that contribute to long-term sustainability and continuing prosperity.


This has generally been a conservative cause and I happen to agree with it. So what’s up with this surveillance state thing? Is it possible that we’ve taken the Homeland Security thing a bit too far? Just wondering out loud…

Second Amendment

With no apologies to  my liberal brothers and sisters, this is a protected right and should so remain. Has the NRA gone overboard? Yep. Is the NRA probably in bed with Remington, Winchester & Colt? Yeah. But I’m not for the government rounding up private citizens’ weapons.

I think there’s room (and a lot of it) for debate over what weaponry should be proscribed. I can’t make a compelling case in favor of unlimited access to whatever weapons a citizen can afford and I do believe there’s a sound argument that some weapons just don’t belong in the hands of private citizens. That said, liberals ragging on men and women who are knee-jerk obsessive about protecting their second amendment rights only complicate the search for consensus on what constitutes common sense gun legislation and/or licensing mandates.

Law and Order

I’m aboard and so are most thoughtful citizens. The absolute minimum we should expect of our government at all levels is the enforcement of laws, rights to life and property and whatever safety laws have been enacted in the name of everyone’s quality of life.

But can we all agree that law enforcement needs to be even handed? That, too, is a conservative principle. We should really get back to that & it should not matter what color you are or whether you’re wearing a turban, a hijab or a yamaka.

The notion that legitimate Black Lives Matter protests over objectively unjust policing of brothers and sisters of color are somehow more egregious than (for example) tiki torch carrying anti-semetics shouting “Jews will not replace us” or Proud Boys running amock over mask-wearing mandates is not simply ludicrous, it is antithetical to the very principle of law and order.

First Amendment Rights

Freedom of the Press. We need a robust, open press. Frankly, I think Sinclair & Fox News aren’t open and often not even news. But freedom of speech is protected, which means, (technically) we are obliged to accept 45’s railing against the MSM as “fake news.” But if you’re truly conservative, you recognize his thin-skinned whining as wrong-headed demagoguery…and damaging to both strict applications of constitutional principles and the representative democracy we’d all like to believe we have.

Freedom of religion. (Also a first amendment protection). I get that there are some who feel threatened by Islam, but it wouldn’t be smart to re-write the Constitution because we’re scared. The first amendment provides that: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free practice thereof.” That includes Islam and (if you’re so inclined) whatever brings you closer to the Maker, however you choose to define that personally. For clarification, based on some feedback I’ve gotten, these protections extend to all religious practices not otherwise enjoined by law. When I wrote this, I thought this should be obvious without actually stating it, but those protections extend to Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Native American Spirituality B’hai, etc. And yes, atheists and agnostics.

All of that said, it's still a bit more nuanced...

So yeah. In overarching summary, there are a number of conservative principles I can and do get behind, despite my “liberal” leanings. But as thoughtful readers have already detected,  there’s underlying thread of this post. All principles and their application take place in a context. In common with many progressives, I believe our principles and their application should pay deference to that context and the undeniable changes that should be influencing our behavior. As our contextual realities change, so should the laws and the practice of applying those principles by which our lives are governed. 

As an independent  who’s been paying attention, it seems to me that a bunch of stuff has happened since the Constitution was written. Having regard for that painfully obvious reality, can we agree that the specific application of those conservative principles may be in need of a nod to how our world has changed? The world changes…we need to grow into those changes. You can’t build a fire with yesterday’s ashes.