A Plea for Sanity…

Can we stop monetizing social poison?

The day started well...

I got back from the House of Pain, a few mornings ago, still riding the uplifting burn of the morning’s weight workout and cardio. I opened my laptop, as I do every morning and went to my Medium feed to scroll through the day’s offerings.

The day always starts better with a little well-modulated pain... photo courtesy of Luis Vidal on Unsplash

As an unapologetic eclectic, I tend to think of myself as conversant with a lot of stuff and a master of nothing. Politically and philosophically, I’m an independent progressive with conservative leanings. Or perhaps, an independent thinking conservative with progressive leanings. It’s a matter of emphasis and perspective, I guess.

My point being, I read a lot of different takes on many topics, and the offerings in my feed reflect that. I expect—even seek—opinions at odds with mine and I try to keep an open, (if skeptical) mind. But on the day in question, the morning’s feed was overly supplied with some of the Downer’s who make Medium their home. And I’m seeing that, more and more, these days. Just two examples follow.

Movin', shootin' and communicatin' Photo courtesy of Kevin Schmid on Unsplashh

The War on Ukraine...

“Putin Really Could Nuke Us,” one writer opined. My best efforts notwithstanding, the crotchety old Marine officer bubbled to the surface. “Oh, ya think?” I muttered under my breath. “Congratulations, you just blew the lid off the previously unreported threat of nuclear annihilation.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s maybe a helpful reminder, lest those prone to complacency may have forgotten. And there probably are a few out there who’ve forgotten Russia has nukes. A LOT of nukes…

But I didn’t see much in the post that hadn’t already been said on CNN, MSNBC et al. And his closing? I’m sorry, but not especially helpful. One needs not, if he/she has been paying attention resort to the doomsday scenario to remind readers of the fragility of life.

And at the rate we’re going, we may not need nukes to write finis to life as we know it. What if he doesn’t launch? What if (instead) his oligarchs come to the same conclusion the author reached, grow a pair and decide to “off” him, for reasons of their own? Wouldn’t be the first palace coup in Russia. In that case, might we be better advised to be working toward a better tomorrow—however we define it, irrespective of the murky goings on in Putin’s Russia?

The Demise of Sex...

“We are in the middle of the Great (Sex) Resignation,” another writer assures us. “Yeah?” I muttered under my breath. “Speak for yourself.” To be fair, maybe I’m the one who’s “out of step.” It wouldn’t be the first time. But based on the feed I get most days; I seem to be in pretty active company in that department.

The Great Sexual Resignation...REALLY? Photo courtesy of Maddie Bazzocco on Unsplash

And even if some of us aren’t “getting any” right now (or as much as we would like) this instant, I’m convinced it’s less a resignation than a drought. Are there studies out there suggesting that a statistically significant number of men and women are opting out, for now? Sure.

But barring the unforeseen, it’s a long life for many of us, with our sexual rhythms fluctuating for a number of independent variables all subject to change without notice. So I’m not moved, as yet, to herald the decline as a resignation—never mind a “great” one. It’s just as likely to be a pause.

And perhaps that’s not all bad, insofar as we’ve done a bang-up job (pun intended) of overpopulating the planet. In the end, however, I’m betting on libido reasserting itself. Maybe it’s too early for dramatic headlines, nevermind statistical inferences.

Nobody asked me, but...

Added to the mix are the steady drumbeats of an impending second civil war, dissolution of “The Great American Democratic Experiment” or the demise of the republic due to voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering.

The foregoing are all valid topics for consideration, and I should probably apologize for appearing to pick on the two foregoing examples above. They’re hardly alone, either here or in the “Mainstream Media.” My problem with these speculative doom saying stories isn’t that they’re wrong, or devoid of merit, it’s that they’re often premature leaps to conclusions. At the same time, they erode hope, obscuring possibilities we might other recognize, and further divide us.

To be fair, they’re not simply monetizing angst, though they’re most certainly doing that. There’s research validating their observations, even if we may disagree about the proximal causes for that division. A 2019, Pew Research study found two-thirds of adults in the U.S. believed “other” Americans had little or no confidence in the government at any level. This is an observation that would surprise few, these days.

But there’s an insidious side effect that oozes into our relationships with each other. The same study reported distrust of each other (as individuals) stood at 64%. And the Freedman Consulting Group’s joint study with The Partnership for Public Service   (Paul Hitlin & Nadzeya Shava) wasn’t much more flattering, finding fewer than 30% of Americans believe the government listens to them, or is transparent.

Not an encouraging statistic in any society that literally lives or dies based on cooperation. As the narrative accompanying the study results opines:

“Trust is the elixir for (both) public life and neighborly relations…”

As I have suggested in previous posts, we are the answer to most of the riddles. Blaming “government” for how things are going is counterproductive if we’re not actively working toward solutions. And blaming government especially if we didn’t vote is irresponsible. To be clear…I don’t have unqualified faith in either of the two dominant parties in the U.S, today. They have at best become part of the problem, in their current forms, for different reasons.

We Are More Than Our Organizations

It’s the nature of organizations to develop agenda of their own. Agenda that inevitably leak out in ways that often bear little resemblance to how most of us feel. Which explains why there’s so much attitudinal spread in both political parties today. Most of us recognize the collective majority American consciousness isn’t well represented by either party.

Statistics on many of the seminal issues we hear/read about in the news bear that out. By way of illustration, Only 19% of all America is anti-abortion in all cases. Almost 80% believe it should be legal in some cases, at least. So what does the decades-long assault by fundamentalist Christian and Republicans on abortion rights and Roe V. Wade say about our politicians’ responsiveness to us?

How many believe the election was rigged? Even on the eve of 1/6, more than 55% of Americans believed Biden won. And why is it only 55%? We all know the answer. We have a polarized news media that caters to their stove piped viewers, many of whom have abandoned anything but the hyper-editorialized, for-profit news media. Have we become addicted to outrage? I’m just asking the question.

Taking Back Our Lives

The foregoing wasn’t meant as a political screed. As I’ve said before, I’m not especially fond of how either party is conducting itself. But one is generally better than the other and I’m not going to tell anyone hear who it is. Any reader of normal intelligence in possession of an internet connection can arrive at a thoughtful conclusion with a little unbiased research.

The point I’m making is we all need to spin back down from our hyper-partisan distaste our stove piped media are trying to fob off on us and do a little independent thinking. If you’re getting more mileage out of your outrage than the still moments of your life, is it maybe time to ask why? If you don’t like the answer, then maybe it’s time for a change.

It’s not just the life of our nation riding on it. It’s all of our lives, as well. We have important issues to deal with. But dealing effectively with them demands a clear eye, a touch of humility and the open willingness to work together to fix what truly matters.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer turned full-time author with five books in print and three more on the way and the facilitator of the OC Writers’ Space. Pick up your free copy Through the Windshield, Dirk’s anthology of short fiction today.

Are We Not One?

Book Cover for Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Readers who know me well also know that in my previous incarnation, I was a Marine officer, serving from the Vietnam era through Somalia. During that time I served multiple gigs in Asia, the Med, the Middle East, Africa with one foray down south to Columbia during Pappy Bush’s (George Herbert Walker Bush) administration for an operation we don’t talk about.

In both Tier Zero, Vol I of the Knolan Cycle and Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula, Hāthar Tahk, formerly Marty Tellus of Earth has learned many of the same lessons. In his short career as an officer in the Knolan Shock Forces, he has served with warriors from several systems in the Knolan Concordant.

His closest comrades in arms have include Kareitha, his platoon sergeant a battle-hardened and efficient Valiskaari woman, Ranyia, a Mennaran woman and heavy-weapons employment specialist, Kuristäal one of his wiry, sardonic squad leaders and the seven-foot Oörana, a Haãrapuri woman and heir to the the Umatôk’s throne. His shared hardships with them and reliance on them in battle has taught him honor and courage is not confined to just the Knolans who are first among equals in the Concordant.

In Eryinath-5, the Dancer Nebula, Hāthar’s story (and his education) continues. Gravely wounded and captured by the Valdrōsians, the Knolans’ implacable enemy, Hāthar learns that neither courage nor nobility is confined to the Knolan Concordant. Ironically, he learns this as a captive slave on Eryinath-5, a hybriding colony at the outer reaches of the Valdrōsian empire.

At the hands of the lovely Rexsylia, Hāthar’s Valdrōsian handler/trainer, he begins to sense the limits of his courage and heroism, along with an appreciation—if not acceptance—of alternative philosophies and universal viewpoints. As his limitations and his own vulnerabilities become more evident to him, he inevitably begins to question much of what he has taken for granted from his mentoring in the Knolan Way.

Given his value to the Knolan Concordant, it is inevitable that both the Guardian and the Oracle would seek to extricate him if they can find him and if they can locate him. Therein lies the problem. Where is he? A recovery force is on standby if only they can locate him. In the meantime, the Concordant has other problems, including the Valdrosians’ apparent growing interest in Kurrithäal, the Knolan name of Earth and the indigenes that call it home.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula continues the story of first contact between Earth and Knola, and the ancient war that has been raging for over a thousand years, for this little corner of our little galaxy. The story continues…

The Special Bond of Comrades in Arms

Hāthar, Oörana and Strius

Readers of Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle have already met Paul Tillotson (renamed Strius by the Knolans). But it is not until chapter 7 in Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula that Hāthar and Strius meet. Strius already knows of Hāthar by reputation. The first half-Knolan, half-human Seed trained in the Tower and installed into the elite order of the Kurálli is almost larger than life, in the Academy where Strius is trained for duty in the Knolan Shock Forces (KSF).

And it’s clear that of the two, Hāthar has the most powerful mind and a foresight that’s almost otherworldly. It’s not that Strius is deficient. Hāthar is, after all, a Tier Zero, with (as yet) untapped and unmeasurable reserves of power.

But as they work together for the first time, they clearly complement each other. As they first plan and then execute the raid on a research facility on Trenyarmätt, a planet in the Valdrōsian controlled Punahir system, readers sense their fit as comrades in arms goes beyond their skills. Their respective temperaments and an almost symbiotic sensing of what the other is thinking make them a uniquely formidable duo. It’s clear that they are destined to become significant fixtures in each others’ lives. Assuming they survive this mission and its aftermath. Going in, they both knew it was a long shot.

When the misson goes sideways, Hāthar is gravely wounded in the final stages of a battle to steal needed Valdrōsian technology, Strius is forced by circumstances to leave Hāthar, knowing odds are that he will be killed. But sometimes odds don’t play out as planned.

Unknown to Strius, Hāthar survives—barely. When Strius learns Hāthar is indeed alive, but a prisoner on Eryinath-5, a Valdrōsian slave world, he vows to free him and exact revenge on the Valdrosians.

Though Eryinath-5 can be appreciated as a standalone tale, most readers of Tier Zero will welcome the return of Oörana, Hathar’s old friend and comrade in arms from Tier Zero. Now Umatôk of the Haärapuri, she offers herself and Tushar, Captain of her Guard to assist in Hāthar’s rescue attempt.

We also learn a lot more about the Knolans’ enemy, the Valdrōsians and realize not only is the a fight to the death, we learn that as is often the case in war, things are not as cut and dried as they seemed. What is always true, we realize, is that comrades in arms remain comrades in life and in death.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Volume II of the Knolan Cycle

Book Cover for Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula

Hāthar-Tahk, (formerly Marty Tellus of Earth) has just returned from a successful mission with the Knolan Shock Forces (KSF). In common with most successful combat missions, Hāthar returns with his share of ghosts. The mission cost him and his platoon dearly. Casualties were high. But in the variable operational calculus by which Knolans evaluate success, it was “worth it.”

Hāthar, on the other hand, is less sanguine about the men and women he’s lost than the strategic planners who advise the Guardian, responsible for the safety of the twenty-three systems (or sectars that form the Knolan Concordant. He understands and respects their perspective. But for Hāthar, the loss of men and women following his orders is deeply personal.

On the upside, Arra, Hāthar’s partner is carrying their first child and both mother and unborn are in good health. For reasons that should be obvious, Hathar wants to be around for the birth and Arra is looking forward to having him there to share the experience.

Unfortunately the Knolans’ Valdrōsian enemy rarely sleeps. The Knolan fleet protecting the Orothon Sectar has ambushed by Valdrōsians using advanced stealth technology the Knolans have yet to decipher. And they have no countermeasures. While not decisive in itself, the Knolans are rattled by the ease with which they were ambushed. A counter must be found.

So when an accidental misstep by the Valdrōsians reveals where the new stealth technology has been developed, Hāthar-Tahk is called to help plan the raid. Sensitive to Hāthar’s extended absence and Arra’s approaching delivery, the Guardian wants to limit his help in planning only.

Specifically, the Guardian wants the benefit of his unique ability to formulate creative and unpredictable approaches to seemingly insoluable problems. The Guardian isn’t disappointed.

Together with Zukinar, a Knolan Intelligence planner, they come up with a plan that may work. But it’s so risky that Hāthar cannot in good conscience leave this mission to anyone else.

Designated Mission Commander, Hathar begins mission-specific training for Operation Night Flower, a mission with so many uncontrollable variables, top-level leadership has profound doubts about anyone returning from it. But Sa ́ang Kurinth, the Knolan call to duty is a compelling principal in Hāthar’s mind. Once he can’t ignore, personal desires notwithstanding.

Eryinath-5, The Dancer Nebula takes the reader on a journey of convoluted twists of fate and gives them an upclose and personal look at Knola’s implacable enemy, the Valdrōsians and the perilously beautiful region that is Knola’s corner of our galaxy. Eryinath-5 is available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon and in paperback and epub from Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

What Reviewers Are Saying About Eryinath-5

“A great second book that takes up from the first book where it should and how it should. A throughly enjoyable read that, like the first book, is hard to put down. D.B. Sayers has a knack for developing characters that appeal to the reader while entwining them in a story line that has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. Sprinkled throughout is thoughtful dialog that gives the reader a moment to pause and go back and reread a particularly insightful moment in the story.”

Semper Fi on Amazon

“I find it rare to read a book where the imagination shines so much and is so vivid. This one did it for me. Sci-Fi is one of those where you really need to be able to picture things and I was able to get a clear picture in my head.”

“This is an exciting read with wonderfully engaging characters that are passionate and compelling. Add to that the action and you will be engrossed.”

The Texas Book Nook

“I really enjoyed this read! I thought it was very engaging once it got started, I couldn’t put it down. I liked how the writer made me feel like I was part of this new world and a part of the story. The characters became real, the world became real! Vivid.”

The Indie Express

About the Author

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer turned corporate trainer and district manager, turned full-time author. Other books by Sayers include:

Other Books by D.B. Sayers

West of Tomorrow, a contemporary novel of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix in all of us.

Best-Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey is a thoughtful and often racy New Adult novella following the development of Nyra Westensee, from a young college graduate with more questions than answers to a young woman of dawning sophistication.

Through the Windshield is an anthology of thought-provoking short stories.

Tier Zero, Vol. I of the Knolan Cycle is the first book in the Knolan series, a tale of first contact between Earth and the Knolan Concordant. Eryinath-5 above-mentioned is the second book in the series.

The Year of Maybe, Act II of Nyra’s Journey, the sequel to Best-Case Scenario is due out this year.

Best-Case Scenario-Intransigent Hope

Nyra Westensee

The first thing you notice about Nyra Westensee as she approaches from afar is her graceful, athletic gait. Her movements are light and free. Close up, her striking hawk-nosed face, and full, kissable lips catch your eye. Is she beautiful? Objectively, no. But when she speaks, her meliflous contralto and careful diction—a siren’s song of possibility reel you in.

Her eyes tell the rest of her story, mirroring her spirit. Very little in Nyra’s young life has gone her way. Hints of her disappointment lurk beneath her thick chestnut eyebrows in impossibly turquoise eyes. Now that she has your attention, she seems not to know what to do with it. Her reticent smile and occasional nervous giggle suggest she’d probably be good company, if she’d just loosen up and take herself less seriously.

Nyra’s as slender as Kip—her brother from another father—is muscular and powerful. Otherwise, they share their mother’s complexion and hawk nose. You don’t have to ask, to know they’re brother and sister. But where Kip is confident and self-assured, Nyra often doubts she “can,” even after she “does.”

More than a year out of college, Nyra is still in search of her first career-level position in marketing. Is it her reticence, her choice of career or both that seem to have her feeling like she’s wading through wet cement? The truth is, many less intelligent or less accomplished have already started their careers and many less attractive have found what looks like “love.” So what’s wrong with her?

Nyra is still looking for answers. But the very incarnation of hope, Nyra purserveres. Working an internship that barely pays for gas and waitressing in a south bay sportsbar, she hasn’t given up. And though she doesn’t realize it yet, opportunities personal and professional lurk. She knows nothing in life is guaranteed and has never acquired the vice of feeling sorry for herself, though her peppery wit occasionally borders on acerbic. But to most of us, a time comes. And Nyra’s is just around the corner.

Best-Case Scenario, a tale of hope is the first act in Nyra’s journey of growth from a thoughtful young woman with more questions than answers to her dawning maturity, sophistication and the possibilities of a life of purpose and promise.

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.

What is a “conservative,” anyway?

Do we really know, anymore?

It’s a question that seems germaine today, as the Republican Caucus votes to strip Liz Cheney of her position as the House Republican Conference Chair. I’m not sure that I have an answer that would satisfy anyone, least of all conservatives writ large, but I’m going to weigh in, in my own way, as the Republican intramural food fight on the right plays out in semi-public.

Office of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My more conservative brothers and sisters are sure to take me to task, insofar as I’m not a conservative, some of whom are sure to point out that a liberal (like me) can’t possibly understand conservatism.

Many of these same folks will be at it tomorrow, shamelessly categorizing liberals as liberal socialists hell-bent on destroying our democratic institutions. It is America, after all and credentials seem to matter less, these days, than how loud we’re prepared to shout.

I’m not going to shout, but I am (probably) going to say some things that will make self-aware conservatives blush…the ones endowed with at least a nodding familiarity with history, anyway. Sometimes, clarity is best served from the outside looking in.

A Look Backward

In 1964 pornography case Jacobellis Vs. Ohio, Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward famously stated:

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_itand perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

This Justice’s punt on defining (in this case, obscenity or pornography) could be said to argue against the whole point of my post here, but I tend to think it doesn’t. In fact, it points out something I’ve witnessed many times, over the course of my life. The contextual framework for ideas often colors even if it doesn’t absolutely determine the definition of anything not firmly grounded in strict determinism based on purely empirical measures.

The term “conservative” clearly falls within the category of things that may prove fungible over time, as contemporary thought is seasoned by the passage of time and daily events affecting how we see matters political, philosophical and spiritual.

There is, however, a definition for conservatism. As long-time readers of this blog know, I when it comes to definitions, I default to Merriam-Webster, and found definitions 2 and 3 relevant. They are quoted below.

2. a. a disposition in politics to preserve what is established.

2. b. a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (such as retirement income or health-care coverage)

3. the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change

The common thread to the above is a preference for an inclination to look backward for answers, rather than forward into the unknown. There’s just one problem.

Back to the Future?

That’s kind of not how they’re behaving, these days. What’s also striking is just how far from their supposedly honored past the Republican Party has strayed. Following is the summarized 1956 Republican Party platform on which Dwight D. Eisenhower ran.

Two things leap to the front from the foregoing platform as contrasted with Republicans of today. The first is disconnect between Republicans’ reverence for our traditions and historical roots, and how much the “old” Republican principles as articulated in Eisenhower’s platform seem to be at odds with the new Republican party.

Historians will note that (possibly) the Goldwater backlash and the emergence of the John Birch Society that followed more accurately reflects the true nature of the GOP. If so, it would go a long way toward explaining Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist and  the #MAGA crowd of today. In that model, Trump did not alter the tradition-reverent Republican Party so much as recognize they never had any. Who then, is (are) to be the architect(s) of a new Republican philosophy, to whatever extent one can be said to exist?

So maybe it's really all about context?

What do Republicans stand for these days and what have Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell articulated that can make sense of Liz Cheney’s ouster as Republican Chair of the House Republicans? Who are they now and what do they stand for? And in the absence of an articulated platform, are we to judge what they stand for by their actions? hard to imagine any Republican or indeed any American citizen of conscience supporting them. In the lead-up to the January capital rumble, 147 Republicans voted against certifying the results of the Electoral College, despite no evidence that the election was “stolen,” as the former president suggested.

Since then, Republicans have been busy around the country proposing legislation that would make it harder to vote, especially for our brothers and sisters of color despite (again) no evidence of widespread voter election fraud.

From the outside looking in (I haven’t been a Republican or a self-described conservative for years) it’s becoming increasingly difficult to arrive at any other conclusion than Republicans (and conservatives) are out of arguments. In the absence of any, they have concluded that the only course of action open to them is a combination of:

  1. Outright lies
  2. Distraction
  3. Culture wars
  4. Incipient racism/religious intolerance

The foregoing failing, 1/6/2021 has shown us they’re willing to abrogate democracy in the name of power. If that doesn’t convince the sane to do everything in our collective power to stop them, then they’ve already one. Which is it? (You tell me.)

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:

How-do-I-get-over-the-guilt-of-voting-Republican-for-20-years-and-causing-many-people-to-die?

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.

The Tortured Relationship Between Politicians & “The Elite.”

I thought you'd never ask...

Who owns who?

Not too long ago, someone posted a question one of the forums I frequent. To me, it felt a little sophomoric but given the political climate today, it also begged an answer. Not simply for the interlocutor, but for all of us. After working up my own answer, it occurred  to me it might be worth sharing here, on my website. For the consideration of anyone who might be interested.

The question was:

“Can you still say the Republican party is for the wealthy elite, or has the Democratic party equalized or surpassed them?”

My response as I posted it on that forum follows, with a few more points I’ve stirred in for my readers here on this website.

My Take...

My response as I posted it on that forum follows, with a few more points I’ve stirred in for my readers here on this website.

My response was:

Okay, I’m going to try to answer this question without getting pissed. I should warn the overly sensitive this might be a good time to stop reading. I may not be able to pull it off.

Let me start by wondering outloud if I’m the only one who thinks your question misses the salient truth. To that end, I’d like to start with a blinding flash of the obvious.

We’re a nation of 330 million (+/-). We are ethnically, religiously/spiritually, economically & socially diverse. Whether we’re comfortable with that or not is tangential. Personally, I love it, which tips off pretty much everyone with respect to my philosophical leanings, and I’m perfectly comfortable with that. I love that we are diverse and becoming more so every day. That’s a feature rather than a bug, IMO, to being the world’s melting pot.

With that in mind, the notion that any single political party is exactly & only for or about one thing is not simply naïve, it’s guilty of letting all the usual suspects off the hook.

The Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was pretty much a giveaway to wealthy, according to the reasonably unbiased news outlets. I’ve chosen NPR to reference here, but there are other centrist publications that agree.

With that said, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 isn’t devoid of giveaways to corporate America, either. There’s no question the act has good temporary relief for consumers and those disproportionately affected by SARS CoV-2, including small businesses. But do you think Pfizer, Moderna & J&J aren’t smiling all the way to the bank? And surely you’ve noticed that AmazonGoogle & Facebook to name a few, have been making a killing during the pandemic and through both Republican & Democratic administrations have been allowed to function as (highly profitable) de facto monopolies?

We all know they are. Amazon’s net profit is creeping up on $400 Billion, (Forbes) while Google’s quarterly revenue is up to almost $57 billion (Statistica) in the 4th quarter of 2020. And Facebook’s net income is up 57% in 2020. (Investor News)

Nevertheless, there is a difference

Meanwhile, SARS CoV-2 isn’t done with us & is slowly strangling a lot of small businesses while every Republican house and senate voted against the American Rescue Plan. In the wake of these verifiable truths, the Republican Party and it’s crony “news” outlets continue to obsess over theories relating to exhaustively debunked election fraud, cancel culture and the hypothetical stolen gender of Mr. Potato Head.

Seriously? To the extent these issues dominate our public discourse, aren’t we guilty of chasing butterflies while letting the elephants get away? I’ve just finished taking Republicans to task because it’s so obvious and easy, but boes anyone really think that Democrats aren’t hostage to monied interests? Arguably, Republicans are more flagrant about it. But whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, if you’re politically active your preferred party cannot get through a day without soliciting $$.

Collectively, we have strayed so far from our best aspirations as a nation that we (all of us) should be ashamed of ourselves. Whether we’re active subscribers to loaded rhetoric & skewed arguments or passive apathists who just let it go out of disgust, we’re to blame. Political parties exist as long as someone supports them, and (obviously) both parties enjoy support in their own constituencies. But in common with most organizations, leadership of political parties co-opt what was once a thoughtful agenda, replacing or adapting it to suit their own ends.

And what have both parties done with their support? We have a bloated (and misdirected) defense budget, legions of lobbyists and a political system awash in so much money, can anyone seriously entertain the notion that either party is on the side of citizens? So as long as we’re partisan Democrats or Republicans, we’re part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Kind of like this question that originally spawned this rant. It is profoundly devoid of either balance or nuance, not unlike a lot of what passes for political thought, these days.

If we could get back to having substantive policy debates grounded in the verifiable merits (or lack thereof), we’d all have a lot more respect for government and the process we call governance. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

 

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer, training manager and district manager turned  author of four novels with two more on the way. Dirk’s stories are always believable and often evocative. You can be among the first to know when his newest work is due for release by subscribing to Smoke Signals at the top right of this post.