Politicians Are Servants and, on Rare Occasion, Worthy of Celebrity Status

[Trigger warning:  The very end of my commentary is briefly irreverent and crude, to drive home my point, so to speak.  Hopefully, readers will glean the sense of humor that I meant to convey in an off-color way.  Sometimes, people take themselves far too seriously.]

The following words from blogger and political commentator Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) came my way via a friend’s post over on Facebook:

“I say to Beto fans, Trump fans, all fans of politicians: it is un-American, ridiculous, and dangerous to be a fan of a politician.  They aren’t pop stars.  Support them if you agree with their policies.  Criticize them when they go wrong.  They are servants, not celebrities.”

Okay, so let me unpack this.  First of all, I think it can be argued that all celebrities are servants.  They serve the public in assorted ways, pop stars providing entertainment as a service.  Hence, I find his delineation of servant and celebrity rather extreme and not always accurate.  Also, what the hell is wrong with fandom, including political fandom where truly earned?

Mr. Walsh’s tone here is harshly chastising, directly contributing to an already over-polarized discourse in the political arena, which is the last thing we need more of in America.  Upon sleeping on this statement of his after I first read it last night, what came to me was how intellectually elitist Matt Walsh comes across as being in this statement.  Instead of encouraging people to look within towards better understanding their deep hunger for leaders to look up to with devotion, he shames them for their attempts at doing so, as if they/we are ignorant children to be scorned.  It’s like he assumes everyone is or should be highly-educated (which many are not), purely objective (when one’s subjective life situation plays a central part in perceptions and judgments), and should minimize or not factor in genuine inspiration-filled, good feelings as part of one’s decision-making process when picking public leaders.  The implication is that including this third item is superficial and ignorant, i.e., uneducated and unpatriotic, childish.  This is no way to win over people into a more unified electorate to vote against Trump and his ilk, and most certainly not Beto fans, who are a swathe of people we can and should count as allies/fellow voting citizens.  Harshly shaming people for trying their best, which inevitably includes their natural impulses and human short-comings, is unproductive.  Rather, encouraging people to do better is what’s needed.  And please interweave within that encouragement the dissemination of accurate information, combined with underscoring how we are all in this together.  Also, devotion need not be completely dismissed out of hand as un-evolved and inappropriate within the political arena.  Some people occasionally earn such trust and admiration.

I say that you can celebrate excellent politicians while criticizing them where indicated, as they are certainly not infallible, just the opposite. In other words, be discerning and mindful, not a blind follower and praiser of a politician, or anyone for that matter.  I need to know much more about Beto O’Rourke and his policy positions, for example, before praising him/treating him as a celebrity.  And what little I do know about his policy stances doesn’t warrant much praise.  But, if a political leader is doing a great job, showing bravery and consistently putting their words into good actions, from a place of sincerity and true care — which is a very rare breed of politician– then I feel damn happy and glad to praise and celebrate them.  Alexandria Ocasio Cortez comes readily to mind, and not because of her looks, but what she says and does with passion, stridency, absolute sincerity, and compassion.  However, let’s be honest here.  It certainly does not detract in any way that AOC is also physically young, beautiful, and vibrant.  She speaks and works hard on behalf of her constituents and, by extension, so many of us who are not in her Congressional district.  From a place of joy and relief in my heart, I celebrate her.  I don’t think by doing so that I’m participating in being “un-American, ridiculous, or dangerous,” just the opposite.  Rather, via praise and, subsequently, some devotion to her, I wish to reinforce AOC in doing a great job, encouraging the new Congresswoman to stay with it, particularly given the fact that she receives hate mail and death threats constantly.  Also, another intention here is to encourage other political leaders to emulate Ms. Cortez in thought and action.  She is truly a celebrity because she has earned such status from me and others.  Supporting Ms. AOC’s ongoing upward (thus far) evolution as a great leader is truly being patriotic, safe-making (as opposed to dangerous– except for her toxically ignorant opponents), and anything but ridiculous.  It is possible, of course, that her integrity could weaken and she could rightfully lose this status.  My hope, of course, is that this will not happen.

This post by Mr. Walsh is broad-sweeping, though I do get the point he is trying to make. The phenomenon of creating and maintaining celebrities has been overdone time and again, unmindfully/with little thought, given the aforementioned desperate need in many people to have someone to follow, be it politically and/or spiritually. I get that.  But, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a need and efforts to fulfill it.  Some discerning celebrity-making is fine and healthy.  Devotion isn’t automatically a stupid, ridiculous, un-American thing in all instances.  Actually, it’s quite typically American to be devoted to public figures, however uninformed many are in doing so.  It’s simply that most people have not duly earned their celebrity, particularly in the political arena.  Many individuals are often far too trusting too soon, willing to go with little or no information to back up their first blush gut responses to an appealing persona put before them.  Often, this comes out of innocence, though, for even more, just plain ignorance, stemming from fear and initially not knowing any different.  Some of us start out in life with more available information due to privilege we are born into and next to, while others are less fortunate, starting with little to almost nothing.  That’s not to condescend to the latter in any way– which Mr. Walsh comes across as doing in his post.  Those of us who know more need to offer out our knowledge as best and creatively to as many as possible, as often as possible.  Share and share alike.  Therein lies good leadership.

Along with a weaponizing of knowledge (by both liberal/progressive elites and conservatives alike, albeit generally more calculatingly so by the latter) against those who lack it, there is a paucity of praise to others in the world and way too much harmful tearing down of people instead.  I’ve always valued the importance of frequent, thoughtful, honest praise.  I find there is joy in giving it where readily earned.  Everyone deserves it here and there, be it small or large praise, including to reinforce a quality we may wish to see more expression of from someone.

To my understanding, an origin of giving praise is a spiritual one.  We are recognizing the divine or higher, evolved, positive nature in someone when we praise them.  Devotion and its accompanying act of praising is an ancient practice done before gods in countless cultures across history.  It is a moment of wonder and goodness when we recognize and speak of the good/Goddess/God nature in someone before us.  Doing this often is an important part of a healthy spiritual practice or, for those who are strict atheists, simply good mental hygiene.

There is so much cynical judging and divisiveness going around– which is a large part of the problem in politics and elsewhere– and this post by Matt Walsh smacks of more of it to me, his judgments seemingly from a place of informed privilege and arrogance.  How tiring.  Join the rest of humanity, please, Matt.  I think you need to chill out for a bit, perhaps get a long series of deep tissue massages while having what seems like an uncomfortable big stick pulled out of your ass.

 

Quick Thoughts on Kraft and Human Traffickers

Personally, I have no moral judgment against consenting adults receiving money for sex from other consenting adults, as long as all parties concerned are doing so completely from a place of free will. I don’t think it’s my place to judge what consenting adults do with each other behind closed doors, including whether money is exchanged between them or not. But, it’s a different matter altogether with trafficked individuals, who have been captured and imprisoned into a life of prostitution. Shame on both the traffickers and purchasers of the “services” provided in such heinous, criminal circumstances. Robert Kraft and others should know better. To Kraft et al, I say, find unfettered consenting adults for sexual servicing and stop perpetuating a cycle of brutal exploitation. And I do think that paying for sex with a trafficked individual should be considered a serious felony offense, and an even more grave one if the person is a minor.

This incident involving Kraft is yet another example of largely rich white males continuing to exploit women and minorities in this skewed, power-imbalanced culture. Nothing new, sadly, but well-worth fighting to stop.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over time, I have grown more and more grateful for MLK, Jr. and his deep, visionary thinking. We are still as a society working on catching up with him, towards manifesting, slowly but surely– in a three steps forward, two steps backward kind of way– his beautiful dream.

I embrace his overall philosophy and feel freshly sad today that Dr. King’s life was cut so short. America and the world lost a great soul and thinker.

Rant: A Certain “Missionary Position” Facebook Meme Is Not Funny

Over on Facebook, there is a cruel meme going around referring to the missionary (or missionary-leaning) man who was recently shot dead with arrows by member(s) of an isolated indigenous island tribe off the coast of India. While I do indeed agree that his actions were not thought out and that he had no right to barge into the territory of a protected tribe of people who were innocently minding their own business as they went about their lives, I find it in very poor taste to mock his death.  Posting a picture of a man with arrows in his back with the accompanying description “Missionary Position” is tasteless mockery, yet it has been reposted by people who know better.  Doing this only adds ammunition to the ongoing polarization between us and those who mock so many other kinds of lives lost, lives who most, if not all, of my friends over on Facebook say they value, be they those of trans people, gays and lesbians, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, Black people, other peoples of color, and so on.

I’m not a Christian, but I know many wonderful Christians, including those who would not sanction this recently deceased man’s ignorant behavior, even though, in his own mind, I think it was actually well-meaning. (Please consider that possibility, and think of “forgiving our trespasses,” as part of a worthwhile Christian prayer goes.) Problematic evangelicals who do support what this man did and seek “justice” against the tribe will only martyr the man and themselves in their cause, drawing justification from being antagonized by anyone mocking his death. Do you like being antagonized? I suspect not. Let’s try and step away from such a protracted, pointless fight by not stooping to the same low level of those we deeply don’t agree with and perhaps don’t even like. Burning Pagans back in ancient times didn’t somehow get made better by burning Protestants, Jews, or Catholics, or whoever else.

I don’t find actual, real-life violence against another person funny, certainly not when it leads to death, no matter how much I may not like the individual. And this dead individual has been duly labeled by others as acting from a place of hubris and arrogance, among other negative adjectives. Yes, and be that as it may, I have no doubt he had positive qualities as a human being, another member of the human race like the rest of us. Let the judgments of him and his harsh fate be enough, then leave the matter be. He has a surviving family, I’m sure.

Let’s please consider not mocking the death of any other human, even if the incident occurred from an act of self defense. I love humanity as much as whole segments of it frustrate and anger me, as I know it does for so many others, including those reading this. I will not intentionally, consciously laugh at the killing of another. Let’s not participate in dehumanization, please. Others who anger us already do far too much of that. We know and can do better.

Rant: California and Its Wildfires Vs. Trump

As a California native who still loves that state very much, I’d like Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom, as well as Senators Feinstein and Harris, to take Trump on with his outrageous statements about cutting federal support to CA with managing its wildfires. For every $1.00 CA contributes into the federal Treasury, it gets 0.80 in federal funding for services, etc. In other words, CA gives more than it gets back. Well, CA is in justifiable, clear need right now.

Sen. Feinstein likely wouldn’t participate in this call-out of Trump, or very briefly so if she did at all. She’s too much of a moderate sell-out. Still, between Brown, Newsom, Harris, and some of CA’s congresspeople speaking up, the discourse would be eye-opening. Perhaps a good share of Dems in the newly-flipped House would get behind this fight Trump has called. That would be great if legislation and executive action could be created around curtailing CA’s funds into the U.S. Treasury and re-directing said funds into that state’s own fire management. That’d wake Trump and others right up.

Trump’s statements are both clearly wrong and unfair. He is scape-goating CA because he knows a huge hold-out of folks, including elected officials, can’t stand him there, yet CA is an enormous economy for the Union as well as in the world.  CA is far more important and ever-lasting than Trump.

A Personal Declaration

I am a pro-feminist ally Two Spirit gay man, really as feminist (and ever-evolving) as one can be, short of being cis-gendered female and, from there, identified as feminist. My heart and mind are aligned with women deeply, as that is my nature. Those who know me well know that I speak truthfully from my heart.

In the past few years, I have learned that what I have stated above remains very much the case while more clearly separating out this commitment to myself:  I will not be a doormat of domination and/or disrespect from others, including feminist-identified strong women.  Previously, it was just domineering, intimidating, difficult men with whom I set down such a clear boundary.  Now, it’s anyone who comes across this way to me– domineering/disrespectful. This is a fairly recent development, one that has taken a few years to clearly figure out and delineate. Self respect means being clear about being treated fairly and kindly by anyone and everyone, regardless of their gender and identity as a feminist. And, yes, I am always open to learning from and owning up to my mistakes. But, for someone to be in my personal life on an ongoing basis, I will expect the same reciprocation of valuing and respect that I myself am willing, able, and glad to express, no matter who you are. Peace.

Choose a Side

Sometimes, fire must be met with fire in order to prepare to face whatever gauntlet has been thrown down. On the national political front, one was thrown down a while ago, though many may still spend time parsing out exactly when that was. At this point, the “when” doesn’t matter. The gauntlet is clearly there and now it’s time to face this reality and decide which side of it we each are truly on. That surely occurred in Nazi Germany, when many people in France, for example, joined and became “The Resistance” to fight Hitler’s tyranny. I am struggling still with “resisting,” though I know that who I am and how I live is already considered resistance in certain quarters. I also know this: outside of my job role as psychotherapist, I have little time and energy to try and convince Trump supporters to think, feel, and act differently than they currently do. I am on a certain side of the gauntlet. And to those who are working still on softening hearts and educating minds towards becoming more compassionate and broad-thinking respectively, well good for you and thank you. I’ll do that here and there on the job as a clinical social worker. But, outside of that, in my personal life, I’ve simply committed to protecting my rights and others’, uncivil as that may indeed sometimes be. You ain’t seen nothin’ from me yet.