Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Courage and Truth - A contemplation on the Aftermath of Our Election

Courage and Truth in the Aftermath of Our Election
November 9, 2016  -  by George Knapp

Writing this piece will be one of the most difficult writing tasks of my life.  While I have a crystal clear message that I wish to deliver, I need to deliver it in such a manner that the reader doesn’t leave me part way through due to me hitting a painful nerve, but at the same time still make my point in the clear way that I see it.

I will be referring to generic groupings, general populations and behaviors and actions of collectives or non-human entities made up of people, but NOT necessarily the individual people themselves.  So when I say something offensive about Republicans or America, do not take it personally – I may not be talking about you specifically, but them or us as a collective conscience. 

I believe that Donald Trump was elected because of a series of events that were and are mostly rooted in America’s lack of courage and a disregard for the work needed to uncover the truth of matters.  In short our laziness and cowardice brought us to the point whereby we nominated two people not fit to serve as our President and elected the one who was the least fit, who holds beliefs that are similar to those held by fascists, has repeatedly made racist comments, is known for bullying and has acted as a liar and hypocrite throughout much of his private and public life. 

As an Independent Progressive (identified so by my political and philosophical beliefs in our current definition of them), I often support politicians from the Democratic Party.  Initially, I was a strident Bernie Sanders supporter.  Bernie is a man of strong conviction and clear thinking who has a long track record of calling the right shots in matters from the disaster that is the Iraq War to the scam that is an American College Education and a whole host of other Civil Rights Violations, Environmental Impacts and Government Waste problems that he quickly pointed out to his colleagues, sometimes changing the course of our history by educating or embarrassing them into making it right and sometimes being ignored or even labeled a nut case.

It was an inconvenient truth for the Democratic Party when Senator Sanders decided to enroll in the Party (he was an Independent for decades) and make a run for President and began to upstage their darling, former First Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Prior to this unfortunate set of circumstances, she was “ordained” by certain powers that be to be the 2016 nominee.  As if it was owed to her or as if she deserved this honor without regard to following the democratic process.  To even further her chances of locking up the nomination, the party used its magical Super Delegates (basically bought and paid for delegates that are NOT democratically elected) to guarantee her place on the ballot.  Bernie, being gracious and seeing that the Republican Party was about to nominate a disgusting and horrible human being as their nominee, he “took one for the team” and tried with all of his might to throw his personal support and more importantly the support of his followers under the Clinton umbrella.  Sadly, as polling has shown, the energy, enthusiasm and drive that those Sanders supporters brought to the Progressive cause faded away in just enough numbers to put key states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina into play for the Republicans.

Now Hillary required a different approach.  Well, she assumed that given the demographic changes in the US population regarding Hispanics and how much those changes influenced President Obama’s win over Mitt Romney, that she could easily count on their support in numbers that would not just equal the support received by President Obama, but possibly surpass it.  I mean after all, Mr. Trump was almost going out of his way to insult, humiliate and alienate Hispanics of all types in all states.  This was the Democrats first fatal miss calculation. 

Their second was the black vote.  It is no secret that her husband the only President Clinton was viewed very favorably among black voters and until we actually had a legitimate black nominee in President Obama, black voter turnout and votes for President Clinton had set new records in 1992 and 1996.  However, due in part to black voter fatigue (reported feelings that they weren’t seeing the benefits promised by previous candidates) and more so in MY opinion to the lack of enthusiasm for Mrs. Clinton as a candidate in general, by all voters, the African American vote did little to help her in this election.  Turn out was low and some insiders from the Clinton camp even remarked that they and she took the black vote for granted and should have worked much harder to “get the vote out”, in spite of several last minute and last ditch efforts to do so in the very key state of Pennsylvania.

Oddly, the media (including the “legitimate press”) also played a large role in the election outcome.  While Mr. Trump made more and more outrageous comments, claims and promises, he received more and more FREE press and since the media is now financed and marketed as an Entertainment industry and not as an Information industry, coverage meant revenue and “boring”, old style objective reporting, fact checking and chasing down inside, complex or possibly eye opening stories took a back seat to entertaining us all with the daily Donald Dump, the Goose with the Golden Egg that it birthed with a “quality” and regularity never before seen in a Presidential Candidate.

Now to the Republicans, the second most shameful part of this story.  Even IF the Democratic Party rigged their own primary, ignored statistics that they didn’t like and were hell bent on nominating a person who is vastly disliked by a majority of Americans, this fact did not and should not ever give the other party the excuse of allowing the nomination of an unqualified, mentally ill, corrupt, evil person under their banner.  Yet, they did just that.  They rode the wave that was Donald Trump, they allowed his racism, greed and bigotry to permeate their party, their platform and their brand.  President Lincoln would not be proud.

Lastly the MOST shameful part of this story lies with the American People and it does so in many ways. Some of these things predate this election by decades, but all of which boil down to a lack of integrity and courage by INDIVIDUALS.

Education:   Through our own greed (not passing school funding) and laziness (not being involved in our political process and demanding better schools for ALL) we have allowed our education system to become the laughing stock of the world and we are now touting how DT’s primary “base” was the “uneducated white male”.  How can we be proud of that ?   Is that a slogan we would want on our flag or money or government buildings?  “A country of idiots, governed by idiots”.  That is not very inspiring, even in Latin.  “A patria de amentibus qui in amentibus”.

Simply Voting:  Typically “good” voter turnout in America is a pitiful 60% of eligible voters, with some states consistently doing better (70% and others not so well 50%).  It is estimated that turnout in this election will be around 60% and likely 55% or less in our State.  Shameful.  People have died for your right to vote.  People work hard, mostly as volunteers to assure that you can have access to voting.  Your vote matters.  Shame on those who didn’t vote or who don’t vote with regularity.  There is NO legitimate excuse with today’s fairly liberal (at least for now) voting rules for not voting.

Demanding a Higher Standard:  As a collective, we accepted Mr. Trump as the nominee of a major party without considering a coordinated outcry or general strike or REAL protests in Cleveland or building human walls around polling places in order to get it through the heads of our leaders that he was an unacceptable nominee Yes the heads of the RNC are part of our country’s leadership group and should be held accountable to Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike.  He’s a proven, hate monger, hypocrite and shady business person.  We deserve better and should have demanded better.  WE are supposed to run this country, not Reince Priebus and Russian Bots on Facebook. 

Defending Women, Minorities, the Disabled and Immigrants:  Did you not hear and see what I heard and saw?  Does the Statue of Liberty say “piss off you dirty unwanted”?  I don’t think so.  Do you not have compassion and empathy for those who are physically or emotionally or economically disadvantaged?  Do you not care about how women are objectified and patently mistreated in this country?  Do you not love our wives, sisters, daughters and grand daughters? 

Voting for someone you don’t like, but do so for the greater good:  If you have stuck with me this far, you are convinced that I am a hopeless Liberal or worse maybe even a socialist or worse, maybe even anti-American.  In my 35 years of voting (I am 53) I have been registered as a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat over those years.  I have often voted for state and local Republicans because before I vote I do my research and I pick the person, not the party.  The last Republican that I voted for, for President was George H. Bush (Sr) and in this current election, I voted for the Republican running for Country Treasurer, because I felt he was a better choice.  I abstained from voting for one particular Democrat, because even though he ran unopposed, I think he is awful.  In the race for Darlington County Council, I wrote in my own name.  So I can unequivocally say that I do in fact vote the way I feel is best NOT for me personally, but for the community at large.  I do not support Hillary Clinton’s Presidency in any way, but one.  She was the better choice by a long shot.  More experience, more tact, more professionalism, less embarrassing on both a national and international stage.  I would have GLADLY voted for a Republican who was more qualified than her and in fact I had a write in candidate in mind (who is a Republican), but apparently they don’t allow write ins for that job anymore in South Carolina.  I may have voted for John Kasich, even though he and I disagree strongly on women’s right to choose and gay marriage, but on the whole, he may have been a better choice than Mrs. Clinton.  But there is no actual defense for voting for Donald Trump.  None.  Mrs. Clinton’s alleged crimes are partially false, made up or exaggerated and the ones that held some merit for investigation were investigated and she was cleared.  Mr. Trump’s alleged crimes (numerous cases sent to civil courts regarding his business as well as tax fraud and sex crimes that could be pending in criminal court) have not been thoroughly investigated.  However, even if we set those alleged crimes aside, he is on the surface an evil, bigot who demeans women as a hobby.  A man who speaks at a 4th grade level.  A man who can not articulate a plan for any aspect of the office he is running for.  Thinned skinned and immature. Did you not see it?   

I don’t want to hear your excuses about, “I just don’t like her” or “I’m a die hard Republican” or “He’s probably not really that bad in real life”.  Those excuses are not well thought out.  You don’t have to like her, your duty is to pick the best option.  You are a better person for having the courage to break with the party you most identify with and vote your conscience.  You can only judge a candidate by what they HAVE said and done, not by what you hope or think they will say and do in some fanciful future.

So, my fellow Americans, let’s face one last sad truth.  We The People screwed up !!

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Church of True Humanity (Evil and Good)

What are Evil and Good but human creations and false feelings. 

Is a flood evil? A lightening bolt?

Is a martyr good? Love?

Why do we honor and praise "good" only to find disappointment and despair?

Why do we object and incarcerate "evil" only to find pity and impotence?

Maybe, just maybe if we celebrated both equally we would find ourselves.....

"Judge not, lest thee be judged" - oh famous of all books. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali - What he meant to me

Last night a hero of mine died.

This morning I posted on my Twitter feed that "The thing for me that made Ali "The Greatest" was that he made society uncomfortably confront itself".

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I can not think of a single individual who influenced and shaped my view of the world as much as Muhammad Ali did.  I always marveled (and do today, reading news accounts and public opinion pieces on his death) how one man, one name could cause so much deep, meaningful and insightful (both evil and uplifting) conversation about so many topics.  Sports, Religion, War, Peace, Politics, Poverty, Racism, Love, Hate, Trust, Duty, Pride, Excellence, Humor, Beauty and Evil are among just a few over arching topics that were always present when his name was uttered "back in the day" and they will be re-discussed in the next few days and hopefully for some of our younger generation, discovered for the first time, due to his passing.

Who could then argue that for this fact alone, his was not a life well lived?

Without Ali, our generation may not have had the opportunity to more openly discuss, privately ponder and yes, find personal fault and guilt in things like:

Racism (How could such an accomplished man be black AND hold on to his black identity?)
The Israeli - Arab Problem (How could a "radical" 60s term Muslim and a Jewish lawyer turned sports caster, come to love and respect each other, so openly and publicly?)
Questioning war and the deaths of innocents in the name of the greater good (Was he a draft dodger or a courageous conscientious objector?)
Human Rights (Why are Africa, South American and SE Asia so poor?  He tried to shine the spotlight on these regions by having some of his biggest fights there)
American Poverty and Ways to Fix It (How did a poor, black kid from Louisville, Ky become the most recognized person on the planet and yet millions of others don't make it out of poverty in America?)
Defeat (The Champ didn't win every fight)
Aging (The Champ had to retire and later had Parkinson's)
Our Mortality (The Greatest died yesterday)

Sadly, though Muhammad Ali tried to shine a light on these topics, in some corners of the globe things are no better, BUT statistics show that since 1964, on average, things are better.

I always knew that Ali was one of my heroes.  What I didn't realize until today, was how much he impacted my life.  We never met.  We never spoke.  His public example was all I needed. Truth speaks so loud and so clearly.  In addition, the reactions of my family, friends, neighbors and strangers to his behavior, his speeches and his name, always gave me an opportunity to learn more about them, but most importantly - to learn more about myself.

What an amazing person?  Maybe, truly THE GREATEST of my lifetime.

Footnote:  I realize that he was not a perfect man, but who among us is?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The True Source of Anger

Anger is one of the basic group of emotions that have been explored over the eons by artists, philosophers, spiritual thinkers and common people everywhere.

The typical idea is that anger is normal, but can be controlled and should be controlled or at least managed.  Unlike fear which is sometimes required in order to survive, anger serves no greater purpose than to fog our judgment and raise our blood pressure.

I recently have re-awakened my thinking, regarding anger, after a series of both large and small incidents over the past 3-4 months, probably starting just before our trip to England and continuing on through very recent days.

It is one thing to understand the ideas about anger and anger management, it is quite another to be able to both employ management strategies and more importantly discover the true nature of one's anger and experience it in a purely emotional and almost spiritual way.  I took this deep dive several times during this angry period and have basically come to the same conclusions as everyone else who has thought about this topic, however for me the essence was missing until I finally allowed myself to see myself for who and what I was when angry.

I have realized that all (100%) of my anger is actually directed at myself.  Sure, I may yell at another person or write a nasty email or vent to a friend about a situation that "made me angry", but the fact is that the root of my anger in each and every situation was anger at myself.

Anger at myself for allowing something trivial to frustrate me.

Anger at myself for allowing others to get the upper hand and make me feel insecure or stupid.

Angry that the Universe doesn't treat me with any special significance or deference, but rather all of the rules of the physical world apply to me in amazing equality with all other human beings.

Anger at myself  because I am not as smart, full of foresight or wisdom or aware as I wish I could be.

Anger at myself for making misjudgments and mistakes.

Anger at myself for placing importance on things (material, status, control) which I have no right to have or no possibility of achieving.

I am mostly angry at myself for not accepting the fact that I am human.  One of 7+ billion on the planet and maybe 1 of 50 + billion that ever existed.

I get angry at me for being me.

What a stupid waste of time and energy? - oh shit, there I go getting angry with myself ,,,, AGAIN

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Couple of Examples of When Humanity Took a Wrong Turn

We can infer that every generation of humans has wondered if their current generation or the next, would be the last.  We can infer this because since the dawn of writing (5,000 - 7,000 years ago) and even the act of writing recording previously passed down oral history and mythology they all seem to  contain some reference to the concept that things at that moment were degenerating and that the next generation is useless and we are all doomed sometime soon.  While 100,000 years or so (when we believe the first modern humans evolved) is small on the cosmic time scale, by human standards it is 4,500 or so generations (a long time). 

So at least 4,500 generations of parents and grand parents sat around the tree, the campfire, the cave pit, the wheat field, the hut, house or TV and bemoaned the state of humanity and in many cases wrote about, prayed about, studied, dreamed and made prophecies about our extinction.  So far, these concerns and predictions have been very wrong.

We are definitely at once a very self critical and a very impatient species!

So, please keep this observation in mind as you read further.  Sure, at some point our species will become extinct, there is no denying that, but the when and the how are truly impossible to determine and I am not going to quickly join the ranks of all the other generations and say, hey - our greatest times are behind us and the future is screwed..... well ???

I often say that the two worst inventions in the history of mankind are religion and the internal combustion engine.  I use these two "inventions" both metaphorically and factually to make many points about what is wrong with us humans as a species.  I suppose that I could have chosen tribes, slavery, government,  war or technology in general, but humor me on this and accept that the single TWO worst inventions in human history were religion and the internal combustion engine.  I will use these two inventions to build my case as to what is fundamentally wrong with humans.


Religion is the outgrowth of fear and the need to control the tribe.  It is a structural and internally useful tool for those who want to control others, to do so.  While this in and of itself is immoral, it would be ridiculous to concede that both the popularity and (superficial) effectiveness of this tool can be questioned.  Religion works very well as a control mechanism, especially as humans began clumping together in "civilized" groups around 7,000 years ago. 

The second problem with religion however is that it requires believers to see other religions as wrong.  Those who speak of religious tolerance are missing the whole point.  Even "Universalists" who say that they believe in a higher power who has some say in the outcome of things and that spirituality is a normal part of the human experience and therefore "accept" all religions, are wrong in this case.  By stating those beliefs they are denouncing every other religion, which is in fact exclusive.  Meanwhile, any person who truly follows a religion and is not a hypocrite, is required to submit to the idea that their religion is the only true and valid one.  The end result of this fact is that we can now employ this powerful tool to not only control those inside our own village, tribe, state, country, sect, but we can justify treating those with other beliefs in inhumane ways, by diminishing their humanity.  There are thousands of examples, dating back thousands of years.  Sure, there are examples of tolerance between tribes, nations and sects and even cooperation - but in almost every case where this exists, under neath the relationship is always a component of doubt.  This mutual acceptance is often race and religiously based and is done for pragmatic, economic reasons - not because we really want to.  Ask yourself why we rebuilt Germany and Japan after WWII and have not rebuilt Iraq and Afghanistan after those wars?  Germany is made up of mostly white Christians and also was one of the largest groups of immigrants moving to America in the previous two centuries.  Japan (and later South Korea) was our best chance at having a necessary "foot hold" in East Asia to battle the Cold War.  We don't really give a shit about poor brown people from a multitude of Islamic sects living in a desert.  

The third problem with religion is that it not only promotes conflict and divisiveness in a multi-cultural New World country like the US, it is based on irrational thinking.  We are systematically and culturally saying that it is okay (if not preferred) to have adults believe in fairy tales.  If religion wasn't popular and accepted by so many, wouldn't someone spouting the ideas of angels and gods and a messiah and conspiracy and the subjugation of others and claiming that those who disagree with them will burn in eternal fire or be subjected to being reincarnated over and over until they "get it right" be put in a mental hospital?  How can a society have a rational debate and enact rational solutions about how to treat its citizens, protect its borders and take care of its economy, when it supports and promotes irrational thought as the "higher authority"?

The Internal Combustion Engine:

For full disclosure, I must admit that I once worked in a Diesel Engine Factory.  At any rate, why is the internal combustion engine the second worst invention of humanity? 

To be fair, the act of invention itself, isn't really the problem.  At the time, technology was growing at a rapid pace and one of the possible (not the only possible) next logical step was to invent a small, portable and powerful version of a steam engine or other device that could be mass produced and use to do the work of humans and animals at a fraction of the "apparent" cost.

The problem was that both the diesel and later the gasoline versions of the internal combustion engine were too good in some ways.  The ability to produce these things at a lower purchase price skyrocketed with the ideas of mass production (interchangeable parts) and the assembly line.  In addition they became a very stubborn platform from which to continuously improve upon the basic model, making them cheaper, faster and more efficient.  Coupled with the significant cost of creating the support infrastructure (factories, roads, refineries, oil fields, gas stations) and giving control of that vast infrastructure to the children of visionaries and entrepreneurs, who - as many next generation wealthy brats do, hope to continue the legacy, without seeing the negative impact of defending their positions.  All they could see was the cash cow of continuing to build these beasts.

What are the social costs?

  • Poor air quality
  • More "unnatural deaths" caused by trucks and automobiles than any other tool ever invented
  • Lead poisoning (until a reluctant Congress was embarrassed into pushing unleaded gas, in spite of millions of lobbying dollars from oil companies)
  • Rapid acceleration (pun intended) of the destruction of our planet's ability to sustain human life for the next 150 years.
  • Yet another reason to use religion as an excuse to wage war in West Asia and North Africa
The saddest part of this story is two-fold.  Wind energy was already in wide use when Mr. Diesel patented his engine and solar power was recognized as the energy - holy grail of the new physics that was emerging at the time.  Had the invention of the internal combustion engine been delayed for about 40-50 years, it would have been a write off and we would all be using solar, nuclear and wind power in all of their forms and varieties.

Any engineer will tell you that the true test of the perfection and efficiency of an invention is how much waste it creates.  Waste is usually found when heat, noise and non-renewable by products are created from the process in question.  The internal combustion engine FAILS in all of these categories.  They are very loud (need mufflers), they run crazy hot (need oil for lubrication and heat exchange and in addition a toxic water blended cooling system, fan, pump and radiator).  The by products of their use are poisonous gasses and gasses that accelerate the natural warming cycles of the planet.  What a horrific design?!

So, what is the future of the human species?

I have no clue, but like the arrogant cockroaches that we are, we will continue to adapt and do our best to survive in a more and more harsh world, never thinking that things wouldn't have had to "be this difficult, had we not made so many wrong turns". 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ending Our Universe in One "Easy" Step

I have written about religion and meditation and the unfolding of the Universe a lot.

I have given much thought to the concept of Free Will and whether or not it exists (outside ourselves) and I have written a chain of commentary on why I believe that our Universe (note the use of our) is a condition that is predetermined.  These are beliefs, unproven and likely not provable. These are beliefs based on the study of our Universe and ideas derived from much thought and serious contemplation.  (see previous blog posts for details).

It occurred to me, as I was reviewing my contemplation on this topic for logic errors, that it would be a fun thought experiment to wonder what would happen in a predetermined universe if some being or some consciousness actually developed a method to exercise Free Will.

I was surprised that even in a mental state of willful discipline, my mind raced toward a "gut feel" response of - That Universe would cease to exist.

This gave me the idea for the title to this piece, putting "Easy" in quotes to sarcastically make the link between the ease of the answer to the "what" could be done to end our Universe against the impossible or improbable task of the "how" to do it.

Many religions and followers of "holy" people or thinkers, have a concept of mortal or near mortal beings who once existed or currently do exist (popes, gurus, lamas, witches, oracles)  that claim to have achieved or nearly achieved some for of transcendence.

To me true transcendence would indicate a discovery of a true self, soul or such an independent entity within one's self and simultaneously know the fabric of the universe in all of its spaces and times.  That is a huge position to be able to get to.

Now imagine getting there and you become aware of your place in that fabric and understand at an almost mystical or metaphysical level how your existence is at once but a small part of that fabric, but that the fabric could not exist without you.

Then further imagine removing your "self" from that fabric.

At that instant the fabric would no longer exist.  You would have effectively ended the Universe by transcendence and committing an act of Free Will - unless of course that was the way that the particular Universe you existed in was meant to end ........... (circular I know, sorry)

Friday, January 22, 2016

You Either Get It or You Don't

So, we live in a fractious time where we simultaneously embrace and hate the dual threats of deviciveness and instantiaity of our social media culture. 

We all (see the rest of my blog entries, for example) self identify and argue about wealth, race, religion, politics, beliefs, logic, reason and the color blue. 

Having said all of this I had a thought that what really predicts how I chose friends, employees and any significant for of human interaction or entertainment of mostly based on one thing. 

"Does the person, place or thing Get It?" 

Regardless of who or what you are, where you're from, where you're going or what you believe in or think about, you either Get It or you don't. 

"Getting it" does transcend all of those things. "Getting it" transcends trancendence itself. 

"Getting it" is a balanced view of logic and humanity. "Getting it" is a blend of pragmatism and passion. "Getting it" is a combination of curiosity and native intelligence (smart like a comedian, not necessarily smart like Einstein - although Einstein definitely got it). 

Diverse Types "get it"

MLK - black, baptist, change agent
Ghandi - Hindu, conflicted, change agent 

A lot in common, but so much different. 

Einstein - singular genius, rockstar
Kurt Cobain - rockstar, genius, OD'd

How alike were they? Unknown.....

I could list numerous family, friends and acquaintances that "get it", but would feel sad for those who don't. 

Those that "Get It" have some other traits, all of which seem to me to be mostly organic or in their DNA, not taught or learned - certainly not taught or learned after very early years. I see it in my grandkids now. 

* Seem a lot less happy on the outside, than they feel on the inside. 

* Proud. Hate all slackers, but hate their inner slacker the most. 

* Know how to have fun, even binge and go all bacchanalian at times, then go stoic. Can appear quite socially bipolar. 

* Don't believe in only one "life love". Realistic to know that they can be happy for decades with someone, but there are others and more importantly WERE others and it's okay, it's human. 

* Love to laugh

* Love to work - Need to work 

* Love to be rewarded in ways that are meaningful to them. 

* Honestly care little of what others think of them, yet expect recognition. 

* Have a HIGHLY passionate sense of justice and fair play coupled with a STRONG empathy and compassion for the human condition. 

* Usually not the best dressed or well groomed people in the room, but still found to be attractive by those in the room. 

* Defined by their accomplishments, which they see as being defined by their habits and behaviors. 

* Appreciate irony, eccentricity and weird, yet find warmth in normal things. 

* Read a lot, I mean - a lot

* Pay attention to details and the present. Daydream about the future less than others and dwell on the past only during occasional bouts of reminiscing. 

* Are easily bored, but are comfortable with doing nothing, with no one. 

The End