The Disappointment

Here we are with another election, a continuation of our democratic process, and two presidential candidates at hand.  I've been an American for 37 years.  Born here.  Raised here.  Educated here.  I've voted in every election presidential, mid-term and local since 2000.  I've been lucky to have the opportunities I've had to grow up in the safe town of Fair Haven, New Jersey, go to a good college and graduate school, find employment, travel, meet all types of people across the globe, and live a comfortable life now following my passion of playing music and living off of it.  Many days in these 37 years it's been great to be an American.

But the days of feeling a disappointment in being here in America are growing on me in my adult years.  It's a disappointment in who we are as a people, how we treat each other, how we respond to others in the world, and especially one vetted in what becomes a clear fear in my view that the days of the United States as a people, civilization, and country is beginning to fade.

If you're like me, you hate this election.  Maybe you absolutely hate one of the candidates.  Or both.  Or you hated the debates, or the news media's coverage.  You hate your friend who preaches one view on Facebook and they are now no longer your friend.  You hate that you have to defend your perspective even though it's fully in your right like everyone else to express it.  You hate the negativity of it all.  You hate that there is so much hate right now that it is driving you to say things you've never had to say before to a fellow American because no one is listening or doing what you ask or seeing your point of view or respecting your experiences.  And I hate that you probably agree with me.

Hate is a very strong word though it's used nonchalantly in everyday talk.  It's the complete opposite of love.  Of what the worst things in life are made out of.  We are becoming a nation of hate on all sort of levels that I really am not sure what to do about it.

Now you may be wondering at this point, why am I writing about something political on my website?  Well, for one, though I used to be involved in politics (sorta and it was an awful experience) it still effects me and you.  I may be down about the state of our union, but there is still some good in us.  I also rarely talk about politics on social media, in person, or much at all, because I feel most of us do not know how to talk about it in what should be a mature, thoughtful, and open way.  If I can sum up my thoughts on this election, us as a people and what could happen going forward here's what I'd like to say.

The South Park Effect: A Douche and a Turd Sandwich

Whether you watch the cartoon or not, what I consider one of today's more timely and smarter shows that reflects on some of the ridiculous ways we act in society, one episode clearly stands out from South Park that captures the current election.  In the episode, the school mascot is up for a vote and it ends up being a choice between a douche and a turd sandwich.  Literally.  Stan, one of the main characters, is uninspired by his choices and decides he does not want to vote--for which he is ostracized by the town and asked to leave.  

Now I plan on voting, but I am going with a heavy sigh and the thoughts that yes, the presidential race is between two bad choices.  It's unfortunate that we got here as both candidates have scandals that have followed them throughout the race and probably will continue to once in office.  I foresee the next four years to be a bleak outlook no matter who is in office.

A Historic Election, but a Most Unserious One

I haven't followed this election every single day, but when I have it reads like a reality TV series.  It started with a bunch of candidates (the cast) who competed for our attention and votes.  Then we hear one house, the Dems, had a mole in it that changed the outcome of who would run.  The other house, the Republicans, ends up with someone who can't unite his house throwing insults every which way.  And then we end up with two people fighting to be a winner who have been portrayed to us as the bitch versus the bully.  Just your standard personalities who get the attention on most reality shows (note, I rarely watch reality TV but I caught onto the formula years ago).

So while we have some serious issues to fix, our real fix comes from what the media reports is gossip, who said what, who's winning over who, who touched who, who emailed from where, and really there has not been much substance talked about to address where we are headed as a nation.  What is our future these next four years or even beyond that?  No one really knows.  It's more about the cult of personalities and our obsession with watching conflict on TV.

Listening and Thinking--Not So Much

I've lived in the DC area since 2005.  You would think this city is the center of good ideas, eloquent conversations, smart people, and the like.  But really all I see is the attitude of "I'm right, you're wrong", "I'm smarter than you", and "let me throw down my reality versus yours, oh and mine is better."

In other words, I find that almost no one listens to one another or truly thinks beyond their own world view.  And those lines have only hardened with social media, people unfriending each other every single day--even daring others to do so, and yes I have even seen fights on occasion at bars.

Everything I've observed from what is on TV to how people react every day is just one big conflict.  We mimic the talking heads on the news.  I even know people just repeat what they hear claiming it as their own argument (it's not).  One person talks, the other doesn't fully listen, and then it's one negative reaction followed by the next.  

Many of us have become so closed minded and cynical (oh wait, that's me).  At the same time while we all believe in our right to say, think, do, pursue, dream, and all those American ideals that were fought for time and time again, we put others down for doing the same.  Have we lost all respect for each other?  Maybe.

Facts, Beliefs, Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

When I was in high school I learned a phrase from a history teacher.  He would say, "argument, evidence."  Which is to say, if you are going to claim something as the truth, as a fact, as a real thing--have evidence to back it up.  I continued to learn this lesson, often the hard way, in graduate school where I studied public policy.  We'd present recommendations on what should be done to solve an issue and every professor would ask, "how do you know?".

Belief to me, is mainly based in the emotional senses.  For example, in Cleveland Park a neighborhood in DC my car got broken into and stuff was stolen a couple years ago.  I thought, crap, Cleveland Park isn't a great neighborhood!  I was upset and very worried as I'm up there once a month.  But really when I looked at crime stats afterwards, I happened to be a victim of a random crime that doesn't occur all that much.  I could have believed Cleveland Park was a bad neighborhood and never gone there again, but I did a reality check.  Sometimes belief is based in fear other times in hope.  Beliefs are grounded in our emotional experiences and reactions to situations, other people, and trying to make sense of the world around us.

Unfortunately, I don't think most Americans challenge their own beliefs.  And more so the media does a terrible job checking the facts out.  Yes, on some issues things can be murky--"the truth is out there" Mulder would say.  And more and more everyday, there are websites out there that put out what seem like facts but are actually half truths, lies, and deceptions targeting specific people.

I believe that part of ensuring your vote is to make sure it's the one you not only believe in, but also the one where more of the truth will be on our side.  These days though people don't have the time or don't want to take the time to investigate where their vote is going towards.  We sometimes rely too much on what others say because we just happen to agree.  But it is like flying blind and we end up where we are right now.  It's also further watered down unfortunately by an educational system in this country that does not always teach what I learned.  That's a whole other topic though.


Many of us are living in fear.  The fear center of the brain is one of the oldest in our brain and for good reason: our survival.  For as long as we've existed, it's also been used by leaders to conquer their people, others, and here in America have you choose one guy over the other (or gal) with the fear that the bad guy/gal will win and ruin your life forever.  It is valid to be fearful these days.  With terrorism, gun violence, job insecurity, financial woes, our health care system, potential wars--there's a lot and our brains are in fear overdrive.

Fear does not allow you to think clearly though.  Yes, studies do show this.  You are in fight, flight (or even freeze) mode.  And all those things play out in our conversations, at rallies, at the debates we had, and the list goes on.  If there is a time to ever take a chill pill, 2016 is the year to do so.

Tolerance Anyone?

This is the last thing I'll write about.  I hope that one day we can be a more tolerant people.  Tolerance is talked about in religion, we teach our kids to respect others despite their differences (I hope), and the fact that you are a human being means you are different from every other single human being on the planet.  Not just in your genetic make up, but your life experiences as well.  We often get stuck in our labels, assumptions, guess work, and internalized world view.  Why are we losing sight of what makes America wonderful?  We are all in this together, but it sure doesn't feel like it some days.

What happens after this election is anyone's guess.  More divide?  More hate?  More violence?  Those are all possibilities.  I wonder if we are close to rock bottom with our politics and treatment of one another.  I know at the end of the day we are all tired at what this brings out in all of us and it's not the best.  The disappointment we feel now lingers when we wake up, go to sleep, and wonder why it's ended up this way. Perhaps rock bottom will shake us to the core and we can start working together to better who we are and where we are headed in this adventure called America.