Anger & Fear

I’m not angry; I’m just very, very disappointed.

It seems a lot of the people who voted for Trump were very angry and frustrated. People do not think rationally when they are angry and frustrated, and Trump made sure to keep them angry and frustrated right up to election night.

There was also a large undercurrent of fear as well, and there are two ways to deal with that kind of anger and fear:

“I need to have power over others so they can’t do anything to anger or frighten me”

or

“I need to help others so they won’t give me cause to be angry or fearful”

Sadly, in this last election more people who voted chose the former over the latter.

It is difficult to reason with someone who is angry, frustrated, and afraid – they don’t generally react with thought but instead with emotion. And since emotion is close buddies with our “fight or flight” response, someone who reacts with their emotions will have essentially just two responses: fight or flight. They will act (or in this case, vote) in a way that gives them power to “fight” (i.e., punish or control) whatever frightens and angers them – or they will choose “flight,” which means either running away (or ignoring) or pushing away what angers and frightens them.

This all might seem quite reasonable until you remember that what angers and frightens these people is… other people. Groups of people who are different, who look different or act different or think different. And this means that the emotions of these angry and frustrated and fearful people made them choose a course of action that will punish, control, and push away people just because they are different.

Anger, fear, and politics are a terrible combination. It is all to easy to rationalize terrible behavior and poor decisions when you’re angry and afraid.

“I had to shoot that person; he was coming right for me!”

“We have to get rid of all people like them, they could all be murderers!”

I’m the one who needs a job, not you!”

Rationalizations like this are bad enough at the personal level, but when they get translated into policy or enshrined in law, it becomes much, much worse. An individual can move past their fear and re-think their decisions and change their behavior fairly easily and quickly, but changing public policy and law can take ages – if it ever happens at all.

It’s often been said you shouldn’t make important decisions when you’re angry, and electing a president is one of the most important decisions a country can make – yet we seem to have made this decision quite rashly and while decidedly angry. That this will turn out to have been a terrible mistake seems a foregone conclusion.

All we can do now is try to calm down now that the election is over and put aside the anger & fear we felt and consider our situation carefully. We can still the frustrated fervor that has infected our politics from top to bottom and approach our problems with reason and compassion. It will take effort, certainly, but we cannot sustain this level of anger and fear forever.

The sooner we do this, the better – and the less of an impact this hasty mistake will have on ourselves, our country, our world, and all those future generations that will follow us and judge our actions.

On Endings & Beginnings

My God, what have we done?

Well, it happened. America voted a racist, misogynistic, fear-mongering idiot as its chief executive, head of state, and commander-in-chief. This is arguably the first President elected entirely out of spite.

He campaigned on fear and hate and it worked – and what do you think that says about us? It says that we are a bunch of fearful, small-minded, and angry people, and now we have to put up with the consequences of our choices.

We put so much emphasis on “winning” that we chose our candidates and elected someone based on whether we thought they could win, rather than if we thought they were actually going to be good at their job.

If we don’t want this to be the start of an ending that has been a long time coming – a long, slow decline that has now come to a precipice – we need to stop being so concerned about “winning” (or preventing someone else from “winning”) and start being more concerned about “doing well.” From how we choose candidates to how we compromise on differences of opinion, it’s not about winning and losing, it’s about doing good and avoiding the most harm.

I suspect this is going to be very difficult – change always is – especially with all the momentum we’ve built up as of late. “Cooler heads prevail” is a nice thing to say but it rarely happens in practice. Yet we must do it, or else that same momentum will take us right over that precipice, and future historians will look back to this time and say “2016 marked the beginning of the end.”

Our divisiveness has allowed this to happen, has made it virtually inevitable, and continuing to be this divisive can lead to only one conclusion, and that is that nobody wins, and everybody loses. We must stop this, we must stop being so divisive, being so afraid of ourselves that we can’t work together.

United we stand; divided… well, you know the rest.

We Don’t Know How to Handle Terrorism

Found this very insightful quote over on Slashdot, and I couldn’t agree more:

“Countries like the UK and Israel have experience with terrorism, and they’ve developed reasonably sane ways of handling it. Just to be clear, I’m not praising the fact that they stole land from the Irish and the Palestinians — but at least they don’t act like total idiots when someone sets off a bomb. The US, on the other hand, responded to 9/11 by running around like a chicken with its head cut off. We shot ourselves in the foot in ways that were far worse than any of the damage done by the 9/11 hijackers, including two wars and an all-out assault on our own civil liberties. Compared to that kind of national self-mutilation, I can’t really take it too seriously when I’m not allowed to bring a full-size shampoo bottle on an airplane — but it certainly is an example of the same idiocy, just on a smaller scale.”

As elections are coming up here in the US again soon, it’s worth remembering things like this and keeping it in mind when you are choosing who gets your vote.

The Problems

Found this over on a Slashdot story about how attacks on voting machines are practical (despite arguments to the contrary):

The problem is our elections are supposed to be transparent by law.
The problem is our elections are supposed to have public oversight.
The problem is a private company can not provide public oversight.
The problem is electronic vote tabulation devices use invisible signals which no human (especially a poll watcher) can see.
The problem is China or North Korea could decide our elections and we wouldn’t know.
The problem is there is no electronic vote tabulation device (or electronic vote registration poll book device) which can be validated with public oversight.
The problem is without public oversight, no election can be validated.
The problem is if our elections can not be validated, we can not hold our representatives responsible.
The problem is if our representatives can not be held responsible, they tend to ignore the rule of law.
The problem is if our representatives ignore the rule of law, they tend to ignore protecting the US Constitution against all enemies.
The problem is when the US Constitution is ignored, we no longer live in a Constitutional Republic.
The problem is when we no longer live in a Constitutional Republic, we slip into fascism.
The problem is we have slipped into fascism.
The problem is ignorance is no longer an excuse for corruption.

It was, of course, posted Anonymously… but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

The Lesser of two Evils is Still Evil

It’s an all-to common complaint, no doubt heard by everyone sooner or later. The complaint of a disinterested voter, saying that they don’t really like either of the candidates from the two major parties, but that they’re voting for one or the other because “they are the lesser of two evils.”

Maybe you’ve even had this thought yourself. I know it crossed my mind when I was younger. But before you commit yourself on Election day, consider this: the lesser of two evils is still evil. So why not take a principled stand and vote for a 3rd party candidate?

There’s really no reason not to – after all, if your reasoning has let you pick one candidate because they’re “not as bad” as the other one, then certainly one of the 3rd party candiates would be even less “bad” by that same reasoning. And wouldn’t it be nice to have some change for once?

I can hear your retorts already: “but voting for a 3rd party candidate is a waste of my vote!” Hogswash. A principled vote is never a wasted vote, for one thing, and need I remind you that the President is not chosen by popular vote? Go read up on how the Electoral College works and then see how you feel.

Of course, some people will argue that they don’t want “the other guy” to win – which tells me that they’re in a state that is pretty much assumed to give their Electoral College votes to one particular candidate. And sure, if your state instead gives its votes to a 3rd party candidate, that might mean one less Electoral College vote for one of the main candidates – which might be enough to give the lead to “the other guy.” It’s a possibility, for sure.

But consider this – this race is pretty close by all accounts. So the candidates need every vote they can get. But – and this is the important part – they need a majority to win. Not just the most votes out of all candidates, but more than 50% of all Electoral College votes. Just a few states giving their votes to 3rd party candidates – or even just one big state – could potentially rob both candidates of the necessary votes to win a majority.

Can you imagine the signal that would send to politicians everywhere in this country? Sure, the 3rd party candidate wouldn’t probably “win” (without a majority, the decision gets passed to the House of Representatives), but it would certainly shake things up a bit! It would break the strangle hold the two main parties of this country have on our government – bring a little “fresh air” into the process, so to speak. No longer could politicians just assume that all they have to do is beat “the other guy” – they’d have to work harder to keep their jobs, and that means they’d listen more to their constituents.

Just the idea of a little bit of a shake-up on that level gives me goose-bumps. And the best part is that it all starts with your vote. If you weren’t planning on voting (shame on you!), think about getting out there and voting – not for who you think has the best chance of winning, but for who you really want to win. In many places, a few extra votes could make all the difference.

That would be real change. So think about that before you make up your mind who you’re going to vote for in this election – and if you know someone who’s made the “lesser of two evils” argument before – maybe pass this on to them, and maybe they’ll join you in a principled vote. When a lot of people make principled votes, it’s no longer just principled – it’s real change. And isn’t that what we need right now?