Monday, November 25, 2013

Senate Filibuster Rule Change, NOT Surprising

It’s a no brainer.  I saw it coming, and I’m just a simple Main Street American.

The Republicans are hopping mad, with an attitude that basically says, “Now you’ve really done it!  Just you wait, you’ll get yours!  Wait until we’re in control, then you’ll see.  You’re going to be sorry for this.”  What is irksome is that they act as if they themselves are completely innocent; as if they are doves come straight from heaven itself.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

They accuse the president of power grabbing by this Filibuster Rule change.  Yet, it seems to me that much of the Republican action, in both Congress and the Senate, have been nothing but about power maneuvers—asserting power, blocking power, and manipulating power.  Of course, the democrats are no less guilty, or are they?  It is the Republicans who have way overused the Filibuster that drove the Democrats to finally say, “Enough!”  It often seems as if the Republicans would have only their way or no way at all—remember they were the ones willing to shut down the government to get their way and it didn’t work.

Of course, government is always about power.  Fact is, throughout history, be it Alexander’s Greece or Caesar’s Rome or the Czar’s Russia or Queen Victoria’s British Empire, whatever the form of government, it always comes down to a question of power—the power to rule, to lead and command, to decide the fate of a nation and its people—not to mention the power to tax, to accumulate and spend an empire’s wealth or to keep it in the hands of a selective and privileged few.

Good ole Abe Lincoln told us that our government is “For the people, by the people, and of the people?”  Distributed power, shared power, people power.  It sounds nice, even inspiring; it makes one feel proud to be an American.  But in today’s context they sound more and more like fine sounding words with no substance—a taste of honey on one’s tongue, going sour in one’s stomach—wishful and idealistic in the face of hard reality.

Abraham Lincoln referred to the American system of self-government as a Great Experiment, especially under the shadow of the Civil War.  Would it work?  Will it stand the test of time in the face of severe division and disagreement?  After the North won the Civil War, we thought the Union had been saved.  It survived.  The question is: Will it continue to survive?

Houston Washington, we have a problem!”  Everybody—Left, Right, and Moderates alike—everybody agrees that Washington is extremely dysfunctional today.  Is that a nice way of saying that our precious system of self-government – for the people, by the people, and of the people – is broken?  And if it is broken, can it be fixed.  And if it is fixable, how do we go about fixing it?

Yes, this is the real world.  Reality bites.  Our ideals seem to be losing ground in the face of Reality, and losing it fast.  For example, we are fast becoming a government of power and wealth—for the wealthy, by the wealthy and of the wealthy.  And the wealthy will take and take, and give little in return.  Am I being too hard on the wealthy/powerful?  Consider the last economic financial crisis that Wall Street and the Bankers got us into, from which our nation is still trying to recover.  The very people that were the cause and source of our economic downturn are the ones that walked away form it Scott Free, unscathed, and with profit in pocket.

Yes, in my humble opinion, our government IS in trouble, and it is about power.  But the power plays and power grabbing that is going on, runs much deeper than a mere Filibuster rule-change reflects.  I believe that this change is a symptom of a much deeper sickness within our present government system.

Republicans overused the Filibuster.  That’s a fact.  The Democrats have now made a counter move.  So, watch and see.  The Republicans have the next move.  No doubt, they will be just as culpable, if not more so.  Yes, let us wait and see.  Washington is ill, feverish even.  And apparently there is no cure, no medicinal balm from Gilead to ease it back to health.  All we can do now is sit and wait, watch and pray for the fever to break and hope that the body’s temperature will return to normal.  Time will tell.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Obama Care-Less?

The official term for “Obama Care” is the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” or “The Affordable Care Act.”  Early on, Obama’s opponents called it Obama Care and the name stuck.  It was meant to be demeaning, to minimize its value.

As to its deployment, no one is happy about its initial startup.  It’s been a mess.  What’s worse is that many who stand to pay more, and/or will lose their present individual health care plans in the face of Obama Care’s implementation, are angry and upset about it.

There are actually two issues with regard to Obama Care.  The first is one of substance and intent.  Obama Care was/is meant to make health care more affordable and obtainable to the many who, under our present insurance health care system, are otherwise unable to obtain adequate health care coverage (as for example because of prohibitive pre-existing conditions).  And, it intended to do this by spreading the cost around more equitably.   It’s a simple idea.  However, introducing structural and procedural changes to an already existing complex health care system is far from simple and inevitably cumbersome.

Opponents obviously reject the substance and intent of Obama Care.  Apparently they like the present health care system as it is, for their only aim seems to be that of destroying Obama Care without offering any constructive alternative in its place.

The second issue is its implementation and application, getting Obama Care up and running.  As we all know, getting it going has been a disaster.  So much so, that even those who supported the idea of Obama Care in principle are ready to throw in the towel and change it at a substance level.  Obama Care is definitely in trouble.

But who cares?  Or, why should we care?

Well, for decades now, we Americans have seen the cost of health care rise and rise and rise, far outpacing any normal cost of living and/or inflationary increases in our economy over the same period of time.  More and more average Americans were seeing their health care benefits dwindle and/or its cost rise beyond affordability.  Many more were becoming caught in the net of insurance carrier’s restrictions and prohibitions.

Thus, it wasn’t too long ago that we Americans (Democrats as well as Republicans) sent a message to Washington: “Our health care system is broken and we want it fixed!”  We wanted something better, something more accessible, and something more equitable in terms of coverage and availability and service.  Have we lost sight of this need and desire of ours?

Obama Care came along because Obama heard and listened, and tried to do what was right and best for all Americans respecting our national health care system—considering political, economic, and social realities.  The question is, do we still care?  What do we really want?

Do you agree or disagree with the following:

We want health care coverage and health care services to be obtainable and affordable for all Americans, not just for a privileged well to do few.

We want the cost of health care coverage and its services to be fairly distributed and justly administered and to stay well within normal annual cost of living increases.

We want freedom and flexibility—to choose our own doctors.  And we want the power to determine health care needs to stay in the hands of medical doctors, rather than transferred over to health insurance company bureaucrats.

We want our health care system to be straightforward, just and fair, convenient and easy to use, and beneficial for all.

Is this not what we want, what we care about?

If Obama Care is not a step in the right direction, what is, what will be, and how and when will we take the necessary steps to get where we want to be, in terms of quality health care provision for all Americans?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rule of Law + Law of Love = Tough Love

We’ve all heard about “Tough Love,” but why does love have to get tough, what is it?

All healthy relationships require two things: (1) boundaries or limitations, that is, a certain amount of respect for imposed rules and authority, and the acceptance of the external discipline and control that comes with it, out of respect for the other—Law.  And, (2) freedom to BE, independence from external control or excessive rules and regulations and overreaching power and authority over one’s self, so as to become internally whole, personally assertive, and individually complete, out of respect for one’s self—Love.

The two relational dynamics, Law and Love, are interconnected.  One cannot have a healthy sense of freedom from the other, to assert one’s individual and independent Self, without an adequate acceptance of boundaries and limitations from others.  Nor can one freely and healthily respect and submit to a set of external rules and its concomitant authority, without having the freedom to assert one’s individuality and the personal responsibility that comes with it.

These two interconnecting principles, what I’m calling the Law of love and the Rule of Law, seem to be at odds with each other.  How so?

The Law of Love persistently seems to say, forgive and forget, whatever the wrong, hurt, or damage done, give the Loved One a second, third, fourth chance, ad-infinitum.  This is often demonstrated in a mother’s love.  The only one willing to protect and defend an apparently incorrigible criminal is his/her mother, pleading and begging society to be lenient, to have mercy, to consider extenuating circumstances, etc.  A loving mother will ignore the immensity of her child’s crime and turn a willful blindness to the deep and penetrating hurt and offense her criminal child has caused to others.  Love forgives all and excuses everything, even the worst offenses, basically wants to sidestep the Law.

On the other hand, the Rule of Law is cold, precise, deliberate and unrelenting.  It is exact and calculating, demanding swift and immediate retribution when boundaries are crossed and laws are broken.  It seeks absolute obedience, compliance to the letter of the law, and expects unquestioned submission to its authority.  And if a law is broken or its authority challenged, it will seek complete and unmitigated vengeance in payment for a wrong done, period.  It wants nothing to do with Love (which may be willing to forgive and forget).

The irony is that both extremes elicit the same negative result in personal character development.  Love without enforced discipline results in the Loved One accepting little or no personal responsibility or accountability, free to do what he/she wants, there is a move toward license, unable to exert self-restraint, personal behavior seems to display an ignorance of ethical and moral limits, resulting in a kind of careless lawlessness—having no care or respect for rule and authority of any kind.

Likewise, authoritarian legalism, with its heavy handed application of the Law, has an oppressively cold attitude towards its subject, and provides little room for the internal growth of the person under its power.  Demanding absolute conformity and obedience to every rule it decrees, and without question, there is no ability for the Submissive One to grow in individual responsibility, no room for development in the area self-regulation and no allowance for personal ownership of self-determination within appropriate limits and boundaries.

Thus, parents who over emphasize loving their children—at the expense of discipline, failing to allow consequences or to hold their children responsible for their actions—raise children who tend to have little self-control, who tend to avoid personal ownership for the consequences of their actions, and tend to escape accountability to others.

On the other hand, parents who exaggerate discipline and authority over their children at the expense of demonstrating any love and respect to their children, while demanding absolute conformity and obedience from them, raise children that either become submissively dependent and subservient, in other words raise children who become weak and vacuous as individuals.  Or, find that their children will violently rebel and/or flee from the clutches of their control the first chance they get.

Tough Love is the healthy balance between the Rule of Law and the Law of Love.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When Judging Others is Wrong

Quit judging me!  You’re so judgmental!  Judge not, lest you be judged!

These are defensive statements, often told to someone that we feel has become too critical and judgmental of us.

None of us like being judged by others.  It is offensive and we are quite taken aback by anyone who would presume to stand as judge over us.  In short, we extremely dislike judgmental people.  But we encounter such all the time.  Indeed, we are often guilty of the same—if we are truly honest with ourselves.

To be clear, we must first note that there is a significant difference between work-related judgment and the judgment of one’s person.  A common phrase for work-related judgment is called “being evaluated.”

When one is judged for one’s work, one’s skills and actions are being evaluated for quality results, in light of pre-set standards and expected outcomes.  Results are measured against desired ends or goals.  Judgment at this level is a good thing.  For it helps us to learn and to see where we need skill improvement or knowledge build-up, not to mention the obvious—to determine whether or not we are successfully producing the intended results that we set out to accomplish in the first place.  All of us—whatever work, profession, or job/task we have embraced—do well to accept judgment of this kind.

Personal judgment, on the other hand, has an altogether different focus.  Whereas evaluative judgment is focused outwardly, on one’s actions, personal judgment is inwardly focused, judging one’s personhood so as to determine one’s personal value; it is the sizing up of one’s character and worth as a person, and is often coupled with the judgment of one’s motives behind one’s action—that is, also judging one’s reason (justification) for being and reason for doing.  This is where we are most offended and become most fearful of other’s judgment of us.

Why do we fear this level of personal judgment?  Well, for one, we are already insecure and unsure of ourselves in this area.  That is, somehow all of us seem to have a nagging suspicion that we really don’t “make the grade” when it comes to justifying our reason for being: are we really worthy, do we really have personal value—do I have the right to take up space on this planet earth as compared to others—am I significant, important, needed and wanted?

Another reason why we fear this level of personal judgment is the fact that most of us can think of someone or some group or other, who would, if given the chance, jump at the opportunity to denounce us as invaluable and unworthy and would even like to erase us off the face of this planet.  (You don’t think so?  If you are an American, how do you interpret radical extremists who chant “Death to America”?  Or how about those who show disdain to someone simply because they have the wrong skin color or speak the wrong language, etc., etc.)

A third reason we fear this kind of judgment is that we are familiar with it in ourselves, often guilty of doing the same to others, easily ignoring or dismissing those we deem inferior to us, those for whom we have no personal sympathy care or concern.  In short, we are fellow participants and we know what it means.  We just don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.

We also fear this kind of judgment because it is a means of attack, a deliberate attempt to make us feel small and little.  The one exercising such judgment over us usually wants to drive home the idea of our insignificance in thick palpable terms.  And if done so effectively enough, others may agree and also turn against us.

Personal judgment is, more often than not, subjective and relationally driven.  That is, if the relationship is good between you and the one doing the judging, you’re not so worried, you relax and are confident that you will not be cruelly judged and unfairly criticized.  On the other hand, if the relationship is bad, then your defenses are up and your personal radar is working overtime to detect any sign of biased, subjective, and unjust criticism or denouncement of you, which you are sure will come.

In the end, who, if anyone, has the right to determine our worth?  Who shall declare me a good or a bad person, a valuable or a worthless person?  Who are you, who is she, him, who are they to judge me as a person?  What right does anyone have to judge me at such a level?  Yet, at some point, at some time in our life, we will have to come face to face with this kind of final judgment, if you will, of our lives: Did we live well, do well; did our lives mean very much.  Did we have value and add value to others? 

In effect, only God is capable of that kind of judgment—to handle it fairly, justly, and without personal bias.  Perhaps it is in this light that Jesus says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  [Matthew 7:1-2]