Thursday, January 21, 2016

What World Am I Living In?


I sometimes think I must be living in some alternate reality than some of my conservative friends and, heaven forbid, the people that are supporting Donald Trump.  The way some conservative friends (many of whom I love and respect) talk, you’d think the Obama administration was leading us into Armageddon.  I get it.  Well, not really, but I get that when you’re on one side of the political spectrum and the other side has a lot of power that things don’t feel too awesome.  The eight years under George W. Bush really made me feel our country was going in a bad direction, so I get that people who liked that direction think Obama and his administration are leading us completely the wrong way from where they want to go.

I’m just one guy with one perspective, and as someone who has liked the direction we’ve gone since Barack Obama became President, it’s hard for me to fully understand what he’s done that has made conservatives so convinced that it will pretty much be the Apocalypse if another Democrat is elected President and continues his policies.

And the thing is, you can read or view anything that supports your view, whether you are conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between.  The media spins everything and depending on what your news sources are, you can believe anything that supports your views.  I am as guilty of this on the liberal side as my Fox-loving friends are on the conservative side.  I try, actually, to read and view all sides of an issue so that I can be better informed and, hopefully, understand the truths and nuances they might be buried beneath all the hype and mud-slinging.  I am fully aware that MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post, for example, are just as skewed to a liberal point-of-view as Fox News, the Drudge Report, the New York Post, and the National Review, for example, are skewed to the conservative side.  I know, for example, if someone sends me a link to the Daily Kos that I may have to take it with a grain of salt due to its heavy liberal slant just as much as I would do the same with with its conservative slant.

So I get that other people in this country have an entirely different perspective about what is going on in this country and I also understand that people are having a very different experience with this administration and its policies than I am.  But I’m doing quite well under this president and because I am it’s hard for me to relate to those who think we’re living under some Nazi dictatorship.  I have a really good job, my home value has increased, I have great health insurance, I’m legally married to my husband, I think the USA has a better reputation with other countries than we did under the Bush administration, Obama has tried to keep this country out of war, my gay friends can serve openly in the military, Osama bin Laden is out of our lives (though, admittedly, we are still dealing with groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda), his administration has tried to focus on green initiatives, which is important to me, he's tried to help the middle class, of which I am a member, etc.

When we were in the throes of the recession our house was underwater, the company I was working for was making drastic cuts and I wasn’t making much money, and I wasn’t legally married to my husband, although I very much wanted to be.  So my life has improved a lot during this administration.  Others’ lives have improved as well.  A dear friend of mine who has dealt with chronic illness and a lack of health insurance due to insurance companies’ unwillingness to insure him wrote this on his Facebook page the other day: “It is also because of [Obama] that I have been able to provide for my family for the past 5 years. His work has afforded my family to live so I thank him in so many different ways. Thank you to the Obamas for all they have done and all they might continue to do. We truly need more men and women like them in this world.”  I know others who feel the same.

Granted, I know other lives are not so great under this administration.  Some people’s health premiums have skyrocketed under Obamacare and, contrary to Obama’s promise that you could keep your same doctor under his plan, that has not always proved to be true.  People are still struggling economically and do not see that the economy has gotten better the way it seems to have improved for people like me.  People employed in the oil industry, for example, aren’t doing well at all. Stocks have gone down in many companies, including Apple, Disney, and Walmart, the latter which has had to close many stores (but don’t get me started on Walmart – that’s a whole separate post about what a terrible company I think they are and how much of their downfall is due to their own practices – still, I understand people are losing jobs, and the economy is still struggling in some areas).  Many homes are still in foreclosure (although my neighborhood is nowhere near what it was 6 years ago).  People are worried Obama is trying to take away their guns (and, by the way, he’s not).  Many religious people feel the country is in moral decay and that their rights are being trampled on.  People are afraid of ISIS and undocumented immigrants and worry that Obama’s administration has made our country less secure.  So I get that everyone isn’t happy like I am.

But I am happy and I am much more optimistic that things will continue to be good for me under someone like Bernie Sanders of Hillary Clinton (or even Martin O’Malley) than they would under someone like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, or, heaven forbid, Donald Trump.

I don’t even relate to anyone in the Republican batch of presidential candidates this cycle.  I actually quite liked John McCain when he ran (until he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, and then he lost me because I couldn’t stand the idea of her being just a heartbeat away from the presidency).  I didn’t care too much for Mitt Romney, but at least he seemed sane.  But this current clown car of candidates I just can’t quite get on board with.  Ironically, two of my least favorite candidates, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, are currently leading in the polls.  Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum (and withdrawn candidates Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry) I can’t (couldn’t) stand.  Ben Carson seems like a nice enough fellow (although some of his ideas and beliefs seem a little out there to me), but he is not presidential material, in my opinion.  Rand Paul I have no strong opinion towards.  I admire him fighting for what he believes in, but it’s not what I believe in.  Jeb Bush, who’s floundering terribly right now, seems almost reasonable to me; I almost feel sorry for the guy.  But I also don’t agree with the policies he supports, so I wouldn’t vote for him anyway (but who could have imagined 8 years ago that I would be so sympathetic to a Bush?).  I actually think Marco Rubio would be a good president and would be a strong leader; he just happens to support ideas I disagree with, so I can’t see myself voting for him.  I actually like Chris Christie and John Kasich as people and if you put a gun to my head I could probably vote for them, but when I see the three candidates on the Democratic side there’s just no contest for me.  Ted Cruz is too extreme for my tests and has shown himself to be too uncompromising for my taste.  He’s way too right-wing for me.  I admire that he wants to fight for the values he believes in, but he’s got super tunnel-vision, in my opinion.

And Donald Trump.  Good gravy, what can I say about this guy?  When he first was running, it seemed like a big joke (and maybe it still is – I wonder if Trump really believes half the stuff he says of if he’s just pandering to his base).  But who could have guessed he’d do so well in the polls?  Certainly the other Republican candidates didn’t.  I’m sure Jeb Bush just watches, slack-jawed, as Trump continues to trounce him in the polls and wonders what the hell the Americans who support Trump are thinking.  I know I do.

I think the man is an ass.  I think his rhetoric is very anti-American and dangerous, but he seems to be riling up a large swath of racist Americans.  I always think comparing people to Hitler is very hyperbolic, but some of Trump’s behavior reminds me of Hitler.  His talk of building walls to keep Mexicans out and of banning Muslims from this country strikes me as the very kind of rhetoric Hitler used to eradicate Jews and other so-called “undesirables” from German society.  When I was a kid I wondered how someone like Hitler even came to power.  Didn't the people see what a monster he would become.  And then I look at somebody like Trump and think, "Oh, it's very subtle."  Not that Trump himself is subtle (and nor was Hitler), but that people want to find someone to blame for their troubles (the Jews, the blacks, the Muslims, the Mexicans, etc.) and when a leader riles those people up, watch out!

Now I'm not saying Trump is in the same league as Hitler; I'm just saying I think he's dangerous.  I think he preys upon and exploits people's fears, and maybe that's my problems with a lot of the candidates in the Republican race for president (or maybe with the Republican party, in general): I think fear is a great motivator they use: fear of the next terrorist attack, fear that if we don't go to war our enemies will be out of control, fear that gay marriage will lead to the downfall of society, fear that Obama's trying to steal all your guns, fear that you need those guns because somebody is going to attack you, fear that your religious beliefs are being trampled, fear that the immigrants are stealing your jobs and invading your country, etc.  And I'm not implying that those fears aren't always legitimate.  Yeah, our enemies do attack and will continue to attack us; yeah, having a gun might protect you; yeah, some immigrants are a burden to the country, etc., but I feel things get so generalized at times - ALL your 2nd Amendment rights are being taken away; ALL immigrants are bad; ALL socialist programs are bad - and I don't think that's true.

I also find some of these Republican leaders so hypocritical (and, believe you me, I'm not saying Democratic leaders aren't hypocrites as well (I think Hillary can be a hypocrite on certain issues, for example).  I mean, you're pro-life when it comes to abortions, but you won't lift a finger when it comes to all these gun deaths.  So those lives don't matter?  Those kids that were killed in Newtown, Connecticut aren't worth at least trying to do something to change the gun culture in this country?  You don't think the government should be involved in marriage when two people of the same sex want to get married but the government can totally be in your business when it comes to a woman's reproductive rights?  You worry about your religious rights being trampled if your a Christian, but maybe it doesn't apply so much if your a Muslim or an atheist?  If Bill Clinton's having a sexual peccadillo with Monica Lewinsky, he's not fit for office while, you, Newt Gingrich, are having an affair yourself while his impeachment hearing is going on, and you somehow hold some moral high ground as Speaker of the House?  You blame Democrats for overspending yet you didn't mind so much spending billions on a war that was built on misinformation, right?  You say we should concentrate more on mental health issues than gun control when it comes to active shooters, but you won't support a health care system that might better help those people be able to afford good health care.  In fact, you continually try to repeal the Affordable Care Act instead of trying to improve it or, heaven forbid, even come up with better alternative.  I just find it all so frustrating.

As for Donald, who is perhaps an anomaly in the party in which he is choosing to run (but still espouses beliefs and tactics that many in the Republican party feed on), I find him to be extremely arrogant, rude, sexist, racist, his diplomatic relations are abominable, and so far has not offered any feasible or specific policy plans.  He keeps talking about “making America great again,” but I think his behavior and rhetoric is drawing out the kind of element that makes America look terrible and, ultimately, will make America terrible.  I thought George W. Bush was an awful president, but Donald Trump would beat him in that contest.  Even Dick Cheney came out against him, and when Dick Cheney is the voice of reason, you know there is seriously something wrong with Donald Trump.

And now he has the endorsement of that crazy loon, Sarah Palin, who, I'm sorry, is dumb as a rock.  I watched her stump speech for him and was both dumbfounded and physically ill.  I kept saying out loud, "I can't.  I. Can't."  These two buffoons together is beyond my comprehension.  And the fact that people are falling all over themselves to support these two is incomprehensible to me.  That woman can't even put together a coherent sentence.  She talked about "squirmishes," and I yelled, "It's skirmish, you idiot!" but maybe "squirmish" was appropriate because "squirm-ish" was exactly how I was feeling listening to her ramblings while Trump nodded and smiled.

Republican party leaders and candidates are falling all over themselves trying to figure out what to do because none of them want Trump to be the nominee because they don’t think he can win against Hillary Clinton, the presumed eventual Democratic nominee (although Bernie Sanders, who I quite like, looks like he may just give her a run for her money).  I kind of hope Trump doesn't get the nomination and runs as a third party candidate because that would be disastrous for the Republicans because he would surely split the vote. 

Frankly, I still don’t think Trump will win the nomination nor do I think he can win, but I also I didn’t ever expect him to get this far, which frankly, has been disconcerting. 

I think I get what people see in Trump (or Ben Carson or Bernie Sanders on the other side and Ted Cruz, to a point).  People like that these people aren’t afraid to speak their mind and that they’re unfiltered and, especially in Trump’s case, don’t spout a bunch of talking points, but just speak their mind.  But Trump is unbelievable to me.  I really think, “Is there anything this guy can do that will turn his base off?”  I’m beginning to believe not.  People are sick of the establishment and like that Trump says exactly what’s on his mind (and what’s probably on their minds) and, political correctness be damned, he’s going to say it.  I find him repugnant.  I truly hope he’s just playing a huge joke on the American people, but if this man somehow becomes president, we are in trouble.

A friend of mine, a friend a like; a woman who’s very religious, wrote recently on her Facebook page in response to some racist propaganda she received, “This is why we can't allow the refugees in. This scares me! It's hard enough to trust people now as it is but if this is what we're facing then we're in big trouble!” and posted a meme that said, “One nation under God, not Allah.  Share if you agree,” and I was stunned.  I thought, “Does she really believe that the majority of those Syrian refugees she referred to are just poor civilians trying to escape their war-torn homeland or that the Allah those Muslims pray to is not as dear to them as the Christian-based God she prays to (or that they’re not one and the same God)?”  And I thought, “This kind of rhetoric is exactly what people like Trump are inciting in people.”  I found it ironic that this same friend also quoted Martin Luther King: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

Another friend, one I like less and respect less than the aforementioned friend, put a meme on her Facebook wall that said, “If a shooting by a weirdo with a bad haircut is cause for banning Confederate flags, removing statues of Confederate soldiers and erasing southern history then the shooting by Muslims in San Bernardino is cause for banning the hijab, Muslim symbols and all mosques on American soil, right?  Fair is fair.”  And I know there are people, perhaps even people reading this right now, that agree with these sentiments.  Lots of people all over America agree with these sentiments.  I can’t imagine people like Trump would have the groundswell of support they do without such people with such sentiments. 

Did you see the silent Muslim woman protester kicked out of a Trump rally?  It wasn’t the getting kicked out part that bothered me so much, but the hate and anger that was spewing from the mouths of some of Trump’s supporters.  It is vile to me.

I’ve watched all the debates this election cycle, both Republican and Democratic.  I have to say that the cordiality Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have shown one another, even when they disagree on policy points is such a stark contrasr to the name-calling I see from someone like Trump.  It just shows a real lack of maturity to me.

Now on the Democrat side, I’ve always liked Hillary Clinton, but I’d be a fool if I didn’t say that she can be very disingenuous, sometimes dishonest, and certainly will say whatever she needs to to get elected.  She can be a hypocrite on certain issues.  I think she’s overly-ambitious.  Still, I agree with many of the policies she supports and I’d certainly vote for her over any of the Republican candidates simply because she would take the country at least in a similar direction as Obama (and, as I stated at the beginning of this post, I’ve been quite content under his leadership).

Martin O’Malley.  Poor guy, trying to remain relevant but getting lost beneath all the Sanders/Clinton media hype.  I like him.  I think he’d do a decent job, but he’s not going to win the nomination.

I quite like Bernie Sanders.  I like his ideas and philosophies overall, although I don’t agree with him on everything, and I do wonder how we really will pay for all the big dreams he has for this country.  I also think, regardless of his current popularity, that it will be hard for a self-avowed Democratic Socialist to get elected, and if the Republicans in Congress who have fought against Obama thought he was bad, I can’t imagine what they will think of Sanders.  If Congress is controlled by Republicans, good luck getting any of those policy ideas turned into laws, Bernie.  Those Republicans will fight you tooth and nail.  Still, I admire his convictions and how consistent he’s been throughout his political career.

No matter who the eventual nominees are for President on both the Republican and Democratic tickets, it is already clear at this point that I will be voting for the Democratic nominee, whomever it ends up being. 

It's certainly turning out to be an interesting race to the White House.  Time will tell.  I just hope it's a result I like.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glad To Have Lost The Lottery

            I have only played the lottery twice in my life.  The first was many years ago when I lived in Bakersfield, California.  My work was right next to a convenience store and being from Utah, I had never played the lottery before.  On a lark I bought a ticket and didn’t win anything.

I am not a gambler.  I don’t like taking risks.  I like sure things, and I certainly don’t like flushing my money down the toilet, which is what gambling is to me.  When in Vegas I rarely gamble, and when I do I have a specified amount of money (no more than $5) and play only for fun.  The very few times I have played, I always felt guilty for wasting my money.  If I ever get ahead, I usually stop immediately (hey, $5.36 is 36ȼ more than I had when I started.

The second time I played the lottery was this past Wednesday.  Even though I knew the odds of winning the Powerball were worse than getting hit by an asteroid, winning an Academy Award, or dying from any cause in the next 30 seconds, I thought it would be fun to play.  I spent very little on my ticket and, of course, had no expectation of winning (or even that any of my numbers would be chosen).  I actually did it as a bonding experience with my mother-in-law, who wanted to play.  And, after all, somebody has to win, right?

Image result for powerball 

As soon as I purchased the ticket, I knew I had made a mistake.  A feeling of dread actually filled my body.  I didn’t actually want to win.  Why, you ask?  After all, if you won $1.5 billion, which was what the jackpot was, you’d never have to worry about money again.  Even if you split that with other winners, you’d still have millions of dollars.

The thing is, people think money will solve all their problems.  It won’t.  If you aren’t happy now, winning the lottery isn’t going to bring you happiness.  Time and time again we hear stories of lottery winners who say their lives were ruined from winning the lottery.  You hear stories of people who win millions and then go bankrupt because of poor money management or bad investments.  I was watching a news story where they were asking various people what they would spend the money on if they won, and one guy in all seriousness said, “Hookers and cocaine,” the embarrassed reporter immediately withdrew from him because that, obviously, is not the kind of answer she was looking for.  But it brought up a good point for me: that guy is not happy.  If he’s trying to find happiness in drugs or meaningless sexual relationships, he is not happy.  Winning a billion dollars is not going to take away any pain or heartache he has in his life and chances are high that he will use that money to further bury himself in things that will not make him happy.

I read a statistic that Americans spent $70.15 billion on lottery tickets in 2014.  The majority of people who play the lottery are from below-average income households.  That means that many, if not most, people who play the lottery are spending the precious income they have on a venture that most likely will give them nothing back in return.  The poor spend more of their income on the lottery than rich people do and can afford it less.  And I’m assuming that if these people are so desperate to spend their precious income on a losing venture, they probably aren’t very happy with their current circumstances.  Winning a great deal of money can be life-changing, but it is not a recipe for happiness.

Now I actually am happy.  Would extra money be nice?  Sure.  But I also think of the problems that could come with winning such an exorbitant amount of money.  The scammers, the loss of anonymity, the friendships or relationships that could be wrecked by financial conflicts, the constant barrage of people and charities who want your help, but your inability to help everyone, the assumption that because you have a large sum of money you’ll be expected to pay for everything, the “friends” who come out of the woodwork suddenly cozying up to you because they know you have money, the dissatisfaction that comes from being able to buy practically anything you want without having to work for it, etc.

If I did get a large sum of money, I would want it to be an inheritance or gift that nobody knew about so that I could handle it in my own way, privately, without added eternal pressures.  I actually don’t think I’d change my lifestyle too much.  I’d continue to work, would probably drive the same car, wouldn’t make many lavish purchases; I might move to a nicer home or travel a little more and would want to donate to more causes that I believe in, but overall, if I had a lot of money, those around me probably wouldn’t know.  

I worry that Jonah, who likes to shop and buy nice things, would go a little overboard.  I would probably, unfortunately, be extremely tight with money, even if I had a large amount of it.  But I would want to help family members, such as my mother-in-law and my sister, who could really use it.  As I was talking to my mother-in-law about the lottery, I realized she would probably make a lot of foolish choices if she had access to that kind of money, but I do feel bad because you can tell money is a real concern for her.  Jonah already does so much to support her; we wish we could do more.

I remember many years ago my mom had these cassette tapes of this sales guru named Tom Hopkins.  

They were actually really good self-improvement tapes.  I remember him telling a story about someone who won a lottery or sweepstakes who lost all the money and making the case that if a person’s self-image does not equal their gains in life, they will lose them.  Something along those lines – he made the same case about people who get plastic surgery but still feel unattractive – because their self-image (what’s inside) is low, and no matter how much money they get or how much plastic surgery they get, until the inside problem is fixed nothing given to them externally will help.

I actually think I’d manage lottery winnings well, but I feel like winning a lot of many could also come with a lot of headaches.

                I was relieved when I didn’t win – and I didn’t win anything…except the knowledge that I don’t want to play the lottery again.