I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal and proud of that label. So, take my musings with a grain of salt.
Recently, I’ve been troubled by a segment of America continuing to support the former Occupant and his vision of the future for nation. As a retired judge, former prosecutor, historian, political scientist, and author, I believe the man has proven himself to be unqualified for public office. His rhetoric and actions during his presidency (and since his electoral defeat) have only solidified my perception. With that perspective in mind, I’d offer the following as a way to truly make American great again.
SUGGESTION ONE: READ THE NEWS
I’m not talking about scanning blogs or posts or headlines constantly appearing like freshly popped popcorn on the internet. I’m talking about subscribing to and reading your daily newspaper. It might be the printed version. Or it might be online. Or it might be, as my newspaper is, a hybrid. Whatever format fits your lifestyle is fine by me. But it’s critical, if we actually want to make America great again, that we support, read, and consider our daily newspapers. Without them (and they’re disappearing faster than moose in Minnesota) we’re left with local gossip and unverified rumors as our guides.
SUGGESTION TWO: WATCH AND/OR LISTEN TO LOCAL BROADCAST NEWS
Turn on your television (or, if in the car, the radio) and supplement the news your get from your local newspaper with actual, non-biased, reporting. This means avoiding MSNBC, CNN, Fox, NewsMax, or similar agenda-driven networks. On the radio, that’s a hard ask since much of Am radio is dominated by Right Wing Talk. I prefer PBS and Public Radio. Why? Not because there’s an elitist, Liberal bias to such outlets but because they drill deep into issues. And, nearly every night, I supplement public media reports with local television news as well as national news from the Big Three, ensuring that my bank of knowledge is wide and varied and based upon fact, not fiction.
SUGGESTION THREE: MEET CHALLENGES RAISED BY THOSE WHO DON’T AGREE WITH YOU
Recently, a friend asked me to watch The Fall of Minneapolis, a film concerning the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Five minutes into the two-hour YouTube video, I was ready to pull the plug. It was obvious the producer/director had a bias, one that, having spent considerable time following the trials concerning the involved officers, I knew was not based upon fact. But my wife, a mental health practitioner and a very wise lady, convinced me to watch the whole film before casting judgment. So, I did. It was a painful exercise, one filled with half-truths, undisclosed conflicts of interest, and bias. But in the end, she was right. If you’re asked to read something or watch something by a well-meaning friend, even if you’re suspicious of what’s behind the information, do so.
SUGGESTION FOUR: DIG DEEPER
In today’s social-media-driven world, it’s easy to see a headline, accept it as gospel, and move on. Don’t. I’ll confess that, from time to time, I log onto Huff Post or similar Liberal pages (or watch a short clip from “Morning Joe”). But I learned long ago that both sides of the political divide like to “gild the lily” as Grandmother Munger used to say. A number of times, I’ve read a headline on a Liberal media site, said to myself, That’s interesting, and opened the article only to find that the hook exaggerated the facts. My caution to you is, regardless of whether it’s a piece by Hannity or Scarborough (or anyone else) read, watch, or listen to the offering in its entirety. Don’t rely upon a headline, or worse yet, someone else’s interpretation of the information, for the basis of your opinion
SUGGESTION FIVE: READ BOOKS
No, not mine (unless you want to!) I’m talking about investing time, either listening to audio books, reading books on Kindle, or reading a book the old-fashioned way. And in this vein, here’s a thought. Before getting on the band wagon to ban a book in a school or library, why not actually read what’s been written before allowing censorship by a school board, a governor, or some other authority figure to ban someone’s words? One school district in Florida is, at present, considering dictionaries and encyclopedias as books worthy of such consideration. Really? That’s damn scary stuff to anyone, Liberal or Conservative. Maybe Webster’s including the term “transgender” somehow will magically turn Florida children into furries. I doubt it but I’d suggest that, before such things are accepted, citizens actually read and weigh in on books being scrutinized. And while I’m at it, did you know that half of our population (the female half) buys 80% of all the books sold in America? That’s unacceptable, men. We need to be reading, learning, and growing regardless of our age, gender, or political affiliation. So read, gosh darn it, and hopefully some of your reading includes history, biography, fiction, and poetry; not just the latest tomes from political pundits or celebrities.
SUGGESTION SIX: STOP WEARING POLITICAL SIGNS AS CLOTHING
In our home, there’s an old John Kerry for president ball cap hanging on a hook. No one wears it. Not out of shame or remorse but out of respect for others who might not view the world as our family does. I also have a “46” tee (in honor of Biden’s win) in my closet but only wear it around the house. Not out to dinner. Not to church (yes, some Liberals actually go to church!). Not to the local Y. Not to the mall. Same is true of my “Shut Up Man!” tee (my favorite Biden debate response). While I love Uncle Joe and want him to serve another four years, I don’t need to parade my support around town. My suggestion to my Conservative friends? If you own a MAGA hat, sweatshirt, or tee, maybe consider leaving it at home rather than trying to stir up an argument. Sure, I get there’s a right to free speech. I’m not saying anyone should be prevented from expressing their politics. I’m just saying wearing a political billboard in public (not talking about at campaign events here) isn’t helping us to talk things through. You won’t sway me with your tee shirt and I won’t sway you with my ball cap.
SUGGSTION SEVEN: TAKE DOWN THE FLAGS
Folks in my neck of the woods continued flying flags supporting the ex-President for months following January 6th. During the 2020 election, my wife and I spent time in an Arizona RV park surrounded by such flags. Did it make me feel uncomfortable to be in the minority? Sure. Did I object or start arguments with my fellow campers? Of course not. And after the election, after Biden won the popular vote and eclipsed the prior Occupant’s “electoral landslide” (his words, not mine), the next time we were in the park, the flags were gone. We can have a debate about the validity of the election results. We may disagree as to whether the events of January 6th, including the actions of the former president, constitute fomenting an insurrection. But I’d prefer letting juries decide such things. Continuing to fly MAGA flags after that terrible January day isn’t fostering productive dialogue. So, instead of flying such a flag at your cabin, from your boat, or on your pickup, take it down. Invite me over for coffee and conversation. But be prepared: I won’t allow you to rest on fiction; I’ll ask for the sources behind your positions and your views.
SUGGESTION EIGHT: WALK A MILE IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES
This is my biggest criticism of the former Occupant. He, in my humble view, is entirely devoid of empathy. He cannot, will not, place himself in the shoes of another. Christ encouraged us, throughout the Gospels, to do just that. You don’t have to be a Christian to accept that, before you cast the first stone, you should look at yourself. As an example, every one of us (with the exception of descendants of African slaves brought here against their wills; or Native Americans on whose land we now tread) are the progeny of immigrants. Yes, the southern border needs addressing. But before you decide how that should be accomplished, do the hard work of reading up and listening to and watching news reports covering the issue. Do the same for any issue you’re concerned about. Then, as Christ would, put yourself in the shoes of the people being affected by the issue.
SUGGESTION NINE: DO THE HARD WORK
In my vocation as a novelist/writer, I find myself relying upon the internet to research events, people, and places. As I do so, I’m constantly checking the source I’m consulting against other sources to ensure I’m not relying upon an article, movie, clip, or book based upon magical thinking or revisionist history. As an example, I’m currently working on a novel based upon my Slovenian heritage. In nutshell, I’m trying to understand what happened in the Balkans from 1918 through present day. In doing research, I must constantly guard against bias, be it Slovenian, Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian, as to what happened and why. To do so takes hard study and in-depth probing. It might seem like a lot to ask you to be similarly thorough with respect to your political views. But, if you’re casting a vote for a candidate based upon his or her views, upon his or her perceptions of reality, don’t you owe it to America (and to your kids and grandkids) to do the hard work and make sure what you’re being sold is the real deal and not a catch phrase based upon fiction or bias?
SUGGESTION TEN: BE INVOLVED AND VOTE
I may not like your position on an issue. I may not support your views of a candidate or a platform or where America is headed. That’s OK. Our Founders didn’t always agree with one another when they created, out of whole cloth, the Great American Experiment. But if you take the above to heart and choose to support or vote for a party or cause or candidate after you’ve done your best to ferret out truth from fiction, I can live with that.