Memories of My Grandparents

All of my grandparents have passed, and I don't know if I've ever recorded memories of them in writing. I was reminded to finish this piece by my aunt's Mother's Day post.


This weekend, I made a trip to western Massachusetts, where I had a board meeting at my alma mater for a fund I help to oversee. That visit was lovely and normal.

The trip there and back was extraordinary. It's been busy at work, but without any planning, I was able get there and back easily, driving past beautiful countryside in NY and PA, on well-maintained roads (so smooth I didn't realize how fast I was going at some point), and with a thousand choices about where to stop.

I had freedom. I have freedom.

It might sound normal, but in so many countries around the world, its not normal, whether because of dictators regulating travel or lack of resources or corruption that diverts those resources from public roads. That freedom is my Right, and everyone's right, but its not a broad experience across humanity and I will always be thankful for it.

Outside Media, Outside Spending

I am a Georgian, and I don't like how long its been since I lived full-time in my home state. I subscribe to and read the news from my hometown (Decatur just agreed to buy a lot of land from a historic children's home and got named as a "good suburb" by some website), and keep up with friends in Atlanta who have seen multiple interstate disruptions in the past few weeks. I see high school classmates when I do get back, and I treasure the wonderful upbringing I had, flavored by places all across Georgia: Savannah, Jekyll, Cumberland, Rome, Athens, Valdosta, Columbus, Warner Robins, Augusta, Amicalola Falls, and the main trails in North Georgia maintains by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club.

I say all this because despite my residency in DC for this tour inside the government, I feel much more like a Georgian than a "District of Columbian" or whatever the right term is, and the amount of outside spending and interference in the 6th district astounded me from afar, while the press coverage all seemed focused on the horserace and not the real, substantive issues that matter for the people voting. I heard of buses chartered and plane tickets bought so people could fly in and canvass, and the amount of paid media has apparently been choking mailboxes for weeks, while robocalls have swamped phone lines.

Ugh. I accept that "ground game" matters in politics, but persuasion should matter so much more - which is why volunteer phone calls and canvassing are the best form of political work. But so often, the "scripts" for volunteers treat the political landscape like its fixed or frozen, instead of being responsive to people as they read the news and keep up with events. When things are so nuts that a Georgian from outside the 6th district (native of the 4th here), living in DC, starts feeling a little resentful of all of the outside nonsense, you know its bad. The national press seemed so interested in a certain narrative that they turned a 30-year-old never-candidate into the effective incumbent.

Anyways, I think there's work we can all do, wherever we are, to support and oppose important policies. Let's let the Georgia Sixth make its own decisions, please.

Against the "think pieces" that will castigate people for their choice at the ballot box

You don't own me. You don't own America. You don't own anyone.

We have a democracy because it is the best system out there, even when someone doesn't like the result, wanted a different candidate in the primary. Centralizing power never works out well; on the contrary, the best way to achieve domestic peace is to give power to the people and respect the rule of law.

So I won't be reading pieces that say certain Americans are stupid, or ignorant, or underserving, or whatever. It's all crap. When you sign up for the public conversation, you need to meet the public, and the public isn't the people on your Facebook feed, in your neighborhood (if you talk to those people), or at your workplace. The public is everyone - and the number of times the people who have appointed themselves our mouthpieces and news sources got surprised by the public should tell you - they don't really know the public.

Here's one of their stories, told by Arlie Russell Hochschild:
You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.
If you want to represent the people of the United States of America, you need to understand the people of the United States of America.

In Praise of Decency and Intention in Late Night Comedy

I watch Colbert's Late Show on YouTube regularly because it is the model of intention. This is what Colbert told Stewart during his last Daily Show:
We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with with respect. 
I want to focus on the first clause. Intention is what I see in every show that Stephen Colbert does from the Ed Sullivan theatre - an intention to provide some levity, to expose us to new artists and art forms, to play in the purest form, and perhaps most important - to educate.

There's a theory of leadership by the late James McGregor Burns that gives us two types of leadership: transactional and transformational. Transaction leaders give us exactly what we want. They use what works, today, and keep the ship floating. They find the place that aligns best with the audience, and sit there, comfortably and likely profitably.

Transformational leaders think strategically about bringing us to the next level of success and thought. They seek to meet people at all levels to bring them higher and further - and the pull of change is not always comfortable for either party. I see that discomfort, sometimes, in the news stories and different skits put on by the Late Show.

I know the Late Show doesn't seek to change the world, but it can - and does - nudge the world. It nudges us towards a deeper, better humanity, more full of wonder and deeper relationships. It puts the "other" on CBS so that we can meet it and be more humanized. It's not perfect, of course, but the intention is there, and I notice that, and am grateful.

On Watch Lists and Firearms

Today, the Senate failed to pass a few measure proposed by either party in response to the Orlando massacre. One of the measures up for a vote would have restricted the purchase of firearms for anyone under investigation of terrorism, on the terrorist watch list, or similarly designated.

I am sure the issue polled well; it certainly has many people I know upset, but getting onto a "list" isn't due process, and as long as the Second Amendment provides for a right to bear simple firearms, I can never support giving the government power to curtail rights because someone is on a "list."

A list is not due process. A list is not a legal finding. A list is pure government executive fiat, shorn of the protections we set for ourselves when giving the government power to prosecute.
“No one wants terrorists to be able to buy guns or explosives,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Monday.
However, getting on a "list" doesn't make you a terrorist. You can be a victim of mistaken identity, get in trouble for having had contact with someone without knowing their past (guilt by association), or get on the list as a way to compel you to name other names.

Lists are not a path to justice. It disappoints me that people saw propagating them as a way to keep people safe.

Here are a few examples of laws I would have supported:

  • Legislation to restrict high-capacity magazines that enable full-auto and semi-auto weapons to kill many more people.
  • Closing loopholes that enable gun buyers to evade background checks.
  • Enabling waiting periods for all gun purchases.
  • Legislation to restrict firearm sales to people convicted of a crime such as domestic abuse.