We had a good time. We ate a lot of candy. We watched way too many horror movies and CreepyPastas. It was fun for many. I hope everyone enjoyed it.
Now, we need to get serious again. For my fellow Americans, today is one of the most serious days we’ll experience.
It’s Election Day.
It may not be a Presidential Election like last year, which tend to get glossed over if voter turnout is any indication. That doesn’t make it any less important. If anything, years like this are becoming more important because the assholes who tend to stay in power do so because the people don’t care enough to vote them out. The only way to keep these assholes from undermining America is to vote them out or keep them from getting in.
Unfortunately, doing so means keeping up with local politics. I know that tends to be a test in pain tolerance these days. Talking about politics is akin to throwing undercooked steak at a hungry grizzly. It’s bound to get messy and dangerous. We already saw just how dangerous it could get earlier this year with the Capitol Riot.
We cannot and should not let that danger dissuade us from doing our American duty and voting.
So, I implore all my fellow Americans to do whatever they have to do today in order to vote. Check with your local government. Look up sites like this one. Find out where you have to go, what you have to do, and who’s on the ballot. Then, get out there and vote!
It’s not just a right.
It’s a responsibility.
Happy Election Day, America. Let’s make democracy work.
Seriously, fuck you and fuck your bullshit excuses for doing something so stupid, cruel, and outright un-American.
Fuck you and your ass-backwards definition of patriotism.
I apologize for the harsh language, but sometimes some extra profanity is both justified and necessary to get the point across. In general, I try to be fair and understanding, especially for touchy issues that include hot-button political topics. I always make it a point to offer respect to those who might not agree with me on certain topics, be they abortion or religion.
I just can’t do that here.
I just can’t muster a shred of sympathy or understanding to people who go out of their way to harass, threaten, and denigrate the people who volunteer their time and energy to ensure American democracy functions.
In case you’re not aware of this deplorable trend, this has actually been an ongoing issue since the 2020 election. A sizable segment of the American population did not like how that election turned out and, like whiny children who didn’t get their way, those same people have been lashing out ever since. Then again, most children don’t make death threats to public officials, so I’m hesitant to call them childish.
Now, I’ve actively avoided this topic since the end of 2020. I’ve seen time and again how it brings out the worst people and the ugliest kind of politics. There’s really no convincing anyone something other than what they’ve come to dogmatically believe. They only ever consume news that tells them what they want to hear and assume every fact to the contrary is a lie.
Usually, I’m perfectly fine with someone living inside their own bubble, provided that they don’t harm anyone else. This is America. We can believe whatever we’d like. However, I draw a hard line when those beliefs become an excuse for making threats to election workers and people who volunteer in the name of democracy.
Some of these threats aren’t vague, either. Here is one story from Reuters that offers some rather graphic examples.
Here’s another video from CNBC. Again, the examples they give are pretty damn graphic.
There are plenty more I could give, but this news is upsetting enough. I don’t care what your political affiliation is or how you voted in the last election or several. This is not how civilized people in a functioning democracy conduct themselves. This isn’t even how children conduct themselves at a little league baseball game.
This is fucking outrageous.
If you are a proud American and actually value the principles of democracy, then I hope this upsets you. These aren’t people with a political agenda being threatened. These are just ordinary Americans doing their jobs. Threatening them because you don’t like how the numbers are panning out doesn’t make you a patriot. It makes you an asshole.
There are some news stories that I go out of my way to avoid. It’s not that I actively ignore them. I just prefer not to discuss them because I either have nothing of value to offer or they’re just way outside my expertise. In some instances, the story itself is just too tragic and depressing. Talking about it only belabors how miserable things are and how bad they’re bound to get.
That’s why I haven’t said anything about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Believe me, I have opinions about it. I’m reluctant to link to articles about it because every aspect of this story is just too awful for words.
We all know the basics. After nearly 20 years of occupation, the United States is leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban has already taken over. Basically, the country is back to where it was 20 years ago, ruled by a collection of extreme religious zealots who seek to govern and oppress like 7th century warlords.
It’s an objectively terrible situation. There’s no other way to describe it.
Now, this issue hits a little closer to home for me, personally. I grew up in a pretty diverse community. Many of my neighbors were either first or second generation immigrants from various parts of the world.
Just a block from my house was a neighborhood full of immigrants from Korea. Not far from that was a neighborhood with a sizable Nigerian population. A few miles away, there was a neighborhood full of Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants. There were also a few stores that catered specifically to Spanish speaking people.
That was my normal. Every time I went to a mall or crowded area, I was bound to hear at least two different languages. It also showed in my school. I’ve always been around a large mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. In fact, whenever I traveled to areas that were predominately one race or ethnic group, it felt weird.
Growing up, I just came to associate this with America being a melting pot. This was not a country defined by one particulate race or ethnic group. Yes, many of the Founding Fathers were old rich white guys, but the nation they set up accommodated many people from many different nations. To me, that wasn’t just a distinct trait. It was a defining characteristic.
That’s why when I heard stories about refugees from Afghanistan arriving in America after such an arduous trip, I found it oddly uplifting. In fact, it was the first uplifting story I’d heard from this geopolitical tragedy.
It helped that some of them arrived in areas that I was familiar with. Very recently, hundreds of refugees arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC. That’s an airport I actually know pretty well, having flown out of there numerous times on trips and transfers. Some of the stories these people have told is nothing short of harrowing.
Roughly 200 Afghan refugees arrived at Dulles International Airport on Thursday afternoon.
Their arrival came hours after deadly suicide bombings outside the Kabul Airport. Thirteen U.S. were killed in the blast. Afghan officials told The Associated Press that more than 140 Afghans were wounded.
An organization, known as Team Hope, assisted them. According to United Airlines, United has operated three international missions, with the fourth departing shortly, in total carrying nearly 1,500 U.S. citizens and Afghan evacuees to the U.S. over the last four days.
United says they are working with “a number of non-profit and corporate partners to ensure our passengers are well-cared for both during and after their flights land.”
In addition to this story, I also found this photo on Reddit of a family from Afghanistan arriving at that same airport. Seeing them arrive, flashing peace signs after coming from an actual war zone, was incredibly uplifting. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to look up these stories and see images of these people as they arrive from one of the worst situations imaginable.
What makes this image more personal is that I’ve actually walked that exact same area of Dulles. If I went there now, I could find it with ease. Knowing what these people went through and how hard they worked to come here gives me a small sliver of hope for this country and our future.
In that spirit, I’d like to offer a brief message to these incoming refugees, as well as my fellow Americans. There’s a good chance one of them will end up living in a neighborhood not far from mine. I hope that day comes. I will gladly welcome them with donuts and coffee. Even if I never meet them, I’d like to offer this sentiment.
Welcome to America.
Thank you for fighting so hard to make it here, leaving behind everything you knew in order to start a new life. I sincerely hope that the lives you build here, both for yourselves and your children, are better than anything you dreamed of.
I truly cannot imagine what you went through. I’ve never been to a war zone. Very few Americans have. I can only imagine the horrors you’ve seen and the hardship you’ve lived. I won’t pretend to understand. All I can do is help you and your family look forward.
I won’t claim that America is a perfect nation. We certainly have our flaws. Most Americans are wonderful, loving people. However, we do have an angry, vocal minority who will try to make you feel unwelcome.
Do not listen to them.
Do not let their hate keep you from realizing the American dream.
Take comfort in the knowledge that these voices are only loud because they are so few. Take even greater comfort in the knowledge that the number of Americans who will stand by your side will vastly outnumber those who would do otherwise. We can be a strange, erratic people, but our hearts are usually in the right place. Give us a chance and we’ll help you become proud Americans, like our ancestors before us. It’s because of what you’ve overcome that you embody the best of what America can be. Let that be your strength as you build new lives in this new land.
Having said that, I also have a far shorter message for my fellow Americans. I know we are a very diverse and divided people. There are many out there who, because of their politics and their prejudices, will not welcome any refugees from any country that doesn’t remotely resemble them. To you, I just have one thing to say.
Don’t be assholes. Every nation has assholes, but these people have been through enough. Give them a chance. Let them prove that they can be the kind of Americans that will truly make this country as great as we all want it to be.
It’s Memorial Day once more. This year promises to be very different from last year, but for the best possible reasons. The world just went through a serious struggle that cost thousands of people their lives and left thousands more reeling. Sadly, that’s something veterans know all too well.
As someone who has veterans in his family, including some who actively served in real conflicts, I can attest to the heart and strength of those who serve. It takes a special kind of soul and a special kind of patriotism to make that effort. Conflicts come and go. Times change and politics evolve. However, it is usually the soldiers and their families who bear the greatest burden.
To all those who have served in the United States military and the families of those who paid the ultimate price for their sacrifice, I sincerely thank you. I hope you do something special to celebrate your service and your sacrifices today.
I am a proud American. I love my country, the ideals it espouses, and the vision it offers for freedom loving people. I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States. I understand that being an American comes with many benefits that millions of others cannot enjoy. For that, I am eternally grateful.
That same misguided sentiment also has a significant impact on democracy, one of America’s highest ideals. Regardless of your political leanings, that’s the one tradition that America holds more dear. We embrace democracy and empower the people to pick their leaders. Considering how leaders have traditionally come to power throughout history, it’s an admirable institution.
At the same time, it’s not without its flaws. Democracy, in principle, is great. It empowers the people. It allows the people to set the standards by which a ruler is put into power. Given how often power has been abused by rulers, that’s critical for a stable, functional society.
Despite that strength, it’s still worth asking an important question.
What are the greatest flaws of democracy?
I know just asking that will put me at odds with many of my fellow Americans. Thankfully, I’m not the first one to ask that question. In fact, this is a question that has been contemplated since before America was ever a country.
Democracy itself is not an exclusively American invention. Most educated people know that it existed in various forms throughout history, most notably in Ancient Athens. However, even back then, there were some who had major criticisms of democracy, both in principle and in practice. One of the most vocal critics was the Father of Philosophy himself, Socrates.
Now, I’m not a philosophy buff. I couldn’t begin to properly break down all the concepts, principles, and contributions that Socrates made to philosophy and Western Civilization in general. So, I won’t bother trying. Instead, I’ll just focus on what he said about democracy and why he viewed it so unfavorably.
To that end, this video form the YouTube channel, The School of Life, does a nice rundown of Socrates’ biggest criticisms of democracy. Watch it and follow his ideas. You may or may not agree with them, but they’re still worth contemplating.
Again, this is just a brief summary. The nuts and bolts of Socrates’ ideas and principles are far greater in terms of breadth and concept. With respect to democracy, though, his criticisms are fairly concise.
Democracy, namely the kind in which too many uneducated people have a vote, tends to lead towards demagoguery. Instead of diligent, qualified, well-meaning leaders, people will simply elect those who are capable of winning people over with promises and rhetoric. It doesn’t matter if they’re aristocrats or con-men. They just need to sway 51 percent of the population into giving them the power they seek.
I hope I don’t need to cite an example of this happening in the real world. I also hope I don’t need to name names of those who have carried themselves like demagogues in the American political landscape. In fact, there has been a distressing trend of American’s actively seeking to put their favorite demagogues for positions of power.
These are not skilled ship captains or trained doctors, like what Socrates described in his video. These are people who are just capable of persuading a large mass of people that they should wield power. They didn’t train to wield power like a doctor trains to treat illness. They just say they’re capable and it’s up to the people to believe them.
It’s not an unreasonable criticism. Does that mean I agree with it completely? No, I do not.
Does that mean I think there’s real merit to these criticism? Yes, I absolutely do and I think there are ways to address them.
Socrates’ issue wasn’t just with democracy in principle. He was more concerned about uneducated people who don’t appreciate or care for wisdom making critical decisions, such as who should lead a country. Another great philosopher, George Carlin, put it even better.
“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a take on the American worker and all their American glory. I highlight the concepts and ideals surrounding these workers by citing two well-known animated representations in Hank Hill from “King of the Hill” and Bob Belcher from “Bob’s Burgers.” If you’re fans of these shows and appreciate the struggles of the American worker, I think you’ll appreciate this. Enjoy!
As many of you know, it’s President’s Day. In most years, that’s just a day off from school or work, as well as a formal acknowledgement of America’s history. It’s our indirect way of appreciating the ideals of American democracy and the people who made it possible.
Many others have already said it, but it still holds true. America is very divided. That’s not an opinion. It’s backed up by real numbers. Half of Americans hate each other, based on their political ideology. There’s no respectful disagreements. There’s just a growing us-versus-them mentality and it’s incredibly toxic.
Since a new president was sworn in last month, there have been a lot of talk about unity and healing. That talk hasn’t resulted in much, in the grand scheme of things. Many Americans still hate each other. They also still refuse to accept that a President they didn’t like or vote for won the election.
How do we come back from that?
How do we heal from that?
How do we ever get to a point where we can just get along again?
I honestly don’t know. I wish I did. I really do. As a proud American who loves his country as much as any patriotic American, I want to see us do better. I want to see us transcend our flaws, of which there are many, and become more akin to the vision that our founders set out to create.
I don’t expect it to start today. I don’t expect it to start tomorrow, either. However, I believe in making the effort.
Maybe today is a day when we can all start trying. Even if you didn’t vote for the current President, don’t let that stop you from making America the best it can possibly be. Look forward to the future and not to the past. See your fellow Americans as fellow Americans and not an insurgent army.
I know that’s asking a lot. I also understand there are some people who truly cannot be reached. They will not be satisfied until America, as we know it, is destroyed and rebuilt in their own perverse image. Those people are an extreme minority, but they often talk the loudest and resort to violence most readily.
Let’s not let them derail the vision for a better America.
Let’s not let them keep us divided.
We’re Americans. We are lucky beyond measure to be born in this great land. In our country, a President is not a King, but they are those tasked with carrying America forward. They’ll continue to do their part. That’s why we elected them. Now, on this President’s Day, let’s do ours.
Election Day has come and gone. I won’t get into the drama leading up to it or the drama that’s still unfolding, as I write this. I just want to take a step back, catch my breath, and offer some perspective to those who will hear it.
I agree this was rough. I think most others will agree with me when I say this was the most chaotic, divisive, and downright stressful election in recent memory. I’ve spoken to relatives who voted for Kennedy in 1960. They agree that this year was, by far, the worst in terms of stakes, rhetoric, and tone.
That’s saying a lot, by the way.
However you feel about the candidates or who you voted for, I genuinely hope this election has been revealing, to a certain extent. It’s tempting to be cynical about it. I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling that way. At the same time, we should also take stock as to why this election was so harrowing, for lack of a better word.
The world is such a messed-up place right now. We’ve got wars, economic collapse, and a once-in-a-century pandemic has that killed over a million people in the span of nine months. Things are bad right now, more so than they’ve been at any point in my lifetime.
Most don’t question that, unless they’re rich and well-connected.
What I do question, however, is why people trust or even expect politicians to help solve these problems.
That’s a notion that, in my opinion, fuels stressful elections like this. An election is supposed to be a job interview for a position for a public-serving official. It’s not supposed to be some expensive spectacle in which we all get behind the candidate who says the right things to just enough people in a handful of swing states.
That’s not democracy.
That’s a bad reality TV show.
Now, it’s tempting to just blame the politicians and that’s understandable. Politicians are easy targets for mockery and they’ve no one to blame but themselves for that. We should criticize them. They are, after all, in positions of power and public trust. They should be held to a higher standard.
That standard, however, should not involve trusting them to fix everything that ails us, from the economy to who pays a fine for when a female nipple is shown during a halftime show. That’s not just asking too much of one person. It’s asinine.
It’s also self-defeating. Politicians make lots of promises and break plenty of them, but let’s not lay the blame entirely on their honesty or lack thereof. They’re only human. Even the most selfless, hard-working politician can only do so much to deliver on every promise. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough personnel to get it done.
That’s not even accounting for the times when politicians make objectively impossible promises. Certain policy pitches may sound like great slogans or taglines, but logistically speaking, they just cannot be done in the real world. It’s not that the sincerity isn’t there. There just isn’t enough people or resources.
Therein lies the source of the great cycle of toxic politics. It goes something like this.
Politician A makes a bold promise. People rally behind them. Politician A get elected.
Politician A cannot deliver on those promises. People turn against them.
Politician B comes along, offering new or better promises. People rally behind them. Politician B get elected.
Again, Politician B can’t deliver on all those promises. People turn against them.
Politician C comes along to make another set of promises and the cycle continues.
It goes beyond party affiliation, political systems, or shifts in power. It’s an unavoidable flaw in a democratic system. An election, by default, isn’t going to elect someone with the greatest governing skill. It can only elect someone with the skills to convince enough people that they can govern.
I won’t say it’s a terrible system. Compared to the alternatives, it’s probably the best we can manage right now in our current environment. However, it is not a system in which any politician, no matter how successful, can solve the problems we want them to solve. Even when the system is working at its best, it’s still limited.
That’s not to say politicians can’t be part of a solution. They definitely can be. A politician can be a facilitator of sorts, either by leadership or by policy. The specifics, though, are best left to people with the right drive, incentives, and know-how.
Whether it involves combating climate change, reducing poverty, or promoting public health, the bulk of the responsibility will still fall on the general public. We, as a people, have to collectively work on these issues together. That’s how any social species within a functional society adapts, grows, and prospers.
The role of government and politicians is always changing. The extent or details of that role depends heavily on the issue at hand. The Presidents we elect, as well as the various legislators and judges at all levels, will always have some impact on how we further our interests. The key is balancing that impact with actual, tangible efforts on our part.
The next four years are sure to be eventful. Hopefully, they’re eventful for all the right reasons. Whatever happens, use this past election as a teachable moment.
Politicians come and go.
Ambitious people will keep making bold promises and breaking them, either on purpose or through no fault of their own. At the end of the day, it all comes back to us. We have a part to play in making our world and our lives better. Let’s focus on doing ours before we trust anyone else to do it for us.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. As I’ve done before in previous years, I go out of my way to acknowledge the sacrifice and service those who have served in the military. It’s one of the few issues that transcends ideology, politics, and debate. Those who have served deserve our utmost admiration and respect.
There’s a personal element for me, as well. I have many close family members who have served in the United States Military. I have grandparents who served in World War II. I have an uncle who served in Vietnam. They know what it means to serve their country in times of war and peace.
I know it is often used as a platitude by politicians and pundits, supporting the troops. That doesn’t make it any less deserving of such support. I certainly offer my thanks and my respect to our veterans, especially on days like Veterans Day. I also encourage others to do so and to support various veterans charities.
Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t reveal my uncle’s name or which branch he served. I’ll just state that he has been very involved in supporting veterans since he got out of the service many years ago. He’s actively involved with churches and organizations. He’s the kind of man who will go above and beyond for a fellow veteran.
This particular story he shared took place at a local church. For years, a group of World War II veterans would meet there around a certain date. They’d catch up, drink, and laugh in all the ways you’d expect of old friends. It was a tradition they all cherished.
However, in recent years, that group’s numbers have been dwindling. Even though millions served in World War II, there are only an estimated 300,000 left alive. That may sound like a lot, but in a small group like this, they noticed when many of their friends began dying. It got to a point where the group was small, so much so that there was little to catch up on.
This is where my uncle comes in. At one particular gathering at a church, he met up with this old guy wearing the distinct World War II veteran attire most recognize. He was sitting alone and not in the best shape, health-wise. He didn’t look sad, but you could tell he was among the last of the friends he served with.
My uncle, being the wonderful man he is, sat down and talked to the man. They got along well. In doing so, my uncle found out that this old man was the last surviving member of his platoon. They’d been close for many years, but now he was the last one. Given his age, it wouldn’t be long before his entire platoon joined the many others who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It struck my uncle because he knew that, once this man passed, too many of his stories would pass with him. That just couldn’t stand. My uncle sat with that man and just listened to him reminisce. I don’t know how long they chatted, but my uncle made it a point to hear his story, knowing those who could tell them were dwindling fast.
It’s a special kind of way to honor a veteran. You can help them in many ways, but I like to think just listening to them and their story goes a long way. War and combat has consumed entire generations. They leave lasting marks, including many scars.
That’s why it’s important to remember and honor them. There are memories worth preserving, full of lessons worth learning. Times may change. Warfare often changes with it. The one constant is the strength it takes to fight, serve, and sacrifice.
I hope this story from my uncle gets that point across. I also hope it inspires others to help and honor our veterans in their own special way.
Thank you and to all those who are serving now or have served, I hope you feel the love and support you deserve on Veterans Day this year.
It’s over, America. We did it. The election of 2020 has concluded. We now have a winner and, come January 20, 2021, there will be a new occupant of the White House. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate this. It is, after all, a cornerstone of American democracy.
We, the people, elect our leaders. We don’t always like who wins, but it’s still on us, as a people, to make that decision. I know that sounds cheesy, given these cynical times, but it’s still worth saying.
With those platitudes out of the way, I have another important message I’d like to share with my fellow Americans. It’s simple, succinct, and apolitical. It’s simply this.
Regardless of how you voted, let’s all make an effort to be kinder to one another.
It’s not a tall request. It’s not something that requires great sacrifice or rigor. It’s just a simple act that anyone can do, regardless of their affiliations or ideology.
It shouldn’t seem so daunting, but these past few years have made it difficult to grasp. I’m on the internet every day. I see plenty of instances of horrendous, unbridled hatred. It’s on social media, message boards, Reddit, and even text messages. I won’t offer examples because it’s just that disgusting.
It’s not always political, but for these past few years, politics has been a catalyst for such hatred. It’s no longer enough to simply disagree with someone on a particular issue. The default has become utter and complete hatred of anyone who disagrees with you.
Whether it’s on abortion, LGBTQ rights, party affiliation, or sexy characters in video games, there’s no room for understanding and nuance anymore. Either someone agrees with you or you hate them in the utmost.
That is not healthy.
That is not conducive to a functional society.
Moreover, that is not in keeping with the American spirit.
America was not founded on hatred. No society founded on hatred could ever become so strong and dominant. It takes people living, loving, and cooperating with one another, regardless of differences, to build what America has built.
Have we made mistakes? Absolutely, we have. Every country has, some more so than others.
We’re human. We have flaws. Hatred is one of our most egregious flaws, but it need not be our most defining.
So, with that made, I sincerely hope that my fellow Americans will use this recent election as a turning point. We don’t need to “own” our opponents to vindicate ourselves. We don’t need to hate each other to prove ourselves right. We just need to be kind and make the most of the lives we live, as Americans and as fellow humans.