I have hope…. that we’re not all let down.

Today marks the transition of power from our 43rd president,   President George W. Bush,  to our 44th president,    President Barack Obama.  Millions of people are crowding into Washington D.C. to see the inauguration.  People are making mention of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. and their respective roles in the civil rights movement.  In the past few weeks leading up to this day people have likened President Obama with former President Lincoln.   Everyone seems to have one word on their mind as this man takes office: Hope.

President Obama has a very tough job ahead of him.  He’s inheriting a country with a very bad economic crisis and two wars (one of which our commanding generals say we’re losing).   Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and millions more might still.  Unemployment is on the verge of being in the double digits percentage wise and our economy is slowly grinding to a halt.   Large corporations who have never had layoffs in their existence have just announced their first ever layoffs…  it’s a very bleak picture.   Somehow though, through all of this, one man has managed to stir up hope in millions.    One man has gone from an unlikely candidate for president to actually getting elected and eliciting the one thing that seemed to have been lost:  Hope.

I don’t care much about the color of his skin.  Is it historic that he’s our nation’s first black president?  Sure.  Is it all that shocking that it happened?   Not really.    There was a black man portraying the president in Fox’s hit series “24”, a few seasons ago.   There have been other instances in Hollywood of black presidents.   There was no major outcry by this.  It did not seem outrageous or preposterous – it simply was.   It was 100% completely plausible.  

What I do care about are his policies, just like everybody else should.   I’m not paying attention to the fact that he’s the first black president – I’m paying attention to his proposed tax stimulus.   I’m paying attention to his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan.  I’m paying attention to how he plans on fixing our economic plight.      I’m paying attention to how well he will work with congress and live up to his call for bipartisan politics.   I’m paying attention to his actions as a president, because, y’know,  that’s what’s really important here.

It’s great that he’s inspired hope in a lot of people.  I just hope that, through careful execution and a clear vision that will lead to success,   he won’t let everyone down.   Only time will tell.

Seriously? Why is THIS an issue?

Like many Americans,   I’m tired of politics.  This presidential campaign has been going on for too many months, and while important, I’m growing tired of hearing about it.   You could ask yourself “then why is he writing about it now?”  Yes, you COULD ask that – but you won’t, because you’re a loyal reader.  

There is one thing in particular about this election that has annoyed me from the start.  That is – people who make the claim that Obama is Muslim, and/or Arab.  This is usually used as a negative attack against Obama.  It’s used in such a way as to suggest that, were he either, he would be unfit for the job of being president.    They’re used as slurs.    

I say: who gives a shit what religion he is?   I don’t know about you but, I prefer to focus on things such as economic policy, foreign policy, health care policy and reform, tax plans, etc.   I care about the real issues, the ones that actually matter.   The rest of America should too, however for some reason this has become a SERIOUS issue for some people.  For some, the very notion of someone being Muslim makes them an enemy of the state, a terrorist.  This is fundamentally flawed thinking in a country founded on the tenant of freedom of religion and separation of church and state.  When did being Christian become a prerequisite for being POTUS?

 It seems like many people have a hard time differentiating between the radical jihadist Muslims who are waging a “Holy War” against us, and your everyday Muslim-Americans who just want to lead normal lives and practice their religion in peace (you know, one of those basic rights we have in this country…)

It’s a lot like the difference between the right wing, radical Christians and the normal Christians – some take it to extremes while others just want to follow their faith and lead a normal life.

Seriously though, people, let’s stop making religion an issue – it’s time we all grow up and respect not only ourselves and our countrymen, but people everywhere – from all walks of life and belief. 

The FOX and the Hound: Political Bias in the Media

While sitting here allowing various thoughts to run rampant through my head – sometimes engaging in gladiatorial fights for the privilege to remain on the Train (you know – the Train of Thought), one such thought performed well in the fight (just like Russel Crowe in “Gladiator”) and caused me to want to write about it.

A problem I’ve found myself having lately, in regards to our upcoming elections, is getting real answers about the various issues.   It’s almost impossible to get anything out of the press these days and take it for face value.  Everything with politics in the media is one big ball of spin  - depending on your news outlet of choice.  I’ve also found that, depending on your political leaning, your news outlet of choice varies.   For instance – if you are fond of the Republican party, and pretty people, you can’t go wrong with Fox News.   If you’re fond of “The Dems” you probably enjoy CNN and The New York Times. 

Why is this the case?   And Why does Ann Coulter, a journalist,  have 3 books that all have “Liberal”, used in a negative way, in the title?   The answer is corporation.

Gone are the days (or, perhaps more likely, NEVER were the days…) where reporters and journalists reported “just the facts”, and present are the days when reporters and journalists report “just the facts, as spun in such a way to make it palatable to the corporation that owns the newspaper, station or network I work for”.  If that corporation happens to favor the “right wing”, then the stories will have a slant that is favorable to the right wing.     If It’s more “liberal”, however,  the stories will be more favorable to the left. 

This brings up a fundamental problem.  If you were to ask the majority of people what the purpose of the nightly news, or the daily newspaper, was – their answer would probably be “to report the news”.  This seems like a fairly straightforward notion – a news program, and news paper, should report … well, NEWS!  What many people may not immediately realize (and some unfortunate souls NEVER realize) is that this isn’t straight news,   it’s news filtered through that agency’s agenda.   Sure, some things are just straight news,  i.e. “a triple homicide occurred last night in the downtown neighborhood of blah blah blah” – it’s pretty hard to politicize that (ok, it’s not that hard, but it IS easy to pick out when they’re doing that).  But for the most part it’s all spin.  The problem, then, is that we’re not having the news reported to us in an unbiased way, and many people (forewarning: some will probably accuse this of being elitist – it is not.  It’s the truth, and sometimes the truth sucks) don’t possess acumen to realize it.  Some people DO possess the acumen but, for whatever reason, choose to either not care or to ignore it. 

So,  why is this a big deal?     Well, perhaps it isn’t for many – but it is for me.   Why?   For the simple fact that – when a news agency starts filtering it’s stories through it’s own agenda it loses it’s objectivity, and in doing so, loses it’s credibility as a source of real, actual, news.    I can then no longer trust it to give me the facts – I have to go out and check it’s story to verify the facts, and if I have to do that then why am I even bothering to view it’s stories in the first place.

Why do they get away with it?    I have a theory on that.   People don’t like to hear things that are contrary to their beliefs.   Want proof of this?  Have a philosophical debate with someone sometime.  I was a philosophy minor in college – I know what the end result will be (I’ve been there MANY times).  If you like debating and actually KNOW philosophy you’ll probably GREATLY enjoy the conversation.  The other person will likely eventually devolve into rambling, cursing and shouting (in some rare cases, foaming at the mouth).  It will probably end with balled fists being slammed onto a table and/or someone walking out in a huff. 

Because people like to hear things that parallel their views they are instantly drawn to news sources that have a slant similar to their own.   That’s why right wing fundamentalists flock to Fox News as if it were the Mecca of television news.  

This all stems from the realization that – despite several months of reading about both candidates, I know NOTHING about what they really stand for.  Why?  Simple.  If I were to believe what I’ve read, both are, absolutely without a doubt, the single best candidate for the presidency.  Since you can’t have a plural singularity (that’d cause the fabric of space-time to implode and destroy us all.  So could the LHC at CERN, if it ever were to REALLY work, but I digress…), I know something must be broken with our media.   Or perhaps it’s working exactly like it’s intended. 

The winds of change

As we grow older, we change. It’s inevitable. We mature, and as we mature little things about us change. For instance, when I was younger I wouldn’t touch vegetables – they disgusted me, actually. Now I am slowly starting to realize that I don’t hate them – they don’t disgust me, in fact – I actually LIKE them (some of them anyway).

The changes I’m noticing in myself go beyond just culinary habits, though. I’m finding that my priorities in life are starting to change. Instead of wanting to go out all the time and hang out with my friends I am finding myself wanting to stay at home more and relax. I’m sure part of that is a sheer determination to enjoy this house I’ve worked so hard to get, and so hard to put together. The rest of it, though, is a desire to return to basics, to re-center myself and focus on myself for a while – rather than focus on hanging out with friends.

The other change I’m noticing is that I am settling down. I’ve moved on (finally) from the “college years”, and am starting to settle down in life and grow up. I’m planning more for the future ( with investments, savings, etc) and thinking about things I would have shrugged off in the past as something for “somewhere in the future”. Specifically, I’m thinking about getting married and starting a family. Somewhat surprising (to me, anyways) this thought doesn’t scare the bajesus out of me like it once did – in fact, it’s something I am looking forward to.

One could say that the key to THAT difference is that I’ve found someone who is worth spending the rest of my life with, which is part of it to be sure, but I think there is a level of maturity one needs to reach in order to take that step. Some people don’t wait to reach that maturity, and then end up getting divorced six months later because they couldn’t handle it. I don’t count myself to be in that group – rather I finally feel like I am READY to take that step.

Other areas of my life seem to be falling into place – I’ve got what looks to be a promising career ahead of me, I’ve bought my first house and am living on my own, I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend…. the big three are definitely there. The time is right.

There’s one thing left to do – I’m working on that.

It’s fun to sit back once in a while and try to identify how you’ve changed. You sometimes learn things about yourself, little insights. Totally worthwhile.

Politics, oh how I hate thee…

I think it’s fairly safe to say that many folks in the United States are growing tired of the presidential campaign that seems to stretch on and on, with countless political commercials,   fliers and people calling to tout why their candidate is better than the rest.  I know I am.

But I will say, I am intrigued by the platform of one of the candidates – Barack Obama.  Anybody who has read this blog knows that I have been calling for change in Washington for a long time – for a government that works for the people, rather than against the people.  That,  seemingly, is what Obama stands for.   I keep hearing his campaign tout how the people want change, and Barack does too.   The cynical portion of my mind (about 99% of it),   believes this to be a complete load of BS from a politician who is no different from the rest.  That other 1% of my mind, though, wonders – could it be possible that an honest man,   one who really seeks change,  could exist and make it THIS far in an election?  I honestly don’t know the answer to that.

I’ve heard interviews with people who have had the chance to meet Obama who say he’s the same off camera as he is on camera,  and that he really does seem to want to change the way things work in Washington.   I’d be lying if I didn’t say it fills me with hope – hope that the damages done can be reversed.   Hope that our country will survive,  that our ideals and freedoms will be preserved, that we won’t lose the core of what it means to be American.

I have hope that our economy will recover,    that we will once again be at the forefront of technology, the Internet,  and innovative new fields.  I have hope that we will slow our focus on wars overseas, and focus on rebuilding ourselves.

Most importantly,   I have hope that one man will resist the temptation of corruption,  will stand behind his words with his actions and will honestly work to change the status quo in Washington.

So,  Senator Obama – I throw down a challenge to you:    I challenge you to “put your money where your mouth is”,  live up to your promises of change.   Work long and hard, and try not to disappoint those who support you.   Show us that it’s not audacious to hope.