Tag Archives: Fairness

Our Political System is Broken for the Same Reason Our Relationships End

wedding rings on american flag

(Image/Inspired Acorn)

NOTE: I wasn’t planning to post today, and certainly not about politics, but my response to a comment on yesterday’s post—which had a headline I think many people misunderstood for the EXACT SAME REASONS our political climate is such a mess—turned into a thousand words. So I figured, what the hell. Linds wrote in a comment that the nature of a politician’s job doesn’t allow for she or he to be trustworthy. My reply turned into the following.

My commitment to fairness runs deep.

I reject the notion that politicians can’t be trustworthy. But I accept my perceived reality that they typically are not.

Because of the system being what it is, it’s impossible for non-billionaires to win elections without lots of financial backing.

That forces people who need political funding to sometimes compromise their principles for “the greater good,” convincing themselves they can’t do any good from the sidelines, so compromising 5-10% of their values in order to achieve the 90% once they’re in office is worth it.

But then, after they win election, they have all these ideas about what to change in order to make things better for the people who supported them.

But with every potential change comes some type of negative consequence to politicians’ financial stakeholders, and a bunch of politicians fighting against change because it’s “good” for their re-election, and a bunch of politicians fighting against it because they play for the other team—and winning elections is more important than actually legislating!—and a bunch of politicians on the same team who won’t support change for various political and financial reasons.

Getting 51% of elected officials to agree on something that directly affects American lives, or affects them emotionally, or affects the financial systems in some way is an extremely tall order.

It’s funny. All humans basically want the same things: Safety, financial opportunity, good health, good education for themselves and children, and basic levels of infrastructure (roads, water, electric, law enforcement, emergency services, etc.)

The vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of Things Humans Care About are agreed upon by most elected officials, regardless of political affiliation.

That those people will not sit down at a table together to work cooperatively to address the many things which AREN’T divisive, crushes my freaking soul.

When you build cooperative bridges, improving the 70-80% of things everyone collectively cares about, maybe everyone would stop being so shitty to one another about the divisive issues people like to scream about.

Maybe.

But in the end, the TRUTH should not be such a difficult thing to ascertain.

We have elected officials who lie because they have something to hide OR because they have something to lose.

We have media outlets who report false or incomplete information because they have a political agenda or because they’re ignorant of facts, or because they have a financial mandate to report dramatic things as quickly as possible without verifying facts.

And now we’re here.

Republican politicians are trusted by only a minority of registered Republicans, many of whom watch Fox News, read Breitbart, the National Review, NewsMax, the Daily Standard, etc.

Everyone who is not a Republican assumes the R-politician is lying, and that those media outlets are reporting misinformation to promote a conservative political agenda.

Democrat politicians are trusted only by a minority of registered Democrats, many of whom get their news from MSNBC, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Daily Kos, Slate, etc.

Anyone who is not a Democrat assumes the D-politician is lying, and that the left-leaning publications are intentionally reporting misinformation OR ignoring truth in order to advance their political agenda as well.

A third group of people trust no one. They’re the most cynical of all. And I can’t think of a compelling reason why they SHOULD trust anyone.

We’re now to the point where no one can trust an elected official to be honest, nor can they trust their media outlets to be reporting rock-solid facts and truth.

Yet, we’re all confused about how TWO people with 60% disapproval ratings can end up as our two choices for president.

We turn our backs on the process most of the time, watching “Survivor” and “CSI” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Then we all get super-interested once the national media starts covering it heavily, and we all talk about it on social media long after all the important work of CHOOSING our candidates actually takes place. So many people, not necessarily through any fault of their own, don’t really know what they’re talking about because there aren’t any places to gather reliable information.

Even the New York Times and Washington Post, which are long-time journalistic standard bearers, are no longer trustworthy to the those made uncomfortable by the Times and Post headlines.

Even IF the information is solid (many journalists are fantastic, even if big-money media is not) a person can’t realistically expect someone of an opposing political viewpoint to believe it’s coming from a place of truthful objectivity. Every major media outlet has now been labeled Right or Left.

And that means everyone spends all of their time in their preferred echo chambers, hearing and reading only the things they want to hear and read.

We need a critical mass of people to decide they want TRUTH more than they want COMFORT.

We need a critical mass of people willing to trade in CSI and the Kardashians for a lot of hard work spreading the word about people who would make amazing leaders—telling their stories effectively—and sharing them with the masses.

Republicans and Democrats (and everyone else) MUST be more committed to problem solving than they are to opposing one another and smearing people wearing different labels.

People seem more interested in winning arguments than actually accomplishing anything.

Coincidentally, that’s also why most divorce happens.

When Our Political Activism Amounts to Blocking Friends on Facebook and Only Digesting Media We Agree With For a Month Every Four Years Right Before Elections, This Will Never Change

But as in all things, I choose hope.

This shit isn’t working at all. Even if Donald Trump somehow proves to be an objectively good chief executive of the United States, there will be MILLIONS of people actively working against him, hoping he fails, spreading lies, denying whatever good might come from his decisions or initiatives, and more and more citizens will soak all that up and either grow more pissed off at the president, OR grow more pissed off at all the negativity and sabotage.

Which is EXACTLY what President Obama has dealt with for eight years.

And what President Bush dealt with before that.

And what President Clinton dealt with before that.

It’s not okay.

It’s NOT okay that this happens.

I’m in favor of spirited disagreement. I’m in favor of people with strong opinions explaining to others why they believe what they believe. But it’s as if no one knows how to do that without hating the person disagreeing with them. They take the Battle of Ideas and make it personal.

And more hate spreads.

But it’s not hard to see why this happens.

For my ENTIRE LIFE, I’ve been unable to listen to an elected official tell me something from behind a podium and trust implicitly that the information was true.

For my ENTIRE LIFE, I’ve been unable to turn on the nightly news or read a newspaper regarding something political and not assume the information was somehow politically slanted one way or another depending on the source.

Right leaners EAT UP Breitbart and Fox News and the Washington Times.

Left leaners EAT UP Daily Kos and MSNBC and the New York Daily News.

Everyone believes not Truth, but what they WANT to believe. They believe the stories that make them most comfortable. Always, always, always.

Very few of us, or the politicians we vote for, own their bullshit. Very few pursue truth even when it’s inconvenient. And very few are committed to helping people who have different wants and needs than “People Like Them.”

I don’t know how.

But if we could get people to raise their hands to accept responsibility for their laziness and pursuit of comfortable lies; and if we could get journalists to vigilantly pursue truth even when the truth works against the beliefs and candidates that make them comfortable; and if we could get enough people to understand that it’s possible to improve circumstances for EVERYONE—not just certain groups at the expense of others—then, just maybe, we have a chance.

When OUR WAY = GOOD and THEIR WAY = BAD, our relationships suffer greatly before eventually breaking. 

True in marriage.

True in all human relationships.

The root causes of our political horrors are the VERY SAME as those of our shitty marriages and broken families.

And the solutions are the same, too.

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When You Say ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ it Becomes Your Fault

your fault finger point

(Image/TechCrunch)

Imagine for a moment that two people plan and carry out an armed bank robbery.

Just like you’ve seen in the movies. Wearing masks and carrying guns, they barge into a bank, force customers to the floor, demand the tellers hand over money from the registers, and coax the manager at gunpoint into giving them access to the vault.

It’s stressful and scary for both the gunmen and the people fearing for their lives. The robbers are screaming for the bank employees to hurry up and fill their bags with cash. Everyone else is laying still on the floor praying they don’t die.

One customer has a concealed carry license and is armed with a loaded weapon, or maybe he or she is an off-duty police officer. It’s your imagination. Do what you want.

The hero draws the weapon in an attempt to save the day.

A gunfight ensues. Bullets. Blood. More screams.

When it’s all over, nine people are dead, including one of the gunmen. More are in critical condition at the hospital. The second gunman is taken into custody where he is interrogated by police.

The bank robber makes a credible and compelling case to investigators that his partner planned the entire robbery, and fired all of the shots that killed innocent people. Video footage from inside the bank and evidence recovered from the dead gunman’s house corroborates his story.

“I swear! No one was supposed to get hurt!” the bank robber says.

Because he cooperates with police and is willing to testify in court, and because he never fires any bullets or actually kills anyone, the judge and prosecuting attorney agree to an 18- to 24-month prison sentence, down from the standard five-year mandatory sentence for armed robbery.

Eight innocent people are dead simply because they were making bank deposits, or refinancing loans, or because they showed up for work. The victims’ families, the public and the media are outraged, and demand explanations from the judge and district attorney.

And both essentially say: “Welllllllll. We looked at all the evidence, and the entire thing was a lot more the other guy’s fault than this guy’s. The surviving bank robber didn’t even kill anyone! He didn’t mean to hurt anybody. So we’re not going to hold him responsible since it’s clearly WAY more the other one’s fault.”

Sounds Absurd, Right? 

Of course it does.

It doesn’t matter how much more to blame the other gunman is for the robbery or all the deaths. The surviving bank robber is going down hard, and responsibility for the deaths of those people will be appropriately laid at his feet. He will serve life in prison, even though his portion of the It’s-My-Fault Pie Chart is only 20% or whatever.

Yep! You’re Responsible. 

Next to all of the people who missed the point entirely, the second-most annoying response to the inexplicably popular She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink post was all of the men who thought all of the women who agreed with the post were a bunch of unfair man-haters, and attempted to prove it by sharing a link to another popular internet post called I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly and it Wasn’t Fair.

Some people dropped the link without commentary, as if to say: “This post about dishes and my irrational wife’s feelings are bullshit. She’s guilty of treating me unfairly and being a nagging shrew, and here’s the proof. BAM. How do you like that, morons!?” 

Let me say this: The “I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly…” post is great. I even included it in a post titled Marriage: A Global Epic Fail more than a year ago.

It appears to be the work of a wife practicing humility and introspection in an effort to grow, treat her spouse with more love and selflessness, and contribute positively to the success of her marriage. It’s awesome.

But it’s not some magical Get of Jail Free card for husbands who don’t understand that they’re hurting their wives or care enough to figure out how and why, any more than my loved AND criticized An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands series is some kind of free pass for wives who fail to honor their marriage vows.

In good times, and in bad.

So many people responded to that “dishes” post, not with introspective humility, but with finger-pointing outrage.

“You’re giving all the wives a pass, you feminist pussy! Be a man! So our wives get to just freak out about whatever they want, and if we don’t cater to their every whim, we’re shitty husbands!? You’re an asshole!”

To which I respond: Let’s pretend for just a moment that we can prove, beyond all doubt, that in a given marriage, the wife is 75% to blame for any relationship problems that exist. Do the people who feel that way also believe that the spouse with only 25% of the blame is somehow not responsible for that share?

If a man is a minority shareholder in the downfall of his marriage, is he NOT obligated to work to be the best-possible husband he can be in an effort to serve the union, or fight for and protect his family?

Maybe I’m wrong. I am sometimes. But it seems like many people believe that. That because their marriage problems are not entirely their fault, they needn’t concern themselves with being part of the solution.

Own your shit, please.

I don’t blame men more than women, philosophically.

I just know up close and personal what it looks like when the average guy fails his average marriage. It’s a whole bunch of stuff, that looked upon as one little incident, like leaving a dish by the sink, seems outrageously insane and unfair to blame for the demise of a marriage.

But I know it’s not one thing, and I still can’t believe so many people took the dish metaphor so literally. It’s a symptom of a larger problem. One where people so often want to point fingers and blame others for their problems in life, instead of looking in the mirror and asking: “What more can I do? What more can I give?” 

So. Guys. I don’t give a shit how petty and irrational you think your wives are. I don’t give a shit how much more responsible you think your wife or girlfriend is for the negative state of your relationship. And I don’t give a shit how much blame my ex-wife deserves for my failed marriage.

A booming voice from the heavens could thunder “HEY MATT! IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, YOU ARE ONLY 49% RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DIVORCE! SO, IT’S COOL NOW! YOU CAN JUST BLAME YOUR EX FOR EVERYTHING AND KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. NO GROWTH AND CHANGE IS REQUIRED!”… and I’d still have to ask you the question: Why don’t you want to be the best person, husband and father you can possibly be? Why don’t you WANT to grow and be better tomorrow than you were yesterday? What good can possibly come from all the ‘It’s not my fault!’ screaming? 

A life without feelings of guilt?

Because if everyone believes your story, does that really make it true?

When it’s just you and the silence, and nothing but your mind and heart, you KNOW what’s real and what’s not. You KNOW what’s right and what’s wrong. You KNOW what really happened.  

In a world full of blamers, take responsibility.

In a world full of hate, choose love.

In a world full of darkness, be the light.

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The Bad Rules 

Bad rules irritate me.

Bad rules irritate me.

I handed the barista a $20 bill because I wanted to break it and leave her a tip.

“Thank you so much,” she said, “but we can’t accept tips.”

The Starbucks was co-located inside an elaborate new grocery store in my neighborhood. I gestured to my surroundings.

“Because you’re in here?” I said.

“Yes.”

“Feel free to not answer this question, but are you financially compensated for your inability to accept tips?” I said.

Without turning around, a second Starbucks barista behind her said: “No. No, we’re not.”

“So let me get this straight: The new Starbucks across the street has a bunch of workers in it and they all split the tips. You guys also work at Starbucks maybe 200 yards away and are paid the same wages, but can’t receive tips?”

“Exactly,” she said.

“Hmm. Sounds like bullshit to me. Thanks so much for the coffee.”

For all of capitalism’s faults, there is something beautiful about the freedom to pursue whatever work you want and for employers to be able to hire anyone they choose and pay them (so long as it’s at least the federally mandated minimum wage) whatever the employee is willing to work for.

Meaning, much of the responsibility lies with the employees who chose to work at a Starbucks where tipping isn’t allowed. They have the freedom to try to get a job at a Starbucks that does allow tipping. And they can get a job in an entirely different line of work if they so choose.

However.

I HATE BAD RULES.

Decision makers sit in board rooms and fancy offices and make decisions. These are presumably the smartest people in a particular company, so I’m always floored by the decisions that seem so poorly conceived.

I’m speaking out of school here about this particular Starbucks co-located inside this particular grocery store. I’m not privy to the legal terms of the two companies’ relationship, nor whether the Starbucks is owned by a franchisee and how that might factor in.

That said, I have a fundamental problem with a Starbucks employee doing the exact same job as another Starbucks employee literally across the street but making less money for it by virtue of a rule preventing that employee from receiving tips in a line of work where tipping is a common and expected practice and income supplement.

I know a guy who goes to school and works part-time at a Starbucks. I have no idea how many hours he works, but it’s not uncommon to earn an extra $50 per week from tips.

Quick and dirty math: If an employee is making $10 per hour and working 20 hours per week part time, they’re earning $200 per week, and $10,400 per year.

An employee earning an additional $50 per week in tips would earn $2,600 more per year than an employee not getting tips.

Thus, the tipped employee doing the same job as the non-tipped employee is earning about 25 percent more. Doing the same job! In the same town! Across the street!

And I don’t get it. And I don’t like it. Because it’s a bad rule.

And bad rules are bullshit.

Anyone With a Job Gets It

And if you don’t, you’re fortunate. Because many companies have bad rules.

For example, I have a job where in addition to my paid time off, I also have a week of unpaid time that I’m allowed to use. BUT. I’m only allowed to use it AFTER I’ve exhausted my paid time off. You know, at the end of the year when you’re spending the most money on gifts and travel and presumably have the least amount of budgetary wiggle room.

What would be the harm in letting employees use their unpaid time whenever they want?

It’s a “Because I said so” rule, and I’m particularly not fond of those sorts of edicts.

How about this one?: Single parent’s child gets sick and is forced to use vacation time to care for the child (and probably also get sick and use EVEN MORE time.)

You know what I do for a living? I write stuff. On the internet. And communicate via email with my co-workers, many of whom are close enough to speak to without moving from my office chair.

Millions of people have jobs exactly like mine.

Tools for the job? Functioning computer. Internet access. Maybe a phone.

If an employee can get her job done despite having a sick child at home (and won’t the proof be in the pudding based on production?), why are we punishing said employee simply because she can’t make it into the office?

Is she competent enough to stay in touch via phone and email and send in her electronic work electronically? I know I am. And I know that my superiors know how much work I typically get done in a day or week, and it would be simple enough to gauge how much work got done when I wasn’t physically present in the office.

I have every confidence that millions and millions of employees globally can do the same thing. Maybe the weather’s severe and driving conditions are dangerous and the kids have a snow day at school. Maybe a million different things that shouldn’t matter so long as the work is getting done at the expected quality.

But in many instances, they are punished for things completely outside their control.

One sick child equals one less vacation day. And for what? So they couldn’t be physically babysat by an adult?

It’s a bad rule.

And it’s bullshit.

We don’t have to tolerate bad rules and policies.

Slavery.

Women’s suffrage.

Prohibition.

Those are huge things that should not be compared to silly corporate policies, but are great examples of people rising up in opposition to things that don’t make sense.

There is A LOT of gray area in this world. So much that half of all voters in the United States believe something almost completely opposite of the other half about virtually every political topic. They’ll scream at each other and hurl insults in private conversation and on cable news talk shows.

It’s very frustrating sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The open exchange of new and different ideas is how the world becomes better. And how we grow.

But sometimes there really isn’t any gray area.

Sometimes, things are just bullshit and make little sense.

We should do something about those things.

You.

Me.

When?

Now?

Yes.

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You Don’t Know Me

Image by SuperMeww at Deviant Art.

Image by SuperMeww at Deviant Art.

At work I write subject lines and email copy designed to get people to open my company’s emails and buy something.

Sometimes, there is internal debate at the office about the words I choose.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea because…”

And then I’ll respond with why I chose to write something as I did.

Recently, during a debate about a particular subject line that said simply: “You’re Invited,” a co-worker took exception to its lack of clarity. Considered it to be a little too “tricky.” That a customer who opened it would be opening it to learn to what event they were “invited” and be disappointed and close the email upon realizing it was not an invitation to an actual event, but merely an informal invitation to save money on our company’s sales.

I was more than willing to change the subject line to what the other guy wanted because I thought he made a decent-enough point.

But our boss, upon hearing the discussion and both sides of the debate, wanted to test it.

We’d send a small batch (but a significant data sample) with one subject line, and another small batch with the other.

In internet marketing (and probably several other industries), we call this A-B testing.

We sent the test batches. My subject line got the most opens and made the most money. So we sent the remainder of our list with my version.

My co-worker came over to shake hands and eat crow. And it made me feel bad. Literally. Because he’s a good guy and was just trying to do what he thought was best for our business.

“Don’t apologize, man. I agreed with you and thought you’d end up being right. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

I DO NOT take pleasure from being “right” so long as something mean-spirited wasn’t involved.

I DO NOT feel gratification when one of my work ideas performs better than someone else’s work idea, especially when the other person is a teammate—someone I’m only interested in lifting up.

I often feel bad when I take someone’s money in a poker game.

When my favorite team beats its archrival, I actually feel sympathy for my friends who root for the other team.

I feel lousy when I get to do something awesome or meaningful with my son that his mother wasn’t able to take part in. Like when he lost his first two teeth with me. Like when we visit my family for the Fourth of July.

As much as I love spending time with my little son, I do not enjoy it at the expense of others not being able to spend time with him.

It adds an element of bittersweetness to most of the wonderful things we do.

Perhaps those feelings will go away in time. But given my propensity for not always enjoying victory and fun and good things at the perceived expense of others, I’m not sure it ever will.

I Am Whatever You Think I Am?

No.

I’m not.

There are people in this world (my sweet and innocent grandmother, for example, who thinks I’m an angel even though I almost never call her to say hi) who probably think I’m a way better person than I am.

I’m not afraid to admit I make mistakes all the time.

But I also have no reservations about telling you how hard I try to be better. How much I think about, pray about, and work toward being the best person I possibly can.

A daily grind during the most-challenging few years of my life that has amounted to me aspiring to improve 1% each day, but knowing full well I spent much of that time lazy and lethargic and depressed and alone and feeling sorry for myself.

I don’t always succeed at improving 1% a day.

Maybe I can improve 1% at improving 1% and then win the Extra-Meta Guy Award.

Everyone who creates art of any kind needs to learn and accept The Rule of Thirds.

One third will love you.

One third will hate you.

One third won’t care.

So only make your art for the one third that loves you because you can’t reach the haters. The problem is, if you’re wired like me, you’re going to WANT to. You’re going to want to so bad.

To change their hearts.

To change their minds.

To make them believe that everything you write or draw or sing or sculpt or think or feel lives in your soul at the keyboard or the canvas or the microphone, and away from it.

You don’t know me.

Talk to any divorced person and they’re likely to tell you the same story: If I can’t even trust myself to know and choose the person I planned to spend the rest of my life with, how can I ever trust myself to marry again?

It’s scary when you realize you can fudge the biggest decision of your life.

But there’s another part of that.

You don’t know me.

You don’t really know anyone.

Every time a beloved celebrity commits suicide, we all go: “Oh my God!!! How could that person do that!?!? EVERYONE loved them!!!”

Every time you hear about a school shooting or serial killer, there’s always the people interviewed that knew them from way back when and thought they were just a nice, normal person like everyone else.

Maybe we only see what we want to see.

If anyone comes to my funeral, I hope each of them can walk up to my son and tell him: “Your dad was a really good guy,” then tell him a little story illustrating why they thought that.

That’s what I want from life.

When the final ledger is tallied, I hope analysis of that ledger draws the conclusion I’m working toward: Matt was a man who loved people, who tried hard to be non-judgmental, who loved friends and family and laughter, and who had a big heart that he tried to share with others.

Maybe that’s selfish. Because that’s a lot of things.

I don’t know what you think of me.

And it doesn’t really matter because I can’t prove you right or wrong.

But I want to type it anyway. Because it really matters to me. Maybe today more than ever.

I want to be a good man who helps people.

I want to teach my son to be the same.

I want my son to know in the deepest recesses of himself how much his parents love him.

I want to be a person who gives more than he takes in all things.

I want to write stories that help someone. Not everyone. Just someone.

I want to die as the best-possible version of myself.

And on that final day I die, I want to hold my head up high.

I want to tell you that I tried, to live it like a song.

Everyone is not only allowed to believe whatever they want—they’re going to anyway.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking you know who I am.

This is my truth.

And today I’m 1% closer to living it.

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