Archive for November, 2014

The Win-Win

Posted: November 15, 2014 in Miscellaneous


So while I was getting ready for work the other morning, and I had CNN on in the background.  This story about a non-profit organization that uses horses to help motivate at-risk children caught my notice.  Here, go ahead and watch.  I’ll wait:

What a creative way to help children, right?  A really great feel good story.  So after CNN airs the story, they go back to the anchor who also talks about what a great story this is.  But then he says something to the effect of “oh man, it’s just too bad you have to choose just one but you must”.  And I’m sitting there thinking, “um, I don’t think you actually HAVE to choose”, not really knowing what he was talking about.  But he goes on to explain that this particular story was actually all about finding the “2014 Hero of the Year”.  So the people must choose only ONE winner.  Because of course, this is America, there has to be A WINNER!

The question is why?  Why must there be a single winner?  I was lucky enough to be invited to a church service this past Sunday.  The preacher talked about how our society was so prone to declare “winners” and if there are winners, there must by definition be “losers”.  But he stressed that he didn’t think it had to be that way.  He believes that life doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  That if we would emphasize love and compassion for one another, it would be a “win-win” for everyone.  I firmly believe that the preacher has the right idea.

So looking at what CNN is doing, it is has a lot of good things going for it.  They are highlighting the good of society, instead of the dredges that usually get all the attention.  But the construct of all this is so American.  It’s not just heroes, it the “Top 10” heroes (because by golly we need a ranking!).  And then it’s not enough to just have a “Top 10”, we MUST choose a WINNER!   I don’t know about you, but when I see the video, I wasn’t sitting there thinking “hmm, that seems ok, but could you give me 9 other choices (no more, no less!) to compare this too so if I can decide if this charity is a “WINNER” or not?  I can already see that charity and those children are just full of win!   I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the other 9 is just full of win too.  And I will further say that there are a lot more than 10 people/organizations that are also full of win.

I don’t mean to pick on CNN.  Hey, like I said, at least they are using some time to highlight good things.  I’m just using this as an illustration for what I think happens too often, we turn everything into a competition.  But I could easily see how CNN could tweak this, make it an ongoing segment, highlight a different “hero” just once a week, but continuously.  It’s just a thought.  No votes, no winners, because they are all winners.  Really.  A win-win.

When it comes to sports and when it comes to business, competition is great!  But when it comes to life, I don’t think there is any reason that we should strive for winners and losers.  There’s no reason we can’t strive for as good of life as we can get for everyone because really that’s what is best for us all.  It’s the win-win.


I think I'm only whispering.

I think I’m only whispering.

So last weekend I did research so that I could fulfill my duty as a citizen and vote this past Tuesday.   Then I watched the results roll in, and never have I felt more like I had completely wasted my time.  Not that this was exactly a new development, but it really hit me pretty heavily that I was spending a lot of time trying to make intelligent choices, when I already knew how EACH and EVERY race was going to go.   The Hill had just declared Alabama the most Republican state in the country, so it doesn’t take a political science degree to know how things were going to turn out (hint: new state slogan, Alabama, now with even more Republicans than ever!).

Here are things that are really weighing on me:

This state is now damn red….but we’ve also gerrymandered everything, you know, just in case:

Statewide elections are such a waste in Alabama, when it comes to elected positions, the Republican is going to win and it’s not going to be close.  It’s going to be something like 60-65% to 35-40% every race, every time.   (That’s if the Democrats bother to even run anyone, Senator Jeff Sessions got a free pass.)  When it comes to amendments, just think ‘what would the tea party do?’ and you can probably predict with a high degree of accuracy whether it will pass or not (the only close statewide level vote was an Amendment dealing with funding the repair of the state’s National Guard Armories, only because these groups couldn’t decide if spending more money (bad) trumps the military (good)).  But even for local representatives, districts are so badly gerrymandered that those aren’t close either.  For U.S. House, I live in a Republican district…so the R won 76-24%.  For Alabama State House, I live in a Democratic district, so the D won 77-23%.  It’s hard to get excited about going to the booth when these are the kind of margins that are resulting.

And why are we voting for so many damn things anyway?:

Do we really need to vote for county tax assessor?  What about the tax collector?  State auditor?  Agricultural commissioner?  Every freakin’ judge in the state?  I am simply not an informed voter when it comes to these things, and I have to wonder how many others are?  (When it comes to judges, it does also concern me about how much money is pouring into these races, including $50 million into Alabama’s Supreme Court races alone, much from outside the state.  These folks think they are buying something, I can assure you!)

Even if I do impact the result of an election, do I actually impact policy?:

A study was performed measuring the influence of various entities on national policy from 1981-2002.  Their conclusion was that the average U.S. citizen appeared to have a non-statistically significant impact on policy.  Instead, the wealthy and monied business interests is what swayed the direction of the country.  Now I think a lot of suspected that the wealthy had a disproportionate impact on policy.  But I think more and more it seems like that they have ALL the impact on policy, regardless of which way an election may swing.

Obama’s hope and change didn’t happen:

Obama’s rhetoric was so infectious.  It just felt so right, and it was easy to get swept up into the idea that things were really going to be different this time.  But now six years in, I would challenge anyone to really come up with anything that’s truly different about how things operate in Washington.  If anything, it’s even worse.  (Yes, the Republicans with their ‘we fight Obama on everything’ strategy have a role in this, too.  A very large role in fact.  But what about the supposed new transparency that this White House was supposed to have?  It is really any more transparent?  What about being the anti-Bush in regards to foreign policy?  Are our positions really that different?)  When you get a lot of folks to the polls on the whole ‘hope and change’ thing and it then doesn’t happen, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s going to become more difficult going forward to get people to buy ‘no, this time it’s for realz!’.  Obama couldn’t change things, and I really don’t see anyone else that even appears to be a transformative leader on the horizon.

Anyway, it’s just getting harder and harder to justify dragging myself to the polls.