Why I want the Democrats to win

21 Sep

I wish I could say that this essay will persuade everyone that they should vote for more Democrats in Congress this year. I’m afraid it won’t do that, because frankly the Democrats aren’t giving us many good reasons to vote for them.

Perhaps the best we can do is look at some reasons why we should vote against Republicans for Congress this year.

Some will be surprised to hear me say it, but there are some Republicans I really miss. Gentlemen like Howard Baker of Tennessee, even Bob Dole. They had a world view that I didn’t always agree with, but it was reasonably sane. They understood that their “base” of business interests would do well even if the most pro-profit policies were not in place. Yes, they called for lower taxes on businesses, but they seemed to remember that businesses succeed when people have money to spend.

Today’s Republicans…well, they just don’t. They talk about creating jobs, but they really don’t want to create good jobs. A good job, after all, means someone is paid enough to have some discretionary income. They can work just one job, make ends meet, save for a rainy day, and still do some fun spending to help the economy. Today’s Republicans don’t seem to want to do this. You have to work three jobs to keep up with your bills? They will praise you for working hard (not bothering to mention that you’re not getting ahead).

Somewhere along the line, the Republican party was seized by a bunch of crazy people. Newt Gingrich is one of them, Sarah Palin is another. They yell about freedom, but they don’t seem to realize many Americans are slaves to their employers, unable to get ahead, create a better life than their parents had. That’s not freedom.

My biggest worry is that the Democrats are going to let the Republicans win big this year. There’s a lot more the Dems could be doing (and some of their accomplishments are not exactly monumental), but the Dems’ biggest problem is they are afraid to stand up and promote their ideals. Bill Clinton (who knows something about being demonized) once remarked that the Republicans cast Democrats in such negative light because the Republicans know they can’t beat the Democrats’ ideas. Therefore, they have to call progressives names like traitor, call them soft on terrorism, all these ridiculous things–simply because if we match up ideas vs. ideas, the Dems will win.

For some reason, we Democrats seem to be more worried about appearing to play fair rather than actually playing to win. We may not like it, but our loyal opposition has turned politics into a sport where the win-loss record matters. Our ideas may be superior, but we won’t get the chance to put them into place if we don’t wake up, grow a backbone, and start fighting back. We don’t have to demonize the Republicans, but we can point out how hypocritical they are–like saying they want to reduce the deficit one day, then the next day saying they want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% (regardless of what that would do to the deficit). We can point out that they will accuse us of not supporting the troops when we question the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that they are willing to filibuster the defense appropriations bill–to not let it even come up for debate on the Senate floor!–because they have to oppose don’t ask/don’t tell repeal. How is filibustering the defense budget money supporting the troops?

My biggest fear today is that Barack Obama is going to be a one-term president. He’s not doing much these days to fight for voters’ minds and hearts. He’s not doing anything to motivate people to vote for Democrats. And if the Republicans take over Congress, or even just one house, then the Obama agenda is dead in the water. And, he will end up being a one-termer.

I’m not a huge fan of the President these days. He has carried on way, way too many policies of the Bush administration. He sold out the public option and let health care reform become a requirement that we all buy insurance and line the pockets of the insurance companies. (Yes, we should all have insurance, but that public option–being able to buy into a non-profit program–would have kept the prices low in the insurance market.) As a columnist once remarked, Candidate Obama probably wouldn’t vote for President Obama.

But if President Obama loses to a Republican candidate in the 2012 election, we’re in deep trouble. They all want to go back to the way things were under George W. Bush. The candidates are all moving further and further to the right, almost going off the map, playing to the Glenn Becks of the world. As I see it, a mediocre Democratic president is better than anyone like Mike Pence, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, or even Mitt Romney.

We need to keep the Republicans out of control, but it’s awfully hard to do that when we don’t give our own troops many reasons to get to the ballot box. We are dooming ourselves to economic disaster, endless war, and worse.

When will we wake up and do something about it?

U2 fans–I am the dumbest in the whole world

11 Sep

Quite a few people have heard this story before, but I am still beating myself up over it, so here goes.

I’m a U2 fan. Do I memorize every minute detail? No. But I really enjoy their music. I’ve listened actively since about 1984 and have loved almost every minute of it. (Pop took a while to grow on me.)

Back in 2001, U2 announced they would kick off the second leg of their North American tour by playing the Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame. My wife worked for the athletic department at the time, so she could get tickets in advance. We were psyched beyond being psyched. A small venue. U2. Advance tickets.

Then I realized the concert was on the same night I had to teach a class at Indiana University South Bend. So I told Catherine to take a friend. And I went ahead and taught the class.

I could have just canceled it.

The program director all but called me a moron (she was at the concert).

I am as dumb as a bag of hammers. I should have canceled that class.

I am stupid.

I am dumb.

Here we are, nine years later, and I STILL can’t get over it.

DUMB! DUMB! DUMB!

I was fortunate enough to see U2 live in Chicago in 2005 on the Vertigo tour. It was an incredible show. I don’t know I’ll get to see them again–$250 a seat in 2010 is getting way beyond ridiculous. I loved the ’05 show. I’d love to see them again.

But I am so dumb. I should have canceled that class. Rescheduled it. Found a sub. Anything.

Guys–could you maybe swing back through Notre Dame again? Help out a dumb guy whose mother’s maiden name is Duffy, whose roots go way back into Celtic families? Please?

Burn the Quran? No, thank you

9 Sep

An open letter to Muslims of the world, from one embarrassed American

Dear Friends:

By now, you have heard about the plans of an American minister to burn the Quran on Saturday, September 11. I know it upsets you. It upsets me, too, and I’m not a Muslim. But rather than spend time trying to convince this individual that he shouldn’t burn a holy book, I’d like to try to explain what’s going on in our country. Maybe a little more “light” and less “heat” will help your communities understand us.

The simple answer is, we Americans are insane. There are over 300 million of us, and we disagree on a lot of things. We argue over the dumbest stuff–which lousy television show is better, which crummy movie deserved to win an award, which football team is going to win next weekend. Those things really do not matter, but we argue about them anyway.

Besides being prone to argue with one another, there are other reasons we are insane. We do stupid things in this country–and this preacher in Florida who wants to burn the Quran is a perfect example. We have a lot of freedoms here, and sometimes that means the freedom to be dumb. But the rantings and actions of this one guy do not represent all of us.

Yes, I know, a lot of our leaders are doing stupid things, too. For example, one of your faith’s leaders in New York City wants to open a cultural center near the site of the Twin Towers that fell on September 11, 2001–what too many people refer to as “ground zero.” Despite all the good that could arise from this center, our political leaders (who are also insane) are saying stupid things like “it shouldn’t go there.”

So how are you all supposed to deal with our insanity? Hopefully with signs of compassion. We should know better than to behave this way, but we sometimes forget ourselves. It must be tempting for you to give in to the urge to fight back. After all, we Americans are not doing a very good job of being good neighbors. But I’m hopeful that you can remind us what a great people–or a great faith–can do when their neighbors are acting foolishly.

Go on about your normal business, and forgive us for being foolish. Hopefully we will wake up and realize what we’re doing. In the meantime, your kindness and compassion will drive that lunatic in Florida who wants to burn your holy book even crazier.

A question for the Tea Partiers

30 Aug

Yes, this is a loaded question, but I’m going to ask it anyway.

As I understand it, you object to the health care reform because you believe it takes away our freedoms.

Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany–they all have universal health care (which we don’t have even with the new reform legislation). Does this mean that the British, Canadians, French and Germans are not free? They seem to vote for their elected leaders, have plenty of private newspapers and magazines (free press, right?), and lots of private businesses.

What am I missing?

Progressives need to vote this year

30 Aug

Paul Krugman explains exactly why. Hopefully President Obama will do his part and not play it safe.

You know I’m going crazy when I post here

24 Aug

I haven’t had much to say recently. For a long, long time, even. It’s not that things have been going swimmingly in the world of politics, religion, and so on. It’s simply that nothing has compelled me to actually blog about it.

But these days, America is driving me insane. Here are just a few things that have my blood pressure medicines straining to keep my BP low.

  • Politicians are opposing the Islamic cultural center and prayer room a few blocks away from Ground Zero in NYC–and the media continues to call it a “mosque.” Whatever happened to religious freedom and tolerance that this nation was allegedly founded on? More importantly, how does this help our foreign policy in the Middle East? Isn’t this just providing recruiting material for the terrorists?
  • Americans seem to revel in their willful ignorance and belief in debunked lies–almost 1 in 5 believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, even though he’s a Christian.
  • The Catholic Church…well, actually the Bishops. Don’t even get me started.
  • Tea Partiers who claim to be pro-constitution, but then don’t seem to know much about the Constitution they supposedly support.
  • Conservative Democrats and Republicans who don’t want to spend money to help the jobless or keep teachers employed–because doing so would increase the deficit–and yet who are willing to make the Bush tax cuts permanent–even though doing so would increase the deficit.
  • Uninformed voters.
  • Columnists who should be smarter than their columns suggest, but apparently aren’t.
  • People who bash public (and private) schools for “failing” yet who do not realize that you can’t teach many kids whose homes are a disaster, whose parents do not value education, and who can’t even get a decent breakfast before school.
  • People who chant about paying too much in taxes, but then complain about potholes in the roads that don’t get fixed.
  • People who think the health care reform legislation is a “government takeover of health care” when it’s really a gift to the insurance industry that operates on a business model of collecting as much in premiums as possible but pay out as little in claims as possible.

Frankly, the whole situation in this country is depressing. Republicans are licking their chops at the prospect of taking over one or both houses of Congress, yet voters don’t seem to realize that the Republicans are promising to a) hold lots and lots of investigations and maybe try to impeach President Obama; b) go back to the policies of the Bush Administration that voters soundly rejected in 2006 and 2008; and c) do nothing other than prepare for the 2012 elections.

A majority of the people believe the country is on the wrong track, and it probably is–because we haven’t gotten that far away from the track that Bush and the Republicans put us on. The economic stimulus package was too small to do enough good, we’re still dealing with the consequences of de-regulation and completely free markets, and here’s the BIG ONE: money still plays too big a role in politics so that huge businesses and the very wealthy get to feed at the trough while everyone else gets screwed.

President Obama is a disappointment in many ways. He campaigned about changing how things are done in Washington, but he’s not willing to use the millions of voters who supported him to push the Congress to go along. As a result, we get half-baked reform (if we can even call it reform) and the Democratic leadership caves in to the demands of Congressional Republicans–who end up voting against legislation anyway.

Anyone know of a Canadian province in the Caribbean?

An open letter to the Catholic bishops

8 Apr

Dear Bishops:

First, forgive me for not knowing the proper title for your offices. After the papal “Your Holiness,” they run together in my memory.

I write to offer the insights of a sole Catholic who feels alienated from the Church. I can only assume my feelings are shared by others, since I have had some conversations with other Catholics who identify with my dismay.

Since the 1990s, the Church’s hierarchy in the U.S. (as well as in Rome) have said and done things that make me feel less and less welcome in the only church I have ever known. Statements from the hierarchy that have indicated that Catholics who vote for candidates like John Kerry or Barack Obama are somehow committing sin have hurt members of your flock. These statements have been most lately exemplified by the protests over the invitation by the University of Notre Dame to President Obama to speak at the University’s commencement.

These actions–and the judgmental character behind them–have served to push Catholics like me away from the Church. We have received the message that you do not want us in the parishes, despite the “welcome home” movement in my own diocese. Rather than fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and tolerance, you have created an environment where I cannot be certain I want my first born child (who will arrive this summer) to be baptized in the Church. It pains me deeply to write that and to acknowledge it is even a consideration. Ten years ago I would have thought these feeling to be impossible for me. I hope and pray that God will find a way to help me resolve these conflicts. But it seems that prayer may go unanswered.

I wish I did not feel like I was being pushed out of the Church. I wish I felt that I was still at home during Mass. And while I know that the rank and file pastors and associate pastors are often far more willing to celebrate common ground and to encourage people like me to continue to pray and let the Holy Spirit work, I feel like these good men are having their hands tied tighter and tighter.

My prayer for this Easter is that the Holy Spirit will move the Church’s leadership to be more pastoral and less judgmental, to be more welcoming of Catholics who follow their conscience and support candidates that may not agree with the Church on every issue, to be mindful that our common belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is much greater than the things that separate us. I also pray that one day, I will feel at home again in the Church and can share the joy of celebrating the sacraments with my fellow parishioners and my family.