Category Archives: Other Political Thoughts

Ben Carson, the new hero of the Right

Ben Carson, pediatric neurosurgeon

Just a little over a month ago, pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson stood at the national prayer breakfast getting ready to deliver his keynote address. Ben Carson is probably the most famous surgeon in the United States. Doctor Carson gained national notoriety back in the mid-1980s when he separated conjoined twins who were joined at the head. It was a 22-hour operation. Since then, he has written many books and even started his own foundation. On February 7, 2013, he became a darling of the Right. He attacked Obama’s healthcare plan. (It really wasn’t his plan, but was more an amorphous piece of legislation that he signed.) He attacked taxes on the rich. He also attacked political correctness. The right wing went wild. Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked Doctor Carson if he would run for president because Hannity would vote for him “in a heartbeat.”

I have no idea if Ben Carson is interested in running for president. I have no idea whether he is interested in a career in politics. I do know that the political landscape is a pit filled with landmines. Although you can get attention by speaking out, nobody in this country really wants to do anything. Sure, people say they want to do X or Y but when you actually propose the ideas they don’t want to get it done. Getting things done in this country requires finesse. As I mentioned last week, we are an oppositional society. We will oppose almost anything. We love clean air and clean water but we oppose any legislation that is designed to achieve those goals.

Ben Carson got himself into some trouble.

From TPM:

Carson, the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, on Tuesday called hetero-sexual marriage “a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”

Students at Johns Hopkins have since circulated a petition to replace Carson, who’s retiring this year, as the university’s commencement speaker. He told Mitchell that he’s willing to honor those students’ wishes.

The only advice that I have for Doctor Carson is that it is very easy to give a speech to a small room of like-minded individuals. It is even pretty easy to give a speech to a large room of like-minded individuals. It is really difficult to give a speech to America. Somebody is going to be offended. Somebody is going to take that offense to their core. Whether it is Mitt Romney with his 47% comment or Barack Obama with his cling to their guns comment, right now it is difficult to find consensus on almost any subject in the United States. Even if you have an “overwhelming” majority, that means 70% of Americans agree with you. It also means that 30% of Americans disagree with you. That is somewhere over 90 million Americans. That’s a lot of people.

All I can do is wish Doctor Ben Carson well in his future endeavors.

I Learned In My Punk Rock Days That Action Is My Own Responsibility

Recently I came upon a collection of fliers promoting shows at the great Jockey Club in Newport, Kentucky.

The Jockey Club, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, was the best punk rock club in all the midwest. It closed in 1988. There is a Jockey Club Facebook page you can join.

You can read a series of Jockey Club recollections in Stories for Shorty. I have an entry in this book that was published by Cincinnati’s Aurore Press.

One of the best things about our punk rock scene in Cincinnati is that we did stuff ourselves.

We made our own fliers, staged our own shows, formed our own bands, we printed fanzines that had interviews with touring bands and we had our own radio show on a local station. I was the co-host for three years of a weekly punk music show on Cincinnati’s WAIF-FM 88.3.  

This was—and still is—the way to go. Working by ourselves and working together, we made our own scene no matter how moronic and narrow the world around us might be.

Whether it is getting on the Mayflower to exercise your beliefs in a new place, Occupying something in the name of economic fair play and a more just society, finding the internal resources to fulfill a creative vision, or working with others who share your thoughts and hopes to make something of value—It is in the end your responsibility to do the work to accomplish what you hope to accomplish.

This does not mean that luck and circumstance do not matter. These things matter a great deal. It is possible that you will get sick or be hit by a truck.

Yet in the end, here is what I would say—

Make and print your own fliers, start a blog, form a band, occupy something, be part of your local and national scene, take responsibility for your own future, generate your own content so somebody else does not generate it for you, help out those on your own side of the aisle, and don’t just hang around when there is work to be done. The ways to get these things done may change over the years, but the underlying concept does not shift.

Flexibility Is Progress & Life

Last week I watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

On my Facebook that evening, I saw a number of reactions to the speech from both moderate and liberal Democrats, from Green Party supporters, from Occupy Wall Street backers and from socialists.

The Democrats all liked the speech, while some of my friends further along on the left had reactions ranging from partial approval to scorn.

This is all fine with me. While I am not President Obama’s most ardent supporter, I am on the side of all good people who want to  help move our great nation to the left.

There is no point in a rigidity that excludes people on our side of the aisle.

Here is the entirety of  chapter 76 of the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching

Men are born soft and supple;

dead, they are stiff and hard.

Plants are born tender and pliant;

dead, they are brittle and dry.

This whoever is stiff and inflexible

is a disciple of death.

Whoever is soft and yielding

is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.

The soft and supple will prevail.

Yet–of course–we must move in a hopeful direction and this does require at the least a measure of coordination.

The good news is that different sets of tracks can lead in the same direction. We see this in picture below of railroad tracks that I took in Houston last year.

There are multiple tracks, but they merge.

See who your friends and allies are and see the good in them. Focus on where you agree and move forward.

We can be both flexible and focused on a common goal.