I Am Homeless Again

I lived in Los Angeles from 1990 until 2004 when the Army permanently relocated me here to Virginia. During that period, I was trying to make a career in the entertainment industry as an actor. For a period of about 3-4 weeks smack in the middle of badly mismanaging my early life in LA, I was literally homeless, sleeping on the couches of fellow friends and other starving actors. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t romantic. It was frightening, demeaning and humbling. But I got through it and while I never did establish myself as a working actor as I had wanted, I did build a career as a technician in the entertainment industry for much of my time in LA and loved every minute of it.

This time, my homelessness is not as a result of my own gross mismanagement. In fact, this time, my homelessness is not a physical one but an ideological one. There’s no place at all for me to hang my hat when it comes to politics.

I am politically homeless.

The Republican Party as a group doesn’t seem to want to include anyone that doesn’t adhere to its strict conservative set of ideals. Sure, there are things about which I agree with the Republicans among them defense, fiscal responsibility (though no one in politics seems to be practicing this anymore) and personal responsibility above government responsibility.

The Democrats, on the other hand, deride anyone whose ideals conflict with a generally liberal perspective. I observe the Democrats pulling out the race card for things that generally aren’t racist, but that’s their opinion, I suppose, and they have a right to it. And there are things about which I agree completely with the Democrats including broadening the definition of marriage, legalization of marijuana and the easier provision of health care, though I disagree with the approach which is the Affordable Care Act.

So you see neither party will have me. And frankly, I don’t want either of them.

Since I disagree with the ACA, there are many in the Democratic Party who will state unequivocally that I hate poor people and actively want them to be sick. I don’t, and such charges are ridiculous. No one wants people to be sick if we can make them well. I’ve seen the ups and downs of the American health care system during my former spouse’s dealings with multiple cancers and other serious maladies and I welcome health care reform. I just disagree with this particular approach.

I hear a lot of Democrats say that the Republicans want dirty water and filthy air since they don’t support the same environmental concerns they do. That’s crazy talk, too. No one WANTS dirty air and water. No one. Not even the vast majority of corporate entities who are often falsely accused of relegating environmental concerns to the basement of the priority stack. They want to be good corporate citizens because it’s good policy and it’s better for their bottom line.

Republicans often say that if you support abortion under any circumstances that you want unborn babies to die. That’s ridiculous. Do you know one person who actually WANTS unborn babies to die? Do you know anyone who thinks that’s a great idea in every case? Again, no one wants that, but to hear it told by some staunch conservatives, if you have a (D) after your name, that is precisely the belief you hold along with ALL of those with (D)’s behind their names. That’s just nuts.

You get the idea.

Life is not now nor has it ever been an “either/or” proposition. Why has politics become this way?

And it’s not like a relationship with either party can be like one of those Venn Diagrams that you did in school:

Venn

Lately, it seems to me that neither party ideologically allows you to overlap even a little bit. (Not publicly anyway.) You’re either all in or your all out. You either agree with them 100% on everything or you’re a horrible person who wishes bad things to happen to everyone else.

Yes, I am aware of the Libertarian Party.  In fact, ideologically speaking, I probably overlap with libertarians the most.  But right now, the (L)’s are not influencing the national dialogue to any significant degree and therefore, not a practical entity in my opinion.

Ok, I admit it. There are a few people – very few — on whom I’d wish bad things. And no, none of them are ex-significant others or spouses or anything petty like that. So no, I don’t wish for bad things to happen to the sick, the well, the poor, the rich, the homeless, the unemployed, the heterosexual, the homosexual, the bisexual, the trisexual (or any sexual I can imagine — and I have a vivid imagination) or the purple people eaters of the world.

I’m just me and I have my own ideas and thoughts about things. And I’m smart enough to draw conclusions from the available data for myself. I have an equally smart, terrific circle of friends and acquaintances most of whom don’t share my every perspective and I don’t hate them and they don’t hate me. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t. Yes, we have been known to have heated discussions, but we have far more in common just as people then we do politically.

And herein is the lead for this essay: We ALL have far more in common as people than we do politically. The two well-established political parties have lost sight of the American populace as people FIRST. People have nuance, color and diversity of thought. Voters don’t. And that’s how the two well-established political parties now view all of us – as voters not as people. You’re either all in or your all out.

In today’s political climate, this leaves the thinking person with no place to go. This leaves me homeless.

I Hate Ronald Reagan

Misleading headline alert!

DA-SC-90-03096More correctly, I hate HEARING about Ronald Reagan these days. (The headline is admittedly just a ploy to get you to read more. I’d blame it on my editor, but I ain’t got one.)

While commuting the other day, I was listening to some nondescript radio talk show pundit on a nondescript radio talk show ramble on about how the Republican Party needs to return to the policies and values espoused by Ronald Reagan. Anytime anyone invokes the former president these days it’s usually a conversation much like the one I heard on the radio. I’m sure you’ve heard it too, if you pay any attention to the news at all: “Reagan had principles.  He stood up to the Soviets and won the Cold War and everything Republican would be hunky-dory if we could just get back to that sort of leadership again.”

I get it. I remember. I was around then. I even voted for him twice.

reagan-d-dayLast night I was testing the new FiOS app on my smartphone. I stumbled across Megyn Kelly’s broadcast at the end of which she was doing a story about Reagan’s speech at Normandy in June, 1984 on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of the European Continent. It’s a memorable speech and one of my personal favorites: “… These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Twenty years later, when I was working on the Department of Defense World War II 60th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, we spoke in reverent tones about that speech. And rightly so.

But that’s another story.

What bugs me about hearing all about President Reagan lately is all this looking backwards – looking to the past at a great leader during a very different time in our Nation’s history. Was he the right guy at the right time? Yes. Who knows if the Berlin Wall would still be standing had Reagan not demanded three years later the leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall”?

If Republican pundits and the Party want to become relevant again, stop invoking Ronald Reagan. While yes, the Reagan years were awfully good to me personally, now is not the time to be looking for the next Reagan. The world is a VERY different place now than it was back then. Besides, it’s pretty clear from the queue of lousy candidates the Republicans have backed at the national level that one doesn’t exist — at least not yet.

The Republican establishment, in my opinion, has nearly always relied on the old establishment guys for national leadership positions. While there’s no arguing that experience has value, the party needs to stop fronting candidates just because it’s their turn.

The Republicans need to create and foster a party in which the natural leaders are free to emerge without fear of the potentially damning criticism of the conservative wing of the party. Most people don’t vote based on just one issue, so why exclude an otherwise outstanding candidate because of just one issue?  The collective candidates of any party are far more alike than different. So why is it that the Republicans always seem to eat their young? 

Allow leaders to emerge and let the public decide what they’ll support through a primary system which encourages honest debate focused on ideas and most importantly, doesn’t destroy a potential Reagan before he or she ever has the chance to be recognized.  It’s OK to disagree without completely destroying your opponent.

Is it wrong that I yearn for some degree of reasonableness in the process?

President Reagan was a great president and was perfect for the times. He was the right guy at the right time. Serendipity? Perhaps. But the way the Republicans seem to be running things these days, such a serendipitous candidate can never happen.

Stop looking back to Regan for inspiration. Look within.  Look forward instead of looking back.

Regarding 21 March 2010

In the interest of full disclosure, this vote does not directly affect my health coverage. TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program, was explicitly excluded from any of this.

Health care and health insurance needs to be reformed. I don’t believe there’s a sane individual who doesn’t agree with this basic thesis. Where the conflict arises is the HOW it gets done.

We can debate specific provisions all you want, and I’m willing and able to make a good case. But what I find disconcerting is that my kids will now be required to have health insurance or face a financial penalty.

Neither of my kids drive, therefore they are not required to buy car insurance. When they DO choose to make that choice, then they will be required to buy it. Fair enough.

However, both of my kids are struggling as it is to make ends meet. This will create a financial burden on them both. I get that yeah, it’s good to take care of yourself anyway, and this is sound. In fact, a couple years ago, I helped the older son find affordable, appropriate health insurance for someone his age and health.

What concerns me is that, assuming this passes Constitutional muster, the federal government will now for the first time have the ability to compel the populace to purchase a good that they may not want or need. One can argue that taxes are similar, and you’d make a valid point.

What will be the next item the Federal government deems necessary for me to have? Broadband internet access? Solar generating equipment? Both of those items can be considered to be part of the greater good as well.

My point: where are the checks and balances on what the Federal government can now direct individuals to purchase in the interest of the greater good?

The sky isn’t going to fall today. People WILL get covered now who were uninsurable before. Preexisting conditions will become less troublesome. These are all laudable goals and should have been part of a reasoned, measured incremental plan to reform health care and insurance. I believe we could have gotten there without the mandatory Federal provisions, had the politics of the situation not run amok. But here we are.

I hope that as a nation, we’re up to making the best of the situation.