We Broke It, That’s Why.

People on both the left and the right are questioning why we are involved with the wars in the Middle East.  Listening to SiriusXM Progressive radio today, for example, the left-leaning radio hosts like Thom Hartmann are taking the view that we have no responsibility in the Middle East wars.  The people of Syria or Iraq or Turkey have to assume responsibility, they argue.  We can’t afford it.  We can’t allow ourselves to be sucked into another quagmire and so on.

The right — well, the opinions from the right are irrelevant as they are entirely political and unhelpful — so think what you will about them.  But the right is certainly culpable — indeed most culpable — and largely responsible for the chaos in the Middle East today.

The United States has meddled in Middle East affairs for decades in order to advance and protect its selfish interests.  However, the seeds for today’s horror in the Middle East begins with the Iraq War which destabilized the region and radicalized millions.  The Bush Administration and its war cabinet — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al — have so much to answer for.

Absolutely nothing about that war has made the United States or the world more secure.  Nothing.  We are living in the legacy of that war today and likely will for decades to come.

Destroying countries and the lives of millions is not a way to make friends and gain peace.

We have responsibility in the Middle East because we broke it, that’s why.  Running away from it won’t make up for our mistakes.  It won’t protect us from them either.

Adrian Peterson’s Fall?

Adrian PetersonJon Tevlin’s column isn’t as bad as the headline — “Taking some lessons from Peterson’s fall” — but I think we need to back up and look at how we are treating the Adrian Peterson Scandal.

Most, but far from all, people would say Adrian Peterson crossed a line from discipline to abuse when he whipped his son with a stick.  Actually…I’m not sure we can even say most people agree.  It is sounding more and more like a “I would never do that” claim from people who have done that or something similar.

Adrian Peterson doesn’t need my support and I am not his defender, but he really is becoming the whipping boy of his own mistakes.  I suppose that’s the way we want justice to work.  After all, in our culture doesn’t justice involve some revenge, maybe just a touch?

And that brings me back to my complaint of a few days ago.  The story about Adrian Peterson and his son has become a national stage to talk about almost everything but what happened.  We have turned ourselves into self-righteous victims and in all the glory of a classical Greek tragedy our hero has fallen.

But there’s a catch to the way this is playing out.  In classical Greek tragedy the hero makes a mistake that he never would have made had he known what he was doing.  Oedipus would not have killed his father and slept with his mother unless he were lost in the wilderness, met a muse who warned him (that he disregards), and then later learns of his horrible mistake.  The tragic flaw is hubris.

Peterson?  Well, he still seems to think he did the right thing — although I’ll bet he’s rethinking it — and so do many of his cultural peers.  So to call this Adrian Peterson’s fall is plain wrong.  It doesn’t excuse him from the criticism and debate surrounding discipline versus debate but I think we trying to make something of Adrian Peterson, his behavior, and our society that is not there.

Again…he isn’t a scapegoat, he is (excuse the apparent pun) a whipping boy, quite literally a whipping boy, I argue.  And what is a whipping boy?  He is a surrogate, one that endures the punishment of someone more privileged.

Thousands and thousands of children are abused, many where “discipline” has little to do with good or bad.  Now that this problem is thrust (again) into the spotlight on the shoulders of a broader social scandal (our beloved NFL is in disarray) we are supposed to think we care?  We care why?  We care because we have a whipping boy.  Adrian Peterson.

Sunday: A Post That Has Nothing To Do With Anything

I removed the air conditioner from one of my two bedroom windows.  It allows for a steady and impressive breeze to blow in from one end of the apartment and out the other.  Outside I hear that cool wind blow through the trees.  My curtains and blinds wave in that same wind, too.

Across the ally my neighbor plays his piano, a very eclectic mix of songs, many I know and some I don’t.  He plays slowly, deliberately, loudly, too.  And takes frequent breaks.  Perhaps to think about something.  Then he plays on again.

I’m atop my bed, dressed, with today’s newspaper in a pile next to me and a notebook filled with this morning’s ideas on top of that.  But it is getting late – it is past noon already – and there are things to do.

I should stop first in Uptown and have a beer with friends giddy for yet another day of doing that sort of thing.  Then over to the university where other friends will be having a giddy beer before this afternoon’s football game.  And then toward the end of the day a party being billed as a barn dance.  I’m dressed for it already.  Vest, tie, and checked shirt.  I like the look.  I think it suits me.

But right now I am too much at peace to really want to do anything.  That breeze blows, the neighbor plays, and I just sit in the midst of it all.  It isn’t such a bad place to be.

Mike McFadden: Making Kurt Bills Look Good!

Mike McFadden Wrong for MinnesotaPoor Kurt Bills, the man put up to the task of running against soft-issue Amy Klobuchar because no Minnesota Republican really wanted to suffer the embarrassment.

It would seem that the GOP has chosen a similar “strategy” again this go around again the popular Al Franken.   Mike McFadden looks clearly out of his league in this campaign.  His strategy relies heavily on disingenuous folksy charm that shows more of a lack of acting skill than a depth of character.  His campaign makes one wonder — as oxymoronic as it sounds — whether the GOP really has a deep bench of serious candidates.  Persistence — or misfortune — seem to be all it takes to climb the ladder in the Republican Party today.

But let’s give some credit to Kurt Bills.  At least he tried to talk policy and issues.  Mike McFadden, on the other hand, takes his candidacy as a chance to ham up waggish skits.  Where Kurt Bills appeared earnest and sincere, Mike McFadden appears entitled and smug.

Of course McFadden, as a GOP candidate, really doesn’t have much of a platform supporting him.  We’re supposed to want Mike because he wants to debate, for example, but debate what?  And why?  Indeed, McFadden’s political life may very well depend on NOT debating the experienced and policy-savvy Al Franken.

Committed Republicans will vote for McFadden regardless of how misguided that might seem.  It’s what they do.  If Republicans hope to remain relevant in the future, they need to speak to informed and thoughtful voter who really cares and thinks about issues.  Candidates like McFadden remind us that the GOP really does not have kind of candidate or strategy to win over those voters.  Until they have a meaningful message, that isn’t likely to change regardless of who is put on the ticket.

Politics is serious business and it is best left to serious, experienced people who respect government and work hard on behalf of the people government serves.  Mike McFadden shows nothing that would make us think he is that person.

Has the Adrian Peterson Story Devolved…Maybe Just a Little?

What’s going on with Adrian Peterson doesn’t involve a lot of which I know much about.  I have no children and no experience raising them.  I am at most a passive football fan, one who literally still doesn’t know whether a tight end plays offense or defense (although I’d venture a 50-50 guess) and I am a rather harsh critic of the highly-subsidized National Football League.  I think it is a scam.

I guess I am trying to say that outside of a sense of fairness and justice — principles for which I do care a great deal — I don’t have much else vested in the Adrian Peterson story or any of the other “scandals” that have erupted recently.  (Or any of the many, many others that happened over the years past but failed to erupt.)

However, I sense that the Adrian Peterson story is devolving.  It seems to be less and less about the real issue — a child being abused and all of the twists and factors intersecting and relating to it — and more and more about everything on the periphery.

Of those things on the periphery I would count most obviously the National Football League.  I also include the corporate sponsors (are they staying or leaving), the media (are they giving the matter a pass or covering it too much), and the fans (do they hold their heroes to the same standard as others).

Lost in all of this meta-discourse is the fact that thousands and thousands of children are abused every year in this country.  Certainly, the Peterson story is bringing this into focus for many who might not otherwise have been aware of the realities of this abuse, especially as it is normalized in some parts of our society.  However that focus is becoming blurred.

What do we really care about?  And why?

There exists a level of outrage that borders on self-righteousness.  Where you stand on this scandal is a social identifier, with more and more people joining the loud condemnation of Adrian Peterson and the NFL.  (The result is the “reverse” or “back-peddling”.)

This is the process of mob rule and vigilante justice.  Everyone gets worked up defining themselves as who they are by creating an other which they claim they are not.  The more evil the wrongdoer, the more righteous the good who stand opposite him.  And I think we are getting to this point with the Adrian Peterson case.

Increasingly lost in this is Adrian Peterson’s son…and the many thousands of others who have suffered this sort of abuse and much worse.  Nonetheless we try to say our anger is all about the kids, but is it still?  Do we really care about the abuse and its causes or do we care more about having the right opinion about these matters?

The story is devolving into one that serves a narrative that is about the National Football League, corporate sponsors, the media, politicians, social workers, clergy and parents until it ultimately has become a story about you and me and everybody!  But with a specific shift in focus.  Now it has begun to devolve into a story about whether we are appropriately outraged and sufficiently different from those other people who abuse.

There is no “other” who abuses.  This isn’t a south versus north thing.  It isn’t about race and class.  The rights of privilege don’t matter either.  In the end, the problem — abuse — exists in all walks of life and does so for many different reasons.  It seems to me that the sad Adrian Peterson story has been detached from that fact.

Andrew Wilkow Expresses His View of the NFL Appointing Women as Advisors

Andrew Wilkow

Andrew Wilkow

Andrew Wilkow took a few minutes on his radio program today to express his opinions about the National Football League appointing three women –Lisa Friel, Jane Randel, and Rita Smith — as advisers and serve the league’s new Vice President of Social Responsibility.

Whatever your opinions of this move by the NFL, let’s hope it isn’t on par with Wilkow’s.

In short, Wilkow ridiculed it.  (No surprise there.)  He said it was part of an overall plan to turn men into women.  (Really?)  And that wasn’t enough.  He described the women advisers as “schoolmarms…bringing the hairy armpit crowd” to the NFL.   Yes…He did.  The hairy arm pit crowd.  It would be funny if Wilkow were not so vile.

What, Andrew, do you mean, exactly?  Let’s figure it out.

Let’s push aside the offensive name calling for a moment and remember what this is.  This is Wilkow’s reaction to the NFL’s effort to address the problem of domestic violence that has plagued the league.  Even if you take the cynical view that the NFL has appointed women for the sake of good publicity, Wilkow argued that this is all about an overall trend to turn boys into men who wear “skinny jeans and carry tote bags” or some such nonsense.

It seems that Wilkow views the NFL as one of the last places where men can be men.  It is a bulwark against a society that is “raising little boys to be little girls.”

Does it take much to read between the lines?  Women — presumably with hairy armpits, the worst kind — are interfering with the masculinity of the NFL.  They are bringing their schoolmarmish ways to the NFL as an overall campaign to turn boys into girls.  Ultimately society will blur the line between men and women so much that we might as well be an androgynous blob!

Apparently Wilkow thinks domestic abuse is all part of the natural order of things, one that maintains the proper roles of the sexes.  Men will be men!  Boys should be boys!  And women should keep their hairy arm pits out of it!  Right?  Right?

This is exactly the sort of attitude that fosters abuse and dodges responsibility.

Forgive Student Loan Debt

I am reading a story today about a woman graduating from the University of Minnesota veterinary school with $300,000 in student loan debt.  The average debt for students graduating from Minnesota’s veterinary school is $188,000.

Student loan debt is in the news a lot these days and for good reason.  It will top $1.2 trillion this year.  There are many reasons for this.  The cost of education is going up while real incomes are not.  At the same time there is less and less aid for students.  While some are likely to call this a “personal responsibility” issue — the knee-jerk non-answer for many of our poor national policy issues — the problem really shows how badly America has abandoned education.

Under the influence of bad politics, the United States neglects the future.  Enormous student debt, beginning in the 1980s through today, reflects the nation’s poor choices quite clearly.  The time to change course is long overdue.

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