Intentionally Unreasonable: Americans have created a lazy democracy

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Donald Trump is an orange-tinted clown with what appears to be an impulse control disorder of epic proportions – an affliction that might be described by the mentally challenged, morally bankrupt, diarrheic Trump as the “GREATEST” in the world. “Really, the best,” I can hear him chortle, followed by the hollow assurance, “I promise you that!”

There is an entire Chinese food menu of significant reasons why Donald “Drumpf” – his original family name that just feels like a better representation of the man – shouldn’t be our next president in categories that include moral, ethical, intelligence, egotistical, empathy and core understanding of civics/government.

But, beyond the long list of technical and functional disqualifications that should bar Drumpf from being the next leader of the free world is this simple truth: he is at his core, beneath the glowing orange exterior, a no-frills jerk.

But to his self-promoted credit, and to recognize his world-class skill in the art of crass hyperbole, Drumpf is the greatest no-frills jerk on the planet. I promise you that!

Maine’s very own Paul LePage shares many similarities with the great orange one. Though less successful than Drumpf in areas of business and personal hair care, LePage is every bit an equal when it comes to possessing an operating system void of any impulse control associated with, or anchored by, critical thinking, empathy, humility, or human compassion.

Close to home, LePage was emotionally and socially tortured during a youth that featured mean streets and tough times. He experienced life experiences that ultimately forged within his damaged psyche an inflexible hardness and myopic perspective, weighed down by giant chips on both shoulders.

Growing up in Lewiston as the eldest son of 18 children, LePage lived in poverty with an alcoholic, abusive father who reportedly “terrorized” the kids, resulting in LePage running away from home at age 11. Living in horse stables, above a strip club and “on the streets” made deep and indelible scars – both emotional and mental – on the young boy that is now the Belligerent-in-Chief of Maine.

Today, that same little boy resides within the angry man who is two parts bully and one part sad little boy from Lewiston. Still today he is flailing away at the imaginary demons of hardship and his hard-life past.

Sadly, 1.3 million citizens of Maine have suffered his retribution through bad leadership, angry and destructive words, and a scorched-earth (state) approach for five years now, with three more to go.

It’s more than a sad coincidence that Drumpf and LePage are political forces at the same time in our history. Many people across the country and here in Maine are rightfully frustrated with the recent past and fearful of an uncertain future.

In many areas too complex to detail here, we’ve lost our way as a country. In the darkness, people are most susceptible to following the loudest and seemingly strongest voices – in this case the orange man and the former general manager of a local surplus and salvage retail business.

Also, Drumpf and LePage share a breathtaking capacity for speaking the language of incoherent gibberish at public events with a natural fluency that is often mistaken for passionate communication, but when later deconstructed, is just a series of random words (often hurtful and/or ignorant) mixed in with head shaking or frantic hand gesturing.

Loud gibberish. Angry gibberish. Partisan pandering gibberish. Still, all gibberish.

But, this column really isn’t about the Trump/LePage axis of boorish behavior, vulgarity of purpose, or political sadism. To be fair, they’re only the symptom, we’re the problem. You, me, our neighbors and friends.

Democracy is the best social and political system/machine ever created, but it demands and requires active participation from all of us.  We’ve become complacent and lazy in our democracy. We.

More than two centuries ago our country was formed to break free from the tyrannical rule of the British monarchy and aristocracy. The immense struggle and many sacrifices for freedom that our forefathers faced lasted more than a decade before culminating famously on July 4th of 1776.

I am in awe of the brilliance contained within the construct and writings of the Declaration of Independence. With no computers or technology involved, those 1,458 words were masterfully organized and thoughtfully composed to give birth to a nation – our nation.

With life and liberty at stake, the colonists at the time, organized as the Second Continental Congress, didn’t choose the biggest loudmouth to represent them and their families. They didn’t resort to bully tactics to gain independence. Instead, they recognized and respected a small group of leaders (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin) who were chosen to write what may be the greatest document ever written.

They were smart and patriotic in the purest sense. And ultimately America was born from the proper and thoughtful selection of true and qualified leadership – not from the darker impulses that lay in the shadows of our human nature.

Now more than ever, we must remember the lessons and truths contained within the bedrock of our democracy as we look for ways out of the darkness during these challenging times.

Yes, there are many problems that face Maine and our country as a whole that can no longer be ignored. Yes, many people are living with terrible hardships that we must address. Yes, we all need to actively get more involved in our great democracy locally, statewide and throughout our country.

But no, we shouldn’t follow or elect the loudest or angriest person in the room as a remedy for the  many solutions needed – because the same problems will still exist – only with a loud and angry person in the room making things worse.

To me, this truth is self-evident: we need smarter and more competent leaders. Let’s start with each of us becoming better citizens who are more informed.

Even now, more than two centuries after the birth of our country, life and liberty are still at stake. We must act – and vote like it.

Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week. He can also be heard each Saturday at 11 a.m. on WLOB-AM 1310.

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  • justanotherfakename

    I can’t really disagree with a single point made, I won’t vote for the orange headed one. But I’m wondering if you went to a Bernie Sanders rally, the one in the old Civic Center last July, just a tad over a year ago? We were not lazy, and those that say Mister Sanders campaign positions were unrealistic, I have to wonder if any of you even read his positions, they are not at all far out; universal single payer health care for all, like every other civilized country on planet Earth, free education through college for those with the grades to be admitted, like every other civilized country, rebuild our infrastructure, break up the big banks that gambol on the backs of taxpayers, when they win, they keep all the profits, when they lose, you pay the bill. So Steve? Some of us have tried very hard to participate without joining either of the two parties that most of us consider to be part of the problem, not the solution. Both Dems and Repubs are seemingly parties of the rich, and I don’t feel lazy, but like the majority, I feel cheated. I won’t count the ways, sounds too much like whining, but God help us, because the Republicrat Party sure won’t help anyone but the well off, and Hillary talks the talk, but walks the Republicrat walk, and the chickens look like they’ve come home to roost.

    • Stevoe

      Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful comment. My “lazy” democracy theme was a generalization that certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. And now with the destabilization of the BREXIT vote as the latest byproduct of larger and deeper frustrations, the underlying issues at play are more global, than local.

      You mentioned feeling “cheated” – and I would add that many (most?) people also feel as though they’re playing a game (finance, healthcare, education, government policy, etc.) and the game(s) is rigged by those in “power” and that the only viable option is to topple those people and undermine that power. But, that path has its own danger too.

      For me, I liked and supported many of Bernie’s ideas. The challenge will be to find actionable common ground that links much needed reform/change – with realities associated with massive infrastructures, thousands of disparate POV’s/perspectives and a hundreds of fragmented “special interests.”

      Today we do not have a common/shared and generally reliable communications/media stream as we had from 1940-1990 – where people had faith in respected information sources (60 Minutes, network news, Boston Globe, Time Magazine, etc.) – today there is almost zero faith/trust in organized informational sources – extending and distorting whatever gibberish exists in the gap between; info – facts – truth.

      Don’t “believe” in Climate Change? No worries – you can find some “info” online provided by the Koch brothers that supports your ignorance.

      Don’t believe that there is ANY linkage between the massive quantity of guns readily available (300+ million) in the U.S. and our epidemic of gun related deaths? No worries – here is an NRA sponsored article that will assure you that you’re right.

      Don’t see the need for a 9th Supreme Court justice for more than a year? Fine. Your Friends at Fox will tell you why it’s not a big deal to leave our highest court paralyzed over numerous huge legal issues for more than a year.

      Each of us have become our own personal trusted news source – forming billions of individual news outlets – unencumbered by any reasonable standards relating to factual…facts – anchored only by the weakest justification of “what we believe.”

      It’s within that vacuum that the loudest “voice” often prevails – when instead, we should all work a little harder at seeking out and listening to the best (most informed, smartest, thoughtful, selfless, etc.) voices.

      Until then, I’ll hold on to a sliver of hope that our better angels will ultimately prevail and that orange-tinted jerks will no longer be a thing.

      I hope.

      • todiscus

        I appreciate reading thoughtful comments there and thoughtful comments on those comments. Thank you.

  • Jane Gildart

    Let’s start by stipulating that democracy isn’t an end in itself, and that each state and our federal government are constitutional republics, not democracies. Their purpose is to exercise powers delegated from the people for our self-government and the preservation of individual liberties that rise from our nature as human beings (the rational animal per Aristotle).

    Individuals are not to be subjects of the state; we exist for our own sake, with individual brains to make our own choices, and we assign our centralized government a duty to protect us from predatory fellow men and women who would harm us through violence, theft and fraud.

    Now that we know the purpose of our centralized government, we can agree that “democracy” – 52% of the people want it! – is not a justification for authoritarian measures that expand the power and scope of central government into all aspects of our individual lives, negating the cognitively healthy individual’s freedom to act on his or her independent judgment, and increasingly, to give voice to thoughts that contradict the prevailing view.

    You may be right that laziness has brought us to this point. I would say it’s intellectual laziness, a failure to grasp the very purpose of centralized government, plus a lazy desire to cede responsibility for our lives to technocrats who are supposedly smarter or better than we are. A majority in Great Britain just said they want less of that technocratic rule from afar, not more of it. I salute them.

    • truther

      “A majority in Great Britain just said they want less of that technocratic rule from afar, not more of it. I salute them.”

      I don’t. There no evidence that anyone in the UK has any idea what they’re doing. They can’t even explain how they’re going to leave, or how they’re going to keep things running smoothly when they do. Instead they just looked at their situation, decided to blame everything on the technocrats in Brussels (who deserve some blame), and then voted to kick them out. Yay! Freedom! Take our country back!

      Meanwhile their politics are in chaos, their economy is suddenly tanking, and many Britons are having a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Brexit seems merely to have shown everyone that the Brits are a lot dumber than their fancy accents had led us to believe.

      • Stevoe

        “truther” speaks a bit of truth here.

        Ultimately, raw emotion (fear, hate, jealousy, blind prejudice, etc.) – absent a healthy dose of critical thinking – is not the best Operating System for an electorate – be it from the old (mostly) Brexit crowd, the Drumpet drum-beaters or the Bernie-burners hyped up on high-octane idealism unanchored from realism.

        Most (not all) governmental policy issues come down ultimately to simple math/economics – and the results born from those choices.

        Math doesn’t care about emotion. Math doesn’t recognize anger. Math is math.

        How many miles of “fence” would be required to block off Mexico? A crazy amount beyond any reasonable economic justification.

        How impossible and expensive would it be to deport 10 million undocumented residents? Too crazy of a high number.

        How much money does the NRA receive directly from gun manufacturers? How much money does the NRA then give to politicians and their campaigns? Again, math. No emotion required.

        How much would it cost to provide free healthcare, free college, many other free or subsidized public services – while shortening the work week and mandating more vacation time and official holidays? Where does the funding come from? What does that “math” look like?

        We (Mainers and U.S. citizens) should be thoughtful and mindful in regard to our ideals and social consciousness relating to “doing the right thing.” But, we (and the Brits!) need to do a better – and more forward-looking job of measuring and accepting consequence.

        If things just don’t add up – it’s most likely a problem with the math.

        • truther

          The biggest problem our culture faces is that ideology is supplanting critical thought. It has somehow become fashionable to believe what you want to believe, rather than what the facts suggest is true, and to reason backwards from broad-brushed stereotypes rather than outward from observable data.

          So Obama becomes a “liberal,” and because he’s a liberal he is therefore wrong about everything. Brexit becomes about “taking our country back.” Global warming is a hoax because lefties support it. Asylum seekers must be banned from Maine because ebola is bad. Or whatever. Just mindless nonsense in place of thought and reason.