The necessity of dialogue

Today the front page news is once again pictures of shocked and grief stricken family members trying to cope with the loss of loved ones due to a mass shooting. It seems unlikely that anything meaningful is going to change to improve these situations. Sure, we pass referendums and watch our local school entrances get fortified, we can constantly be aware of our surroundings like Jason Bourne, and we can buy Kevlar inserts for our backpacks; but none of that may help at all. It seemed after Las Vegas that there was going to be an appetite in DC for regulating bump stocks but that fell by the wayside. Having a reasonable conversation about the first four words (a well regulated militia) of the second amendment seems to be a non-starter, the focus is always on the last 14 words (the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed). What bothers me most about this issue is how no real dialogue takes place. Imagine any other scenario resulting in thousands of senseless deaths each year with not even a conversation about options to mitigate it.

On the one side politicians are quick to decry the need for gun control and on the other side politicians are quick to say stop politicizing this. In my opinion, there is the problem. Our political system has become so fractured that having a reasonable and open dialogue about something is taboo unless it is with someone from your own political party. Sure, there are some exceptions to this but it is uncommon and those joint ventures have not secured additional support outside of a small group regardless of whether it is immigration reform, health care, or gun violence. For a brief moment this morning I wondered if the solution was simple, I wondered if the news media started treating mass shootings like they do women’s athletics or climate change if that would improve things. Is part of the appeal of the shooter knowing they will be the lead story and have their name everywhere and be talked about until the next mass shooting? I do not know, but maybe more focus on the victims and mitigations for the problem wouldn’t hurt because the reality is at the moment I could care a less about the piece of shit shooter and his troubled life.

The gridlock, inaction, and self-serving legislation seems to be at the core of many issues facing Americans today. Over the years there have been many clever pictures and calls for politicians to be like NASCAR drivers and wear their sponsors so everyone knows who bought and paid for them. I genuinely think this would help. It might not solve the fractured relationships immediately but it would give clearer insight in to what is happening behind the scenes and make open dialogues more likely. Imagine a senator wearing a large Nestle logo on their chest trying to influence the Forest Service to allow Nestle to keep pumping millions of gallons out of the San Bernardino National Forest for free despite the fact that their permit to extract water from the park expired in 1988. Imagine a politician with a big General Motors logo on his hat trying to pass legislation to not allow Tesla to sell vehicles directly to consumers in Michigan. Not only might it change the dialogue, it might change the mindset of sponsors who currently act with a certain amount of or sometimes complete anonymity. Being able to have a dialogue is the key and today, when it comes to complex issues like gun violence, climate change, health care, equality, immigration and more; the number of politicians on either side of the aisle willing to have a real discussion and have a willingness to compromise is too small.

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Belated resolutions

In thinking about approaching 2016 I had random scattered thoughts for things I would like to do or change. As I prioritized the hustle and bustle of the holidays as well as the chillaxing family time, I am just articulating my thoughts now.

My thoughts on own 2016 resolutions are as follows:

  • Eliminating the use of single use plastic bottles – It is easy to grab a single use plastic chocolate milk bottle when at Kwik Trip or a plastic soda bottle from a vending machine, but transitioning to carrying a reusable water bottle with me to ail my thirst will improve my bottom line and waistline. When I need a soda, I will choose an aluminum can or to fill my reusable at the fountain machine. I can do the same at Caribou or the hockey rink when I need something warm. Part of what is driving this desire to mitigate any use of plastic bottles is my disgust over Nestle and the way water is becoming privatized. In the midst of California’s historic drought, Nestle Waters (the largest bottler of water in the world) continues to draw water from the San Bernardino National Forest and other public lands around the world. Their permit for San Bernardino expired in 1988 and yet they continue to take the water uncontested by the Forest Service. I would encourage you to take a few minutes and watch the top two videos on this page and think about how you can reduce giving in to single use plastic bottles.
  • Getting Fat II – As I mentioned in my previous post, I purchased a fat tire bike and have been riding it quite a bit. For 2016, I have decided to set an annual goal for miles ridden of 1,000. I plan to track this on my band and it will give me the flexibility to not ride on some days and ride more miles on others. I am all geared up for winter riding, night riding, and have even used my bike for one errand so far since I now have a lock.
  • Volunteering – My schedule allows time for volunteering and working on different causes. For 2016 I plan to streamline those efforts and focus more in areas where I feel I am providing a valuable impact. Sometimes my passion and persistence to help an organization in need has resulted in a one sided effort where I end up cajoling the organization in to accepting help. That is frustrating and I need to put my energy in to places that are appreciative and desiring help.
  • No plastic bags – Our family owns plenty of reusable shopping bags. For 2016 my intent is to not use a single disposable shopping bag to get items home from a store. If I forget to bring reusable bags, I will need to just carry stuff or go get the reusable bags. I have been at 90% on this effort, but my goal for 2016 is 100%.

I am certain I am missing some items I thought of previously and will likely still add some other 30 day challenges to the year.