“It’s YOU!”

beatlesThere’s an outtake from a Beatle recording session where they are trying to lay down vocal tracks for “One After 909” and someone keeps messing up causing them to start over.  Finally, after John Lennon stops one more time, presumably to correct the others, Paul McCartney jumps in (laughing), “It’s you, John, it’s YOU!”

The American public is similarly asking for Washington DC to start over in order to get things right by ending political deadlock and corruption.  It occurs to me, however, that a more realistic evaluation of the problem might have us pointing at each other saying, “It’s you, it’s YOU!”

How many times have we heard a politician say, at their constituents behest, “I am going to change the way we do politics in Washington!”?

thCAFQQ4WWHow long have we been complaining about Washington corruption, or the inability of Congress to make progress?

How many times have pundits, columnists and voters said, “Let’s get rid of the bastards, give them terms limits and end career politics!”?

And yet…nothing changes.

Could it be because we are trying to change the wrong part of the equation?  Could it be that we need to change first?

The men and women in Washington are there because we put them there.  They rose from our ranks, and now that they are there, they bicker, fight, stall, boast, cajole, bribe, and lie….just like the private sector.

Sprinkle in a little slanted messaging and we have a political conundrum we cannot seem to escape.

That was illustrated when a bill to require a background check regarding firearms fell just 6 votes short of passing the Senate, even though a clear majority of Americans were in favor of such a measure.  The deciding number of Senators were swayed by a very powerful gun lobby because the NRA made it clear that they would use their vast financial resources to defeat any Senator who didn’t.  The Senators (and the NRA) know that money buys media and media sways voters.

Media saturation works because many people have developed (over decades) a passive relationship with information, allowing their decisions to be swayed by repetitive, clever, even false, messaging.

Senators want to keep their job.  Understandable.  The NRA wants things their way.  Doesn’t everyone?  The public wants better representation in Congress but allows their votes to be dictated by whoever spends the most money to inform them of where they should stand.

What needs to change?

tjRarely, is it necessary to go much further than Thomas Jefferson to find grist for the mill:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

“The most effectual means of preventing [the perversion of power into tyranny are] to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts which history exhibits, that possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries…”

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.  The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.  And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

What more needs to be said?  As we have evolved as a country we have transferred power onto representation, when, in fact, we, as an aggregate whole, possess the power in a Republic.  We are only capable of such leadership, however, when we are educated in the matters of governance.

Our Founding Fathers did not create a direct-democracy where the “majority rules,” rather their system of government was predicated on an informed electorate that chooses wisely from its ranks, the representatives, who are thereby empowered to collectively legislate for the Common Good.

So, how do we correct our faltering archetype?

We must have campaign finance reform.  We must do away with Citizen’s United and make elections publicly funded.  Each candidate receives the same budget and they debate, forum, talk, and listen among their constituents.  Unfortunately (and paradoxically), there remains political division on this issue, fueled by the very money that should be taken out of the equation.

There remains, however, a more fundamental first step that can override this dilemma:  We must prioritize public education.  We must appropriate the dollars toward education as in investment for our future, and reduce the burden of debt placed on our graduates.

Furthermore, the current trend toward specialization needs to include the foundational disciplines that were once part and parcel with developing minds.

franklinI just finished Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and Thomas Jefferson’s, as well, and I was consistently taken aback by what they would describe from their colonial educations; having learned Latin in order to translate many great works of literature.  Reading Virgil, Horace, Cicero, and Seneca and the principles of logic, along with math were part of Grammar School.

Sorry, Mr. Rubio (“We need more welders and less philosophers”), but you have replaced the survival matrix of our Republic with a myopic monetization of reality.  Studying the “capital laws of this country” and philosophy were once part of basic education. The works of Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid and Ptolemy were recited by rote.  The curriculum was intended to expand the mind to critical thinking and analysis.

When public libraries came into existence, Franklin noted how many a poor farmer, who could not afford to go to school, would seek the knowledge contained, therein, and one grammarof the early principles of this country became to give every American child an education.

I support and respect our educational systems and the teachers who dedicate their lives to them, however, they are forced to pander to the will of a population that has evolved away from critical thinking.  As our country has expanded I find it ironic that our interest in it has diminished; a public Attention Deficit Disorder, perhaps.

It won’t be until we collectively realize where the process has derailed and rise to correct the misfire, that we will consistently find better representation.  Meanwhile, we will be condemned to repeat our mistakes.

“It’s you, John, it’s YOU!”



My Thankful Prayer

Someone said to me, “Gary, I don’t see any evidence of American pride in your positions.  You criticize our great country.”

I was startled.  I honestly feel that my perspective is a tribute to America, even when I am critical of politicians, policies and political parties.  I never take for granted what this country provides, and I consistently give thanks for all that I have.  I’ve been educated, I have a great job, I have healthy sons and I am free to speak my mind in the public square.

To bring some harmony to this dissonant chord I decided to form my political views, realized and hopeful, into thoughts of thankfulness.

I am thankful to live in a country where we are free to protest, to peaceably assemble to empower the voice of the people.  A country where such a right is recognized as essential to securing our freedom from tyranny.

I am eternally grateful to our military men and women who have bravely sacrificed so that we may have that freedom.

I am thankful that I live in a country that has recognized that clean air and clean water are vital to the health of our nation.

I am hopeful that health care reform will continue, and improve, so that more Americans can live healthier lives and reduce the fear of illness and financial ruin.

I am thankful that I live in a country where the rights of citizens are protected by ethical laws regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; and that these laws are vigorously examined to suppress the tendencies of prejudice and fear.

I am thankful to live in a country that offers support and help to those who have fallen on hard times or who are challenged by obstacles of ill health, physical or mental, or who have been raised in an environment without advantages.

I am thankful to live in a country where education is acknowledged as the engine of prosperity and freedom, and public education is offered to every child.

I am thankful to live in a country where more reasonable voices can subject an imperfect system to better governance and demand accountability from those who have taken advantage of its flaws.

I am fearful, however, that the national debate has turned into demagoguery that could compromise much of what I am thankful for.

I am fearful that many politicians are working to eliminate or marginalize many of those great things that Americans have fought for; things like civil rights for all Americans, environmental protections, equality of opportunity, public education, religious freedom and valuable social programs.

I’m a divorced father with two young sons, and I have my Thanksgiving dinner with them the Sunday before. Today we will join my youngest brother and his family, along with our mother,  for a lively conversation of hopes, blessings and politics.  My 16 year old is becoming engaged in the world around him and I believe he gets a little memory chip from Dad’s passion for public service.  Lately he’s been coming to the table to play his own hand.

My youngest is 11 and little of this resonates, but this won’t be the last time ol’ Dad talks to his sons about how much he cares about America.

And for now, I am thankful just to have them at dinner.

Vive la France!

I’m a little uncomfortable with something. While I believe everyone on either side of the aisle genuinely supports the French after this horrific event, there is an “elephant” in the room. Is this unified sympathy and resolve to fight back against the terrorism that is ripping at our civilized seams, a shared belief in allied friendship or are some seizing an opportunity to turn this into more Islamophobia?

I ask because I didn’t see a lot of love for France 12 years ago when the French government chose to stay out of a pre-emptive war against Iraq.  Many Americans castigated them for what they saw as a betrayal.  After all, we liberated them in WWII, and many believed that demanded any and all compliance from then on.

The French were called “cowards” for not joining a dubious invasion and “Freedom Fries” replaced French Fries to illustrate indignation toward France’s perfectly well-reasoned position.  I can recall scores of articles deriding the entire history of the French for being the people of “retreat’ (George Will being one of the more vocal) and unworthy of being an ally.french-flag-facebook

And today, many of those same people are covering their Facebook portraits with the Tricolours.

There is an irony inherent to tragedy as the catastrophe itself brings out the best in us as we communally reflect upon the worst of human actions, and so, again, let me be clear, I don’t question the sincerity of the outpouring of support across party lines and country borders. But, this historical contradiction does compel me to suspect that for some it is a convenient new love to justify a new war.

Many of us have always loved the French, even when their foreign policy was contrary to American involvements. I even liked my semi-rude French waiter years ago because I knew that his attitude stemmed from the fact that he cherished his culture (all I had to do was make an attempt to order in French and everything changed). It is for him, and for everyone who cherishes respect for life and culture that I mourn.  And for which I share the cause to protect.

What I fear is monotheistic extremism that turns an ideology into a monstrous doctrine. And I fear imperialistic self-interests that turn decency on a dime and destroy moral authority.

Even a cursory glance at the Middle East can tie a brain into knots.  The Iraq/Taliban/al-Qaida/ISIS/Iran/Syrian/Afghan/Russian/US/Saudi/Israeli/Palestinian/Egyptian/British/French quagmire….is a quagmire.  There is no straight line to the unraveling of hundreds of years of conflicting interests, confused nationalism and religious claims.  A history generously peppered with shahs, war lords, dictators, mandates, imperialists, and military coups on oil rich land that simultaneously made kings of some and peasants of others, is not easy to understand.  But, understand we must.

Many of the complexities bewilder Western diplomacy, but there is a thread that binds history with interests, and interests with people.  That thread is power. Power fueled by fortunes.  And the currency for the past 50 years has been oil.  ISIS is not funded by religion, but by donors in countries like Saudi Arabia, where bankers and oil rich kings send money to Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS, not to propagate a religious war, but to sustain their own political power.

The “War on Terrorism” will be won when the money stops.  It will be won when the flow of money from Gulf states fails to reach the extremists, and when the flow of black market oil from ISIS controlled fields in Syria and Iraq is blocked.

iraq_isil-oil-650_416_jpg_1718483346We must place aggressive sanctions on any country that buys oil smuggled from Syrian/Iraq oil wells controlled by ISIS.  Turkey is the biggest offender, as they have turned a blind eye to their border with Syria because ISIS oil is cheap.

The US State Department has known for years that the main financiers to extreme militant groups have been from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and from oil smuggled into Turkey.  All countries posing with Western-friendly opportunities, but are laundering funds through government sanctioned charities and funneled to terrorist groups. The United Nations must freeze the assets of these organizations cloaked in the virtue of charity. Their identities are no mystery.

That is where they will hurt.glossynews-wikileaks-guilty  That is when they will comply. And that is when ISIS is strangled because it can no longer sustain control without funds and can no longer launch attacks abroad.

For the record, this is public record, not a dramatic fairytale.  We learned this from WikiLeaks 5 years ago.  Chalk up another one to freedom of information.

ISIS knows what they are doing.  They know that fear causes us to diminish our own freedoms and they know that the airstrikes that will result will cause civilian casualties that they will exploit.  They will exploit them to recruit more militants and to attract more money.  There is an evil brilliance to their strategy.  But, it can be stopped.

cheap-gasIt is stopped when the money is stopped.  The money can also be stopped by reducing our own reliance on oil.  We can diminish our financial involvement in a political chess match that is a stalemate on its best days.  Cheap gas at the pump is not worth lives being lost at the hands of terrorists.

I’m not saying that we don’t strike back militarily.  America, France, and Russia have stepped up airstrikes, and I feel that there is no choice but to unveil our united resolve and our overwhelming force.  But, we must also accept that it is a reaction and not a singular solution.  There is an even deeper and perhaps more powerful inspiration that can unite us, and it comes from the innocent victims themselves.

This letter from the husband of a victim was posted online today:  http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/husband-of-paris-attack-victim-sends-defiant-message-to-isis/ar-BBn5txw?li=AAa0dzB

Take a moment to read it.  This man has given all civilized people a statement for the ages.  “If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart.”

So, as we collectively, and sincerely, support and mourn for our friends from across the Atlantic, or from any culture on the globe that cherishes life, let us also, collectively and sincerely, measure our resolve to move toward a genuine solution and away from a genuine hate.

Some interesting reading:  http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/12/06/wikileaks.terrorism.funding/index.html





Make America great…again!

The line wasn’t coined by Donald Trump. I’ve heard every Republican who has declared their candidacy for the presidency state that we need a president that will “make us proud again to be an American.”

It wasn’t that long ago when Democrats were rallying to “return America to greater standing in the world” and to find our “moral authority once again.”

I remember because I was one of the louder voices.

Only 8 years before that the battle cry was heard from a Republican running against Gore that we needed to “bring dignity back to the White House.”

Clinton, before that, ran against Bush Sr. and promised to return us to “a time when America was respected more than feared.”

A letter to the editor in the Des Moines Register criticized Obama’s foreign policies and finished with the proclamation, “We need to make America great again!”

Every time I hear that I ask myself, “What ‘great’ period are they referring to?”

I hear “return to greatness” from both sides of the political fence and I wonder, “What is the criteria for greatness?”

Apparently, the letter writer felt good about the way things were before Obama even though the Bush era ended with economic catastrophe, and a foreign policy quagmire.

Maybe, they were referring to Clinton-era American pride.  Clinton did balance the budget and maintained an extended period of prosperity, but, something tells me that wasn’t the writer’s intention.

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that many Americans wish for a return to the principles of Ronald Reagan and his “Shining city on the hill,” but, that was also when we first became a debtor nation from his fiscal inequities.  Not to mention that the “Trickle Down” revival of neoliberalism (not to be confused with liberalism) created a divide between the Haves and the Have-nots that still tangle the economic debate.

Many Americans think of the great moral purpose of World War II and the recovery from the Great Depression as the greatest time in the history of America. Although to hear the conservative revisionists speak of FDR today, you would think that every failure since, social and economic, was the result of the New Deal.

Lincoln, perhaps the greatest philosophical genius to ever occupy the White House, presided over the greatest socio/political divide in history.

There is no doubt that seeds from separatism still exist to this day as we continue to fight challenges of racism.

So…what is the period of greatness that we all, at one time or another, want to get back to?

There are two things that happen when we consider our historical greatness.  One is a natural human craving for nostalgia.  Nostalgia is not built upon a remembrance of how things were; rather it comes from what we remember about how we felt at a certain time.

We carry in our narrative the fact that we have survived, and we remember the moments of joy in the cracks and crevices of our struggles; we instinctively long for those feelings again.

Some of my happiest memories are from financially hard times long ago when I found laughs and inspirations in my journey.  I yearn for them even today.

And two, we have a collective historical consciousness about the legacy and promise of America. We are aware of the unique place in world history that our Republic occupies and we have been taught what our forefathers fought for in defiance of tyranny.

We are raised on the traditions of patriotism and the stories of struggle and triumph that define our realization of freedom and human rights.

While our history is undeniably peppered with stumbles and falls toward realizing those principles, it is still a timeline of progress toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Together, nostalgia and patriotism conspire to give us a sincere sense of what makes this country great and we perennially long to restore her to something that “used to be.”

My challenge for all of us is to ask ourselves, individually:  “What is it that I believe in that makes America great?  Does America follow the call for human rights and the principles of freedom?  What am I doing to continue that journey?”

We make a mistake when we put the responsibility of America’s promise onto the shoulders of politicians before we answer those questions ourselves.  Only collectively, as citizens and politicians, can we define the moral directives that will restore our journey to freedom and guide us toward the realization of peace.

That will make us great. Again.

We the People

“I never believed there was one code of morality for a public and another for a private man.” – Thomas Jefferson


Last week I officially announced my endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. Conventional wisdom in politics is that it is not politicallyFB_IMG_1445776429406 expedient for a congressional candidate to make a primary (or caucus) endorsement because of the risk of alienating other voters.

My decision to move forward with my endorsement was based on several things, but primarily it was this: Political expediency is the antithesis of representative democracy.

I entered this congressional race specifically to mount a campaign that was not contingent upon polls, but relied on following the compass of my conscience as I listened to people’s concerns. That has meant calling attention to LGBTQ rights when those civil rights were not front and center. That has meant calling attention to climate change when pundits said that wasn’t an election issue. It means taking on the gun lobby and corporate special-interests even when surrounded by the immense influence of both.

20151023_193241-1This is a time in American history when the Progressive Movement must be bold and genuine. That does not mean that we are creating “extremism” it means we must adhere to uncompromised “rationalism.” It means that our actions must be based on reason; from research, from the facts that history provides, and making decisions that benefit a Republic of, by and for, the people.

I am not against the candidacy of Hillary Clinton nor do I oppose Martin O’Malley, but my political ideology, which holds the Preamble to the Constitution to its highest standard, and my purpose to work toward changing a course 10436that has moved us toward oligarchy, aligns best with Senator Sanders. And I see no reason to hide or dodge that association. In fact, to do so would betray my own premise for running.

No endorsement should be a blank check to a specific platform, but rather a testament to the character of the candidate and the conviction of their purpose. There are issues where I differ somewhat with Senator Sanders, but that is healthy. Where I find our most common ground is from the fact that he has never been swayed by the winds of political expediency and he has always followed his conscience.

As Senator Sanders says at every event, this movement is not about him, it is about all of us. My goal is to get to Washington as the representative from Iowa’s First District, but my race is thNKXU32AKnot about me, either. It is about upholding a Constitution that begins with:

“We the People…”



Christians, Deists, and Unitarians, Oh My!

200 years is a long time to keep anything going. Consider the world 200 years ago and you won’t find much that resembles the world today; not in the United States, anyway.

200 years ago the War of 1812 rocked our newly won sovereignty to its core as residual resentments between our Union and Britain remained, and a bloody, 32 month conflict was ended only after Washington was burned to the ground.

State of the art transportation was a horse drawn buggy, candles and oil lamps lit rooms and hallways, armies fought with muskets, slaves comprised the manual labor of agrarian states, and agreements were honored with just a handshake to bind them.

A Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, drafted from a Revolution, were still relatively new, and America, although growing more powerful from that promise of freedom, was still considered an experiment in Democracy; no one was absolutely certain that it would work.

Central to the theme of this great republican trial was religious freedom, arguably the cornerstone of all the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned and designed in their documents to uphold a constitutional government.

It was nearly 200 years before the revolution when immigrants from England made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to escape the Church of England seeking freedom from persecution. Over time they, themselves, exercised their own forms of persecution between settlers of other denominations, but central to the cause of the immigration to America was a concept of freedom.

It was amorphous and roughly drawn from their sense of dignity coupled with desperation, but it was nevertheless the motivation for their adventure to an unknown land and was the premise by which they would form new laws, and begin to resist a King.

By the mid-18th century colonial farmers and tradesmen still carried the torch of the original pilgrims adventure, but now these Americans were turning their collective spirit toward the tyranny of a British Monarchy that demanded from them what their innate sense of justice told them was unfair.

10 years after the implementation of The Stamp Act in 1765, the colonists declared war against Britain on the grounds of unfair taxation, and from the historic winds of change rose a rag tag collection of Christians, Deists, and Unitarians who transcribed the calling of human beings toward freedom and justice into words of action.

Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” published in January of 1776, is regarded as the original primer that put this aggregate spirit of freedom into the context of a new government and to fan the populist flame of revolution.

Only 6 months later Americans read the Declaration of Independence for the first time and now a document existed to eloquently express a noble purpose.

(Note: While I forgive our revolutionary forebears for the context and complexities of their time, I cannot overlook that human bondage was a legal practice that took another hundred years to abolish).

The Declaration makes it clear that governments created by humanity derive their powers from the consent of the governed, and it served as the adumbration for the Constitution which followed. It is not a legal document, but a statement of purpose to define and to defend the Inalienable Rights of Men (human beings) in the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness.

When the Revolution was won and a Constitution was drafted, the framers very carefully constructed its First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is no mistaking what these words mean. They are the very definition of our hard won Republic and they frame the security upon which it rests.

“No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” specifically and clearly outlines that we cannot fall under the auspices of a national religion, and that any religion can be freely followed or expressed.  If there is any leeway for interpretation it would only regard the freedom from religious practice, as well, but no free nation, founded on inalienable rights, can exclude non practicing agnostics and atheists.

Freedom of speech is a broad concept in terms of what it entails, but it is specific at the same time as it means that government cannot legislate to curtail the free expression of ideas.

This would again, logically, include the expression of religious beliefs, but as we have the right to express them, they cannot become the law of the land.

This Grand Experiment in Democracy is now a third of a century past 200 years, and while we can rest assured that we are stronger today from the fruits harvested from freedom, the conviction of some of our constitutional principles are fading or forgotten.

The modern interpretation of the original rebellion that calls itself “The Tea Party” has carried into its vague (yet dogmatic) agenda, theocratic ideas that are contrary to our founding purpose.

tea-party-300x182They, and many others with an extreme conservative philosophy, believe that we should be a Christian nation; that the Founding Fathers constructed and fought for a nation with exclusively Christian principles; that the “natural God” and the “Creator” referred to in the Declaration of Independence was specifically the Christian God.

It is almost on a daily basis that I will read or hear someone state the belief that our Founder’s design for America was born exclusively from Christianity.  But, when we look critically at the story of our nation it is clear that such an exclusionary religious concept is contrary to all of our freedoms and would be, in fact, un-constitutional.

It is irrefutable that Christianity was a primary influence on the creation of our nation and that Christianity embraces many of the moral directives that define our ideal Republic, but it is also irrefutable that one religion cannot be the sole proprietor of such virtues.

And to secure our freedom for the next 200 years we must be vigilant toward understanding that distinction.

Crazy on you!

I was reading an MSN article on why people voted the way they did last year.  Most of the people who voted Republican were pretty consistent as to what two issues defined the races for them.  The issues that concerned them the most were expanding government, and economic progress (or the perceived lack of).

Woman-at-Dulles-Airport-Wearing-Hazmat-Suit-for-Ebola-e1413537522167Other relevant, but less pressing issues were immigration reform, gun control and even Ebola containment.  The article, comprised of polls, drilled down into the commonly shared beliefs among conservatives that climate change is fake, regulations on business are too restrictive, and that taxes are too high.

Believe it or not, Obamacare, while still something they opposed across the board, was not the most serious to conservative voters.

I stepped into the fray to comment on social media and my posts were CrazyTrainmet with criticism from my right wing friends, three of whom called me a “crazy liberal” and one called me a “commie.”   But, that got me to thinking….not in a defensive way, but because I have yet to understand what they mean.

What is so far-out, crazy, left-wing about…..

Gun Control?  Guns are lethal force and 2nd Amendment interpretations aside, I certainly don’t think it’s insane to believe that not everyone who wants one should be carrying one.   We may disagree on what restrictions are necessary, but is it really far-granny20with20gunout to think that the proliferation of guns might not be the best way to contain gun violence?

When there are studies that conclude that gun violence increases by a factor of 3 in homes that have firearms, is it a liberal interpretation only that is sobered by that information?

Equal Rights?  This may be the historical domain of liberal ideology, but is it CRAZY to think it’s unfair that women earn over 20% less than a man for the same work?

Is it a dramatic swing to the left to interpret the civil rights defended in our Constitution to include…everybody?

How is it exclusively a liberal cause to be sure that our immigration laws serve impartial justice?

Environmental Protection?  Don’t we all live on the same planet, breathe the same air, and drink from the same rivers?  Again, we may disagree on what the parameters are, but is restricting the CO2 pumped into our atmosphere, or pollutants into our lakes and streams or limiting pipelines that deface our Amber Waves of Grain, a liberal concept alone?

Is it so FAR to the left to consider warnings from a majority of environmentalists and climatologists?

Keynsian Economics?  This is the subject that divides us the most critically, and one which will likely never reach a consensus, but is it a screaming liberal position to look at the historical record of economics?  I don’t make up the statistics about economic growth and recessions.

Liberals didn’t create Keynsian Economic theory, they just used it, and from its most profound application during the Great Depression, there is evidence that there just might be some validity to it.

Disagree it you’d like.  Offer counter evidence!  But what it isn’t, is crazy

Health Care?  This one is a real head scratcher for me.  Eisenhower proposed government subsidies to businesses that offered coverage.  Nixon proposed employer mandates.  The conservative Heritage Foundation proposed the individual mandates to create a health market.  Mitt Romney ran with it!

Call the Affordable Health Act what you want, but what it isn’t, is Universal Health Care.  Call it an expansion of government, but to call it left wing is….wrong.

Many liberals, myself included, call our ideology “Progressivism.”  I believe it is AR-701089997a more accurate description of what liberals stand for.

Progressivism, the first born child of liberalism from the Age of Enlightenment, didn’t find its voice in America until President Theodore Roosevelt, himself a Republican, coined the term to carve out his agenda.  That agenda was social justice; safety and health standards, labor laws, a living wage and protection against the hazards of sickness and irregular employment.

It was to regulate corporate America insofar as to protect the prosperity of the working class and to navigate us away from the inevitable trend toward corporate oligarchy.

And it fought for the protection and enhancement of America’s natural resources.

Roosevelt’s progressive agenda was not embraced by the party he called his own, but the truth of the matter is that Roosevelt and the Progressives were seeking a greater realization of “freedom.”

-Freedom to prosper without being exploited by industrial barons.

-Freedom to live in a clean environment and to share access to America’s resources.

-Freedom to live and work safely with protection from unforeseeable health hazards.

Today, liberal “progressives” have added to that journey toward freedom, tenets of racial, sexual and cultural equality.  They have added the advocation of common sense policy to contain misuse of lethal force (300,000,000 guns exist in American homes).

The movement that calls itself the Tea Party has centered its platform on Libertarian ideals of personal freedom, but ironically they have only championed a distilled concept of such, and one that is far shy of what Roosevelt’s progressives had imagined.

The Tea Party has focused freedom into a defense of the 2nd Amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms; to shrink government, specifically to lower taxes; and to pander to corporate interests, obstensibly to encourage wealth to have the freedom to accumulate without restrictions.

My perspective differs from the new right.  I don’t feel encumbered by the FDA, the FBI, CDC, EPA, FAA or the Department of Education for that matter.  In fact, I probably feel a little better knowing that there are environmental, law enforcement, and health programs out there working for my welfare.

I don’t feel less free for paying about 25 cents out of every dollar toward running and defending this country

romney-taxes(breaks and shelters allow a guy like Mitt Romney to pay closer to 14%).

I have two brothers and both have worked in government and I can say first hand that there are redundancies and programs that are wasteful.  I don’t think even a “crazy liberal” believes otherwise or that government can’t get too big.  But no coherent, analyzed, comprehensive, logical, plan has ever been presented by the Tea Party, or Republicans for that matter, to honestly change that paradigm.  Except to implement draconian austerity measures and to toss around platitudes to ignite their base:  Government is too big!  Cut taxes!  Cut welfare!  We don’t need the EPA or a Department of Education!

There is a paradoxical swing in society that is both inevitable and confusing.  While human beingsthCAUSBW39 naturally evolve toward progress (polls show that even though people voted Republican, many support liberal ideas), there is also a natural counter-balance toward conservative values to protect ourselves from too much at once.

Our evolution, while trending toward social justice, also moves a faction farther to the right, pulling the center along.  Today, Republicans once considered moderate are being called “RINO’s” (Republicans In Name Only) by the new right.  Imagine how they categorize any liberal.

So allow me to conclude by going back to where this began.  We can disagree.  We will surely use different sources for information.  We may always be diametrically opposed on several things.  But if you think we’re crazy, commies over here…then you are so crazy to the right, that we’re not going to get anywhere….

It’s No Laughing Matter

My campaign for Congress is now 6 months old.  I have learned a lot, made a lot of headway and have shown Iowans at events, committee meetings and backyard barbeques that I study the issues and have ideas to expand our economy, protect our environment and to educate our youth.  Yet, I am still faced from time to time with a comment that more or less goes like this:  “Gary you were a comedian, how do we know you can be taken seriously?”

needlemanI cannot (nor do I have any desire to) deny that I was once a satirist on Saturday Night Live; that once I made my living looking for laughs, whether as a performer, a writer, or even as a game show host.  The truth is, those experiences lend themselves very well to the business of politics.

The job of any artist, whether a comedian, a painter or a novelist, is to look at life with the deepest, most clarifying lens possible to reveal the idiosyncrasies, the contradictions and sometimes hypocrisies of the human condition and bring them to light.

Is it really any surprise that Senator Al Franken has been such an effective voiceal franken?

Yes, I have in my career poked fun at the way things are done in Washington, because business as usual in the District of Columba is laughable at times.  But I can easily make the distinction between that dysfunction and the business of the people, because that is no laughing matter.

It’s no laughing matter when the proliferation of deadly force becomes commonplace along with mass homicides in our schools, churches, movie theaters and shopping malls.

It’s no laughing matter when the rights of women, minorities, immigrants, or the LGBTQ community are compromised or denied in the name of religion, fear or the status quo.

It’s no laughing matter when hard working Americans with fulltime minimum wagegary speech jobs remain below the poverty line. And to deny support for Americans who have fallen on hard times in favor of entitlements for the wealthiest among us is not only insane, it is un-American.

It’s no laughing matter when labor and unions are under attack and pension funds are at risk.

It’s no laughing matter when 7 billion tons of inorganic gas is pumped into our atmosphere every year without any compensation for the danger that is caused to the health of our planet.

It’s no laughing matter when the principles of a government, of the people, are perverted into an austerity fever to deny access to medicine for all of the citizens it serves.

I loved being an actor, a producer, a writer and any other hat I may have worn in Hollywood, but I know the difference between the entertainment of laughter and when the serious matters of the people and our government are at hand.  I am very clear as to why I am running for the United State Congress from Iowa’s 1st District: To serve the people, using common sense, logic, compassion and sanity in that pursuit.









The Die Hard Constitution

Bruce Willis has a message for advocates of stricter gun control legislation:             “Don’t infringe on my rights!”

attends 'Die Hard - Ein Guter Tag Zum Sterben' Germany Premiere at Cinestar Potsdamer Platz on February 4, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.“I think that you can’t start to pick apart anything out of the Bill of Rights without thinking that it’s all going to become undone,” said Willis.  “If you take one out or change one law, then why wouldn’t they take all your rights away from you?”

Well, Bruce, because it’s called Representative Democracy and that’s how it’s supposed to work.  Hold onto your Beretta,Beretta_92_F_11 but our Charters of Freedom are not perfect, nor did the Founding Fathers delude themselves into thinking they were.

When the Constitution was written, it was written by, and for, white, male land owners (probably less than 15% of the population); not exactly the perfect document to express freedom and inalienable rights.  The Bill of Rights and the ratification process of amendments were created to give evolving relevance to the charter and to inform citizens of constitutional protections so that laws could be written to enforce those rights and to govern fairly as we grew.

That is where their collective vision came into play.

ca. 1980-2001

The truth is, the Constitution was written to define only two purposes:  1) to establish a federal government and 2) to delegate to that federal government limited (and enumerated) powers.  The Constitution does not give us rights, but is designed to protect our rights.

The intent of the Bill of Rights was to prevent misconstruction of governmental powers and to ensure public confidence as a unified proclamation defining issues, deliberated upon to a point of agreement.

For example, voting within the system of government originally set forth, did not include women, but as our social consciousness progressed we came to realize, through our process of representative democracy, that the right must be clarified to include women, and the 19th amendment was ratified.

The rights of citizenship did not include former slaves even after emancipation and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were written and ratified to clarify the purpose and extent of freedom protected by our government.bor

The 1st Amendment was written to give the promise of freedom a strong foundation, but it also continues to be clarified in courts as slander and defamation issues will always nugentsurface.

When 2nd Amendment rights are bandied about by everyone from Bruce Willis to Ted Nugent who profess that, “We cannot meddle with what our Founding Fathers put forth,” it is without the understanding of what they actually “put forth.”

The 2nd Amendment must also be examined and interpreted as society itself changes.

Even 100 years after the Constitution was written it remained inconceivable that Americans would use firearms inappropriately.  It was, in fact, considered un-American that the President of the United States would ever require security- even after Lincoln was assassinated!  The American people remained steadfast that assassination was contrary to our national psyche and that our President must remain directly accessible to the people.

This was inherent to the very concept of the government that was created, and to be otherwise, Americans felt, would betray freedom.  It was only after the third assassination of amckinley-assassination2 president, the murder of President McKinley, that we started to think differently.

Today, as we examine the words “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” we absolutely must put them in the context of their time, just as we do any other amendment or the body of the Constitution itself.  We can, indeed, rightfully “bear arms” but as our societal norms have changed, restrictions must be created and continually re-examined to accommodate or contain new realities.

That is not an affront to the Constitution as that great interpreter of the Bill of Rights, Bruce Willis, has stated, rather, it is the realization of its true intent; to create a society of fair and just laws to protect our liberties in a changing world.

Though Love and Life make tearful intercession…

Theologian, A H Strong, defined the human will as “the soul’s power to choose between motives and to direct its subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen.”

No more apt description of the duty of a true politician has ever been written.  Such reflection is what strengthens our moral purpose, and as a candidate for the United States Congress, the convergence of my ideas and motives are what will reveal to voters what kind of a representative I will be.

Strong continues his description of will as “The soul’s power to choose both an end and the means to attain it.”  Within our soul is our moral purpose.

The journey I am on has led me to biographies of political leaders to learn more about their motives and recently I have been drawn to biographies about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and James Garfield.

universe-wallpaper-20It would be easy to develop a fatalistic point of view, considering that each of these men were assassinated, but my belief is that life is a series of capricious events orchestrated only by our capacity for reason; we attach meaning to stories drawn from the collision of our will and forces outside of our control.

My point of view does not deny the existence of God, it only admits that I cannot define God any more clearly than I can define love for my children; the concept transcends the confinement of words.

Lincoln, Kennedy, and Garfield each seemed destined, yet their demise was the result of careless mistakes; a lack of attention when they should have been more aware of their vulnerability.  As purpose and fate comingled in my mind, I began to think about my own mortality.  Not in a morose “Oh-my-God-I’m-past-the-halfway-point-and-the-last-half-includes-incontinence!” way, but in a reflective “What-is-the-sum-of-this-journey-so far?” kind of way.

Life will always reveal a lesson when our awareness is heightened.  I was on a flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids in pitch-black darkness, zero-visibility cloud cover, and buffeting crosswinds from a huge storm system passing through.  I fly a lot, but this was one of those flights where the wings tilt dramatically side to side and simultaneously hit air pockets where the plane drops several feet, and I’ll admit that I said a prayer.

plane-lightning-100610-02I started thinking about “Dateline” reports about the safety of regional airlines and I began to wonder if the pilot had only just completed his training in a Cessna.  I wondered if the maintenance was up to code….I can’t read minds, but I’ll bet I wasn’t alone.

It wasn’t a fear of dying at that moment, but I thought to myself, “What if I did?  What was the sum of my life?  What would people say?  Would I be remembered as a good man?  Did I remember to pay the cable bill?”

I try to tame the tendencies of self-indulgence by mediating such thoughts, but I think it’s a sincere and human desire to want to be worth something to others. I suddenly recalled when my father was dying and only two months before he asked me if I was happy.

Puzzled, I replied, “Why are you asking me?”

GE DIGITAL CAMERA“Because I’m not going to be around forever and I want to know that my family is happy. I can believe that I had something to do with that.”

I asked him if he was scared and he said, “No.  I raised good sons and that’s how I want to be remembered.  And maybe you’ll tell your children that there was once this man named Glenn Kroeger…”

I found solace in his words because I already knew that my memories of my father would always construct a story about a good man, who was kind, wise, intelligent, and who loved his family. It would be the story of a man who achieved great success by giving his children the safety, comfort and dreams that his own childhood was denied. His flaws would be as forgiven in death as they were in life; they were not the measure of his soul.

On this flight I asked myself, “Will my children feel the same way about me?”

There was an unsettling vibration under the fuselage as the plane banked against the wind to land, and as the plane touched down, softly and safely, it occurred to me that the answer lies in the question itself.  In these moments of perceived peril that turn into the fortune of living, our vanity is arrested by reality.

The present is a moving target that passes seamlessly into the future and instantaneously becomes the past; and that is where my lesson found words:  To live the best of my life from each moment on.  Value is not a measure of quantity but a measure of quality. The number of years, the amount of wealth, or the accumulation of things, have no bearing on the value of a life.

My motive in this quest for Congress is exactly that.  As I serve the purpose of being a father by sharing with my children the best that I have to give, I will serve my constituents with the same resolve.

As my father once proffered:  “We are immortal when our sincerest motives live in the memories of those we’ve loved and served.”