Archive for August, 2020

Who doesn’t want a smart President?

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

I swore I would stick to cultural topics and not discuss anything political in this blog, but since I can’t offend anyone who isn’t reading, and this topic stuck in my head like a brain barnacle, here goes …

Exhibit A: The last five Republican* presidents … Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Donald Trump:  None of them with an IQ higher than their body temperature.  Trump has obviously never read a book or used a vocabulary over 100 words (tremendous, beautiful, nasty). Gerald Ford could trip over his own thought balloon. Ronald Reagan never had a thought that wasn’t scripted by someone else (or he didn’t mistake from a movie). George W., well, we need not even go there, but suffice it to say that he was Pinky, and Dick Cheney or Karl Rove were “The Brain.” And George H. Bush? Well, this is what the last smart GOP president had to say about him on his oval office tape recordings when Bush Sr. was ambassador of the U.N.  … “Loyal, but no brains.” And remember … he is considered the SMART one of those four.

The fact that Richard Nixon was the last smart Republican says everything. He was deeply paranoid to the point of creating a foaming-at-the-mouth enemies list, and then surreptitiously ordering a break-in to the files of the Democratic National Headquarters, which eventually got him impeached. Even Republicans never trusted him and haven’t been the same ever since.

Exhibit B: The last three Democratic presidents … Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. All of them with measured IQ’s above the genius level (150). Jimmy Carter was a nuclear physicist, for crying out loud (and a preacher). Bill Clinton had a 180 IQ and could eloquently and informatively talk about every topic on the planet from stem cell research to Keynesian economics. And Barack, well, come on, he’s a black man named Hussein who convinced a good majority (10 million more than his opponent) Americans to vote for him. Just overcoming the ‘black’ part required a communication and intelligence skill set that would set back most Harvard graduates.

So this isn’t a discussion of the actual merits or policies of the candidate, but just the fact that Republicans or conservatives have no problem voting for someone they’d like to have a beer with, but not someone who they perceive is smarter than they are. I don’t get this. Why wouldn’t we want the smartest man possible for the job? Why wouldn’t we want someone as president who makes our entire country look smart to the rest of the world?

This leads me to inevitably conclude that what makes someone either conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, ultimately has nothing to do with politics, but is more about how people are hard-wired either emotionally or genetically.

For example, you will rarely find a writer in the arts (or should I say a good writer; Tom Clancy doesn’t count) alive who is a Republican. There’s a very simple explanation for this. Anyone hard-wired for empathy, who by their very emotional skill set and craft has the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and walk a mile to either create or fill that character … is just not going to think like Republican.

George Carlin articulated it best when he said the Republicans are all about property rights (or as I like to characterize it … “I got mine, screw everybody else”), and Democrats are all about human rights (or, “Even when I GET mine, I’m not going to feel as good about it unless someone else has a chance at it.”)

So if you’re genetically hard wired against empathy, chances are you are a Republican. (Sorry, Jesus, you don’t qualify).

I would also suggest a couple other genetic traits that might put you in that camp are fear of change (hello, reactionaries), and paranoia about those things or people you don’t understand. Government is just some monstrous entity that’s going to come and take away your guns. Gays are going to convert your children into homosexuals and devalue your marriage (but a cheating, thrice-married President won’t). Hispanics are going to ruin the value of your neighborhood and force you to speak Spanish to order a cheeseburger. Anything a Republican, reactionary, conservative is not overly familiar with, somehow poses a threat. It doesn’t make them curious – no, never any genuine outside interest or curiosity; just a threat. This wouldn’t be the case if the knee-jerk reaction to anything they don’t understand was to pause for a reflective moment trying to understand, instead of just being angry or afraid (again, the empathy vacuum).

Conservatives like to say that a liberal is a conservative who’s never been mugged. This just proves my theory about being hard-wired for paranoia. They’re always basing their mindset on a negative event in the future. But a liberal always thinks deeper than that, to what actually helped create the mindset for the mugger in the first place (walk in their shoes, remember?).  Somehow, they didn’t get theirs, and now they want YOURS. A liberal doesn’t put the mugger into a ‘ME versus THEM’ category, but at some level understands that … “There, but for the Grace of God, (and some really nasty crystal meth), go I.” There are more forces creating this scenario than just … he’s a bad man who wants my stuff. I mean, c’mon, it’s ONLY stuff.

What person in their right mind wouldn’t want to know for sure that, if they or one of their loved ones suffer a catastrophic illness, they wouldn’t be financially ruined? We are the only civilized nation in the world where you can go bankrupt simply by the cost of your health, or lack of it. That’s insane. Worse; it’s morally bankrupt. Anyone with empathy, again, has no problem understanding this.  Republicans say, “I got my insurance, what’s the problem?” Again, without projecting out of their own experience to sympathize with others, how could they understand? Because, if you’ve EVER spent a long portion of your life, perhaps as a free lance artist or just an unemployed, walking on a tinderbox being uninsured, you WOULD understand…completely.

Smart, empathetic leaders do. That’s why most of us voted for one last time.

The Jesus who preached at the Sermon on the Mount was definitely hard-wired for empathy. In fact, the only people he couldn’t empathize with or tolerate were, well, greedy bastards who said, ‘I got mine, screw everybody else.’

So, let’s review. If you’re hard wired to be paranoid of things you don’t understand, then of course you’re going to feel threatened by a leader who is smarter than you because … well, they’re obviously going to try and trick you out of your money or your stuff.

And it’s your stuff, goddamit, screw everybody else.

*(Republican here being defined as any conservative who voted for George W. Bush twice, or who thinks Fox News is real news)

Which is all to say, Joe Biden, no genius, is going to grab Republican as well as all empathetic Democrat votes and win by a landslide this November.

***

This one’s for my dad … the smartest man I ever knew, a WWII veteran, and a true Democrat who would have gotten a smile out of this.
(April 22, 1921-December 22, 2001)

— A. Wayne Carter

The Nobility of Journalism

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

No one pursues a career in journalism to get rich. It’s one of the most underpaid and insecure professions available. When I worked as a journalist in the 90s for a chain of regional Florida newspapers my salary was $7 per hour (this after some years making $100k+ in Hollywood as a screenwriter). It was unsustainable to get ahead or start a family. Yet I loved every minute of it. I interviewed the mayor, police chief, artists and scientists, museum curators, covered the police blotter, city council meetings, did police ride-alongs, went on an alligator hunt, hosted a weekly cable news program, flew in a bi-plane, snorkeled for five-million-year-old shark teeth, and took a ‘ghost tour’ of the city of Fort Myers. It was thrilling because I was on top of everything newsworthy happening on my beat. You become addicted to researching and knowing precisely what’s going on. And pursuing the truth. That’s essentially the draw of the profession: what’s really going on?’

          You will not find a better source for the truth than a newspaper. Investigative journalism requires multiple sources to confirm a story or the facts before going to print. If the reporter gets one fact wrong or over-exaggerates one element of the story, they lose their job and their credibility. It’s that simple. Broadcast journalists usually face the same standards. NBC anchorman and journalist Brian Williams lost his job because he exaggerated the story that a helicopter he was flying in over Afghanistan was fired upon from the ground multiple times. Legendary CBS anchorman and journalist Dan Rather lost his job because he went ahead with document evidence that former Presidential candidate George W. Bush was AWOL an entire year while serving in the National Guard before that evidence was fully vetted – even though the story later proved to be true. And yet it has been clearly documented and recorded by The Washington Post that President Trump has lied to the American public more than 20,000 times since his inauguration… and he suffers no consequences.

          I cringe every time he accuses the legitimate press of being ‘fake news’ or ‘the enemy of the people’ when the reality is the opposite. It is the job of a journalist to hold people in positions of power to account for their actions or statements; to question authority. President Nixon was forced to resign after an extensive investigation by journalists for The Washington Post uncovered various crimes (Google it) for which he claimed were not crimes because ‘the President did them.’ He thought he was above the law. He wasn’t.

          My father was the County Attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland when I was a child. This was a position of great prestige and solemn responsibility to the law. And as long as we lived near Washington, D.C. he read The Washington Post every day of his life as if it were the Bible. Because his first professional love was journalism. He was the editor of the Louisiana State University weekly newspaper The Reveille while attending college. After serving in World War II and Korea he had a family of a wife and three children to support, so he used the G.I. Bill to go to night school and become a lawyer to earn enough to support us. He used to tell me, and often, that you can’t always get the job you love, but you can learn to love the job you have. I have often taken this advice to heart in my own pursuits, while taking survival jobs in my preferred occupation as screenwriter. But I always knew he was talking about his own first love that he left behind; journalism, and the idealism and pride that goes with doing it well.

          Journalists are not in it for the buck or even for the glory. Very few reporters ever get a story that justifies a possible bestseller, or even more rarely results in a Pulitzer Prize. You do it because you have an insatiable need to know the truth, and through extensive research or interviews you can uncover and reveal that truth to your readers, and have thereby made the world a better place. It sounds corny, but there’s no other way to explain it. That’s the basic thrill of this difficult and inglorious profession. And this revelation is not necessarily something negative. That truth from a subject’s own mouth may be valuable to someone reading to make their own life or situation more positive. Or it may reveal the often-hidden agenda of a subject opposite to what they are trying to project. The goal is not the ‘gotcha,’ but the ‘I get it;’ where some action or event makes greater sense to pass along to the reader for them to make their own decisions based upon the facts. If you give them the facts and straight-forward, legitimate quotes, those decisions or conclusions will be soundly-based. There’s nothing fake about it. No matter how many times he says it, Trump cannot undermine this intention in the minds of those who hunger for and can fully acknowledge the truth. It only reflects back on his own need to obfuscate or distract from something he doesn’t want you to know about his own actions, incompetence, or lack of human empathy.

          The next time you see a journalist or reporter challenge or question one of the President’s statements, remember what they came to this profession for and what they consider their calling. In most instances they are just doing their job the best way they know how, and despite the pushback, questioning, or challenges to their own motivations. They ultimately have nothing to gain BUT the truth. And for most of us, that is reward enough.

          If you want to get as closely to the facts and the truth as possible, turn off the cable TV noise, avoid social media propaganda and read a local city newspaper (online is just fine). Or The Washington Post. Or The New York Times. This isn’t an opinion.