Tag Archives: election

By the Book

In this age of social media and networking, we are deluged with information daily. We talk, text, tweet and email back and forth, then on top of that we join organization and list serves that forward their news. Sometimes we get forwarded stuff that we don’t like. The following is a forwarded message I received and the response I sent back:


This is the scariest election we as Christians have ever faced, and from the looks of the polls, The Christians aren’t voting Christian values. We all need to be on our knees.  Do you believe we can take God at His word? Call upon His name, then stand back and watch His wonders unfold. This scripture gives us, as Christians, ownership of this land and the ability to call upon God to heal it.

I challenge you to do that. We have never been more desperate than now for God to heal our land. This election is the scariest I remember in my lifetime.

2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray,
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from
heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

During WWII, there was an advisor to Churchill, who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every night at a prescribed hour for one minute, to collectively pray for the safety of England, its people and peace. This had an amazing effect, as bombing stopped.

There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America .

The United States of America , and our citizens, need prayer more than ever!!! If you would like to participate, each evening at 9:00 P.M. Eastern Time (8 PM Central, 7 PM Mountain, 6 PM Pacific), stop whatever you’re doing and spend one minute praying for the safety of the United States, our troops, our citizens, for peace in the world, the upcoming election, that the Bible will remain the basis for the laws governing our land, and that Christianity will grow in the U.S.

If you know anyone who would like to participate, please pass this along.  Someone said if people really understood the full extent of the power we have available through prayer, we might be speechless. Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have.

Thank you. Please pass this on to anyone who you think will want to join us. God Bless You!!!

(end email forward)

So this kind of thing gets my blood boiling. 90% of it is either good hearted or at least a harmless exercise (if you don’t believe in prayer or God). I can’t think of a good reason for anyone – atheist, Muslim, or Hare Krishna – to begrudge a group of people from praying if they choose too. The remaining 10% though (which I believe is the whole reason the email forward piece was created), crosses the line from a commendable suggestion for solidarity to a subversive play to push the Bible as a founding document for the nation. As Lakoff taught me, simply getting these words to the eyes of thousands of people (via “viral” email) turns our brains on and normalizes the concepts presented. Seeing them, thinking them, and hearing them makes the reality a bit more possible – even if there isn’t a huge action item around it.

Here is my response to the email:

The power of love, people pulling together and God, is awesome. I can get on board with that. I would add something about helping all of the people of the world to find peace and feel secure. However, there is one part of this suggestion that I feel is dangerous, “the Bible will remain the basis for laws governing our land”. The Bible has never been the basis for laws governing our land, The Constitution is the document that is the basis for governing our land; it was the only document agreed upon by the founders.

If I thought that everyone would interpret the Bible the same way that I do, in a way that promotes Christ-like unconditional love and acceptance of your fellow human, I could get behind a push to change our founding documents. However, we all know that there is no one way that people interpret the Bible (nor any hope or effort at consensus). There are a whole lot of folks out there talking about the Bible that do not promote Christ like love, they use the Bible as a tool to get what they want and to persecute others. I find that extremely offensive. I would never want someone to be in power that used the Bible for their own personal agenda or power plays.

This is very difficult to write because I know many people I love very much might disagree with me and are on this list. I purposefully don’t engage in politics with much of my family because emotions run high and I would rather spend the little time I see my extended family doing more joyful things (like loving them unconditionally!). I feel very strongly that there should be a separation of church and state, the first amendment establishes that. While we might be a nation chock full of Christians, we’ve gotten there without having a national religion and we are not a nation governed by Christianity.

Any leader or citizen can use the Bible and their spiritual beliefs as a template for life, no one is saying it cannot be included as a personal guide. If you like how a candidate is guided by the spirit, by all means, vote for them! Work to get the principles that motivate and inspire you to be implemented into our laws, but please, please, please keep the roulette wheel of Biblical interpretation out of our laws (it’s hard enough to deal with interpretations of our secular documents). I would never want a “Fred Phelps” kind of Christian anywhere near a governing body (his church’s website is here).

I believe there is a faction of people out there that want an audience of good hearted Christians to be on their side – which for the most part, they are – but their real agenda is to change the foundation of this country’s laws to be religious laws. As an American and as a Christian, I have to stand firm and say “NO!”

I love many of you, don’t know some of you, and this is in response to someone I love and respect very, very much. Most importantly for me, I love God, Jesus, and I do try to pattern my life after his. That is why even though my fingers are a little shaky and my stomach is churning a bit, I’m still going to press send.

Peace to us all,
Amy Meier

(On a personal note, this is where the rubber meets the road for me. I am the most liberal person in my large extended family; if there are other liberals in my family, they keep it on the down low – my family culture does not take kindly to liberal rhetoric and is not afraid to say so. I was born in the heartland of the country, in the bible belt and feel like a bit of a “black sheep” when I am there because the conservative Christian culture pervades life at every facet. I also kept most of my views on the down low to keep the peace. I love my family. They are kind, loving, generous, and accepting of me and all of my personal faults. They are the real reason I am so passionate about having civil discourse – but it is still exhausting to get into political battles with them when I’d rather just enjoy time together. The conservative Christian culture is so pervasive that I am often included (though I don’t think it is a secret that I am a liberal) in an assumption that things are, or should be, a particular way. Today is the day I publicly “outed myself. The gloves are off… but it’s because I want to shake hands (or hug) and start this election season with a respectful, meaningful exchange.)

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Big Business, Big Religion, or Status Quo

The choices look like they’re boiling down to three right now, Romney represents wealthy business interests, Santorum speaks for conservative Christians, and Obama, the known entity that not many are super stoked about. It looks like another race heading into the “not voting for _______” (fill in the blank with objectionable politician) instead of being proud to vote for our preferred candidate.  This is a terrible position for a politician to be in, it means that their best traction comes only as a knee jerk response to an opponent. There is no inspiration, only revulsion.  As was demonstrated in George Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, you cannot successfully run against an entity by only calling attention to that entity. Or, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Just try it now, do not think of an elephant. I’ll bet you failed. The fact is that when we were itty-bitty kiddies, we learned “elephant” at some point, probably through a cheerful picture or visit to the zoo. When you learn the word elephant in this country (where elephants do not roam around), we strongly tie this noun to an image of an elephant. We memorize the greyness, the long nose, the big ears, all of the distinctive features at the same time that we hear the word and later learn to read the word.As parents we repeat these simple lessons multiple times to insure our children can identify their animals, words, and sounds. All of our senses coordinate our visual, audio, and cognitive information and file them in the same folder. Later, every time we hear the word “elephant”, it does not matter what words surround it, we will briefly recall our own generic image of “elephant” that we have on file. Just adding the word “don’t”, “no”, “bad”, “crazed” or any other word will not prevent us from first recognizing and acknowledging the animal as we know it. Continue reading

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…And they’re off!

News has seemingly ceased to exist in this country. We are submerged by tales of the GOP presidential race. Every flub, utterance, Gotcha!, and implication is blazoned across headlines as if we were talking about being at war. Wait, we are still having two undeclared wars – one with our troops in Afghanistan and another by proxy – lawless (but American) contractors in Iraq. I suppose progress was made when our troops were withdrawn last month – what?! Our troops were withdrawn from Iraq?!?! Why didn’t anyone say anything? I heard more about Kim Kardashian’s tweets.

Am I the only one that notices our American ADD? Aren’t there still yellow ribbon car magnets adorning our countries minivans?  A few years ago if you didn’t make a visual statement to the world about your support of the troops you were assumed to be a terrorist sympathizer. These days our so-called news is shoving sweater vests, hair helmets and old racist newsletters at us fast and furious. They are desperate – as are the campaigns – to keep attention focused on the Republican race no matter what triviality is the “headline” of the day. Why this is the way things are is simple – a tense conflict captures the interest more easily than a deflated pull out where our mission, presence, and actions were never fully explained. One thing we all understand is that we did not “win”.  I would bet if you took an informal poll of Americans, you would get a different synopsis on the war from each person.  This country is using a grab bag of suspicions and accusations as their military morality.  Sadly our legislative and Executive branches are using a similar logic in performing their duties.

The frame has been set: The story is about a GOP race and if you are not on the cutting edge of that story, you are leaving an audience (and advertisers) behind. As another sinister layer this particular frame is especially lucrative to a certain set – folks who run campaigns (obviously), folks who run ads accompanying news, folks who own media that would like particular candidates or philosophies to prevail in favor of their business, folks who would like to see attention go to ANYONE but Occupy Wall St., the list could go on. When we ask questions outside of the story du jour – like about war or social justice – we are seen as killjoys that throw a wet blanket on the catty festivities.  Most of us aren’t Republicans, Gallup reported that as of 2010,  31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 29% as Republicans. So what they hey? Now we found out that 25% of the (really zealous and proudly involved) caucus goers in Iowa  – a state mostly known for their caucus and corn – have voted for Romney. Our entire nation is being told to get terribly excited/worried/happy/mad because .04% voted for the lesser of a handful of evils. When you combine the top three vote getters you can’t even get to 100,000 people or .039% . The Occupy Wall St crowd has a much broader impact and implication than the GOP horse race – it is relevant to 99% of us. Nearly all of us could relate to struggles to keeping our standard of living from slipping too much. We’ve all had real life experiences or extreme worries about keeping our homes, getting laid off, or dealing with devastating health or education debt.  If we haven’t, we know we are very lucky and probably know lots of folks who have dealt with these very real and serious issues that directly effect us. This is why getting the frame right is so important in any discussion – when you determine the frame, you win before the discussion starts.

What I’m describing is a Big Media frame – they set the topic and tone of discussion and we follow. We don’t necessarily follow because we are stupid and don’t care about other issues, the reasons why it’s difficult to wrap our heads around the actual concern of the times – instead of the daily headline – are many: we are busy, we are only piecemeal informed, we aren’t shown civil reasoned thorough discussions, we are encouraged to take a side and camp out there, we are supposed to be shopping and tweeting.  When folks are too concerned and start actually making life inconvenient for the powers that be – Wall St., Big Business, 1%ers – there is an active effort to get the masses back to a “safe” issue like a horse race, a celebrity fling, or a hair helmet.

So, what to do? First of all, I would encourage everyone to really take a good hard look at your news sources. How many trivialized stories, celebrity stories, or “empty trend” stories do your sources publish? I personally believe that straightforward television news is not a good value for my time – though I see clips online often. I have to sit through way too many pieces that amount to commercials for some new drug, product, or personality. The 4th estate – our media that is supposed to provide for an informed public – is failing us in lieu of making more money off of the airwaves that we the people allow them to use for free in exchange for this service. I’m sure this is not news to you.  Look online for good news sources, look to other countries to find out info about our country. Some of these links are posted on my links page here. I also review some news pages from news sources I think are biased against my opinions. I want to know what they are saying and what their tactics are. I like supporting media watchdog and free media groups. The strength of our online community (including all of us using the internet democratically) is the only thing that has kept net neutrality.

Personally you can start to notice frames in media as well as everyday conversation. Notice how your “problem” relationship counterparts frame things – do you find yourself scrambling in a reactionary mode? Keep reading and you can train yourself to see the conversation under the conversation and get to the heart of matters then change the frame in your favor.

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Glossary of terms

 Freedom may not mean what you think it means – at least not to someone else. I know you know what most of these words mean, I have this glossary because some regular words mean different things when you are talking about concepts, framing positions, and current political discourse. Clarifying terms is important when you need to be understood; here and in everyday conversation.

The Bill of Rights – The first ten amendments added to the Constitution to guarantee personal inalienable rights.  Please click here to read it.

Campaign Finance Reform – A movement that seeks to change how political campaigns are financed. Currently unlimited monies from corporations are the primary backers of major candidates. (see also Citizens United).

Citizens United – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a decision by the U. S. Supreme Court on January 21, 2010, declaring that the First Amendment prohibits placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions.

Civil – 1 : of or relating to citizens 2 : of or relating to the state or its citizenry 3 : adequate in courtesy and politeness (Merriam Webster)

Civil Disobedience – A purposeful, peaceful refusal to follow a law based on a principle or motivated by a principle. Civil disobedient actions may be planned and/or are part of a larger organization or movement.

Communism – A social and/or governmental system that is classless and all private property, land, and productions is collectively owned and operated by the people. This system has never been put in place according to the definition (in recorded history).

Conservative – Meanings vary yet are sometimes used interchangeably. 1 : a political philosophy relating to the idea of less government, creating economies to favor business, and socially conservative viewpoints. Affiliated loosely with the Republican party. 2 : an actual style of living or governing that preserves a resource, intention, or tradition. 3 : Modest and reserved.

The Constitution – The founding document of the United States. Please click here to read it.

Contested Concepts – Words or phrases that can have very different meanings and implications depending on who is using the word.

Example 1a: In my duties as his best friend, I knew that I needed to lie to the cop to validate his story.

Example 1b: In my duties as his best friend, I knew he needed to deal with this consequence so I told the cops the truth.

Example 2a: The true patriots enlisted in the service.

Example 2b: The true patriots marched on Washington to protest our nation’s military involvement.

In the first example, the contested concept is a how a “best friend” properly acts in a given situation. Even if a person doesn’t literally use the term best friend they might refer to the values that are held in the highest regard in your friendship. Those values that make a best friend vary greatly among people. A common political term is “family values”. The definition of the term is different for all. We sometimes use the term “family values” but infer a specific set of meaning that only applies to some of the audience. The second example shows how one person’s idea of patriotism can be a polar opposite of another person’s. Other common contested concepts in political discussions are words like “freedom”, “liberty”, “life”, “fairness”, “justice”, “bravery”, “cowardice”, and “equality” to name a few.

Democracy – A form of government in which involves some form of government sanctioned by the people or a majority of the people. A usual format is to hold elections but the touchstone element is that no social, economic, or hereditary class structure prohibits or favors one person over another.

Democratic Republic – The United States is a constitutionally limited democratic republic. It is both a republic and a democracy in that every citizen is born with the right to vote (at a legal age) but citizens do not directly make policy, they elect representatives to carry out the work of the government.

Dog Whistle – A verbal signal in a message that indirectly sends a message through implication and/or word choice. Many times the message is subtle and intended for only a portion of the total audience. Sometimes this device may be used unconsciously, other times it is very deliberate and covert. Either way the speaker can deny the implied message because it is not clear and direct – “code” words are used.

Example: Some think that when the candidate used the phrase “Keep America American” he was signaling the racists in the crowd that he was on their side.

Election Reform –A movement trying to create more transparency and accountability in the process of running elections. This may include a host of issues including vote counting procedures, redistricting boundaries, and voter eligibility among others.

Embody – What happens when someone not only learns new facts, but incorporates them into their belief systems and acts on them. For example, with the issue of plastic grocery bags, many people realize that reusable bags are better for the environment and they care about the environment, but it takes some time and practice to incorporate using cloth bags into your regular routine. Once it becomes habit, you have embodied the lesson you learned about changing that aspect of your behavior to benefit the environment.

Fascism – Centralized authoritarian based political thought (or regime) that puts national homogenous identity above individual liberties and is characterized by a merger of corporations and government. Opposition is violently suppressed.

Frames – Due to a lifetime of experiences, we all have built in “frames” or stories that go with our language. For instance when you read the word “zoo” perhaps images of animals or enclosures pop into your head, you can’t really help it, it’s just a literal or visual cue of how to understand our world through language. In political thought, different frames are evoked whether you are talking about “global warming” or “climate change”; one feels like a crisis, the other feels natural.

Framing – The act of being able to recognize and correct a frame when involved in discussions. When persuasive language you disagree with is used, you can call it out and offer alternatives. You can always offer to go first in a discussion to set the stage for how the topic will first be presented. You can recall points that activate an empathetic viewpoint.

Issues –Topics of discussion. Policies are made to address issues, values drive how you feel about these issues. In the hierarchy of importance, policies are second behind values; they are harder to get agreement on with someone from a differing value system. An example of issues are healthcare, education, financial accountability, unemployment, market regulation, and immigration. If you talk about values before issues and create the frame, you are more likely to get some agreement when you talk about issues.

Laissez faire – A style of capitalism that rejects any involvement from the public sector. “Unfettered capitalism” will find a balance in this theory.

Lakoff, George – Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at University of California at Berkeley.  Known for his focus on metaphors in language and the physical neural connections we make around them that influence the way we live our lives. He is a progressive advocate and proponent of focusing on values before issues and issues before policies in effective political discourse. Many of his ideas around political discourse form the core of the approach of this blog. His website can be found here.

Liberal – Political thought focused on openmindedness, liberty, tolerance and equality. A lack of allegiance to authority or tradition; open to change to continually progress the human condition to be better for all.  Synonymous with progressive.

Luntz, Frank – A pollster and Republican advisor/analyst. Runs focus groups to find words that people respond to favorably and unfavorably to elicit an opinion change on an issue. He is considered to be the expert conservative ally in his field. Visit his website here.

Media Reform –A movement that seeks to democratize media sources and resources. Based on the principle that a democracy needs a well informed electorate to make decisions, media reformist seek to diversify content and ownership of media outlets and make media accessible and relevant to everyone, not just as a vehicle to serve corporate interests.

Non sequitur –Latin for “does not follow”. A mechanism used to change the subject or trajectory of a story or discussion. A distraction technique used intentionally but often used unconsciously as well.

Programs/Policies – In the hierarchy of persuasive political discourse, programs and policies are behind values and issues when considering the likelihood of finding common ground. Two parties that agree on values and issues may still find reason to argue when it comes to programs and policies. They contain details that are put forth in proposals, bills and declarations and can easily dominate a conversation with petty disagreements. Programs and policies are necessary vehicles to implement values but in the realm of political ideas, they can be non-starters with any audience – those with and without alignment to any given values.

Progressive – Synonymous with “liberal”. Progression of the human condition is center to the philosophy. Values such as empathy, liberty, open mindedness, tolerance and equality are characteristic.

Prosperity Doctrine – A religious philosophy which claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians. The doctrine teaches that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.

Republic -A form of government in which there is no monarchy and government representatives are elected.

Republican – One of the two major political party in the U.S. characterized by capitalism, social conservatism and a desire to privatize as many government functions as possible. Currently there are three main factions: religious evangelicals/social conservatives, and those for unregulated markets.

Socialism – A political philosophy that all of the people of a society own all natural resources and property, and work as a cooperative. Also a popular accusation in the U.S. meant to be negative when referring to any policies perceived to be anti-corporate. Sometimes loosely used as a misnomer to discredit democratic or Democratic ideas.

Spin -The phenomena of analyzing an event – audio, video, literary, or “live” – in such a way that it favors a particular school of thought or person.

Values – Set of internal guidelines that drive your everyday decisions and larger life trajectory. Priorities in your life mentally and emotionally arranged in an order of importance.

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