Society By Membership

In my 2 years of blogging, this is the blog I had the most difficulty composing. My consternation evolves around the desire to NOT send the wrong message or be mis-interpreted. That said, I still wanted to create a post that provides a possible link between the left and the right camps. Progressive visionaries on the left (sometimes unrealistic) and disaffected, conservatives on the right (sometimes reactionary) bent on upholding family values. So here goes…..

I experience increasing levels uncivility and ungovernability. I’m thinking that a MEMBERSHIP based society and economic system, might be the way to go.

I cite the following experiences and scenarios:

RETAIL in general and MALLS in particular…..

Retail: BJ’s and Costco seem to have successfully pioneered the “members only” format. You can NOT just roam off the street into their stores. As a job developer finding jobs for clients , I was turned back at the entrance and could not even get to their human resources department. Being a membership entity, they know at all times who is in their store, when they were there and what they purchased. It got me to thinking about all the other places you can not roam into unannounced and uninvited, namely country clubs, golf courses, gyms, etc. Good for security, analytics, etc.

Mall: The common areas such as the food court, lobbies, vestibules and public corridors have become no-mans-lands, free-for-alls for youths who want to hang out and cause trouble for hours on end. When asked to leave they shout back to mall cops and regular cops alike. All sense of respect has evaporated over the last couple of years and everyone is terrified to take a stand and assert authority. Home delivery of whatever is needed be that food, products or services will replace the public arenas because the average person and patron wants no part of that mayhem. With memberships comes deliveries to fortified homes compete with alarms, cameras and pre-arranged services so there will be no interacting with strangers who have not been vetted.

This also got me to thinking about a prior blog in which I proposed gated communities for persons of all income groups, not just the wealthy. Why not extend this notion of limited access and intelligent access to all establishments and situations. A horrific crime committed some years ago in a neighborhood where I worked while I was trying to provide affordable housing and increased stability still haunts me. It provides the impetus for this proposal. An immigrant owner of a corner deli was shot point blank with a shotgun totting 16 year old girl during a robbery. Here we have a hard working immigrant trying to pursue “the American dream” while laboring in a distressed neighborhood commonly referred to as a “food desert” where there is a lack of grocery options. I suggest that the hard working, honest, law abiding residents of this neighborhood might support a “members only” shopping experience. Both they and the merchant might then shop/trade in a safer, more peaceful environment. Under this scenario, I envision somewhat of a speakeasy environment reminiscent of the 1920’s during the prohibition years. Ironically, we might deploy a 1920’s tactic in 2021. Access control through physical infrastructure (bullet resistant doors/windows and buzz in/buzz out entries) complete with plenty of closed circuit cameras would provide security for both merchant and shoppers. Maybe even utilizing facial recognition technology (with participants permission of course). Couple this with membership and you might be able to prevent killing of innocents be they shop keepers in armed robberies or mall patrons in mass shootings. It got me to wondering, how many more vulnerable front line service workers, teachers, and co-workers lives might be saved if membership was implemented and access was denied to those intending to disrupt or worse yet harm.

On a much milder note, a members-only system would provide retailers and businesses serving the general public with greater ability to control their space and the quality of life for them and their patrons. I offer this thought after years of experience as a mall cop dealing with career shoplifters and belligerent, offensive patrons. Rescinding membership by banning persons who repeatedly steal, curse, spit (yes spit) would bring control back into the lives of these struggling merchants and a sense of pleasantness and security to the customers who are truly customers.

My humble observation having worked for decades in distressed neighborhoods and struggling malls, is that the average person wants more control in their life. They want nothing more than to shop in peace, wake up in the morning to find that their car has not been stolen, and walk about without hearing the F-bomb uttered by every other person they encounter. As the social fabric deteriorates with less confidence in cops to police, teachers to teach and parents to nurture, the demand for a members-only segmentation of the population will only increase. When people feel they have no control over their environment, a sense of hostility grows. They feel they are ignored and insignificant. This might explain the groundswell of conservative, nationalistic populism, tribalism and polarization. It might explain these resentment sentiments among persons of all socio-economic and multi-cultural backgrounds.

I emphatically note that civil rights can not be allowed to be trampled upon when considering a membership based society. Rule of law must still be the law of the land. However, if one’s documented behaviors (be it proven as criminal or disruptive in nature) causes their membership to be revoked or adjusted, then we might instill a much needed sense of personal responsibility for the consequences of our actions. Moving in this direction would go a long way toward addressing the sense that social norms have run amuck and nobody is held accountable for their actions any more. Depending upon the level of infraction or disruption, the suspension of membership could be adjusted accordingly. Draconian methods and criminalization of anti-social events might be avoided. Who knows, with suspensions of memberships and re-instatements based upon good behavior, we might even bake in some positive behavior modification. It is my hope that this potpourri of ideas will appeal to persons of all socio-political, cultural and economic stripes. If implemented rationally and without malice or prejudice, we might create a society that we all deep down desire. Maybe this is something that persons from every corner of the political/cultural spectrum could agree upon. The common denominator would be the desire to move about in society in safety and with a sense of civility and pleasantness. Now that’s something to think about.

Career: Military vs. Peace Corps

We’re all familiar with the military career and all that comes with that:

  • Benefits, pension
  • Lifetime guarantee of “3 hots and a cot”
  • Health care, VA benefits
  • Sense of purpose, camaraderie
  • Sense of order, chain of command, discipline
  • Potential to gain skills, learn, grow
  • Potential to “rise up in the ranks”
  • Potential to “see the world”
  • Serve your country, make the world better (maybe)

So what if you wanted all the above described features but was not keen on being sent wherever and whenever Uncle Sam wanted. The military is not like ordering from a restaurant menu selecting only those items that appeal to you. What if you did not agree with the mission or understand what was the mission? Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind.

Might joining a revamped and robust Peace Corps with both a foreign and domestic component appeal to you?

What are my motivations behind this proposal?

  • On the foreign front….we need to identify those countries that can be salvaged where we can “win their hearts and minds” thereby stabilizing them and preventing an exodus of immigrants. Various Central American countries come to mind along with moderate “hot spots” throughout the rest of the world.
  • On the domestic front….we need to identify those distressed areas (be they urban, aging suburban or rural) where an infusion of positivity will turn the tide of despair and inertia.

Who might be a candidate for a Peace Corp type career that was modeled upon a military career? Probably a person who….

  • Wants to work productively for the balance of their life without worrying that the job will disappear, medical benefits will lapse, career advancement and learning opportunities will be limited.
  • Is not particularly concerned about getting RICH. Having a guarantee of a roof over their head, food in their belly and a doctor to see them when they get sick is more important that the rat race of chasing the evaporating American Dream of the big house surrounded by the picket fence and the mountains of debt. Minimalists and survivalists are encouraged to apply. Materialist’s not so much.
  • Has an ability to contribute their talents and advance their skills within the context of a natural curiosity about other cultures, lifestyles and circumstances (be they foreign or domestic).
  • Wants to serve their country but not necessarily in a militaristic fashion.

So what might be some of the missions and tasks to be tackled by the domestic Peace Corps?

  • An army (had to use that phrase since in keeping with the military analogy) of gardeners. Establish community gardens and backyard gardens (reminiscent of the Victory Gardens of the WW2 era) that would provide health fruits/vegetables, encourage self-sufficiency, environmental friendliness, just to name a few advantages. See my upcoming blog where I elaborate on this notion of a nation wide gardening campaign
  • An army of tutors and mentors to get students re-engaged in learning, practical skill training and goal setting. See my upcoming blog where I elaborate on this proposal to revamp our approach to teaching and mentoring so we move toward micro-teaching/mentoring rather than the warehousing of students. Teaching and mentoring slides more into the category of life coaching.
  • An army of community mentors working with the criminal justice system supporting the police (not replacing them) providing the extra coaching/mentoring for those whose issues (addictions, anger, depression, etc.) are sucking them into the criminal justice system. This army of counselors/mentors would enable cops to be cops investigating and apprehending truly bad ass violent criminals and thieves. See my upcoming blog for more on this augmenting (not defunding) of police and the criminal justice system.

As for the Foreign version of the Peace Corps…..

  • Follow a formula as outlined above concerning the domestic version but adapt it to the needs of the host country.
  • Make sure participants are adequately protected. Even though we would not be sending them to the world hottest spots, we do not want to set them up as potential hostages or victims. This is becoming increasingly important as world affairs continues to deteriorate and American’s have an increasingly large target on their backs. In addition to having a guardian presence (subtle military presence nearby just in case), the participants need to be well trained in self-defense and survival skills. I propose extension of this martial arts/weapons training and self-defense training to the domestic participants to be ready to react to increasingly hostile environments fueled by animosity, polarization, bigotry and downright orneriness. I offer this suggestion after 15 years as a mall cop and over 30 years working in distressed neighborhoods. An upcoming blog will elaborate on this notion of creating a more defensive citizenry prepared to counter punch when attacked. To be clear, the spirit of this blog will be vigilance not vigilantism.

Various components of the above described outside-of-the-box proposals are baked into my upcoming novel about an eclectic extended family in a near term dystopian world, so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts/reactions and if anybody wants to read some or all of this novel in its draft form and provide feedback, I would be delighted to supply you with as much or as little as you desire.

Irish Wake…..American Wake

Most folks (especially of Irish decent) are familiar with the term “Irish Wake”. For those needing a refresher course, it started with the Great Famine/Great Migration of the Irish, many of whom emigrated to the USA (and anywhere else) to escape hunger and suppression. They were well aware that once they moved to a distant land, there was no looking back. It was doubtfull they would see their Irish family and friends again. So they scheduled one last big party to see them off and say their Good Bye’s. Few of the folks from the “Old Country” ever reunited with their fellow countrymen. However, sometimes when they did, it was difficult to re-connect. They still shared common origins. They shared memories of good times. But there was “water under the bridge”, changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes (to steal a line from a Jimmy Buffet’s song Margaritaville) and as American author Thomas Wolfe said “You can never go home again”.

Fast forward to contemporary America. We are not fleeing to a distant land (or are we?). Today there are cultural, political, attitudinal differences that separate us by many miles even though we live amongst each other. We shop together and travel the same streets but seem to be driving in completely different directions. We have fond memories of good times together. There were barbeques to attend in summer and Christmas presents to open in winter. There was the nightly news when we generally agreed with Walter Cronkite as he signed off with his signature expression “And that’s the way it was September 11, 1968 (or whatever date it happened to be). Bumper stickers on cars were limited to announcements of a mountain climbed or a beach visited. Now the back sides of vehicles are overflowing with hateful, vindictive expressions of angst. Any conversation that veers beyond the bounds of the weather and sports deteriorates into a grudge match pitching differing versions of reality.

And that brings me around to the American Wake. When irreconcilable differences of reality and attitudes preclude any sense of commonality, maybe its time for the American Wake. Let’s celebrate the good times we experienced and the reasons we got together in the first place. Let’s keep the door ajar for some future time when we can truly listen to each other, respect each others opinions and get back to normal (whatever that was). But maybe it’s time for a good old fashioned wake to acknowledge a watershed in our relationships where we “agree to disagree but not be disagreeable”. Is America at a fork in the road facing the binary decision of turning left or turning right? I offer the American Wake as more of a rotary where we can circle in the center with the option of peeling off from this relationship merry-go-round when confronted with untenable perspectives that are an anathema to our existence as a democracy.

And on that cherry note, let’s schedule an American Wake!

It all started with TV

What started? The beginning of the end of critical thought and imagination. It all started innocently in the early 1960’s. Cartoons on Saturday mornings were a treat. In the mid-1960’s the next treat for me was to watch cop shows in the evenings (if homework was done). Favorites were Adam-12, Dragnet, Mannix, Hawaii 50, just to name a few. Being an Irish-American with most of my relatives as cops, this was the preferred viewing. After school my childhood buddies would watch shows like Combat, Rat Patrol, Whirlybirds (a helicopter show) and some sort of Everglades cop show the name of which I can not recall. TV watching was consuming more of our time but cop and combat shows motivated us to reenact cop chases and military battles in the woods and swamps behind my best friends house. We still used our imagination AND got plenty of exercise, qualities and lifestyles in short supply in our media drenched world today.

There’s a reason they call TV the “boob tube”. Studies have shown that passively watching something puts the brain on hold and stifles imagination. In the beginning, TV was a blessing for parents. Kids could be entertained while parents got back to doing adult stuff. Parents could incentivize the completion of homework and tasks with the reward of TV time. It all worked well until a few unintended and unfortunate consequences occurred. They were…..

  • Gradual erosion of the principle of working and engaging in productive endeavors just because they are right and necessary. TV (and all forms of it’s media offspring) have become the ultimate bribe tools.
  • Too much of a good thing. Too much TV watching, too little thinking, too little imagination, too much procrastination.
  • Too much desensitizing violence altering our sense of reality. The line between what’s real and what’s imaginary gets blurred in TV land.
  • Time spent watching steals time spent learning, developing a skill, producing something, discovering a hobby or practicing a hobby.
  • Too much commercialization. Steady diet of commercials fuels an overly materialistic society blurring the line between what we want vs. what we need.
  • Over time and very insidiously, a steady diet of carefully crafted images colors the viewers beliefs, goals, perceptions of reality. In sum, mind control and attitudinal control.

Now consider all these observations and ramifications concerning TV and overlay todays milieu of media and social media (twitter, i-phones, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)

It’s a wonder any of us can think objectively and imagine creatively.

Being aware of this can keep us personally and nationally be on guard against these downside effects

Tipping Point:

What’s worth protesting against?

What’s worth dying for?

Everyone I encounter seems to have strong opinions in this polarized world. Well, not really everyone. Many lack any opinions and their passions evolve around the mundane of sports, gaming, shopping and tweeting.

As for the polarized persons for whom emotions run high, it got me to wondering what’s the ONE THING we all could get behind and work in unison on.

If pandemics, wildfires, and hurricanes are not unifying us, it begs the question as to why are we staying together as the USA. Our national psyche of distrust and apathy is like being in a house on fire and instead of helping each other out safely, we bicker over how did the fire start, who might have caused it and how are we going to pay for the fire damage. The only thing that unites us is the fact that we inevitably burn up together.

Have we gotten too big, too impersonal, too distracted as a nation and as a people to unite behind ONE THING, to accomplish ONE THING.

Might we need to revert to micro societies where goals and needs are starkly defined. Where there is a survival mentality, a life boat mentality.

What is the one thing that you would protest for or against?

Are you ready-willing-able to take action on this selected cause?

Are you ready to move beyond talking mode to mission driven mode?

There are no specific answers to this blog. Only you can answer these questions upon review of your heart of hearts.

As for me, the existential and long term threat is climate change, global warming and our potential extinction.

In terms of an even shorter term, immediate need, there is the increasing polarity of our society which will ultimately lead to either civil war or anarchy. Preventing that scenario from coming to fruition should in my opinion be the ONE THING that we need to get behind before it’s too late.

That said, how might we pull back from polarities brink of destruction?

First step: Take personality, emotion and personal animosity out of our interpersonal relations (be that within the family, friends, workplace, neighborhood, community, state, nation). It’s ok to have an opinion and label. It’s not ok to call me an asswhole for it.

Second step: Having removed emotional hot buttons as described above, proceed with a fact driven basis for decision making and relationships concerning the aforementioned groups (family, friends, etc.)

Third Step: Agree to disagree where there can be no compromise and the TIPPING POINT has been reached among the family, friends, co-workers, etc. Compromise and communication should be the first priority following the mantra of “walking in each others shoes”. However, there will be deal breakers that can not be overcome. We all will know them when we see them.

One Priority, One Project

What would be the one project we all could engage in to build a renewed sense of community, unity and purpose?

So many good causes, so many non-profits. Just check the list of the United Way and the Community Calendar of any community and you will be overwhelmed by the selections.

All worthy causes and yet…..So little time, So little energy, So limited resources.

Got me to thinking….Where in the world do people unite around the same time over the same thing?

Sure there’s Christmas and Easter in Christian leaning societies. But this is not uniformly practiced and sadly other than the exchanging of presents and running up credit card debt, not much more is accomplished.

In the USA, we have our holidays and remembrance days (Presidents Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Thanksgiving). More recently and sadly we have 911 Remembrance Day.

The 911 remembrance brings me to reflect upon the nation wide movement of remembrance in Israel concerning the holocaust. My understanding is that for a defined time on one day….EVERYTHING stops in Israel for a remembrance of victims and a resolve to never replicate the horrors of the holocaust.

This got me to thinking….What if in the USA we collectively as a nation stopped everything and devoted our time, energy and collective souls to ONE THING. Imagine the sense of unity that this would create. We might once again become the UNITED states of the United States of America.

That said, the next question to answer would be…”What would be that 1 thing that our nation did with laser sharp focus over a 24 hour period?”

For this I have no answer and am open to suggestions. The following issues come to mind:

  • Global warming/climate change
  • Gun violence

I’m mulling around the idea of somehow coming to a reconciliation or at least a communication with each other to reduce polarization and take the first step toward averting a civil war. I’m not sure of the logistics of this but my sense is that if we do not start making progress on that front, we will have no chance of tackling the other existential challenges. In sum, we need to heal ourselves first.

Following this train of thought….

  • What if we didn’t do any more political debates, which have deteriorated into shouting matches?
  • What if we didn’t spend millions on political advertising?
  • What if we required candidates to walk together through their neighborhoods and districts greeting and listening to constituents together?
  • What if we required term restrictions so candidates did not become too entrenched in the status quo and out of touch with reality?

At the most basic local level everybody (both candidates and constituents) desire the following basics: food…clothing…shelter….safety….basic education…..health care…opportunity for their kids.

If we were to cut away the noise of partisanship, maybe we might live in harmony and actually feel better about ourselves, out neighborhood, city, state, nation. Civil war averted. Now that’s the ONE THING we all should get behind, before it’s too late.

The Journey

May your journey begin with much fanfare and high expectations

May you not get sidetracked along the way

May the station stops be joyous ones

May you acquire no excess baggage

May you leave each station tidier than you found it

And most importantly,

May there be a transfer ticket waiting for you at the final spot.

By Greg Dunn

What will be the next ISIS?

Since it’s approaching 20 years since the 911 tragedy, I got to wondering what will be the next ISIS or Al-Kaida type threat.

To answer this question, I considered the level of hate and frustration that built up in the mid-east (and beyond) against America. We have come to realize after years of mucking around with internal affairs of those countries, propping up puppet regimes and supporting dictators all in support of our economic interests that the seeds of terrorism were planted. So from what source will we be blindsided next?

My hypothesis is that the threats will come from the following areas:

Africa

Why?…..Vast swaths of this continent suffer tremendous suffering, the basic breeding ground for radicalism, terrorism and resentment. Years of mucking around with their internal affairs all to the disadvantage of their rank and file populations. Sounds like the Middle East scenario all over again.

Latin America

Similar symptoms as described above concerning Africa. Plus, stinging resentment resulting from USA immigration policies that separated kids from parents at the border. Also, mistreatment of agricultural workers. We love them for their cheap labor but scorn them if they get sick or if we have to educate their kids. We like them to keep our food costs low while we vilify them as criminals and rapists. How long can we keep vilifying and abusing them before they rebel and seek retribution. We buy their drugs and we blame them for supplying us. We declare a war on drugs but look the other way concerning the horrific gang/cartel society from which their women and children flee. We enjoy the cheap products they produce in their sweatshops and can not understand why they risk their lives trying to escape to the USA for a better life.

They have nothing to loose in their countries. We turn our backs on them. We send back the Dreamers to countries and cultures they are unfamiliar with even after they have proven themselves worthy of becoming valuable U.S. citizens

There is a saying that “revenge is a dish best served cold”. My fear is that this dish is about to be served.

Home grown terrorists

If the current rate of polarization continues and expands, I fear that homegrown USA terrorist will breed. There is only so long we can vilify eachother and poke at eachother before there is retribution. The ingredients for the powder keg are present. Income inequality, animosity to eachother and complete distrust of both the govenment and the media. Throw in global warming, xenophobia’s, racism and sexism and we have ourselves quite the toxic soup.

I’m sorry I’m publishing such a negative blog so close to the holidays and new years but it is what it is. I see this locally on the weekends as a mall cop, observe it as I drive around neighborhoods during my weekday job, hear it from family, friends and co-workers and watch it on all the news channels.

Oh well, Ho…Ho…Ho…maybe we all could re-examine how we keep talking about settling scores and kicking eachother’s asses. Maybe someday our specie will look back on these days and wonder why we waisted so much hostility on ourselves and our environment. Now that’s a mega Christmas wish and New Year’s Resolution.

Looking Back…Looking Forward

One of my best friend’s recently passed away. She was my wife’s best friend going back to her high school days. Wonderful person who will be sorely missed. Taken too soon at an early age of 65 by a rare disease. The elephant in this sorrowful room is the onward march of time. Our generation is passing. Hopefully, ever so slowly and gracefully.

This got me to thinking about my own career and life. So I’m dedicating this blog to Sue. It’s the type of conversation we shared at one of the many picnics we had at her house.

Let’s start with career reflections:

In my former life as a community organizer, I always thought that with sufficient organizing, most if not all issues, could be addressed. I still have confidence in organizing but the last couple of years and my post-election fears raise some doubts. If a pandemic can not unite us and the carnage of mass shootings can not bring about a consensus that “enough is enough”, I’m wondering WHAT WILL? My sense is that the enemy of organizing and progress is apathy and distraction. Too many persons have given up on having opinions, given up on trusting trusted news sources and given up thinking long term. It’s easier to tune into banal distractions rather than tackling issues head on. It’s become easier to tweet shout.

  • In my former life as a city planner/economic developer, I worked hard on what I now call “the trimmings”. These are endeavors that included marketing campaigns, streetscape improvements, banners, plantings, antique streetlights, and brick paving’s. All good stuff. But I’ve come to realize that much time, energy and money was spent “nibbling at the edge of real changes”. Looking back, it’s the economic engine that should drive the train of change. Ports created cities because of deep water and sheltered harbors. Towns/cities spring up where the train station and the interstate cloverleaf was situated. Cities declined and disappeared where the train did not stop or the interchange was not built. Gold rush boom towns became ghost towns when the mine closed. Same shrinkage occurred when the oil, coal and any other consumable asset was depleted. Those who did not diversify usually declined and died off economically and physically. Diversification is the key to success on a personal, local, state, national and international level. This is why I have come around to the belief that in the world of economic development, it’s all about the combo of infrastructure and demand. Without demand, your infrastructure can become “a bridge to nowhere”. For example, creating a network of magnetic levitation high speed rail lines with strategically located stations generates far more bang for your buck than incremental, well-intentioned baby step attempts at revitalization. Same scenario could also be applied to a high speed ferry/hover craft system. Same scenario could be applied to a high speed, fully integrated tech system where all work/school and entertainment was done remotely. Good for environment (less commuting, less wasteful building). Good for pandemic mitigation (both the one we’re currently in and the inevitable next one). Good for personal safety in what is becoming a very hostile, polarized world of increasing poverty. This focusing on critical mass occurred to me as I observed a deteriorated industrial building on the waterfront. Intriguing building with strong bones in a location with great potential. However, nearby were two topless joints in a severely deteriorated, crime infested area with no clear path or plan for revitalization. I and fellow investors would not want to be the ‘lone ranger” sinking hard earned dollars into a potentially hopeless endeavor with no overarching demand for re-use.
  • In my former life as an affordable housing advocate and property manager working in non-profits, low-income housing tax credit developments and housing authorities, I offer the following suggestions: Stop the cat and mouse paperwork/regulatory madness of qualifying for subsidized housing and re-certifying to retain this housing
  • Consider focusing on a UBI (Uniform Basic Income, $1,000/month) and let people shop in the private market for housing. The affordable housing development takes too much time, money and resources providing too little housing. If the reason for unaffordability is the high cost of the land, then have the government buy the land creating a long term land lease so the cost of renting or owning (if a condo) are kept affordable for a designated period of time. Recommend a one-and-done format of income verifications. Certify them as low-moderate income initially and be done with it. Again, I use my own experience in support of this KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach to policy planning and implementation. Reflecting on my own experience, I had the good fortune many years ago of getting a full scholarship to NYU and got a graduate degree in Urban Planning. It was a one-time opportunity. Did I make the most of this opportunity? Yes, in terms of having a career in that field. No, in terms of getting rich, but that’s not the point. What’s important is the fact that I was given an opportunity that changed my life for the better. This was not a recurring event. I did not have to reapply for scholarships and re-certify as done for programs such as Section 8 in housing, public assistance/welfare, food stamps, etc. It was simple. One and done. Maybe we should simplify the process of providing opportunities so it’s less bureaucratic, less demoralizing for participants and less of a financial sink hole for taxpayers. Get one bite of the financial apple to launch you and it’s up to you if you chose to squander it.

That’s some of my realignment of perspectives based on work/life experiences. I guess it really is true that some old dogs can learn new tricks.

Covert Democrats

The presidential election got me to thinking…..

How will we get the 70+ million unhappy campers who voted for Trump back under the tent? Trump may be gone but unhappiness remains. There are millions of die-hard Trump supporters just like there were millions of Never-Trump supporters during his administration. Neither will budge. However, unless we build some national sense of solidarity and consensus, we will have perpetual gridlock or worse scenarios that I shudder to contemplate.

So let’s start with some common ground questions, without letting it be known that we are democrats.

Why? Because for some, the label Democrat triggers visions of socialism, Marxism, communism and God knows what else.

Next question: So how do we get to that point?

First question: Do you want what’s best for your children?

Specifically, The best education that’s possible so they have the best chance of achieving their potential.

Answer: Sure. Yes, why not.

Answer: Fully fund education system. Steal a Trump phrase, we can “Make America Great Again”.

Let’s avoid the divisive argument over charter schools.

Let’s not force parents into Hobbesian choices requiring them to enter lotteries in the hopes that they WIN placement in quality schools.

Let’s end the stigma of zip code residencies determining quality education.

Let’s re-examine our learning systems so there are more “learning pods” where kids learn on a more focused, small scale basis rather than the current warehousing environment.

Let’s end the digital divide, the achievement gap and the dual system of schools (those considered “good” and those considered “bad”)

This will address the following issues:

  • Mitigate Covid-19 infection spread
  • Lessen chances of mass shootings
  • Probably less bullying opportunities
  • Increased potential for learning in small scale, focused learning environments

For older children getting closer to entering the job market, college, trade school or the military….

Let’s conduct a hybrid schedule of academics in the AM with work experiences (i.e., job shadowing, enriching field trips, mentoring opportunities and paid stipends) in the PM. (or vice versa PM and AM depending upon scheduling issues). Make education be work relevant.

Last, but not least, Wi-Fi and full connectivity for all to close up the connectivity and digital gap.

Will this cost more? Probably.

But there will be a better Return On Investment (ROI) and cost effectiveness. Demand performance and results from both teachers and students, something persons from both sides of the political aisle should support.

Let’s maintain local control of education (local boards of education) while providing national funding to equalize opportunities. States rights and limited government folks will like this while the progressives will like funding to close the education inequity gap.

How will this be funded?

Some reduction in military spending redirected to education because in the long run quality education is a defense strategy in a competitive geo-political global economy. Propose an upgraded education system with the vigor and determination on a par with the Marshall Plan, the Space Race/Man to the Moon and the interstate highway system (all of which, by the way, were national defense initiatives).

So who might be against this?

Those that are comfortable (for whatever reason) with the broken, ineffective, unequal system There’s probably no chance of nudging them from the status quo so leave them in the dust and waste no time trying to get them inside the tent.

Don’t get immersed in the quagmires of prayers in schools and transgenders in bathrooms. For those obsessed with hot-button topics affiliated with social/family/religious value issues, let them default to the private schools where education can be customized to their liking. For the rest, focus on the aforementioned proposal for a basic, quality education for ALL of American youth and ultimately a Stronger America. Never forget to underscore this phrase.

Next common ground, common sense question:

Safety/Security:

Do you want safe streets and neighborhoods?

Do you want to free up prison space for hard-core violent criminals.

Do you want to get those suffering from addictions into long term rehabilitation?

Do you want to augment the police with social workers, therapists and outreach workers so they can focus on being cops.

Answer: Sure, yes.

Let’s stop catching and releasing addicts and overdose victims. Extend the duration of supervised, intensive mandated treatment so it’s not just a revolving door. Follow this combination of a tough-love approach.

Let’s stop catching and releasing violent criminals. Get them off the streets and keep them off the streets. Apply this tough, no nonsense approach to all violent criminals whether they be illegal immigrants or native born. Don’t worry so much about the mother who is fleeing from horrible conditions to find a better life for her children. Focus on the violent criminals (be they illegal aliens or hate mongering local thugs) by beefing up the U.S. Marshalls Fugitive Taskforce to hunt down violent criminals no matter what their pedigree.

Let’s not get hung up on what weapon the violent criminal used. If you’re a violent repeat offender or if your offence is of a heinous, violent nature, you are gone from society.

Take the higher-ground as the unidentified Democrat so the Republicans, Libertarian’s, and others can not corner this market as they have so often done so in the past. With enough toughness (no nonsense) and love (empathy), most people will buy into this. For those that can’t (for whatever reasons), don’t worry about getting them under the tent.

One last point, with a sufficiently tough policy and loving strategy, we can avoid going down the sinkhole debate about the Second Amendment. We can avoid being being immersed in the pro/anti gun issue. We could also avoid the fund/defund police topic because the cops will be augmented with teams of social workers, therapists, street outreach workers so they can be present in the background of incidents should they turn violent. Then the cops can get back to cop work investigating crimes catching criminals. This is presumably the reason they went to the police academy in the first place. Just like why teachers went into the profession to teach and not be baby sitters addressing social issues and traumas extending way beyond instructing in subject matters.

As with the prior discussion concerning education, a society that feels safe is actually a very effective defense policy. Whenever there is a mass shooting or other heinous act of violence, there are claims that it’s caused by a mental health issue. Hold these claimants feet to the fire and get them to fully fund mental health. Make them put their money where their mouth is.

Next question: Health Care and Health Insurance:

If I get sick, I shouldn’t go bankrupt and loose my house. Right?

If I have a pre-existing condition, I can not be denied health care insurance by my current insurer or my new insurer….Right?

If I move from one job to another job , I should still have health insurance, it should remain affordable and there should be no gap in coverage….Right?

If I have health insurance but it’s so expensive that I have to cut back on the basics of food, clothing, shelter, that would be wrong….Right?

If the person that you are asking these questions responds with “no” and has no problem with these draconian conditions, proceed no further. Do you really want such a heartless person sharing the tent with you?

As with any implementation of policies, the devil is in the details. But at least with these questions/responses, Covert Democrats can establish a baseline of agreement. Notice that we are not starting out with terms like “universal, single payer health insurance”, “mandates”, “socialized medicine” or “Medicare for all”, Covert Democrats can not allow themselves to be painted into that corner. Likewise, they need to take the initiative concerning “personal responsibility” since other partisans have cornered this perceptual market. If your poor health and high insurance cost is the result of over-eating, under-exercising and excessive alcohol/drug consumption, then you need to show specific efforts and timeline to address these underlying conditions. If you refuse to help yourself, the taxpayers shall refuse to pander to your excesses. Covert Democrats need to drive home the notion of applying the auto insurance model to the health insurance model. If you rack up multiple speeding tickets and accidents, your auto insurance rate goes up. So if you chose a reckless, unhealthy lifestyle, you need to pay the extra premium for health insurance. If you move around the country and you change jobs, you do not loose your auto insurance. Why can’t this be case for health insurance?

Income, self-sufficiency and safety net unifying common ground questions:

  • Everybody should have the basics (food-clothing-shelter) to survive….Right?
  • Everybody should have a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life….Right?

So assuming there is agreement on these questions, what might be the path to achieving this?

  • Achieve basic survival baseline through a combo of social security and Medicare/Medicaid (which we already have in place) plus a Universal Basic Income (UBI) which we could implement funded by taxation (nominal, not exorbitant) upon the tech/social media giants who are currently skating by with little or no taxes. Since the artificial information (AI) and technical revolution will eliminate jobs for a vast number of Americans (i.e, truckers, bookeepers, retail workers, and any jobs requiring repetition), it only makes sense that a portion of the revenue saved by automation and technology be re-directed to Universal Basic Income (UBI).
  • With the above described social/financial safety net in place with a minimum of paperwork/bureaucracy, the simplicity of this proposal and the universal application of this proposal will appeal to persons of all political stripes (i.e., progressives who want social/economic needs addressed and conservatives who want simpler government and less government and all the others who complain about the system of winners vs. losers in the government benefits/allocation games.
  • This will appeal to the entrepreneurial advocates and small businesses persons/contractors who have strayed from the Democratic tent. They will like the potential for start-ups and entrepreneurialism. In a word, good old capitalism.
  • Notice that nowhere in the above scenario is any mention of income equality and income re-distribution. This proposal is all about providing the bare minimum safety net with a minimum of bureaucratic overhead and the potential for those ready-willing-able to hustle to pursue the American Dream. Now who could be against all of that?

Who could be against any of all of the aforementioned questions and proposals?

Now that’s a baseline from which we could move forward.

I’m proud to be an active member of the Democratic Party so don’t be misled by the Covert Democrat title of this article. However, to use a baseball analogy: To hit a home run you first need to get on base and that’s the strategy behind this proposal.