Paul on January 23rd, 2018

The dissonant cacophony is deafening.  It overwhelms us every minute of every day and it is the sad testimony to what we have become as a people but even more important, as a functioning democracy.

We are consumed by the meanderings of an odious nit-wit, Donald trump, a twisted man-child wandering aimlessly in an adult world…a man who also happens to be our President.  But Donald Trump isn’t the issue.  To some, he may be a bad guy, but he isn’t the real villain.  He is what he is and no amount of treatment, therapy or self-aggrandizement can change that.  There is not a person on the planet who did not know what he was and what we would be getting with a Trump victory on November 8, 2016.

The far more villainous crowd is the army of enablers who are not lunatics but who make it possible for Mr. Trump to exist.  Those are people who are more shame-worthy.  They know the essence of Mr. Trump and yet they enable him 24/7 to foist his character and “decisions” on the rest of us here at home and around the globe.  What makes them more scornful is because they have choices and they have sold their souls to support a man whom most of them would not befriend under almost any circumstances in real life. Their collective and individual failure to speak out and follow their own standards of fundamental decency makes them worse than Mr. Trump.  They have a choice; he doesn’t.  But they, problematic as they are, are not the ultimate bad guys because they are in the mix and while we may not agree with them, at least they participate and in doing so, open themselves to public judgement.

Here are the real villains, the planters who gave us our current crop of what passes for a functioning government and governable nation. There were about 250,056,000 eligible voters in 2016 of which only about 58% actually voted.  Of those who did, Mr. Trump received 62,979,636 votes.  Putting it another way, Mr. Trump was elected to the Presidency by about 25.1% of eligible voters, not exactly a mandate but good enough thanks to the estimated 111,000,000+ eligible voters who didn’t think it was important enough to vote.

No wonder Mr. Trump plays to his base.  They love him; they are devoted to him; and they vote!  After all, one only needs about 26% of the eligible voters to win a presidential election and as the one in 2016 illustrates, that paltry percentage may be even lower if the passionate base comes from less populated states with a built-in advantage in the Electoral College.  Even if Hillary had won, it would have been a hollow victory since it could be reasonably argued that almost 200,000,000 eligible voters did not vote for her.

But reality would dictate that candidates choose to play to their base simply because their passion drives those voters to the polls.  So in that way, certain candidates begin every election cycle about half way to their goal of election.  The constituencies outside that base have been described by many as more moderate, less passionate and, sadly, less likely to vote.  To almost guarantee victory in any election, authoritarian and extreme candidates depend on an electoral landscape marked by a base that equates compromise with weakness. But if the more moderate and vastly larger middle actually voted, catering to a rigid base becomes far more risky and thus produces a leavening effect on extreme stances by candidates and parties across the political spectrum.

That din you hear and that incendiary copy you read and listen to every moment of every day in the news, the social media and among your neighbors is the noise created by the silence of over a hundred million of your countrymen and women.  They are the most shameful actors in this democracy and the ongoing greatest threat to the continuation of this experiment in self-governance we call the United States of America, a nation’s title that is becoming more oxymoronic with every passing day.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.  In fact, it is not a sport at all.  It is serious work that demands serious people to make it work and we as a nation have fallen short, thanks in no small part to a media that constantly reports governmental activities as a “win” for someone or a “defeat” for a group or party.  When we carelessly keep score like that, everyone loses.  Remember too, that governmental dysfunction spells exponentially higher ratings and greater profits for reporting media across the political spectrum.  They thrive on discord and have a vested, dollars-and-cents interest in doing what they can to “stir the pot”.

There is no excuse for any eligible voter to take a pass on his or her responsibility to vote on Election Day.  Voting is our sacred duty to our families, our state, our nation and our legacy to future generations.  For those who boast or take pride in not voting, there is not enough holy water on the planet to cleanse your self-serving, sorry souls.

These are a few of the sounds created by your silence:

The Mueller investigation along with investigations in both the House and Senate into alleged collusion with a foreign power and other irregularities like laundering money and violations that forbid people in public office to benefit from their position for private gain were made possible by people who didn’t vote.

The shameful shutdown of government caused in large part by the circular firing squad known as Congress that spends more time and energy catering to a small, united electoral base and childish “gotcha” games than to actually running the nation and honoring their oath of office.  One wonders if they would act this way if the electorate in their districts and states were routinely represented by 90% of the eligible voters in their constituency.  That is the price that all of us pay because of the choice of eligible voters to forego their role in support of this democracy, the deliberate choice to remain silent.

The never-ending, embarrassing statements, tweets and fallout from Mr. Trump’s public and personal behavior was brought to us by the people who stayed home on Election Day in 2016.

The increased prospects for biased decisions of a Supreme Court fueled in part by an unopposed stolen seat will create lots of noise in both the short and long run.  Included in the atonal din will be further validation that our hard-won democracy is for sale to the highest bidder thanks to the somewhat misanthropic, contrived and clearly partisan decision that equates quid-pro-quo donations by the wealthy to business-friendly candidates and office holders as a mere expression of free speech.  It is bribery, boys and girls, plain and simple.  It is also the primary fuel behind the dangerous, combustible and growing inequality of wealth in this nation.

Invasion of public lands and off-shore marine environments for private-profit mining and exploitation is an unsettling sound of silence.

The complete abdication of our role as a universally-admired and respected world leader in the fight against global warming and world-wide pollution rearranges two letters of Mr. Trump’s favorite slogan.  The new slogan reads: “Make America Grate Again!”  It makes for very hard listening for those of us who actually pay attention and who care what people around the globe think about America and the legacy we are leaving for our children and generations yet to come.

The knocking at the door on the homes of hard-working, law-abiding DACA immigrant families who live in fear of deportation is an unimaginable drum-beat sound of silence.

The shouts of racists and neo-Nazis who scream for ethnic and religious purity and a return to the good old days that emulate Germany in the 1930’s is an unthinkable sound in America made possible by over 100 million eligible voters who stayed home on November 8, 2016 many of whom are the very targets of that hateful rhetoric.

The loss of friends of America around the globe reacting to a duly-elected president who behaves like a boorish know-nothing is a sound akin to finger nails on a blackboard to a majority of Americans and former friends everywhere. Doing nothing on Election Day did this.

The enormous and highly suspect worldwide boom in stock values which are unconditionally praised and abetted by some for political gain is to others a screaming red flag of caution.  We have seen this before and we live in an electronic age where everything financial, legal and otherwise can happen in the blink of an eye.  Under the new administration, elected by about 25% of eligible voters, we are witnessing the daily peeling away of the safeguards put in place to avoid a repeat of the 2007-8 meltdown.  Because so many people failed to vote, the floodgates of malpractice are once again open to those who seek to make huge profits at the expense of an unsuspecting, unprotected public.  Beware of any public servant elected or not who uses the phrase, “Trust me”.  A trustworthy person never feels the need to say that and a certain return visit to the economic world of 2007-8 may turn out to be the loudest sound of silence, the painful byproduct of the election of 2016.

The deliberate effort to pit Americans of different religions, races and economic status against each other undermines every intent of our Constitution and profoundly weakens us in our global competition with friends and foes alike.  That self-inflicted damage is and continues to be fueled in large part by the demonstrated indifference of over 100 million disinterested, lazy, eligible voters.

The list goes on and on and it is all made possible because of the millions of Americans who failed to vote in 2016. In the end, Donald Trump is just another dissonant chord, the alpha offspring of the sound of silence.

There was a poster in Room 72 that attributed a quote to Edmund Burke, a distinguished conservative British political philosopher.  It said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.   But as my years on this planet accumulate, the saying takes on a somewhat confounding tone.  Good men (and women) are not “good” when they cease to do their part in any existing democracy.  Good citizens participate and vote.  Those who fail to do so, erode their right to claim the adjective “good” as an unconditional descriptor of their devotion to the idea of democracy in general and as testimony to their performance as functional and contributing citizens of the United States of America.

…And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people, maybe more,
People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared, and no one dared
To stir the sound of silence…
(Paul Simon)







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