Tag Archives: America

Worldview: The word which has empowered propaganda machines of the left and right

Worldview (n.) – a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

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Nothing truer than this.

Worldview is everything in political belief, whether or not we wish to admit it. What dictates beliefs from an ideological standpoint varies widely from person to person. The extremes of both sides of the ideological aisles often fail to see, or choose to be blind to, this fact. What is more bothersome is that many of the things which we hold as truths, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once observed with such eloquence, depends entirely on our point of view or, to use a more modern vernacular, our worldview.

This definitely affects how news and information is approached and received. The notion of “fake news” is not a new concept; President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of reporters who infiltrated sweatshops in America’s Northeast and Midwest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as “muckrakers.” To him, many of these reporters were simply attempting to sensationalize the conditions, such as those described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, in an attempt to advance an agenda. Granted, this was largely the case and did achieve historic changes which led to modern health and safety rules in the workplace, but Roosevelt and, more to the point, industrialists directly affected by the changes caused by said articles, regarded these journalists as self-serving do-gooders whose publishers where more concerned about selling newspapers than actually looking out for the national interest. It is very familiar song.

While the journalists of that time were unjustly regarded as parasites, today’s media has created much of its own perception issues, but those problems have also been exacerbated by the proliferation of the sources which cater to one particular worldview. Websites such as RedState, Huffington Post, NewsMax, and Mother Jones were all established with one purpose – activist journalism, which takes legitimate information and manipulates it to advance an agenda, be it conservative or liberal. These websites have become popular, and even trusted, because traditional legacy sources such as network news and periodicals such as Time, Newsweek and USA Today lost sight of their primary mission – to inform the public. Instead, traditional information sources have focused more on the viewpoints of individual writers and “anchors” to “sell the story,” rather than letting the story sell itself.

A great example would be to compare the Trump Administration to the Nixon Administration in terms of media coverage. Today’s media is focused on “pouncing;” attacking what the President does with Twitter, or what his underlings say in press conferences, and picking it apart. The media of the Nixon era was more concerned with receiving information as it was disseminated, analyzing it, and finding inconsistencies. While it was not entirely investigative journalism, the reporters of Nixon’s day focused more on the facts and allowed that administration to create its own worst nightmare; impeachable offenses revealed through a combination of individual hubris and collective administration incompetence. For the Nixon White House, the gaffes of ego committed by the cabal led by both Nixon himself and advisors, such G. Gordon Liddy, did more damage to that President than any newspaper editorial ever could. For Trump’s Administration, the media now appears to be willing patsies in a war of misinformation and blatant ego inflation. Rather than reporting on inconsistencies and obvious conflicts of interests, the media’s obsession with the President’s twitter feed and what his children do in their off hours appears to be stuff of political and editorial vendettas, as opposed to the work of truth-seeking reporters.

During operation Desert Storm in 1992, the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf pulled one of the great distraction moves in modern warfare. He sent coalition forces to the Kuwait border in such numbers to keep the late Saddam Hussein’s forces occupied and obsessed with stopping a direct invasion and then, in a bold move, launched a massive offensive to west of Kuwait, destroying the Iraqi Army’s rear lines. Much of Trump’s campaign and administration’s public relations moves appear to be the same; focus media and public attention away from the more pressing issues of the day by using marketing buzzwords and research to distract the public and media, then working to do things his way without public scrutiny. This sort of distraction is a classic tactic in business – use distraction in negotiations to focus attention on one hot-button issue in order to gain larger concessions on broader matters, and his most vocal, rabid supporters are defending him at every single turn, no matter how questionable his statements on these matters. A good question is why are these voters buying into it, but a better question is how is Trump pulling it off?

The answer is simple; Trump is playing to the fears of his base’s worldview.

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Former Fox host Glenn Beck, who became famous for his conspiracy chalkboards, started his conservative talk career at WFLA-AM in Tampa in 1998.

Many Trump voters share a similar, if not identical, worldview; a collective group of nations, largely Muslim, which seek to destroy the United States by any means necessary. While several of these nations exist, most lack the will or ability to strike even indirectly. In addition, they feel that corporate America is part of a globalist cabal which seeks to destroy the American-Western way of life. Some of these worldviews also put white Anglo-Saxon protestants (so called “WASPs”) at the top of the world pyramid of authority. Others espouse the worldview that Western culture is far superior to any others on Earth – former radio host and libertarian standard-bearer Neal Boortz once famously admitted he was not a racist but a “culturalist,” stating he did believe that Western civilization was superior to all others on Earth and must retain its eminence, and TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck was pulled from Fox News when even the heads of the largely conservative-oriented news network got the jitters over Beck’s increasingly conspiratorial claims on his own short-lived TV program.

While these worldviews are often based in personal experience, they can also be based in a facade of nationalism designed to profit from the fears and emotions of those who seek validation of their beliefs and views. It is these individuals, such as conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones and Breitbart head/Trump advisor Scott Bannon, who are the greatest purveyors of convincing misinformation. In Bannon’s case, a reasonable individual can deduce one reason for his practices – packaging propaganda in a veneer of factual data to present in such a way that it’s accepted because it matches the accepted views of those who voted for Trump in the first place and, therefore, emboldens the President to behave in a manner which is to the advantage of both Bannon and those of his ilk.

To many, the media is not reliable because it was the media itself who bought into the notion of not only informing the public, but influencing it to act in accordance with a narrative. Individuals such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Nancy Grace, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, and even Fox News’ newest crop of hosts are not journalists in the true sense of the world, but commentators using the facts given by genuine reporters to advance an agenda. This is reminiscent of another individual who has used legitimate reporting as a means to advance an agenda – The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson. The controversial conservative minister’s Christian Broadcasting Network, though a reasonably ethical operation on its own, allows its facts to be manipulated for Robertson’s own purposes, mainly fundraising. For this reason, CBN suffers from a heavy dose of “guilt by association,” and is regarded as a less-than-credible outlet for information.

Another example of worldview issues could be found on the other end of the spectrum, BBC News. For years, Britain’s government-owned network was regarded as a go-to source for information from around the world, with strong ethics and a high standard of quality and accuracy. As time went on, BBC’s own anchors became more and more focused on news which portrayed the United States in a less-than-flattering way and, for that reason, aided far-right media types in a campaign to paint the mainstream media as liberal elitists. Unfortunately, this image was only entrenched further when a scandal broke within the BBC’s ranks exposing editorial bias being encouraged and dissent being quashed by network bosses. Those with a worldview of journalists being nosy crusaders only concerned with their career found their views confirmed, and this only served to undermine the media and enhance the position of ideologically-oriented websites which take legitimate information and spin it to suit their needs.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, known for her fiery ultra-left views, is considered part of why the network’s ratings continue to languish far behind CNN and Fox News.

So how can we separate the good from the bad, the reliable from the speculative. Critical thinking comes into play here. If something doesn’t an instinctual “smell test,” chances are it is either false or manipulated. Stories about Trump which seem too crazy to be truth tend to be so, just as stories about former President Obama also lean that way. Both sides have websites which focus on fomenting resistance though inflammatory news articles, and both are extremely adept at pointing fingers at the other side while denying stories which they themselves plant. One way to determine the veracity of story is to know the backgrounds of the writers. When one sees the words “activists,” or “political expert” or “left” or “right” in their bio, it is a fairly safe bet that writer has the interests of their cause, not the reader, at heart.

While some ideologically oriented websites have quality informational articles, double checking the information though other mainstream sources is always advised. If even a sliver of the information is accurate, it could point to a much greater situation. Nevertheless, worldview contributes to how we view news, whether we want to admit it or not.

A word about why American politics are so f—-d up.

Warning: this post may be offensive to everyone on earth. Better to close it now and get it over with.
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, protests and riots have swept across the nation.  The new President has signed executive order after executive order, and the country is more polarized than ever.  The more I look at things, the more I can see the origins of a lot of these issues and it comes down to a saying by the late pro football coach Vince Lombardi:

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Somewhere along the way, both the left and the right decided that their way was the not only the right way, but the only way to run things.  Instead of being open to new ideas and practicing moderation, extremism took root, aided by the absolutism made fertile by talk radio hosts, many of whom have turned out to be, themselves, outright hypocrites.  Both left and right pointed the finger at each other, decrying the other’s way as “evil” and “corrupt,” tossing about buzzwords like “income redistribution,” “globalism,” “market freedom” and “indoctrination.”

In the end, both sides are guilty of fomenting national discord for the sake of their own ambitions and avarice.  Both extremes are akin to fans of opposing teams in the Super Bowl who use the exact same offensive and defensive strategies.  The only differences are the cities represented, team colors and the one massive variable:  personalities.

This year’s Super Bowl is a great example. New England’s Tom Brady is a person who draws absolute reactions.  You either love him or you hate him.  You either admire his guile for exploiting lax rules enforcement with “deflategate,” or he is a cheater.  For Atlanta, you either love Matt Ryan for his stoicness in games and his ability to heave the ball downfield with stunning accuracy, or you hate him for his occasional post game showboating and arrogance or the demands of owner Arthur Blank.  Long story short, team affiliation and cults of personalities determine the fan base.

America’s political landscape is much the same way anymore.  It’s no longer about “what’s right for America.”  Rather, many citizens have become so fed up with the demands of either side, their rhetoric, and the approach to life their supporters take, the “win at all costs” attitude has permeated American politics.  You either love Donald Trump and what he espouses, or you loved Hillary Clinton.  Anyone who isn’t on the side of an extreme allegiance is a gutless moderate, or an independent who is immediately picked apart for which side of the ideological aisle they most identify with, regardless of if their heart is good.

We are no longer a nation which compromises for the good of all; we are a country obsessed with winning and being “right,” even if being right means may the good of the nation be damned, so long as our side prevails.  We no longer see shades of gray, or the empty spaces in between the argument where facts get lost in the name of victory.  It is now black and white terms:  good and evil, order and chaos, life and death, left and right….and zero in between allowed.

Both sides are guilty on this one.  The far right has pushed gun rights, the far left gun restriction.  The far right pushes free market and free will as the answer to everything, while the far left pushes government as the solution.  Both sides point the finger at each other when something goes wrong.  A great idea is only a great idea of our side came up with it.  If one side comes up with a truly great idea, the other side will do everything they can to stop it, and vice versa.  Why?  Because it wasn’t their idea. They can’t take credit, so they want no part of it.

This is where our nation has been taken. Compromise is death.  Bipartisanship is evil.  The left will destroy the rights of all.  The right will destroy the rights of all.  They are both the same, but they are different.  The left wants people to be lifted up, but so does the right.  The only difference is the means it happens and who at the very top benefits.  It’s old money family rivalries on a global scale.  The same monster with two heads and the same master manipulating both heads, in this case the people are the brains inside the heads, to fight each other.

But why?

Did it not occur to anyone here that if a world leader with access to nuclear weapons gets into a pissing match with another world leader with nuclear weapons in this age of “pride before prudence,” things could end VERY VERY BADLY? This is not the old Cold War era where world leaders understood the concept of mutual assured destruction. In this era where all that matters is winning, regardless of the cost, MAD isn’t really so crazy anymore.  It’s considered “acceptable risk.”

That said, here’s something think about:  all the protests and guns on earth won’t mean shit if there’s nothing left to protest or no one to kill. Yes, people are angry at each other and there are powerful people making a ton of money off pitting us against each other, but do you really think any of them give a damn about YOU when the mushroom clouds start rising? They already planned for this years ago.  At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, anyone who thinks those in position of true power haven’t found some way to gain from a world atomic holocaust are sadly mistaken.  They get to rebuild the world, only the way they see fit.

We can stop all this madness, but we need to focus on what we see happening, not the rhetoric being said or the memes being posted. Focus on what’s real instead of what is imagined. We still have a judicial system and civilian control of our military. I know people are saying we need to strike “just in case.” What is that going to accomplish? To all of you wanting a civil war to settle it all, do you really think that dying for SOMEONE ELSE’S CHECKBOOK is more important than the ideals espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, because I guarantee you that most of your radio and television pundits and commentators, liberal or conservative, couldn’t remember the Bill of Rights, much less which state first ratified the constitution.  They CAN, however, remember their bank account number and safe combination, easily.

Those want to die, or are okay with friends and loved ones dying, to impose their worldview of America on everyone else, are EXACTLY the sort of danger George Washington spoke of in his farewell address. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror as a nation, stop worrying about who is offended by who said what and what injustice was committed by people long dead, and instead focus on the injustices being committed right now, against us by each other. We need to look at our current immigrants who may not have gotten here legally, but are law abiding otherwise and a great source of tax revenue.  We need to look at our homeless and see how much of it is true laziness and how much of it is actually mental illness which, once treated effectively, can unlock the minds of potential geniuses.  We need to feed our hungry children so they can feel compassion and grow into compassionate adult instead of bitter children in adult bodies vying for the power they never knew in youth.  We need to help our veterans who our leaders have come to view as similar to sanitary napkins; something to absorb political blood in photo ops and rituals, but disposed of once they’ve outlived their usefulness.  We need to address the reality that racial tensions exist not so much as the result of what happened over a century ago, but the mistrust formed between races because of old fears turned into old wives tales, which have in turn become cultural norms.
Finally we need to remember and accept that assimilation does not mean elimination.  A people can become law abiding productive citizens without being forced to abandon their cultures and customs.  Immigrants should have to learn our language, history and abide by our laws but should not be required to abandon their heritage and culture in their own homes.  

Yes, there will always be those who wish to harm us, but we should never do the work for them, and our current political climate is doing just that.  We are truly doing our enemies’ dirty work.  We can, we must, learn to listen to the better angels of our nature.  That is what a “more perfect union” is about, after all.

President Obama’s legacy may be cemented by an asset-turned-liability

Now that the Presidential transition is upon us, a time to reflect on President Obama’s term in office bears mentioning. This is not an examination of his accomplishments or failures but, rather, a critical look at his overall term eight years after being elected the first black President in our nation’s history. The facts speak for themselves, but facts are always open to interpretation.

As an executive, there can be no argument that Barack Obama was vastly different from any of his predecessors. This is not a particular shock to anyone. George W. Bush was very much a delegating sort of executive and fiercely loyal to his advisors. This sometimes served him well but, more often than not, was a source of cannon fodder for his critics. Obama was nothing like George W. Bush in that regard, and that’s just for starters. Where Obama diverged from his predecessors was his desire to be in near constant control of his surroundings. Indeed, a President who is “asleep at the switch” is a danger to himself and others, but Obama’s management style was that of a “micromanager.” Perhaps this is owed to his days as a community organizer in Chicago, where day-to-day minutia is often managed by the very person doing the organizing. After all, a leopard can’t change his spots, so it was foolish for anyone to believe Obama would change his habits. His near obsessive use of a prepared statements and reading from teleprompters was evidence of President who possessed a near-pathological desire to control everything, for good or ill.

Still, Obama’s greatest single failing in his presidency was his greatest asset on the campaign trail; his seeming stoic, “rise above it” attitude. For a Presidential nominee this is a wonderful trait because it allowed him to shrug off attacks and accusations which would demolish the confidence of other candidates. That same attitude does not do so well in the Oval Office, where the ability to empathize with everyday Americans was something he attempted to do, but his cool demeanor was nearly Vulcan-like at times, and turned off much of the electorate, as well as gave his opponents ammunition to pick him apart and find the various weaknesses in his armor. Much to Obama’s credit, there was actually precious little which he lost his temper over publicly – he was usually quite even-keeled at both press conferences and public appearances. There was, however, one area where his emotions boiled to the surface – the issue of race.

There is one thing which I have told people time and again; when Barack Obama was elected, America was ready for a “Black President.” The real problem was that America wasn’t ready for a Black President who advocated for Black America. Some would argue he “acted black,” but the question then becomes “what is the definition of ‘acting black?’” In Obama’s case, racial issues in America were something he was hoping our nation could move past with his election; that the era of racism in America was coming to an end. Instead, several factors came into play which so polarized the nation along racial lines, President Obama simply could not overcome reality, no matter how amount of vision with which he was endowed.

One of the great problems for Obama when it came to race was, again, the very stoicism which served him so well in other areas. When black men such as Trayvon Martin were killed by either police officers and white citizens, Obama was quick to condemn systemic racism within law enforcement agencies such as the one in Ferguson, Missouri, and even unleashed the Justice Department to investigate possible Civil Rights violations. The problem was when confronted with irrefutable evidence of self defense on the part of police, as was the case in Baltimore, or malicious intent admitted by some of the cop killers, or even political negligence for political gain’s sake, Obama remained silent in almost disturbing fashion. It was as though he simply couldn’t come to grips with the possibility that both sides were guilty of bad choices. Yes, the Justice Department’s 9th inning decision to hit the Chicago PD with charges of cultural racial bias may have been well founded and based in legitimate investigation results, but the case of the murders of Georgia officers Nicholas Smarr and Jody Smith by a black male with an extensive record, and subsequent social media threats made against the families of the slain officers by both supporters of the murderer and self-proclaimed “activists,” combined with President Obama’s rather muted response to this tragedy, did little to help his legacy as a “transformational President.” If anything, his desire for justice of the black community, however well-intentioned, may have suffered from severe tunnel-vision, and thus damaged his chances of a legacy behind his initial historical achievement from an electoral standpoint. Indeed, even White House reporters admitted to various news organizations that the President seemed to have “checked out” for a while, and some even wondered if the President had felt betrayed by the very nation which elected him.

President Obama’s term in office will likely go down as mediocre rather than transformational. The Republicans in Congress have already taken highly aggressive moves to roll back Obama’s legislative initiatives, and there seems to be no indication that incoming President Donald Trump will be anything more than a rubber stamp with a very loud mouth. Yes, Obama was the President who ordered the operation which ended the life of Osama Bin Laden, and he did take a tough line with Russia over the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, but he also presided over gaffe-laden jobs programs, an economic recovery which took far longer than expected, and was cited by Politifact.com for the 2014 “Lie of the Year” when he said “if you like your doctor, you can keep him,” when speaking about the Affordable Care Act, a claim which later proved impossible. Yes, his aggressive tack against police brutality towards black Americans, particularly males, was historic in its intensity, but his political style also polarized the electorate as never before. While the Republican Party was complicit in many a legislative crisis, it was Obama’s own stoic approach, bordering on the appearance of complete hubris, which may have, fair or not, cemented his legacy not as an unifier or transformer, but as a party apparatchik and “front man” for the likes of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Time will tell what Obama’s real legacy is, but it is very clear that a Donald Trump presidency, if he chooses to avoid the excesses of Andrew Jackson and Warren Harding, could be the true transformer America has wanted, for better or for worse.

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Despite his good intentions with such things as his “shovel ready jobs” program, President Barack Obama’s own stoicism and party-line stubbornness will likely relegate him to the list of mediocre Presidents.

My greatest fears for America realized, my greatest hope still possible

This is what I’ve feared ever since I left college in 1997.

We’ve reached a crescendo of anger and partisanship in our nation.  Those who we once believed were our best and brightest, offices which we once looked to for inspiration and hope, are now becoming synonymous with scandal and mistrust.  We have a media which is so steeped in ideology on both sides, common sense has vanished.  The notion of an America where anyone can become a success with hard work, a little luck, and some smarts is beyond endangered.  It’s been eviscerated.

Everyone is angry at everyone.  Family and friends are no longer speaking to each other, separated by ideology, preconceived notions, income disparity and occupation.  Ours was a nation once admired for its ability to take the best features of any culture, any religion, and race, and make it our own.  The ability to merge, to meld it all together into one made us the envy of the world.  Today, we have allowed those who wish to do us harm to claim the ultimate victory.  We’ve allowed them to drive us apart.

Worse still, we have allowed others to profit from our divisions.  We have embraced them and entrepreneurs and innovators instead of what they really are:  unpatriotic predators.

We are better than this.  We don’t need tolerance or safe zones now.  We don’t need gun control or fear mongering or opportunistic politicians.  We don’t need platitudes, slogans, investigations, accusations or organizations.  We don’t need moguls taking advantage of situations to enrich themselves.  What is needed is what we fear the most, the hardest possible thing we could ever do as a people.

We need to wake up and accept that fact we cannot live In the past anymore.

Progress happens.  Forward movement is part of life.  Change is reality.  Regression is what backwards societies such as North Korea and Iran have done.  It’s what ISIS wants. Regression, for a nation such as ours, is death.  The question for us is why we resist change so fervently.  Why are some changes so embraced, while some are so repellent, and the only thing I could think of was an analogy I once offered a longtime friend.  This man, who is an avid tea connoisseur, was asked a practical question; if your doctor told you that tea is lethal for you and that you must stop drinking it now and never touch it again, could you handle it?  He admitted it was a very disturbing idea. 

This is where we are now.  We are a people facing tough choices we don’t want to make because it upsets our lifestyles, our narratives, or our worldview.

We’ve gone from a society of reasonable people to a society of folks who have been told what they must do or can’t do.  We have a President who once told Americans we had to “eat our peas,” like a grouchy father scolding oppositional children.  We have a slew of pundits on talk radio accusing the party in power of everything short of killing puppies.  Whether it is true or not is irrelevant – the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is gone.  We have become a society governed by our passions, those passions fomented by those co-opting the message of well-meaning, passionate citizens, and twisting them to fit a very profitable narrative.  Rather than listen to the better angels of our nature, we are now embracing our greatest demons, both past and present.

Our Founders were skeptical of the People governing directly, and I can see why.  We are no longer a nation of individuals who have the greater good at heart.  Ours is no longer a nation which asks what we can do for our country, as President Kennedy once called upon every American to do.  Nor is it the nation which once saw morning dawning again, and President Reagan once declared.  We aren’t even a nation which only has to fear fear itself as FDR once declared our only enemy to be.  We are beyond a nation by the people, for the people, and we have allowed ourselves to become too involved in foreign entanglements.  We are no longer a nation of laws, but of men and women.  Ours is a people captivated by cults of personality, enthralled by fantasy, obsessed with scandal, and unable to move forward out of a desire for vengeance and bloodlust.  We no longer forgive; we retaliate. We are near nihilists, but accept everything told by so-called “leaders” as gospel.

We can come back, if we want.  We can focus on the good in our nation, if we would stop looking at each other with suspicion.  We can end the hatred if we stop wondering how we can “get over” on each other.  We can rebuild if we start focusing on rolling up our sleeves and working on repairs.  We can stop the insanity if we realize that our greatest strength is the very thing which many regard as our greatest weakness – our differences, our seeming inability to agree.  If our nation was to collectively awaken from its slumber and see just how badly we are being played for fools by both sides of the political aisle, the consequences would be as an earthquake destroying a major city.  Anyone who wonders the veracity of this assessment need simply read this quote…

“A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.”

That quote was not by any American, but by Admiral Yamamoto of Japan in 1942 as the war in the Pacific intensified.  Three years later, Japan would lay in ruins, and America would have displayed what the collective will of a truly free people, properly directed, can do.

My hope is that my fear is only short-lived.

Ways to turn a small town from “dying” to “thriving.”

While many small towns across America are in the throes of death and decay, there is another side to this story.  Namely, the hope many small towns are giving to communities across the country through stories of innovation, revival and growth.  These stories are proof that small towns can come back from the brink.  It simply takes a collective will to do so.  While many a snake-oil seller comes in from afar on a white horse pitching “can’t miss” schemes to city elders, genuine recovery and revitalization must be done by the residents of these locales.  It is gritty, dirty, hard work which boasts immense rewards in terms of both prosperity and pride.  So, here are some elemental things all small towns must do, either in whole or at least in part, to begin the comeback trail.

Embrace Your Civic Identity.

It’s so easy for a small town to become married to the idea of what they want to be, rather than what they.  Just like a person who decides they want to a police officer or doctor, but has neither the aptitude nor the ability to excel in either position, is often miserable in these professions, so too are towns which attempt to be something other than what they are.  If your city has a college or university which has been there a long time, and not much else, the fact which must be faced is your city is a “college town.”  If your town has a factory which produces auto parts, and just about everything in the town supports that factory, you are a “blue collar” town.  There is no shame in this.  By embracing a civic identity, towns can begin to rebuild and thrive.

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This trailer box is being loaded on a train at an intermodal hub in Cordele, Georgia.  (WALB)

Blue collar towns can use the success of industry to lure other industries.  Cordele, Georgia is an excellent example of this.  Once a decaying city with little hope of improvement, this city has leveraged its location at the intersection of US Highway 280 and Interstate 75 as a prime asset to lure industry.  Cordele now hosts several distribution hubs and, combined with an active rail line, has become an intermodal transfer point for several major companies.  Frozen foods, hardware, heavy goods and such often find their way to terminals located in Cordele and, combined with its centralized location to traffic arteries connecting major port cities such ains Savannah and Tampa with Atlanta, Columbus and other major cities, this once dying town is beginning to make a comeback.  Once a dot on the map trying to market itself as a “throwback” city to yesteryear, civic officials saw their assets and used them to reinvent the town.

Move Forward and Innovate

No small town has seen a more profound transformation in the last 25 years than Homestead, Florida.  This tiny town, located southern Miami-Dade County near the end of Florida’s Turnpike, was home to an Air Force base, some orange groves, a retirement community or two, and not much else.  It was, in essence, a waypoint for vacationers en route to the Keys.  When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, Homestead took the absolute hardest hit, with 90 percent of the city destroyed.  Shortly afterwards, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended Homestead AFB be shuttered to take advantage of the so-called “peace dividend” resulting from the end of the Cold War.  Even the Cleveland Indians abandoned the city as a spring training location in favor of a location further north in the state.  So how did Homestead, which was once pronounced a “dead city” by many in the media shortly afterwards, come back?

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In 1992, Homestead, Florida was essentially wiped from existence by Hurricane Andrew.  Today, it is the home of NASCAR’s Championship Weekend.  (NPR)

Civic leaders took a long, hard look and realized they had an immense asset available:  lots of land.  The late Ralph Sanchez, the Miami financier who brought open-wheel racing to South Florida with Miami Grand Prix, pitched the idea of a racetrack to the city.  Reeling from one misfortune after another, the city council could have said “no thanks,” and decided to just founder.  Instead, they took a risk, and did it ever pay off.  Shortly after Homestead-Miami Speedway opened, NASCAR began openly talking about the possibility of a Super Bowl-style championship race to decide the then-Winston Cup Series.  In 2003, Homestead’s speedway become host to the NASCAR Championship Weekend, the first-ever conflux of all of the sport’s title races, including the Sprint Cup Championship.  Homestead soon became as famous as Daytona Beach, and the championship weekend, along with its associated businesses, has helped to revitalize a city once destroyed by nature itself.  Homestead’s answer to utter devastation was simple:  finding hope through innovation and the assets they possessed.

Find the Common Bond

One of the things which tear small towns apart is income and social stratification.  Groups of people cluster together based on profession and money, and it creates resentment and sows the seeds of civic discontent.  While ethnic and socio-economic clustering in major cities ,such as New York and Atlanta, can be managed, they spell doom for small towns because everyone knows everyone else.  When you live “on the wrong side,” of town, people know it.  Residents tend to associated with like-minded, incomed and professioned individuals and, for that reason, small towns can become divided in stark ways which lead to both finger pointing and an unwillingness to work together.  When this sort of failure takes root, the associated division only serves to accelerate a town’s demise.  There are, however, cities which find their common bond, and those are the ones which are able to begin the long comeback to civic pride and prosperity.

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In tiny Conrad, Iowa, residents have taken their town from “dying” to “thriving” through the power of community will. (IPR)

In Conrad, Iowa, this spirit of community has taken a tiny farming community, which was among the hundreds in this state which were dying, back on the road to being a thriving community.  According to the article and program on Iowa Public Radio’s website, the people of Conrad saw what was happening and, rather than tear the community apart through finger pointing, began to come together and find the common ground.  As the article states, the city’s clarion call came in the 1980s when its grocery store was on the verge of closure.  Residents rallied together to save the store, and found they could do much by coming together in a spirit of community.  As stated in the article, “small victories” helped to galvanize residents, and soon Conrad on the comeback trail.  They even developed a motto ‘e pluribus plow em,’ a play on the national motto to highlight their agricultural roots.  Their story has served as inspiration and education for scores of other now-revitalizing cities in Iowa, and this model is now being taken nationally.

Hold the Powerful Accountable

One of the most common refrains among those living in small towns is how power and wealth coalesce into the hands of a privileged few.  Those in power tend to pick and choose who gets what, how much of it, and who is able to “get ahead” in life.  Those who think differently or come from families who are not related to the innermost circles often find themselves on the outside looking in.  These are cities which suffer the most from a “youth flight,” in which the best and brightest of their youngest residents often leave for greener pastures in larger cities or towns willing to accept them.  On the other end of the spectrum are communities which have begun to open their collective eyes, and are now holding those in longtime positions of power and means accountable for situation their cities are in.

While there are few public stories of cities whose citizens have been willing to stand up and say “we’re as mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore,” that sort of mentality can have a positive outcome when channeled effectively.  Well-meaning public servants, rather than those who expect the public to serve them, are the key to revitalization of many small towns.  People with the attitude of the “greater good” instead of “what can my community do for me,” are the individuals who are able to change hearts and minds.  The greatest obstacle to this change however is the final key to small town revitalization projects.

Abandon Preconceived Notions

We all have them; those ideas within our minds of how people are and how things should be.  Rather than looking at life with a critical eye, we assume.  In order for a small town to begin the “great comeback,” all ideas of “the way things ought to be” must be tossed out the window.  It’s time write a new book when your city is dying and you’re trying to save it.  The same old methods obviously don’t work, so those things once held to as standard practice and procedures must ultimately yield to a new thought process.   Once a city’s residents are able to think in more “open” terms (not political correctness but, rather, being open to new concepts of doing business and ways to attract individuals and organizations), change is truly possible.

I invite comments on this post and its related one, as well as testimonials.

SOURCES:

Beating the Odds:  Iowa Public Radio

Cordele, Georgia becomes a transportation hub:  WALB-TV

Miami, South Florida racing fans mourn the loss of Ralph Sanchez:  CBS

 

The Southern Storyteller…

There is an old axiom – the victors write the history books. History, of course, began as a set of written and verbal accounts, handed down from generation to generation. Thucydides, considered the “father of history,” became a legend for accurate, factual storytelling through his own records. The same for Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius who, despite being portrayed as reckless fool and political shark in countless movies and series, had a passion for storytelling as well, recounting historical events to whomever would listen. As both a storyteller and a student (but far from an expert) of history, I began to put their storytelling approaches, and the axiom of who writes the history books, to an unusual test of why the American Southern history and culture, both antebellum and modern, has been embraced with such amazing affection. My conclusion is likely to spark some debate, but here it is.

Simply put, Southerners may just be better storytellers .

Read more here ….

https://booksandblondes.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/the-southern-storyteller-a-creation-to-be-prized/

Flipping off the news, and reality itself

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And tonight’s recap:  Universes 1-3 are worth $900, 4-5, $3500 and 6 is worth 50 cents.  Apparently 6 is the soda can universe.  Where we are living is worthless, because we already screwed it up.
Folks, this is one of those days where I just want to kick back and relax and tinker with nature.  I believe I’ve discovered a way to turn my remote control into an alternate-reality transport device, so it’s time to see if this works.  All I have to do is press “swap” to shift realities.

(Flipping on the TV to CNN)

We interrupt this election coverage for a special bulletin….

(swap)

The United States of America has announced that all cats and dogs will be submitted for random drug screenings.  Apparently, household pets are now being used as drug mules, with the most common narcotic being smuggled…

(swap)

Out of the universe, using the longest the blast of hydrogen possible.  Once these molecules merged together, they created a completely new set of heavenly bodies.  Some of these coalesced into…

(swap)

Hillary Clinton’s skin mole, which appears to be changing shape with each passing day.  Doctors confirmed today’s recorded image to closely resemble…

(swap)

Walker County, Georgia Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.  Commissioner Heiskell is running on the independent ticket, claiming that another term of her government will yield…

(swap)

Untold destruction and devastation as Russian President Vladimir Putin orders all Russians to bomb shelters designed to withstand just about any weapon NATO could throw at it, but specifically designed to deflect…

(swap)

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s attorneys, who relayed their demands for media scrutiny over their alleged robbery in Paris to cease.  The Hollywood Power couple have stated repeatedly the perpetrators were working for…

(swap)

Operatives of Donald Trump, and are engaged in damage control from the Republican nominee’s latest round of disparaging statements about women, most specifically those who worked while…

(swap)

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith repeatedly declared that anyone in the path of Hurricane Matthew would die, especially…

(swap)

The Board of County Commissioners of Sumter County, Georgia, who have been discussing ways to better improve funding to law enforcement.  Commissioner Randy Howard is believed to be in full support of…

(swap)

Continued weather reports and traffic updates at the top and bottom of every hour, with breaking news as it happens.  This is Atlanta’s 24 hour news station…

(swap)

Where you can hear all the latest sports talk, including the latest news about the American League playoffs, where the Cleveland Indians appear to be making a run to the World Series.

(looking around) – Wow, I’m back where I started.  Guess I’ll be putting on another episode of Spongebob and taking a long nap.  Maybe read a little Dave Barry while I’m at it and see just how much of his work this blog ripped off.

Note:  the article is satirical in nature and it completely reflects the views and opinions of the website owner.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.