So, here's a lesson most people smarter than me know - discussing politics on Twitter is nearly pointless. Being relegated to snippets of thought does not make for easy conveyance of complex issues. And of course, the relative anonymity most people have on the internet is an invitation for the lowest forms of expression and behavior.
So, why do I sometimes talk politics on Twitter? Well, it's not to "piss off everyone who doesn't agree with me" as has been suggested. It does sometimes achieve that result, but that is not the objective. I actually believe that there are people out there who think about this stuff, the same way I do.
I don't mean that I think I hold all the right answers and have all the right positions. I mean that I am a person who thinks about politics and issues and directions and society (Yes, we're living in a society). And as a thinking person and a social person, I believe in dialogue and exchange. I think it's how we learn and grow - by exchanging thoughts with each other. I actually believe that the diversity of our ideas and exchanges is what makes America so dramatically strong and resilient. Occasionally, I try to inject some levity into the posts but when you add humor to political discussion, those who want to be offended can take it like bait. They don't see the humor, they just feel the barb.
And of course, once stung, they get hell bent on stinging back as hard as they can. I've been called every name in the book and accused of being everything from stupid to boring to elite to a has-been and to what many think is the worst thing they can call me - an actor. And they'll refer to me as George or Costanza or some other variation on the many nicknames the character has had like its a putdown. Being referred to as George will never upset me. All of us connected with that show are very proud of it and very proud of how much it has been embraced around the world. I have had grieving children and parents, cancer patients and soldiers go out of their way to tell me how much our work in that show has helped them through hard times. I love the show and the character and always will. But those who labor under the delusion that George and I are the same person .... well, bless you. And for those who think that because I'm not on the newest tv show that I'm living on past glory and unemployment, fear not. I'm so gainfully employed that I'm turning down work. I'm still making an insane living and yes - I do pay a lot in taxes, without too much complaint and all my investments are here in the good ole USA.
But I also write about politics because I fear that our system has been so compromised that if we don't start engaging with each other with a focus on constructive change, the system and the country will not survive. The greatest threat to our nation is not from without, but within as we grow further and further apart in our views and more determined that the only way to succeed is to destroy the other side -- forgetting that the other side is one half of this country. This whole "got to take our country back" mentality is a complete negation of exactly one half of the people who ARE this country. This thinking is like a theoretic genocide and it pervades our discussions, our media and unfortunately, our current government. Hence, we have the most dysfunctional congress during a time of most dire need of leadership. It's so dangerous and destructive what we are doing to each other.
So, I'm going to more or less abandon politics on Twitter. It's not the right medium. For those that have taken offense at my political expression - I am truly sorry. I don't look to offend though sometimes my emotions run high just like everyone elses. And sometimes my sense of irony or humor doesn't jibe with someone elses. That's life.
I do have strong feelings about our country. They are fairly informed feelings. I do read, a lot. But more importantly, I read and listen to many opposing points of view.
Yes, I do listen to the Rachel Maddows and Laurence O'Donnells and Thom Hartmans and Randi Rhodes and NYTImes and HuffPost and Salon and the Nation. But I also read and listen to the Sean Hannity's and Bill O'Reillys and Dennis Pragers and Michael Medveds and Larry Elders and Wall St. Journals and Politico and Heritage Foundations. It is the only way to understand the spectrum of ideas and impressions that exist across the country. Staying focused purely on the outlets that echo what you believe or want to believe is rather pointless.
And I do believe strongly that this coming election is a profoundly important one. Many people accuse me of being a "typical liberal" and all the accompanying stereotypes. In fact, I'm not. I've voted for Republicans and I've voted for conservative issues when I believed they were the superior choice. I hold many opinions on various topics that would hardly be considered liberal.
But in this election, I do support President Obama, strongly and I will be out on the road on his behalf. It's not because I "swallowed the Kool-Aid" and it's not because I think he has had a perfect presidency. There are many things that have happened and not happened under his administration that I find less than ideal. But I am very proud of much of what he has accomplished in these difficult times. And more importantly, given the choice of direction between the two candidates, I do support the President.
Here is why:
1. Economy: no, he hasn't brought it back fully. No, he has no perfect policies.
However, the choice we are being given is one of austerity from the GOP - cut taxes to the bone, get rid of regulations, get rid of social programs and invest in very, very little until we eliminate our debt. Or - raise revenues through some tax manipulation and tax overhaul, re-evaluate services and how they are delivered, and make investments in industries and sectors that can strengthen our infra-structure, technologies and security and subsequently help America prepare for a fast changing future.
I believe in the latter. Why? Cause I'm some genius or because I know what's best? Nope. Because I read and study. Austerity and trickle down has been tried several times throughout American history and is currently being tried in various places around the globe and it has born no fruit, what so ever. Want to see what austerity looks like - check Greece and Spain.
Conversely, the principles of the Democratic direction are exactly what got us out of our other Great Depression. The New Deal and the subsequent spending programs and investments we made as a result of our involvement in WW2 not only got us out of the Depression but brought America into its greatest period of the 20th Century. And variations of it have worked throughout our history and around the world. Investment is a general set of principles that seem to work. The other choice never seems to pay off for working people and struggling economies.
Is it a gamble? Sure, so is austerity. But if we manage over 20 years to eliminate the debt by eliminating health care, education, social security, the FDA, the FCC, FEMA, NEA, police and fire, road/bridge/tunnel/port upgrades, public lands, etc - then what kind of debt-free country will we be living in?
2. Health Care - Romney wants to eliminate the gains, Obama no doubt would seek even more. We are the only non-third world country that doesn't have some form of national health care. Obamacare, though far from perfect, is the first step we have taken to bring positive, life-enhancing and life-saving health care to those who did not have it or were in jeopardy of losing it. It provides coverage for young people starting out their adult lives. It protects those who are ill from being dropped or capped. It does good things. And it asks that those who can afford some form of coverage be responsible for getting it.
I thought that personal responsibility was the foundation of conservative belief. If my kid were uninsured and in need of medical service and I was poor, who would pay for his care? Well, you would. You already do for millions across the country. Which is humane and laudable if I or my child can't afford to pay for any kind of care. But IF WE CAN afford some kind of coverage and choose not to get it, why the hell should you have to foot the whole bill? Why should I or my child not be somewhat responsible for ourselves if we can be? I do not understand the opposition to that thinking, especially from conservatives.
Some think that this is a step toward socialized medicine. The fear is that we will suddenly all lose our individual health plans and be slaves of an incompetent and bloated government program. Well that is not true anywhere in the world where there is government health programs. Take Canada - yes, the national coverage is "free" to all citizens. The downside is that there can be long waits to get care and the procedures can be difficult to get cleared. But the truth is that Canada has lots of private health care policies, just like we do. Anyone that can afford to have private insurance reaps the benefits of having better care options. But for those who cannot afford it - there is a least a basic, decent policy in place to provide treatment. It's not for everyone, nor does everyone take part in it. There is no downside. And I cannot see the downside for us, either. So I support it.
I could go on into policies regarding social issues and foreign affairs but the breakdown would be similar. I believe that in this election, the President's basic policies are superior for the welfare of the majority of men and women in this country. Nothing is perfect. Nothing pleases everyone. And nothing is without compromise. But generally speaking, objectively speaking, I feel these are better choices in this election.
Now, you can agree or disagree. But this is not calling anyone stupid, or dangerous or immoral or UnAmerican. These are choices I make by accessing what the candidates and their parties put forth as policies. And I, as an American, should be free to discuss, advocate, suggest, implore, argue for all of them.
And though those who disagree are free to insult, denigrate, hate, ignore, shout down, offend and be offended -- it does not add to the important work of discussing these issues in the hopes that we, as countrymen, can build a better, stronger, safer, happier nation. The name calling, the put downs, the ugliness that we can inflict on each other does not substitute for knowledge, courage, civility, morality or righteousness. The ugliness of our shattered politics and of our ruinous political dialogue has and will leave us where we are --- frightened, angry, threatened, humorless, desperate, compassionless.
So, while I will certainly continue to talk politics and issues wherever I can and with all who will graciously join me, I will not do it on Twitter anymore. If you want to engage me in such topics, ask me and we'll find a way to do so in some better forum. I relish and enjoy the conversation. I even hope that it may produce energy that will aid in making a difference for our country. But not here.
And from this day forth, those who cannot engage me without the intention to try and hurt, I'm done responding to you. Nor will you appear on my screen. No name calling, no slurs, no obscenities. Zero tolerance. (And you can hold me to the same standard) I know you'll be heartbroken, if not unable to carry on in your daily lives, but hey - tough love.
Now, you can enjoy my work or not. I don't not love Clint Eastwood's work as an artist just because I disagree with him politically or with his attempt to enhance the GOP convention. I'm pretty sure I would even continue to enjoy him as a human being if I were lucky enough to meet him. But we would disagree on our political views. If my disagreeing with yours means you can't stomach me or my work -- that's your choice. My work is there to entertain, amuse, distract, educate, challenge -- whatever you like. Take it, or don't. My life is full and fine either way. But the intention of that work is always to entertain you and make your life easier and lighter. If it doesn't do that, then ignoring me is probably the best bet for you anyway.
Lastly, for all of you who send me support and encouragement; who make me laugh with your observations and thoughts, or who just stay in touch because our lives share a small common bond -- I can't thank you enough. Though I can't respond to it all, it is the vast majority of what I see and I feel so grateful and blessed that you would take the time to share it with me.
To all of you, even those who really don't like me, I actually do wish you well. I hope that whatever happens in our country, it turns out for the best and greatest good. And I mean that even if its a result of everything I don't agree with. I hope we all get a country and a world where hard work bears fruit for everyone and where dreams are possible. May your loved ones be safe and happy and may we all say, it's a pretty good life.
Best to ya,