Why the Christian Right is Wrong on Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty

Before anyone strokes out, let’s preface with this: While I struggle with how to classify religious liberty – Is it a social issue? Is it a fundamental issue? A Constitutional one? Simply something we will forever fight as the culture of society changes? – I do support religious liberty.

For the sake of ease of understanding and frame of reference, let’s consider a same-sex couple seeking to have a wedding/civil union/grand party – whatever the state allows – and they are seeking vendors for various services. They live in a moderately-sized city where there are multiple options for attire, cakes, DJ’s and venues.

We have to first consider a premise that most conservatives, but not all Republicans, would agree with: Under no circumstance should any business be forced to do anything. Whether the mandate be for hours of operation, location, employee diversity or minimum wage, the government has no place. Who you serve, how you serve, when you serve is a slippery slope.

But that slope slides both ways (pun not intended). Religious liberty is a teetering topic just perched upon the peak of the mountain waiting for anyone to slip on a banana peel forcing an avalanche down either side. When a business starts refusing business to a certain type of people, folks immediately and unfortunately jump back to the pre-Civil Rights Movement days where we saw hatred oozing from segregated areas. On the other side, we have folks operating under a system of government that neither respects private enterprise or religion. At that point, what good are we?

But it isn’t the same. While religious freedom is our first and fundamental God-given right so sacred that it is enumerated in the Constitution, religious liberty goes a tad further. Religious liberty expands to freedom of belief through practice, not just observance. It goes beyond Christianity, and much to the chagrin of the Left, it also protects the atheists and the agnostic.

So back to our same-sex couple looking for vendors. The argument that a person shouldn’t want someone who doesn’t support what they’re doing to perform a service for them’ is one of the lousier arguments out there for any political argument. Please stop using it. No, of course no one wants to consider sabotage or hap-hazard work because of, in their case, their sexual orientation and that’s likely not going to be the what happens with a business owner. I don’t see a service provider jeopardizing their reputation of quality. Perhaps principle, but not quality of a product. So what is the real protection for those who feel religious liberty protections would only spread hatred and discrimination?

The market. The free market generally cleanses communities of these businesses as citizens see fit. Consider Melissa Klein, the New York baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple and was subsequently forced to shut down her business over the controversy. The correct way for a business to be put out of business is through reduced patronage, not because the government has regulated it into oblivion and the pending legal costs from a civil suit tank the entire operation. We should pause when the federal standard is more protective of limiting government than that of Georgia (or any state). In Georgia, you can sue someone for not performing a service for you.

And in fixing it, one size doesn’t fit all. Look at the demographics just in our state. In Atlanta, we tend to be a little more tolerant. A business unwilling to serve a gay couple, for instance, would likely face substantial blow-back versus that in rural Georgia where citizens would probably pay for a one-way ticket out-of-town for a couple to be patrons elsewhere. Each community is different and blanket laws won’t solve what some would consider ‘morality issues’. And let’s be realistic: cultures vary. We support that with our “Not in our town!” mentality about everything. Why is this any different? Trying to legislate humans into being what some folks consider ‘good people’ is a recipe for failure. If a business is turning away revenue – there must be a substantial cause for that and who are we to decide if that cause is worthy or not?

While the Hobby Lobby case seems to be dominating the news market, there are many more cases like this popping up all around our state and nation. Our classrooms, our small business owners – they’re all wading through this muddied mess of law versus morality and while we’ve tried to fix it, we’re only making it worse.

So far, here’s where I think we’ve messed up:
Going back to our double-sided ski slope, we have to recognize that this is yet another issue where we are on the chopping block in the media and we likely won’t win. Having said that, we should still be sensitive to the tone and wording. ‘Religious freedom’ means something different to a lot of folks as opposed to ‘religious liberty’. Many see ‘freedom’ as ‘ability’ and ‘liberty’ as ‘protection’. We should acknowledge the distinction.

The conversation may not have started the properly. So much of legislation is first about teaching and educating. When we teach and educate, the conversation travels both ways and we ended up with better legislation. We’ve charged an issue literally clinging to our guns and our religion and it has fogged the entire debate. Hobby Lobby brought out some zealots and the media clung to them. We have to distance ourselves from Hobby Lobby and those zealots. Our argument needs to be crafted two-fold: First, that this isn’t just about Christians, it’s about all religions. We are here to protect the religious liberty of all. And second, this is about the role of government.

We also handed the note to the wrong carrier pigeon. This is where the Christian Right comes into play and can make a difference. My long-time establishment friends will be proud to hear me say this, but it seems like a more moderate person has to carry a bill and be the talking head. I commend those across various states who have put themselves in the line of fire because others are unwilling. It’s noble, but it may not be effective. It’s why Congressman Broun can’t carry the torch. Because this is about religion, but not one specific religion.

So to sum up:

  • Religious liberty at its core is about limited government.
  • The current messengers for religious liberty may not be the right ones at this time.
  • The term ‘religious freedom’ could be damaging to the cause because again, people don’t understand.
  • We’re living in an era where the ‘general public’ might not understand what the end goal is so the first step is conversation, not legislation. You can’t drop a knowledge bomb on someone without first offering a firm definition of what is to be done.

As for the couple looking for vendors, if they want to limit the role of the state for issues like, oh say, marriage, they must understand that government should also be limited elsewhere.

Is GMO labeling too much government?

Label-It

It’s rare that I don’t have a concrete opinion on an issue but I recently had a conversation with someone over whether or not GMO labeling is something that should come to Georgia. Whether you believe in the dangers of Genetically Modified food, it matters not in this case. There is a growing movement for ‘truth in food’ and labeling in states around the country and it’s only a matter of time before the conversation comes to Georgia. We should be prepared because the point of contention is the role of government in consumer information.

In a quality conversation, we should consider all sides of the legislative sphere and not just what benefits us. So let’s begin.

Currently, only Vermont, Maine and Connecticut have passed legislation requiring labeling and Colorado and Oregon put it on the ballot where it previously failed. The Center for Food Safety has a comprehensive list of states with pending initiatives, including Georgia as soon-to-be-Former State Rep. Josh Clark introduced legislation during the 2014 session.

Keep in mind that similar legislation applies only  to food grown or manufactured in that state. In considering the role of government, many would agree that this should be done at the state level (unless you’re viewing this the same way many view cigarette labeling). When considering effectiveness, one at least has to acknowledge that random states passing legislation could be disjointed and choppy. The responsibility of raising awareness would still fall on grassroots organizations and on informed consumers. In today’s America, that is a lot to ask.

So, some questions I have:

  • Would it drive food manufacturers out of Georgia? This obviously wouldn’t be an option for agriculture as their land is here but food companies who process manufactured food (food that isn’t from the earth and is made solely from…’other stuff’), would they simply up and leave the state?
  • What undue burden would this place on our farmers? By far one of the most important ones. Does it apply to produce stands? Is there a revenue bench mark? And if so, that then draws into question whether the law is just and applicable across the board.
  • What is the cost on businesses? How much will it cost them?
  • What does labeling entail? Sometimes it’s ingredients and sometimes it’s the process. If it’s simply the ingredients, that’s useless because companies will just change their process to skirt around compliance. That’s what they did with MSG in the early 2000’s.

There is already a movement called the Non-GMO Project with a lot of steam and zazz behind it. Many would say that projects such as this will weed out the -via the free market- those companies that have no desire to be transparent.
To their credit, there are a large number of companies backing labeling – currently over 650. Some of the organizations in favor of food labeling include: Odwalla, Chipolte, Stonyfield Farm, Organic Valley, Eden Foods and Numi.
Some of the larger players against GMO food labeling include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Nestle USA, Hormel, Kellogg, Land O Lakes, and Du Pont.
The counter to that argument is two-fold: First, only organizations that are NON-GMO are labeling. Those are using GMO products are not indicating so. Secondly, sometimes it is indeed the role of the government to inform the uninformed so long as we are operating under the current system with the FDA and State Agriculture Commissioners.

As you can see, the possible ramifications are quite complicated and the grey area seems to muddy the black and white. Georgia doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being Liberty-minded when it comes to agriculture or food rights (see Delbert Bland’s Vidalia Onions and previous raw milks legislation) but I hope they can at least start the conversation. It would be to our benefit that this process be slow as the quick things they do generally don’t help We, The People. And I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a little part of me that wanted to stick it to big companies that are doing shady things with a lack of transparency….but that doesn’t make good policy and it still doesn’t answer the question of whether or not that is the role of government when consumers have a choice.

 

 

City Life: Not the American Dream

Depending on when you started reading this blog, you may or may not have followed the Green Acres reenactment documented here. If you didn’t, it may help with perspective if you catch up. If you did, great…let’s pick up where we left off.

Before we go forward though, let’s acknowledge that to industry standard of blogging something on here will offend someone. That’s the point. Those are the things that make us think critically. And today we will think critically about concrete jungles.

City life is suffocating. City life is suffocating and we often don’t even know why. We attribute it to the stress of our jobs, bills, the traffic, the weather, and family-work life balance accompanied by a laundry list of other things. It lacks the freedom and peace of life outside the metro areas where you embrace those around you and not only see, but feel your surroundings. You see yourself in the mirror, not the clock in the background telling your you’re late yet again.

Here in the city, we wake up and do the same thing every day. Same time, same place. Every 5th house is the same- literally the exact same floor plan- just different colors on the walls. Builders scoot by because we want what our neighbors want (or at least we think we do) and of course, it’s the cheapest way to do it and how much of an investment are we really looking to have here? It’s not like it’s our forever home. We will have to move again in 5 years because this just isn’t the right fit. We have the same car, just a different color and of course, everything is a competition.

It’s a race to and from the city to work and back. Sometimes to and from the suburbs. It matters not, though, because it’s all just miles upon hours just roasting in a concrete vacuum that literally and figuratively sucks the life out of you while you grow to hate thy neighbor because they just cut you off on your morning commute and you both needed those two car lengths but you were distracted by the slew of emails and didn’t quite stay close enough to that bumper in front of you. They snuck in and now your mood is altered.

You work all day but you don’t remember much about it. At 5 pm, you hop in the car back to the concrete vacuum because one hour in the morning wasn’t enough.  You may take a moment to think about “what else is out there” but the honking and expletives quickly shake you from that.

You return home to reflect on what you did that day, searching for something, anything tangible, that you produced but there is nothing. You go to bed early because you have to do it all over again tomorrow. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

What happened to small town America? What happened to the producers? The foundations of a quality life? I once heard that you don’t add value unless you mine it, manufacture it, or grow it. Sure, we do other things too, like provide services, but for what? What is our purpose? Some people love their job, but most either love their job or just love the fruits of their labors. I could make this immensely political, but I’ll refrain.

Mostly I want to know what happened to the longevity of a life? Establishing roots? Where is the love of community? How can we help our neighbor if we never meet them? We never meet them because we’re never home. We work hard to afford a home and things we never get to enjoy because we’re too busy earning. What are we teaching our children if we spend two hours with them before bed? How much of us is passed off to them if we’re not around? What IS our purpose? What do we want to leave behind?

If you love your city life, I suggest staying here. Don’t leave. Don’t go breathe. Don’t drive on a dirt road where the only thing that slows you down is your own fear. Because when you get back, you won’t know what to do and you’ll feel the choke hold of the rat race that is inescapable and leaves you wondering everyday, ‘What is different about today?’

These days, on the off-chance that I get to cruise on the expressway upwards of 80 mph, it’s freeing. It’s a brief escape and I can almost feel free if I close my eyes for just a couple of seconds…just before I hit the I-285 merge and it starts all over again. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

 

Setting the Record Straight

Friday I wrote a blog on third-party voting which focused on poor messaging tactics and an inability to drive voters to the polls. Nowhere in the article was a specific candidate mentioned negatively by name. All of this sparked a colorful and lengthy dialogue in the comments section. In said comments section, Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) took to a full-blown monologue for Governor Deal, essentially using my blog as a platform for the Governor, mostly because he is a Floor Leader. The retort below is a simple attempt to illustrate how people become symptoms, and then causes, of this vicious cyclical problem we call politics.

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(Photo from AJC)

In his diatribe, Rep. Coomer covered many things but what struck a nerve with me was his applause of Governor Deal’s signature on language in the comprehensive gun bill which essentially removed power from the Governor’s office during a declared state of emergency. Within the banter, he first said the media had nothing to do with this language passage and then later acknowledged that he and I discussed it in an [uncomfortable] face-to-face meeting before again saying the media pressure never happened. I know his claims to be false because I am the person who wrote the article on Peach Pundit which, within 18 minutes of publishing, prompted a text message from the Governor’s office to the sponsor of the bill to schedule a meeting about HB 100 (after years of ignoring the bill and the sponsor). I know all of these things to be true and so does Rep. Coomer – despite his attempt to tell me otherwise publicly. To be clear, this is not about me getting credit. It’s about being honest with The People, because the normal everyday people never know the inside baseball. It’s, again, about shaping a campaign message to be something that it is not. These types of things create a breakdown in trust between elected officials and citizens.

Additionally, Rep. Coomer indicated that I erred in implying that he and I differ philosophically because he and I have only had one in-person conversation. To that, I offer this: Legislators have voting records. I watch many, including his. Voting records, in turn, reflect one of two things: 1) That you’re principled and your ideology is consistent, or 2) That you’re not principled and your votes reflect yet another colorful amalgamation of who you’re accountable to. This leads me to my next point.

In my blog, I also made mention of plans to skip races on the ballot in November. Rep. Coomer took me to task saying,

“I really do believe that if any person, especially a conservative or libertarian, has a mature sense of responsibility to their state and community, has enough raw information…and has the mental capacity of critical thinking…then he or she will come to the conclusion that Nathan Deal should be reelected…”

Basically, if you don’t agree with Rep. Coomer, you’re a complete idiot that lacks the mental capacity for critical thinking. I propositioned him, asking why he had the right to sit on the House Floor and abstain from casting a vote but I was not granted that same privilege. He didn’t respond, but records show me that since being elected, Rep. Coomer has missed over 100 votes in 160 days of legislative service.

I’ve watched from the gallery as Rep. Coomer sat idly in his seat during votes, but this photo of Rep. Coomer sitting on the House Floor during the vote of Senate Bill 65 in 2014 - watching, waiting to see what everyone else is doing is quite compelling, mostly because this was controversial legislation that dealt directly with the freedoms and liberties of the mentally ill.

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In this photo, you can see that Rep. Coomer (indicated by the yellow arrow) is deeply intrigued by the vote of SB 65 (red arrow) and his name on the voting board (green arrow). When looking at the House Clerk website, you can see that he ultimately did not cast a vote, despite the fact that he was sitting in his seat. Now THAT’S intriguing.

Consider House Rule 133: “When the question is put, every member within the chamber shall vote unless the member is immediately and particularly interested therein or unless the member is excused by the House. A motion by a member to be excused from voting must be made before the House divides or before the call of the yeas and nays is commenced, and it shall be decided without debate. The member making the motion may briefly state the reason why it should prevail. In every case where the seat of a member is being contested, the sitting member and the contestant shall both retire from the House before the vote is taken.”

Coomer was also the sponsor of a bill (HB 516) during the 2014 session where the entire House Leadership got up and walked out during the vote so they wouldn’t have to be on record casting that vote. Did the gentleman from Cartersville speak up? And why not? What did he have to lose? Is this adequate representation for the people of his district?

It is a fact that in the monologue above, I made a complete example out of Christian Coomer. But that is a consequence of opening Pandora’s box. He engaged the conversation with me on my blog.  It’s not one-sided. And never did I say I wasn’t voting for his guy. I simply opened the conversation about voting tendencies this cycle. When elected, you have to be willing to answer the tough questions and I offered him every opportunity to do so while he made baseless implications against me and continued to blur the Deal campaign message into some irrelevant sloppy essay.

Elected officials are supposed to represent The People. More importantly, they are to be the example. This elected official, and a floor leader for the Governor no less, had no problem glossing over my factual points, shaming others, shifting blame and furthering the distrust and nasty image Georgia Republicans are battling right now. The image that we are out of touch, care only about ladder-climbing, and will try to squash any opposing opinion at any cost. People just want the truth and to know what to expect. Principles. If we can’t do things in a principled way, we shouldn’t do them and we don’t deserve the positive results.

When I worked on my first real campaign, I had to learn that my actions –good and bad- reflect upon my candidate. The same goes for those most closely aligned with leaders in the political realm. It’s why endorsements are tricky. But if your glass house is actually Saran Wrap, you shouldn’t throw stones. Because that’s even messier. And perhaps those stones illustrate that you aren’t the best messenger for this particular message. Perhaps some time needs to be spent evaluating the symptoms and causes of ‘the demise of the public servant’. Perhaps you should sit back quietly and graciously knowing that your constituents haven’t yet noticed that you are only carrying the torch of political expediency.

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(Photo WN.com)

Does Sexual Immorality and the Drain on the System Prompt Us to Intervene?

Trending in the news right now is a story of the once young-and-free Nick Olivas who claims that when he was 14, he had an inappropriate affair with a 20 year-old woman. Though the news headlines say, ‘Rape Victim Forced to Pay Child Support’, a real eye-catcher, the story is much more complex.

In 2012, a woman applied for public assistance and noted that Nick Olivas was the father of her 10 year-old daughter. This, of course, led to the State of Arizona ordering he pay child support – current and 10 years in delinquent payments – a total of $15,000, plus money for birth expense reimbursement and 10% interest.  That’s quite a judgment. Especially for a college grad working as a medical assistant.

Reports claim that Mr. Olivas is excited to be a part of his daughter’s life and has no problem paying current child support. His contention is with the back payments when he “didn’t know his daughter existed.”

No doubt that this is a messy, sticky case. While the tag line is great for sensationalizing, the sad reality is this: Each of these cases have their own set of circumstances that change what a reasonable outcome should be. We also can’t base decisions on possible crimes that may have happened. Certainly in this case, with a tangible child, a paternity test, and simple math, we can deduce that Mr. Olivas is, in fact, the father and was not of the age of consent (15, in Arizona) when these events occurred. But Mr. Olivas never pressed charges or even filed a report. So while it is evident that a crime was committed, there is no legal system track record to prove it. 

Every time a case cycles through the system, we set a precedent. In 1993, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a 13-year old boy who got his 17-year-old girlfriend pregnant was liable for child support payments even though he was not of the age of consent. In California, the same thing happened with a 15-year-old and a 34-year-old despite the fact that the woman was convicted of statutory rape.

In a changing culture of society – which is clearly having negative impacts on everyone involved- we are now dealing with men who go years completely unaware they have a child and the system eventually catches up with them. By unaware, I mean the mother admits she did not share the information with the father nor did she make a diligent effort to go through the court system to track him down and go through the proper channels.

Age issues aside, this also gets into the weeds of ‘responsible sexual activity’ and what is reasonable responsibility for both parties. Is it on the woman to inform the father immediately? Or just sometime before birth? Or within a year of birth? Should the man be held responsible for ‘not following up’ to see if he impregnated a woman from a one-night-stand? Or do we sit idly and wait for the system to catch up to everyone? Because it will. More often than not, a woman in this situation will be forced onto some type of public assistance and the number of people affected by situation will continue to grow – welfare benefits, the court system to ensure payment, and so on.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we cannot legislate morality but we our society is nurturing a culture that is sucking the life out of just about every government program we have in place.

Why I’m Not Voting Straight (R) in November

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Wednesday I received a call on behalf of a Republican campaign asking if I was supporting [X] candidate. When I said, no, it got a little …tense. I keep telling people my ballot will be a colorful amalgamation of decisions. Some Red, some 3rd party and a few skips, but never any Blue. Naturally this upset said representative who told me that I can’t always get what I want and taking my ball and going home is wrong. Oh, and, I’m wasting my vote. A wonderful example of voter outreach and engagement.

Let me tell you why this isn’t working, especially with millennials. You see, Democrats are out in the community telling people what they will do for the community, the state, the country, and we’re over here doing the ‘NO WAY Macarena ‘on the Highway to Hell. Our talking points are:

  • ‘Jason Carter is bad for Georgia’
  • ‘Michelle Nunn has ties to Obama’
  • And my personal favorite, ‘John Barrow used tax dollars to pay for his campaign Facebook page’.

No kidding. They’re liberals. OF COURSE these rhetoric lines are applicable. This shouldn’t be surprising information to anyone. But those aren’t convincing reasons to go vote. Those are just reasons to not do anything on Election Day because Republicans aren’t saying why their candidate is ‘the best’. It seems like all we’ve seen lately are hit pieces on consultants that aren’t on the payroll and a push for Senate Majority. We get it. Those are valid points but we need more substance.  We may not agree with the fact that Democrats are out talking about what voters will get out of voting (D) but at least they’re offering something tangible. We have things to offer too, like limited government, lower taxes and economic freedom.

Also, this “straight slate” thing isn’t working for a lot of people. No Republican can honestly tell me that Perdue and Deal (and everyone from CD-1 to Insurance Commissioner) is exactly the same ‘type’ of Republican and believes all of the same things and therefore, they all deserve the exact same support. Puh-leeze.
There’s a reason that every restaurant doesn’t have a price fix menu. People like choices. Choose an entrée and then the sides you like based on flavor and calories. Even Panera Bread gives you the option of chips, fruit, or bread.

Right now, it doesn’t matter who I’m not voting for in November. What matters is the ‘why’.  With 60 days to go, the GOP has got to offer some answers, some hardline reasons.  The reality is this: On a national level, Republicans have hurt many people too, especially in the eyes of the skeptical millennials and Independents – you know, those folks you’ll need should there be a runoff, and definitely by 2016. And the non-politico types don’t always separate federal and state-level folks (hence the reason we are, rightfully, hammering Obama/Pelosi/Reid ties). People have been burned. It’s no longer acceptable to say ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us’. Tell me why. Show me why. Give me tangible evidence. Talk about policy. Stop using tag lines. Paint me a beautiful picture flowing with Liberty. Otherwise, I will have no choice but to paint my colorful amalgamation on my ballot on Election Day.

And if not accepting the one-size-fits-all slate makes me ‘not Republican enough’, then so be it. There’s a laundry list of people behind me thinking the exact same thing.  But that will directly contradict the GOP talking head slogan of ‘We have to side with the folks that agree with 70% of the time and not focus on the 30%’. Does my 70% have a seat at the table?

Stereotypes & Stigmas of Women in Politics: Religious Rants & Pro Life Marches

The media isn’t always wrong. Across the board, both parties are horrible at bringing out the women base, unless of course it’s through hot button issues like birth control and abortion. We often times use men to be the talking heads of these issues (when it should be women – both conservative and liberal) and then keep women in the back row on every other issue. Women bring more value to the conversation than just religious rants and pro-life marches.

It’s no secret: we are really bad at letting women play in the political arena. It’s not specific to the GOP, but we are definitely batting at the amateur level, mainly on an internal level.

So naturally, I’ve compiled a list of how we label our ladies who play ball for the GOP. I won’t name names, because that wouldn’t be appropriate, but I would imagine it won’t be difficult for anyone paying attention to politics on any level to pin point who’s who.

The Woman in the Boxy Jacket: This woman is, generally speaking, very smart, eloquent and well-versed on the issues but they’ve been forced into a boxy jacket because men are intimidated by them. The boxy jacket represents a strong personality that can match up against anyone without question, but we quickly label her
as ‘wicked’ and ‘ferocious’. This woman can’t be direct without being called ‘unstable’ and can’t call out a wrong without being ‘bitter’. We don’t support her publicly but then wonder why she can’t get elected.

The Attractive & Spunky Politico
This woman is usually vibrant and cheery both in personality and physical features, but her upward mobility is limited because men in politics have reservations about hiring her for fear of rumors of sexual impropriety. The majority of her accomplishments will likely also be tainted by the same stigma. If she would just pipe down and put on a boxy jacket, she could get somewhere. Or that’s what we tell her. We like her, but she’s dangerous.

The Quiet Frumpy Girl Who Doesn’t Have A Lot To Say
This girl will get offered all the jobs but she’ll lack the zeal because she’s too malleable. We can tell her who to support and what issues to champion, but it isn’t pure. She won’t be able to match up head to head with a liberal or recruit folks to the party because she doesn’t know why she’s doing it. For some reason, these are the people we put on our front lines.

The Judgmental Old Lady With 8 Pins on Her Tweed Jacket.
This lady knows everything. She’s been around long enough to watch the cycles of every election since FDR but that’s not enough. She knows what we had and what we need, but she’s just a little off her rocker. Bless her heart, she’s lost it a little in her old age. We still let her hang around, begrudgingly.

The Work Horse Soccer Mom. This woman is invaluable to any party in which she participates, and while that value will be acknowledged, it will stop there. There’s not much time for an opinion or feedback. Just stuff the envelopes and make those calls, please. We’ve got the rest handled.

You see, we’re hurting our own. This fight will never be about feminism, as the left would like to claim, so please don’t be mistaken. But we squash the ones that can be successful in helping our brand- and judging by the stereotype list- that’s A LOT of them. This is about the boxes we lock women into in the political realm. We’re all guilty of being judgmental, but the perpetuation of the rumors, stigmas and  stereotypes is breaking our brand.

I’ve always said, politics or not, women are the harshest critics of other women. But at some point, both men AND women have to draw the line in the sand for when we stop stereotyping and start recognizing the value of the individual. After all, that is what we stand for – the individual. This isn’t just affecting the ‘image’ of our party or causing tension among activists. It bleeds into elections and engagement and outreach. It stunts growth and it halts volunteers. It affects the involved and the un-involved. It brings our numbers to a screeching halt.

Why I Chase Unicorns & Leprechauns

Compromise is a funny thing. In politics, you’re asked to compromise on everything: on candidates, on talking points, and most often, on policy. Everything is a negotiation and everything is a chess move. There’s a method to all of this madness.

We’re forced to compromise because of the apathy and the money it takes to win an election. A government no longer run by the people has left us grasping for anything similar to what we used to know and accepting the bits and pieces of something that is ‘good’. When we consider the welfare state, social programs, the lack of enforcement of immigration laws, the overreach, and the student loan bubble, it leaves us wondering ‘What is left to compromise?

I take a lot of heat for my idealism. A lot. Probably daily someone shames me for it. If someone dislikes me, it is mostly likely due to the fact that they see me as unwilling to move and my willingness to fight you until we’re both blue in the face. (That, or I previously wrote a blog about them. #sorrynotsorry) I had a discussion with someone yesterday about principles and ‘appealing to the masses’. It’s difficult to appeal to everyone when you’re principled. People who are liked by everyone are probably selling out somewhere along the line. It just isn’t possible in life, but especially in politics. But what about appealing to everyone, having principles and somehow implementing it?
I present to you this beautiful chart I crafted on a paper towel:

“Jessica’s Scale of Feasibility”

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I fully recognize that I’m out there dangling on my own (or with a small minority) on A LOT of issues, but utopia and perfection start the conversation on a less complicated platform. Imagine if we began every policy conversation, partisan or not, right in the middle. There’s a reason lawyers aim high in settlement negotiations. There’s a reason Haliegh’s Hope Act (HB 885) should have covered more ground in the initial draft. There’s a reason a comprehensive gun law has all kinds of bells and whistles in it before it gets to a vote. There’s a reason candidates ask for more money than they believe they will obtain. You ask for that $1,000 donation in hopes of getting $500. You don’t ask for $500 because you need $500. You’ll end up with $250 almost every time.

Idealism presents wiggle room for improvement. We should all strive to be idealistic on at least one issue. It keeps the purity. And we have to acknowledge that on one issue –just one- we expect nothing less than perfection from start to finish. We acknowledge that progress isn’t sufficient. The quick-to-bloom rose may smell better but cabbage makes better soup.

In a day when our policy is lacking principle, it’s even more important that we look to people to represent those principles whether in elected office or just in those pesky activists.  That’s where the principle will be restored. So whether you’re consistently principled, or consistently inconsistent, be principled.  Idealistic in principle and practical in application.

“Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” – George Carlin

13 Things I Learned at 25

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Last year, I didn’t want to be 25. 24 had been so great to me and full of so much wonderfulness, I didn’t want it to end. I am blessed enough to say that this journey we call life has once again been good to me as the clock ticks on to 26.

With the exception of my highlight tint though, life doesn’t look much like it did at 25. We don’t take much time to reflect on changes on a daily basis, but I try to make a point of it at least on a birthday. Each year we grow, we pick up new traits and let others fizzle off…so here are a few of my takeaways from the last year of ‘development’.

13. If you can’t tone it, tan it.
12. You can evade law enforcement with jelly beans. And jokes. Additionally, begging.
11. People aren’t walking around this earth judging each other as much as we think they are. Except babies. They judge everything.
10. South Georgia is undeniably where you will find your Grace.
9. We are torn down by hardships to a rawness so that we can rebuild differently because we are on the wrong path.
8. People can’t read your mind. If you want something, you have to tell them so. If you need help, you have to tell them that too.
7. People will tolerate your hard-headed stubbornness if you’re consistent and principled. They just want to know what to expect.
6. The more you try to mold your life, the more fluid it will become.
5. We are almost never sure about what we do want, but always sure about what we don’t want.
4. Indecision is the worst decision.
3. We continue to grow when we allow ourselves to do so. We can’t resist everything…new opportunities, different kinds of people, different ways of thinking…we will never be right about everything – at least not all at the same time.
2. You can’t let fear control you. You have to leave your comfort zone and go into the unknown with a firm reliance on faith. Often. If it’s both terrifying and wonderful, you should absolutely do it.
1. When you take a leap of faith, you’re forced to trust more in The Lord, in others, and surprisingly, yourself. That’s growth.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” –Oscar Wilde

25

A Case for Food Stamps…

I sometimes read the Huffington Post. Sometimes because I’m bored, sometimes because I love torturing myself with extreme opposition, and sometimes because I’m feeling super open-minded. Today was the latter of the three.

I came across the article ‘This is What It’s Like To Be A Single Mom on Food Stamps‘. If you have a few minutes, I recommend reading it in its entirety. The mother is from a suburb outside of Atlanta and she makes a compelling case for needing help.

I’ll preface noting that my biggest problem with the article, especially with it being featured on Huffington Post, is how it somehow manages to make it seem like this is the norm. Unfortunately, it is not. Putting that aside, I think there is some real value in what the article highlights: that this was the only option at the end of the rope.

This single mother of two details her struggle of a divorce with a financially uninvolved father, medical issues and trying to get a job after being a stay-at-home mom for 13 years in a suffering economy while chronicling the shame and heartbreak over accepting (and then using) state benefits.

I am not an advocate of the food stamp or the WIC programs and I cannot imagine that I ever will be. I would go as far as to say I believe it to be an illegal practice on behalf of the state. But I am an advocate for compassion and solutions. As conservatives, we are consistently framed as wanting to remove social programs (and we do!) but are willing to leave families and children without another option. It makes us look bad and it’s one of the reasons we lose elections. I’m kind of over it.

The non-profit sector was intended to be a third branch, a bridge if you will, between the private sector and the public sector. Nonprofit organizations were originally created to fill the gap where the government could not -or was not legally supposed to- fill in. We have far overstepped that boundary and are looking at years of reform, but why aren’t conservatives looking at specific organizations to which we can direct needy families?

Faith aside, there are lists a mile long of organizations ready, willing and able to offer short and long-term assistance to varying groups of people: young, old, male, female, veterans, those addicted to various substances, those in recovery, those unwilling to work, those unable to work. The list goes on. A quick Google search provides a list of over 37,000 nonprofits JUST IN GEORGIA with over $96,598,629,441.00 in assets. Now, we know that all of those aren’t need-based organizations, but there certainly is no shortage on available ‘help’. What’s more is that again, faith aside, more often than not, these organizations project ideologies of conservatism, individualism and ultimate personal responsibility without being overtly ‘in your face’.

So what gives? Why are we not placing a wedge between the state social programs and the people? I will say that legislating specific organizations into ‘helping’ isn’t the solution. Take MADD for example: The Georgia legislature created a monster out of that organization by mandating their services through the state sentencing programs. But we have to change the direction we are sending these people. We don’t make information readily available and then we wonder why they default to the state. Why aren’t these organizations Step 1 on the HHS websites? Why doesn’t the state first suggest what is now considered the alternative?We, as a state and a people, can connect the needy with the willing organizations. We need to make the alternative the norm. We just need a pathway and discussion to do it.

Change doesn’t happen without conversation. It’s time to tweak the conversation and shift our focus to the real solutions. Otherwise, we are only contributing to the problem and I see our fight as no more than a tug-o-war with the liberals of ‘keep a program v. kill a program’.