Friday, July 10, 2015

Everyone deserves a second chance

Long ago, I was a customer of ATT's cellular service. I seemed to be getting a better rate than before and better service than with Sprint. That was before the ATT we know now with some of the worst customer service around. At that time, ATT was having a bit of a struggle migrating numbers from one carrier to their service and they were pilloried in the press for that bit of trouble.

I held out thinking that ATT was going to learn from that mistake and they did. They did much better shortly after that fiasco and they prospered for working through it. I gave them a second chance.

I'm a parent and I see the value in giving kids a second chance. God knows we give babies a second chance. We try to put food in their mouth and they spit it out. We put it back in until they understand that food is something we swallow. We sit them up and they fall down. We sit them up again and again until they learn to sit on their own. They try to walk and they fall down. We let them hold our hand until they learn how to walk. This process goes on and on until adulthood. Kids will always ask for help until they think they don't need our help, then promptly ignore us to solve their problems on their own. They come back when they find they still need help.

When our kids make a mistake, we can either punish them or give them a second chance. Most of us learned from B.F. Skinner whether we know it or not and punish the kid instead of giving a second chance. We think that somehow, punishment is going to make it better, but it only gets worse. Why talk it out when you can punish first and never ask questions? Besides, we can reward them later when they get something right, right?

That game, rewards and punishment, is not about fostering a better relationship, it's about control. As adults, we play that game, not only with our kids, but with our peers. Kids who didn't learn how to control their own actions can grow into adults who become criminals or just really difficult people.

It is only recently that some have noticed that people behave the way they do not because they want to, but because they don't know a better way. This isn't to say that we should not incarcerate a murderer or a banker that cheated millions out of billions. This is to say that we need only look into the mirror when surveying the pain and suffering around us.

I've grown up in the reward and punishment game in school and in family life. My goal is to stop that cycle and learn how to talk to kids, adults, whoever, to figure out what problem it is they are trying to solve and to help them solve the problem rather than punish them for a problem they don't know how to solve. They might not even have the capacity to solve the problems before them.

This attitude keeps people accountable. It keeps people honest since fear is the reason people lie, cheat and steal, if they do. Most importantly, it allows everyone to engage in the one skill that is going to save mankind: problem solving.

I'm a liberal because I believe in second chances. I believe that when people are not in fear, they are better able to handle the problems they need to solve for themselves. When I look at conservative politics, I just see an eye for an eye and everyone is blind. I see that they punish first and try to forget about the person they put away, rather than look at ways to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. I see that their philosophy is to cut social spending because that is the only way people are going to learn, without ever wondering if the people they're punishing lack the capacity to learn the lesson in the first place.

So when I see conservative zeal to cut Social Security, Medicare, education, infrastructure and the like, I see a group of people who are unwilling to give others a second chance. Unless, of course, they are "family".

Let me give you an example. Jeb Bush played a significant part in the Savings and Loan scandal back in the 1980s. In fact, the father and 3 brothers were all complicit in the S&L scandal in the 1980s. They cheated people out of millions, yet none of them have gone to prison, two of them have been elected president based on their failed economic policies and one hopes to someday be president, "like his daddy". They all got a second chance.

Ironically, the public policies they promote do not include a second chance for everyone else. Cutting Social Security is all about eliminating that second chance for most people who are not expert investors with friends in the right places. Cutting Medicare is eliminating the second chance for all of those people who did not managed to keep up with the rapidly advancing costs of health care by making more money. Cutting education funding is about removing the ladder they got to use to climb to the next level.

This is why I'm voting for Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is all about second chances. He's all about sharing prosperity when people work hard to create that prosperity. He's all about sharing the risks we take as a country, fairly and squarely. If we build a ladder, we climb it and leave it behind so that the next person can use it. If we want to go up the ladder to the next level, we build another ladder, climb it and leave it for the next person to use. Conservatives want to take that ladder away and use it for private gain. Liberals like Bernie want to share the ladder.

Share the ladder? What a concept. That is how humanity has worked for thousands of years. Some of us know that process as scientific progress. Some of us know is as civilization. Perhaps someday, we'll come to know it as fellowship. In a fellowship, we give our brother or sister a second chance when they make a mistake. That fellowship is the mark of a country I want to build. Together, we can build it.
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