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In Memoriam to My Brother

Several times since January of 2022 my sister and Mom explicitly urged me to getaway, to take a 4-5 night break away from my 24/7 Caretaking of Mom. She is 82-years old with severe Stage-6 Dementia. By March 31st it was so obvious to myself, to Mom, and especially my sister that I badly needed a break. Mom added, in her usual sharp wit, and said I need a break as well, from you! It won’t just do YOU good Dwain!

Mom was right. We had been getting on each other’s last frazzled nerves for several weeks. I soon texted and called a few of my close friends in Dallas to tell them I was coming up one weekend in April. Just planning the trip was quite reinvigorating, I hate to say. No offense Mom. But 4-5 nights just for me? Oh yeah! Where do I sign? Plus, my friends got excited, one in particular: my all-time best friend of near 25-years. Literally like a brother to me. His name? James, James E. Allen III, and he was my one and only closest male friend. Then a situation happened.

On the weekend-Sunday prior to my arrival in Dallas the following Thursday, James informed me he would have to have Quadruple Bypass Surgery and Heart-valve Replacement April 27th, the day before I arrive. My entire “Getaway” plans just changed, drastically. No longer was my trip going to be ALL fun and relaxation, especially with the main character (James) not being readily free and available as planned. Before this medical news, we had already decided to do several of our favorites things together: watch the Dallas Mavericks basketball playoff games as well as the Dallas Stars hockey playoff games together at two-three of our favorite bars. Chunk all those plans out the window now. He would be in a hospital bed my entire trip.

If you would like to read much more extensive details of my trip and the events surrounding James, my dearest friend, go here: Further details.

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

Tuesday morning, May 3rd, 2022. James coded 2-3 more times during the night and wee-hours, Erin texted me. James wasn’t doing well, she said. He can barely squeeze your hand/fingers.

About 1:45pm Erin told me it was all just too much for his body. He had passed away. When I got off the phone, I broke down. My closest friend was gone, my only dearest male friend. He and I would never again talk for hours about sports, mostly his two favorite: American football and basketball. We also shared and confided everything about ourselves with each other. We laughed more than we deserved together because each other’s wit made us. And our sometimes clumsy brain-farts and bad decisions cracked us both up. We knew our best and our intimate worst parts, and yet never wavered in our loyalty to each other, through the best of times and times of pure hell. James was a dependable brother to me like no other guy I’ve ever known. Life will not be the same without him.

James E. Allen, III: b. August 10, 1970 — d. May 3, 2022.

I will miss you terribly brother for the rest of my days. There’s another empty void now in my life, as well as one for many others. RIP James.

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Living Madison’s Nightmare

Sunday, April 24th, I caught an exceptional interview on a global, international news-station that I found utterly resounding and spot-on with America’s recent dumbing-down of internet consumers. The interviewee was Johnathan Haidt, an American social psychologist, author, and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business. Haidt also wrote an exceptional article on this subject for The Atlantic Magazine which I found poignantly true called, Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid: It’s not just a phase. He examines the uncanny similarity of an ancient Jewish biblical story with what James Madison, in 1786-1787 in Federalist No. 10, feared most about our Republic Democracy’s vulnerable, fragile Achilles’ Heel:

The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. […]

Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future—and to us as a people.

jonathan haidt – The atlantic, april 2022

Jonathan Haidt further explains, the top five behemoth ‘Social-media companies [at the time] brought web-connected Americans into enhanced virality by 2009 to 2012 and deep into Madison’s nightmare.’ Madison’s prophetic knowledge of human nature was:

…the innate human proclivity toward “faction,” by which he meant our tendency to divide ourselves into teams or parties that are so inflamed with “mutual animosity” that they are “much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.”

jonathan haidt – the atlantic, april 2022

I have written a few blog-posts about this very topic and how it is a mystery to me, that ordinary internet-browsers seem to contract all too often Critical-thinking Amnesia once they get on social-media sites or the sensationalizing tabloid-news platforms known for conspiracy-theories and ill-repute, let alone spreading blatant misinformation. Suddenly their ability to think independently, question opinions or claimed facts or ideologies, or to do necessary fact-checking… just vanishes! Is it because we all desire confirmation bias? Are we afraid of what the real facts will be, challenging our tiny comfort-zones? Where did our U.S role-models and 1776 motto of E Pluribis Unum go?

A quick list of those posts before I continue to The Atlantic’s link to Jonathan Haidt’s article…

In a November 2019 issue of The Atlantic, Haidt wrote another equally exceptional article with Tobias Rose-Stockwell called The Dark Psychology of Social Networks: Why it feels like everything is going haywire. There is a link from the first Haidt webpage to this one with Rose-Stockwell. I highly recommend both articles, in any order.

But gradually, social-media users became more comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives with strangers and corporations. As I wrote in a 2019 Atlantic article with Tobias Rose-Stockwell, they became more adept at putting on performances and managing their personal brand—activities that might impress others but that do not deepen friendships in the way that a private phone conversation will.

Once social-media platforms had trained users to spend more time performing and less time connecting, the stage was set for the major transformation, which began in 2009: the intensification of viral dynamics.

jonathan haidt – the atlantic, april 2022

So here’s the link to Jonathan Haidt’s Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid. When you’ve read it, or both articles, feel free to share your own thoughts, point-of-view, or questions to startup a discussion. Hopefully a discussion of how we can better manage these private social-internet platforms without violating our Constitution’s First Amendment of free-speech—that is…while simultaneously upholding (in the public sectors) the legal accountability and any criminal/civic Accessory charges upon the (free-)speaker or writer. These are called Speech Crimes. After all, it is the latter case that most Americans forget or are ignorant of their own Constitutional laws.

A free-speaker, under our said comprehensive, federal Constitution, must be held responsible for what she/he publicly proclaims. Otherwise, defamation, threats, inciting violence, or obscenities can (and often do) run rampant without consequences. This is, in my opinion, a large untreated cancer that exacerbates our current U.S. sociopolitical stupidity, as Haidt puts it, and fuels our sinking into factions and severe polarization of which Haidt alludes and eerily James Madison foretold.

Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Learn Always

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Destiny to Tragedy

Last Sunday night I was able to catch a documentary film I’ve been eagerly wanting to watch for awhile, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain by Morgan Neville. Like most of his fans I couldn’t get enough of the diverse places, people, cultures and cuisine he’d show and share with us in his prolific storytelling way. Not knowing the intimate minutia which offers some understanding and closure of “Why” gnawed at me ever since June 8th, 2018.

His suicide was terribly sad for me as much as it was to his dearest friends and family. As some of you know, I am a survivor of my Dad’s suicide, so this was especially heart-wrenching. I identified with Anthony Bourdain and his passion for human cultures foreign to his and my own. Now he identified with me in an all-together new, painful way. He had left behind a young daughter with no explanation, no answers. How could this happen? Why do that to your own little girl? The following day I had as many questions as any of his fans. Bourdain was not simply well-known from No Reservations and Parts Unknown, but for many in his personal circles on an intimate level he was an enigma and seemingly more unknown.

Check that. That is, unknown to those with no knowledge or awareness of Manic Depressive Disorder and mental-illness. Did you know that Anthony Bourdain was a heroine addict until just months before he became a New York restaurant line-cook and eventually Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

One of my favorite lines describing the paradox of human existence and its sometimes absurd events in which we find ourselves, comes from one of my most endearing movies. On film, as it is in life, the bewilderment can invoke our highest joys, our lowest despairs, and then when the ride ends inexplicably give either little solace or an enormous epiphany. The line comes from the 1990 film Dances With Wolves where John Dunbar is utterly perplexed by the outcome of his attempted death at the hands and gun barrels of his Confederate enemies. He writes in his journal:

“The strangeness of this life can not be measured. In trying to produce my own death, I was elevated to the status of living hero.”

John J. Dunbar – Dances with wolves

Anthony Bourdain’s rise to food & travel hero was not unlike 1st Lt. Dunbar’s trajectory to Civil War hero—with the exception that both men arranged very divergent epilogues.

Bourdain at Green Dirt Farm, KS – No Reservations, 2012

As I listened to each interview from Anthony’s closest colleagues, dear friends, acquaintances, ex-wives, family, and clips with his last girlfriend… the signs and bells showed themselves. The mental warning flags were waving as plain as day to me—internally Bourdain was in a desperate struggle. Also obvious was his one single coping-mechanism for a self-perceived unwinnable strain or torment. It was as one colleague aptly described, “Tony was always rushing. Rushing to enter a scene. Rushing to exit to the next scene.” Three symptoms of Manic Depressive Disorder are in fact 1) unusually increased activity, energy or agitation, 2) racing thoughts, and 3) abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired behavior. One of his close director-producers remarked, “Tony was usually quite restless.” In his own words repeated many times in various forms:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

anthony bourdain

Like many, I thoroughly enjoyed Bourdain’s travels from continent to continent finding and visiting his favorite acclaimed chef’s while unabashedly finding the remote hole-in-the-wall grills, street-venders and pubs. His wit and candor, then compassion one day and blunt smart-ass another is certainly what made his shows unique and appealing to me and his audience. I often thought, “This is the type of travel companion I would want exploring the world eating, drinking, dancing, and laughing until I could no more.” He’d be the best of friends and the worst of friends; hopefully more the former than the latter, right?

It is apparent in his interactions with native fellow diners Anthony’s dark side would surface. His camera-crew, directors, and producers also knew this. One of Bourdain’s own top three films of all-time was Apocalypse Now. His two favorite characters in the movie Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) and Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). For those of us who closely watched Bourdain and more closely listened to him, this comes as no surprise. In the movie while on their disturbing personal journeys, both characters—like Bourdain’s restless soul—Willard and Kurtz come to realize how abnormal and bizarre life can impact us, mark us, and change all of us whether we embrace the experience for its reality or not.

“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”

anthony bourdain

Spoken like a true, emboldened always restless explorer. From my years employed in the Psych/A&D field, this was a veiled invitation to not take his words at face value. The last word was a dead giveaway. Addiction, with accompanying disorders and left unaddressed and untreated, will not disappear. They only go dormant until triggered again. Though Anthony Bourdain quit his heroin addiction cold-turkey on his own early in his career, locking it up in the proverbial back closet or basement doesn’t make it disappear. As his dearest friend and artist David Choe correctly described, “Tony’s addiction only jumped.” It merely morphed into restless workaholism then incessant perfectionism.

It can be easily said Anthony Bourdain reached the top of the world when he met, fell in love, had a daughter (Ariane) and married Ottavia Busia in 2007. It was unmistakable Anthony was overly happy. He had found a stable, normal foundation he often thought alluded him. He became more grounded and less “rushing” or constantly semi-frantic. The smaller things in life now mattered much more. He even found great joy grilling hamburgers, sausage, and hotdogs in their backyard next to the swimming pool with only Ottavia and Ariane around.

Anthony, Ottavia, and daughter Ariane (right)

Sadly, by 2015, just eight years later, this fulfilling, steady base which Ottavia and her family lovingly provided, balancing Anthony so well… was no longer enough. Adventure-seeking’s addiction had been gaining more and more head-space and hormones in Tony. Woah! Hello! Big yellow-flag waving again to be noticed!

Anthony had several good friends that were musicians. One of his closest was Josh Homme of Queens Of the Stone Age. In one of their clips together from Roadrunner, Josh and Anthony are sharing years earlier the non-stop travel and touring they do and how it effects them and exhausts them and their families. In this scene Homme shares a poignant pearl of wisdom with Bourdain: “You love it when you’re home and you love it when you leave home.” Bourdain could only pause, stare thunderstruck, nod, and remain silent. It hit home, hard; pun absolutely intended.

Anthony and Iggy in Miami – image by Max Vadukul, GQ magazine

Another gut-punch scene for Anthony was his meal with Iggy Pop. In fact, the interview with Iggy was extraordinarily telling about where Anthony’s head, heart, and addiction were at the time. He asked Iggy, What thrills you? Iggy answers his question…

This is very embarrassing, but being loved, and actually appreciating the people that are freely giving that to me.

iggy pop

Bourdain’s face said it all when Iggy finished; he hadn’t experienced love anywhere close to that magnitude. Or at least Anthony thought he had never experienced it before. His blank stare at Iggy was telling as if Anthony had just been stripped of all his clothing and well constructed walls torn down. The 5-second, slow-motion, silent void was palpable. I could see in Tony’s eyes the deep disappointment poorly hidden behind his face. Once again, bright yellow-flag waving, begging to be seen by some rescuer!

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

There’s no doubt that Anthony Bourdain touched many people’s lives. He touched them in lots of ways, mine included. But perhaps the most frequent touch was identifying with those strangers compassionately, supportively by first listening acutely, then acknowledging in Anthony’s intuitive, eloquent response… he got it. He walked in their shoes even if it was only for an hour or two. As his two mega-hit shows portray time after time, strangers loved him for that. It was his nature to know what question was best to ask, then he asked another just as probing, precise and genuinely curious, yet getting deep into their story, their core. I identified fondly with Anthony’s non-assuming gift for the marrow of people’s story over food and drink. Bourdain was an incredible explorer and storyteller even Marco Polo or Charles Dickens would envy!

There are many good and not-so-good reviews of Roadrunner, but being a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain for years and avid watcher of No Reservations and Parts Unknown, two of a few critical reviews I think are most accurate and grasp the entire intended content of Neville’s documentary. First is Alissa Wilkinson’s of Vox Media. She states it’s thorny, a bit uncomfortable due to the mental-illness never addressed by Bourdain or his closest friends. The other review is by Owen Gleiberman of Variety Magazine. But Wilkinson says (emphasis mine):

So, it’s a gutting film. It’s unsettling in spots. It doesn’t offer answers, or at least not answers that make things better. The end of Bourdain’s life doesn’t have a single meaning, a neat takeaway. The messiness of existence is the point.

And that, Roadrunner suggests, is where Bourdain’s cultural significance lies. He loved food, loved people, loved travel and adventure. He could be brusque and loving, tender and tough, brilliant and baffling. He was a person worth making a biographical documentary about. In resisting the urge to paint its subject as a saint, Roadrunner gives us something better: a human.”

Alissa wilkinson, vox media, https://www.vox.com/22573903/roadrunner-anthony-bourdain-review

The other review is by Owen Gleiberman, writing for Variety Magazine, and it describes in-depth Anthony Bourdain’s documentary film in more powerful terms:

[Roadrunner is] an intimate and fascinating portrait of the beloved celebrity chef and television globe-trotter and a spiritual investigation into why [Bourdain’s] life ended.

Owen Gleiberman, variety

But there’s no denying that Bourdain’s dark side and later obsession with death and dying were just as prominent as his gift in living life to its fullest. Gleiberman concludes quite correctly in the same piece, Bourdain’s death was a tragedy, but Roadrunner suggests it was a tragedy with a touch of destiny.

Over the years of watching Anthony Bourdain’s shows, I began to notice his words and self-taught wisdom was increasingly contradicting his off-camera behavior. Yes, we’re all given a margin of error, a sort of grace period accumulation for what we say and do. This is good, this is necessary. However, what if forms of mental-illness and addiction are mixed into one’s life? Behavioral patterns and pathology we can’t see for ourselves or the dark path they lead us down? What then?

“I learned a long time ago that trying to micromanage the perfect vacation is always a disaster. That leads to terrible times.”

anthony bourdain

In the last year and months of his life, Anthony could no longer recognize or self-correct his own micromanaging despite what he said above! Another warning flag raised, this one red. “Terrible times” indeed. Eerie. Self-fulfilling.

If Anthony wasn’t himself recognizing his gradual descent, and lost while subtly reaching out, searching out some form of help, WHY did none of his closest friends, colleagues, or ex’s not see him spiraling deeper and deeper? Was it because like most all of Americans, and perhaps Europeans too, we shy away from mental-illness? In understanding mental-illness intimately, and by doing so will it uncover something(s) too painful, too shameful to admit, to rectify?

For Anthony Bourdain and all inside his inner-circle with the same boldness, courage, and ambition to see, to taste, smell, hear, and learn of so many cultures, to experience fully life’s bounties… I find this child-like fear about the serious reality of mental-illness and addiction to be absurdly ironic! I can’t emphasize enough their paradoxical condition by so many colleagues and friends that loved(?) Anthony! It doesn’t make sense. When someone has obviously become more and more recluse, more agoraphobic (of all glaring things!), something has to be done, especially with the background history Anthony Bourdain openly and bravely shared with the world freely! So how? How did so many friends, ex’s, kitchen-table colleagues, and extended family miss so many warning flags?

“When I die, I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted, and advantages squandered.”

anthony bourdain

That painful opportunity missed by his closest friends and work colleagues to help stop Anthony not go out dead like Jeff Heston (Charles Bronson) in the 1970 Italian film, Violent City, will be what haunts the friends and colleagues dearest to him. In one short scene of Roadrunner, Courtney Sexton (I believe?), the CNN executive producer who for years worked with Bourdain, states quite assuredly that ‘we’ll never fully understand why Anthony took his own life.’ No! I could not disagree more vehemently with Sexton. You, Courtney Sexton were part of the tragedy, the fear and ignorance that let Bourdain slip down more and more into his bottomless hole each month, each year.

All the signs, alarms, and warning flags were there, plain as day. And it doesn’t take a 30-year experienced psychiatrist to see them. Some key facts and information easily learned about psychology and addiction, coupled inside continuing mental-illness awareness most likely would’ve saved Bourdain from the black-hole he was falling into. Of this, I am convinced had just one or two of his dearest friends been adequately educated with mental-health/illness. No one needs a Ph.D. or Masters in the field to help someone get professional help. It is literally as easy as boiling an egg or brewing coffee.

“You’re probably going to find out about this anyway, so here’s a little preëmptive truth-telling,” Bourdain says, in disembodied voice-over, in the [Roadrunner] movie’s first few minutes. “There’s no happy ending.”

helen rosner – the new yorker, july 15, 2021 at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/the-haunting-afterlife-of-anthony-bourdain

Mental-health & Crisis Suicide Resources

My mother and I are and have been NIMH members since 1992. Their website and resources are a good place to start your extended education about mental-health and illness as well as removing the national stigma surrounding mental-illness. Click on the NIMH link to learn more. Mental-illness is as common in society and all families as regular disagreements or bad kitchen recipes, I assure you. There’s no justifiable reason to avoid it. Please suspend any fears or insecurities and find out how to save a life!

Inside the U.S. there is a hotline by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or at 1-800-273-8255. Help is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

If you live outside the United States and need support/help concerning mental-illness and/or crisis-suicide prevention, here’s a webpage listing organizations, websites, and phone numbers by country: Crisis Information, Help & Support.

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America’s Corporate Shame-List

My fellow bloggers and any visiting this blog-post, whether American citizens or not, this is a list of the U.S. corporations still doing business in Russia despite the dire need for unified, complete and extensive embargos and sanctions against Putin’s Russia and the obvious war crimes he and the Russian military, under his orders, have committed and are committing daily since February 24, 2022. This exhaustive list compiled by Yale University’s School of Management gives all the American company names that have 1) withdrawn from Russia halting all operations, 2) suspended operations temporarily, 3) scaled back operations while continuing other operations there, 4) buying time postponing future development and/or investments while continuing substantive operations, and 5) defying all demands to exit or implement any reductions.

If you have any moral sense of WHY the sanctions, embargos, and restrictions upon the entire infrastructure and economy of Russia and Putin are not only a must, but the West must also be totally unified in these measures so as to quickly bleed-out and bankrupt Putin’s war machine in Ukraine! This has to include ordinary Americans at home and being acutely cognizant of what we purchase in stores or online or support directly and indirectly with these companies. The list of Category 3, 4, and 5 international corporations is disturbing, and shamefully large. I beg you, let us Americans boycott these American corporations by not giving them one cent of our money, our time, or speak positively of their despicable business in Russia until they do the right thing: STOP, and fast.

To save page-space and time, I am listing here only the well-known American companies in Categories #3, #4, and #5, the ones with seemingly no moral compass. Please go to Yale University’s School of Management (here) for the entire list and detailed descriptions of each category:

Category Three – Scaled Back

  • Bacardi (rum, liquors)
  • Bosch
  • Carlsberg Group (beer)
  • Dow Chemical
  • GE (General Electric)
  • Goldman Sachs
  • HSBC (banking)
  • ING NV (banking)
  • JP Morgan
  • Michelin Tire
  • Pepsi
  • Whirlpool

Category Four – Buying Time

  • ADM Labs (livestock feeds)
  • Barilla (pastas)
  • BASF SE (chemicals)
  • Bayer (aspirin)
  • Cargill (foods)
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Focus Brands – Cinnabon
  • General Mills
  • Halliburton
  • Hilton (lodging)
  • Hyatt (lodging)
  • Intercontinental Hotels
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Kellogg
  • Kraft Heinz – JBS
  • Marriott
  • Mars (candy)
  • Merck
  • Mondelez – Nabisco
  • Nestle
  • Pfizer (pharma)
  • Philip Morris (cigarettes & tobacco)
  • Pirelli (tires)
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Siemens USA
  • Subway (food)
  • Yum Brands (fast foods, e.g. KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and WingStreet to name only four)

Category Five – Defying All Demands

  • AstraZeneca (pharma)
  • ASUS (computers)
  • Ball Corporation (home & kitchen products)
  • Emerson Electric
  • Emirates Airlines
  • International Paper
  • Koch Industries
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Renault USA (automotive)
  • SC Johnson (household goods)
  • Young Living (marketing)

Please, let’s do everything we can right now to pressure these corporations and their CEO’s and top executives to take not only the moral high-road, but the humane course as well. Let us be unrelenting until they relent and join a world of civilized, peace-loving humanity.

Let’s choke and strangle Putin and his top-brass so they can no longer wage War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity! Then, when it has completely stopped in Ukraine and they’ve returned to Moscow, help bring Vladimir Putin to the Haag’s International Court of Justice as a war criminal. This will only happen if America, NATO, the EU, and G7, and all other allies complete this to the very end firmly unified, including all ordinary American consumers.

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The Fred Rogers Test

This past February and finally on March 1st, 2022, Texas, like many states across the nation, had its 2022 Primaries. Several key offices were on the ballots, including Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and district-based Congressional and Legislative seats. In my mind, these primaries are just as critical as the following general elections. Why? Because if you are a voter of only one political party, a staunch party-liner as it is sometimes labelled, then naturally you should want the absolute best candidate to run against your opposing party (or enemy?). Simple, right?

But I am not a strictly party-line voter who has no serious opinion or does no research into each individual candidate, their campaign platform, or their background and government experience. Though millions of Americans forfeit their votes and voices with no regret (unless their demi-god candidate or incumbent loses?), I can’t do that. I know many of my family members and a few friends who enjoy being a strict party-line voter because it’s easy, brainless, and they don’t waste any of their own precious time or personal priorities during primary or election years. And tragically they are not alone, as you’ll soon read about most Texas registered or unregistered voters.

My conscience nor my civil virtue, duty, and privilege to be an active part of my democracy, my state’s and country’s future, will not allow me, and refuses to let me be so lazy or irresponsible. So, I have been an Independent voter for near 30-years, for many reasons I won’t go into detail today. However, I’ve never been a fan of strict party-line voting—it enables and nurtures bad democratic, civil habits, naivete, and closed-mindedness.

Ahh… but “Que Será, Será.

Texas turnout this past February and March 1st for Primaries

The prevailing attitude among many Texans, in the happy pleasing song of Doris Day and Frank De Vol is that everything always works out best and beautifully in the end for everyone. Timeout! I am raining on that parade. No, that’s Hollywood fiction, a la la dreamland manufactured in the movies and like sugar-candy fed into people’s own heads. It won’t reflect reality around them, at least not for the decent, rational, typically kind people when it comes to how they’re governed and their following descendants are governed or protected. Nevertheless, this is remarkably a very prevalent attitude and mindset among too many Texans for far too long, as The Texas Tribune has (below) shown yet again.

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

“Historically, voter participation in midterm primary elections is dismal in Texas, with less than a quarter of registered voters casting ballots most years. This means that a majority of registered voters don’t participate. These figures also do not account for the eligible voters in the state that have not registered.”

— Mandy Cai & Sneha Day, The Texas Tribune, accessed March 7, 2022 at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/14/texas-primary-voting-turnout/

Many new voting restrictions on non-white Texans and constant “redistricting” or redrawing of district maps by GOP lawmakers for both Congressional state chambers, delegations, and our State Board of Education—to rewrite Texas history, among many other curriculum subjects—will impact voter turnout in Texas, making what was already historically dismal even worse for at least the next decade.

As you might imagine, this cycle of repetition I’ve seen and witnessed in Texas-voting, lawmaking, and quite literally segregating of citizens, of voters and would-be voters over the last 30-years has nauseated my stomach so much that I’ve probably developed ulcers and/or Crohn’s Disease. It is so very depressing and frustrating how a shrinking political demographic the last two decades, a near minority if not already one, is still maintaining (legally? Constitutionally?) its stranglehold and power over the entire state! How? How is this possible in a supposedly freely elected democracy?

It seems Ross Ramsey, also of The Texas Tribune, has a prescription of relief for me and other progressive, open-minded, diversity-advocate Freethinkers and typically non- or anti-Conservatives of Texas. He calls it The Fred Rogers Test. It is intended for Texas public officials who by principle and by vow, are elected and sworn into office to SERVE us Texans. Give a listen, please. It’s worth the 4.5-minutes of your time.

If you’d rather read the column, go here.

Fred Rogers, of PBS’ Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Here is one paragraph I found particularly profound, poignant, and accurate by Mr. Ramsey:

“Candidates are good at describing problems. They’re great at sweeping phrases, too, like “if elected, I’ll fix that.” But they speak in generalities, and what happens when they’re elected — or more to the point, what doesn’t happen — somehow slips past voters when it’s time to put people in office.”

— Ross ramsey, The Texas Tribune, accessed March 7, 2022 at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/07/texas-elections-problems/

Mr. Ramsey goes on to list many key, critical problems Texas is facing and has been facing for at least two-decades, probably more like four-decades. One I liked and which resonated with me:

“Teachers in Texas are overworked, underpaid, micromanaged and asked to do a lot more than teach children. Everybody says that, everybody knows that, and the lawmakers who are now talking about it on the campaign trail are often the same people who didn’t do much to fix it in the last legislative session, or the one before that.”

In an October 2013 blog-post, then Texas Governor candidate Wendy Davis, who I supported fully, asked me personally, one-on-one as a Special Ed teacher for Wards (kids) of the State in Leakey, TX: “Tell me your story? What challenges do you and your family face? What issues should be addressed to strengthen our families?” I was honestly shocked by this personal touch. Never had I received any type of correspondence like that from any Texas politician since I became a legal voter in 1981, not ever! You can read My Story blog-post here.

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Perhaps this Fred Rogers Test can be a very simple guideline for lazy Texas voters and unregistered voters. I really do hope so. It’s a start. If not an embraced, motivating voter’s guide for lazy Texans, then the alternatives WILL be disturbing, possibly irreparable if they keep their residence here continuing their personal bubbles of denial. Problems, especially chronic problems, will not simply vanish in time or go away or be ignored as Doris Day and Frank De Vol sing you into a dreamy trance. Progressive, evolving democracy is not a toy soldier or monkey you wind-up, let it go, and expect it to run indefinitely. Democracy was never designed to be a type of nuclear power-plant that runs in and of its self, indefinitely with no input or maintenance. It is so much more, much to precious and fragile. It can die if one ignores its lifeblood or turns one’s back on her at the polls, PTA meetings, and town forums to name just three civil virtues and privileges we Texans and Americans are gifted and honorably endowed.

Consider this in light of what you are now seeing in Ukraine and to peaceful, non-violent protestors inside Russia being arrested and hauled away to prisons and jails for an indefinite period. That might be you and your own country some day.

Live Well – Love Much – Laugh Often – Listen Closer – Learn Always

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