Preble County

Posting, Sharing Facebook Memes Not Solving Any Problems

Trump, the man who gave up his billionaire lifestyle to be humiliated and ridiculed and slandered in order to save the American people — post on Preble County’s Republican Facebook page.

Last fall my wife and I took up a new hobby — hiking and camping. We began this new chapter in our life in Hocking Hills, Ohio and have, in the past nine months or so, hiked several of Ohio’s state parks as well as along the Niagara River in New York.

Versa and I checking out an Ohio hiking trail.

As an introvert, hiking is a natural fit and I would describe a perfect day as one that includes a 10-15 mile hike with my dog, watching her chase wildlife, and seeing the sheer joy the simplest of moments bring my faithful sidekick.

It’s relaxing.

But, the unintended byproduct of hiking is my exposure to the reality that there is no ‘Ohio miracle.’ This is true along much of Ohio’s southwestern portion where I live and to the east where I hike.

Small Towns, Small Dreams

As I drive through these small Ohio towns heading to my hiking destinations many look like mine — with their gutted downtown regions filled with a handful of establishments that cater to the impoverished — tattoo parlors, vape shops, dollar stores, satellite churches — and empty storefronts.

I assess these towns and mine by looking at four things: the library, the post office, amenities and billboards. In impoverished regions libraries and post offices are neglected, amenities are rare or non-existent and the public service announcements reveal the town’s problems. (Recent PSA signs in Preble County show we’re trying to convince people not to smoke if pregnant.)

Billboards also tell a community’s religious flavor. Those traveling south through Preble County on U.S. 127 will be reminded to ‘repent’ if they want to be saved — and to ‘Stand with Israel.’

Who’s Minding The Store?

Screenshot from Preble County GOP Facebook page.

I also glance at the political social media page in the counties I visit to see if the public interacts with its political leaders. When I visit the Preble County Republican Facebook page, I notice less than 500 people follow it. We are a county of 40,000 residents with about 11,000 registered Republicans.

Social media memes also indicate local ideology. On the Preble County page I learn that — despite our small-government mentality — we need a political savior.

I Need A Hero

I read the local newspaper, occasionally listen to the audio of the Board of Commissioners meetings, comb through police reports, but this year I intentionally sought out a different audience to better understand my community. I took a job that put me shoulder-to-shoulder with community members who, for a variety of reasons, are ‘down on their luck.’

As I interact with this broader base of citizens, I’m seeking answers for our collective demise trying to comprehend our entrenched poverty. It’s an economic decline that coincidentally followed my lifespan since my father moved the family here during Preble’s financial peak.

As I observe and research, I also ask questions.

I want to know, for example, how a county that had $1.9 million dollars in new construction in 1969 ($12.6 million in today’s dollars) has become an entity where the ‘construction fee’ was recently increased (by a 2-1 vote) in a effort to offset a line item deficit. Based on the dissenting opinion, the change may be ineffective — and one of the reasons given for the increase — rising gas prices seems incorrect since gas is cheaper today than in 2006, the last time the fee was increased.

Most importantly, though, it’s a decision that may stall our (slowly) returning construction industry.

How did we go from ‘boom to bust’ in a generation or two?

A Disappointing Approach To Problem Solving, Humor

Screenshot from Preble County GOP Facebook page.

I never intended to be interested in politics. I prefer hiking, it’s more serene.  But as an accidental political news junkie I now believe, much more strongly than before, in a bi-partisan approach to running the country or a county. Based on news clipping, the bipartisan era left Preble County during the Reagan years. From the 1980s on most of our county offices have been filled by GOP candidates who ran unopposed.

This lack of an opposing viewpoint moved us further to the Right.

In the past three decades the local GOP’s shift can be seen in how we treat our children. In the 1970s members of the Board of Commissioners raved about the new orphanage, colloquially known as the Children’s Home, as one of their greatest achievements.

About 30 years later, by a 2-1 vote, the board voted to shutter it under a rallying cry of fiscal responsibility and an overreliance on verbiage (‘there’s no orphans in the orphanage’) costing us 11 local jobs.

Today some board members can be heard during public meetings adding up the dollar amount the county spends to place our children in agencies outside the county.

We aren’t cheering anymore — apparently the kids are costing us $500,000 annually.

The Truth Will Set You Free

I have thick skin, and I’m okay with opposing viewpoints, but when I look at the local GOP Facebook page, the posts intrigue me. Some show a lack of political literacy. For example, the quote from Teddy Roosevelt, is pulled out of its historical context, naively suggesting that today’s terms of liberal and conservative have the same meaning as they did a century ago.

Although Roosevelt was a Republican, his views more closely aligned with today’s Democrat party — he ‘took on’ business and believed that government action was required to keep the economic playing field level. He also ran as an independent for the Progressive Party (taking a literal bullet on the campaign trail) and his political position was center-left. Roosevelt’s Progressive Party called for the ‘direct election of United States Senators by the people’ something Trump wants reversed.

Since Roosevelt is more closely aligned to liberalism in today’s definition of the term, it is also possible to interpret his words (like most quotes) deeper than the surface level (i.e. saying the truth — what is ‘really happening’ in a society — will anger a liberal because they will perceive it as unjust.)

When I came across the ‘cry baby’ graphic, the first thing I noticed, because of my copy-editor background, is the misspelling of protesters. Although, I would presume the image was design to ‘irritate a liberal’ — in light of the recent level of resistance to the ACA repeal the joke doesn’t work. Besides, dissension is a foundational requirement of a representative republic (just read some Thomas Jefferson). More importantly, when we, as a nation or community, get to the point that all must act, think and believe the same — we’ve lost what makes us unique and strong — our diversity.

Screenshot from Preble County GOP Facebook page.

But my real complaint with the post is — it’s a really poor attempt at humor. Humor is a skill best left to comedians.

Here’s a much stronger, and better approach.

As anyone who follows politics knows Chris Christie has been dealing with backlash over his decision to shutter the state parks — especially after he was photographed on one of the beaches sans citizens. At a recent MLB game, as he tried to eat his nachos, Christie was harassed. Angered by the jeering, Christie got in the face of a Cubs fan and ‘let him have it.’

After viewing the video clip of the exchange, comedian John Fugelsang Tweeted,

And don’t ever again question Chris Christie’s humanity after seeing him cradle those nachos like a mother primate cradling its young.

Now, I don’t care who you are — or what your political angle is — that’s funny.

Spoiler Alert: Trump Won’t Save Us

Screenshot from Preble County GOP Facebook page.

Despite what my Congressman Warren Davidson Tweeted earlier this year — that all liberals want to do is add another program — as a liberal, I don’t want that. I want an effective, efficient government. I want leaders at the local, state and national level to solve problems, not engage in political warfare. I want a president that leads instead of one who Tweets and campaigns.

I want this because of what I see in Preble County. Here are three recent examples:

  • When I drove to work the other day, as I was stopped at a stop sign, an elderly man stooped over pick up a hypodermic needle, shaking his head in disgust. As a human, politics withstanding, I want the heroin problem here treated as the mental health crisis it is. I want us to mimic Miami County. When a OD victim is rescued there, within 24-48 the responding police officer, paramedic and mental health professional reach out to the addict to help them find treatment. In Eaton, we reserve the right to charge the OD victim with disorderly conduct.
  • A man I recently spoke with who has worked at one of Eaton’s ‘better jobs’ for several decades admitted that they struggle to fill job openings because ‘Johnny can’t pass a drug test.’ As I have posted before, several jobs advertised in the local paper have not been filled for months. This includes farming-centric positions in a farming community. Again, this is a reflection of who we are.  As one recent high school graduate Tweeted, ‘There’s nothing to do in this town but drugs. ‘
  • A local home I lived in 20 years ago, has been available for rent ($550) for four to six weeks. When homes sit empty it can be for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common causes is an inability of residents to pay the rent. We need livable wage jobs and affordable housing.

But one of our biggest problems here is what one local man called our harshness. ‘People just don’t give a shit about each other, anymore, ‘ he said. I agree. Even though some of our harshness may be a result of our mores and values — a lot of it is because we’re reaching a point where we just don’t like each other.

And social media is partially to blame.

Fellow citizens engaging in combativeness is undoubtedly irritating, but when the harshness is championed by a political party via social media it causes societal damage. It hinders progress and perpetuates pettiness.

Preble County’s challenges could be more adequately addressed if the Facebook platform was used for something beyond the national political game of meme ping-pong because, at the end of the day, no one, not even Trump, is going to save us.

That’s on us.

Categories: 8th congressional district, American History, My America, Politics, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties | Tags: | 3 Comments

‘Truth Is I Think He Sold Us Out’ — Trump Voter

I recently had lunch with a friend and eventually our conversation turned to the national political chaos we all are enduring. The friend casually noted how House of Cards, a political drama starring Kevin Spacey, is becoming too close to reality. If you’ve never seen the show, I highly recommend it as it delves into the behind-the-scenes debauchery that has come to define our political class. Shows like House, and it comical counterpart Veep, shine a light on a harsh reality — that the average American voter has no true voice in the political direction of the country.

For some, that realization leads to anger or despair, for others it strengthens their resolve to chip away at the injustice.

Regardless how one responds, though, one thing is certain, with our ever-shifting reality, truth is under attack.

Inside The Mind Of The Twitter-In-Chief

As is the case with all of us, a level of predictability exists, even in the apparent chaos. Many on Twitter have taken the time to dissect what T-Money obsesses over (hint: it’s not governing), while other find very humorous ways to mock the insanity (often getting blocked by the thin-skinned reality TV president), but one professor took the time to boil down the Tweets into their four basic categories — and once you see the system 45* uses the Tweets are easier to understand in a broader context.

It’s also easy to see that Trump’s fan base loves his attacks on the press.

In Defense Of Local News

One of the reason a Trump can rise up from the under current of American society is because people are consuming more tainted, and less local, news. As stated numerous times, Trump won the Electoral College vote by winning at the county level. Many of the counties are small enough that local, in-depth news coverage often wanes. In my county, the size and depth of the news coverage from the 1970s is much different than today. This is not a reflection on the individuals doing the work — it’s an indication of organizations downsizing to the point that the handful of reporters remaining cannot begin to cover news at the depth required.

There are simply not enough hours.

Take, for example, this small stat from my county. In 2006, the Eaton City Police handled 28 trespassing cases. A decade later, despite (or maybe because of) the city’s stagnant population growth, the EPD handled 109 trespassing cases. This is up sharply from 2014 (30) and 2015 (50). The stat can be interpreted numerous ways. For example, a few interpretations could be:

  • The EPD is taking a more aggressive approach to policing the crime
  • Businesses are requesting more people to be trespassed off their property (for example, Walmart)
  • More citizens are trespassing

One could also ask — is it 109 different people or are some people multiple offenders. Are certain locations prone to trespassing?

Or take another stat, the number of manufactured homes being introduced into the county (10 were recently delivered in the southern part of Preble County). How does that reflect the county’s income level? Are these homes having an impact on overall property values since the county is currently averaging about 20-30 new home constructions annually.

Or, how about the question posed last fall by a local farmer. Why is his property tax bill escalating — and is it — or is he mistaken?

Each of these stats create a perception and without strong reporting the story behind the numbers is left to hearsay.

But all of these ‘small’ news stories require manpower and, in some cases, database building skills, to flesh them out. This costs money, money that smaller news organizations cannot, or will not, spend.

Montgomery County — Epicenter Of Opioid Crisis?

But local news can deliver in-depth, accurate and important information for citizens. An example of the value of local media can be seen in a recent article by the Dayton Daily News.

The national media reported that Montgomery County was the worst county in the country for heroin-related overdose deaths. When I first heard the national story it did not seem accurate (no, I don’t consider it fake or fraudulent) because I had recently attended a seminar conducted by two retired Columbus, Ohio police officers. The officers had spent decades investigating drug-related crimes. In their presentation they referenced a map of the U.S. which demonstrated the heroin crisis began in the area that some historians refer to as the Greater Appalachian region (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia). And, the map showed (I’m relying on memory, so these are estimates) that Ohio had about 30 heroin-related deaths per 100,000 compared to 45 per 100,000 in West Virginia.

So as the national media ‘swooped in’ and told the Montgomery County story from a surface level, the local paper put considerable effort, time and manpower into digging out the local stats which suggest they may not be the worst (although still very high up on the list).

The paper also took the time to explain the difficulty in getting up-to-the minutes numbers on heroin or opioid deaths (something the Columbus officers also said in their presentation — they used Center for Disease Control stats which were a couple years old) which further demonstrated that the national news story may have rushed in its judgement of the county’s rank.

So, at the end of the day, readers of local news were given a thorough and in-depth understanding of the Dayton-area heroin problem.

The Media Is Not The Enemy

When the 2016 election was in battle mode last fall, the GOP leadership in my county posted (on Facebook) an image of a sign saying MSM (Mainstream Media) was the problem. InfoWars.com bumper stickers can also be seen here  — highlighting the information source for some locals.

When I see the attack on the media, I do wonder if former president Ronald Reagan had any clue what he unleashed when he vetoed the Fairness Doctrine. That veto ushered in the era of cable news, talk radio, alternative and fringe news organizations. Maybe Reagan thought Americans were smart enough to figure out the truth.

On some things that may be true, but, as the saying goes, politics is war by other means.

American politics is convoluted and intentionally complicated. It has been reduced to tag lines, sound bites, 140-character rants and tainted advertising sponsored by Super PACs. Without a strong press to dive into the myriad of documents, to attend countless meetings, and reporters to educate themselves on the various issues of the day, Americans must rely on talking heads or worse — social media.

In my county, if a citizen were inclined to, for example, understand what their commissioners did, they would need to know where to get an audio of the meeting (Commissioner’s Office/$1.75). Then they would need to wade through three to five hours of weekly conversation while, at the same time, educating themselves on the various programs, procedures and protocol of local government.

Americans I know, though, would rather watch paint dry (or a sporting event) instead of becoming knowledgeable enough to understand the political process to that level.

Which is why we need a strong, devoted and unencumbered media.

These men and women actually enjoy readings the documents and attending the meetings. No, they are not perfect, but having worked in the industry, by and large, most journalists are very dedicated and honest. (They could not be dishonest if they wanted to be — because the industry and/or their sources would weed them out.)

Without a strong media — especially one that includes strong local coverage — politics gets dumbed down to a spectator sports mentality where voters are rooting for their team, oblivious to the rules of the political game.

In the noise of Twitter and social media, far too many Americans vote on how they identify with a candidate, without understanding the candidate’s policy position (except maybe a handful of hot button issues like abortion). Too many vote like the Preble County man I quoted in the headline. He said,

“Truth is I think Trump sold us out,” adding “I voted for him because I liked him better than Hillary.”

But, as the local man is learning, likeability and $1.50 will buy a nice cold drink — just not a political voice.

Categories: My America, Politics, Preble County, Understanding Trump Counties

I Can’t Decide If He’s Chicken Little Or The Boy Who Cried Wolf

We have lots of Stand With Israel signs in Preble County. One can only speculate what the signs would say if the Shepherd of Hermes, instead of The Revelation of John, had been included in the Bible as originally planned.

Must I fear what others fear, what nonsenseThe Tao

Congressman Warren Davidson definitely stays busy, alternating between warning constituents that the sky is falling to crying wolf over some alleged impending doom.  I say this because the issues he has worked on this year are the work of an alarmist and are of no value to the people he represents.

Take the American Health Care Act. His logic seems to be, if we don’t repeal the Affordable Care Act, the country will go bankrupt (crying wolf). But both the House and Senate versions of the AHCA will be devastating to Ohio, the state he, in theory, represents.

Me And Jesus Got A Good Thing Goin’

Earlier this year, Davidson spearheaded a drive to protect our Religious Liberty and it resulted in 45* signing an executive order ensuring this freedom. I live in a county of 40,000 and, according to an ad in the local paper, we have 92 churches. When one of the student speakers at my daughter’s high school graduation a few weeks ago thanked ‘her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,’ the auditorium erupted in applause. If I were so inclined, like 32 percent of Ohio’s population — I could attend Sunday morning service at a different church each week and it would take nearly two years to attend all the churches in my county.

We have religious freedom here, religious diversity, on the other hand, that is lacking. (Hey 45* can we get a Religious Diversity Executive Order.)

California Is To Blame

But Davidson’s latest fearmongering is more deplorable when you consider the abysmal gerrymandering that exists in Ohio. Gerrymandering is one of the political tactics that has escalated the country’s partisanship during the past two or three decades. Now, according to Davidson’s latest e-newsletter, the ‘sky is falling’ — not in Ohio, the state he was elected to represent — but California — that blue state which, unlike Ohio, has a thriving economy. So as real Ohioans deal with a sub-standard economy, Davidson is crying wolf about the seats in the House. Davidson says,

Did you know that electoral votes and seats in the House are distributed based on the total population of each state? States like California game the system to encourage illegal immigration and are rewarded with 5-7 extra congressional seats by some estimates. 

We lose our sovereignty each day this goes unresolved. This is why I introduced the Fair Representation Amendment.

Although the Amendment is very self-serving in the GOP’s voter suppression drive, it’s an intriguing twist for a party whose current brand supports stronger state rights and less federal interference. Apparently, in this situation though, the feds need to intervene.

Gerrymandering: Legally Gaming The System

Davidson’s Congressional District is the definition of gaming the system. He presides over one of the most noncompetitive Congressional Districts in Ohio. His district is ‘packed’ with a 2-to-1 ratio of GOP to Democrat voters — and it was his Party that imposed the unethical District map on Ohio residents.

This undemocratic approach to democracy is undermining our political institutions causing many to lose faith in the political process. So maybe, to paraphrase Jesus, Davidson should just worry about the plank in his own eye and not the speck in California’s.

Categories: 8th congressional district, My America, Preble County, Religion