When culture wars detract from real problems

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Imagine what we could do as a nation if we funneled all of the anger and rage we have toward culture wars into focusing on real problems right under our noses?

I will try not to be on my soapbox too much here, but much of the uproar over “cancel culture” (AKA the new “fake news”) is over the very thing so many people love about the United States – capitalism. Dr. Seuss Enterprises chose to remove a few of Dr. Seuss’ books from future printings on their own volition. Hasbro decided to make it just “Potato Head.” Both of these entities have the free will and right to choose how to manage their organizations and products. That is the basis of capitalism and the “free market,” right?

Pop culture & music has always been controversial

And yes, pop culture, music especially, causes one to raise an eyebrow as to “why is this ok to blast on TV?” And while I’m not a fan of what’s been shown or created by some artists, I have to say this is nothing new. Remember Elvis and the drama his pelvic-shaking dancing caused in the 1950s? As soon as he was televised singing and dancing, he was slammed for his dance moves, as critics called it an “appalling lack of musicality,” for their “vulgarity” and “animalism.” People were outraged, but life moved forward.

the beatles albums

And then came the Beatles in the 1960s, they were called “four mop-headed anti-Christ beatniks” and it was said they were destroying the morals of America’s youth.

Madonna in the 1980s through, well, today. It’s hard to pick a single controversy with Madonna, but she’s still around and continued making music, and life went on.

Miley Cyrus in 2009 at the Kids Choice Awards or 2013 at the VMAs, and everything in between and after. And yet, she’s still here, making music.

I’m not saying the behavior of some of these artists is right, but pushing the envelope and trying to be “unique” and “memorable” is nothing new in the pop culture world. But to compare it with companies who are choosing to change or remove products is a false and unequivocal comparison.

Regardless, all of this is what we call culture wars. They spin the media and people out of control over, in my opinion, non-issues.

media bias chart 2021
Just a reminder of the various bias in the array of news media we have at our fingertips.

Where does your outrage over pop culture stem from?

How many Facebook posts have you put out with your outrage over the growing homeless, mental illness, and human rights crises we are witnessing in the “greatest country in the world”? My guess is none, but I bet you’ve shared a number of articles and angerly posted about racist books or non-gender potatoes. Why does the latter get your outrage, but the former doesn’t?

We get so caught up in the media spin — who, by the way, are making oodles off of your outrage over things that truly do not impact daily life. You’ve just decided that this is somehow an “infringement” on your life as an American and that you should be able to decide what books to read and what gender your potato is (ironically, the genderless potato allows for that**). You’ve decided that somehow these pop culture adjustments are somehow changing your way of life and it’s an outrage.

** (I also just want to note that gender is a construct, and therefore, there are no rules or laws determining what is and what isn’t. And the belief that we are male or female is also not as black or white as it seems. Our genetic and chromosomal makeup is not just THIS or THAT, believe it or not. We’ve always been told there’s XX (female) and XY (male), but it’s not as simple as that. But that’s neither here nor there, but I needed to say something since I’ve seen so many arguments against “Potato Head” saying that “It’s simple. There’s two genders – male and female…” etc., which that statement is inaccurate in so many ways.)

Let’s try this version of “whataboutism” with the real issues plaguing our nation

What about the 11 million kids in America living in poverty?

What about the children who are brought over to our country because “it’s the land of opportunity” and then they are held in facilities that look much like jail cells? These are innocent children. Where is your anger and fury over these children?

What about the more than half a million people (the last 2019 point-in-time figure from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development) who live in cars, on the street, or wherever they can find safety and shelter? (This number is pre-pandemic, and homelessness was already on the rise. Some predictions show that the number of people experiencing homelessness will increase by as much as 49%.)

girl with green hair wearing shirt that says "we should all care"

How about those facing untreated mental health issues? Before the pandemic, 9.7% of young adults and teens in the U.S. had severe major depression and 19% of adults experienced mental health issues. And of these people suffering with mental health challenges, 60% of youth and 23% of adults have unmet treatment needs.

What if we put all of these together? Before the pandemic, more than 45% of those experiencing homelessness also had a mental illness. Mental illness, access to treatment, and overall lack of affordable housing and healthcare are all interconnected.

And while we just made it through the last general election, isn’t it important that we research and understand the basic voting rights that are trying to be changed in states all over the country? Have you an opinion or outrage over the fact that more restrictions and hoops are being put in place to make it harder to vote? Why is this the case if we are the so-called “leader of the free world.” Seems like a lot of effort is being put forth to reduce people’s ability to participate in the very thing that makes us the “free world.”

little boy holding sign that says "this can't wait till I'm bigger"

Channeling outrage over trivial matters to issues that have devastating effects to fellow citizens

What if we put our collective outrage toward things that actually mattered … for more than just ourselves and our immediate family? If you want to show your kid Song of the South (good luck finding a copy) or read one of the six (of more than 60) books that Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided not to print anymore … go for it. No one is stopping you. But I ask you, how is that bettering our communities? How is that bettering your children?

We have gone so far down this path of “self-sufficiency,” “survival of the fittest” and being “self-made” that we have completely lost sight of the fact that we are all connected, whether you like it or not. We need each other in so many ways.

And because of that, aren’t we all better off when we are all better off?

According to Merriam-Webster, here are the various, applicable definitions of society:

  • 1: companionship or association with one’s fellows : friendly or intimate intercourse : COMPANY
  • 2: a voluntary association of individuals for common ends, especially : an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession
  • 3a: an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another
  • 3b: a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests
  • 4a: a part of a community that is a unit distinguishable by particular aims or standards of living or conduct : a social circle or a group of social circles having a clearly marked identity


Please, I beg you, look around your local community and see how you can help. The amount of time, energy, and breaths (or keyboard striking) expended over inconsequential railing over this fake “cancel culture” notion could be better spent to improve your community and your country as a whole.

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Florida Amendment 1 - Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative

Amendment Sponsor: Florida Citizen Voters

Wording on the Ballot:

This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.

Because the proposed amendment is not expected to result in any changes to the voter registration process in Florida, it will have no impact on state or local government costs or revenue. Further, it will have no effect on the state’s economy.

Summary (in laymen's terms):

Amendment 1 seeks to replace one word in the Florida Constitution. The Florida Constitution currently states that “every” citizen of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote can vote in Florida. This amendment proposes changing “every” to “only a.”

The change would have no functional or financial effect on the state.

  • YES vote = You support amending the Florida Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida
  • NO vote = You oppose amending the Florida Constitution, and are in favor of keeping the existing language that says “every citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida.

Florida Amendment 2 - Raising Florida's Minimum Wage

Amendment Sponsor: Florida for a Fair Wage

Wording on the Ballot:

Raises minimum wage to  10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.

State and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels. Additional annual wage costs will be approximately $16 million in 2022, increasing to about $540 million in 2027 and thereafter. Government actions to mitigate these costs are unlikely to produce material savings. Other government costs and revenue impacts, both positive and negative, are not quantifiable.

THIS PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IS ESTIMATED TO HAVE A NET NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE STATE BUDGET. THIS IMPACT MAY RESULT IN HIGHER TAXES OR A LOSS OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED STATE BUDGET AS REQUIRED BY THE CONSTITUTION.

Summary (in laymen's terms):

Amendment 2 proposes to incrementally increase Florida’s minimum wage starting on September 30, 2021, raising it from $8.56/hr to $10/hr. Each September 30 following, minimum wage would increase by $1/hr until the minimum wage reached $15/hr by 2026. Further increases would be based upon the annual rate of inflation.

  • YES vote = You support increasing the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 per hour in September 2026.
  • NO vote = You oppose the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 in September 2026, and favor keeping the current minimum wage of $8.56 per hour.


Supporters of the Amendment:
Florida for a Fair Wage (Sponsor), Organize Florida, AFL-CIO, The League of Women Voters of Florida

Opponents of the Amendment: Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce

News Coverage of the amendment:

Florida Amendment 3 - All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet

Amendment Sponsor: All Voters Vote, Inc.

Wording on the Ballot:

Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election.
Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.

It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference projects that the combined costs across counties will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles occurring in even-numbered years after the amendment’s effective date, with the costs for each of the intervening years dropping to less than
$450,000. With respect to state costs for oversight, the additional costs for administering elections are expected to be minimal. Further, there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida. Since there is no impact on state costs or revenues, there will be no impact on the state’s budget. While the proposed amendment will result in an increase in local expenditures, this change is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact.

News Coverage of amendment 3:

Summary (in laymen's terms):

Establishes a top-two open primary system for state office primary elections

Summary: Amendment 3 proposes to replace closed primary partisan elections (for state legislature, governor, and cabinet) with a single primary where all voters would be able to vote, regardless of party affiliation. With this proposal, all candidates would run on a single nonpartisan primary ballot, regardless of political party affiliation. The two candidates with the most votes would advance to the general election. Congressional and presidential races would not be affected.

  • YES vote = You support every candidate in a statewide or legislative race to appear on a single primary ballot, regardless of political party. (Races include: state legislators, governor, and cabinet (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture)
  • NO vote = You oppose establishing a top-two open primary system for primary elections, and are in favor of leaving in place Florida’s current system where closed primaries are held by each party (only voters registered as a specific political party affiliation can vote in their closed primary. Registered independents cannot vote in the closed primary elections).


Supporters:
All Voters Vote, Florida Fair and Open Primaries

Opponents: Republican Party of Florida, Democratic Party of Florida, Green Party of Florida, Florida State Conference NAACP, Florida Chamber of Commerce, The League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida People’s Advocacy Center, People Over Profits, AFL-CIO, Organize Florida, Florida Conservation Voters

Florida Amendment 4 - Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments

Wording on the Ballot:

Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections,
instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.

It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall, these costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot and cannot be estimated at this time. The key factors determining cost include the number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Since the maximum state cost is likely less than $1 million per cycle but the impact cannot be discretely quantified, the change to the state’s budget is unknown. Similarly, the economic impact cannot be modelled, although the spending increase is expected to be below the threshold that would
produce a statewide economic impact. Because there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida, there will be no impact on
government taxes or fees.

THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF THIS AMENDMENT CANNOT BE DETERMINED DUE TO AMBIGUITIES AND UNCERTAINTIES SURROUNDING THE AMENDMENT’S IMPACT.

News Coverage of the amendment:

Summary (in laymen's terms):

Requires voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election

Summary: Amendment 4 seeks to require that all proposed amendments and revisions to the Florida constitution be voted on and approved by 60% of voters in two consecutive general elections in order to pass. The current process allows an amendment to become part of the constitution after reaching 60% approval in one general election.

  • YES vote = You support requiring voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second consecutive general election to become effective.
  • NO vote = You oppose requiring voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second consecutive general election to become effective.


If this passes…

  • Voters’ ability to amend our constitution and act as a check on the state legislature when it fails to act in the best interest of Floridians will be significantly limited
  • Corporations and special interest groups that are well-funded will have second chances to defeat amendments that initially pass (with 60% of the vote)
  • Citizen initiatives will require significantly more time and money investments in order to successfully pass voter-led initiatives


Supporters:
Keep Our Constitution Clean, Florida Chamber of Commerce

Opponents: Southern Poverty Law Center, Common Cause, The League of Women Voters of Florida, ACLU, AFL-CIO, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Service Employees International Union, New Florida Majority, Florida Civic Engagement Table, Organize Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition

Florida Amendment 5 - Limitations on Homestead Property Tax Assessments; increased portability period to transfer accrued benefit

Amendment Sponsor: Senator Rick Roth (R – West Palm Beach), The Florida Legislature

Wording on the Ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period
of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.

Summary (in laymen's terms):

Increases the period during which a person may transfer “Save Our Homes” benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

Currently, if a person moves to a new home, they have two years to transfer their “Save Our Homes” benefit to have the new home assessed “at less than just value.” The amendment would increase that time period to three years rather than two.

  • YES vote = You support extending the period during which a person may transfer Save Our Homes benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.
  • NO vote = You oppose extending the period during which a person may transfer Save Our Homes benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

Florida Amendment 6 - Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities

Amendment Sponsor: Sate Rep. Sam Killebrew (R – Winter Haven), The Florida Legislature

Wording on the Ballot:

Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran’s surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.

Summary (in laymen's terms):

Allows a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran

  • YES vote = You support allowing a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.
  • NO vote = You oppose allowing a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.