June 2017

Line in the Sand: Their First 100 days if they had won the election...

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman

Somehow or another, this month’s topic revolves around what Courtney and I would do if we were given 100 days to run the country. It’s a silly question, because at no point have I demonstrated to the American people that I am at all fit to run the country. For one, I rarely Tweet. And when I do, it’s usually either me plugging a link to something I’ve written to everyone on Twitter (which is mainly other writers plugging things they’ve written), or me sharing the baffling things that go through my head while I’m drunk on airplanes (I know I should turn on airplane mode, but I’m also kind of curious how long the @PokemonGoApp character can keep up during takeoff.).

The second reason is that I’m a giant coward. You know that scene in Independence Day where president Bill Pullman rouses the crowd to victory with a proven motivational formula of vaguely patriotic imagery and clichés? President Barry Kaufman wouldn’t have been making that speech. President Barry Kaufman would have sold each and every one of you out to the aliens and watched the earth explode from the comfort of the mothership.

The other reason I’m unfit for president is because I really, really don’t want to do it. Have you ever seen pictures of George W Bush at the start of his eight years and the end? Or Obama, for that matter? It’s like a Faces of Meth PSA. Being president is like being there when someone opens the Ark of the Covenant. One minute you’re this fresh-faced community organizer and the next you look like you should be chasing around Jason and the Argonauts in a Ray Harryhausen movie.

Obviously, for someone like myself, whose appeal is based entirely on my good looks, the presidency is a death sentence. So, I’ll have to respectfully decline the invitation to lead the free world. However, I can still speculate on what I would do in my first 100 days if I were dumb enough to take the job.

First, I would eliminate the phrase “Yeah, but…” from any and all political arguments. The phrase, “Yeah, but…” is only used two ways in political arguments, and they’re both terrible. The first, when someone (left or right) shares a news story on Facebook that turns out to be demonstrably false and is confronted with the facts of the matter. Their response is invariably, “Yeah, but it proves the point that (political group I don’t like) is really just a bunch of (colorful expletive)s.”

In this case, “Yeah, but…” lets you completely brush off the lack of facts and instead focus on an absolute certainty that is only true if there are facts to support it. It’s pretty much admitting that your argument has no basis while still talking about how right your argument is. Which is insane.

The second usage of “Yeah, but…” is similar, but it usually revolves around blaming things on people who are no longer president. President Bush starting a war on questionable intelligence? Yeah, but Clinton deregulated Wall Street and killed American manufacturing. President Obama issuing drone strikes that are taking out an alarming number of civilians? Yeah, but Bush let New Orleans drown and expanded our use of torture. President Trump doing… well, more or less everything he’s done since he entered the public sphere? Yeah, but Obama never quite got around to closing Gitmo, did he?

The point is, when used this way, “Yeah, but…” continues to give your side’s president cart blanche to screw up, because at least he’s not living down to your negative image of the other side’s guy. Which, again, is insane.
Finally, I’d take the golden opportunity that President Trump totally whiffed on, and release every piece of classified information the CIA, the NSA and the FBI have ever squirreled away. And I’d do it on April 1. Every intelligence agency in the world would be scrambling to figure out whether it was all true or not, so none of them would be paying attention when our new alien overlords landed. April fools!


Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

You’re telling me I am the president of the United States? I honestly can’t believe it, seeing as how I have zero experience. I’ve never served in the senate, or as member of the house, not a state representative, or even a town council member. Yet somehow, here I am. Your president. First things first. I need Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and lots of them; we have got to get this orange tanning spray cleaned up. This is the White House after all.
Next, who will play me on Saturday Night Live? We need someone who will appeal to the advertisers, but also accurately portray my sarcasm and sass. What are my options among SNL cast members with New Jersey accents? I want to get this just right.

And, what about the first man? I am going to need one. And, a vice president. And some secretaries…and about one thousand other cabinet members. Wait. I don’t know that many people.

I know I am not informed enough to have the first clue about what I might do if I were elected president. I also know it is a job I would never want, which made me start considering why anyone would.

Today I was juror 157. I’ll be back tomorrow morning for the trial. Truth be told, I spent the better part of three weeks trying to figure out how I was going to get out of jury duty. My ideas ranged from donning an “eye for an eye” T-shirt, to my dog is sick, to the video shoot I have at work this week, which of course has been on my schedule for a couple months now. Anything to get me out of this civic duty that, in my mind, I don’t have time for.

As a two-decade Law & Order fan, once I was seated in the courtroom, I found it exciting to be a part of the judicial process and absorbed every detail I could. Unfortunately, jury selection day is quite boring. We did a lot of hurrying up to wait. And, during the waiting, here is what I found: People are complainers.

“The lawyers get to drink water. We don’t get anything to drink?”
“It’s so cold in here. I didn’t know I should wear a sweater.”
“These benches are so uncomfortable. They make us sit all day?”
“Do we get lunch?”

And then there was the person sitting next to me cracking her knuckles, repeatedly. The incessant cougher. The throat clearer. They were all there.

The trial hasn’t even started yet, but I already know what I’ll take away. People. Are. Complainers. You’ll never please everyone. My first eight hours as a participant in the Fourteenth Circuit Court solidified my belief that public service, of any kind, is not for the faint-hearted, and not a role I want to play. Ever. It may be a leap from jury duty to the highest office in all the land, but I couldn’t help comparing the two.

You can’t make everyone happy. You can’t convince an audience (the country) of anything really, unless it is personal and important to them. Unless you prove that the problem you present is their problem too; unless you show them how your solution makes their life better; and, most important, unless you know your audience—really get to know and understand them and how they think—you are sunk. So how in the world can the president even narrow down a list of things to attempt to accomplish in 100 days, knowing that he/she will never please everyone?

I imagine that the people who choose a life of service do so because something moved them at some point to get involved. So, then I started compiling my list of complaints—things I want to change—and my petty and self-absorbed list held nothing of enough substance to create a movement. In fact, most of my “what bugs me” moments center around the things I can already control in my own life. I don’t need to hold a public office to make those changes. For example, happy birthday messages on Facebook. What am I supposed to do with 122 happy birthday messages? Do I like them all? Do I reply to all of them? Do I post a thank you that will inevitably result in additional birthday wishes?

Or, I could get off social media and focus on one of the many critical issues that face our country, our state, our town—teachers, our veterans, our first responders, and everyone else who needs help.

Then I realize I didn’t want to make time for jury duty, so what right do I have to even comment on anything else? 

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