My political goggles, for any who are interested

Why now, but not before?

For the last few months, I (not very often) made my voice known on the current political season. And as we all know, some blowback would occur. (Blowback will virtually ALWAYS occur over this subject. I don’t mind it.)

However, one might argue this: “Carson, you’re a new school owner. Why would you risk upsetting potentially half your clientele when they’re just getting used to you for the first time?”

You’re right. There is a risk. This risk is exactly why, in the past, I have been politically quiet. I simply didn’t view the previous political decisions as a big deal. I voted for John McCain back in 2008, but I am not really an Obama-hater. I think John McCain would’ve made some good decisions and some bad decisions. I think Obama, likewise, made some good decisions and bad decisions. But alas, America continues to chug along, regardless of who was president.


However, I am louder this time, for many reasons that I won’t go over here. Because this time, more than ever, I feel like the world is watching us more. I feel like we are deciding what we are like, who we want to be known as.

But this post is actually not about the “who’s” of this election, but rather, the rules that I play by when deciding where I will stand concerning politicians.


So rather, for those of you deranged enough to WANT to peek into my head, here you go.

My rules of engagement for politics

  1. I have two political weapons: My vote and my voice.
  2. Do not become a “single-issue voter”
  3. In order to succeed in American politics, you must lie to the people (unfortunately). Therefore, all politicians are liars.
  4. Although all politicians are liars, there is a truth to be found in this fact: Their words show us what they want to be known as (we call this the “Facebook” rule). Therefore, judge them by their own words, not by the words of their critics.
  5. Be careful that I am looking for what I believe to be RIGHT, not what I believe to be BENEFICIAL TO ME.


So let’s expound on these.


Rule #1: I have two political weapons…my vote and my voice


The definition of politics is “the art and science of influencing the decision-makers.” Most of the time, politics is when the lobbyists try to influence those in positions of power to make decisions that benefit the lobbyists. But every election cycle, the people who want to be in power have to influence the decision-makers (the voters, the delegates, etc.) to vote for them.

For this reason, if people say “hey, just vote and shut up” then they’re really just saying “Hey, if you’re going to fight, fight with your pinky and not with your two fists.”

Now, we must choose our battles. It is unwise to create conflict over every little decision. But if we believe that this decision is actually not “just another decision”, then it makes sense to use both the vote and the voice.

“But what if it damages my business or my reputation?” That is why I’m usually quiet…it’s usually not worth damaging those things. However, if I choose to be outspoken, then I must accept the consequences.


Rule #2: Do not become a single-issue voter


A teacher at Corban, who taught American Thought and Culture, gave this wise advice: Don’t become a single-issue voter. Vote holistically. Here’s what I mean by that.


You can usually lump me into the “religious right”. So yes, I happen to be pro-life and not pro-choice. However, there is a danger that comes from that camp, or ANY camp for that matter. Take this, for example: “I am pro-life, therefore I will NEVER vote for any candidate who is pro-choice!”
Wait, never? So that is the ONLY criteria you are watching for? So if someone is pro-life, but has a destructive foreign policy, you’ll vote for them? If someone is pro-life, but cares not for the poor and disenfranchised (people that were pretty important to that Jesus fella, yes?), you would vote for them?


Voting requires a look at all of the issues. Not just a select few.


Rule #3: All politicians are liars. Because that’s how we’ve made it.


I believe in America, and I take esteem in our country. But that doesn’t mean I believe in our political system, nor do I take esteem in it.

It is easy to sway and manipulate the masses, unfortunately. We have seen this in history time and time again. Especially when we, on both a micro and macro level, seek to hear what we want to hear.

If I, as a taekwondo instructor, listen to those who love my classes and ignore those who don’t like my classes, because “they just don’t get it”, I lose a wonderful opportunity to improve. I remember in high school, deliberately asking select people “was she flirting with me?” because I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear, and I deliberately didn’t ask people who would tell me “Nah, you’re reading into it.” Yet what I wanted to hear didn’t seem to change the facts: The girl didn’t like me.

And, I’ve found, I’m not the only one.

When the vast majority of individuals can say “Thank you for telling me I was rude to that person, I’m sure that was uncomfortable for you but I think you’re right, I really was rude,” then I think that our political system won’t be broken anymore. Until then, the candidate that tells us what we want to hear will be our favorite, regardless of what is actually true. And we will seek lies and reinforce liars.


Rule #4: The Facebook Rule. Even if their presentation is a lie, it is still truly what they want to be known as. So judge the candidate on their own words.


Many people on Facebook are lonely. Many people on Facebook put up pictures of themselves hanging out with friends, in order to look more social. So although they are lonely, they want you to think that they are social and popular.

Is this a lie? Is this true?
There is both a truth and a lie to be found here.

Lie: They are social.

Truth: They want you to think they are social.

(Remember, just an example. Don’t go hunting through your Facebook page thinking “Liar. Liar. Liar.” Not the point.)

Or another example. Two dads suck, and never prioritize their kids. One dad has, as his profile picture, their favorite motorcycle. The other has a picture of him and his kids.

Notice the difference here: Although one fails to value his kids, he still values the people thinking he values his kids. The other just doesn’t care regardless.


Now, back to politics!

I do not dismiss EVERYTHING that the candidate says as a lie, because I’m looking for something: Who does the candidate want to be known as?

Therefore, I do not judge Trump on what others say about him. I judge him based on his own words. I do not judge Clinton on what others say about her. I judge her based on her own words. Even if they are untrue, they still show what they WANT to be known as. That’s gotta count for something.


Rule #5: Look for what I believe to be right, not just what I believe to be beneficial to me.


When I was in elementary school, I remember a bill getting passed in Oregon: Cigarettes would have an additional tax attached to them.

I remember looking at who voted for it, and get ready for the results!
Cigarette companies voted against it.

Smokers voted against it.

Non-smokers voted for it.

Interesting, right? I didn’t hear any stories of smokers saying “Hey, I don’t want others to get addicted to this stuff, so I think the tax is a great idea.” I also didn’t hear of any non-smokers saying “Hey, don’t tax them just for doing what they want!”


Look across the board: People vote for what benefits them. But what about what they believe to be right? (Most actually make it easy: Whatever benefits them is right)

Rich people vote for lower taxes. Poor people vote for more benefits.


I don’t have time to get into the issues right now, but that’s the next question I ask: Do I believe this to be right? Or do I believe this to benefit me?


These are my rules of engagement for politics. It’s my hope that these are agreeable and wise, and I believe that regardless of what side of the political climate you’re on, they can be agreed upon and appreciated.
Have a good election season. If there even is such a thing…;-)

Politics, history, and me: Why I am breaking my political silence

Throughout the Bush vs. Gore election, the Bush vs. Kerry election, the Obama vs. McCain election, and the Obama vs. Romney election, I chose to remain silent about my political views (Before that, I was too young to vote and not old enough to care). There were three reasons for this…

  1. I did not make the time to research or read about it, so I did not want to push any opinion of mine because it wasn’t really solidified or backed up.
  2. As a Christian who doesn’t hide it: I represent Christ and His gospel. Politics were not important enough to me to make enemies. I have always wanted to be someone who people felt comfortable asking religious questions to, regardless of their position or stance. Making my political stance loud would’ve muddied the waters. The Gospel is a higher priority than politics.
  3. I have been a martial arts instructor ever since I was 14. I was taught that I was in the public eye. So if my political stance damaged my relationships with students and families, then it really wasn’t worth it.


However, this last week I broke that rule, more than ever. I made it loud and clear that I am anti-Trump. I didn’t do that before because I believed that politics weren’t worth making enemies over. They definitely weren’t worth interfering with the Gospel, and I didn’t want my political views to change the way that students and families saw me as an instructor. But this time, it’s different. Why?

Self-analysis time. Is this election really so different? If I was quiet over Obama, why couldn’t I be quiet over Trump? Am I saying that speaking out against Trump is worth interfering with the Gospel? What heresy is that? Even our worst presidents haven’t “destroyed” our nation. So won’t this be “just another president” after this election?


So because I have chosen to break my political science, I figure I owe it to anyone interested in my writings enough to backtrack and expand upon where I am coming from, and how my political beliefs are shaped by my other beliefs. Hence, a blog series.


I own my bias, rather than pretending it away

A great teacher at Corban said this, and I will never forget it. “Many classrooms tell you to check your Christianity at the door. Let me tell you that you can’t. Bring your Christianity to the debate.” Dr. Kendrick, at Salem Bible College (Now Salem Bible College of Northwest University), said it somewhat like this: “I am a Pentecostal. So I see things like a Pentecostal. I am not going to pretend I’m not a Pentecostal.”

The idea is that rather than striving for being “unbiased,” if we own the fact that we are biased by our position, we can then see other positions more clearly because we are grappling with our bias. If we pursue “neutrality,” then we think we’re being objective when really, our thoughts are influenced by our upbringing, setting, preference, etc. Nobody thinks in a vacuum. We are all influenced by our surroundings.

So the purpose of these posts is to expose my bias. Where I’m coming from. What I value. What I don’t value. Who taught me. Who’s teachings I accepted. Who’s teachings I rejected.


It actually won’t be so much about a candidate, but rather, about people and society in general.


By the way, I promise I’m not being too egotistical, like saying “I know that all of you are SOOOOOOOO interested in what I have to say.” Rather, this is for anybody out there who is interested in what I have to say. This is my best attempt at spelling it out.

Give away the victory! Or at least share it…

My desire for a “win”, and how it would get me in trouble

I enjoy teaching taekwondo to Tiny Tigers (for readers who don’t know, that’s 6 years old and under). Not just because “it’s so much fun!” (In fact, if you’re caught off your game, they will eat you ALIVE) I have fun teaching all the age groups. But because I like the mental challenge. I have to figure out the kid. I have to try five different approaches. I have to make a plan with the parent if the usual isn’t working.

So when I figure it out, when my instructional method works, I’m really proud of myself. Oh, yeah, the kid did well too, but yeah, proud of myself. Which can be a problem. Which leads us to my story.


Many years ago, there was a student. Let’s call him “Tom.” Tom was a nice kid, but had some weaknesses. One part space case. One part weak. He wouldn’t really act out, but he wouldn’t follow directions very quickly. He wouldn’t do any punches or kicks full blast, and five minutes into class would come the complaint: ”I’m thirsty…”

Now, Mom wanted him to get better, to work harder, but this “I’m thirsty…” thing sprang her up into action. “Do you need some water?” The world stopped in order for Tom to get a drink. In my humble opinion, the weakness was exacerbated by mom.


Fast forward about three months. Tom was doing better in class. I had set clear goals with clear rewards, I had discussed a plan with the parents, I had explained why he couldn’t just take a water break whenever he wanted. And Mom was on board.

All of the staff had noticed his focus had improved. This former “space case” would now keep his eyes on target. He was yelling louder. Punching harder. Running faster.


I remember sitting down in a conference with mom to discuss, three months in, how proud we were of his improvement. This is the conference where we talk about progress, we ask about future goals, we go over different programs and what’s available at our school, things like that. But something put me off about this conference. It went something like this…
Me: “Mrs. Smith, Tom has shown so much improvement. He’s a different kid in class now from who he was as a white belt. I’ve noticed he is more focused…”
Mrs. Smith: “Yes, we told him he needed to focus. We discussed with him the importance of focus and how he needed to have it. That’s why he did it.”

Me: “I’ve also noticed that he responds quicker when we tell him to do something. He’s working a lot harder, too.”

Mrs. Smith: “He has! About two weeks ago, we incorporated a rewards system where he would get a sticker for every time he did that. He started improving when we did that.”


Hold on a minute. You started this two weeks ago?!?! I have been developing this plan for Tom in my classes and as soon as I implemented this plan, it started to work. It started to work two months ago. And you think that your *(@#&$#@ sticker chart is what did it?

Yes, that’s what I was thinking. And let me guess, you other martial arts instructors who are reading this, or teachers of any subject, really, have similar stories.

But this post is not actually meant for us to angrily analyze Mrs. Smith (No, her name is not actually Mrs. Smith. This was years ago, anyway). Actually, this is what I realized when I was in that conference: “Wait a second…is this what I sound like to some parents? Is that what I’m doing to them? Am I greedily trying to grab the victory to myself, away from others?


We believe in the value of our martial arts program. We believe that is has the ability to change someone’s life. But when a kid improves, is that the first thing I gun for with the parents? “Look, he’s improving because of our program?”

What if the parents, as thoughtful, intentional parents, sat down to discuss a plan of attack to improve their child’s behavior at home, executed it, saw great results, felt good about their choice, and then walked into a conversation with their kid’s taekwondo instructor about how he was the reason their kid’s behavior improved. How would that feel?


The solution: Share the victory.

Every successful student ever, regardless of the subject, is the result of a three-part team:

  1. Student
  2. Teacher/Instructor/Coach
  3. Support (in most cases, parents and family)

We know this to be true because the same instructor will produce two different students. If it was only based on the instructor’s ability, then both students would be the same, would they not? But a student’s drive cannot be created by the instructor. It can only be watered or starved.

I have also known highly motivated students who were not successful because of the parent’s inconsistency in bringing them to class. And then, when the student is unsuccessful, the parent says “He didn’t want to go to class!” That’s because he always feels unsuccessful, because he’s always behind. The parent involvement is a critical element to the student’s success, but the parents are also the most likely to be unsung heroes.


Therefore, the golden rule says that if we want to be praised for our efforts as instructors (and let’s not pretend that we are above liking praise), then we must be deliberate about praising the student but also praising the parents for their efforts.


Remember, whenever we claim the victory for ourselves, we are taking it away from someone else.


If Abrielle is well-behaved, is it because of our wonderful parenting strategy? Or is it because she made a good choice? Or maybe she learned to be good in Sunday School? Regardless, if she is well behaved, I want her to be the one to enjoy that victory.

If I work on stances with a student right before tournament, and that student gets a first place, what will my response be?

  1. “See, Johnny? THAT’S why we worked on stances in class! Pays off, doesn’t it?”
  2. “I saw that your stances were good in your form. You know why? Because you chose to work hard on your stances, and your choices and hard work paid off. You should feel proud of yourself.”


Instructor number 1 is what my ego inclines me towards. But instructor number 2 is the instructor I want to be.

…oh, and by the way, I have noticed that when I am successful at giving the victory away, people tend to give it right back.


In closing

When I was a younger instructor, and someone said “He really enjoys your school! He’s been improving in respect at home…” I would go into an explanation of how we do it. Because this is a wonderful chance to talk about me.

Honestly, I probably still do that around 25% of the time. But the response I try to do now is “Thank you. And thank you for trusting us with your kid, we really can’t do what we love without you and parents like you.” “Thanks for watching his class. When parents like you do that, it shows him that this is important and he works harder.” “You guys raised a good kid, and you support him. That makes our job easier.”
Striving for less boasting, and more thanking. I guess that’s what I’m going for.