The Mob Rules 50


America remains in turmoil, our civic identities wrapped up in the dysfunctional activities of a largely unaccountable plutocracy who rarely voice opinions reflective of our own.

Words used interchangeably provide an oversimplification of the average American’s political beliefs.  Liberal equals Progressive.  Neoconservative equals Conservative.  With our entire political spectrum in a state of flux, we still allow ourselves to be tagged, labeled and crammed into ill-fitting boxes that lack any real meaning or definition.

As is usual in American politics, the mob rules and we all suffer fools as a result.

I see Reagan Democrats and Obama Republicans and the many disenfranchised of both parties now calling themselves independents as the same group of political moderates who lead to landslide victories in American presidential politics, not to mention pushing Congress to implement the new president’s agenda than when they are disengaged.

There is a huge shift in American politics right now on the left and the right, which means equal parts opportunity and danger.

The vast silent majority, asleep for far too long and rarely motivated enough to vote, is starting to look for solutions to problems they can no longer ignore.  They are losing their jobs, their houses, their pride.  They have all had different political labels during their lives.  They have been democratic, independent and republicans as seemed appropriate at the time.

Some may have even joined the republican party in 2008 to help it change from within, because the party on its way out of power is usually the easiest to change and being an independent in a two party system seemed a waste of time.  It wasn’t that hard of a choice as I am not politically liberal however progressive my underlying ideals.

I believe in stronger state governments to implement policies set by a smaller, more agile federal government.  I think that such a change would lead to more accountability and less fraud at all levels.  Evolution of American society vice a Revolution that would tear everything down to build something unrecognizable in its place.

Republicans come in all shapes, sizes and belief structures.  As do democrats, making a nearly impossible job even harder.

President Obama must currently push for a progressive agenda, as outlined during the campaign, in a bitterly divided Congress using tactics no one thinks will work from within a party still suckling at the corporate teat.  The democratic party isn’t innocent and that is a huge boulder for the president to push up the mountain of public opinion.

For independents, I say pick a party and drive it toward progressive change in the primaries.  That is the only way we get a new political system – change it from within.  The time to sit on the fence is long past.  The GOP needs more moderates because it will help convince reluctant conservatives that a progressive republican party is possible.

Not only possible, but inevitable given the republican party’s rich past and roots in our Republic’s very founding.

Both democrats and republicans must continue to change their parties via primary elections to meet the enormous challenges we face together as a nation.  Both parties must be forward thinking if we are to succeed.  It isn’t enough for just the democrats to succeed.  One party rule still leaves half the country on the sidelines or actively working against progress.

We The People can achieve common goals with different methods or from a different point of view without being political enemies.

There is no reason why the “fight” between democrats and republicans can’t be over tactics and not long-term strategic goals.  We can craft a future that has republicans and democrats arguing over who has the most sustainable policies.  That means progressives on all sides of the political spectrum need to focus on changing the major parties from within while giving “the other side” the space needed to transform.

Americans remain subject to their long-term programming as well and need to be convinced of things that seem obvious to the more politically aware.

Human psychology is always messy.  It may take the Obama administration an entire term to get any real and recognizable changes to take root.  It may take another missed opportunity in 2010 to make the most of the 2012 primaries.  It will certainly take patience on everyone’s part if we are going to fix this country over the coming decades rather than drive it deeper into the dark place we have been these last forty years or so.

With the pivotal role America plays in world affairs, it is essential we bind up our wounds and figure out how to move forward as one nation for the good of the species as well as ourselves.  I think Obama has the potential to be a leader of such a transformation, but only if the democratic faithful can find a way to interact with conservatives who may be open to their ideas but will never listen if the tone is one of condescension and condemnation.

As Ben Franklin famously said, “We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

We The People have two choices right now – unity or defeat.

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50 thoughts on “The Mob Rules

  • Obey

    An example of ‘condescension’ in tone and how it can be transformed in a constructive way?

    Don’t mean to be harsh, but all I’m reading is platitudes here…

    • Jason Everett Miller

      You’re not being harsh, but calling my writing platitudes is condescending.

      Transforming such a disparaging tone in a constructive way would be actually commenting on why you disagree with what I wrote rather than simply dismissing it out of hand.

      This country is as divided as ever and only by bringing a governing majority to bear can we hope to actually accomplish the change the president was elected to deliver.

      • Obey

        By ‘platitudes’, I mean ‘stuff no-one will disagree with’. So I’m not disagreeing. I’m asking for some specifics. Some detail on a sketch of the architecture of a proposal

        Yes, we need people who are ‘forward-looking’ in order to, um, look forward. Yes, I agree. Who wouldn’t?

        Yes, if someone is being condescending, then that isn’t constructive.

        I was asking for some specific case where republicans feel as though liberals are talking down to them, and how to approach the dialogue in a more productive way.

        Take Wendy Staebler’s blog up today on her conversations with a republican friend. Is that a case of condescension? On Wendy’s part? Or on the part of the liberal media or some perceived abstract liberal wing of the Dem party? On the part of the Dem leadership or Obama? What part of what they say is condescending?

        Take the general contempt around here for the leaders of the GOP. I can see how that is condescending. Should we take these people seriously? Should we take Palin’s arguments and policy positions seriously? Should we discuss the GOP health care proposal with more respect?

        And how does that create progress of some sort?

        I’d really like you to point out some CONCRETE aspect of GOP views that you regard as misunderstood, or treated with less respect than it deserves, and EXPLAIN why it deserves a more serious hearing.

        On health care, I suspect the GOP generally doesn’t think Universal health care is much of a priority. And they dislike the idea of regarding something like health care as a right or an entitlement. For the Dems its a top priority. They think that it’s very important that everyone have decent health care, even if that involves raising taxes and some redistribution. That is a fundamental difference in VALUES. I don’t know how you get a respectful discussion between people with such fundamental differences.

        I don’t know. That’s just an example. I’m asking for specifics.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          I think you misunderstand the point of this blog, which isn’t a critique of specific proposals but rather a more general commentary on our lack of cohesion as a people.

          You will get no argument from me that the current fools in charge of the GOP offer less than nothing in either the criticism or their policy suggestions.

          I see nothing resembling innovation from democratics politicians either given what they have put forth since taking control of Congress, so where does that leave us?

          Rudderless at a time when we desperately need direction.

          • LisB

            The fact that Obama has been pissing the most leftist of liberals off by wanting more partisanship isn’t innovative?

          • clearthinker

            The most leftist of liberals are always pissed off. But they are happier in that state. They are very similar to many in the GOP today: simply the mindset of “no”. Where the most leftist of liberals given free reign with the government today, they wouldn’t have a decent plan to execute anything… so they continue to enjoy the purity of their idealism on the sidelines, where the world isn’t complex in the least.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I am more into old school Sabbath when Ozzy was singing, but this was more appropriate to the subject matter and the fools in question.

      I never did get into Motorhead, though there is a pound of flesh that can extracted from the rich given the right positioning. I would think that avoiding a real mob would be incentive enough.

      This is certainly a cyclical event that usually starts with a governing majority forcing Washington to straighten up for a couple years.

      • Libertine

        Motorhead is great Jason. This link will take you literally to the genesis of the band and their ‘theme music’…written by Lemmy when he was still with his original band Hawkwind and is on their album “Warrior on the Edge of Time”. They kicked Lemmy out of the band because of his drug use. Not that they were against drugs, they were all massive users, they felt Lemmy just did the wrong drugs. He then formed Motorhead and the rest is history.

        As far as Sabbath goes anything they’ve done of note begins and ends with Ozzy. No Ozzy, no Black Sabbath.

        We got to overthrow the rotting, fetid status quo. I think the mob is the only thing that will succeed. The left and right needs to put our differences aside and ‘eat the rich’. Once that is done we can work out our differences in a fairly civil manner.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          Except “the mob” isn’t smart enough or disciplined enough to get anything worthwhile done absent leadership that turns it into a cohesive movement.

  • Carey Rowland

    Most Americans don’t have time for all the politics that would be required to achieve the progressivism you’re talking about. So they jump on one side or the other and then hold to the party line to thereby maintain some personal political identity.
    It’s a little like sports teams and their fans.
    This polarization is becoming more intense today because of the fragmentation of media. Walter Cronkite is dead, etc.
    The extreme depth of our economic woes is also huge polarizing factor.
    If unemployment persists then there will probably be more democrats than republicans after a while.

    • M.Paul

      Carry

      I agree with you mainly because I might be one of those who has chosen a side and then stuck by it for reasons you mentioned.

      It is your fragmentation of the media statement I think is off base. I was under the impression that most of our problem was getting our message delivered by a consolidated media system that leaned to the right.

      M. Paul

    • Jason Everett Miller

      The unemployment in the 70s and 80s was as high as it was today, yet we elected an economic demogogue not just once but twice, and in overhwleming numbers the second time. I wouldn’t count on economic woes keeping the democrats in power.

      Hardship is usually hardest on incumbents.

      People in this country have time enough for American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, so the idea that they don’t have time enough to actually pay attention to the central pillar of our society just makes me sad.

      Given the historical progress this country has made well before most of us had the right to vote, I think this is yet another one of those self-fulfilling prophecies that will continue to keep us spinning in circles as we go down the drain.

    • ProfessorB

      I agree with LisB Carey, very astute assessment. The fragmentation is a big factor and furthermore the quality of information is degrading. There was a day when journalists actually did real reporting but those days are gone and the coming days are terrifying to say the least.

  • stillidealistic

    Politics in America is not a smorgasbord where you get to walk down the buffet line and take a little of this and a little of that. There are 2 items on the menu, the blue plate special and the red plate special. You look at each and see which one suits you best.

    There are times when you might pick the blue plate, and other times you might pick the red, but those are the choices. I guess those who switch back and forth are “independent.” They have no real favorite between the two types of food, but go for who is doing the serving. I just don’t see how your taste in food could change back and forth so much over such a short period of time that you would be choosing based on the food…it pretty much remains constant. Only the server changes.

    I used to always pick the red plate, but then I had one that literally made me sick. Now, the very idea of picking the red plate makes me gag. I like almost everything on the blue plate, but as I look over at the red plate, there is NOTHING there that interests me. I find it hard to believe there ever was.

    So, given the choice between sticking with the blue plate, or trying to get the chefs to make the red plate more like the blue plate, I’ll just stick with the blue.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I think this oversimplifies the political character of a nation to the point of insensibility and maintains the Us versus Them meme that this blog condemns.

      The only way this nation doesn’t succumb to its many wounds and finally pass from this Earth is our two divergent find some way to come together again as one people.

      Does that mean we are always going to agree on every issue? Of course not.

      But we should be able to discuss proposals dispassionately, take the best that each side has to offer, and create government that actually works instead of one that is clearly broken.

      • stillidealistic

        It was meant to be a simplistic comment, designed to illustrate how different the two parties are, and that regardless of how “purple” we wish for our policies to be, our parties are not, and we have to choose.

        You know I am in favor of the two parties working together. My continued loud support of the President is largely because of his pragmatism and dedication to “fixing” Washington.

        However, the more bizarre and obstructionist the behavior from the right becomes, the more I am determined that the left has to keep moving forward without them.

        The Q&A with the repubs and the health summit have pointed out as clearly as is possible how ridiculous the objections of the right are. They can go back and watch themselves in living color, yet not one of them has had the balls to come out and say “Come on guys, we made our point as best we could, but now it is time to put the people of America out of their misery, and get this bill passed. We can work on improving it later, but we can’t keep dragging our feet hoping it will go away.” Which in my mind, is exactly what they are trying to do.

        I’m glad you are continuing to beat the drum, that is why I show up at every post I see you do on the subject. Our leaders have to find a way to work together if this country is going to survive. Maybe some day the parties themselves will be a little less polar opposites, but I see more and more divergence in every area of our lives, not just politics, and IMHO it is going to take something horrific for us to come together as a people. I don’t know if I wish it would just happen and get it over with, or not.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          “The right” encompasses nearly 60 million people who will dig their heels in if the democrats insist on moving forward without them.

          That is a recipe for continued failure and is primarily why the president isn’t advocating the same strategy from the bully pulpit. As long as We The People allow American politics to operate as a zero sum game nothing is what we will continue to get as a result.

          I am not sure how much more horrific our circumstances must become before reasonable people believe that change is actually possible.

          • rmrd0000

            If someone won’t sign on to a health care bill if government funds are used to pay for abortions for most situation, the “compromise” position is to not pay for abortions. The point is that on many issues there is no true compromise position.

          • stillidealistic

            “The right” encompasses nearly 60 million people who will dig their heels in if the democrats insist on moving forward without them.

            This is offensive, Jason. The left has gone from a desire for universal health care (Medicare for all, if you will) to the bill the Senate passed. It is a very, very far cry from what they would have preferred. If that is not compromise enough, I don’t know what is…just doing it the repub’s way. Period. End of discussion? At some point in time the majority party has to say enough, and I think that time has come. To give any more is not compromise, it is a stick up.

            The President has tried over and over to give them the opportunity to negotiate in good faith. We have all seen in vivid color that you cannot negotiate with a brick wall. Not on this issue. ENOUGH.

          • Jason Everett Miller

            You are getting the liberal intransigence and melodrama down to a pat!

            Perhaps you are in the right party after all if anything in that quote you provided would be considered offensive in your world view. Let me say this one more time to see if it sticks this time.

            I am not talking about the idiots in Congress who won’t work with the president. The conservative hearts and minds waiting to be won have most likely never been more than ten or fifteen miles from their homes, but have cable and Internet.

            The entire health care debate is a perfect example. Medicare for All, as written and proposed by Sanders and Kucinich, would never work in a million years given the broken and bleeding system it relies upon as its foundation.

            “Compromising” something that was DOA is no compromise at all. A true compromise is when both sides feel as if they have won.

            A real innovative strategy would have been positioning the effort as a fait accompli of insurance and tort reform that the GOP would have no choice but to support because there was nothing controversial in there.

            Then get the public option in round two when we reform Medicare, Medicaid and the rest of the government medical programs into something that resembles sustainability, again with positioning that the GOP would have to support.

            The democratic party offered yesterday’s “solutions” to tomorrow’s problems and then wondered why no one jumped on board at the first opportunity.

            Time to stop blaming the audience for the failure of the message. This was never about the president. It is about the democratic caucus in Washington and the liberal grassroots everywhere else and their continuing inability to speak to the rest of us like adults.

          • stillidealistic

            I never expected that we would be in lock step over everything, but you have surprised me on this one.

            I don’t see a win-win on this. Maybe I just can’t think outside the box enough…But the problem as I see it is, the dems are anxious to get this done, and the repubs would rather do nothing than see Obama get a “victory” whatever that means.

            I am not a “party above country person.” If it were the repubs pushing for health care reform, and the dems trying to block it, I would be screaming bloody murder for them to knock it off.

          • Jason Everett Miller

            Anxiety is never the best frame of mind to make any decision or take any action.

            That is why I prefer the president’s calm deliberation, though he has yet to impart that trait to his party and forgot it as he came through the door with unrealistic deadlines given the intransigence in Washington.

            Addressing our nation’s massive dysfunction was always going to take more than a single year, or even a single term, in office.

  • clearthinker

    Keep it up, Jason. Plenty here need to hear this… even if some feel it’s “lecturing”.

    People here cheer that Ted Kennedy worked with Orin Hatch. But your saying that liberals need to work with conservatives gets people upset. Go figure.

    That being said: people should only work with others who truly want to come to a solution. Some in the GOP do not. And those people need to be called out.

    As usual, Jon Stewart had the best take on it this week:

    GOPers are from the planet Ass-hole and Dems are from the planet Wimp.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Thanks, CT. I do feel like a broken record at times, but since no one else is writing on this subject I may as well continue.

      I think the president’s tone is one that most democrats – both at the grassroots & in Washington – should emulate. The idiots who remain in control of the GOP will be hoisted on their own primary petard at some point.

      It also avoids the collateral damage of pissing off mainstream conservatives watching from home who aren’t nearly as homogeneous as the left would like to believe given my own personal experiences over the last few years.

      When I finally stopped screaming and started listening, it was amazing at all the things I heard.

  • LisB

    I’m ready and willing to see a purple plate, but it’s going to take a lot of time and patience.

    Meantime, I’m happy to stay a new Democrat because the ideals of the Democrat party are my own ideals. I no longer want fiscal conservative spending and less government, and I certainly don’t want or need the family values platform that the Republicans these days are claiming to have.

    That said, I like compromise and want to see it come back.

    As long as both sides see a goal that’s worth striving towards, that is.

    • stillidealistic

      I find it interesting how we both, from opposite ends of the country, started from the same place and have ended up in a completely different same place!

    • clearthinker

      It’s not about blending ideas. It’s about picking and chose the best ideas. Some of the best ideas will be red, some will be blue. While the aggregate may be some shade of purple, the pieces are monochromatic.

      • LisB

        True that. I won’t bore everyone with a list of all the good bills that have been written by differing party members….and I know you won’t either. But on this, yes, we agree.

        And I want to see more of it.

      • brewmn61

        Sorry. I don’t see any good “red” ideas. In fact, the very definition of political conservatism is resistance to change. And I don’t think liberals go around looking for problems to solve, but rather try to remedy problems that become too big to ignore.

        Conservative solutions are typically political palliatives that do nothing substantive to fix the problems under consideration or, even worse, they exacerbate existing problems to the benefit of the plutocratic status quo.

        Name me one conservative solution that has benefited working-and-middle class Americans. Because I’m drawing a blank here.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          While democratic solutions increase the size of government exponentially, without the resultant increase in quality of government, leaving us with red ink as far as the eye can see.

          Broad-brush accusations are no more accurate when directed at the right.

          Simple fact of the matter is that both parties have driven us to this place over the last forty years, despite whatever words may have come out of their mouths or wedge issues used to hide their true motivations.

          There is value in a traditionally conservative frame of mind – as our new president has – married with a vision of progress. It is worthwhile to bring our right and left brains together in order to create society that is no longer fractured.

          Nixon championed OSHA and Ike finally integrated the military more than ten years after Truman ordered it. No one party is the sole arbiter of progress in the American story.

        • clearthinker

          If you go look at the history of the 1972 Presidential campaign, Nixon took nearly every one of McGovern’s talking points (save Vietnam) and co-opted it for political purposes.

          Nixon also created the EPA. Don’t know if you think that benefits middle America or not. I say it does.

          And many in the working classes supported Nixon on Vietnam.

          Politicians on both sides of the aisle fought the Cold War with Nixon making the strongest strides… and Reagan surprising his own advisers.

          You are sophisticated. You know full well that today’s GOP is hardly conservative but, in fact, radical. It can be argued that the last administration was the most radical GOP one since Teddy Roosevelt – albeit in a different way.

          Bill Clinton reduced the government size and got spending under control. He supported NAFTA strongly.

          Doesn’t he sound like a good, old school Republican?

          If you look at the Obama HC plan, tort reform, a big GOP talking point, is included… and with good reason. We *do* need to curb our litigious society.

          So perhaps you’d like to follow your president?

          He understands that there are good ideas to be had everywhere. He just correctly points out that tort reform, while helping the situation, isn’t enough.

          In CA, you will find that many GOP reps are heavily into the environment. Little wonder with the water situation there.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      What is so wrong with managing the country’s budget effectively and not spending money we don’t have? Is it wrong to make Washington live within our means? It isn’t about less government or more government, it is about smart government.

      The president said that during the campaign and it made as much sense then as it does now.

      Our fierce, partisan divisions at the grassroots will ensure the status quo at the top never changes because all we do is burn out uselessly as political enemies instead of comrades in arms.

      I’ll leave you with this from the president at the business roundtable. The man knows how to speak to conservatives and his party needs to start getting his back or will all fail.

  • Carey Rowland

    For the record, I’m purple, but that definitely has limitations, as our President is now demonstrating.
    What you TPMers need to understand about the reds is this: it is not monolithic.
    And within that leviathan that we may call the “right” is a component of thinking people. Think William Buckley or Dwight D. Eishenhower, or even on some good days Newt Gingrich, or even, dare I say it, George Bush the first, who spoke of “a thousand points of light.”
    What that concept means is this: personal reponsibility, a thousand (million or whatever) citizens emphasizing, and acting upon their own responsible actions, instead of looking to the government for provision and/or direction.
    And if we are going to pull this country out of its present, dare I say it, malaise, we will need some of that strategy.
    Because the government cannot entitle everyone. The gov can, and should, sustain those who are incapable of, or temporarily not equipped to provide for themselves. But there must be a societal component of economic self-starters somewhere to make the engine of free markets and freedom itself work.
    These people who emphasize personal responsibility, and a continued availability of its free usage will ultimately contribute greatly to our efforts to resurrect the economy…
    if you do not drive them away (ie into the demagogic paws of the Glenn Beck crowd.)

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Well said, Carey, and perfectly illuminates some of the things I left unsaid.

      Political landslides in America are always the most prominent feature of convincing large number of people who don’t necessarily agree with you to jump on for the ride.

      If we can transform how we discuss politics at the grassroots, the top has no choice but to follow as we start to actually pay attention instead of continuing to tune out.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • flavius

    With respect I think you over-react. There is nothing now like Kent State or the 30s sit down strikes. We disagree because people always do.
    It’s not that your concerns aren’t important,rather that you’ve lost some perspective.

    We just have to keep on keeping on.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      In 1970 we didn’t have a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit in the federal budget & uncounted red ink at the state and local level. In the 1930s, most people couldn’t vote and there was no post-war middle class.

      We also didn’t have a world-straddling military hegemony and plutocratic leadership who had been in their positions for decades because most left of their own accord through the mid-part of the twentieth century.

      Each generation has its injustices to fight and they will never look exactly like those that came before.

  • acamus

    There’s a lot in your blog, many approaches to comment. But one of the first thing that popped into my consciousness is that the call for unity in this country is similar to the call for community building on a local level.

    In part it may be semantics, but one can’t build a (sense of) community. One can facilitate it, though. The question is how does facilitate a sensse of community, or such a vastness as America, a sense of unity.

    The critical element is that those from opposing polarities are able to connect with those on the other end. We can talk about conservative vs. liberal, but also rich/poor, male/female, environmentalist/developer, etc. etc.

    One can say that places on the web like the TPM Cafe can be such a place, but given the free for all nature (i.e. non-facilitated), so too often people tend to become more alienated from one another than connected.

    There are programs like the Circle Dinners, which help people get out of poverty, but also help those not in poverty to connect with those in poverty. With small steps on a microlevel, the issue of classism is dealt with, as well as other issues like racism.

    An example of such a program:
    http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2008/07/13/circles-helps-people-looking-get-out-poverty/

    It is these small local steps that can help facilitate the unity, the community, that leds people to first look at how can we pull together to address this issue or that problem, rather than looking first to see how can we crush the other side.

    Unity depends in the end upon a shared identity. The shallow nationalism that pops up during things like the Olympics is no match for the sense of alienation between neighborhoods divided along lines of class, race, education, etc.

  • Zipperupus

    While this is certainly “should be,” there is little in your essay that is functionally plausible. Journalism is broken; the left and right are forced to produce online samizdat that mostly regurgitates the conventional stories with the spin desired for their audience.

    When information itself must be processed to correlate with one’s ideological guna, we have exited pragmatism and entered cohesion– we have forsaken function for form. In order for news to he understood as fact it must cohere to one’s cognitive map. This makes Obama’s campaign vision of post-partisan pragmatism ideal but untenable.

    Further, there simply are no good thinkers in the public square on either side of the spectrum. There are good opinions and loud value judgments, but little or no ideas. Both sides are at a nadir of novelty. Perhaps the iron cage has hardened completely. Government and business are too intertwined, funds are fully allocated… And acceptable revisions to the mess of American empire can only be discrete without upsetting a charter member of the ruling oligopoly.

    Retaking control is going to require more ideas and much more civic spirit.

    • clearthinker

      Thanks for espousing the same world view as myself… You remember the one? You pissed all over it.

      For a zipper head you show a decided lack of guts in expressing the truth. Too harsh for you and you run and hide in the corner and fling epithets at those with the right stuff.

  • OldenGoldenDecoy

    Just more blathering bullshit . . .

    Point fingers left and right, but never at one’s own self.

    It’s the least one can expect from an individual such as Mister Bluster Butt who has no stake in the game except his own ego and visions of grandeur. All come to Mister Bluster’s way of thought or perish in chaos.

    All I hear are the refrains of a 3rd grade authoritarian school teacher.

    ~OGD~