Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my personal blog. I devote this site to my reflections on writing and reading literature, and to my political activism as I believe literature and activism facilitate the improvement of our global human community.
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sean O’Connor. I am a writer and as you may have inferred from above, also a political activist. I ran for political office three times (East Windsor Town Council, East Windsor Regional School District Board of Education, and New Jersey state assembly– 0-3, but that’s okay). I am also writing tutor for Mercer County Community College. For a year I contributed to the Mercer County Community College Newspaper- The College VOICE– for awhile serving as the editor of the Opinion page. l received my BA in Liberal Studies from William Paterson University, where I also worked part time as an administrate assistant. In the fall of 2019 I will begin my first semester as a graduate student in William Paterson University’s Creative & Professional Writing MFA program.
This blog is part of my effort to contribute to the growing of a sense of community as this is a top interest of mine. It is the reason I write at all. I believe that one purpose literature serves is to help us know and understand each other a little bit better, which can help how we interact with one another. I also view literature as a holistic study of life experience, applied philosophy, and invitation to free thought.
I enjoy reading and writing in every genre of literature. My favorite fiction writers include Fyodor Dostoevsky, Robert Musil, Leo Tolstoy, Martha Witt, John Parras, and Lydia Davis. Poets I enjoy include Bernard Foyuth, Simon Ortiz, Walt Whitman, Denise Levertov, Michael Collier, Christopher Salerno, Sharon Olds, Claude McKay, Amy Lowell, and Billy Collins, Bob Dylan and Jason Isbell. My favorite writers of non-fiction include Michel Montaigne, and Elissa Washuta.
When I am not reading, writing, or watching something, I love to walk or go on a spontaneous drive.
With respect to my political activism, let me begin with my view on justice:
“What is justice?” you may ask. You might also ask me “who are you to say what justice is?” I do not believe justice is so thoroughly complex and graspable only by elite scholars of political philosophy and jurisprudence (though since justice in theory may be their expertise, of course they might, in theory, articulate it more vividly and meticulously and comprehensively perhaps).
It seems pretty self evident to me that the governmental protection of freedom and the promotion of basic welfare are the key tenants of justice since without those two things one cannot thrive.
Without freedom one cannot have a self-actualized and self-confident, knowledgeable mind. For example, to believe the words of President Donald Trump simply because one puts all one’s unquestioning faith in his words, and to just go along with his attempts at crushing dissent (example, the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press) is to quite literally to have a mind that cannot think for itself.
Freedom should only be put on check when one abuses it to exploit or harm others. Two examples that come to my mind: employer exploitation and mentally ill individuals with access to guns.
As to promoting the basic welfare- example, public options for healthcare and education- these are basic investments in individual people; if individuals can be free of chronic illness and crushing anxiety over the most basic problem of having the money to finance their basic self-preservation and survival, and if they can be empowered by knowledge and critical thinking skills via education, it seems to me, perfectly logical that this establishes each individual with the means to contribute to his or her own well-being and also contribute to society. A group of individuals set up to thrive can lead to a thriving society.
In response to the counter argument that claims it’s simply not government’s role, or that government just cannot be effective, I believe first, that in an ideal world, it would indeed, not be the role of government, since people on the top of the private sector hierarchy would be generally inclined to do the rational and ethical thing but alas, history and current events demonstrate that people with that kind of power are all too often inclined to abuse it.
One needs only to cite how little money a minimum wage actually is to see that too many employers continue to get away with legal exploitation. And what some U.S.-launched corporations do abroad, (Apple paying workers a mere two dollars an hour for example) is further evidence that if you tempt the all-powerful with the freedom to profit by exploitation, far too many just cannot help themselves.
By the way, I believe that is the exact reason why Marxism and Socialism (I mean full-blown government ownership of means of production, property, in the name of “equality” and the proletariat, et cetera) are likewise unjust political systems. If a Laissez-Faire Capitalist cannot help him or herself, then it is reasonable to assume that if we give a politician or government official similar, unfettered “freedom” to control the nation’s resources and he or she will struggle to help him or herself with that temptation too.
That is my political philosophy- my view of justice- in a nutshell, and in the abstract. I will apply to the abstract now, to the concrete.
My political wish-list:
- Impeachment of President Trump, and his removal from office
- Abolition of the Electoral College
- Universal Healthcare/Medicare for all (Including mental health services)
- Expanded background checks for guns
- Debt management (our debt is astronomical and out of control)
- National infrastructure revitalization
- Education funding reform (education should be funded by tax revenue from income taxes, not property taxes. This gives the rich a monopoly on quality education. I give Governor Phil Murphy credit for passing legislation to improve education equity challenges but I think education funding that is foundationally local is likewise foundationally inequitable. It means rich communities will always have an unfettered upper-hand and poor communities will have the lower hand, especially when it comes to property taxes and thus education.)
- Debt management
- State infrastructure revitalization
Regarding my local policy wish-list, to be honest with you, I am concentrating on moving because I dislike my community- East Windsor, New Jersey. I have had my heart broken, frankly, by the politics of this municipality. The town council has demonstrated that it is morally bankrupt by silencing its critics and giving contracts to campaign contributors. Moreover, they neglect the community’s most basic needs such as roads without potholes, sidewalks that aren’t busted, signs that aren’t faded and illegible, et cetera.
I’m looking for a community with elected officials who take pride in fostering civility.
Some of my favorite political commentators include Rachel Maddow, Jennifer Rubin, Charles Blow, Bret Stephens, David Ignatius, George Will, and Thomas B. Edsell.
I told you I want this blog to be not just political but personable so let me tell you just a little bit about my life away from politics.
First, I am married to the love of my life, Ashley O’Connor. Our marriage means everything to me. I’m a romantic and a Bee Gees fan because I believe they have wise words when it comes to romantic love.
I’ll close just by telling you a little bit about my background as a blogger. I’ve actually been blogging on and off since 2010 but when I first started I did not approach the medium professionally and I was easily frustrated by having a small audience, always quitting eventually as a result of my self-proclaimed failure.
I have had more blogs and blog names than I can even remember. I tried “The Sean O’Connor Show,” “The Sean O’Connor Channel,” “Thrive!” “Wealthy Talk” et cetera.
Though I only consider myself to have become a somewhat competent writer within the last year (thanks to excruciatingly brilliant instruction from my favorite and most trusted professors and fellow writers) there are a few essays from years past that I am preserving on this blog. They remain here because first of all, each of them allege something I still believe to be true. Secondly, some of these essays are academic and were initially composed for courses I have taken in the past. While there may be changes I would like to make, I remain proud of the research I conducted as I find in each case that the research was important and often highlights something I believe is particularly of philosophical importance.
For example, in my essay “Ideas That Killed Millions of People” I trace the evolution of an ideology (Romanticism) that began as aesthetic and esoteric but then grew into epistemology and politics- philosophical ideas that in part drove Hitler and his Nazi movement to commit mass genocide.
Philosophy matters! And it’s a point I’ll come back to again, and again.
[My political philosophy and the story behind it in response to a critic; part 1]
[My political philosophy and the story behind it in response to a critic; part 2]
My 4 fundamental principles
*Democracy, to be fair
*Freedom, but not to exploit or harm
*Compassion, for a stronger society,
*Diplomacy, politeness, and civility for constructive policy debate
Importance of philosophy is also a point I make in my essay on Andrew Jackson who is apparently President Trump’s favorite president- God help us with that! You may note in that essay a few parallels I draw between Trump and Jackson.
A third reason I am keeping old posts that are not as well written as I would have liked them to be is that I value a paper trail (a paperless paper trail, or a digital trail in this case) one can follow and watch a mind evolve. I will have a different and hopefully widened perspective years from now but I want to be able to see what I used to think in the past and I want you to be able to see it too. Minds have the potential to evolve and it is a fascinating spectacle.
A fourth reason (similar to the third): I am fascinated with being able to capture snippets of time- history preserved from the archives of the media.
You may be wondering if I have ever received any kind of public recognition for my writing. I am not particularly skilled at selling myself and I do not like to come across, ever, as boastful but I think citing public recognition is at least one way to argue the case that my writings are worth reading according to people other than myself. In 2014 the New Jersey Press Foundation gave me an award for Second Place Two Year Feature Writing for the article “Research Raises Concerns for Online Students.” In 2017 the Society of Professional Journalists gave me a Mark of Excellence Award for being a finalist in their general column writing competition.
Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my contribution to the public discussion on politics and the occasional tangent. I am extremely grateful and flattered and hope you are able to find some of the information on this blog valuable.
Please feel free to share with me any feedback you want to give, positive or negative. I do not shy away from criticism. I want to be a good writer and to do that I will always need your help to keep me accountable, clear, reasonable, and diplomatic. Speaking of diplomacy, that’s my only caveat when it comes to criticism. I don’t have patience for insults or anti-intellectual attacks on character, et cetera. I like to foster a polite and diplomatic civil discourse.
Thank you again.