Saturday, December 31, 2016

A quick look back over five years of thinking about America and the world

I just finished assembling and reading all of my posts on this blog over the last five years.  I am thinking of self-publishing them.  It has been an interesting experience for me.  It is a way for me to track my thinking over the last five years, and I notice a few things. 

I seem to be relentlessly optimistic.  I expected the Arab Awakening to be much more positive, but so far it has only disrupted old tyrannies and established either new tyrannies along religious lines, or initiated terrible destructive chaos, again along religious lines.  Oddly, I remain hopeful that long term the Middle East will find new boundaries that people will be able to live with each other peacefully.  I'm afraid that a lot of blood and terror will happen first, but I still hope.

My biggest message seems to have been periodic decrying of the deep polarization in the country and the the demonization of one cultural and political tribe of the other.  It dismays me to see to what extent the Trump campaign and victory has pushed me in the direction of polarization and demonization.  

Decades ago I was a liberal Democrat, then a conservative Republican, and then independent.  Over these five years I have again become a liberal Democrat.  I don't believe I have been demonizing the majority of conservative voters, most of whom are normal Republicans voting for the "Republican", but I certainly have been demonizing Donald Trump.  It is very hard for me to see him as other than an unprincipled opportunistic overgrown child.  So, I want to pull back a bit from such a partisan view and be willing to evaluate him based upon policies and programs that he actually is responsible for in his upcoming administration. I don't know what to make of his tweets and rhetoric, I am just going to have to dismiss it as a smokescreen of bullshit/negotiating strategy and not get sucked into his headlining and diversion tactics - to refuse to take him literally on what he says, just wait until I see real policies and programs and react only to them, and not react to the relentless attention grabbing bloviations.

So, the year of 2016 is almost over.  Indeed, the five years of my writing from 2011 through 2016 is concluding.  I enjoy thinking aloud about America and the world.  When I review my thinking it is humbling to see what I wrote without the benefit of hindsight, and it is interesting to see how my thinking has been changing over time.  

What about 2017?  It seems to be more unknown than any time I can think of except perhaps 1968 when America and the world were in a terrible and violent chaos.  I hope the upcoming changes are not violent and are for the better.

The times, they are a changing...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ambiguity of America - Obama and Trump

British historian Paul Johnson wrote "A History of the American People", and one of his first observations was that there are two strands that run through American history consistently - idealism and opportunism.  We have no better example of that than our current president, Obama the idealist, and our president elect, Trump the opportunist.

Somehow, America has managed to find a very powerful path forward between these two boundaries and still be a beacon of freedom and opportunity, as well as a beacon of justice and equality, to the world.

Right now I am very disturbed by the opportunistic nature of Trump, but I understand that my conservative friends probably were equally disturbed by what they saw as the "naivete and "weakness" of the idealistic Obama.  

The new year of 2017 awaits to reveal to us Trump's impact.  I choose hope over pessimism, and fully expect America to be a force for good in the world, not so much because of Trump or his administration (most of whom appall me) but because of what and who Americans are - overall we are forces of good.

And, I am willing to be pleasantly surprised by the actual policies and decisions of Trump and his administration. I have a bias toward hope in the future, and I am not letting a government rob me of that.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trump – hopes and fears

I find it pretty hard to find any enthusiasm to write about the forming of Trump’s administration.  Mostly, I find it pretty depressing.  But I will spell out some of my hopes, and fears.


I think the biggest problem in America for decades has been the terrible polarization in the country – right vs left.  As I have written before, I have been a lefty and a righty and back to a lefty now throughout my life.  I was a good man in each of those iterations and I know that very good people are on each side.  I reject the notion that someone who disagrees with my political views and solutions does so because they are somehow bad.

But, something I know from experience is that once you are inside an ideological bubble you can’t see outside of that bubble.  Ideology explains everything, whether you are in a right wing or left wing bubble.  The bubble is made up of beliefs, ardently held.  And everything you see is a reflection back to you in the center of your belief bubble that validates your beliefs.  You are trapped.

So, a huge majority of people in America are trapped inside the ideological bubble of either the right or the left – trapped in dogma.

 These bubbles, these dogmas, are very comforting because you are convinced that you have all the answers.  You think you are thinking about the world, but actually you  are only validating and confirming the beliefs and biases of your ideological bubble, your dogma.

So, I have hopes that the wrecking ball that is Donald Trump might be able to shatter the dogmatic belief bubbles on both the right and the left.  For example, social conservatives and social liberals might just discover that their obsessions aren’t really the central issues of the day, and they may both need to look beyond these ancient and tiresome culture wars to find out what is being called for in today’s world rather than endlessly fight the Boomer Culture Wars.  Certainly, liberals found out that they had been seen as having forgotten about the terrible problems facing the white middle and lower classes.  And, for goodness sakes, are abortion and gun rights actually at the heart of what the country and the world must deal  with?  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  Ideology ad nausem.

Trump’s electoral victory has shown me that many if not most of the conservative sacred cows were pretty much ignored by the actual voters.  And Hillary’s loss showed me that most of the liberal sacred cows were also seen as incidental to the issues facing the people.

So, my biggest hope is that the ideological bubbles of dogma become shattered, or at least just seen as obsolete and essentially beside the point.

Another hope is in looking at the Trump selections.  Some of them are pretty frightening, but most of the frightening ones are scary because they represent views that I don’t share.  Basically, Trump is going for Real Men – Wall Street and military men.  However, from generals to CEOs I have to acknowledge that they are intelligent, accomplished, and successful men.  So, we don’t have Sarah Palin type incompetents in most of the picks – well there is Ben Carson who proclaimed himself to be unqualified to lead a government agency, but I guess he will do so anyway.  So, my hope is that this collection of men, with a lifetime of responsibility behind them, will rise to the occasion of the awesome responsibilities placed on their shoulders.


Ideologically, I am very upset with the selection of Ayn Rand Libertarian acolytes who pride themselves in holding to the principles of selfishness and fierce independence.  I hate that we have people in government who see the world in the black and white uncaring notion that the country is filled with the Makers and the Takers.  Ayn Randism is something I was entranced by in my late teens and early twenties but grew out of.  The world, and its people, are much more complicated that the Randian notion of what it is to be good, strong, pure being burdened by the weak, helpless, and despised.  It is a adolescent fantasy of what life is like and what Real Men are like. It is a philosophy devoid of humanity and caring.  So, I fear the ideologies that drive these men.

And of course there is the compulsive, childish, hypersensitive, ignorant narcissism of Trump himself.  He knows next to nothing about government or the world, doesn’t want to learn anything, and is likely, if unchecked, to make decisions that could be really disastrous – not because he adheres to an ideology that I disagree with, but because of his ignorance and ridiculous grandiose idea about how Amazing he is.

It is a work in process, and I refuse not to be hopeful.  The thing for me to remember is that Donald Trump does not create my reality, I do, and I will do just fine. 

He will have his splash, his moment, and I hope and pray that he does much better than I fear he might, and that he does even better than I hope.