I could be happy today

Let’s assume that Trump’s voters elected him as a change agent to “drain the swamp” of status quo political insiders in Washington.  This is certainly a prevailing explanation for some or most of his support.

If Trump embraces that mandate, then his first 100 days agenda should be to implement congressional term limits and implement campaign finance reform (and reduce the broader role of special interests’ use of money to affect policies).

This would be a hugely popular and unifying outcome for Americans.

There’s a strong base of Democratic support for the same.  After all, Bernie Sanders made huge inroads as an outsider candidate running on a platform of “political revolution” including campaign finance reform.

Really, this is a non-partisan issue. America is tired of its political class. Congressional approval ratings reached a historic low of 12% in the last 2 years. Special-interest money in politics is indisputably influential.

One could even argue that voter opposition to Trump wasn’t over the desire to disrupt the political class’ status quo, but rather his suitability as the agent of change and as a president on the whole.

I could be happy if Trump made this this 100-day agenda.

I’m sad today

Trump’s election makes me sad. Although there is a winner, there really aren’t any “winners”.

I’m sad for the people who voted for him that come from rural America and working class backgrounds. They have a reason to be upset because their past prosperity is diminished. But I fear that Trump used them as a vehicle to gain office, not because he was a champion of theirs in his heart of hearts.

I’m sad for those same people because the jobs and prosperity they used to have are gone forever. Such is the nature of capitalism and globalization and the internet-enabled world. Those old jobs aren’t coming back, no matter the leader or his policies. They were sold a story that they can have their past back, which they can’t.

I’m sad because the true source of future prosperity for those people is learning new things, and we’re not talking about investing in them to enable this. Education has been and always will be the great enabler of economic progress. This retooling of our workforce could take a generation, and sadly no politician wants to run on a platform of long-term solutions over short-term rhetoric.

I’m sad for women. It’s a double-barreled setback for gender equality when a viable female candidate was beaten by a provable sexist.

I’m sad for immigrants and ethnic minorities. We’re repeating another cycle of blaming the country’s woes on the newcomers and politically weak. Ask the African Americans of the South, Boston Irish, New York Italians or San Francisco Japanese how it felt in past decades when they were scapegoated for whatever problem the country faced at the time. Obama’s presidency as a step forward in race relations now seems to be at risk.

I’m sad for children, who see a leader who says things they know to be wrong and aren’t allowed to say in their own homes. This didn’t make our jobs as parents any easier when it comes to teaching our children civility and a moral code.

I’m sad for LGBT communities, because the long road to acceptance and inclusion is made longer during times of intolerance. We’ve come so far in 50 years on gay rights; I fear the progress will be stalled.

I’m sad that our country’s electorate is divided along such clear lines: rural versus urban, and the associated industries that sustain each populace. These divisions are a cultural and industrial chasm that don’t appear to be on a path to any near-term convergence.

As such, we have no winners today.

We have many who lost. We have others who think they won, but really didn’t gain a long term solution to their ills.

On equality

equalityThis week was a big one for equality in the U.S.  Gay people are now fully equal in the eyes of the law.  And hopefully, over time, in the eyes of all.

To me, equality requires understanding, then acceptance.  There’s something innate in human nature that causes us to look at those who are different from us with initial suspicion.  However, if one engages with those who are different, understanding can ensue.  If one doesn’t engage, then those differences remain the basis of rejection.

My time in India brought clarity to me.   Through the lens of my American value system, India is a series of contradictions.  Things to both accept and reject.

India is the largest democracy in the world; that’s good.  The people I have met have been warm, kind and gentle without exception.  its diversity is beyond measure; India is an amalgam of 300 kingdoms, each with its own language.  Wave upon wave of outside influences have swept over the country, mostly in the form of invading regimes who left their imprints in turn. This extreme form of diversity requires acceptance of others in order to maintain peace.  That’s good.

Yet, India has many things about it that I can’t easily accept.  Poverty is widespread and wealth is concentrated in the hands of the very few.  The caste system, while going away, isn’t gone.  The poor have little prospect of joining the burgeoning middle class.  The infrastructure is poor, which means disease afflicts the poor disproportionately and adds to their hardship.

My love of India required me first to try to understand its complexity and contradictions to my moral code.  And that led me to acceptance.  Were I to judge India only on the “bad” I’d be writing off sooooo much about it that’s good.

America is engaged in a transformation, again.  Just like past waves of immigration, our population is changing and diversifying.  Our moral code is changing.  In five decades we’ve gone from police raids of gay bars as if being gay was illegal, to legal equality in every respect.

What made this possible?  My suspicion is that as gays have slowly emerged into public life over those decades, others have engaged them.  Which has caused understanding.  And ultimately acceptance.  Any negative predisposition I might have had – perhaps as instilled in me by elders or society – has surely been overcome by knowing people like Gary, Wayne, Amy and Gerrie.  Simply outstanding people being who they are, and for which they couldn’t be anything else.

There is so much work left on equality.  Let’s start by engaging those who are different from us.  Which surely will lead to something positive.

Republican rage explained?

I saw this article on BBC’s web site about how liberals and conservatives in the United States have differing reactions to positive and negative images.  Conservatives tended to focus on, and have stronger reactions to, negative images than did liberals.

Coincidentally, a couple weeks ago a long-time friend sent an email to numerous people in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address.  I don’t recall ever getting an unsolicited email from him about politics in the 15 years I’ve known him.  But it certainly was a rant.

Consider the emotions in some of the words and phrases from his email:

  • “A brutally complex issue reduced to a nonsense issue”
  • “I want to barf”
  • “…it is the duty of everyone to work for his defeat in November”
  • “A 2nd Obama term, totally untethered from public opinion will be a total disaster.  I hope all of you can take some role in ensuring his defeat in November”

Which drew the following response from someone else:

  • “If we are now outnumbered by liberals, democrats with limited brain functionality, union workers, the uneducated, and young voters, then the chances are very real that the current “President” could win a second term”
  • “And if that happens, then the chances are very real for a second American Revolution – this time against our own Congress, which has nearly completely caved in and lost its backbone”
  • “If we do win, however, I believe we need to somehow change our system permanently so that Congress DOES WHAT WE SAY TO DO and nothing else, or we will vigorously prosecute them and send them to prison”
  • “I fear the continued existence of the USA is in doubt if we don’t! One answer is to decentralize our Federal government and send our representatives and senators back to the states, where they are closer to home and we can watch them more closely. Please think hard about this”

Subjectively, it seems like a pattern.  Something has changed for these persons, and probably not for the better. Is it the stagnation of real income growth in the middle class?  The unrelenting pace of change driven by globalization and the strains of keeping pace?  I won’t speculate other than to say that these are very strong emotions, which begs the question why?

Your move, Islam

Osama Bin Laden’s death is a moment of choice for Islam.

Years ago, I had a heated debate with a (very) Republican friend.  I contended that Al Qaeda was in a battle for the hearts and minds of mainstream Islam.  And that the U.S. was a pawn of sorts.  We represent what Islamic fundamentalists oppose; secularism, capitalism, democracy, gender equality.  And moderate Muslims’ empathy toward U.S. culture is what those fundamentalists wanted to prevent.

Today’s event is another decision point for Islam: will Bin Laden become a martyr to others than the extremists?  Or will moderate, mainstream Islam close this chapter of history by turning its back on terrorists?

Choosing to oppose terrorism is not unto itself an endorsement of the U.S.  It’s simply a statement of what Islam does not stand for.  And the lack of support for terrorists means that their safe havens will wither and die.

Your move, Islam.