Thoughts in the Era of Trump

Robert George here is right– click through because this is a great storm by . Before I comment: remember I voted against and worked against Trump. And no “but TRUMP!” thinking while reading it, either. Practice some open mindedness and imagine this all from another POV.

I see this now because I saw it before the election. I even argued about it with friends. There is a portion of traditional, conservative America that felt their government was no longer going to even preserve their right to have their own beliefs and values. Every time someone was forced from a job because they gave to the wrong candidate or cause, every time someone was forced to choose between making a cake for a wedding when they didn’t want to or having their business squashed by the government, and every time they were told they couldn’t engage in legal activities without the possibility of being forced into hiding by the Mob, they wondered why isn’t my government protecting me?

Instead, courts and government and popular will told them otherwise: agree or pay the cost.

So they pushed back. And they were called “a basket of deplorables,” all of them were seen to be bigots and racists and idiots. But they pushed back by voting. Not only did they push back, not only did they make a statement, but they WON. Somehow.

And what happened? Their opponents, who told them that they just absolutely had to deal with the results even if they didn’t like them, did everything they could to de-legitimize the election. They lashed out violently. They sulked.

Note: I’m not talking about peaceful demonstrations. I appreciate (and support) the right of the people to assemble and speak out.

But the Trump supporters won a legitimate election.

Set down the craziness, people, and let’s deal with that fact. Let’s deal with it with wisdom and intelligence and an understanding that (and this is the important part): WE DON’T ALWAYS GET OUR WAY. But we’ll survive. The country will survive. Our opportunity to vote again will survive. The only way it doesn’t is if we, the People, break the system by refusing to let it to work the way it was designed. So, let’s take a moment to re-assess ourselves and our systems.

Seriously: we don’t have to stop pushing back against the worst of Trump, but this might be the chance we need to fix some of what is broken.

We Tell Jokes (But We Can’t Find it In Us to Laugh)

Here’s the joke:

This year, we will elect a candidate to be President of the United States of America either from the Republican or Democrat parties. The presumptive nominees from both parties (according to the most recent, published favorables) is disliked by the majority of Americans. While Trump’s numbers are a bit worse than Clinton’s, neither of them breaks 40% on the favorable side and both of them break 50% on the unfavorable side.

America simply doesn’t like these candidates and feel increasingly abused by their own parties.

Now, this is the good bit. Here’s the punchline:

America will still vote for one of those candidates. America is convinced that the President has to have an R or a D next to their name and would rather despise the person in the White House than to look around for a better, more trustworthy, more qualified option outside of the orthodoxy.

Hah hah hah.

That’s a good one.

Has the World Changed or Have We?

When I was around 8 years old, my parents took me to Disney World. My Disney vacation went thusly: we walked into the Magic Kingdom, my dad checked my watch, he gave me a bit of money for food and drink, and then we went our separate ways. We met back at the front of the park at the end of the day, and I had enjoyed a wonderful day. Aside from the fact that I don’t have much in the way of family memories from our family vacations, I had a great time. I lost count of the number of times I rode Pirates of the Caribbean and Magic Mountain. I probably enjoyed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea nearly as many times. When it rained, I found shelter, had a soda, and waited until I could start riding the rides again. By the time I was 9, I was a full time latch-key kid (and, just a few years later, having a handgun in the house saved me from a home intruder– but that’s a different story for another day). Does that constitute criminal behavior on my parents’ part? Did they deserve to be jailed for “abandoning” me? I certainly don’t believe so, but times have changed.

Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.

The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl “abandoned” and proceeded to arrest the mother.

As I said: times have changed. Is the world that much more dangerous? Or are our children that much more vulnerable? Or have we just lost our sense of context and reasonableness? I actually don’t know the answer to that question, but it seems like an overreaction.

What my parents did with me, I wouldn’t do with my own kids, but it isn’t necessarily because I’d be worried about their safety. It’s because I would want to be sure that I had memories with my children.

Strategery in Focus

This is an important little piece from Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government blog. It’s compact, but quite important, especially when you understand what the author is critiquing:

If “Setting Priorities” is the most recent attempt to argue for a more coherent internationalist grand strategy — a worthy endeavor — then whatever weaknesses it has might throw into relief some broader problems of U.S. foreign policy.

Why important? Because of this note near the end of the piece:

… the report-like all “national security strategies” published by every administration since Congress mandated the document in 1987-is less a “strategy” document than a list of aspirations and goals.

“Strategic” foreign policy thought, as expressed by our government in the public realm, has long been reduced to talking points, wish lists, and occasional partisan sniping. Now is the time for serious discussion about the proper place of the United States in a changing international landscape of political power. Simply saying that we should show leadership or advocate for some laudable goal isn’t enough. Means, actions, and expected ends along with an honest assessment of what role the US needs to be playing in everything from “democratization” to moderating talks between warring groups.

The United States seems to be suffering a deficit of strong and wise leadership along with a paucity of serious thought in the public realm. While our last presidential election should have revolved around things like our foundering economy and our nebulous foreign policy, it instead seemed to focus on binders full of women, free contraception, and taking gratuitous pot-shots at China. We need better, although I would suggest that our reality-show obsessed culture doesn’t necessarily deserve better. I’ll consider changing that view when we start rewarding serious thought with the same acclaim that we do a bunch of dignity-stripped attention whores and fools on the latest terrifying reality TV series.

[button link=”” color=”black” newwindow=”yes”] Read the original.[/button]

A Rising Tide…

Click through and read:

Jay reminds us of an important point: The great achievement of the Reagan economy wasn’t that the rich got a lot richer (though they did, and good for them!) but that the poor got a lot richer, too. As Treasury figures from the era document, the vast majority (nearly 85 percent) of those who were poor in 1979 (meaning they resided in the lowest income quintile) were in a higher quintile by 1988; even more impressive, two-thirds of them had moved up two quintiles or more. And most impressive of all: Of the people who were in the lowest income quintile in 1979, more had moved to the top quintile by 1988 than remained in the bottom quintile. Which is to say, if you were on the bottom in 1981, you were statistically more likely to be on the top by 1988 than to remain at the bottom.

There is more and it acts as a good reminder of why we on the right continue to fight for our vision of America.

Read it all.

Call Me Crazy, The Tasty Chicken Edition

Angry Us

Call me crazy, but today’s tolerance doesn’t much look like it did when I was growing up.

Look, tolerance doesn’t mean that everyone parrots the same line or that you have to like what people are saying around you. It means that they have a right to live their life the way they choose even if that means believing some things that you don’t and that you don’t have to hold them as evil, call them assholes, argue points in an unreasonably personalized manner, or harass them just because of a disagreement. I say this as much to remind myself as to remind others.

People have always talked politics and I’ve always been politically minded, but what is happening today is moving so far away from a reasonable dialogue that I wonder how we are managing to hold together as one society.

Of course, reasonable minds understand that this version of tolerance stops when it comes to truly harming others. Advocating for a political position rarely rises to that level. I have no idea how that conversation started nor do I know how it escalated, but I do know that a chicken sandwich wasn’t worth the kind of fight that left one man re-assigned and all folks starring in their own little accidental reality show on all of the news sites.

What happened to the kind of tolerance where we actually manage to get along on a daily basis without someone trying to shout us down or tell us how vile and horrible we are for, essentially, not believing every little thing that they believe? I wonder if people see just how hugely damaging our over-politicized culture is becoming.

When everyone thinks that they have to take absolute stances on all of the issues of the day, when it comes to a place where it harms friendships and family relationships, and when it is so unyielding, how can anyone be surprised at the size of the wall we’re building between us? Of course, we’re a deeply divided country. Not only are we faced with hugely difficult problems, but we’re faced with an increasingly uncivil nation where folks are happily willing to demonize each other with little regard for the harm or hurts caused.

Whatever threads still bind together the fabric of our nation are being slowly unravelled by our own unforgiving nature.

Thought of the Day, The Nothing New Under the Sun Edition

“…Roman writers had been lamenting the decay of the national character for years. As early as the second century BC, Polybius blamed the politicians whose pandering had reduced the republic to mob rule. Sallust railed against the viciousness of political parties, and Livy– the most celebrated writer of Rome’s golden age– had written that ‘these days…we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies.'”

Lost to the West, Lars Brownworth

We’re All Rare and Special Snowflakes, The President Obama Edition (Mildly Updated)

Success and Failure

Ladies and gentlemen, a word from the President:

I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

There is nothing special about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Condoleeza Rice, Walt Disney, Ben Franklin, Ray Kroc, Fredrick Douglas, Thomas Edison, Clarence Thomas, Sean Combs, Henry Ford, Janet Rideout, Ronald Reagan, Andrew Carnegie, Oprah, Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Howard Hughes, or, well, President Obama. Because there are smart, hard working people everywhere who could have achieved all of their greatness, somehow, if only they had a chance to do so. Their achievements aren’t singular at all; in fact, they are almost common since none of them did it on their own.

I understand his bigger point: none of us exist in a vacuum and none of us achieve solely because of our own, native genius and ability. But he muddles his message by diminishing the role that the individual plays in this kind of success. Of course, when your tax strategy is built around the idea of punishing the most successful people in your society, you have to walk a pretty fine line between admiration and admonishment. I mean, he wouldn’t want to alienate them to the point that they stop giving him campaign cash, but he sure needs to use that heady mix of class envy and higher taxes to take baby steps toward solving budget problems and to convince poorer folks to come out and vote for him.

Maybe it’s even simpler than that. When you live in a world where folks go around handing you Nobel Peace Prizes even though you’ve done nothing to deserve it, perhaps it’s easy to feel the need to diminish the importance of individual effort. It’s a lot less embarrassing to pretend that they’re just handing the stuff out like candy on Halloween.

I still like the idea of teaching folks that it isn’t just a village that creates success (or happy, healthy kids); it’s individual effort, focus, discipline, visions, wisdom, and discretion. My grandpa was a chicken farmer and then a meter reader for the city. My father was a soldier, a preacher, and worked for the Government Employees Financial Corporation in some low-level desk-jockey position for a while. Before going to Vietnam, he was kicked out of a small college in southern Colorado; he finally earned a degree at the Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs some years later. Me, I’m a marketing guy who has worked for relatively small companies but has managed to do well for himself in spite of my lack of a degree.

My point is this: all of us were pretty easy to replace. When my dad left one job, they just plugged in another person to hold the position. When I left my last job, they carved it up and handed it to four people (not what I suggested they do, but that’s another story). When my grandpa retired from the city, they had a nice party and gave him a present but they didn’t miss a beat. The meters still got read.

If there is greatness in me, I haven’t quite found it yet.

That list that I made– a woefully inadequate list of folks who dug in hard to create the world we live in– is filled with people who achieved the extraordinary. Most of them came from low circumstance to build themselves in ways that no one might have predicted. Reagan was truly poor, his father was an alcoholic, and he went to a small college that wasn’t exactly in the Skull & Bones’  zip code.

Obama is right: there are a whole lot of hardworking, smart people in the world (and, yeah, I’m one of them) that never attain those heights. There are a lot of people born poor with alcoholic parents, too. How many of them find their way to the presidency? How many people go from being born to a poor, working class family in a small cottage in Scotland to building a business empire and becoming both one of the richest men in the world and one of the greatest philanthropists of his time? Andrew Carnegie did precisely that.

Now, that doesn’t make these folks any better than the rest of us in terms of human dignity. I bow and scrape to no one; their greatness doesn’t diminish my human value. It damned well does make them better than the most of us in another way, though: in building things that will outlast us. They have attained immortality because of their greatness.

Who knows what history will say about Barrack Obama– perhaps simply that he was the United States’ first black president– but it probably won’t spare even a sentence for most of us.

If you want to build something truly great, it takes more than a kind hearted teacher and an overly eager Nobel prize committee. We shouldn’t diminish that, we should celebrate and strive to emulate it, but that’s tough to do when the president is busy telling us that it was no big deal.


Read it for the comments. Fun.