My ritual is to check in on the news every few hours, a pause to separate tasks, and today every time I do that there's this sudden re-remembering of just what happened overnight. We elected The Donald.
I feel like I've been transported in my sleep to some parallel universe. Sure, I watched the Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, like much of America, but I thought we were quietly mocking him, his simpleton way of expressing himself, his hair, his sense of "style", and his capricious and petty reasons for firing people. I had no idea the audience were fans, mentees, eager to become his voters. I keep finding myself thinking, "I'm white, I'm male, I'm probably going to be okay (barring a 3 am twitter war with Kim Jong-un that goes nuclear)." But that's little comfort, and just makes me feel guilty for the people who aren't white and male, and everyone outside the US who has to deal with US.
Ah well... The most we can hope for is that he'll be as uninterested in actually governing as he is in the day-to-day operation of his company. A few flashy political efforts outsourced to his brain trust, some tasteless redecoration of the White House, and if we're lucky little more of consequence. Or who knows, maybe he'll prove me and all his doubters wrong.
In a strange way I'm finding some slight vicarious joy in the gleeful delight of his supporters; I'm glad they're happy. I remember when I was happy. And some of them are, I assume, good people and deserve to be happy.
I was thinking today about the possible pros and cons of "gender restricted voting" (my made up term, there is probably a better one). The idea would be that some legal decisions which have restrictions or requirements that exclusively involve one gender could only be decided on by the votes of that gender; it's surely not any sort of new idea. The obvious prompt for these thoughts is the abortion topic, which is never far from the news or popular debate. Now, I think abortion has a rightness or a wrongness to it which should be objective, wholly independent of gender, so the idea of only allowing men or women to vote for/against it is not to give that gender the power to make it right or wrong, but to restrict who may vote on the topic in the hopes of reducing misleading bias and therefore being more likely to see legality mirror the unscientifically knowable (at least currently) but still perhaps existing objective right/wrong. Would such a scheme accomplish that? I'm not sure. And which gender would you disenfranchise regarding any votes related to abortion? The presumption may be that you would not let men vote on abortion topics because they are not the ones carrying the fetus, not the one most impacted by pregnancy. And that certainly makes a sort of sense. Men can't ever be pregnant and thus they cannot possibly vote with a full and personal knowledge of the topic... but perhaps that would be why some would argue that men should be able to vote on the topic and women should not, arguing that women could be more vulnerable to bias, too willing to ignore objective right/wrong out of personal desire for a subjectively beneficial outcome. Personally I have no idea which side should or shouldn't vote, or if the gender restricted voting scheme has any merit. And it's largely a moot point since the matter is primarily decided, obviously, by Supreme Court decision and not individual votes; though there are ballot measures and state / county / etc. restrictions which exist separately to thwart access. Still, seems like a thought deserving some more thought. There are not that many legal issues which are gender specific, presently or historically, but there are a few (perhaps military service and front line combat would be others, though again that is decided more by the military than individual voters).
How could the Germans in WW II not know they were on the wrong side of history? It genuinely puzzles me. I was watching a WWII documentary tonight and it reminded me of one of the funniest things I've ever seen, which happens to be on this topic (from Mitchell & Webb)...
And it's humorous, but it seems to me there's also a lot of truth to it as well. Obviously it's not just the death's head rings and other paraphernalia, but so many of the obvious policies and practices which I would have thought screamed out a warning to the population that they were becoming the baddies!
- How could those in the military not think it very suspicious and dangerous to swear allegiance to an individual (Hitler) rather than their fellow men or their country? How were the people not thinking, "I don't know about this... This seems a little egotistical and weird. We haven't done this before. It sure seems like a very bad idea."
- Surely the pre-WW II belief that Germany needed vastly more land, lebensraum (living space), implied a significant territorial expansion and war to achieve that end; and while I understand the scarcity of some natural resources (like oil), otherwise Germany was hardly a tiny nation with a population density problem, didn't most people in Germany think, "Well, it'd be nice if we had more land, but we don't really need the extra room *that* much."
- Even if you weren't a diverse multicultural sort of person, and even if you don't know people will be killed as a result, don't you see them rounding up Jews, gypsies, gay people, mentally challenged people, etc. and think, "Hmm, I may not like these people, but this seems a bit much. Should we really be doing this? At the very least isn't it going to make us look bad to the rest of the world?"
- Didn't the German people think it was a bit strange that their nation kept making and then a few months later going against agreements they made with other countries? I know they had their own nuanced view of why the commitments could be ignored, no doubt casting themselves as the innocent parties, but still, they made and then went against quite a lot of agreements in quite a short time, resulting in war with the Czechs, the Poles, the Russians, and ultimately the rest of the world. I would have thought many of them would stop and think, "Gee, everyone sure seems hostile to us all of a sudden. I know Hitler is telling us we are getting screwed over by, but we do seem to be the ones bombing other people's cities, and leading our tanks and troops into their countries, not vice versa. Maybe we are being a little rash in our diplomatic response here."
- Didn't the German people think the SA, the SS, and the Gestapo were kind of unseemly? The SA at the very least was notoriously and blatantly thugish. Wouldn't a lot of people have thought, "Hmm, I'm not sure I can get behind a leader who supports and is supported by these sorts of groups . I think we need someone a little more enlightened."
- And what about the Hitler youth? Only a few parents thought it pretty vile that their children were being so obviously indoctrinated? I get that all children are indoctrinated, in the modern age by cartoons, by the Boy Scouts of America, by their church, by their friends, by their friends' parents, by their nation, by brands, by social media, by..., etc. but still, there was little subtlety going on so far as I can tell in Germany at this time. Wouldn't parents think, "I heard Hans singing a new song he learned today and I'm a little uncomfortable with all the references to Jews and the promise to serve Hitler."
Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and I know a lot of people (though an effective minority) did oppose Hitler, and I get that Germany was coming out of a deep depression following WWI, and I get that Germany is in no way unique here, that any other populace in similar circumstances may have reacted in effectively the same way... but I just find it perpetually shocking that it happened, that all the normal rules most of us imagine exist to govern human behavior and make us better than bad can be somehow suspended and that the German people wouldn't realize, on some level, that in that situation, they were the baddies.
As horrible as the terrorist events on 9/11 were, the worst thing that happened on that day we did to ourselves. We forgot the truth within the 18th century quote (variously expressed, and variously attributed to Jefferson and Franklin amongst others):
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
How can anyone argue the truth of that statement? How can anyone argue that we did not betray that guiding principle?
We let the Patriot Act happen, we let the NSA and other clandestine agencies run wild, we began a forever war, creating new enemies perhaps more quickly than we can kill the old ones. Will freedoms lost ever be restored? Surely not. Technology has only made it easier to violate our freedoms and harder to detect when they are violated.
Most confounding to me is that many of those seemingly most comfortable with this situation, with the violation of the above seemingly inarguable (to me) truth, are the same people who are the most unyielding when it comes to any suggested restriction of gun ownership. How can one be unwilling to have any government involvement in weapons ownership/transfer for fear of encouraging tyranny or loss of God and Constitution given freedoms, and yet permit/accept the same government should be able to observe our phone and online activity? It seems like wild hypocrisy to me, but maybe I'm not understanding some nuances involved in the argument; or maybe for those individuals it's really not so much about a love of freedom so much as it is a love of the gun (and its use).
Ah well, another sad 9/11, for so many reasons.
(Racism comes in so many varied and often subtle forms that it complicates talking about it; you need to be pretty specific about just what element/manifestation of racism you're talking about. In this case I'll discuss one of the uglier and most visible kinds.)
To my mind the worst form of racism is the belief that one race is superior to another and that the superior race should take action (legal, social, religious, etc.) against the inferior race as a result of that conviction. Examples are legion, and included nations as well as social/political organizations (South Africa (during Apartheid), Germany (during the Nazi reign), U.S.A. (during antebellum and Jim Crow), as well as the KKK, neonazis, etc.)
What boggles my mind is the idiocy and dishonesty of their position.
When I was 14 I was at a small summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina. Everyone working at the camp and everyone attending the camp was lily white; no one of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent. Almost everyone at the summer camp was from the surrounding Southern states. Racism was rampant but fortunately ugly comments rarely came up since there was not but a pale face to be seen or insulted. But I remember this one time the topic came up, and this one boy, whose name was the name of a kind of monkey, suddenly announced, "I am smarter than any black person on the face of the Earth." What made this seem instantly laughable, distracting me temporarily from the horrendous and vulgar racism, was that he was truly one of the stupidest people (of any genetic background) I'd ever encountered; he was almost sitcom human stupid or perhaps penniless Trump stupid. But he was serious, horribly serious, and I feared and felt for anyone of any non-white hue who might ever cross his path. Several of us there argued with him, tried to point out the ridiculousness of his statement, but he was having none of it. He was so unaware of his own place in the universe that one could hardly hope to convince him of anyone else's place within it. I was still young, but I had certainly come across quite a few people, made from all sorts of different genes, who I knew or strongly suspected were vastly smarter than I was. How could this idiot imagine he was smarter than ~1 billion or so (depending on what you count) people he'd never met? That is idiotic and worse deeply dishonest, as he lived in a major city in the South, and surely had encountered many black people who were infinitely smarter than he was, and he simply chose not to notice or believe it.
But it is not hard to imagine why he (and others) seem to need to believe such an absurd position, need to believe that they are better than an entire race, because things get rather confusing for them if they don't. The wildly racist often profess strong values, and no doubt most try to live in accordance with them. And many of their values involve a love of freedom, family, righteousness, justice, etc. So to avoid a deep and disturbing sense of hypocrisy they must write off the members of the group against which they stand. If all blacks people are inferior to white people then they can see a logic in allowing them fewer rights, deeming them unworthy of a full and equal position in the world, and any white actions taken against blacks are reasonable in defense of white interests. If these racists allow that some percentage of black people are actually their (individual) superior (across many facets of being, including intellectually), then what are those racists going to feel? I think some parts of their brain would cry foul, detect their hypocrisy, detect their injustice, and threaten their ordered world view. And so it is only a stable and comfortable position if every white man is inherently superior to every single black man (a position requiring ample employ of idiocy and dishonesty).
I keep wondering if that particular camper ever wised up. I hope he has.
China mystifies me. Their recent military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII is one confounding example. They stage a huge parade to show off all their offensive and defensive weapons, shut down the city days in advance to make sure people are out of the way and the air is unpolluted, invite some foreign dignitaries, and ban their citizens from watching the parade in person (no standing on balconies, no opening windows, no looking out windows, no standing on the street watching, no watching from cars, no photos, etc.); presumably there is approved news coverage they can watch/read. But, what a bizarre idea? I thought events like this were meant to impress the people, involve the people, akin to the pre-war Nazi parades. When you have to keep the people away out of fear of activism or terrorism then the parade seems more an admission of abject defeat than triumph.
I do not feel myself a part of any party. While my individual views on various topics make me slightly more aligned to Democratic positions, I do not feel aligned with most Democrats. I think neither side is uniquely wise or wonderful. Both sides are capable of good ideas and bad ones, good acts and bad ones. But these last ten or so years have mightily confused me, because the Republicans (meaning those who vote Republican as well as those who rule the party) have backed so many people who seem so glaringly unsuitable. I once read an opinion piece that suggested that Republicans (and conservatives generally) prefer candidates with whom they can strongly relate (people that seem like them, not higher in class, intelligence, etc.) and Democrats (and liberals generally) prefer candidates who they can look up to (at least in areas of intelligence and achievement). I'm not sure if that is true, but it made a certain sense.
George W. Bush may be a highly intelligent man, his Yale graduation would seem to demand that he is, but whenever I watched him speak or interact with people I cringed, feeling as though I was watching a person with some mental incapacity. His use of language, his expressed logic, his mannerisms, all suggested to me some sort of deficit. I never assumed Bush was actually not intelligent or capable, I simply assumed I was interpreting him incorrectly. My perception is not reality, and I know this. When I moved to London I remember being very confused at first because to me a very large percentage of British males seemed gay. The greater London male preoccupation with fashion seemed to be triggering my gaydar, and it took me some months to adjust my perceptions. So, likewise with Bush I have always assumed my perception must be inaccurate, that perhaps if I was from Texas I might not be thrown off. But my brain was never able to make the adjustment even after so many years of being exposed to Bush. But, perhaps it was still just my error of perception.
And then McCain chose Palin as his running mate. And I can find no way to rationalize or to excuse that, no way to explain Palin to myself as simply misunderstood. Sarah Palin seems to me totally and completely unsuitable to be president. She seems to me genuinely stupid and wildly ill- and under- informed. McCain choosing her made me lose a considerable amount of faith in the Republican party. That choice may have been a popular one, a well calculated one, perhaps their best shot at the office, but if they would be willing to do that then it felt like they had lost their sense of right and wrong.
And now Donald Trump is the Republican front-runner... leading in the polls by a considerable margin. The most fitting description I have seen of Donald Trump is that he is like a child in a man's body. He seems to reason and act and speak like a child trying to function in a world of adults. He is quick to speak, fast to attack, seems often to bypass thought or introspection, and regularly says things which seem delusional. He is dangerously unsuited to leading a country, and yet he is the current choice of Republican voters, if not leadership.
I can't help but feel like the Republicans / conservatives have lost their way, now routinely supporting, funding, endorsing totally unsuitable and "stupid" candidates. I hope they get back to the business of being serious and substantial leaders, with reason and sense equal to their glorious vision for American greatness.
Every news story these days has a comment section which erupts into a slug fest between the politically left and politically right. The same arguments are made this time as last time, the same "proof" is offered this time as last time, and no one is convinced, and nothing changes.
What annoys me most is that neither side seems willing to debate their real point of view, they rely instead on dishonestly framing the debate.
On the right I wish they would admit, "Hey, look, if someone could could snap their fingers and get rid of all guns there would be a lot fewer homicides and suicides, but guns are a lot of fun, and people die left and right from driving cars and eating fattening food, so we've decided we're comfortable with the number of deaths from guns. And besides, it might theoretically make our government a little afraid of violating our rights, though admittedly they seem to be violating a lot of rights and we're not doing anything about it."
And on the left I wish they would admit, "Hey, guns are really scary. We're not hunter gatherers any more, and people who collect and shoot guns, especially at cute little woodland creatures, seem a little mentally disturbed to us. And if you want to carry them all the time, everywhere, and buy your kids Hello Kitty themed shotguns we really think you have a problem. We know there are so many guns in the country that banning them won't really do a lot, but it'll do something, and more important it'll feel like we're doing something. And maybe if we can damage the gun market now in a hundred years there will be less of them around, and maybe then society will be safer. And the sort of guns people have now haven't kept up with the hardware the government has, so give up on the argument that it'll keep us free from tyranny."
If both sides lead with that it would feel more honest to me, and at least make the debate potentially more productive.
The news is filled with people bemoaning the ACA (aka Obamacare). I am not one of them. My situation has greatly improved. I was a single guy, no kids, early forties, paying $650/month for a HIPAA plan with very high copays and $5,000 deductible. I am now paying $370/month for a platinum plan (10% copay) with $500 deductible. I couldn't be happier.
I have always been a non-smoker, non-drinker, non-drug user, and reasonably healthy. But no insurance company would give me an individual healthcare plan, not since I was 25. I was rejected without explanation by many companies. Presumably they rejected me based on pre-existing conditions, but my pre-existing conditions were trivial, some mild depression and anxiety, but never hospitalized for that or anything else. I finally got insurance through work, and was able to transition to an individual HIPAA plan after becoming a consultant. I could not switch to anything better or cheaper, though, still no company not forced by HIPAA to take me would have me. And I looked into the "high risk" pool coverage (the only other option) that California offered and was shocked to find it was a) expensive, b) had a long waiting list to get in, c) provided really low and weak coverage. So, until the ACA rolled out January 1, 2014 I was stuck.
The news reporting of others' experience with ACA plans has me a little confused. The vast majority of people seem to have had really lousy policies which didn't offer much coverage and they are now complaining that they are forced to buy a more comprehensive policy and thus pay more for it. I have somewhat limited sympathy for those situations, because I think the reality is that those cheap policies often just wind up shifting the cost to everyone when someone who has one of those policies gets seriously ill, finds their policy doesn't provide adequate coverage, and goes bankrupt or otherwise requires the hospitals and debt agencies to eat the loss when they can't pay their bills. The people buying those policies may claim that it's the right plan for them, the right price, and that it's just what they need, but I have to believe on a macro scale that's just not born out, that the rest of society takes a financial hit for their stinginess. If you know that to be false, please correct me. For the remaining minority of people making the news whose prices have gone up significantly without an increase in coverage, and without any offsetting tax reduction, I do feel very badly, and hope cheaper options become available, or other corrective measures are taken.
If nothing else, I am very glad that the health insurance system was finally forced to move away from the cruel and capricious system of excluding people because of pre-existing conditions, it was a savage system that usually unfairly penalized people who had no hand in their conditions, leaving them to fend for themselves or pay dearly for rotten coverage. Whatever people may say about the ACA, at least it did away with that...
I wish that we lived in a world where people could always control what their dollars directly and indirectly funded, but we don't, and Christians only seem to care when it's their money and something they believe is immoral. Would most Christians support another person's "rights" not to have their income tax fund foreign wars/actions they morally oppose? The vast majority of Christians would certainly not, and for that reason I cannot support their right to pick and choose their healthcare funding according to their morals. If they want to broaden the debate, and argue that everyone should be able to refuse to contribute towards things they believe are immoral, then I'll be happy to support their cause. Until then, we might as well all be stuck in the same boat, until we together pick a course that gets us to a better land.
P.S. - Of course beyond issues of morality, there are lots of other purely lifestyle related costs we make others pay for. If a couple chooses to have 5 children that can incur public schooling costs of $600k (from kindergarten through high school), that burden is disproportionately covered by those who choose to never have any kids or have just one. As a society we have decided to pool our resources, accepting the many potential inequities, injustices, and betrayals of personal conscience. We can't have it both ways.