Tag Archives: politics

Atumnal Musings on Serenity, Politics and the Future

On this glorious October day I walked down to Lake Pontoosuc and sat in the Donut Man’s gazebo as the sun started dying over the hills to the west. The wind turbines spun hypnotically, the tiny indigo waves annihilated each other. It was serene.

The words came back to me: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Serenity. I find it difficult to come by today.

Okay—accept the things I cannot change. Governor Romney may be elected President. If that happens, there’s nothing I can do about it. But I fear for my country should that come to pass. I fear for the vulnerable millions who will walk the wire without a net. I fear for the thousands of young people who will suffer and perhaps die when the saber rattling isn’t enough. I fear for the women whose ability to decide their own course of health treatment will be taken away. And I fear for the land itself that will be harmed when regulation is abolished.

I don’t fear for myself. I’m sixty eight years old. Barring a true cataclysm, like bloody revolution or all-out nuclear war, I’ll probably be fine. But the generations that follow, whose education will be compromised, whose health care will become so expensive that only a handful can afford it, whose dreams will never be fulfilled—they won’t be fine.

Which brings us to the things I might be able to change. I truly believe that this dismal future may be averted if President Obama is reelected. I can do a little to try to bring that about. I’ve already given quite a lot of money to the Democratic campaign. I can also talk to friends and acquaintances, in fact anyone who will listen, to try to persuade them of my view. I don’t have the physical strength to go door to door, as I did four years ago, so I’ll have to settle for talking to people nearby.

Risking confrontation takes courage. But it’s worth it if we can keep the conversation civil. That sort of give and take is another thing that seems to be in short supply today.

It also takes courage to throw off this gloomy, dystopic view of the future and once again invest in the belief that this country will not just survive, but thrive. That it will become great again, not as a superpower, but as a beacon. Because we are a heterogeneous population, we are uniquely able to show that people can coexist in mutual respect.

With that vision overlaid on the lake, the hills and the turbines, I find serenity. I can’t achieve it by myself, but I can believe in its existence.

For now, that’s enough.

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Is 15 Minutes Enough?

I created a website.

Everyone (that’s with a capital “E”) said that I should do it in order to increase sales of my books. For a while I fought the idea. Somehow it seemed so patently egotistical.

But Vistaprint offered a free trial (and we all know how those work out!) for a month, as well as step-by-step guidance in constructing the pages. It was a “sign” that it was time.

So I embarked on the task of establishing a site. It was easier than I’d thought. Vistaprint did a good job of breaking down the task and directing the neophyte. I have to admit, I had a good time doing it.

When I’d finished, I sat back and admired my work (doing stuff like this does tend to be a bit egotistical). And being able to take a breather now, I tried to dissect my motives. Why had I gone to all this trouble?

Why, to increase book sales, I slyly answered myself.

Humph! I replied. Why, when you take into account the cost of maintaining the site, you’ll have to sell about a hundred books a year to make up what you’ve spent. C’mon. Why did you do this?

Urged on by my carping superego, I delved deeper into my motives.

Perhaps it was egotistical. Maybe I was trying to extend my fifteen minutes to half an hour. Like wearing a red ball gown to a dance where all others my age were wearing pastels (how many of you get the reference?), or sitting in the front row of the classroom to catch the eye of the handsome young professor.

Then I considered the pains I’d taken to link the site to this blog. I want people to read my postings, and not just (I hope) for reasons of vanity. Some of the ideas I write about are important, and could generate discussion. If readers look at me for that reason, I feel I’ve accomplished something.

Which brings us, as these musings often do, to politics.

Why are our current crop of candidates expending their energy and money trying to get elected?

I believe you have to have a pretty strong sense of self in order to run for office. Otherwise, the arguments against what you believe in and negative advertising would be devastating. So is it simply self-aggrandizement that spurs on our would-be leaders?

I hope not. We don’t need people who only want to preen and posture in the spotlight. We need those who have the smarts to understand what’s going on and make decisions that will solve, not worsen, the problems.

Like climate change. And drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the problem of national debt. And poverty, access to quality health care, international relations.

We can’t afford battling egos. We also can’t afford a plutocracy in which money, controlling communication, decides elections. I know we’ve seen the “dumbing down” of America, but I can’t help believe that can be reversed.

We need leaders who won’t talk down to the electorate, who will make the decisions that need to be made and explain the reasons for those choices. As a teacher I learned that youngsters can rise to levels of expectations. They can finish the school year with a better handle on the world than they started with.

But in order to do that, you can’t just “strut and fret your hour upon the stage.”

You have to lead.

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The Vorlons or the Shadows?

Has anyone else out there been alternately disgusted and appalled by the Presidential campaigns?

Here we have two intelligent, well-educated, experienced men running against each other. Each has a definite agenda, a strong vision of what America should be like in the future.

Yet their speeches devolved into playground insults. “You’re a dirty liar.” “You’re a stupid cheat.” Nyah, nyah, nyah.

Now that Mr. Romney has chosen his second, I hope that a reasoned, civilized debate can take place. Because both men have plans, backed by good evidence, for the road forward. The problem is that the plans are, as I see it, diametrically opposed.

Mr. Romney’s plan, taken to an even greater degree by Mr. Ryan, is one which is based on competition. It is basically what Mr. Romney did in Bain. A company that is not functioning is taken over and broken up. The parts are absorbed by companies that are solvent. The competition makes all the surviving businesses stronger and capable of growing, thereby growing the economy. It is survival of the fit.

President Obama’s ideas, on the other hand, rely on cooperation. His thrust is that we must all work together, helping those who are less able. In that way, we create a community in which all are stronger.

Does this sound familiar? Anyone who was, like me, a huge fan of the TV show Babylon 5 in the ‘90’s should recognize it.

(Those of you who remember the show can skip the next couple of paragraphs.)

In the fictional 23rd century, the galaxy is caught in a dispute between opposing forces represented by two alien races. The “Shadows”, who were portrayed as the bad guys until the end of the third season, urged other races to war. The competition, they said, winnowed the weaker peoples, getting rid of them so that other races could flourish.

The “Vorlons”, who seemed to be the proponents of light, furthered the course of mutual support. By cooperation, they suggested, all sentient species are strengthened.

The resolution, however, was that both superpowers were acting on their own agendas, not those that would necessarily benefit the entire galaxy. In the end, the “younger races” kick both of them out and decide to find their own way, without the leadership of either, forging a plan that is a compromise between the two.

Okay, back to the 21st century (and welcome back fans of B5). Are the two visions necessarily mutually exclusive? Can’t we take parts of each that will form a grand plan, one that will work so much better?

I hope such a compromise is possible. Neither the social Darwinism of one plan, or the unsustainable spending of the other, is acceptable. My initial reaction to the Republicans’ agenda is one of revulsion, but I am trying to keep an open mind. I fervently wish all Americans will also.

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