Category Archives: Ideas

So this is what the US has become

Breaking: The FBI has arrested six men – and another seven face state charges — who were plotting with a right-wing militia group to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, take her to a remote location, and put her “on trial.” 

From Fast Forward, October 8, 2020,
By Teresa Hanafin, Globe Staff

Good day. It’s Thursday, Oct. 8, the 282nd day of the year. Election Day is in 26 days, and Republicans are thrilled that VP Mike Pence has locked down the Diptera vote.


Sunrise in Boston was at 6:49 a.m. and sunset will be at 6:12 p.m. for 11 hours and 23 minutes of sunlight. The waning moon is 62 percent full.

The big news today

Is that Donald and his wife are now infected by the coronavirus. Were they wearing masks, practicing social distancing? Nobody seems to know where, or when or how it happened. But it did happen. And on this occasion Trump was obliged to accept the reality of Covid-19, much like he accepts the reality of anything, not for it self, but for his, Donald Trump’s own self. Does he know that worldwide there are some 33 million reported cases, and that there have been 1 million deaths, over 200,000 in our country alone? Will he now start to listen to anyone other than his own inner voices as to what’s going on and what should be done. Don’t hold your breath.

“The President is obsessed with menaces—posed by shadowy members of a “deep state,” by “the radical left,” by foreigners of all sorts. But the gravest menace to public health and public order has come from within the White House. So long as Trump holds office, no manner of quarantine will suffice to contain it.” David Remnick, The New Yorker, October 1, 2020

Throughout Covid-19’s presence here among us since February or March of this year, actually much longer than that, really since January 2017, when Trump became the proud possessor of the Oval Office as he so likes to show us during the endless signing ceremonies that take place there.

During these months, now years, Trump, has always been the complete narcissist, has listened to no one. Will he now? Again don’t hold your breath.

I’ve never fully understood what it was, what it is that enables Trump to grow the executive power of the government and thereby assume in more and more instances authoritarian powers that should never have been his. I’ve never understood what it was that has enabled him to become the greatest threat we have ever experienced to our democracy.

Something comparable to Hitler’s Brown Shirts is one explication. Trump’s Brown Shirts are for the most part not clearly thugs but Republican Senators and Representatives in the Congress. But there are others, real thugs, the Republican Senators being just the most well dressed and visible of his followers.

If you’ve forgotten just who were Hitler’s Brown Shirts (would they remain forgotten and never return!). I take the following clarification from the Britannica via Google.

Sturmabteilung or Storm Troopers popularly known for their brown shirts took on the role in the German Nazi Party, of a paramilitary organization whose methods of violent intimidation played a key role in Adolf Hitler’s own rise to power.” Trump’s own Brown Shirts not yet Hitler’s thugs, are the Proud Boys and other such organizations, created from among former police and service men now on the far right of opinion and who would like nothing else than to throw themselves in with the lot of their president.

Hitler’s unofficial army of thugs.


And of course I’m not alone to write about Trumps enablers. Others are no less taken by them than I am. Here’s David Brooks writing inn the Times of October 1, writing about a “core America.”

“The most ardent and enthusiastic Trump supporters, Brooks notes, are not economically marginalized, not submissive, not authoritarian, not religious or conventionally conservative. They have a strong concept that there is a core America, a concept which I suppose you could summarize as white, rural, John Wayne, football and hunting.”

“White, rural, John Wayne, football and hunting,” this sounds much like the America Trump would take us back to. While being quarantined I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles, and have begun to appreciate them as  never before,  as one more activity keeping me mentally alive at an age when I’m not meant to be alive. Anyway the most recent puzzle, that the two of us, my wife Josée and myself, completed, entitled 19th century history, might be entitled Brooks’ “core America,” or the white America that Trump would take us back to: “white, rural, John Wayne, football and hunting.” Only foot ball is not in the picture. There are horses, a few Indians, one Black man up top and kind of out of the picture, no woman of course. In the 19th century Blacks, the  millions of them, were mostly out of the picture. 

Anyway this puzzle is good summary of the America that Trump would take us back to, if he could, but of course he can’t. America has moved on, and is better today than it was then, and no thanks to our president who does seem to want to return to the past, an America without the civil rights, the legions of immigrants it has always known, and without the Coronavirus of course.

Yes, This Is The Face Of A Tyrant

And a competent one at that.

Andrew Sullivan in the Weekly Dish, September, 2020

If there’s one enduring theme about tyrants in myth, literature, and history it is that, for a long time, no one takes them seriously. And there are few better examples of this than Shakespeare’s fictional Richard III. He’s a preposterous figure in many ways, an unsightly hunchback, far down the line of royal accession, socially outcast, riven with resentment, utterly dismissible — until he serially dismisses and/or murders everyone between him and the throne. What makes the play so riveting and often darkly funny is the sheer unlikelihood of the plot, the previously inconceivable ascent to the Crown of this indelibly absurd figure, as Stephen Greenblatt recently explored in his brilliant monograph, Tyrant.

I’ll never forget watching a performance by Antony Sher of Richard decades ago — playing him as a spider, instinctually scuttling on two legs and two black canes, to trap, murder, and ingest his foes. The role is, of course, a fictional portrait, designed to buttress the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty that followed Richard III and that Shakespeare lived under. But as an analysis of the psychology of tyranny, it’s genius. Like Plato and Aristotle, Shakespeare saw this question not merely as political, but as wrapped up in the darker folds of the human soul, individual and collective.

The background of the drama is England’s “War of the Roses”, the civil war between two regional dynasties from which Richard emerged. And that’s often key in tyrant narratives: it’s when societies are already fractured into tribes, and divisions have become insurmountable, that tyrants tend to emerge, exploiting and fomenting chaos, to reign, however briefly, over the aftermath.

The war seems resolved when the victorious Edward, Richard’s older brother, succeeds to the throne: “For here I hope begins our lasting joy!” And no one thinks the deformed, bitter sibling, of all people, would be a threat. It seems preposterous. But it’s true. And at each unimaginable power grab by Richard — murdering one brother, killing the late king Edward’s young heirs, killing his own wife, and then trying to marry his niece to secure the dynasty — Richard’s peers keep telling themselves that it isn’t really happening. Greenblatt notes: “The principal weapon Richard has is the very absurdity of his ambition. No one in his right mind would suspect that he seriously aspires to the throne.” 

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But he has one key skill, Greenblatt notes, the ability to lie shamelessly: “‘Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile, And cry ‘Content!’ to that which grieves my heart, And wet my cheeks with artificial tears, And frame my face to all occasions.’” It’s a skill that serves him well — and there seems no limit to the number of those eager to believe him. His older brother George, Duke of Clarence, told by thugs that Richard wants him dead, exclaims: “Oh no, he loves me, and he holds me dear. Go you to him from me.” At which point the hired goons reply — “Ay, so we will” — and merrily murder him, taking him to Richard as a corpse. (In a good production, that can get a laugh.) One of Clarence’s young sons, told that his own uncle hates him, declares, “I cannot think it.” Others witness obvious depravity but can’t quite call it out. One official receives clearly illegal orders from Richard, and follows them, asking no questions: “I will not reason what is meant hereby, Because I will be guiltless from the meaning.” 

Denial. Avoidance. Distraction. Willful ignorance. These are all essential to enabling a tyrant’s rise. And keeping this pattern going is Richard’s profound grasp of the power of shock. He does and says the unexpected and unthinkable in order to stun his opponents into a kind of dazed passivity. It’s this capacity to keep you on your heels, to keep disorienting you with the unacceptable (which is then somehow accepted), that marks a tyrant’s relentless drive. He does this by instinct. He craves chaos, lies, suspense, surprises — not because he’s a genius, but because stability threatens his psyche. He cannot rest. He is not in control of himself. And whenever the dust settles, as it were, he has to disturb it again. 

This is what we’ve been dealing with in the figure of Donald Trump now for five years, and it is absurd to believe that a duly conducted election is going to end it. I know, I know. I’m hysterical and over-the-top and a victim of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Trump is simply too incompetent and too lazy to be an actual tyrant, I’m constantly scolded. He’s just baiting me again. And so on. But what I think this otherwise salient critique misses is that tyranny is not, in its essence, about the authoritarian and administrative skills required to run a country effectively for a long time. Tyrants, after all, are often terrible at this. It is rather about a mindset, as the ancient philosophers understood, with obvious political consequences. It’s a pathology. It requires no expertise in anything other than itself.

You need competence if you want to run an effective government, or plan a regular campaign, or master policy with a view to persuading people, or hold power for the sake of something else. You need competence to create and sustain something. But you do not need much competence to destroy things. You just need the will. And this is what tyrants do: they destroy things. Richard III ruled for two short years, ending in his own death in battle, and a ruined country.

This is Trump’s threat. Not the construction of a viable one-party state, but the destruction of practices, norms, civility, laws, customs and procedures that constitute liberal democracy’s non-zero-sum genius. He doesn’t need to be competent to destroy our system of government. He merely needs to be himself: an out-of-control, trust-free, malignant narcissist, with inexhaustible resources of psychic compulsion, in a pluralist system designed for the opposite. All you need is an insatiable pathological drive to avoid any constraint on your own behavior, and the demagogic genius to carry a critical mass of people with you, and our system, designed as the antidote to tyranny, is soon unspooling into incoherence, deadlock, and collapse.

I’m told he’s been ineffective even as a tyrant, so no worries. To which I can only say: really? Once you realize he doesn’t give a shit about any actual policies, apart from doing all he can to wipe the legacy of Barack Obama from planet earth, he’s been pretty competent. Note how he turned Congressional subpoenas into toilet paper; how he crippled and muzzled the Mueller inquiry; how he installed a crony at the Department of Justice to pursue his political enemies and shield him from the law; how effectively he stymied impeachment; how he cucked every previous Republican opponent; how he helped destroy the credibility of news sources that oppose him; how he filled his cabinet with acting secretaries and flunkies; how he declared fake emergencies to claim the power of the purse assigned to the Congress; and how he has reshaped the Supreme Court with potentially three new Justices, whom he sees solely as his loyal stooges if he comes up against the rule of law.

And gotten away with all of it! 

In protecting his own power over others, he has been as competent as hell. Imagine where we’d be in four more years. Despite a mountain of criticism, he has not conceded a single error, withdrawn a single statement, or acknowledged a single lie. His party lost the mid-terms, but seriously, what difference did that make? His control of the Republican party, and his cult-like grip on the base, has never been greater than now. Yes, he has said and done racially polarizing things — but the joke is he may yet have more support from blacks and Latinos in 2020 than he did in 2016. Think of his greatest policy failures: the appalling loss of life in the Covid epidemic and the collapse of law and order in the cities. Now recall that on February 1 of this year, Trump was at 43.4 percent approval; 200,000 deaths later, and the wreckage from Seattle to Portland to Minneapolis, and his approval today is at 43.1 percent

This is, of course, not enough to win re-election. And Trump has no interest in broadening his appeal, because it would dilute the tribalism he feeds off. So he has made it abundantly clear that if the results of the election show him the loser, he will not accept them. Simple, really. He said this in 2016, of course, refusing to honor the result in advance. But this year, he has stumbled upon something quite marvelous for his purposes. Because of Covid19, it is likely that mail-in ballots will be far higher in number than before, and, as Barton Gellman has shown in this essential new piece, this gives Trump an opportunity he has instinctively seized. He has been saying for months now that: “MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE … WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR GREAT NATION.” In late summer, Gellman noted, Trump was making this argument four times a day: “Very dangerous for our country.” “A catastrophe.” “The greatest rigged election in history.” He is telling us loud and clear that, if he has anything to do with it, this election will not be decided at the ballot box, but at the Supreme Court, which he expects to control.

If you haven’t, read Gellman’s piece closely. It seems inevitable to me that, unless it’s a Biden landslide, Trump will declare himself the winner on election night, regardless of the actual results. Because most mail-in ballots will take more time to count, and several swing states have not changed their laws to allow for counting before election day, and mail-ins are easily challenged, it is quite likely that much of Biden’s vote will remain uncounted or contested — and could remain so for a long time. And after declaring victory within hours of polls closing, Trump will follow the script he used for Florida in 2018: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” he tweeted, making shit up as usual. “An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

I’ve no doubt this bullshit will be challenged by the networks, the press, and many of the states, and other sane people, who will urge patience. I’ve also no doubt that many states will do their best not to pervert the process. But I fear the result will be close (I’m underwhelmed by Biden’s near-invisible campaign), which will give Trump a chance. The fanaticism and alternate reality of a base already addicted to conspiracy theories means a hefty chunk of the country will back him. And it’s perfectly possible that Trump’s pre-emptive strike on the election result could prompt a massive revolt across the country from those who want to defend our democracy. (I will be marching in such a scenario myself). Most presidents would balk at anything close to this kind of scenario. Trump can’t wait. Violence? You can almost feel Trump’s hankering for it.

All he wants is chaos, because in chaos, the strong leader wins. Would he incite violence on his behalf if the votes seem to be drifting away from him? You bet he would. Would he urge his supporters to physically prevent ballot-counting? He already has. Would he try to corral Republican state legislators to back him in electing electors? Gellman has sources. Would he take this country to the brink of civil conflict? Way past it. Will anyone in the GOP do anything to stop him? We know the answer to that already. If they cannot condemn him this week, when would they? And he will do all this not out of some strategic calculation or tactical skill but because he cannot do anything else. He is psychologically incapable of conceding anything. And he has no understanding of collateral damage because his narcissism precludes it.

In every Shakespeare play about tyranny — from Richard III to Coriolanus to Macbeth — the tyrant loses in the end, and often quite quickly. They’re not that competent at governing, or even interested in it. The forces they unleash come back to wipe them from the stage, sooner or later. They flame out. Richard III lasted a mere couple of years on the throne.

But in every case, they leave a wrecked and reeling society in their wake. Look around you now and see the damage already done. Now imagine what we face in the next few months. We are tethered to Trump at this point because he is the legitimate president: the man who cannot control himself is in control of all the rest of us. And that’s why I desperately want to appeal to right-of-center readers at this point in the campaign to do everything they can to vote and to vote for Biden. This is not about left or right. This is about the integrity of a system that can give us such a choice. It really is an existential moment for liberal democracy, and its future, not just here but across the world. The next few months are critical.

It fills me with inexpressible rage that we have been brought to this. But there is no way out now other than through. This was always going to be the moment of maximal danger. And we cannot lose our focus now.

Liberté, egalité, fraternité

FIRST THOUGHTS


This is the tagline of my blog, the origin of which seems to be the French Revolution. And in fact are there these three, plus other aspects of our lives that are so important that we would give up our lives rather than be without them? Now there are moments of course when you might be ready to do that, gi ve up your life inorder to be free for example. ” Live free or Die,” isn’t that what they say in New Hampshire?

I’ve always wondered just how real was this expression. Do people in NH actually do this? Or was it just another one of those countless mantras, words of phrases, that we hide behind in order not be found, or rather not to be found out?

Now take the three of them, freedom, equality and fraternity? I would say first of all that they are not of equal importance (my personal choice going to fraternity) and they/we might be better off if we separated them in our hearts and minds, as it were, the ones from the others, in order that the truths and lies of the ones not be confused with the truths and lies of the others. Because all three have their truths and falsehoods as just about everything else in this world. All three will have their own Bell Curves.

Take the one, equality, the one about which perhaps the most scholarly treatises have been written. From all that I’ve read no one seems to know what the word means, not even Thomas Jefferson who did write mysteriously in 1776, that all men were created equal. Yeah sure. Do you know what he meant by that? I don’t.

There are of course many equalities, an infinite number of them. There are the equalities of this or that or the other thing Also there are the inequalities of this or that. Inequality, has been pretty much with us since the onset of civlisation some tens of thousands of years ago. Perhaps the greatest failing of the Founding Fathers was to have run away from this subject as fast as they could. For one thing hey were all slave holders, that is those who considered slaves as their own property. Also they probably sensed that there was nothing they could do, unless they happened to be followers of Christ and gave up their shirt to the poor. I don’t think anyone of them did, but I could be wrong about that.

Now this is not a book I’m writing, just beginning (again) to put down on “paper” a few of my thoughts. I take much of my thinking about equality from an article by Andrew Sullivan, a long time “see you next Friday’ writer at the New York Magazine), his article, The Logic Of,Bell Curve Leftism.

And if there ever was a truth teller it’s Andrew. In this article, he’s telling us the truth about equality of intelligence (there isn’t any), a subject that has been mostly avoided in my life time by writers wanting to keep themselves from being struck down and banished from the guest list of New York, the Hampshires, and Washington DC social gatherings, from all those who would treat everyone the same, who want to go on believing that intelligence no less than wealth can be evenly distributed among the population. It can’t. Says Andrew and me too.

Is democracy dead

IS AMERICA A MYTH?

The United States has deepening political and cultural cleavages—possibly too many to repair soon, or, perhaps, at all.

By Robin Wright

The United States feels like it is unravelling. It’s not just because of a toxic election season, a national crisis over race, unemployment and hunger in the land of opportunity, or a pandemic that’s killing tens of thousands every month. The foundation of our nation has deepening cracks—possibly too many to repair anytime soon, or, perhaps, at all. The ideas and imagery of America face existential challenges—some with reason, some without—that no longer come only from the fringes. Rage consumes many in America. And it may only get worse after the election, and for the next four years, no matter who wins. Our political and cultural fissures have generated growing doubt about the stability of a country that long considered itself an anchor, a model, and an exception to the rest of the world. Scholars, political scientists, and historians even posit that trying to unite disparate states, cultures, ethnic groups, and religions was always illusory.

“The idea that America has a shared past going back into the colonial period is a myth,” Colin Woodard, the author of “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood,” told me. “We are very different Americas, each with different origin stories and value sets, many of which are incompatible. They led to a Civil War in the past and are a potentially incendiary force in the future.”

The crisis today reflects the nation’s history. Not much, it turns out, has changed. The country was settled by diverse cultures—the Puritans in New England, the Dutch around New York City, the Scots-Irish dominating Appalachia, and English slave lords from Barbados and the West Indies in the Deep South. They were often rivals, Woodard noted: “They were by no means thinking of themselves belonging to a protean American country-in-waiting.” The United States was “an accident of history,” he said, largely because distinct cultures shared an external threat from the British. They formed the Continental Army to stage a revolution and form the Continental Congress, with delegates from thirteen colonies. Almost two hundred and fifty years later, a country six times its original size claims to be a melting pot that has produced an “American” culture and a political system that vows to provide “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Too often, it hasn’t.

Centuries later, the cultural divide and cleavages are still deep. Three hundred and thirty million people may identify as Americans, but they define what that means—and what rights and responsibilities are involved—in vastly different ways. The American promise has not delivered for many Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asian-Americans, myriad immigrant groups, and even some whites as well. Hate crimes—acts of violence against people or property based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender identity—are a growing problem. A bipartisan group in the House warned in August that, “as uncertainty rises, we have seen hatred unleashed.”

When Athens and Sparta went to war, in the fifth century B.C., the Greek general and historian Thucydides observed, “The Greeks did not understand each other any longer, though they spoke the same language.” In the twenty-first century, the same thing is happening among Americans. Our political discourse has become “civil war by other means—we sound as if we do not really want to continue to be members of one country,” Richard Kreitner wrote, in the recently released book “Break It Up: Secession, Division and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union.” At different times in America’s history, the Union’s survival was produced as much by “chance and contingency” as by flag-waving and political will. “At nearly every step it required morally indefensible compromises that only pushed problems further into the future.”

The attempt to reckon with our unjust past has produced more questions—and new divisions—about our future. In Washington, D.C., last week, a group commissioned by the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, recommended, in a report, that her office ask the federal government to “remove, relocate, or contextualize” the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and statues to Benjamin Franklin and Christopher Columbus, among others. The committee compiled a list of people who should not have public works named after them, including Presidents James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson, the inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem. After a deluge of criticism, Bowser said on Friday that the report was being misinterpreted and that the city would not do anything about the monuments and memorials. But a question remains, not just because we live in the era of Black Lives Matter: What is America about today? And is it any different from its deeply flawed past?

There was always an ambiguity about what the United States was supposed to be, Woodard said. Was it supposed to be an alliance of states (as the European Union, with twenty-seven distinct governments, is today), or a confederation (like Switzerland, with its three languages and twenty-six cantons), or a nation-state (like post-revolutionary France), or even a treaty mechanism, to prevent intra-state conflict? After the American Revolution, the “ad-hoc solution” was to celebrate the shared victory against the British; core differences were not addressed. Today, America is still conflicted about its values, whether over the social contract, the means of educating its children, the right to bear or ban arms, the protection of its vast lands, lakes, and air, or the relationship between the states and the federal government.

Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funds to four major cities—New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Portland—because of “anarchist” activities during weeks of protests. “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” the President’s five-page memo said. It was the latest of many acts by Trump that have further divided the nation, although the trend did not start with him. ça to

Since the eighteen-thirties, the United States has gone through cycles of crises that threatened its cohesion. The idea of a revolutionary republic committed to equality (at the time, only for white men) started to erode as regional differences surfaced and the first generation of revolutionaries died out. States or territories have repeatedly pushed for independence—Vermont formally joined the Union in 1791, after spending fourteen years as an independent republic. The State of Muskogee, a multicultural republic of Native Americans, escaped slaves, and white settlers around Tallahassee, lasted from 1799 until 1803. In 1810, a small group of settlers captured a Spanish fort in Baton Rouge and declared the creation of an independent Republic of West Florida; their capital was St. Francisville, Louisiana. They elected a president, wrote a constitution, and designed a flag (a white star on blue); the movement died after President Monroe annexed the region. There were others, including the Republic of Fredonia, in Texas, the California Republic, and the Indian Stream Republic, in New England. The biggest rupture, of course, was in the eighteen-sixties, when eleven states—Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia—seceded to form the Confederacy.

In his new book, Kreitner argues that, with its politics irrevocably broken, America is running out of time. The potential for physical and political separation is now real, even though the polarization of America does not have neat geographic borders. No red state is entirely red; no blue state is entirely blue. “The twenty-first century has seen an unmistakable resurgence of the idea of leaving or breaking up the United States—a kaleidoscopic array of separatist movements shaped by the conflicts and divisions of the past but manifested in new and potentially destabilizing ways,” he writes. Unlike in the past, the current separatist impulses have emerged in multiple places at the same time. “Often dismissed as unserious or quixotic, a throwback to the Confederacy, the new secessionism reveals divisions in American life possibly no less intractable than the ones that led to the first Civil War,” Kreitner warns.

In the years to come, the appeal of pulling the plug on the American experiment is likely to grow, even among faithful adherents to the idea of federal power. And, if the Union dissolves again, Kreitner writes, it will not be along a clean line but “everywhere and all at once.” In some ways, the election, now only eight weeks away, will be a temporary relief, at least in ending the current agonizing uncertainty. But it will play only one part in deciding what ultimately will happen to our nation. “Are we a myth? Well, yes, in the deep sense. Always have been,” Blight said. To survive, America must move beyond the myth.

my Blogging

We’re just over the halfway point of the year. Now this year, 2020 has been much on our minds because it will give us, we trust, on November 3rd, the long awaited presidential election. Assuming that Trump doesn’t succeed with his efforts to sabotage the election in his own favor, mainly by lowering the numbers of anti-Trump eligible voters, President Trump will turn into Mr. Trump from one day to the next.

And Mr. Trump will become the most favored target of any number of state attorney Generals and prosecutors, all in line to pursue Mr. Trump for any number of corruption charges , not the least of which being the charge of treating the United States government as his own private playground subject to no laws or limits other than those of his own invention.

Now I have a number of WordPress blogs, 8 of them altogether, of which 6 are kept hidden. The other two, Quatrevingtans and My-Journal, are not hidden, are public. The latter two are the principal carriers of my own thoughts, along with the thoughts of a multitude of others who probably like me are out of school, but still my teachers.

My blogs contain my own thoughts which are and have been for most of my adult life, the “things,” mostly the words, that I hold most dear. There are countless ideas contained therein, hundreds, thousands, of the ideas of others, with frequently a few of my own. Although I might ask how many of us has ever had an idea that has not been usually better expressed by others, probably many others at another and earlier, or much earlier time?

There are many men and women whom I admire, for their words which are usually within my reach, but also for their actions not so much within my reach. There are a large number of these individuals and I won’t try now to list them, but there are a few at the top of my list, two of these being Hannah Arendt whom I call the teller of truths so terribly needed in this untruth time of Donald Trump and his enablers, and Nelson Mandela no less a truth teller but also throughout his life a man of action.

Mandela was arrested and imprisoned in 1962, and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state. He went on to serve 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster Prisons.


Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth
century.

Hannah Arendt orn into a German-Jewish family, Hannah was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and first lived in Paris for the next eight years, before moving to New York. To learn more go to Richard Bernstein. “Why read Hannah Arendt Now?”


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Photo: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Number two on my list is Nelson Mandela who lived his whole life, in South Africa, almost by himself making the country that had been an area home to 10 or more tribes, in the process. Now he is admired throughout the world, no less than M LK and Mahatma Ghandi, admired as a man of action, an anti-apartheid revolutionary, a political leader and philanthropist, and who served , following his release from Robbin Island, as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.


Angela Merkel

And what about this person, Angela Merkel, a truth teller and woman of action, also another person whom I greatly admire,

Angela Merkel, present Chancellor of Germany since 2005. Born in Hamburg in july of 1954.

Angela Dorothea Merkel is a German politician who has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as the Leader of the Christian Democratic Union from 2000 to 2018. She has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful woman in the world.

What I remember about Chancellor Merkel is her decision, alone of the Western democracies, including the United States, to keep country’s borders open thereby allowing some 1 million+ mostly Syrian refugees to freely enter Germany.

Angela Merkel with migrant
Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

A mmigrant takes a photo with Angela Markel outside a refugee camp in Berlin in September 2015.

Was she right to do so? I would say yes, much as we have been right to allow millions of migrants and refugees to freely enter our country. Old countries, like Germany and now ourselves are always in need of new people with new ideas. We also need leaders like Angela Merkel but in my life time there have been far too few. There have been Nelson Mandela and Angela Merkel.

Jean-Claude Juncker kissing Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/AP Images/Y. Herman)
Jean-Claude Juncker has praised Angela Merkel for her controversial decision to let in nearly 1 million refugees in the autumn of 2015.

The EU’s Juncker says that History will prove Chancellor Merkel right on refugees. I would say that History will prove our president wrong on this and on just about everything else.

more from Charlie

This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot.

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Charles P. Pierce, August 20, 2020

The fact is that none of those three things should be on a ballot. We should not have to vote ourselves decent. We should not have to subject scientific truth to a plebiscite. We should never have even the slimmest chance to vote down democracy. But here T are. And here we stay, for two more months, at least.

Charlie of course is Charles P. Pierce who writes occasional pieces for Esquire Magazine (I’m familiar with about one a week, but there may be more.)
This week’s piece is particularly interesting (well, last week’s too). It begins with Patrick Henry’s of Give me Liberty or Death. “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” (a quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, in Richmond, Virginia.) It was at the very least a call to arms against the armies of the King. Something had to be done and right away.

Charlie then juxtaposes Henry’s words and action in 1775 with Barack Obama’s speech on Day 3 of the Democratic Convention. Once again our Constitutional government as Obama makes clear was teetering on the brink, perhaps more seriously than ever before, and now, right now in the words of President Obama something had to be done. There followed a “something”on Day 4, the last day of the Democratic Convention. This was Joe Biden’s acceptance speech that in its essence might be considered a translation of Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death.” Then the tyrant was the English King, George III, now the would be tyrant is Donald Trump.

notes from my journal

There are things that go right by. We don’t record them if we see them, which we most often do not.. But in too many instances the things that go right by are close to what I am. to what we are, to what you are. Does that mean we’re leaving parts of us behind all the time? Well yes, everybody is.

What do I do about them now, the parts destined to be left behind? Some of them, a tiny number of them given the huge numbers of them, I collect them, small part of me that I hold onto, and I’ve always done that. These parts of me are of course my lived experiences. The major difference between now and earlier times in my life is that we have gone digital. That at once allows me to collect many more of the things that do go by, in my case ideas and images, articles and recordings, many more than I ever could in my hard copy life of long ago.

But of course I collect very few of those that are there, of the books published hardly any as evidenced by the few recently published books now on my shelves . If there were not so much happening all the time about us wouldn’t we constantly be trying to write our own histories of at least the wee little bit that we know best.

But for the most part we cannot do that. There is just too much happening, and the little we’re aware of ourselves is still too much. Yes, life is far too overwhelming. What do we do?

Some of us will readily abandon any attempt to make order of what amounts to chaos and simply drop out. Others, more courageous perhaps, will still try to stay on top of what is happening, knowing all the time that they can’t.

How about what’s happening just today? What if I were off the top of my head, to list just a first few of the things that are happening to us and about us?

* There are the tragic movements of peoples, some 70 million of those who have abandoned their own homes to go where, wherever there is a road or way, meaning where there is an opening for themselves. Of these there are fewer and fewer who succeed in reaching their destinations as we erect walls and other obstacles in their paths. We find them today in their millions in temporary/permanent refugee camps.


* There is the devastation of our planet earth, a devastation among other things amounting to extinctions of millions of plant and animal species, (why? well often to enable a relatively few of us, along with one president, to go on stuffing ourselves “à volonté” with burgers and cokes and our cars with gasoline).

* There are the schools that were meant to occupy the children while setting the parents free. But while setting the parents free the schools did little to free the children themselves to become what they were meant to be, such being the real end of all education. As if this could be accomplished over some 12 years of listening to a teacher in a classroom. Yes, the public schools while they did free the parents made it that the majority of the children, following their for the most part asted years in school, had to begin again, in most cases ironically having to go back to school in order this time around to learn something useful.

* Thee are the principal ways of amusing ourselves, our own bread and circuses, at best these being our school and professional athletic competitions, and perhaps at worst and much more prevalent, these being the sex and violence laden products of the film and television industries, really now the same thing.

* And today of course there is our little black death or Covid-19 pandemic that is currently dropping us, homo sapiens, much like we drop the musca domestica or fly, both without rhyme or reason.

And my list could go and on. And I haven’t even mentioned what would be for me the most important item on my list, the rise of authoritarian and fascistic movements throughout the nations of the world, that which is threatening to destroy, (yes, even in America if our president were to have his way) the West’s greatest achievement up until now, liberal democracy.

herodotus and thucycides

Each of these subject areas or stories that I mention in the previous post could be told by our own historians in hundreds, thousands of different ways, while always leaving much more still to be said. For as I would say the information available to us today online may be infinite and the historians among us who would describe what is happening would have to at least consider the infinite quantity of material available to them, without ever being able to take into account more than a tiny fraction of what’s our there. So what does the historian do? They write their own histories, and they compete with the hundreds of others writing no less their own histories often of the same controversy or war time battle for the reader’s attention.

Imagine now the existence of thousands of world voyagers much like Herodotus, writing about what they are observing in their travels. You don’t have to imagine it for it is happening right now. Why the New York Times and so many of the other Fake News publications do this every day. They have amazing writers and reporters that go out there into the world, much like Herodotus, to come back and tell us what they’ve seen. And I never tire of reading them, for reading them there is always more to learn about the world, more I did not know.

Imagine a thousand or more individuals with the intelligence and sensitivity of Thucydides looking closely at our own wars, giving us full descriptions of what happened, and more important what was going on underneath the surface disagreements and battles. Herodotus and Thucydides where are you now? Well you may very well be here with us but in multiple copies, and that’s good.

And I haven’t even mentioned Homer. But I’m sure he’s here too, somewhere. When you have thousands of us looking about us and writing about what we see it’s inevitable that there will be some of them who will have as much to tell us about our world, more actually, than the ancients, when there were only a very few, writing, about their own compared to ours, tiny world. Because today’s historians, and perhaps poets also, will have read the ancients and incorporated the ancient wisdom into their own works. Or something like that… I often think that we live in the best of times, assuming that we will have a decent guy as our president in January of 2021.