Trump is no laughing matter

7/24/15

They laughed when he said he was "seriously considering" running. He'd said it so many times before. This was surely another Donald Trump publicity stunt to boost his 'brand' and his ego. Then everyone waited for him to balk when it came time to release financial records. After all, he wasn't going to really run. But he released them, and said in his
One of the great orators of our time.
I'll-show-them voice "Now they see that I'm much RICHER than they thought I was. I'm REALLY rich." And he is.

When he said that Mexican illegal immigrants were mostly rapists and the like, his poll numbers continued to rise. The commentators in newspaper and on television insisted that he was about to sink. Any day now. When he said that McCain was a so-called war hero just because he was captured, and that "to be honest, I prefer the ones that weren't captured", everyone gasped, and his poll numbers were sure to plummet. Right?

Flavors of Conservatism

7/19/15

There are different ways of being conservative.  Economic conservatives want financial markets to operate unimpeded by government regulations.  Social conservatives favor traditional, often religious, values such as opposition to abortion. These two types of conservatism have little to do with one another, but in the U.S., Republicans pull these strands together to form electoral majorities when they can.

There's another kind of conservatism more deep-rooted than those of either the fiscal or social flavor.

The Emerald City and Manhattan

7/11/15

I saw the Broadway musical "Wicked" last night.  Spoiler: Glinda the 'Good Witch' is shallow, conceited, and even when she was in school, ever-popular.  And the 'Wicked Witch' isn't wicked, although her skin is green.  The 'wicked' label is a slander by the Oz establishment to discredit her for her social activism against unjust Oz policies.  Calling her wicked is like calling Che Guevara a terrorist.  In reality, the 'wicked' witch is the one with empathy and a social conscience.  She is thoughtful, kind of hip, and has put up with being ostracized her whole life for the green pigmentation of her skin.

But that's all by way of background.  The thing that particularly struck me was when she first went to visit the big city, the cosmopolitan Emerald City.  Like Manhattan, the Emerald city was filled with lots of things to see, lots of unusual people, and nobody even noticed that she was green.

Of the many pros and cons of Manhattan, one of the very strong pros is that nobody notices if you're green.  So pretty soon, you don't notice either, and you can focus on other things that are more interesting ... and important. 

What's better than being exceptional?

6/24/15

I imagine that balanced people want to be happy and healthy, and wish the same for those they're close to. It's also normal and healthy to enjoy your work or hobbies, and to try to excel at them. But this is different than needing to be better than everyone else. Wishing to be? Okay. Striving to be?  Fine. But needing to be? No sir.  There's something off balance about the need to be exceptional.

In the coming years, I hope that my country will become more psychologically healthy, and let go of the need to be exceptional. I hope we'll strive to improve educational institutions, to improve health services, to create more jobs that allow people to engage in fulfilling work. All of this can be done without the need to be exceptional in comparison to other countries.

There was a song popular some years ago that went "Proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free...."   But that lyric could just as well replace "American" with French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, South Korean, and many other nationalities. In Spanish, the lyric would be "Orgulloso de ser de España, donde al menos sé que soy libre". But people I know from Spain would feel ridiculous singing such a lyric. Listening to someone else sing it they'd feel what they call "vergüenza ajena", embarrassment for the other person. The Spanish have lived in a free country since the 1970s (when democracy was restored after Franco). But they know that they're one of many countries with freedom of speech, press, and religion.  The singer's proud to be an American, and that's great. But a person can be proud without being ignorant.

I can envision a psychologically healthy America, happy to be a member of a community of free nations, and motivated to improve conditions for its own people. That's better than being exceptional.