Two decisions came out today, one from the judiciary and another from a private business. I’ve taken an interest in both of these rulings simply because they were both released on the same day, as the result of happy coincidence, and because they coincide with a general confusion, I would say, that grips present American society.
Trump’s whispers are heard in the atmosphere, hovering over the populace like clouds that threaten destructive floods to come. Someone reports seeing a blue bird, which has by now become the omen that foretells an inauspicious day. Another blue bird is reported, then another. The people have learned to let the flying beasts come, lest they risk attracting their attention and having the roofs of their houses collapse from the weight of the things. After a time, it becomes clear that Trump’s aviary, gold-plated and obtuse, no longer holds life, and instead hangs empty, extravagant, and dumb.
The blue birds perch on fire hydrants, stoplights, and cars. Their feathers are of such a brilliant blue as to appear celestial—somehow, they glow. The people can’t help but look at them, slack-jawed and mesmerized, in wonder of how creatures so strange could be seen every day and still look so new. But the people are careful around the blue birds, for the birds are eager to return to their aviary and feed their holder Trump with the bread crumbs gathered from the day. Added to the normal cacophony of the day are the blue birds’ cries: “McConnell! McConnell!”
“Oh, boy,” McConnell sighs. Continue reading The Ballad of Trump and McConnell
Put yourself in the shoes of the rich and the poor; diseased and healthy; smart and dumb, knowledgeable and ignorant; gay and straight–do anything contrary to your lived-in reality and you’ll have willingly subjected yourself, admirably in that case, to an exercise in empathy. Notice the missing conjunction: or. Context and perspective are only possible when accompanied by a parallel yardstick, one that may even run perpendicular at certain intersections.
Citizen and immigrant are not two sides of the same coin, though our political environment on both sides tries to make us believe it. On the right, the separating line is a legal one, simply that of legal and illegal. On the left, the legal distinction isn’t a relevant one, because morality takes precedent; these are human beings, and by now I’m sure you’ve heard the latest slogan to come out of leftwing advocacy groups: No human being is illegal. I don’t agree with that sentiment, which is a dangerous thing to admit nowadays, because, while our laws aren’t perfect and can be quite cruel under certain circumstances, like those regarding immigration, the fact remains that our entire society depends upon adherence to these laws–this we call the rule of law–and to every other law that keeps this experiment in coexistence from explosive combustion. We have a process in place to amend, repeal or create new laws reflective of popular opinion, but that process is necessarily cumbersome–certainly burdensome for those trapped in the legislation–because it demands the deliberation of consequences, coupled with the consideration of those who stand to benefit or lose. The process is cruel in the same way that it’s cruel to put people in line when they are in desperate need of a heart transplant. But it’s the best we’ve got. Continue reading Born-again Immigrant
Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 both depict a future devoid of thought, but not awareness. The protagonists, Guy Montag and Winston, are interchangeable in their demeanor, so I don’t need to specify which belongs to which novel. Both recognize that something isn’t quite right in the worlds they live in, with Winston referring to an ancestral memory that is his only hint into the way things once were. Guy Montag questions whether books were always burned, and thanks to his boss, Captain Beatty, he learns that in fact, no, books were not always burned. Books asked questions that could never be answered; they encouraged dissent by always challenging present ideas, ideas held sacred, and so books were deemed dangerous—not only dangerous, but unnecessary. 1984’s world also roots out dissenters, purging anti-Party terrorists for the continuation and assurance of party purity. Rather than burn the past, though, like in Fahrenheit 451, 1984 preserves the existence of the past, but with heavy alterations, edits, and revisions—this is no past at all, Winston observes. Continue reading Inextinguishable: An Optimist Reads 1984 and Fahrenheit 451
Three months down. It’s time to take stock.
There are condoms everywhere. Unlike in the US, where you have to go through the 7/11 clerk to ask for a pack, or wave down a supermarket associate so that she (it’s usually a woman) can unlock the glass door and know more about you than you wanted to reveal, since she has to lock the glass again after you’ve made your selection, China has condoms next to the bathing products, and the snacks, and the wine, and the miscellaneous items, and on this corner, here, because you’ve walked too far without seeing a condom pack. Family planning, after all, is part of Chinese culture. Though the one-child policy has been relaxed to allow for two children, the Communist Party still caps the number of children a family can have to avoid its 1 billion+ population from becoming a John and Kate + 8 scenario. Chinese people have very strong knees, a colleague explained to me, because of the way toilets are, or rather, aren’t. Squat toilets reign supreme here, which to me feels like an urban camping experience, but you’ll often see people squatting in the street while on their phones, to rest—in the absence of benches, squatting provides a suitable substitute. Continue reading Minority Report
Month 2 down. It’s time to take stock.
Things made in China do not say, “Made Around the Corner.” Dogs run around, unleashed, beside their owners, and they maintain a reasonable proximity to passerby traffic. Despite their small size—poodles are popular here—they do not bark or try to intimidate like the poodles and Chihuahuas back in the US. The price of winter coats goes down during the fall, not up like in the US; I chalk that up as a victory for the socialist part of China’s socialist market economy. Gratuity is factored into the final price and every restaurant, including McDonald’s and KFC, will clean up after you. The metro system is fast, clean, and routinely cramped, sometimes to the point of bursting, on which occasion you have no choice but to wait for the next train and hope for better luck. Apartments reign supreme in Nanjing, so I have no idea what houses look like in China. Life hasn’t been very different from living in the US, save for the obvious language transposition. Oh, and I’m much closer to North Korea now. Continue reading Wary Observer
Some people just want to watch the world burn. Donald Trump is not one of those people. I sincerely believe that he sincerely believes he can help this country. I sincerely believe that his supporters sincerely believe Trump can help this country. If you wanted to understand what goes on in the minds of his supporters, watch a few hours of the Republican National Convention. Disclaimer: I only watched Day Three of the convention, but I’ll hazard a guess and say that any of the four days will tell you all you need to know about the Republicans—not just about Trump supporters. Continue reading Untouchable Trump
With a few weeks to go before the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and with the two presumptive nominees already, presumably, chosen, we need to think about a few issues that have gone largely unnoticed, but which, in my mind pose difficult policy questions for Hillary Clinton. President Obama’s time in the oval office is almost up, his popularity is surging, and while Trump and Clinton pivot to the general election, Obama himself is pivoting to become Hillary’s most influential surrogate. Her election would largely secure his policies and those of Democrats, generally. From embracing a multilateral approach to combatting ISIS, to keeping in place the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Affordable Care Act, Hillary would effectively secure a figurative Obama third-term and use her mighty veto to strike down any Republican attempts to repeal whatever they please.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, continues to tank his campaign, but let’s think back to some of the serious policy issues he somehow stumbled upon, issues which Hillary Clinton will have to face, either from Trump himself in a debate, or from his supporters. Members of the #bernieorbust movement will similarly require assuaging of their disdain, if possible. Continue reading My Buddy, Obama
The party of Lincoln, Republican leaders are keen to remind us—the party of Reagan—does not support Donald Trump’s rhetoric, his misogynistic, race-baiting, and Islamophobic vitriol. Unfolding before our very eyes is a demonstration of dissonance, as Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and Nikki Haley describe a fragment of the Republican Party, one inclusive of immigrants and unafraid of the future, and purport the fragment as representative of the Republican whole. Clearly, their imagined fragment does not make up the majority of their party—as evidenced by Trump’s candidacy—and yet they and other Republican leaders continue to present an electorate that supposedly does not stand for all that Trump represents. No Republican president will endorse Trump. No Republican candidate seeks Trump’s VP nomination. Trump is being treated like a toxic candidate and is, for all intents and purposes, a political pariah, but one who Republican voters have chosen as their mouthpiece, and if necessary, their wrecking ball. With Trump’s candidacy comes the Republican Party’s chance to recreate itself and realign its message, but only if it owns up for the need to do so in the first place. Continue reading Why I Like The Republican Party
What is America? The default answer would include something about bootstraps, the lifting of which is available to anyone willing to work hard, regardless of background, in a land where all live free, and that, as long as you have a dream, you can aspire to success. Give it a few seconds and some qualifications trickle out, depending on your political affiliation. Trump’s addendums—hardly his alone—would include a couple of quips on the preponderance of the American military, the additional requirement of Christianity as one’s choice of faith, and the reminder that, though this was a country of immigrants, it never was a country meant to cater to them and it certainly does not, and should not, now. Sarah Palin further misconstrues what should be a straightforward answer, one noble in its simplicity. She popularized Joe Six-Pack, the do-it-all handyman for every male demographic Republicans seek to attract. In the process of political pandering, Mr. Six-Pack is meant to invoke the image of the ideal American—all of them, at the same time—though he works much better as an image of mockery. Continue reading Why I Like Palin