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Saturday, June 17, 2017

"Whatever you can do . . . "

I’ve been having difficulty getting up energy to write. Maybe partly because I’m older and lazier? It never was easy, but now?
            Yet here I am, returning to the blog after 5 years away, prompted by the heartbreaking political dysfunction in my homeland, the United States of America. Just a tiny voice I am, and my physical body is on the other side of the world in Thailand, a country maybe even more dysfunctional. What’s the point in writing?

Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”
-Mohandas Gandhi

I guess that’s it. This, here, is the only “whatever” I can think to do. So I’ll set aside the laziness for a bit to put my thoughts up here and get them out in the world, and see if with that I might just be able to encourage some people, and engage others. Engagement and sensible talk, devoutly to be desired, and about all that I can hope to contribute before my time is up.
            This has been in my thoughts for a long time, since even before the devastating political campaign season of 2016. How did we get so divided, so anxious, so full of fear, and how can we pull back from that? Facebook was what really brought it home, all the put-downs, name-calling, and misdirected rage, a volcano of mindless emotion shoveled out into the world with no care or intention for where the flaming detritus would land or what effect it might have. There seems much less concern for doing anything to improve the situation we find ourselves in than in ranting to seek reinforcement by others with like-minded rants, seeking communities bound together by their own particular types of mental torture. Or maybe just for the sake of ranting. I've found myself wandering like a lost soul in this furious landscape, here offering words of support, there opposition, but never feeling very happy about any of it. Here and there I’d get into a long riff with someone about truth, justice, and the American way, and actually find some things I considered halfway articulate emerging onto the page, but nothing went further, or out to a wider readership. So that’s what this entry, and as many as I can muster from here on, will attempt to reach. A community of the encouraged and engaged. I’ve got things I’d like to talk about . . . do you?
            What finally got me going was the rant of a Facebook “friend” on a post about the Cuba policy rollbacks. I quote:

The Cuban people are wonderful and I enjoyed my time there. They are an incredibly resourceful people by necessity. That said, anyone who calls themselves a democrat, liberal or bernie t. clown supporter should be required to spend two or three days there living life like a Cuban. It is not easy despite free health care and free education. That is ultimate result of continuously voting for dems or the clown or clown types (a/k/a elizabug wart-ren). Two to three days in Havana should cure even the most dense person among us from ever voting for a dem again - even for local office. Call me against further travel restrictions based on that alone. The whole place is a decaying or fully decayed shit hole because of socialism and BIG government.

When – leaving alone the insulting name-calling, which I think has no place in civilized discourse – I went in to ask (with a touch of humor, I’d have thought) if he was suggesting that the Castro regime happened because people were voting Democratic all those years, I myself came under attack, ending with “you want to be narrow with your thought process because you are hoping to be right - but possessing faulty logic will never make it right.

            See, that’s what I’m talkin ‘bout. Show me any logic or clear thinking in what my FB buddy put up, or his response, which calls me out for “faulty logic.” If there is any, please use the comments section below the blog to explain.
            I shouldn’t even have to say this, but communism and the principles espoused by even the most liberal Democrat are poles apart. Somehow, it appears, all social programs, starting with public education and going way beyond Social Security, extending even to the National Park Service, are now lumped into the same political bag with communism, or at the very least socialism. To me this shows an amazing – and irresponsible – lack of knowledge or understanding of history, political theory, and current reality. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived a long time, but I remember Reagan (a guy I had profound disagreements with) saying “Social Security . . . assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future.” I remember Nixon, another Republican, proposing the Environmental Protection Agency and signing it into law. I recall that the Cuba policy in place for so long was expanded by three Democratic presidents. And – O so well – I remember the Cold War, where the US set itself throughout decades of bipartisan administrations in absolute opposition to communism. And I recall a sigh of relief from nearly all of us, of almost all political stripes, when those stupid totalitarian regimes started to collapse in the same way we’d once feared the dominoes of our so-styled “free” nations might fall.
            Equating failed communist systems to policies espoused by Democrats? I, the product of a free public school system and an incredibly fine but virtually free public university system right in the US, whose father, a prominent mathematician, got his fine education courtesy of the G.I. bill, beg to differ. Wanting such things is not the equivalent of standing strung-out on a dingy corner panhandling, and they should not be lumped in with “free stuff,” said in that demeaning, insulting, self-righteous tone seen so much these days.
            I’m putting these thoughts out here in hopes I’m not just talking to myself, slapping myself on the back, to get “you go guy” shouts from supporters, but rather that this semi-private place might attract the eyes of people that would accuse me of being illogical or ill-informed, and be somewhere we can actually go back and forth in a civilized way.

I’ve got plenty more to say, but let this be it for today. The little exchange above finally got me motivated to put thoughts on paper, or on screen. Let the games begin.


  1. Great to have your blog back, Peter!!

  2. Peter, Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes." Yes, The U.S. is deeply divided but I find it difficult to attribute the division solely to mindless emotion, hatred, and rage. There are many on both sides of the debate who sincerely hold beliefs about political systems and the role of the state which are inimical to each other.

    I think that there are three major factions: those who believe that the government can solve many problems in society; those who believe that government is basically pernicious; and those who have not thoughts on the matter at all. Most likely, the largest group is the last of these. It used to be that we could find compromise and move on. Those days appear to have disappeared forever.

    Now the only thing that can bring us together seems to be war or the threat of invasion. And, yet, our political system was under attack, as James Comey so clearly indicated, but we still do not have consensus about the threat.

    Can we ever come together again?

  3. David, I don't attribute the division to those (emotions) at all: those are symptoms of a deeper dysfunction. However, they are making it worse, a vicious cycle. My hope with this blog is to make tiny steps toward breaking the cycle, which is itself only a baby step. I hope the days of compromise have not disappeared "forever." But I'm pessimistic about coming together, too. Just gotta try. One thing people on all sides seem to be unaware of, which used to be commonplace knowledge, is that in a democracy nobody gets everything they want. That's an extra incentive, if it was needed, for people to be nice to each other. This is exactly what's NOT happening in our current government. And a lot of folks are jumping for joy about that, go figure.

  4. I certainly wish you luck with this Peter and hope with all my heart that you (we) are not just preaching to the choir. I often don't hear the "other side" anymore as my "lifestyle" choices have caused many from my early days to disown me or in modern parlance unfriend me. Also have to admit there's a deep strain of Julia Sugarbaker in me that needs to rant. Still, it's always good to have reminders to keep it under control. Having grown up in a time when my existence was not spoken aloud, I am hyper aware that it's important not to heal the breach with silence under whose surface hatred lies.

  5. Right on, bro! We shall see what perspires . . . :) I have been hangin with folks on the other side of the spectrum, and they ain't actually bad guys, just need to get their heads screwed on straight. 55555! (Thai)