A Moderate Proposal

Last evening, trying to put a tolerable if not tolerant face on the news, I had a momentary insight. It was this. I do not fully understand the reasoning of the political other side.

I have friends, neighbors, relatives who voted for Trump, people I often see and talk with. But we never discuss politics, never even verge close to it. We both know there’s no middle ground where we can stand — or sit — peacefully and discuss our differences without distress or rancor.

But why not? Why can’t we try to do that?

And then, that moment of insight, and an answer. Let’s establish a neutral zone, a place to meet and explain ourselves to each other without interruption, or insult, or argument.


Start a brawl at a family picnic? Or a troll-and-slam fest online? I don’t think so. It has to start, at least, somewhere else.

Then I thought about old technology. The US Mail Service. We could write letters back and forth. It’s a different kind of communication. You have to write it out — with a pen or a keyboard — editing and revising as you go. Look at it again and decide to send it. Find an envelope and address it. Buy a stamp. Get to the post office or a drop box.

Then a reply, also done over time. And that’s the advantage. It takes time, which at least implies a level of thought and precision.

I’ll try for a while, see what happens. If you have a comment, to agree or elaborate or challenge, please add on.

My next move will be to reserve a mailbox at the local post office, to emphasize the “neutral zone” idea. If it works, I’ll post that mailbox address here, and invite anyone who’s interested to join in.


“Grow up, Donald”

Tomorrow morning’s tweets from the the tweeter-in-chief can hardly fail to address a set of challenges from one of the oddly-overlooked and -underestimated figures of the soon-to-be-former administration.

If you haven’t seen it yet, please take time to watch as much as you can of Judy Woodruff’s interview on PBS with Vice-president Joe Biden.

It will brighten your evening, or your morning. Give you hope for an burst of sanity and coherence in the public forum. Make you wonder just whom the Democrats ought really to have nominated.

It’s on PBS. Watch. Cheer. Hope.


A few old words for the New Year

Three weeks now until power is handed over, from one of the best-intentioned and worst-beset Presidents in our history to the cleverest snake-oil salesman since Harold Hill.

Still, allow me to begin 2017 on a grace note, a small aside which need have no bearing on his over-all image or my evaluation of the man. A few of his remarkable actions — real or potential — have amused me and could actually work to my benefit.

He has sandbagged some of the more obnoxious fleas in the GOP fur, such as Giuliani and Gingrich.

His rumored plan to hang out in NYC instead of DC could work to my benefit. I live far enough from The City to escape the confusion but close enough to The Capital that my local economy could benefit.

And then there’s…

yeah, and then there’s the other stuff.

Happy New Year. Don’t emigrate. We’ll need all the help we can get.


Where are we going?

I have not posted anything — not much, at any rate — about the election. There are reasons, some of them valid. Yet I ask myself, why keep this blog at all if I don’t openly react to so remarkable an incident, so fraught an issue, so unattractive and unfit an about-to-be President?

First, as it’s most immediately critical, when will the entrenched GOP leadership wake up to what is happening — to their party, yes, but more seriously to our country and most critically to everyone’s world? It is not something they can ignore. Is it too much to ask if they can continue to tolerate it?

At the immediate level, the GOP is likely to continue accepting Trump’s comments and decisions, because so many of them play into — or seem to be in accord with — the basic right-of-center Republican agenda. At some point, however, they will have to recognize how far beyond the pale his momentum will carry them. And us.

Second, because it’s a contentious point and has been since Election Day, what about those who elected him, the people who voted for him?

There’s a whole school of political bloviating which blames it on stupidity of the underclasses. That will work some places, but not for me. I know and know of far too many people of comfortable means and apparent education who voted for Trump — not because they misunderstood his message — but because they knew exactly what he was saying: the misogyny, the racism, the classism, the appeal of ever-more benefits for those who already have more than their share.

Enough for now. I need to retire to a quiet place to think, and to calm my nerves. I am an old man, and do not fear for myself from a Trump Administration. But I have many children and grandchildren. I cannot ignore, or refuse to work against, the very real dangers and losses they face in the next four years, and beyond. I don’t want revolution or violence, as history and common sense reveal their pointlessness in most times and situations, the liklihood they will lead not to a better world, but to an even worse one.

We must find a peaceful and charitable way to stabilize and improve — for all its inhabitants — the world ahead of us.


A new political idea

One of my local newspapers, the Albany Times-Union, has been the first in the nation — so far as I know — to urge the Electoral College to reject Trump, to put its Constitutional duty ahead of partisan accommodation. Here’s the key section, but read the whole thing.

On Monday, members of the Electoral College will gather in each state to select a president. We call on them, particularly Republican electors, to deny Donald Trump the presidency – as the Constitution allows and as the Founding Fathers envisioned for a candidate so antithetical to their aspirations for the nation’s highest office.
…this is precisely what the founders of our republic envisioned when they devised the Electoral College, a singular body with a singular purpose: to afford, as Alexander Hamilton explained to the people of New York in Federalist No. 68, “a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Only a few days remain before that strange entity meets, to certify Trump, or to salvage the republic they are supposed to serve. Savage or salvage, so to speak.
The odds are against it, I know. The Electoral College is like any political assembly, perhaps more so. You can imagine faster than I can write down all the personal excuses which would be offered, were it ever possible, later on, to ask why they had not taken this honorable action.
Do I reveal my pessimism here, assuming the effort will fail? Afraid so. And it’s possible that, should such an effort succeed, the resulting battles — in the courts, in the media, no doubt also in the streets — might be worse than what a Trump administration would have brought about.

Still, it’s nice to think about a new political idea.

We could call it “Civil Obedience.”

Old words, still challenging

Cleaning out an old file — a cardboard folder, to be specific, not a collection of dots and squiggles on the hard drive — I came upon an old sign. A wall ornament of sorts, the kind of thing people hang on their walls so that once or twice a week, perhaps ten times in an hour, they will have to look at and even to acknowledge an observation about the world they inhabit.

You know the kind of thing I mean. A bunch of words which, in some now forgotten state of mind, you admired and wanted to remember. You hung onto them a while, then slowly they drifted off, probably to something like an old file.

Here’s the one I came upon earlier today. It’s from a speech many years ago by David Cornwell, whom you perhaps know better as John le Carré.

The only thing we can say with safety, perhaps, is that the greatest threat to mankind comes from the renunciation of individual scruple in favor of institutional denominators, from the adoption of slogan, and the mute acceptance of prepackaged animosities, in preference to the hard-fought decisions of individual, humanistic conscience. Real heroism lies, as it always will, not in conformity or even patriotism but in acts of solitary moral courage.

Not sure if it works, but mostly it still sounds pretty good.

Just emptied a glass of Jameson. Off to bed. Be positive, be well.