Tag Archives: Politics

Worry


A dear friend at the opposite end of the political spectrum and I had a restrained political discussion this week, and she left me thinking. At one point I told her my greatest fear was that the America we all love may be gone forever. Ever since, I’ve been trying to articulate an answer to the question she asked me in response: Is it fair to say that we may love different things? That’s a good question. I don’t know what others love about our country, but here’s what I’m worried that we may be losing.

• 98% of the world’s climate scientists agree that our actions are permanently warming the planet. I worry that stepping back from leadership toward solutions, at this critical moment in history, could take us past a point of no return, leaving our children and grandchildren dramatically worse off in a more dangerous, unstable, and unhealthy world.

• I worry about returning to the not-so-distant past, to a time when healthcare was inaccessible for tens of millions, and even a modest health issue meant an inability to retire, bankruptcy, or even premature death.

• I worry that the current onslaught against a free press so rightfully protected in the First Amendment will permanently damage its ability to act as a check on power and corruption in our government.

• I worry that the flood of unlimited dark money in politics since Citizens United increasingly shows our elected officials more beholden to the rich elite than to those who elected them to represent our interests. I worry this stranglehold is becoming so entrenched that We The People may never get our government back, becoming just another in a long line of corrupt governments from history that our Founding Fathers tried to guard against.

• I worry that the more the checks and balances established by those same Founding Fathers are tested, the more we, to our horror, will discover how fragile they always were, further emboldening those same corrupt leaders. See above.

• I worry that a narcissistic, thin-skinned President who appears to have no interest in studying and learning the lessons of history, let alone avoiding repeat of them, will impulsively commit us to a dangerous war over some perceived slight to his fragile ego or his insatiable desire for “ratings”.

• But most of all, I worry that we are losing any aspirations of One America, that we are stoking the rhetoric of “us and them” to the point of turning our back on our legacy as a country of immigrants; that we’ve lost the ability to compromise for the greater good, so foundational to our form of government; that we’re no longer striving to be Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” and will look the other way from hate and violence against anyone “other”, be they Jew, Muslim, LGBTQ, black, Hispanic, libtard, or Repuglican.

Though not a complete list of concerns for our country on this 4th of July, these are my big ones. So, do we love the same things about our country? What’s on your list?

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”  –Thomas Jefferson


Strangers

I’ve always had a strict rule of only friending people on Facebook that I know well. Over the years I allowed exactly two exceptions to that rule:  the new husband of a long-time friend, and a fellow author recommended by a trusted friend. My rule has served me well for years…until now.

Since the election, I’ve been feeling my way on how to respond. I have hope that this greatest country the world has ever known…Reagan’s shining city on a hill…will find areas of common ground and overcome its great divide to move forward on important issues. But I’m also left with very specific concerns. I’m concerned that health care will suddenly be made inaccessible to my teenage daughter, who so desperately needs it, but who is uninsurable given her health history. I’m concerned that long-term, otherwise law-abiding immigrants will be deported, breaking up millions of families against the will of 90% of Americans. I’m concerned that trade protectionism will hurt the U.S. economy and our standing in the world. And I’m concerned that the progress we’ve made toward acceptance of all races and religions and lifestyles will be reversed.

And so I’ve begun connecting with groups who are taking these issues on, banding together to ensure that our government doesn’t believe it has a mandate in these areas. And in so doing, I suddenly have Facebook friends who are strangers. I may never meet them, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t already know them, at least a little.  There’s the mother of 3 small children from Massachusetts who believes fervently in social justice. There’s the Stanford professor who’s fighting to ensure that the science to which she’s dedicated her life continues to have a voice in our government.  And there’s the wife of Obama’s head of the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services, working to protect health care for the most vulnerable Americans. We’ve never met. We have no mutual friends. We have no shared experience. But we share a vision for our country and our families. Because of that, they are not strangers.

“Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.”  –Mahatma Gandhi


News


I noticed a stark contrast in the last several weeks’ news coverage of two important world events. The first was the prominent, above-the-fold front page coverage of the horrific Brussels terrorist attack that killed 35. Five days later, cowards bombed a park filled with families celebrating Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 70. Both attacks were equally heinous. What wasn’t equal was their news coverage.

It’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that what led to the difference in coverage was that one was in Western Europe while the other was where South Asia meets the Muslim Middle East. Complaints about American media bias have reached a crescendo in the 25 years since the advent of cable TV changed news from an objective public service into infotainment feeding a 24-hour cycle. Much of the criticism is aimed at biased political coverage, both ways, which has clearly damaged America’s grasp not only on the complex choices facing our country, but also our grasp on reality, as more of us listen only to voices who support what we already believe. Yet another equally dangerous evolution in news coverage receiving far less attention is the media’s selection of which stories to cover, as well as what resources they maintain to do so.

An American friend of mine living in Italy wondered which of three other stories unfolding simultaneously with the Lahore bombing was playing in the U.S.:  China’s visit to the Czech Republic; protests in Japan over legalizing their first defense forces since WWII; and the Egyptian hijacking. From where I sit as a daily news follower, only two of the four stories was covered, and one I would argue inadequately. Prophetically, the protests in Japan became suddenly relevant here only days later when Trump proposed Japan and Korea to not just build their own defense forces, but also add to the world’s nuclear arsenals, a stark reversal of U.S. policy since at least Reagan. When what we hear about the world is filtered before it gets to us, we’re not allowed even the opportunity to stay informed. Not only is the media deciding which stories are newsworthy, there is also less coverage than there used to be, as I learned when the horrific tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in 2011. We had a team scheduled to visit Korea within days, and we needed to decide if it was safe to send them. As I followed the extensive coverage unfolding hour by hour, I quickly realized that the coverage wasn’t nearly as extensive as it appeared. Most U.S. news sources only repeated verbatim the same couple of sources, as staffs have been cut back around the world. I discovered that Al Jazeera has quietly developed and maintained extensive global assets for gathering news; they were by far my best source of up-to-date information on the nuclear tragedy.

I assume that we deserve our biased and filtered news as well as the reduced coverage our media now brings us. It’s a business after all, and they are catering to the (reduced) demands of their customers…us. We no longer want to think and wrestle with the complex problems facing the complex world we live in. We flock to media sources which give us short sound bites with which we already agree. Solving the issues we face will not only require us to be less polarized, but willing to compromise and listen to both sides of the issues. I hope we’re up to the task; the future that we leave our children depends on it.

“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”  –Malcolm X


Politics and Religion

Jon Huntsman, the Republican candidate for president from Utah, recently tweeted that he believed in evolution and global warming, leading some bloggers to call for candidates to be asked “Do you believe in science?”. With two Mormons and several evangelicals in the 2012 race (and Obama unable to fully shake the false claim that he is Muslim), much press has been given to whether the religion of our presidential candidates should matter. On one hand, I don’t believe it should. This is America after all, and we are entitled to our own personal beliefs. Personally I hope that candidates do hold to a strong faith, even if different from my own. On the other hand, what concerns me is when a candidate believes their different faith is the only right view and should be imposed on me. The more important question isn’t whether a candidate is religious, but whether they are open-minded. Which isn’t far from the bloggers original question of whether a candidate believes in science, since science and religion do not have to be mutually exclusive. A request to our media: please focus your questions and coverage on whether candidates believe they already have the truth, or whether they are willing to listen and be open to others’ views. That would be valuable media coverage to me.

“People are very open-minded about new things — as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.”  –Charles F. Kettering