The Lesser of Two Evils

On a forum I frequent, someone recently posted a question I’ve heard before, in various forms, especially the last three years, that question being:

“Why is it that presidential elections always feel like choosing between the ‘lesser of two evils’ and not ‘the better of two good candidates’?”

The sole respondent at the time wrote back had replied:

“The failure of the two-party system because of polarization and tribalism reinforced by closed primaries.”

True,  I thought, as far as it goes. But I can’t help wondering if attributing our meager choices to a moribund two-party system, tribalism and closed primaries doesn’t completely miss the underpinning problem. 

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Each choice is a direction, conscious or unconscious

As social critters, our propensity for concerted action (read that cooperation) may be our most critical success factor. I think the often uninspiring choices we have for president (and Congress, for that matter) may actually be grounded in that phenomenon, demonstrating that almost every success can wind up being a double-edged sword. Work with me, here.

Structure and Purpose...

Successful actions, (including successful cooperation) tend to be repeated, precisely because they are successful. Group cooperation multiplies our individual success by leveraging the power of numbers. It’s why we join organizations in the first place. To leverage the power of others as a means of advancing our own. The resulting organic structure…or organization…is greater than the sum of its parts. This is true of all organizations. 

Over time, organizational success leads to stable structure and the appearance of permanence. Humans, after all, love the notion of predictability in an uncertain universe. To the extent that organizations with a semi-fixed set of goals represent the promise of success and predictability, they also acquire a degree of legitimacy in our eyes. As a result, we tend to stick with them, out of habit, laziness or motivated cognition.

Insofar as political parties are organizations, these same dynamics apply to them. And as with any other organization, this includes the emergence of a distinct culture,  and the ideological schisms accompanying them , to which the questioner on the forum I began this post with alluded. These days, that divide has multiple components.

No longer simply a matter of the policies  relating to domestic governance and foreign and military affairs,  politics increasingly embraces a range of social issues and identity politics. Matters we used to think of purely as personal preferences and tangential to if not  inappropriate to  the business of running (what used to be) the most powerful nation on Earth. 

Sadly, the political shorthand of “right and “left” as political positions have taken on deeper tribal meanings and personal significance than at any time since (at least) the Great Depression.

There are probably multiple causative factors that have giving rise to the vituperation characterizing our political dysfunction. Surely the accelerating rate of change first popularized in the Tofflers’ Future Shock is part of it, exacerbated by both political party’s willingness to consistently distort facts to fit their own narratives. (One much cynically and flagrantly than the other. You know who you are). But whether we’re talking about corporate America, political parties or the various arms of governance, sooner or later, a phenomenon called the Organizational Paradox sets in.

Structure and the Organizational Paradox

As alluded earlier, organizational success is the reason the structure achieves the appearance of permanence. Humans love the notion of predictability in an uncertain universe. To the extent that organizations with a semi-fixed set of goals represent the promise of success and predictability, a sense of legitimacy is one of the natural spin-offs. So long as we perceive our interests coincide, we tend to view them favorably, overlooking their imperfections as instruments of our collective will.

There are, however, some downsides to organized behavior in any form, whether it’s a government, a political party, a tribe, or a corporation. Over time, a successful organization acquires a life of its own. Due to a concept called emergence, the relatively simple goals and structure grow increasingly convoluted. Over time, the organization’s goals wind up defaulting to those of the leaders who stand most to gain by the policies they pursue.

In essence, someone in power (or wanting more of it) co-opts the organization’s original intent and substitutes their own objectives. This is usually done subtly and in stages. Like allegorical frog in water brought to a slow boil, we often don’t notice until it’s too late.

It also begs another question. How do we avoid the Promethean tendency to become the victim of our own cleverness to our collective ruin? This is not simply a question of nuclear war, or climate change, it is the emerging perils of how robotics and genetic manipulation (to mention just a couple) might end our interesting if imperfect run of hegemony.

The Outline of an Imperfect Solution...

There is but one answer, in my opinion, and an imperfect one at that. In order to avoid the tendency of organizations (and the leaders thereof) to sub-optimize organizational goals in favor of their own, we must become our organization’s conscience. Not some of us or even most of us. All of us. We must all become thoughtful, foresighted stewards of the public good, personally responsible for the outcomes of the governments/organizations purporting to represent us.

We are responsible for the outcomes of all! (Photo courtesy of Unsplash & Austin Kehmeier)

I’m painfully aware that we have rarely been able to do this…individually or collectively, for very long. Our inability to sustain a profound sense of stewardship does not bode well for our survival as a species. But in common with most willing to sign up to risk their life in defense of our nation, I retain a measure of cautious optimism.

For all the self-appointed and/or de facto Bernie Bro’s out there, I suspect this is what he and all the other self-appointed missionaries of “revolution” really mean when they advocate revolution. But as Bernie and almost everyone I talk to seems to miss is this revolution isn’t a switch from capitalism to socialism or any other “ism.” Rather it is the deep-seated, unshakable realization that we are one, all of us and that ultimately, none of us are safe if one of us isn’t. Until we can not simply embrace but celebrate the responsibility and freedom that coexist in that simple truth, we will continue to flirt with oblivion.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer and the author of four books currently in print with two more on the way. You can join his tribe on this page, in the upper right. 

For a more detailed examination of the Organizational Paradox, see West of Tomorrow, pp 246-256.

“Thank you for your service…”

The invisible cost of service

Hell is for Heroes

I remember the first war-themed motion picture that “stuck.” By stuck I mean stuck as in I remembered the whole plotline and the ending. It was the 1962 film, entitled Hell is for Heroes. It would be years before I really understood the underpinning nuances of the story fully, and even more years before personal experience taught me of the draconian choices military service often forces on the men and women who go in harm’s way.

When “Hell is for Heroes” was released, PTSD wasn’t a thing. It would be nearly 20 years before the term was coined, finally finding its way into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-III) in 1980. And as anyone who’s had a close call with death knows, the experience sticks and reliving it tends to fire all the nerves and emotions it evoked when it happened.

“Thank you for your service” is (at least) an acknowledgement of what the men and women who venture out on the pointy end of the spear go through. I’m always just a little “at a loss” for what to say in response when someone offers me that thanks, however. I finally came up with an anodyne “It was my honor and I’d do it all again.” It’s true, by the way. I would.

 

Courtesy Patrol: Oceanside, 1972

Anyone who has ever lived around a town that hosts a major deployable military force knows what to expect. Whether it’s during extended, multi-year conflicts in which combatants rotate home after a combat tour, or (especially) when the war winds down and troops start come rotate back to their home installations. Fresh from the roller coaster ride of moments off the charts fear and unspeakable drudgery and boredom, many perhaps most come up with coping strategies, some constructive and effective, some not.

In Courtesy Patrol, one of the short stories in the Through the Windshield, anthology, a young lieutenant back from a combat tour in Southeast Asia is Courtesy Patrol in Oceanside, on a payday weekend. Patrolling the girlie bars and grills, he is gets his first glimpse of just how violent the effects of PTSD can be.

The experience sticks with him and it’s still on his mind the next day. The events of the night before stick to his thoughts, not surprisingly and lead to a greater appreciation of how for most of us who serve, that service changes us, in ways we don’t fully appreciate, sometimes for years. In Courtesy Patrol, this is his moment of epiphany and nothing will ever be quite the same, again.

Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives is a great way to sample D.B. Sayers’ writings and to acquaint yourself with the themes that weave their way through his writings. It’s available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle formats. Or you can subscribe to Dirk’s Tribes at the top right of this page and get a PDF copy absolutely free.

Polarization and Healing America

Remember America before COVID-19?

A couple months ago, before the COVID-19 was a thing here in the United States, a friend asked me what I thought might help us in dealing effectively with the hyper-partisanship we see in American politics. I almost fell prey to the knee-jerk reaction most of us have (not excluding myself) to think of politics in terms of the current dialog from our own perspective. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something anodyne, like “listen to understand, rather than to argue,” and that we “should try to put ourselves in our fellow citizens’ place.”

The blinding flash of the obvious implicit  in the foregoing observation is that while my perspective matters, isn’t the only one that matters. Most of us understand that intuitively, while ignoring even the most glaring implications.

So my prescriptions fore healing America’s hyper-partisan politics are fine as far as they goes, but it ignore the underpinning causative factors contributing to that hyper-partisan polarization.

In a hypothetically pluralistic democracy of 330 million (about), extracting a meaningful consensus on any specific issue is borderline impossible. Irrespective of where we fall on the political spectrum, do we not have to start with the notion that we’re at our best when we recognize that it’s okay to agree to disagree? Disagreements are inevitable in a nation of this size. To me, that’s the first step. But it’s only a first step. We need to recognize that there are legitimate reasons for those differences of opinion.

At the Intersection of Geography and Demographics

If you’re a farmer, you’re wondering how you’re going to compete with corporate farms, falling prices & climate change some factions in our government insist is a hoax. You know better, of course. If you’re a farmer, you live by the weather and this isn’t normal. But you’re busy trying to make ends meet & you don’t have time to sort through all the science. The latest technology doesn’t exactly pass you by, but it’s not in your face, further compressing your daily timeline the way it does someone who lives in New York , Los Angeles of Seattle.

If you’re a wage earner almost anywhere, you’re painfully aware of how many jobs have moved overseas. And if you’re absolutely honest with yourself, you know most of them aren’t coming back. All this even before COVID-19 shuttered the economy and torpedoed almost 40 million jobs, over the last three months.

But who’s doing anything about it? Corporate America isn’t. They’re automating. Portions of the government are doing what they can, but if you’ve been paying attention (you have, haven’t you?) then you that one party is all-in for corporate America while the other is more or less on our side but are the majority in only one branch of government.

We have the government we’ve enabled. We have allowed the rot of dysfunctional government to set in. We allowed money to stand in for civic engagement while we all got on with our lives, leaving politics to the politicians and high finance to the robber barons who’ve forgotten more about turning a buck than most of us will ever know. 

America the Muddled...

The beginning of a solution lies not simply in recognizing we’ve been collectively had, but also in the inescapable conclusion that we are both the problem and the answer. The answer will not be some savior in the form of another politician, or self-proclaimed “non-politician.” Nor is a savior to be found in the form of a wide-eyed, well-meaning liberal barking about the emerging social imperatives of a corporate bashing counter-revolution.

We are the answer. A solution grounded in the almost laughably simple notion that there is more that unites us than separates us. It means shutting down the barrage of noise and self-serving motivated cognition from both extremes of the political spectrum and focusing on what we  can honestly claim we know.

The Way Home...

Having grown up in the Heartland, lived on both coasts and the south, I’ve come to think of most of America writ large as home, not a single region. As a Marine officer, with an advanced degree in Organizational Development and a second career in corporate America, I’ve seen the world from the hyper-conservative perspective common in the Corps. I’ve also seen it from the more liberal perspective of a surfer, snow skier and environmentalist.

What these experiences here and overseas have taught me, is that we are all capable of understanding and empathizing with each other. IF we want to.  But the necessary and indispensable accomplice empathy is a willing mind, untrammeled by the loud mouths with agendas, explicit or hidden.

In the age of for-profit media and 24/7/365 news, there has never been more access to information and disinformation. Unfortunately, we can no longer tune in to the 6:00 PM news and get the story from one source. If you’re getting all your information from Fox News or from the Sinclair Broadcasting Networks, I guarantee you that you don’t know what you think you know. If you’re getting your news exclusively from MSNBC, you’re getting better information but you’re still getting a lot of commentary, however well informed along with the news.

Like it or not, we have to take everything from every source as subject to multiple source verification, not  to mention fact-checking. If you don’t have them bookmarked yet, bookmark OpenSecrets.Org, FactCheck.org & and Annenberg  Public Policy Center and make use of them. You’ll be a infinitely harder to deceive if you know where to go for a little more balance.

Last but not least, recognize that we’re all humans with hopes and dreams, loves and passions, most of which we share in common. It doesn’t matter what color you are, who/what/if you worship or who you love, we all have pretty much the same itches. And they’re a lot of things we can do to help each other, if we want to, but we all need to step outside ourselves just a little and recognize that if we let it all go bad, we all bleed red.

D.B. Sayers is the author of  four books, including West of Tomorrow, Best-Case Scenario, Through the Windshield and his latest, Tier Zero, Vol. I of The Knolan Cycle, the first in his series chronicling first contact between the Knolan Concordant and Earth.

The Truth Often Hides in Plain Sight

An alternative view of "Aliens..."

Lysia Knolan Seeker and Waykeeper

In Chapter 1 “The Presence,” the reader immediately senses that Marty’s meeting with Lysia Uupao is important, fateful, even destiny changing. Some unusual is going on, just beneath the surface, but it isn’t necessarily obvious what.

In Chapter 2, “Attáru (Awakening),” the reader learns just how fateful the meeting is. Lysia Uupao, her representations notwithstanding, is not Indonesian, or Polynesian or anything else Marty has ever met. From another world, Lysia is here on Earth (or Kurrithaal as the Knolans call it) for a reason. And it’s not obvious just what that reason might be.

While there are notable exceptions, the majority of tales involving “first contact” between Earth and hypothetical aliens postulate that alien motives will necessarily be hostile, not simply different. Is it possible that we’re wrong about that? As chapter 2 makes clear, the Knolans are not hostile, as nearly as we can tell. That said, chapter 2 doesn’t rule that out, either. What is “the Way,” and how does it relate the Knolan’s motives? For that matter, why are Knolans reproducing (clandestinely, apparently) with Earth humans? And what does it mean to be a “Seed?”

Knolan Motives for Contact

By the time thoughtful readers get to the end of chapter 2, it’s clear that Lysia and her superior, Turnia, are not of this world and that their interest in Marty isn’t an idle, passing interest. In Lysia’s case, it’s also obvious that it’s very personal. But the reader still doesn’t know the motives underpinning their interest or what to expect if Lysia does as Turnia has instructed. Should we be worried about Lysia’s designs on Marty? Should Marty be worried about them? The reader still has no idea.

Even as chapter 3, “The Mission” ends, while it’s obvious that Lysia’s personal interest in Marty goes beyond her professional interest, it still isn’t clear what Knola’s interest in Kurrithaal or its Seed. And the overarching question lurks in the background, to wit: why have not the Knolans made direct contact with “leadership” on Earth? It seems apparent that they haven’t, but why haven’t they? Chapter 3 provides no answer. And what are the “perils” to which Marty’s Awakening expose him? Whatever they are, Lysia, clearly, expects to share those perils.

Are the Knolans vulnerable to someone or something themselves? Who or what? And are their motives for making contact with Earth (Kurrithaal) then mixed by perils they believe we share with them? How might their motives toward Earth be changed if that “peril” whatever it is were not a factor?

And the Larger question?

Our default assumptions notwithstanding and assuming contact with other intelligent life is possible, how different (or similar) might they be? Is it possible that Steven Hawking’s speculations about hostile aliens is correct, or was he speculating out of an abundance of caution and prudent fear? 

The answer to this question will likely remain unknown and unknowable unless and until contact is made. And is it just possible that it depends on which alien race contacts us first? Is it all that improbable, if we postulated that there might be one species of alien interested in Earth, there might be more than one? Or that their interests in us might be at odds?

As Tier Zero unfolds, these and many other practical and philosophical questions will come up. Tier Zero is not simply a tale of First Contact, it is a speculative adventure of life, death, conflict and courage, as well as questions of ethics and courage. You can purchase Tier Zero in paperback or Kindle now.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, retired corporate trainer/manager turned full-time author. You can join Dirk’s Tribe and stay up to date on his progress to with Tier Zero’s sequel, Eryinath-5. due out in 2021.

What do veterans think of Donald Trump?

What do veterans think of Donald Trump?

I don’t spend a lot of time knocking around in online forums, but I do spend some time on them, just to see what my fellow citizens are thinking. And I pass on most questions, statistically, either because more than adequate answers have already been posted or because (honestly) I don’t have strong feelings about the question one way or the other. This one, however, begged an answer. 

                      The question was: “What do veterans think of Donald Trump?”

Doesn't that depend on the veteran?

The first thought to cross my mind was, why would anyone think that military veterans are necessarily anywhere even close to unanimous either in their support or distaste for the 45th President of the United States? Fun fact. There are somewhere north of 18 million veterans alive and kicking, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, which begs a rhetorical question, to wit: in what segment of the U.S. population distributed across all 50 states can you find 18 plus million men and women who agree on anything? Just wondering out loud…

For the same reason it’s misleading to think that all African-Americans, white middle class voters or Latinos living in Southern California think alike, it’s incredibly naive to think that U.S. veterans think alike.

In a recent poll conducted in December of 2019, Mr. Trump’s approval rating had dipped to 42%, with active duty personnel, the lowest since taking office. It would be fair to point out that

Among veterans, Trump enjoys higher approval ratings, with a 57% to 41+% split, favorable to unfavorable.

The inference I draw from the foregoing polls is in line with my own thinking in this matter, to wit, opinion over Mr. Trump (and almost everything else of importance) is that we’re pretty evenly divided, irrespective of the population you consult. I suspect if you subdivided the military population to account for skew relative to geographic origin, education & rank, you would find it dovetails very closely with non-veteran, non-military opinions.

So my short answer to the question is that anyone who thinks they’re speaking for the military (or veterans) writ large is probably smoking something that would get them locked up in Mississippi.

A lot ink has been spilled in the Mainstream Media about Mr. Trump’s deferments during the SE Asia experience. Personally, as a former platoon leader, I’m positively delighted that he sand-bagged his duty to country on that occasion with trumped-up (pun intentional) deferments. I suspect having the Donald in my platoon would have been a lot like having two good people on R&R in Bangkok.

Relying only on my personal observations of the man in public, I can’t imagine him exposing himself to risk for his brothers and sisters in arms. Now for the record, I don’t personally believe everyone must/should serve in the military, or that declining to do so necessarily calls into question one’s patriotism or loyalty. There are (many) other ways to serve and some men and women are just not constitutionally suited for war. I’m certain Mr. Trump was one of those and likely so remains. Given his profound ignorance of even the rudiments of national strategic components, technological evolution and improvements in weaponry, Mr. Trump may be the singularly least qualified human to have a say in setting our national strategy.

There are many forms of service...

That is not function of his lack of military service, by the way. We have had effective presidents who never served. But until Mr. Trump, these men had the self-awareness, humility and good sense to recognize that what they didn’t know and listen to those who did. Personally, as long as they’re willing to listen to thoughtful military thinkers, I’m untroubled by their lack of personal experience. Presidential leadership is (in the end) not about physical courage.

 

It is about moral courage, probity & character. With that in mind, I can’t imagine a thoughtful veteran, mindful of his/her own sacrifices who can find much to admire in Mr. Trump. I struggle to imagine anyone who remembers fallen comrades watching this man’s antics without profound repugnance.

The Essence of Leadership...

The essence of leadership is self-control as anyone who’s ever led knows. It is virtually impossible to control others if you can’t control yourself. From what I have been able to observe, Mr. Trump is a graduate-level study in the absolute antithesis of self-control. He is incurious, under-educated, inarticulate & self-involved. I have seen nothing I can imagine a thoughtful veteran would admire if he/she was paying attention.

 

As stewards of the public trust, we have a right to expect better of our leaders than we are getting from DJT. But that reasonable expectation demands that we as citizens step up to our co-equal responsibility to be paying attention to what our leaders are doing in our name and holding them accountable when they do things that erode the public trust. If we’re paying attention, I can’t imagine that anyone would be in doubt of the need to render Mr. Trump a one-term president.

 

Still, it is precisely that lack of attention that has placed this man in the White House in the first place. A significant number of people (veterans and non-veterans) weren’t and still aren’t paying attention, or if they are, they apparently lack the civic curiosity to exhume the truth. That needs to change. The truth’s out there, hiding plain sight. Surprising things are written and in the public domain, but we have to want to know and take the time to learn. Read & vote! There’s a lot riding on the 2020 elections!

# MAGA is a Mirage

Sorting Through the BS...

Recently, I ran across a post on Medium a forum I frequent that suggested that our 45th president didn’t have much in the way of redeeming value, but that one thing that he does well (and the most probable reason for his election) was  marketing.

The post went on (it was good post and I read it all the way through) to suggest that his ability to reinvent himself through reality TV was his special and most relevant competence. One which permitted him to succeed when any thoughtful reading of his competence and/or character demonstrated he was unqualified and a likely unmitigated disaster.

She got a lot of comments. (Write a Trump post on any forum & you’re sure to get a lot of responses). She got the usual number of “me too” reactions, as well a number of “Trump no matter what” respondents. But what amused most was the died-in-the-wool progressives who insisted 45 is an aberration who succeeded in selling the U.S. a bill of goods.

Nobody asked me, but I think 45 is a logical result of our times. He did not invent reality TV; he was simply perceptive enough to figure out how to leverage it. What thoughtful people already realize is that we are in the midst of tectonic shifts in the paradigms govern pretty much every aspect of our reality. These paradigm shifts cut across how we relate to each other socially, economically, politically & personally. These shifts are magnifying each other in ways that have no precedent in history. For the record, it isn’t like we weren’t warned. The Tofflers saw this coming in the late ‘60s, which is why they wrote Future Shock, which was published in 1970.

The Way ahead...?

Now, fifty years later, are we not in the no man’s land between yesterday and tomorrow, with (if we’re brutally honest with ourselves) no clue what’s next? The old models simply don’t work as well as they used to (or at all) and the new ones are still in the prototype phase. Which is to say, that the way ahead for the world generally (and liberal western democracies in particular, assuming they survive) isn’t particularly clear. One could say, the  way ahead is actually most like wilderness, with no roadsigns.

Our closest analog for today, the Industrial Revolution, was a jolting experience in it’s time, but is dwarfed by the changes we’re confronting now. None of the leaders we have (or who are offering themselves as future leaders) have a full solution, yet. We’re going to need an eclectic approach to solving the problems confronting us. I’m going to humbly offer that the best answer is likely to lie somewhere between the progressive vision of a bulletproof safety net and unrestrained, exploitive, (and extractive) capitalism. Our global role, similarly, probably lies between an outward looking foreign policy in which we are the single, indispensable nation-state, and an introverted, self-involved nation that can’t find Myanmar on the map.

For the same reason, you can't build a fire with yesterday's ashes, the way ahead is not behind us.

What we must not do, IMO, is pretend that the past is the future. It isn’t. 45 hasn’t had an original thought since the Beatles brayed out “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Yes, yes, Beatles lovers, many of their later compositions were nothing short of genius. My point is, #MAGA is a socio-political mirage. Or a bit more metaphorically, the ashes with which you can’t build tomorrow’s fire.

We will need the best of all our minds working toward a just, though imperfect society. Facts, truth & imperfect good ideas must have a place in the crucible of free thought, not to mention a modicum of humility that acknowledges none of us have all the answers. I submit that digging in on either the talking points you can hear on Fox News or MSNBC is probably not going to get it done. We need the best of both. Just one broken-down, baggy-eyed old Marine officer’s opinion.

D.B. Sayers is a retired Marine officer, former corporate trainer turned full-time author. He is the author of four critically reviewed works and has three more in various stages of completion. You can follow Dirk’s work and stay up to date on them by joining Dirk’s Tribe on any page of this site.

A More Perfect Union

In the 2d decade of the 21st Century, it’s difficult to remember a time when bipartisan cooperation at some level was not simply accepted it was expected. There’s a temptation to blame the deterioration of political courtesy on Fox News or Breitbart or MSNBC & CNN. All of those points have merit, but there’s no missing the deeper truth. It doesn’t sell if no one is buying.

There are a host of factors that are at play in the political polarization here in the United States and more broadly, across the world. It’s ironic that this should come at a time when we can least afford it. The posts under this sub-heading are intended to contribute in some small way to the recognition that at our core, we are still one.

The essential kinship of Americans and in the even broader sense, humanity writ large, is something we all recognize most profoundly in moments of crisis. But when we take the time to look beyond our own daily grinds to acknowledge the struggles of others in that same grind, we are (or should be) reminded that we all face those same challenges and ultimately, the same outcome. In the grand scheme of things, while the details of our individual ends are uncertain, the end itself is not.

At our very best, we face each other with love and kindness, and our shared, inevitable end with courage and grace. In these things, the very best of what it is to be human finds its highest expressions.

A Lucid Eye

From the artist's perspective...

An author sees life a little differently. Not necessarily better…just differently. What follows is Dirk’s take on a lot of things in the event you might be interested. In the last analysis, living is an art form and if we do it right, life IS art!

For the engaged, living is a dance. As a long-time surfer, I can assure you, there are days when the sun goes down too soon. At the same time, the transition between day and night is every bit as dramatic and lovely as the transition between our mother ocean and the our mother Earth.

And there are also days when cooler weather and the siren song of skis slicing through the snow is as (or more) appealing. One of the great things about life is it’s your call.

Living in the 21st Century

Somewhere West of Maybe...

Like it or not all of us find ourselves as part of a discourse that simply won’t go away. We are in the midst of what can only be described as tectonic change ushered in by a combination of technological advancement and social change both driven by and facilitating further change. Whether we will survive this period of adolescence remains to be seen. It’s not a foregone conclusion that we will.

The good news is, we get a say in whether and how we survive. And that’s the bad news, as well. We’d all like to believe that the collective consciousness of many is wiser than the conscience of one. One could say the jury’s still out on that one…

Common Ground

In the end, we are one...

On another forum I’ve been known to frequent, someone asked a question that’s been on my mind for a while. Rarely at a loss for an opinion, I weighed in and I’m going to share both the question and my response. Before I get into it, I’m going to offer a disclaimer. 

I don’t labor under the notion that the following answer is the only thoughtful take on this one, but I do think it may be one of the better takes if we’d like to salvage the nation so many of us love.

The question asked, was: “How can we find the common ground in such a polarized political environment?”

I wonder if there’s an argument for starting with desired end-state? What do we mean by “common ground and common ground on whose terms? In the second decade of the 21st Century, what would common ground look like?

Is not a huge part of the problem with polarization today the language we use to describe each other? As long as conservatives characterize liberals or progressives as libtards…or liberals characterize conservatives as casino capitalists or white nationalists, are we likely to find common ground?

I think not, because we’ll never get close enough to each other to find that common ground. It’s that common ground isn’t there. If you’ve done much travelling, as I have, you know it’s there. It’s just that we have a number of organizations driving the political narrative in America whose best interests aren’t served by us seeing each others’ essential humanity.

And we know who these organizations are. An incomplete list follows.

The two major political parties whose life blood is money. Money obtained (for the most part) by donations. So their rhetoric is targeted at keeping those donations flowing from the most politically motivated. Do you need a PhD in political science to puzzle out where that leads? Not in the America I know. They’ll pander to the folks who have and are willing to cough up the greens.

The paid media (mainstream and otherwise) who spend a lot of time, money and effort in figuring out who their viewers are and what trips their emotional triggers. Perceptive readers are already way ahead of me, on this I suspect, but I’ll say it anyway. If we persist in buying what they’re selling, they’ll keep selling it and we’ll never set foot on the emotional common ground to which our questioner refers. Put another way, we’ll never recall when we recognized we were one, irrespective of the differences of opinion that are a natural part of being. At core, America is still America in all it’s lovely breathtaking variety.

America in all it's variety

As long as the purpose of political parties and the media is to sell an agenda rather than arrive at the truth, we’ll allow wit masquerade as wisdom & the policies of this nation writ large will remain the prisoner of motivated cognition. We used to know better. For the same reason biodiversity leads to a more robust, resilient ecosystem a diverse society is much more resilient to the change that is the lei motif of life.

E Pluribus Unum

We don’t have to love each other (though that would be nice) but we do have to live together, and we’ll never get there if we’re inclined to argue from a starting point that demands us to think the worst of each other.

Just one broken-down baggy-eyed retired Marine officer’s opinion.