What a Beautiful World This Is

A Beautiful World

 

I’ve been swamped in pessimism lately; pessimism that threatens to become cynicism.  The problem is that I don’t want to be either a pessimist or a cynic, but I thought that all the evidence I was seeing or hearing about the world today suggested that pessimism was justified.  Is it?  Even if it is justified, would it be possible to somehow escape the clutches of pessimism?

I talked to my good friend Nick, the potter and bartender.  He wisely pointed out that pessimism leads nowhere and produces nothing except despair.  He helped me realize that even though intellectually I was wallowing in pessimism, I’m living as if I were an optimist – doing new things, seeking new challenges, always trying to develop my skills and educate myself.

Then, I stumbled across three things this morning.

First was Andrew Sullivan’s weekly long read in the New York magazine, “Trump’s First Year Has Been a Disaster. Here’s Why I Have Hope.”  Sullivan points out that “so many . . . indicators in the world are remarkably good right now.”

In a similar vein, Kevin Drum, who blogs for Mother Jones, posted this morning:  “I’m Just a Big Ol’ Optimist About the Future of America Under Donald Trump.”  Kevin starts

I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the latest raft of pieces about the decline of American democracy, the decline of Western liberalism, the decline of globalism, and the decline of everything else in the era of Trump. In a nutshell, I’m far more optimistic than most of the people writing about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t really thought the whole thing through rigorously enough to make a little essay out of it.

Actually, you might consider that good news. However, I do want to lay down a few markers. Here they are:

Read both these articles for welcome counterbalance to the doom and gloom in much of today’s news.  (Note that neither article is by a Trump or Republican loyalist.)

My other stumble this morning was on YouTube where I stumbled on The Artist Series, videos produced by The Art of Photography.  They are each about fifteen minutes long and are interviews with outstanding photographers.  I watched the one with Keith Carter.  Carter talks about the death of his wife at the end of an illness.  Her last words after looking out the window of their home from her death-bed were “What a Beautiful World This Is.”

After watching that video, how can one possibly remain a pessimist, much less a cynic?

 

Unique and Unprecedented Threat

Andrew Sullivan writes that Donald Trump is a “unique and unprecedented threat . . . to liberal democracy and constitutional order.”

Sullivan has been live-blogging both the RNC and DNC conventions.  Sullivan, who produced the blogs The Dish and The Daily Dish from 2000 until 2015 when he retired from full-time blogging, considers himself a traditional conservative.   He does not at all  support American conservatism as embodied in the Republican party and adamantly opposes Donald Trump.  I think Andrew has been spot on about the importance of defeating Trump.  He says it better than anyone else.  This is some of what he wrote on day one of the DNC convention:

[Trump,] a candidate who openly called for mass deportation, war crimes, disbanding NATO and a trade war is now ahead in Nate Silver’s “now-cast” of polling results. The great unknowable about America is what would happen if fascism were actually on the ballot. It’s never happened before. But if you thought fascism would be taboo, the American people are proving you wrong.

So the Clintons have a real task ahead this week. They have to keep the focus on the unique and unprecedented threat that Donald Trump poses to liberal democracy and constitutional order.

On day four of the Republican convention, Andrew Sullivan wrote that

This [Trump’s speech] is a very new departure for politics in a liberal democracy. We’ve never heard an appeal from a major party platform to junk traditional democratic norms, and cede power to a new tyrant, whose magical powers will somehow cause almost every problem in the country to disappear. In this election, the very basis of liberal democracy is on the ballot.  . . .  fears . . .  about the popularity of tyranny in a late-democracy have, I’m afraid, only been fanned by events since.

The speech is entirely about fear, to be somehow vanquished by a single man’s will to power. Its core message is what America was founded to resist. Its success would be an abolition of the core promise of this country for two centuries – that self-government is incompatible with the rule by the whims and prejudices and impulses of a man on a white horse.

It can happen here. It is happening here. No election has been more important in my lifetime.

Nor in mine, which goes back to seeing I Like Ike buttons while riding the bus to grade school in the 1050s.  Ike and Ronald Reagan are both probably turning in their graves because of what their party has become.

This is from day three of the DNC convention.

I’ve never felt this way about a president, so I might as well admit it. Against hideously graceless opposition, in the face of extraordinary odds, facing immense crises, he [Obama] stayed the course and changed this country. This election is, at its core, about not letting a bigot and a madman take that away from all of us.

It is an election to keep the America that Obama has helped bring into being, and the core democratic values that have defined this experiment from the very beginning: self-government, not rule by a strongman; pluralism and compassion rather than nativism and fear; an open embrace of the world, and not a terrified flight from it.

There you have it.  Remember to vote for Hillary come November!

The Dish

I’ve been reading Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish since it was part of The Atlantic magazine – it is now independent and supported by subscribers so there is no advertising on the site.  Two noted guest writers are contributing this week.  One, the environmental activist and writer BVill McKibben, writes

Climate change is no longer a future threat—it’s the single most distinctive fact about our time on earth

The other, Ann Helpern from The New York Review Of Books and McKibben’s wife, writes

Over those same years, though, I’ve found that my “belief” in politics, has diminished. If, before, I thought that electoral politics mattered—and I did; I was the one going door-to-door in swing states—now I have a hard time holding on to that belief. If I thought that government, our government, because it is of and by and for the people—that is, because it is us—existed to make our lives together more tenable, well, let’s just say that with my tax dollars going to support Gitmo, the militarization of the police, subsidies to oil companies, and on and on, I’ve become much more cynical. Wouldn’t it be nice if, when we paid our taxes we could tell the government where we wanted our money to go—to the National Parks, say, and not to those oil companies—but of course that’s not the nature of democracy.

Andrew Sullivan is a conservative, but not of the type that has driven the Republican Party so far to the right.  If he is a conservative then I must be, in part, a conservative, although I like to think of myself as a progressive libertarian.  I agree with libertarian views on individual rights, but their believe in free market economics is wrong.  The freest markets exist when government  at least attempts to ensure a fair and safe market.  Regulated capitalism is the route to the greatest freedom as long as the regulations aren’t devised or implemented to benefit big business at the expense of individuals and the country at large.

Whatever your political persuasion, check out The Dish.  It is information and fun.

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