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So far William Steding has created 138 blog entries.

Tomorrow is Almost Here

To summon W.B. Yeats, we deserved the “rough beast, its hour come ‘round at last” that slithered into Washington decimating democratic institutions at home and American credibility throughout the world.  Trump simply poured gasoline on the fire we had already started to destroy traditional American values after the end of the Cold War, then capped the ash heap with a dumpster-load of diabolical cruelty and stupefying incompetence.  He has been a wake-up call we will forever condemn, and yet, tragically deserved.

For those of you wringing your hands over the results we are about to witness, continue wringing them.  But, not for the actual votes cast—Biden will win that battle—rather, for the nefarious acts currently underway by the Trump campaign and our illegitimate Justice Department that are contriving incidents and arguments for our now-illegitimate Supreme Court to assure power remains in Trumplican hands.  Chief Justice Roberts alone may not be able to save the Court.  For this moment in American history, all three branches of our government are controlled by a minority that will do anything—regardless of laws or norms—to keep their boots on the necks of the majority.  Bush v. Gore may prove a quaint predictor of what unfolds next.  The Founders provided us with institutions (like the senate and electoral college) to keep the majority in check, but those structures have been inverted to paradoxically achieve the opposite: empowering and protecting minority rule.

With all three branches of our government compromised, preventing a stolen election largely depends on turnout.  “2BIG2RIG” is the formula for excising the festering tumor of Trumplican deceits that have placed our republic in peril.  As in 2016, the polls will be wrong.  Pollsters have a very difficult time predicting results unless turnout mirrors historical voting patterns.  In 2016, they undervalued non-college educated white rural voters that rendered their predictions agonizingly wrong.  In 2020, the extraordinary levels of voter turnout and, most especially, the surge in young voters and returning voters of color strongly suggest that the historic patterns that guide polling and modeling have been shattered.

My mother, who wore her index finger raw on a rotary phone in the 1960s to 80s to cajole people into voting, would be proud of the 2020 turnout, which is already historic.  This time, I expect it will be the Trumplicans grieving about how wrong the polls were; the results will reflect the power of those that pollsters failed to consider, or properly value.  Those who prefer blue to red.  And, while foreign hacking of the vote tally is also a concern, and is certainly being aided by the Trump administration, again, 2BIG2RIG should substantially dilute these effects as well.

Of course, with a nation awash in guns and hatred, there will be blood.  People in Kansas have already been shooting each other over yard signs.  Hopefully, incidents of ignorance and violence will remain isolated and contained.  Depending on where you live, have a plan to hide until cooler heads prevail.  Innocents are a bully’s first target.  And, a wild-eyed steroidal idiot with an assault rifle may be itching to make his video-game fantasies come true.

When all votes have been counted, and relative calm returns, Obama’s “Hope and Change,” updated by Biden as “Build Back Better,” will return to our doorstep with Joe as its shepherd. Answer the door when you hear the bell.  Take a deep breath.  Take a nap.  Hug yourself.  Then, commit yourself anew; prepare to do the crucial work to save our future.

The new work—saving our future—must be founded in humility and purpose.  Revenge is satisfying, but only for a moment.  Evening the score will compromise unification that is so urgently needed to deal with issues like Covid-19 and climate change.  Vice must be set aside in favor of virtue.   Healing our scarred souls and embracing unity as our highest aim—e pluribus unum—must become, once again, our north star.  Us vs. Them and Win-Lose scenarios have no place in our collective pursuit of redemption.  Hate must be put asunder.  America’s restoration lies in empowering others rather than coercive schemes of dominance.

We must shine the mighty light of the good to disinfect the bad.  We must look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and assure them, with sincerity equal to their innocence, that we’ve got this; that their lives will be as safe and prosperous as ours have been.  We must hand them a torch worth carrying forth.  Reason and science and humanism must return to the alter of American discourse.  We have saved America from its enemies in the past, now we must save it from ourselves.  We can do this.  After all, we are (still) Americans.

 

By |2020-11-08T16:21:35+00:00November 2nd, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

A Time to Dream Again

Let’s finish the fight. Let’s reclaim our heritage and fix our future.  Let’s set our eyes on the next America.

As I watched the empty, fragile, flaccid, and Covid-infected man that is our 45th president attempt to bully his way past Joe Biden in the debate, then rescue his deluded self-conception as a modern-day Mussolini saluting Marine One (or the lawn?) from the south portico of the White House, I felt the week’s images captured perfectly and poignantly the state of our country.  In a word: pathetic.  An empire rotting from the center of its power—the White House.

How far we have fallen in just four years.  I have studied leadership, taught it, written about it, and advised and led a number of companies. More books have been written about Lincoln than any other president—for his character and leadership. The same will occur for Trump—for his cruelty and failures.  Trump’s presidency will, for many years to come, provide a vast array of abject lessons of failed leadership.  Just when you think he couldn’t screw things up any worse, he consistently surprises us—to the downside.  Clearly, the only thing that has sharpened his mind in the last several weeks is the prospect of jail time.  Unfortunately, this acuity has set him on a more aggressive course of destroying America.

Like many of you, I have been down all the rabbit holes to examine what happens with a contested election (which Bill Barr is pursuing aggressively as I write).  It is ugly, to say the least.  In the wildest paranoid nightmares of our founders, none of them imagined a president could be this horrific.  And while it is possible Trump and Barr will be able to prolong their defeat, I have confidence our collective outrage will produce the landslide we need to bury the Trump administration and its many enablers under an impenetrable pile of rubble.  On January 20, 2021, the next America will begin.

For decades upon decades, Americans have met crisis after crisis and have succeeded in lurching, chaotically forward, to a more perfect union.  We will never achieve perfection; that much is certain.  But the promise of a better future always resides in the striving.  Is it really worse today than when Washington and his too-few troops froze their asses off to cross the Delaware River to confront Hessian forces, who were sure to kill them and crush the revolution?  Or, when Lincoln—addled by depression—quickly pivoted to fund the construction of the transcontinental railroad to the west fearing the South and the Union were lost?  Or, when the country had more soup lines and Hoovervilles than McDonalds and McMansions, and Hitler’s reign of unspeakable horrors descended upon the world?

It always seems worse in the present—as if we are special in our suffering—but is it? The simple truth is this: chaos, corruption, and dishonesty—the touchstones of Donald Trump—were never sustainable.  Nightmares end. He is a monstrous stain on the presidency of the United States, but we are on the brink of expelling him and his sycophants forever.  (Stay well Joe and Kamala.)

We have choices and our time for choosing is approaching.  We will, as we have near the end of each American crisis, emerge with a new answer to the question: What does it mean to be an American?  As Trump trades in his extra-extra-long belly-concealing ties for prison stripes, so too will his toxic conception of “America First” loose its gold-flake luster like a diploma from Trump University.  As with everything he touches or conceives, the substance is little more than bad hair glued to an empty orb.  Bowling balls have more character and competence. At least they know where they are going.  So, what will our answer be?  What will our next identity be?

No longer superpower, at least not in the tradition defined in terms of the Cold War.  Nor do I believe it will be what Obama was pursuing: global stewardship.  “Global” is a bit ambitious given the state of our current union that still has immigrant children locked in cages, supremacists masquerading as law enforcement, and the worst response to Covid-19 anywhere in the world.  Still, we can aspire to something greater even as we clean up Trump’s tempest of terror.  It is time to lift our eyes and assert our will. I propose enlightenment and exceptionalism.

Enlightened exceptionalists (EEs) are more inclined toward reason than faith; toward knowledge rather than beliefs. They borrow the case for reason, science, humanism, and progress from the Age of Enlightenment that preceded the founding of the United States and proceed with a temperament of exceptionalism that holds integrity and virtue as paramount standards of behavior.

For EEs, the Age of Deceit that spanned from the War in Iraq through Trump must be put asunder.  As Americans, EEs believe it is our duty to lead the world through its most difficult challenges, starting with climate change that although a technological challenge, is an even greater economic and political challenge.  The world expects America to lead, and addressing climate change for the benefit of all the world is a fast-track back to American credibility.

For EEs, the American Probity Values of responsible individualism, exemplar exceptionalism, and perfectibility—leaving things better than we found them— must again be the defining standards of Americanism. EEs do not see races, religions, ethnicities or nationalities; they see humans who each are deserving of dignity and respect.  They understand that the lessons of failure pave the way toward success at home and abroad and that America’s greatest strength lies in the unification of a diverse peoples who each have the capacity to make meaningful contributions to the future of  humankind.

EEs believe that E Pluribus Unum—”Out of Many, One”—must once again supplant “In God We Trust” as America’s clarion call of the nation.  They believe in referent power—the kind granted through service rather than imposed through coercion. EEs seek to build bridges rather than walls, but also believe that while at times people must migrate to escape peril, the greatest successes are achieved when people thrive within their own homeland and particular cultures and, moreover, that the burden of climate, economic, and personal insecurities must be addressed within the ethos of reciprocation: wanting for others what we want for ourselves.

EEs believe that while capitalism has proven to be the greatest model of wealth creation ever conceived in history, its endgame that produces high concentrations of wealth have the potential to weaken democracies and liberal institutions allowing the rise of plutocracies and other authoritarian regimes that may, in the end, create widespread conflict placing fundamental human rights and welfare in great jeopardy.  Preserving the benefits of capitalism while affecting the security of democracies and human rights from concentrated wealth is second only to climate change on the EEs list of most pressing issues.

EEs have little interest in having a high profile or participating in social media; they prefer anonymity to celebrity. They are truth-seekers and problem solvers.  They have a plus-sum, win-win mentality.  Finally, EEs are committed to the long-game; short-term gains are always welcome as long as they provide the building blocks to long-term gains creating strategic victories that address a myriad of issues and objectives.  Big problems like climate change and the concentration of wealth are, by definition, big, because they subsume so many other smaller problems and issues.  This is an example of enlightened exceptionalism: embracing empiricism and reason to guide the application of resources toward their highest and best use for the benefit of the many—perhaps all of humankind.  EEs occupy the transcendent center of the American political spectrum; politically engaged but staunchly non-partisan.

Whatever your concept of the next America, this much is clear: your participation is your passport to a better tomorrow.  As Wallace Stegner argued, “culture is like a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.” Go get your stone.  Our time is nigh.  It is time to dream again.

By |2020-11-02T14:16:20+00:00October 10th, 2020|American Identity, General|0 Comments

Dropping In

There is a euphoric sense of freedom the moment a skier, standing on the precipice of a mountain, leans the tips of his skis ever so slightly downward to initiate descent, allowing both body and spirit to embrace gravity’s deliverance from stasis. The movements that follow—the intentional and gentle shifting weight and balance ballet that ensues—produces a harmonic flow of splendor that feels as if you are seamlessly connected to both heaven and earth; as if your skis have become wings. These moments of connectivity with nature offer the magnificence of pure bliss.

Today, the bliss of dropping in is just a cherished memory. Today, the precipice seems more like a ledge with nothing but the peril of loss waiting below. And yet, drop in we must. Yes, there may be pain and loss and plenty of stress, but remaining on the ledge addled by rumination is no way to live.  As my friend, Roger Cohen, of The New York Times argued, “there is no way out but through.”

Getting “through” requires a full heart and a clear mind, but we humans have a spectacular capacity to compromise both. We prefer the comfort of ignorance to the challenge of truth.  We crave delusional affirmation when what we need is the clarity of reckoning. We stubbornly remain fixed on chosen pathways even while the stress of mounting anxiety is itself screaming in our ear: Hello! Change course! You are headed off a cliff!  Psychosis wraps its tentacles around our ankles as we wonder why our gait becomes staggered. The result is a malaise of disorientation—born of magical thinking—that leaves us whipsawed between exuberance and depression.

In the coming weeks, now that the campaign starting gun of Labor Day has passed, we will be subject to a barrage of deceits and distractions aimed at keeping the pot of disorientation at a roiling boil. Some of us will be tempted to reach up for the ledge to scramble back to safety. Others will bury their heads in the sand.  However, this is not the time for retreat or apathy.  If we want to get back on the precipice, aiming our skis toward bliss, we must defeat those intent on crushing the soul of this country. We must fight for truth and honor and dignity. As Abraham Lincoln implored, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

More than any time in history, your vote and the votes of your friends and family must be cast, regardless of the many efforts made to confuse you and deter you from doing so. You are not being asked to put your life at risk, as prior generations were. Do your civic duty. Just vote, damn it, VOTE.

By |2020-10-10T19:11:23+00:00September 8th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

The Great Suffering

For the Irish, life is suffering and suffering is life.

In times like these, I am pleased to be blessed with Irish blood that carries antibodies to suffering.  Those of you who know me personally—beyond the words I post here—know that 2020 has been an emotional challenge for me (to say the least).  The trending Twitter hashtag, #IHATE2020 barely begins to address my sentiment.  “Make it stop!” has been my go-to plea as night-terrors penetrate the vulnerability of darkness.  Yet, I know I have it so much better than others who are enduring not just emotional torment, but also suffer physical and financial peril.   Alas, as the Irish proverb goes, “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright—it’s not the end.”  Sadly, I expect I and we are some distance from the end.  But, there is a way out.

This period of crisis in American history seems to throw us one hand grenade after another.  9/11, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession were plenty.  Unfortunately, we largely met these challenges with deceit and greed, which is probably why we were granted an extra dose of pain.  The current period of Great Suffering that followed, escorted and twisted and amplified by Donald Trump, should provide the requisite shock to force us to reckon with the gradual but certain degradation of American values that took nearly four decades to roost. In 2020, roost turned to ravage.

All of the world’s great religions hold that we should treat each other as we wish to be treated ourselves—the so-called Golden Rule.  However, there is another common tenet of world religions that is equally relevant today: we must fall in order to rise.  As the Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, argued in Falling Upward, “falling, losing, failing, transgression, and sin” are prerequisites to rebirth—to ascension from despair.  In Christian theology, there can be no resurrection until after crucifixion.  He notes that Buddhism observes this phenomenon perhaps more clearly than Christianity when he wrote, “suffering does not solve any problem mechanically as much as it reveals the constant problem that we are to ourselves, and opens up new spaces within us for learning and loving.”  So, may we please let the learning and loving begin?  Please?!

There are many—too many—days I feel helpless to arrest the descent of America into a swirling cauldron of darkness.  I know many of you feel the same.  However, the marathon of malicious narcissism we have endured over the last four years can be over soon, if we do the work of redemption.  The citizens of what once was the greatest country in the world must rise up by rejecting the sinister policies of our president who seeks to destroy our spirit and unity in favor of stroking his fragile ego and lining his family’s pockets with wealth and power.  Enough is enough.

The way out is this: we must share in each other’s suffering if we have any hope of uniting and expelling the evil that is Donald Trump.  We must accept—even embrace—the suffering of victims of violence, of Covid-19, of economic and social injustice.  Their suffering must become ours if we are to rise.  Burdens must be shared to be overcome.  I have become convinced this is the only way forward to unite our country and achieve redemption and renewal.  We must not just stand up for ourselves, we must stand together by injecting compassion and responsibility back into individualism.  Only then will the powers aligned against us—from within our country—be vanquished.

Oh, and vote, damn it, VOTE!

By |2020-09-08T15:04:19+00:00September 1st, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

Darkest Before the Dawn

In the midst of the grip of the dog days of summer, it seems odd to write about darkness, but the news of the day provides little, if any, rays of light.  Even in the West, what sun there is has become shrouded by a season of smoke from raging wildfires—a climate-change reality that has become an unsolicited summer norm.

Mid-August 2020 may be remembered as the moment we began our descent into a seemingly bottomless inkwell of darkness.  Between a botched Covid-19 response, rampant civil and economic injustice, violence, suicide, and murder escalating across the country at astounding rates, a climate that threatens to consume us, and national leadership drowning in its selfishness and incompetence, it feels like layer upon layer of tribulation may suffocate any light of hope to rescue us from overwhelming uncertainty and peril.  Heading into a hidey-hole like a stunned groundhog in February sounds nearly inviting.  Or, as Michelle Obama suggested, when they go low, just stay high, America!  (I may not have gotten that exactly right.)

And yet, as the English theologian, Thomas Fuller, suggested in 1650, “it is always darkest just before the day dawneth.”  The proverbial sun will rise again.  I promise.

We must also remember that America has been here before.  Not exactly here of course, but in similar dire straits.  That edge of fire that breaks the horizon that expands to overtake darkness will, eventually, lead us out of our current crisis.

After the improvident period of idealism that granted easement to the charlatans and grifters of the middle 19th century, we endured a Civil War that nearly ended the American experiment of a democratic republic.  Yes, it could have ended America, but it didn’t.  We went on to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and create the land of opportunity that doubled our population due to a mass influx of immigrants that quite literally filled America with life and hope.

Following the avarice of the next period of idealism—the Roaring Twenties—that ended with a stock market crash that launched the Great Depression and allowed fascism and evil to sweep Europe and much of Asia during World War II, America once again found the light of hope to ascend on the world stage, this time as a superpower.

The current crisis—the Age of Deceit—marked by the War on Terror, the Great Recession, a 100-year pandemic and a president who is, himself, the existential threat to the republic, was born from the third period of idealism (1980 – 2003) where, once again, affluence twisted our collective character into a braided whip of narcissism, entitlement, and hubris.  A whip we have turned against ourselves with remarkable vehemence.  As with all crises in our history, this one is self-inflicted.  Which also means—through humility and will power—we can transcend it.

We are nearing the end of the current crisis.  How do I know? Because it is time.  American crises (and this is our fourth) last 15 to 20 years.  We are in year 17 of the Age of Deceit.  I expect 2021 will be a race toward renewal; that is, if we are successful in, among other things, affecting a wholesale cleanout of our national leadership.  We need a Washington, Grant, or Eisenhower to deliver us from crisis.  What follows next, if American history rhymes, is a period of objectivism to succeed crisis, which are historically marked by realism, rationalism, and humanism. And, for Baby Boomers, maybe even one last shot at tranquility before we leave America for good.

Last week, David Brooks of The New York Times provided an (unwitting) endorsement of the coming shift toward objectivism when he wrote,

Radicals are good at opening our eyes to social problems and expanding the realm of what’s sayable.  But if you look at who actually leads change over the course of American history, it’s not the radicals. At a certain point, radicals give way to the more prudent and moderate wings of their coalitions.

He closed by invoking one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the modern era, Isaiah Berlin, who laid claim to the light that exists in that seam of possibility that occupies the “extreme right-wing edge of the left-wing movement.”  Where the surety of objectivism lives.

The next few months will be rough.  At times, it will seem as if the light will never come to erase the darkness of despair and loss.  But, come it will.  Many will fight mightily to herald a new dawn.  To them, we will owe a deep debt of gratitude in much the same way we owe those who delivered us from the tyranny of King George III, defeated the treasonous Confederate army in the Civil War, and vanquished fascism in the 1940s.

For the rest of us, we have (at least) one solemn duty: vote, damn it, VOTE!

By |2020-09-01T15:22:52+00:00August 18th, 2020|General, Recent|0 Comments

But the Greatest of These is Love

As the swelter of heat and humidity hang like a shroud of interminable anguish over our suffering nation, the time has come to end the long nightmare that has become America’s fall from grace.

To those who continue to ignore the realities of this pandemic by following the path of selfishness, I have no words for you.

To those who remain committed to the evil of racism, misogyny, bigotry and self-righteous intolerance—whether on the political left or right—I have no words for you.

To those who express their privilege without hesitation or consciousness while ignoring the agony of their fellow Americans, I have no words for you.

To those who look with indifference at brown babies being separated from their mothers who are trying to save their families under the long shadowy gaze of the Statue of Liberty that welcomed your family to America, I have no words for you.

To those who enable men of power to ignore their solemn oath to honor the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States, I have no words for you.

And to you, President Trump, we have suffered your wrath more than any of us deserved. You have actualized the American carnage you promised during your inauguration.  To you, only these words remain: please, for the good of the country and the world, TAKE YOUR LEAVE NOW.

For all the rest of you who remain committed to American values and virtue—who still believe in the American Dream—I have these words for you: respect, love and hope.

I respect your discipline and your sacrifice.  I respect that in the face of anguish and seemingly insurmountable odds, you have extended your hand to support your neighbors.  I respect that you speak not of your losses and tribulations, but of what you can contribute to alleviate the suffering of others.  I respect that you too are scared, but somehow manage to leave your fear buried beneath your courage.

I love that you remain stalwart defenders of compassion in the face of hate—that you continue to project love to trump hate.  The great American theologian, Paul Tillich, taught us that love is the most important factor in transforming power into justice.  Justice needs power and power needs love; without love there can be no justice.  This may be the most simple and elegant equation ever constructed in the history of the world.

I hope, as I expect you do, that Americans like yourselves will save us from those for whom I have no words.  I hope that we will transcend the petty, divisive, and dangerous leaders who currently abuse the levers of American power.  I hope that we will succeed in reimagining America and relight the “city on a hill” established by John Winthrop upon arriving at what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 17th century.  I hope we can keep the dreams of every child alive, that they may succeed us in becoming masterful stewards of humanity.

The next several months are fraught with certain peril.  May respect, love and hope serve each of us as we endeavor to save America.

 

By |2020-08-18T17:40:34+00:00July 27th, 2020|Donald Trump, General, Recent|0 Comments

The Allure of Madness

As the country descends into chaos, driven by a mix of structural inequities and a ruthless pandemic that requires leadership far beyond the grasp of Trump World, we each have a choice: stand in resolution guided by values and virtue, or hitch a ride on a comet of madness toward a romanticized return to a mythical normal that will never be normal again. Regression—the fantasy of returning to yesterday—is the fault line of the selfish and uninspired. Progress requires clear-minded honesty and transcendent courage acknowledged with the certainty of sacrifice.  It has been curious, and at times shockingly sad, to watch which path people choose.

Standing to reestablish and actualize values and virtue is difficult work; an often gut-wrenching undertaking unaccompanied by the prospect of immediate reward. It requires a deep sense of self, based in the hardened steel of dignity to suffer sacrifice with eyes fixed on an aspirational horizon of fortitude. The other choice, escaping—riding the comet—renders the allure of madness; to thumb one’s nose at reality while indulging the impulse of selfishness. To ignore science and party with friends at old watering holes. To expect our institutions to suddenly rise up to save us as we spiral into self-absorption. To run away to the fantasy of a romanticized past—however distant and fanciful—to alleviate the quarantine blues.

As we stare at the last days of this crisis—the Age of Deceit—the selection process is underway.  The list of individuals, companies, organizations, and governments that comprised yesterday’s heroes—those we held in the highest regard—will undoubtedly be selected for or against as a new list is revealed.  The wonderboys of yesterday, like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, are destined to become the pariahs of tomorrow. Companies that take their direction from investment bankers and tightly-wound lawyers may find their fortunes plummet as stewardship gains favor over exploitation. Those who bayed loudly from the pulpit to extol the promises of a white Christian nationalist renewal will be forced to reconcile their sermons, laced with more hate than love, as the offering trays return empty from the few left to listen. And governments will, once again, come to realize that leadership starts with service.

As I wrote in Saving America in the Age of Deceit, “the rudder on America’s ship of liberty [is] dangling from its hull.”  Out of greatness we have managed to create a stew of despair, dissonance, and dread.  Those who have succumbed to the impulse of selfishness—who embraced the allure of madness by grasping precariously onto the tail of the comet—will be forced to trade their gratuitous binge for the sober reality of tomorrow.  Those who set aside feeling good for doing good—the stouthearted and most resilient among us—will chart the new course of history.  Which are you?

By |2020-07-27T20:16:46+00:00July 19th, 2020|General, Leadership|0 Comments

Saving America in the Age of Deceit

On this 105th day of March (or so it seems), we are nearly as close to election day as we are from the start of the pandemic, back when the novel coronavirus was supposedly a problem contained in a wet market in China, until it wasn’t.  To say things are a bit manic in America today is regrettably an understatement.  And while none of us (save perhaps Bill Gates) foresaw the pandemic, the economic, social and political upheaval that also feeds the current state of mania has been building for years.  The cycles of American history nearly guaranteed this moment.

Those of you who have followed my blog for the last ten years know that I warned of the probable rise of wannabe fascists in my post on March 12, 2010 titled, “The Next Neo: Neo-fascism.”  As America slid further in the direction of favoring deceit over character, culminating in the Trump presidency, I decided, in the spring of 2017, to take several threads of research I had been working and melding it into a narrative to explain how we got into this mess and how we can get out of it.  The result is now available at Amazon in both e-book and paperback, Saving America in the Age of Deceit.

Of Saving America in the Age of Deceit, Roger Cohen, columnist of The New York Times wrote,

“At once an incisive history and a guide to national recovery, William Steding’s Saving America in the Age of Deceit is an important book. It traces the American moral collapse that produced Donald Trump with remarkable clarity. Perfectibility became entitlement, exceptionalism turned to hubris, and narcissism supplanted individualism. With a historian’s sweep and a stoic’s determination, Steding traces a path to recovery of the American spirit through restored leadership, responsibility and sense of community. Erudite and readable, this unusual work inspires hope, for individuals and the nation alike.”

What a mensch.

So, please, reach into that purse of excess cash Trump gave us all to stimulate the economy and help support aging writers like me—$8.95 for an e-book or $14.95 for paperback.  Or, just read the last ten-plus years of blogposts at ameritecture.com and you will see many of the threads.  Although every day I face a country and world that seem less recognizable than the previous day, I also have faith in the American spirit and in our humanity.  The day I don’t is when I will enter a psychedelic pharmacology research program as a willing lab rat; or, rather than go fishing, I will stay fishing.  Or, both!

Avalanche Warning

I live in the high country of Colorado, surrounded by the majesty of the San Juan Mountains, which provide a daily dose of beauty and stability in a world racked by appalling loss and relentless uncertainty.  People who live amongst the peaks adopt their stature, which includes a strength of body, heart, and mind absent in much of America. Obesity is as rare here as it is common elsewhere.  Impulse is set aside for deliberation as a necessity; Mother Nature does not tolerate carelessness, as the rest of America and the world are now (hopefully) learning.  We do, however, have a mortal enemy we all appropriately fear: avalanches.  Bears, mountain lions, and even wildfires are no match for the ferocity of an avalanche: the sudden force of tons of snow and ice racing without discretion to destroy everything in its path.  Yes, they are survivable, but that is as probable as snow in July.  If one sets its eyes on you, your last day is that day.

The elements and dynamics of avalanches are fairly simple.  Mass (snow), slope (mountain), and structural weakness (layers of snowfall that do not bond), and a triggering event (wind, sun, additional snow, or an animal like us) are all that are required to let gravity pull a torrent of devastation and death down the mountain.  Once the avalanche settles, the snow, ice, and debris set up like Quickrete on a summer day; an impenetrable mass that will not release its victims until late summer, if ever. While heli-skiing in British Columbia, I have observed wolverines seeking carrion (decaying caribou flesh) trapped in avalanche rubble, while in Colorado black bears often liberate winter’s kill.  It takes a keen nose and powerful claws to find the avalanche bounty.  Life becomes death that nurtures life again—nature’s answer to sustainability in the high country.

This November, a different kind of avalanche may be coming to America—one that could finally realize the consequences of Benjamin Franklin’s warning at the founding of the United States:  I give you “a republic, if you can keep it.”  Not since the Civil War has America come as close as we are today to losing our republic.  The elements of an avalanche are all there.  Mass, in the form of vast military and economic power together with 330 million souls.  Treacherous steep terrain formed by years of erosion due to managerial neglect of everything from social structures to infrastructure.  Weak layers of leadership began accumulating after the Cold War when character and courage were routinely exchanged for selfish impudence.  Then, in 2017, the weakest layer of all—Donald Trump—now lurking under three-plus years of greed and deceit.  All we need is a triggering event and the republic may fall.

As concerned as I am about Covid-19 and the profound damage it continues to inflict on America, the triggering event I fear most is a failed election in November.  A failed election, which we had in the Bush v. Gore presidential race in 2000 (resolved five weeks later on December 12th by the Supreme Court) is traditionally considered an election when the winner cannot be determined by the vote of the people.  But there is another kind of failed election we have not seen in America: one in which a significant percentage of the population do not accept the results and, therefore, refuse to be governed by the victors.  In 2020, I see this as not just possible, I believe it is probable. Among five possibilities, four would produce failure.

The first failure would be if the election were postponed or cancelled.  As bizarre as this seems, both Trump and Jared Kushner have mentioned this as a possibility; it is clearly on the White House white board.  The second possible failure is if Trump wins narrowly.  In this case, it will undoubtedly be suspected that Putin (once again), and or the Trumplican voter-suppression machine, stole the election.  At the national level, there is currently next-to-nothing being done to stop this.  The third case is where Biden wins narrowly.  Trump and the Trumplicans will cry foul and, with attorney general William Barr and the Supreme Court’s help, may attempt to cancel the election while Trump calls on all MAGAs to rise up in arms (as in assault rifles).  If you thought the Trumpster protests to open the country during Coivd-19 were bad, just wait. The fourth possibility—and our only hope for a smooth transition of power—is if Biden wins by a landslide.  The fifth possibility—a Trump landslide—may not qualify as a failed election, but four more years of Trump would also cause the republic to fall.  After three-plus years of Trump, the republic is barely hanging on as it is.

As distracting, isolating, frightening, and devastating as Covid-19 is, there is another crisis looming; one that no vaccine will fix—an avalanche that could crush the republic.  If Americans of character do not recognize the danger (and vote accordingly) the former United States of America, now the Divided States of America, may become the Failed States of America.  In time, we will heal from Covid-19.  Failed republics do not heal.  They result in a pile of carnage neither wolverine nor bear will touch.  Today, we still have an opportunity to save Lincoln’s “last best hope of man on earth.”  The November trigger awaits.  The stakes could not be higher.

By |2020-06-13T15:25:16+00:00May 23rd, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments

A More Dangerous Contagion: America’s Pride of Ignorance

Seventy-five years ago this week, America celebrated the defeat of evil: Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.  We emerged from victory as an emergent superpower after deploying 12 million American soldiers around the world and a sense of patriotic duty at home unseen in the history of a young nation.  When historians write the history of this week, the week of May 4, 2020, they may similarly identify it as a proverbial “week that was.”  This week, however, we have finally and perversely embraced a contagion that has remained largely latent—even in the American South—since the end of the American Civil War: a pride of ignorance.

This week’s events were stunning.  It began with a strategic decision by our president.  Yes, actually strategic, although flowing from a river of incompetence, rather than deliberative discourse, that finally breached the dam of decency.  The calculation became clear with his sudden, albeit short-lived, termination of the Coronavirus Task Force; as a nation we are to ignore death in favor of commerce.  The S&P 500 Index has prevailed over the daily toll of death.  Trump and the Trumplicans have placed their electoral bet on increasing the flow of dollars in spite of a raging virus killing thousands every day.  Our dance with the devil has begun.  Grandma can die, we just want a day at the beach.

This week, America locked its lips around Trump’s gaspipe of deceit, allowing the destruction of American character to continue in an intoxicating haze of fear and distraction.  The values that that guided us and kept our backs from breaking through the American Revolution, Civil War and two World Wars, have been flushed down the golden commode in the presidential residence.  Trump’s attack on the EPA is two-thirds complete as the last third of provisions he is intent on destroying are teetering on the edge of a cliff.  Don, Jr. can’t wait to give them a dutiful final shove.  Next, William Barr, gaslight in-hand, wants us to believe that Michael Flynn’s guilty pleas were actually pleas to a crime that doesn’t exist, even while the federal judge presiding, Emmett Sullivan, described Flynn’s crimes in the realm of treason.  Meanwhile, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to cover up his crimes revealed in the Mueller investigation by never lifting the blackouts laid down by Barr’s pen of redaction.  Finally, the CDC’s new coronavirus guidelines will similarly never see the light of day as Trump buried them because of their onerous “prescriptions” (or proscriptions?) that offend the “economy and religion.”  That’s right, the science of public health be damned.

America’s pride of ignorance, which first manifested as a legacy of loss in the South after the Civil War when education and hygiene became stigmatized as practices of an imperial union, is now spreading like wildfire across America, fanned by the belligerent breath of the orange orb in the Oval.  “Open up!” is the cry wrapped in the faux-libertarian selfishness of “live free or die.”  My rights are your death may be a more accurate characterization.  American’s growing sense of narcissism, entitlement, and hubris are no match for the prospect of death.  And it’s not just red states, it is blue as well.  From Georgia to Colorado to California, we are gouging the eyes of science to save commerce and sate our pathos of greed.  In my own county—Ouray County, Colorado—our leaders quickly acceded to the bellowing suffering of hotel owners and Jeep rental outfitters who rely on tourists from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas where the viral curve looks more like the contrails of a rocketship reaching for the stars—all ordered without any consideration of science.  Like many places in America, we set aside testing in favor of ignorance, lest empiricism might hinder our greed.

We have confounded the world, first with our tolerance of the most horrible human being to ever occupy the White House, and now with our heartfelt embrace of ignorance.  We’ve sent allies scrambling to form new alliances, while adversaries lick their chops.  America’s intellectual and moral capital are being squandered before our eyes.  But, at least we get a day at the beach.  Not the perilous beaches of Normandy that assured our safety and freedom, but the luxurious beaches of Laguna where our loathing of discipline and sacrifice can be expressed without the niggling voices of science.

By |2020-05-23T18:39:55+00:00May 8th, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments
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