Flipping the Script

As the country grinds to a Covid-induced halt, and President Trump descends from existential threat, to absurd clown, to likely defendant, the rest of us are tasked with our personal survival through spring, or longer.  Hibernation is natural for many mammals during winter’s darkness and cold, yet we humans are better at romanticizing hibernation than practicing prolonged seclusion.  Distractions conceived to ward off anxiety and depression are, I have learned, a simple enough concept, but soon fall victim to the banality of repetition.  And, while I embrace the theory of the “present moment” as the only one that matters, when desperation takes up residency in the now, as it has for too many Americans, breathing deeply can slide into hyperventilation.

Watching the news as a go-to distraction is of little help when the message is, we’re all gonna die.  Old movies turn out to be just that: old. Hallmark movies?  Little more than a sugar high. Reminisce about lost freedoms and good times?  I don’t recommend going down that rabbit hole.  And, our spouses, partners, family members, and even pets (if they haven’t bailed on us already) look askance at us with that gaze of simmering contempt as their eyes speak without words: “Oh, you again? You’re still here?”  Do you think “stay-at-home” comes with the permission to share your flatulence as loudly as you can?  Winston Churchill gave the best advice: “When you are going through hell, keep going.”

Alas, the earth still spins its way, day by day, to a new tomorrow.

As for earth, I expect it is wishing for an asteroid to rid itself of humanity but, for the time being, we are stuck with each other in a fateful embrace of dual threats: nature’s virus to humans, and human’s toxic dependencies that are assuring the extinction of nature.  Oh, joy!  This is our centennial (perhaps millennial) test: can we come together to defeat a pandemic and leverage that new-found unity to halt, then reverse, climate change?  Can we save ourselves and nature too?  The pandemic is, in many respects, our audition—a training-wheels deal.  If we can’t defeat it, we have little hope of affecting climate change.  We may as well load up the Yukon and move there—to the Yukon.  (I hear new real estate brokerages are opening there every day.)

Dear reader, we need to flip the script, and soon. We need to summon our inner entrepreneur and reconceive threats as opportunities and work to morph our weaknesses into strengths.  We need to reimagine our world and the role(s) we play.  Lord knows we have the time, now we just need the will.  I used to teach budding entrepreneurs and aging executives the same thing: that success is based in intelligence, resources, and passion; that you can win with two of three as long as one of them is passion.  You can be smart or well-funded, but if you lack passion—intensity—you will not prevail.  To that end, I have some thoughts for America.

The recent election revealed an America at war with itself; a cold civil war, but a war nonetheless.  Biden won the presidency, but had no coattails down-ballot.  Trump lost (yes, Donald you are a LOSER), but voters down-ballot preferred Republicans.  So, Biden’s challenge is to largely ignore the 30 million voters on each of the far right and left—the core audiences of FOX and MSNBC—and try to satisfy the 90 million in the middle.  That is his only path forward.  Political provocateurs with absolutist exclusionary slogans need to take a holiday.  Self-righteous condemnation has no place in public discourse, whether it emanates from the right or left.  We can’t afford extremes; we must live in the middle lane.  Boldness? Certainly.  Win-lose certitude?  Absolutely not.

To that end, as we wish him well, we need to shift our focus from Biden’s challenges and reimagine how we can affect the production and distribution of public goods—without the Federal Government.  Public goods are things like healthcare, education, transportation, and communication systems.  Things better managed through collective interest than personal.  They are things that, if we all have access to them, make us both collectively and individually better off.  They are best considered through the lens I call collective capitalism: a hybrid of collectivism for the common good and the efficiency of capitalist regimes that reward the highest and best uses of available resources.

Let’s take healthcare as an example of a public good we might tackle on a regional basis.  What if states grouped themselves into like-minded affiliated networks?  Like networks of blue states and red states.  What if the governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado got on the phone and formed a public-option based healthcare network?  What if those same governors demanded a return of tax dollars and authority from the Federal Government and tasked their brightest minds—from the public and private sectors—to design and implement a new healthcare system for the residences of their states?  Red states could form their own networks based on their own particular ideological preferences.  A healthcare system based on every person for themselves?  Abortion illegal? Defund Medicaid? Go for it. (And watch people flee.)

The reality is this: in a cold civil war, our Federal Government provides little hope for solving our problems.  To be clear, I am rooting for Joe.  However, reality is screaming in our faces; the Federal Government no longer serves our interests—even on life and death issues.  Perhaps seeking solutions through regional affiliations will exacerbate division, but affiliation may be more realistic than unification, and we need to solve some basic problems now.  Regional competition based in service to citizens rather than politicians may be just what we need to bring honesty back into the process.

People like Mitch McConnell should not be a factor in the health and welfare of children in South Central Los Angeles.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should not determine what crops a farmer plants in Iowa.  However, they exert their influence because we have placed these decisions in their hands.  Shame on us.  We have both asked and allowed all three branches of our Federal Government to take responsibility and assume authority for way too many issues.

Frankly, we need to get off our asses, get our proverbial shit together, and control our own destiny.  The Washington monument is just that—a monument.  It is not a beacon to light our path to the future.  That path begins at home.

By |2020-12-18T16:16:49+00:00December 3rd, 2020|General, The New Realities|0 Comments

Let’s Give Each Other a Chance Again

It started as a fairly normal Saturday morning in southwestern Colorado, excepting the dull headache that persisted following too many hours of viewing election coverage for what seemed an eternity.  The headache quickly resolved with a stout cup of coffee born on the island of Sumatra—a steady morning companion.  There were chores to be done, which arrived with a sense of urgency to beat the arrival of a winter storm creeping toward the doorstep of the San Juan Mountains.  The storm warning suggested more feet than inches of snow accompanied by a fierce wind—the kind that would erase any of the last golden vestiges of autumn in favor of a white blanket of winter.

As I organized the trash and recyclables to arrive at the dump when the gates would swing clear to receive the castaway evidence of my solitary life, my Springer Spaniel, Stella, started her twirling dance by the door.  She loves to go to the dump; her enthusiasm, while odd by human standards, provides a welcome spirit to an otherwise pedestrian chore where the only human interaction is with a maskless transfer-station clerk who takes down license plate numbers and assesses fees with alacrity commensurate with the bounty her customers leave behind.  The rats that live beneath the industrial-size compactor are the only critters that wage a smile.  Yes, rats can smile.  (Google it—they smile with both their ears and lips; happy happens.)

Upon returning home and moving more firewood closer to the front door, I decided to flip on the TV and sink, once again, into my oversized leather chair where reading, viewing, and naps are common.  The scene that revealed across the glassy platter of Samsung digital clarity was stunning, even jarring.  People gathering in the streets of America—that much seemed normal following months of civil unrest.  But, this was strange.  Screaming, anger, and violence had been replaced by cheering, singing, and dancing.  I struggled to remember the last time I had seen joy, but my memory failed to comply. Tears gathered in the lower half of my eyes then, as suddenly as they arrived, they breached the dam of my eyelids and streamed down my face; an aging white man trying to reconcile the moment after living of the edge of dread for four years.

I wept for the prospect of normalcy.  I wept for the promise of hope.  I wept for the possibility that the America I was raised to love and protect might return.  I wept for the immigrant children who may now be reunited with their parents that had been exiled by an evil American regime.  I wept for those who lost their lives at the hands of an incompetent leader who cared more about his reelection than saving them from a deadly pandemic.  I wept for those who, because of the color of their skin, or unsettled legal status, or gender preference, or simple political persuasion, have lived in a state of fear moving from shadow to shadow lest the light of day place them in peril.  But I also wept for those who prefer red to blue—Trump to Biden—for they are victims too.  Dying from a poverty of dignity at the end of a gun, or a stomach full of opioids, bereft of hope and swindled by a man who promised them deliverance but never, ever, cared enough to save them.  And, I wept for those who sold their souls to grab what benefits they could—political or financial—from a man who was determined to destroy American values and institutions so that he might realize his fantasies of fascism.

The heart of America has many wounds.  To be clear, I am far from Pollyannaish.  It is highly uncertain if America will recover her promise, her hope, her power.  The American Dream may be lost forever.  Our greatest days may only be experienced by reading our history, rather than living our future.  However, I heard president-elect Biden’s plea, that we “give each other a chance.”  After all, chances—first, second, and more—course through the veins of the American spirit.  It is within our power to choose, and each and every one of us has the responsibility in every new morning that arrives, to decide whether we want to save our heritage from the travesty of the Age of Deceit—punctuated in finality by the Trump administration—or meander toward mediocrity, or worse.  In November 1863, with the Union teetering on collapse, Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—the same commonwealth that delivered victory to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris—and argued for a “new birth of freedom.”  Today, we must again set aside fear for hope, hate for love, dread for grace.  We must give each other a chance again.

By |2020-12-03T14:33:05+00:00November 8th, 2020|Donald Trump, General, Recent|0 Comments

Wanna Get Back to Normal? Think Again.

The gift of Covid-19—yes, gift—is that we have been given an opportunity to, in Thomas Paine’s words, “begin the world over again.”  Okay, maybe not the world, but America.  We all want to be unshackled from our isolation and social distancing; that much is obvious.  However, we must also take stock of the myriad of weaknesses and fatal flaws that have been revealed and amplified by Covid-19, and seize the moment to affect change before we settle too far back into business as usual. Trump and the Trumplicans would like nothing more than for us to demur once we are set free, and to be so full of gratitude for simply being able to hug our friends again, and sit at our favorite table in our favorite restaurant, that we allow the status quo to resume.  However, as American patriots who have now witnessed the horror of a broken healthcare system, the extraordinary cost of incompetent and deceitful leadership in the executive branch, and the economic toll on millions of Americans held captive in an economy that rewards the very few, the time is now for a transformative makeover.

The status quo enjoys a powerful gravitational pull, so it won’t be easy.  During the Covid-19 crisis in my own community, I implored our elected leaders to, well, lead.  Unfortunately, as is all-too-common in times of crisis, they have locked their focus on the flames closest to their feet—staring at the tops of their shoes—rather than lift their eyes toward the horizon.  They are anxious and scared and retreat quickly behind bureaucratic veils to justify doing nothing.  But, one of the first lessons of crisis management is to seek reliable information and cast your eyes where you would like to go—in the distance—to get ahead of the threat in a proactive fashion rather than remaining stuck in reflexive reaction.  As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who knew a thing or two about crises, argued, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something!”  A do-nothing strategy only assures a fate beyond your control—it is a wager on luck.  It takes courage, but the best leaders have the capacity to make the tough choices to master the elements of crises rather than become victims of circumstance, while others remain lost in their anxieties, addled by imagined risks and unimaginative thinking.

To affect change on a large scale, we must similarly first lift our eyes and visualize a new America.  Let me illustrate with two oppositional news reports from the future, January 20, 2025.  You decide which you prefer.

January 20, 2025, Washington D.C.

It was a crisp and cold day that welcomed the midday inauguration of Kamala Harris as the 47th president of the United States.  Throngs of people packed the mall from the steps of the Capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as the oath of office was administered by Chief Justice Barack Obama.  The regional administrators of public goods, appointed by President Biden after his election in 2020 to cabinet-level positions in the newly formed North American Alliance for Security, Healthcare, Transportation and Commerce, including Gavin Newsom of the Western Region, Jared Polis of the Intermountain West, Beto O’Rourke of the Southwest, Pete Buttigieg of the Midwest, Andrew Cuomo of the Northeast, Andrew Wang of the Mid-Atlantic, Stacey Abrams of the Southeast and Justin Trudeau of Canada surrounded the new president.  The alliance, designed to narrow the focus of the federal government to the management of its core responsibilities, was part of a package of reforms to move more authority and resources to the state and local level while effectively opening the border with Canada.  Biden’s attorney general, Andrew McCabe, missed the event as the “designated survivor” of the administration although his work to bring former President Trump, his family, and a number of former Trump cabinet members to justice for tax evasion, tax fraud, money laundering, crimes against the state, and crimes against humanity continued to produce “below-the-fold” newspaper coverage.  In her first address as president, Harris acknowledged that “while the long nightmare of the Trump presidency and the Covid-19 pandemic is largely behind us, healing would be incomplete—lessons might otherwise be missed—until and when total and comprehensive justice has been rendered.”  The largest inaugural crowd since the swearing in of Barack Obama in 2008 filled the mall with both cheers and tears.  The American Dream was, once again, alive.

Or:

January 20, 2025, Washington D.C.

It was a crisp and cold day in Washington D.C., but the inauguration-cum-coronation of Ivanka Trump as the 46th president was moved into the rotunda of the Capitol to accommodate the use of the throne her father installed during his second term, and to assure the safety and security of Her Royal Highness from the masked marauding malcontents that roamed the city armed with little more than their viral shed.  The “Trump vaccine,” owned by the Trump Organization, that had proved largely ineffective in treating Covid-19 and Covid-21, was the only treatment allowed in the United States under Trump’s first executive order following his second inaugural.  The approximately 100 million Americans who fled the United States in 2021 to seek refuge from disease and the raging impulses of the 45th president, left behind 250 million lost souls who continued to suffer disease, poverty, and toxic levels of lead, mercury, nitrous oxide and benzine; evidence of America’s new role as the last fossil fuel producing nation in the world.  Cormac McCarthy’s nightmare, The Road, has become an American reality.  Trump’s “culture czar,” William Barr presided over the coronation as he now oversaw both the executive and judicial branches of the government.  “God’s law,” as interpreted and enforced principally by Barr, had effectively replaced the Constitution as the law of the land.  Jared Kushner’s drafting of supporting laws, statutes, and codes had succeeded in relegating Congress as little more than a social club of old MAGA standouts like Richard Spencer of the White Nationalist Party.  The social media scions, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey loaded their platforms, Facebook and Twitter, with glamorous photos of Ivanka with a brilliant tiara of diamonds, sapphires and rubies in celebration of her ascension to the throne which, once and for all, dealt a final blow to the American Dream.

It’s your choice, America.  Where do you want to go?  Both stories may seem far-fetched today, but are they?  (Remember where we were just four years ago.)

By |2020-05-02T15:42:11+00:00April 18th, 2020|Donald Trump, General|0 Comments
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