Click here to see some photos of how the garden did in 2017!
I thought I'd share what guides me in my use of Twitter. Don't expect this to be completely thought out, or even consistent. How I use Twitter evolves with my use of it.
First: @amicusergoest That's my Twitter handle. Why? When I first started using Twitter, I mainly posted links to job openings, or retweeted posts from career advisers. It was the Great Recession, and I wanted to help people who were looking for work. I especially wanted to help people who were new to finding a job in the age of applicant tracking systems and social media. So I reached back to high school Latin to come up with a handle.
Remember cogito ergo sum? "I think, therefore I am"? Thank you, Rene Descartes. I was going for, "I help, therefore I am." But I didn't quite get it right. Amicus ergo est is closer to "a friend, therefore he is." I can live with it.
Where I first started with Twitter, it suggested a few people to follow. I started there, and went on to follow people involved in career and job search topics. From there, I followed people that followed me (more on that in a minute) and followed people that sounded interesting. As a result, I don't have a single Twitter "focus." I follow a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. Lately, I've been following conservatives, because I want to better understand that point of view.
I started following @realdonaldtrump because I wanted to respond to falsehoods he tweets. I don't expect to change anyone's point of view, but I do believe in getting the truth out.
I tend not to involve myself in what I call "culture wars." For instance, I'm fine with athletes who want to take a knee during or before the playing of the National Anthem before a ball game. I'm also fine with people that believe taking a knee disrespects the flag. For me, these are two, equally valid, opinions.
An early rule of Twitter etiquette has been that you "follow back" when others follow you. I still apply the rule, but not all the time.
- If you follow me, get me to follow you, then unfollow me, we're done. I'm looking at you, indie artists. Apparently there are tools that do this now, in the name of building an audience. I'm looking for engagement, not a follower count.
- I used to ignore people that followed me; it seemed like too much work to acknowledge them. Now, I respond to each follower with a note. How can I be for engagement if I don't engage myself?
- If you're a brand or company and you follow me, I probably won't follow you back. It's nothing personal. I might even like your brand or your company. I just don't want to engage with brands and companies. I make some exceptions, such as for wineries.
- I used to follow people that claimed expertise in social media, but I've begun winnowing that part of my followers, and generally don't follow such people now. These folks tend to do a lot of promoting, which is a bit noisy for me.
- If you follow me and offer to show me nude photos, you're blocked and reported.
- If you follow me and I see that you constantly retweet some clickbait site, I'll ignore you or block you.
- If you follow me and offer to get me thousands of Twitter (or Facebook or Instagram or...) followers, I'll report and block you.
I tweet to promote blog posts like this, but I don't go crazy with it. I still believe in the networking rule: give before you get. If you like most of what I tweet, that's great. If you don't, that's fine too. If I made you think, I'll take it.
This post isn't about a single visit to Rome--it stretches from a visit in January through a visit just completed now in August. And it won't be the last. Several more visits are likely, as we work with this UN agency to implement Office 365. Our (my) job: getting people to use some of the goodies that are in Office 365 besides email.
And I know it doesn't make things look any less romantic, but I'm not actually in Rome. I'm in a business park about 10 miles outside the city. So, it's not all cafe correcto and la vida dolce all the time. That said, I've been to places much less desirable than this. So read on for some quick hits across my trips so far...
This was a relatively last-minute trip. I had convinced my boss that developing multiple, parallel relationships with a new customer, the World Food Programme, would be a good idea. And when I volunteered to take a red-eye to Rome that sealed the deal. So it has been a trip featuring one day of meetings and another Anthony Bourdain-style layover day in Rome.
Why is it, on boarding my British Airways flight, I want to stand up and apologize for America?
I’ve seen more nuns in a single day in Rome than I normally see in a year in the US.
Aah Europe; it’s all coming back to me. I have to put my room key in the card slot to work the lights. And it’s just as well I never figured out the TV.
I’m such a goof. “I know, I’ll buy one item for Crystal for now, and another for her birthday!” Ya, except her birthday was LAST WEEK.
Walking to the Vatican, it strikes me that being ambassador to the Vatican has to be one of the cushiest jobs ever.
Second thought: it’s amazing to think how a religion started by a poor immigrant of Middle Eastern descent would grow to be such a wealthy power. I don’t know if that’s amazing-good, or just amazing.
Seems like the route to salvation at one point was to sponsor the building of a church.
How often do you get to attend Mass in a church/basilica that dates (originally) from the 3rd Century?
Dinner cooked up by a friend’s son and his peers, here on a high-school exchange program. Amazing to learn their perspective on the world.
The free smartphone at the hotel was such a cool thing. Maps, restaurant reviews and all.
The new normal: armed police/national guard blocking off roads in front of tourist locations.
Tourist hawkers. Then—fake handbags. Now: selfie sticks and fidget spinners.
Who thought triangular buildings was a good idea? I’m constantly walking into corners.
You can go a long way with “please,” “thank you,” and “good day” in the local language.
Instructive to see how the Christians took over the Pantheon and made it into a church. Turns out, if you want to preserve a building or architectural site, the trick is to turn it into a church. Then the Church will look after it. Your weekly collection dollars at work.
How deep is the River Tiber?
Why is the espresso here so damn good? And thanks, Mike, for your admonition that it’s only espresso after 9 AM.
Kind of fun to see Rome in the “low season.” Seems more genuine, or maybe just less overrun with tourists.
Trump enacts his immigration ban while I’m out of the country. What a shit-show. There’s a huge crowd to greet passengers arriving at SFO. I’m a little embarrassed, thinking that I’m not part of the group this crowd is cheering for. It does make me smile, though.
Jet lag is a cruel thing.
Here after a last-minute company decision to send me from Dublin (where I was vacationing with Crystal) to Rome. Crystal is off to Holland for her company meetings, I go to Rome. Mary kindly is watching Mona back home. This whole co-traveling lifestyle is more disturbing than cool.
This hotel is very close to the customer, which is its saving grace. There’s a painting of the hotel on the wall (kind of like an architect’s rendering) and the cars in the painting date the hotel to the 1960’s. That and the 3-D picture of Marilyn Monroe. I keep expecting Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack to show up at the bar.
Customer has decided they want me here all summer. Um, I don’t think that’s going to work; looks like I'll be in Rome two weeks out of every month for the summer. Expect a lot of Italian Christmas gifts this year.
One day after returning from vacation in Hawaii, I’m off to Rome. This flight to DFW is the coldest I've ever experienced. Maybe I just got used to Hawaiian weather.
Fun fact: they turn the temperature down because people tend to faint at high altitudes. Now you know.
It’s interesting that in all these far-in-the-future Star Wars movies, the rebels are always dressed in clothes better suited for the 18th Century.
Landing at 9:15 AM and it’s straight to the customer for meetings all day. I used to do this all the time in the 1990’s. Now—not so exciting.
There’s a lounge singer in the hotel bar performing a rendition of Peter Frampton’s Baby I Love Your Way. (Hear it here) Can’t say I expected to hear that.
Walking along local roads after work to get in my 10,000 steps (I’m a slave to FitBit’s social engineering). There’s no shoulder and lots of traffic so it’s a more exciting experience than I had expected.
After my previous faux pas flinging spaghetti sauce on my customer host, I’ve learned to stick with risotto when we go out to lunch.
More walking after work, along a new route. The nature preserve along this route is appealing, but there also seem to be slums nearby. It’s a little disturbing.
The vendors with their fresh fruits and vegetables at Campo dei Fiori make me miss my garden.
The Borghese Gardens are only green on the map, at least in the summer.
26,000 steps?! Even I was complaining about how much I was walking.
If the chef asks you if you'd like a dish he makes for himself, always answer "yes!" Sicilian roasted sea bass at Da Claudia. Spectacular.
Excursion to the Isole Pontine. I was a little disturbed when the tour guide led us in prayer to ask for a safe journey.
Swimming in the Mediterranean (technically, the Tyrrhenian) Sea feels good on a hot day.
Aperitivo of prosecco, cheese and olives under a fig tree along a trail. Simple pleasures are the best; even the locals are jealous.
Find the hotel on Google maps and pull up the address to show the taxi driver. I thought that was pretty clever.
Four straight nights of Ristorante Verde Smeraldo. I like the food, but you can’t eat any place four nights in a row without it getting a little tiresome.
That said, it’s been entertaining to see the visitors from China out with the local Huawei staff each Monday night. And the Italian version of America’s Funniest Home Videos translates well in any language.
Here’s a picture of the revolving door on the way into the office. Apparently, they’ve had to warn people not to attempt to play soccer while in the revolving door.
I got a kick out of these corner meeting areas. Still, I’m not sure they’ve got the concept right.
The pace of the day revolves around coffee. Coffee in the morning, coffee after lunch, coffee in the afternoon. Good thing each dose is just a sip or two.
A handy tip: first you pay, then take the receipt over to the espresso counter to get your cup.
One advantage of the time zone difference: I’m aware of Donald Trump’s tweets when they happen, instead of three hours afterwards.
Sitting on the Piazza della Rotunda watching the crowds outside the Pantheon and listening to an opera singer in the distance. You can’t ask for much more.
Seeing the "no smoking" sign on the plane makes me wonder: does anyone allow smoking on airlines anymore?
A380—very nice experience in "economy plus". First time I had to descend a jet ramp getting off of an airplane.
Yoga pants as travel attire: thumbs up or down?
The British version of Master Chef is quite different from the US version. The Brits just can't bring themselves to be as loud and obnoxious as Gordon Ramsey.
Speaking of which: your restaurant in Heathrow STILL isn't open. I can't wait forever, Gordon!
UPDATE: Now open. Review forthcoming.
I have to wonder who actually shops at these high-end stores in airports.
Fresh buffalo mozzarella from Naples for a group snack. La dolce vita.
Every day I check in with the receptionist at the hotel breakfast buffet; I give her my name and room number. Every day she checks the list, finding neither my name nor my room number. Every day she smiles and says, “OK, go ahead!”
While in the cab on my way to Rome’s city center, I’m reminded of Michael Callahan’s advice: never look out the front windshield.
There is a line three blocks long to get into the Pantheon. Welcome tourists!
It was refreshing to visit some of the lesser-traveled parts of Rome today. There were times I was all alone visiting the sites.
Rome is one place where a knowledge of Latin can come in handy.
I think I’ve climbed at least three of the seven hills this city was founded on.
The Baths of Diocletian are enormous. Still, I’ll take flush toilets and running water in my house any day.
It’s clear to me that Rome has the same problem as Athens: where do we put all these antiquities?
This morning there is a trail of blood leading down the hotel stairs. I feel like I’m walking through a crime scene.
I’ve learned enough Italian to know that the panhandler I turned down was not saying nice things about me.
Mass at the Basilica San Giovanni Laterano. Built by the Pope before there was a St. Peter’s. Stealing the giant doors for the church was a nice touch. Kind of weird knowing that the skulls of Sts. Peter and Paul are in those gold sculptures over the Altar.
And that building across the street? Oh, that’s the Pope’s chapel. Huh. Well, it is small by comparison I suppose. But Scala Santa, the 28 steps? The sign is very clear: you must ascend on your knees. On marble stairs. That’s more devotion than I can muster. Plus the sign off to one side, reminding the devoted that 28 steps will get you an indulgence, but for the forgiveness of sins you still have to go to confession. No shortcuts!
Take what I said about Dublin: you can't walk a block in Dublin without passing by a pub. Now substitute “Rome” for “Dublin” and “church” for “pub” and it’s the same. You don’t notice all the churches at first… until the top of each hour when all the bells ring.
Reggio di Calabria. Reminds me of LA and the San Fernando Valley, except that the ocean is right there. Very dry. Very hot.
Here’s a handy tip. Be sure, when you purchase an airline ticket, that you enter your name EXACTLY as it appears on your passport. Otherwise, you’ll have to change your ticket; that was an expensive mistake to make.
Banking, leveling off and lining up the runway when the plane is already so close to the ground and the mountains are right there. You’d think we were on a small prop plane landing in Maui, not a passenger jet. This pilot is good.
Handy hint: Italians leave for the beach (or the mountains) during the last half of August. It starts with Ferragosto (August 15th) (also Latin for “hotter than hell in August"). So unless you’re headed to the beach or the mountains, don’t expect to find much that’s open.
So on that note: relying on Rick Steve’s, Yelp or Google to find a good local restaurant doesn’t work when all the locals are gone. Santo Trastevere, we’ll have to meet some other time.
Here’s another random display of beauty in Trastevere. And yes, that’s a man filling a water jug.
Step inside the door, and this unassuming restaurant shows you this.
When I travel my wife buys things. The longer I’m gone, the more expensive the purchase. Now I’m hearing something about property in Hawaii. Time to get home!
At Fiumicino airport, the parking spots reserved for dropping off passengers are labeled “Kiss and Go.” Because Italy.
Why is it that flying North and South seems to take forever?
Ciao, Roma. And thanks for all the rughetta.
Below is an embedded review of our recent trip to Dublin. Just swipe (phone) or scroll up and down to check it out!
We went to Kauai this year, since Brian wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday there. We attracted a big crowd of family and friends along the way, and had a wonderful time. OK, the part about Crystal breaking her arm wasn't so great. But if we overlook that one little incident... There was hula, a luau, sailing and snorkeling, surfing, stand-up paddle boards, golfing and lots of good food. So go here to view the photo album.
This is for my niece, Katie. Recently you had said something along the lines of "why didn't anyone ever tell me that" about your grandfather. So I thought I'd share some details about his time in World War II.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, your grandfather, along with his two best friends, enlisted. Norman and Nathan Sandersen (sp?) joined the Army. More specifically, they joined the Army Air Force (the Air Force was not a separate branch of the military at the time). Their friend, Daniel (I don't recall his last name) joined the Navy.
Here's a picture of Norman (left) and Nathan (right).
Of the three friends, only Norman survived the war. Nathan was a ball turret gunner in his B-17 crew. He was on a mission when his plane was shot down. The other crew members were able to jump out of the plane, but Nathan couldn't get out of the ball turret, and died when the plane crashed into the ground. Daniel was aboard a destroyer (perhaps the USS Indianapolis, although that was a cruiser and not a destroyer) that was torpedoed and sunk. The story of the Indianapolis is well-known; here's one account. Your late uncle Nathan was named after Norman's buddy. I was named after my grandfather, but I like to think that I was also named after Norman's friend, Daniel.
Norman was a photographer in the war. It's probably more accurate to say he was a photographic technician. His job was to process the films that were recorded during bombing missions, so that mission planners could assess how much damage the bombing had caused. He was part of the 8th Army Air Force. From the photo above, I had the impression that Norman flew on the bombing missions, recording the bombing runs. Now I don't think that's the case. In the accounts I've read, it seems that the bombers had cameras that automatically started when the bomb bay doors opened. Also, descriptions of the crew of the B-17 and B-24 (the two long-range bombers used by the 8th Air Force) don't list a cameraman. Nevertheless, developing the film after each mission was an important job; planners had to know how successful each bombing mission had been.
Norman enlisted in December, 1942 and was discharged in 1945. Reading his last will and testament (no doubt required of every enlistee) was a sobering experience. I don't know much about Norman's time in the Army Air Force, as he wasn't one to talk about his experiences (at least not to me). I do know that he fell out of the back of a transport once and injured his back. Other than a few references to lovely English ladies, that's all I know.
The 8th Air Force was based in England. They were responsible for daylight bombing of German factories, oil refineries and anything else deemed material to the war effort. The British Air Force conducted night bombing. US bombing was labeled "strategic" as it targeted specific sites. British bombing was called "area" bombing as it just attempted to hit an area of interest. Exactly why this division of labor existed is hard to say. The British had tried daylight bombing, but experienced heavy losses and weren't able to hit their targets with any precision. There was also a belief (thanks to experiencing The Blitz) that bombing of civilian targets (by accident or, as in the case of Dresden, on purpose [see Slaughterhouse Five]) could cause a loss of civilian morale and possibly hasten the end of the war. It's also true that the US had developed the Norden bombsight (Norman claimed they used a spider's thread for the filament used to sight the target) which had proven to be very accurate (under unrealistically ideal circumstances).
At any rate, daylight bombing was incredibly dangerous. Bombers flew without fighter escort between 1942 and 1944, since there was no mid-air refueling at this time and escort fighters didn't have enough fuel to make the complete round-trip. So the bombers had to fight their way into and out of the target. The bombers were heavily armed, and developed formation flying to increase their defensive capabilities. Still, between the flak and enemy fighters the bombers suffered tremendous losses. 26,000 service members died, out of 210,000 deployed. The average lifespan for the bomber crew was thirteen missions. [Side note: this attrition, together with the requirement to complete 25 missions, led to the notion of a "Catch-22."The odds were you'd be killed before completing 25 missions, yet you couldn't be relieved of duty unless you were insane... And if you asked not to fly because you feared for your life, you were considered sane."] Later in the war, fighters were introduced that had longer range and were able to accompany the bombers to their targets and back. In order to avoid the flak, the bombers flew at something like 50,000 feet--higher than a passenger jet. The bomber cabins weren't pressurized or heated. As a result, crews had to breathe oxygen during the trip (frostbite around the mouth was a common injury) and had to wear the heavy flight suits with integrated heaters in order to avoid freezing to death during flight.
Even if you didn't fly on bombing missions, it had to have been tough work. Guys you trained with, had a beer with, left in the morning and didn't come back. Guys too young to graduate from college were leading crews of 10 on 12-hour flights with bombs exploding all around you while you had to maintain level, straight flight in order to hopefully hit your target.
So that's what I know. Maybe your Mom has more details. As others have said, it was a time when ordinary men and women accomplished extraordinary things.
I wrote a post in reaction to the election of Donald Trump (see it here) and cross-posted it to Facebook. Generally that's where I get comments, especially since I am careful not to allow comments directly posted to my blog. (After that unfortunate time someone posted links to Japanese porn sites.)
My friend, Jenny, responded with a lengthy response. I thought it was worth capturing her comments here, and responding in turn. So here goes. Jenny's original post is in italics.
As our worldviews inform our interpretation of events in our culture, I understand why your observations expressed here bring you some measure of comfort. Even so, I think you miss the point – we’ll get there. Full disclosure: my worldview is that of a Bible-believing, fundamentalist (horrors!) Christian and a limited-government conservative. For those reasons, of course I could never have voted for Hillary Clinton, and of course (The “of course” in this sentence fully recognizes that I am but one of a very small group that held this conviction. I’m good with that, too.) I could never have voted for Donald Trump. Also for those reasons, my interpretation of the election will be through that prism. I just want to acknowledge that up front, and while I will argue against your conclusions, I understand there are points I may be “missing” as well, because you and I see the political landscape very differently.
I’m glad to engage in this discussion. Conversing (arguing?) with people who hold different viewpoints is one way to make sure we’re seeing life from outside of our particular “bubble.”
I remember well the sinking feeling of watching Barack Obama win the presidency not once, but twice. I know that many on the left need that to be because of his pigmentation level, but that had nothing to do with it. The policies he advocated were not the policies I support. I also found those that had major influences in his life objectionable. That simple. So, I’m not gloating; I know how you feel. But, while I am more than a little skeptical of the president-elect, I am thankful for Republican control of the House and Senate, and very thankful that Hillary won’t be president.
So far, so good. I didn’t mean to accuse you of being racist, if that’s how you took my comments. For plenty of people, the election of Barack Obama was disappointing primarily because their candidate didn’t win, and their political ideology was no longer ascendant. But I’m stuck on something Brian said to me. We were talking about Washington and the relationship between Congress and the President. I asked Brian why there was such animus toward Obama. Was it just because he is Democratic? After all, there was a tremendous amount of that with Bill Clinton, but at least it seems like he was able to get things done. In Obama’s term(s), it seemed that the only objective of Congressional Republicans was to block anything and everything Obama wanted to accomplish. Brian’s answer to me was at once simple and shocking: “Dad, it’s about racism.”
Racism is a “card” is something I am reluctant to play as a first explanation for anything. (My typical reaction to such a claim is, “bring me the statistics!”) But the more I thought about it, the more I kept returning to that explanation. I don’t have any statistics to share (violating my own dictum) but consider this: has any President been treated as poorly, with as much disrespect? Yes, Congress flirted with impeaching Bill Clinton, but there at least was an act of impropriety on the President’s part to work from. Plenty of Congresses (is that a word?) have worked to block or blunt the President's political agenda, but it seems there has historically been some level of cooperation. But in the case of Obama and Congress, it seems to have been taken to a new level. I believe Mitch McConnell was quoted early on as saying that the only congressional agenda was to block Obama from achieving anything. This was something new. Maybe it aligns with the emergence of the Tea Party. Or maybe it aligns with race; I can't say.
I don’t know that you’ve missed this, but it is omitted in your blog: Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. So terrible, in fact, that a moral reprobate won. My response: Ew! that he is in but, Yay! that she is not. Apart from the fact that she is a woman (which, I fail to see a valid argument in, and which I thought wasn’t such a “fact” anymore, right?), what did she offer that was worthy of the presidency? She presents as entitled, above-the-law, and beyond scrutiny because of her lady parts. And this coming from the side that demands that I accept that boy/girl parts are irrelevant to who a person is! You even make that case here, “We had the tears, especially from women who must have thought they were about to experience what black people felt eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected President--only to have that moment ripped from them.” Why? Why would her election bring me – as a woman – some sort of euphoric experience? This woman actually stood on the debate stage and attempted to argue the virtues of scissors to the skull of a mostly-born baby for the sake of Women’s Rights. You used to keep this part quite. And how was it “ripped” from us? There was an election and the ideas that have been rejected for the last 3 elections were rejected again. In spite of Obama’s re-election in 2012 (He is a charismatic figure; she is not.), the country has rejected his platform again – at least for now. I vote on character and policy, not on genitals. To suggest that women as a group lost something on that basis alone is actually pretty insulting (though, I’m not insulted and I know you didn’t mean that, but that is how it reads).
So there’s a lot going on here. Let me take things in turn. First, there is a narrative that Hillary didn’t give voters a reason to vote FOR her. And I can agree with that. In fact, I remember reading something that said the Clinton campaign was going to continue to focus on Trump, holding him and his actions (and utterances) out as the best reason to vote for Hillary—you don’t want THIS GUY do you?? That was a sound strategy, until it wasn’t. Hillary didn’t have a “vote for me because” story, at least not one that was easy to digest. That story is probably there, deep in some of her policy proposals, but if that’s where to find it, then it’s buried way too deep for the average voter to find. Remember Reagan’s “are you better off then you were four years ago?” statement. That’s the sort of litmus test voters respond to. And, as it turned out, there was at least one group of voters who had a clear “no” answer to that question: displaced manufacturing workers. These workers saw their middle class incomes gashed as work was shifted to China or (mostly) automated, and no one was there to help them adjust to changed economic circumstances. Likewise, coal miners have seen their livelihoods ripped away with the decline of the coal mining industry. While I attribute this to a permanent decline in global demand as (in turn) the US, India and China have moved away from coal and toward cleaner alternatives for electricity generation, the narrative for some has been that this has happened due to policy choices that could be reversed. It didn’t help Hillary when she went on about killing off coal (one of those open-mic faux pas moments) but it doesn’t change the facts on the ground.
I didn’t see Hillary as a terrible candidate, for three reasons.
- Compared to Bernie Sanders (another populist) I felt that Clinton would actually be able to get something done with Congress if she were elected. After all, the last Democrat to accomplish something as President was also named Clinton. Bernie made people on the left feel good, but I never felt that he had the agenda or the political support to cause change to happen.
- I don't buy into the “crooked Hillary” narrative. I hear the accusations but I don’t see the facts. If you’re likening Hillary to the “Washington establishment” and saying that you didn’t want more of the same, I can appreciate that thought. In fact, that is apparently what some segments of the voting populace felt. (It is ironic how often candidates run for President on a platform of being an “outsider”.)
- I see Hillary as something of a “policy wonk” to use the Washington term. I was looking forward to seeing her bring her ideas forward and trying to implement them. Maybe she was too nerdy to connect with voters.
And I didn’t see Hillary as a good candidate just because she’s a woman. I also didn’t mean to say that women did (or should have) vote/ed for her because she’s a woman. I’m with you in thinking that talent, competence and fit for the job are the reasons that I want to matter when it comes to selecting the right person for the job.
You’ve argued that this is a last gasp of the defeated-but-not-going-down-without-a-fight white man, and I think that is where you miss the point the most. You view people as voting blocks, not as individuals, as evidenced by:
- And I thought about the demographic shift happening in America, where white men are quickly on their way to becoming a minority population. (I exclude white women because they, like all women, are already a minority.)
- It feels more like a last stand, like the last gasp of a group trying to hang onto something that is inexorably slipping from their grasp.
- The tide is shifting, and railing against it isn't going to slow it down or alter it in any way.
First, correct me if I’m wrong, but I see an assumption in these statements and in the liberal platform generally that somehow being a white male is inherently wrong and something to be beaten into submission. That there is some virtue in being “a Somali woman...elected as a representative” or “a woman…elected as the first Latina Senator” ABOVE or SUPERIOR to that of being a white male that would have accomplished the same. But this argument never flows the other way from the left. So, while you claim to support minorities in positions of influence, you really don’t if they have the audacity to think outside of the allowable lines liberals have drawn for them based on their skin color. Look at the field of candidates offered this primary season on both sides and ask yourself where “diversity” was reflected most. I see people as individuals made in Imago Dei, all with their own stories to tell, their own life experiences, and their own dreams. This is why I am a conservative. I believe government should get out of the way and allow people to pursue those dreams, not put barriers up or actively try to destroy people who refuse to conform.
I’m not saying that there’s something inherently wrong in being a white male (or white, or male, or… anything.) What I was trying to say is that the world I have experienced as a white male is not the same world experienced by black males I know, or black women, or white women. It’s hard to expand on this without getting too general too fast. I’ll just say that I see racism and sexism in our society, and these “ism’s” have benefited white men at the expense of others. I don’t see the playing field as being level which is one reason why I’m in favor of efforts to help make it more level.
I’m not celebrating a Somali woman elected to office as being ipso facto (hey, you broke out the Latin first) better than a white man. My point is that this is happening, and it's unusual enough to notice. People other than white males are being elected to posts those non-white, non-males haven’t held in the past. Nowadays, it’s not unusual to see a black baseball player. But before 1947 it was a big deal. Black men were segregated into their own units in the Army through World War II; now they’re not. Women weren’t eligible for combat roles; now they are. What I’m celebrating is the beginning of something not being a big deal anymore. It’s a slightly less big deal that the US could have a black President, now that we've had one. There are plenty of countries that have had women as heads of state; the US isn’t (yet) one of them. Someday that will happen. And when it does, it will be because that woman was the best person for the job. And it will be a big deal. After it happens for the 40th time… not such a big whoop.
Which brings me to…second (and finally!). The last 8 years have been characterized by major federal overreach and severely divisive rhetoric from the top. Americans have been hammered with accusations of racism, homophobia, and sexism NONSTOP. Christians have been targeted and financially destroyed for their faith – not for chasing down and burning homosexuals at the stake, but literally for not wanting to make pastry. NUNS were sued for not wanting to violate their faith and their conscience. Our rights that have defined us as Americans have been under relentless attack – the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and the Tenth Amendments specifically. The enumerated powers of the federal government have been violated repeatedly. The Pen and the Phone were elevated, which doesn’t seem so exciting when the rabbit has the gun now, does it? We have been told we are bigots if we don’t want creepy dudes in the restrooms with our daughters. Our police forces have been targeted and demoralized – this one, particularly personal to me as the wife of a deputy shot in the line of duty (side note: you know what never comes up when we talk about the shooting and all we’ve had to go through since? The shooter’s skin color. After the initial, “oh really? He was black?” conversation, it’s never come up again.). Obamacare has skyrocketed insurance premiums, but we’re told it’s the “Affordable Care Act,” so we must accept that, in spite of what we see happening in our own finances. Industries have been targeted and told they were going to be regulated out of business. What you see as heartwarming demonstration, I see as vandalism and violence. I see an entire generation that simply can’t handle life. I think the left has done an enormous disservice to this generation by the coddling, the “safe-spaces,” the promotion that they should never have to hear a contrary opinion. Damage has been and is being done when these students have to face the real world without understanding how to lose; they can’t think critically. I could go on.
I can’t meaningfully respond to most of this, as it would require taking your examples one by one and reviewing the facts of each. But I do want to speak to the item that I know strikes home: the discussions about police-involved shootings of minorities. I'm not a (willing) participant in culture wars. And the back-and-forth about whose lives matter is not really helpful to anyone. Yes, there’s been plenty of over-reaction to police shootings of black men. One cop shooting one black man doesn’t by itself constitute racism. But there have been a lot of officer-involved shootings reported, and some of those cases are hard to explain outside of a racist context.
These are people’s livelihoods. These are people’s families. The left pushed the pendulum too far, and now we are seeing it swing back. I don’t see this as a last gasp at all. I see this as the people bringing a bigger bully to the fight to stand up to the bully we’ve been dealing with these last several years. I don’t like that part, just to be clear. A strong-man is not our answer. I believe the common ground you say you are ready to look for was already masterfully laid out in the Constitution – in Freedom. Hillary Clinton didn’t represent that, as I see it. I really want to believe that the people rejected her positions and voted against those (I do not see the authoritarianism represented in many of DTs words as the road to freedom, either, but my hope does not lie in government. Plus, my own blinders prevent me from seeing how anyone could have actually voted in support of him.). Still, I do not view these results as a last gasp of a dying breed, but as tired Americans who are thankful for the freedoms they have enjoyed not wanting to continue the erosion of those rights advocated by the left. I understand we see that differently, and that’s ok. That’s freedom.
And here we agree. To the extent that what’s happened is the pendulum-swing of ideas and policies—too far this way, now back that way—I am OK with that. That’s how progress occurs. Pick your favorite example of something that happens now that didn’t use to happen… or the opposite. Trump didn't win by a landslide; in fact, he didn't win the popular vote. But Republicans did gain overall in the election. So that would support the pendulum-swinging-back idea. But as always, it’s a mixed bag. As one small example, California legalized marijuana but did not strike down the death penalty.
So we will see. Thanks for being willing to challenge me and for sharing your point of view. This kind of dialogue is good for weakening all of our bubbles.
For those of you that are visually oriented, here's a link to my photo album for 2016. Ahem... here.
Just in under the wire, (what does that even mean?), here's our newsletter for the year. Follow the link to enjoy the PDF.
Happy New Year!
Fair warning: I'm writing this quickly, as I want to get it out. So there won't be the usual citations. Just my opinion, which I think is accurate but hey.
OK, I know it's more than that now: 279 electoral college votes and likely to climb since Arizona will definitely go to Trump. But that was the count when I woke up yesterday morning and checked CNN. I had gone to bed the night before with Hillary Clinton trailing. But there was still a sliver of hope, and I wasn't going to count on the media getting the election outcome right, after getting it wrong every step of the way up to now.
But as I woke and checked the results yesterday morning, Trump's victory was confirmed. Yes, I was shocked. Yes, I was disappointed. "There's no way the American people will elect this clown," I had repeatedly thought. It turns out, that was just my optimism speaking. They could, and they did.
I don't know what this means. No one does, and if they tell you they do, they're full of shit.
As that reality settled in, there were the inevitable stages of grieving. We had the tears, especially from women who must have thought they were about to experience what black people felt eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected President--only to have that moment ripped from them. We had anger, though not of the "you stole the election" sort that we saw with George W. Bush's election. We've had protests, such as the walkout at the high school in Berkeley yesterday (student activism among millennials, or whatever that generation is called, warms my heart).
And now we, and the rest of the world, ask, "what's next?"
Where to, America?
Will we descend into fascism as Bill Maher worried on his show last week? Will we see a rollback of the liberties recently won, such as gay marriage? Will we send Hispanic immigrants away? Will we institute some sort of religion test for Muslim immigrants?
I'm an optimist; I can't help it, it's my nature. I have a hard time believing that the election of Donald Trump is going to initiate some sort of rollback to the 50's and 60's, to a time when white men were king of the hill and everyone else "knew their place." Then again, I had a hard time believing that Trump could ever get elected, so take that for what you wish.
Two things resonated with me as we watched the election coverage and it appeared more and more likely that Mr. Trump was going to be our next President. First, a commentator said that Trump's victory was not only a blow to the Democratic party, but to the Republican party as well. After all, he ran against the "Republican establishment" as much as the Democratic one. If that's the case, it's hard to see how Trump is going to accomplish anything. We do have three branches of government, not one. And it's Congress that has to pass legislation to advance whatever "really terrific" plan Trump has in mind. So if he's alienated everyone, how's that going to happen?
And by the way, I'm not freaking out about a new Supreme Court justice. Of course, I could be wrong about that; see my comments about unbridled optimism above. But what I've seen over the years is that Supreme Court justices tend to go their own way, despite the best efforts of Congress to steer them toward a particular point of view.
The second and more important comment from election night was from Doris Kearns Goodwin, a favorite of US history geeks everywhere. She had been asked if there was any other presidential election that had parallels with this one. Her answer was that the current election reminded her not of another race, but another time: the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, from a rural to an urban population. This was maybe in the late 19th century. Her comment was that in such a time of change and uncertainty, there was a lot of fear. People wanted to return to the life, the culture, the ways that they had been so comfortable with for all this time. I connected that with reports that Trump's base was not out-of-work factory workers, but reasonably wealthy white men. And I thought about the demographic shift happening in America, where white men are quickly on their way to becoming a minority population. (I exclude white women because they, like all women, are already a minority.) Then I connected that with a story about how people in times like this that are drawn to authoritarian figures, as a source of comfort.
So maybe I'm way out on a limb here. But I'm not seeing this election as the beginning of a return to a white-dominated era. It feels more like a last stand, like the last gasp of a group trying to hang onto something that is inexorably slipping from their grasp.
Yes, we elected someone that seemingly no one thought would, or should, be President. But before people starting running off declaring some kind of mandate, consider that three states legalized marijuana in this election cycle. And a black and Indian woman was elected as a California senator. And (from what Samantha Bee tells me) a Somali woman was elected as a representative and a woman was elected as the first Latina Senator. The tide is shifting, and railing against it isn't going to slow it down or alter it in any way.
The morning after election day something unusual happened. As I was walking Mona, a gardener called me over and asked me what I thought about the election. His English wasn't that good, but I could tell he wanted someone to explain what happened. Should he be worried? I told him, "you're not going anywhere." He held his hands apart, explaining that there was a giant rift in this country that needed to be closed if we were going to move forward as a nation.
And I thought about a customer I've been working with, Oscar. He runs a sign business in Southern California, and employs a couple dozen people. He's a hard worker--I know, because I get messages from him at 6:45 AM. Oscar seems to represent where America is headed. Maybe that's scary or intimidating for some people; I can appreciate that. I don't know what it means to share the stage with people from other countries and other backgrounds, but I'm willing to be a part of it. I'm ready to search for common ground. Mostly, I'm ready to move forward.