Thursday, May 13, 2021
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
As more and more Americans get vaccinated, it is now clearly time - or at least very close to time - for most of us to start trying to live somewhat normally again (whatever "normal" might actually mean in a post-pandemic world). As someone who has not entered a restaurant since March 7, 2020, nor been to a movie theater, I need to hear that message as much as anyone. About 14 months ago, as the covid-19 pandemic spread uncontrollably and seemed poised either to kill us or totally take over the lives of those it didn't kill, we did the only thing we could. We responded by locking ourselves in a cage, guarded by distance, masks, and an abundant, obsessive-compulsive, overuse of hand sanitizer. That all made perfect sense at the time.
But that was then, and now is now. Thanks to the scientific miracle of highly effective vaccines developed with unprecedented speed, it is possible to stop the transmission of the virus - assuming, of course, people all get vaccinated. Sadly, many people around the world do not yet have that opportunity, and until they do the virus will to some extent remain a a real and permanent threat to all of humanity. Sadly, too, there are many who now have the opportunity to get vaccinated but have not done so for political reasons. The only morally response to that is to require proof of vaccination - for schools, for example, much as has long been the case with regard to other vaccinations.
But, back to my problem. After 14 months, it has become easy to stay inside and not go anywhere. Too easy. And, all too often, the impression has sometimes been given that getting vaccinated makes little difference and that one should still maintain distance, wear a mask, etc. Of course, as long as there are unvaccinated people among us, some of those precautions may still make sense in certain settings. As long as I can't be confident that absolutely everyone on the bus has been fully vaccinated, I want the bus to require everyone to wear a mask. That makes sense.
But it also makes sense to start unlocking one's personal cage. Once you have been vaccinated and your family and friends as well, what then should you be doing? For sure, still wear a mask on the bus - for society's sake. But, as importantly, take that bus and go somewhere!
Sunday, May 9, 2021
“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz [Cheney] is not the best fit,” according to Ohio Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the nine other Republican House members who, with Cheney, chose to acknowledge their Emperor's lack of clothes and accordingly voted to impeach President Trump in January. Clearly, lying is indeed now a prerequisite for whatever passes for "leadership" among the Trump personality-cult that is the contemporary opposition party. When Utah Republicans booed their Senator and 2012 presidential standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, who as senator twice voted to convict Trump, they called him (of all absurd things) a "communist." Romney responded “aren’t you embarrassed?” Obviously, most Republicans are not.
Indeed, whatever one thinks of the "severely conservative" (as he called himself in 2012) Romney (of whom I am no more a fan than I am of Liz Cheney, neither of whom could I ever imagine voting for), he is obviously no "communist." Calling rival American politicians "communist" was always a bizarre and unprincipled tactic even in the worst years of the Cold War. Its evident absurdity three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union just exemplifies even further the fantasy world which the Trump cult increasingly inhabits and its commitment to lies and more lies. One of the many ironies of our current crisis is that that Trump cult's organizational expression in the contemporary Republican party, in its sectarian character and its indifference to truth, increasingly rather resembles the only actual "communist" entity of any remaining significance still in existence, the Chinese Communist Party. And both seem to be devoted to Lenin's infamous call to employ "a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us.”
The overused (and at times tiresome) terminological distinction between being both/and as opposed to either/or nonetheless has some real meaning and value in politics. A healthy, well balanced society needs both its left and right wings, both progressive advocacy and cautious conservatism. If the Left's political purpose is to push society forward towards a more just and equitable future, the Right's role is to steer society prudently according to the truth of human nature and the lessons of human history. Even if the United States somehow survives the Republican party's Trumpist abandonment of constitutional democratic norms of governance (a survival which is by no means a certainty at this stage), the absence of anything resembling a serious conservative opposition party has already decisively damaged American politics for a long time to come.
(Photo: The Emperor's New Clothes, Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, Hans Christian Andersen's first illustrator.)
Friday, May 7, 2021
A friend of mine once characterized Mother's Day as "a conspiracy of florists and greeting card companies." It is hard to disagree completely with that characterization; but, as with most such witticisms, it gets the story only partly right.
A more pointed critique would be that Mother's Day (and Father's Day and, for that matter, the way we obsessively "honor" our veterans) are all examples of our very American tendency to "honor" people in symbolic, virtue-signaling ways, which are completely contradicted by prevailing public policies. Somehow a society that falls all over itself to "honor" mothers every May manages to have the least pro-family, pro-mother, pro-child policies of any other comparably advanced society.
This disconnect may matter more than ever right now, when the Great Recession followed by a global Pandemic have highlighted the hopeless dysfunction and inequality in our society and the damage done in particular to children and families. And, speaking of children and families, have we not noticed that marriages are fewer, family-formation is down and our national birthrate is shockingly low (the lowest since 1979)?
So maybe Mother's Day might be reimagined as an occasion for actually thinking about (and eventually doing something about) this disastrous state of affairs. In which case, all the money spent to enrich those florists and greeting card companies might turn out to be well spent!