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Posts published in “Day: June 25, 2022”

Aimlessness

rainey

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”

Just seven words. Seven one-syllable words. Words we’ve heard time and time again in many circumstances. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

For a decade or more, this country has seemed to be “off-course,” drifting aimlessly without direction. Maybe the absence of contemporary “will” has contributed to a national loss of “way.”

Think about it.

In 1941, faced with war on two sides of our circular world, this nation was called to arms by Franklin Roosevelt. He defined a need for national unity and all-out commitment to win two wars. Following that call to arms, we found the “will” and the “way” to win both in less than 48 months. Because the whole nation was focused in a definable undertaking.

In 1961, faced with Soviet successes in space, John Kennedy, following Roosevelt’s path, defined a need for the country, saying this nation would send a man to the moon in the next decade. We found the “will.” And the “way.” Again, national focus.

We did. We found the national “will” to accomplish the seemingly Herculean tasks that had been defined. We got to the moon. And beyond.

When the need was set, the “will” and the “way” followed. Successfully. Orderly. Quickly.

Forget, for a moment, all the national divisions that surround us. Ignore, temporarily, the political battles that have weakened our society. Just consider the American family. How ever it’s constituted in your world.

The pressures of keeping a family together have never been greater. More than half of American families have both parents working. Trying to keep up with the prices of groceries, health care, gas, school needs and dozens of unplanned expenses we all face. Plus, just parenting.

Many of today’s families are in single-parent households. There, those pressures are even greater as one parent tries to take the place of two while dealing with all those demands. Full time. Then some.

Nearly all of us - parents or not - have our heads down, “pedaling” as fast as we can to keep up with ever increasing demands on our time, our treasure and our talents..

At the national level, the picture seems much the same. Most of those in charge seem to have their “heads down,” trying to do everything in these demanding times to “keep up” as a nation.

Except Congress. Congress - such as it is - is hopelessly divided, producing little in ways to make our lives better. That must change.

The President sits atop a government that seems aimless as we lurch from one crisis to another. Whether it’s rampant inflation to a pandemic to national health emergencies to international calamities to gun massacres to gas prices. Trying to clean up the national mess left by the previous administration and the ever-present, day-to-day multiplying of national demands. There’s no time for leading - for setting a national course - for defining a new national goal.

“National will,” if you will.

And, that’s what seems to be missing. Some sort of national undertaking that involves us all, that unifies us working for a common goal, a goal that defines the “will” so we can be bound together finding the “way.”

Nations that lead - that prosper - almost always have some sort of national direction working at a common undertaking. It’s the sort of inspirational “glue” that binds all in a well-defined task. Like winning a war or two. Like setting goals for space achievement.

At the moment, we seem divided one from another in nearly all things. Our eyes are down - not lifted to the horizon of common understanding. We lack the purpose of common “will.”

We need something large and defining to bring us all together in single purpose. Something like ending homelessness in the next decade. It could be done. Undertaking serious work on global warming before it gets completely out-of-hand. It still can be done.

There ARE other huge challenges we face. Challenges we can overcome IF we can end the current divisions wasting precious time. Challenges sapping our strength and our resources.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Old words. Words from a previous time. Long ago. But, at least in my opinion, words we badly need to listen to. Today.
 

Character test

johnson

We all knew that the Age of Trump was going to end up being a character test for Republican officeholders.

Way back in 2015 – remember those simpler days – most of these politicians knew the guy who bankrupted casinos, swindled contractors and cheated on his several wives was devoid of that central element of personal and political leadership: character.

But they were tribal, they wanted to win, and, after all, their supporters wanted to send a big message to the libs and the elites, so the GOP’s own elites tucked their reservations in a vest pocket and got on the Trump Train.

When he attacked John McCain, a decorated war hero, as a loser they bit their tongues. He is crude and mean and boorish, but the base loves him. When he slandered a Hispanic judge or the Gold Star parents of a Muslim solider, they looked away. When he praised Putin, they decided no big deal. When he attempted to extort the Ukrainian president in order to manufacture dirt on his political opponent, they let it slide.

When he surrounded himself with cranks and grifters and fellow con men, and when the few with any character left or were fired, it was just business as usual. They got a tax cut for the millionaires and billionaires, after all. When he pardoned the sloppy, seditious Steve Bannon and repugnant, reprehensible Roger Stone, as well as a host of others, ensuring their silence, the characterless were busy elsewhere.

When he began, without a scintilla of evidence, to sow doubt about the election, always suggesting that unless he won the whole deal was rigged, they took their own election victories in stride. They knew it was a joke. But, hey, nothing to see here.

When he summoned the mob, incited the mob and embraced the fiction of a stolen election many Republican officeholders actually helped advance the Big Lie. They are still lying. They know it, you know it, but in for a penny, in for a pound after all.

Impeach and disqualify him from ever polluting the White House again? Not on your life. It’s all just “politics.”

But there is a funny thing about squandering the notion that character in public life really does matter. The smell of it sticks like stink on you know what. And it really stinks when someone from your own ideological tribe exhibits real character.

We saw it this week in the form of a conservative Republican, a Mormon graduate of BYU, and the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. Rusty Bowers might have been called from central casting for his role before the January 6 investigation, that is, before the Malice from Mar a Lago made character as completely fungible as a degree from Trump University.

“Look, you are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it,” Bowers told Rudy Giuliani, the shameless Trump lackey who was pressing a fellow Republican to create fake electors in order to pervert a presidential election.

“I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of Arizona,” Bowers told Rudy. “You’re asking me to do something against my oath. And I will not break my oath.”

“What makes a conservative Republican resist Trump and his deranged and fact-free election conspiracies?” Walter Shapiro asked recently in The New Republic. “Where do political figures like Bowers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger [another witness before the congressional committee] find their courage while the likes of Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham become spineless Trump toadies?”

The answer is character, and character is what you do when you care more about the country than your tribe, or the next election or your own power.

Donald Trump pressured Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, “to find 11,780 votes” to reverse the electoral will of the state’s voters. It was shakedown full of Mafia boss-like threats and bluster. Raffensperger refused. Since then he’s been subjected to death threats and some loser broke into the home of his widowed daughter-in-law apparently seeking to intimidate him. He resisted.

We are living through the greatest peril of American democracy since the Civil War. Like southern Democrats in 1860, most in today’s Republican Party are willing to tolerate the threats, intimidation and corruption because they have rejected the notion that character counts.

There was a massive Trump directed conspiracy to overturn the last presidential election. Only an American living in a Fox News bubble or trolling the dark corners of Facebook can deny what happened. Republican after Republican witness is telling us. The witnesses of character are speaking to both the threats we face and to our better angels.

“Obviously Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and the rest of the Kracken lunatics are incapable of shame,” writes Never Trump conservative Sarah Longwell. “As are some of the 147 Republicans who refused to certify the 2020 election. But I’ve got to believe that there are many Republicans who – despite claiming they’re not paying attention to the hearings—are watching the testimony of people like [Georgia election worker Shaye] Moss, Brad Raffensperger, and Rusty Bowers with a gnawing sense of dread. Aware, perhaps with renewed clarity, that by carrying water for Trump’s lies, they had a meaningful hand in unleashing devastation on many people’s lives. Including Rusty Bowers daughter, who, we learned yesterday, was dying of a terminal illness while her family was attacked because Bowers refused to betray his oath. I hope those realizations keep them up at night.”

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” said the conservative congresswoman from Wyoming, Liz Cheney, speaking to the boneless wonders of the modern GOP. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

That’s the thing about surrendering any principle and squandering any sense that character matters – you have to find a way to live with yourself.

That stain is permanent; the stink never goes away.