More Things Americans Can Do in October

I recently listed 16 things Americans can do in October 2020, in advance of our November election — because we fare better mentally, emotionally, and politically when we do things, not just wring our hands. Here are 16 more things Americans can do in October. (One’s a rerun.) These include remembering things that will give us a more stable, reasonable perspective as hysteria swirls around us; engaging with others in difficult but civil ways; and preparing our minds for some things that may happen.

[Photo credit for the feature image: Wolfgang Hasselmann at Unsplash.com. The elephants are not here as partisan symbols, but because they have thick skins (see #27 below) and a reputation for remembering.]

Think Reasonably About Politics and Government

17. Remember that George Washington isn’t running. Nor is Mother Teresa or Mohandas Gandhi.

Saints rarely run for high political office. Perfect people never do — because there aren’t any. And normally only the living run, no matter how faithfully the dead may vote in some jurisdictions.

Some years’ ballots are worse than others, and we have to make the best of a bad choice. Instead of deciding which of two or more good candidates for high office is better, we end up wondering which one is the smaller or less immediate threat to American liberty and the Constitution which protects that liberty; which is more likely to have his or her excesses restrained by Congress or a mostly-partisan media; which is less likely to cower before the world’s tyrants; and so forth.

Instead of wondering which candidate for school bus driver will start the students’ day better, contributing to their education by delivering them to the front steps of the school in the best mindset to learn and explore, we have to ask which of the unkempt, odd-smelling, foul-mouthed applicants is least likely to get a fully-loaded bus stuck across the railroad tracks in front of an oncoming train.

I’m afraid (as in 2020) it’s often too much to expect that the major party candidates for president have always been faithful to their own and others’ marriage vows, and have always treated the opposite sex with proper manners and respect. This is much to be regretted.

I’d like to see a day when it’s the rule, not the exception, that a major candidate will reliably and articulately tell us the truth in context, unvarnished, and unembellished. I don’t expect to see it soon. I’d like to see the day when — if that ever happens — it would be reported accurately, in context, and unspun.

We want to elect good, wise, and honest men and women to political office. As best we can, we should. But in our goodheartedness, misanthropy, or partisan loyalty, we shouldn’t be blind to any candidate’s real faults or virtues. Everyone I’ve ever seen on a ballot is a fairly fraught mix of both.

Visions of America in 2020 Convention Acceptance Speeches

I watched Joe Biden’s acceptance speech at the Democrats’ convention. It was unusually and pleasantly brief, and because there was no live audience, it wasn’t interrupted dozens of times by applause. So it was watchable for me. Later I went back and read it for this blog post.

I read but didn’t watch President Trump’s acceptance speech. I mostly avoid watching and listening to him, and I usually prefer to read such speeches anyway. His was long-ish, with many interruptions for applause. Life’s too short.

I thought it might be interesting to compare what the two rivals said about the United States of America — specifically our heritage and our historical and current place in the world.

Cloth Masks and the Death of Nuance – Part 2 of 2

This is the second half of an essay on cloth masks — on their own merits and as a symbol of our loss of nuance in the public square. If you haven’t read Part 1, it’s a good place to start. It focuses mostly on masks and their effectiveness. Here I’ll summarize several facets of mask-related nuance, then turn to more general questions: why losing our sense of nuance matters, how it may have happened, and a few things we might do about it.

I Wear a Cloth Mask, But …

For me, wearing a cloth mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 is not a one-sided question. There’s nuance here. Allow me to illustrate.

I wear a cloth mask at church, at stores, and at work right now, even sometimes when it’s not required. I don’t mind that my mask protects you a lot more than it protects me. And I can accept a cloth mask’s usefulness even when I know it’s far less than 100% effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. (See Part 1.)

I wear a mask, but I agree that elected and unelected officials have confused the issue by saying one thing, then another. I agree that their recommendations may be influenced by their own goals, especially as regards the November 2020 election.

I wear a mask, but I acknowledge that the pandemic itself has been politicized, with deadly effect. Even the science has been politicized — corrupted — also with deadly effect. Yet I don’t simply reject science or politics; each has its place.

Cloth Masks and the Death of Nuance – Part 1 of 2

To mask or not to mask? Cloth masks, I mean. The nature of the debate suggests a larger problem.

Some people’s views of cloth masks are reasoned and nuanced, but extreme responses on both sides are frequent. Even dwelling on the question may seem extreme, when … but you don’t need me to list the world’s or a nation’s troubles. Do we really have time and mental energy to spare for a sustained quarrel over cloth masks?

Beyond health considerations, the cloth mask has come to symbolize for me the death of nuance in our thought and discourse. We’ve lost our taste for complexity, for seeing more than one side of a question, for reserving judgment and forming a balanced view. From our family dinner tables to our national politics, we reject depth and perspective, and weaponize the shallowest version of everything against our political enemies … er, opponents.

We’ve downed those trendy cocktails of fear and anger until we may be too drunk to self-govern. Perhaps we’re drunk on trivia too, in Mark Steyn’s phrase. The almost-ubiquitous cloth mask is a tangible talisman of our inflamed, intemperate time.

I’ll try to explain. And before this two-parter is done, I’ll discuss some remedies — or at least muse on some things we could do that might help. (I don’t want to oversell.)

Impeachment, Politics, Due Process, and the Revolution

Several weeks ago, the US House of Representatives impeached the President of the United States by a close and almost entirely partisan vote. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally held another vote, on a resolution appointing the House managers for the Senate trial and formally sending the impeachment to the Senate. Now the Senators have been sworn in and the rules established, and the trial is beginning.

Meanwhile, and closer to home, I haven’t blogged here in slightly over a year. In case my reasons interest you — they have a lot to do with the present political climate — you’re welcome to peruse another article I’m posting simultaneously, “On Blogging and Not Blogging in the Trump Years.”

I’m looking forward to blogging on other topics, but …

If the proverbial cross between an elephant and rhino is an “elephino,” then this impeachment is … what? A giant elephonkey in the room?” So let’s talk about impeachment generally, and this impeachment specifically. I’ll mention revolution and counterrevolution before we’re done.

Impeachment Is Political

The impeachment we’ve been watching is a political process. That sounds like a bad thing, but it’s important to realize that it’s inherently political. Because of this, some things matter and some don’t, in a procedural sense. I’ll tell you what I mean.

On Blogging and Not Blogging in the Trump Years

I haven’t blogged here since the aftermath of the 2018 midterm election. If you’ll forgive the possible narcissism, I’ll tell you why. Then I’ll examine two of the reasons in the context of our current politics. President Trump’s name will come up, as it also does in a separate, simultaneous post about impeachment and due process.

One reason for my long silence is, I’ve been writing other things:

  • several posts on local issues and elections at afelection.info, which involved many hours of work;
  • occasional posts on non-political topics at bendablelight.com, where I write about books, religion, high school bands, etc., but not a lot lately about anything; and
  • some fiction, including some (local) award-winning short fiction and my first novel, which is now ready for beta readers.

I’ve also been busy at work.

My supply of mental and physical energy is not increasing with age.

And sometimes life gets complicated, despite my efforts to simplify.

But it’s more than all that, which brings me to our topic.

I haven’t been ignoring national politics. I consume about as much content as before, from across the political spectrum. I’ve outlined and even drafted a few blog posts along the way. I still discuss issues with friends, family members, and acquaintances of various political stripes, in person and online. But I’ve left blog posts unfinished and unposted, and I’ve discussed issues with others a lot less than before.

On Inauguration Day: 15 Things I Didn’t Blog About Lately, 9 Wishes for Our Future, 8 Points of Gratitude and Pride, and 3 Gifts for You

As I post this, one President of the United States is in the last minutes of his second term. (Much of the chattering class said this as New Year’s Day approached, but now it’s literally true.) Another President will call this the first day of his first term. Yet I will finish the day much as I begin it: a citizen of a country whose chief executive’s political aspirations and principles, or personal qualities, or both, I expect to be more harmful than beneficial to the freedom and welfare of my nation and the world.

Ten and a half weeks have passed since Election Day; one day less has passed since I last blogged here. True, I’ve been caught up in personal, professional, and church obligations; I spent more than half that span at least slightly ill (due to nonpolitical causes); and there was a holiday season stuck in there somewhere. So I have plenty of excuses for not blogging here. But they are only excuses. Obviously, I had some time to write, as you can see at my non-political blog, Bendable Light. I just didn’t want to write about politics enough to finish anything I started. I’m not sure what that means.

But here we are. I propose to do four things during our time together here today. First, I’ll briefly mention most of the political topics on which I’ve considered writing in recent weeks. I don’t know what that will do for you – paint a picture of my current political thoughts, perhaps, without belaboring any of them – but it will probably make me feel better and help me move on. Second and third, I’ll try to lift my eyes and words above grim politics, mostly, to some hopes and some points of pride and gratitude we’re more likely to share. Fourth, I have three small gifts for you.

Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

The Raw, Verbose Appendix to My Notes on the Presidential Election

If the title wasn’t enough of a warning, here’s one more: These notes are fairly raw, in places less than fully formed, haphazardly organized, and generally undocumented by links to data or other materials. They’re part of my thought process as a voter in the 2016 presidential election. Make of them what you will.

If you’re looking for my traditional voter’s guide, follow that link. All of this material was drafted for it but cut, so it wouldn’t be completely out of control.

Fragmentary General Thoughts

The anti-McMullin crowd, which keeps saying we don’t know enough about him and he’s not qualified, is glossing over the fact that we know a great deal about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, including that they are profoundly unqualified.

I believe in a God of miracles. One way or another, we’re going to need a few. I think that, through Tuesday, we should pray for the voters. After that, we should pray for the winner. The less we want to do that, the more we need to.