Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Few Thoughts at the End of June

One of the most challenging aspects of recovering from surgery is being stuck at home for days, even weeks, with lots of time on your hands. And while having nothing to do (and all day to do it in) can be nice for a little while, it can quickly get really, really boring-- especially when you're still in pain and the only break from sitting around is going to doctors or going to physical therapy.  I've tried to use all of this free time productively.  I've done a lot of reading, engaged in some conversations on social media, Skyped with a couple of my students, but I have to confess that I miss being at work. I feel like there's an entire world of activity going on out there, and I'm not a part of it.

On the other hand, it's not difficult to keep up with the latest news, and there's been plenty to talk about-- or in the Twitter & Facebook world, plenty to argue about. A lot of the conversation is remarkably similar to how it's been for months:  Donald Trump is (pick one) a racist and a bigot, the only person who can rescue our economy, the man who knows how to keep us safe, or the guy who wants to start World War Three.  Hillary Clinton is (pick one) somewhere between Lady Macbeth and Satan, an inspiration and the most qualified to be president, someone who knows how to lead during a time of crisis, or someone who never tells the truth.  And President Obama is (pick one) the worst president in the history of humanity, the man who overcame the mess Bush left us with, a secret Muslim, or someone who seldom gets enough credit for his many accomplishments. 

One thing I'm noticing from the messages sent by my conservative friends (and yes, I really do have some) is their strong belief that things are going downhill and our country is in dire straits. Many tell me with certainty that only Donald Trump can turn things around, and they trust him to both keep us safe and fix what's wrong with our country.  As I've stated previously, I continue to be mystified by why anyone would trust Mr. Trump, a man with a long history of making claims that are demonstrably false.  And yet, no matter how many times his claims are refuted or debunked, the response from his supporters is that the media are against him, that fact-checkers are biased, and that anyone who disagrees with him must be a "liberal" (or perhaps a commie or, worse yet, a terrorist sympathizer).

Similarly, every time there's a terrorist attack (even if, as in Turkey, many of the victims were Muslims; or even if the attack occurred in a country where the terrorists were not Muslim at all), I still see the memes about how every terrorist is a Muslim; or lately, I see the return of the memes with the fake quotes claiming President Obama supports radical Islam (a claim Osama Bin Laden would have found puzzling), or that Obama promised to "stand with the Muslims" (he never said or wrote that; but as president, I would hope he would stand with all Americans who want a peaceful and safe country, whatever their religion).  And then, there's the return of the double standard-- when President Bush said that our enemy is NOT Islam and that most Muslims are peaceful, few conservatives were outraged.  But when President Obama says the same exact thing, suddenly it's disgraceful, and talk show hosts cannot express enough contempt. (And please don't tell me Obama "bowed to the Saudi king"-- something that President Bush also did, but again, when Bush did it, there was far less anger from conservatives.)

Some of you may disagree with me, but I do not believe America is going downhill, nor do I believe (as some Republican candidates want me to) that America is no longer great.  In fact, I don't even believe America is in grave danger and only a strongman who talks tough can save us (President Bush talked tough, and yet we still had 9/11, and yes, there were embassies that were attacked under his watch too).  That said, of course there are problems that need to be resolved: for example, the economic recovery has been both slow and uneven, and there really is a lot of evidence that only the top 1% have prospered (including Mr. Trump).

But over all, as the grandchild of immigrants, I sincerely believe that America is a pretty great place to live; and for all of its faults, I can't imagine living anywhere else. So, as we approach the 4th of July (Independence Day, plus it's my husband's 70th birthday), I would hope the fear-mongering and the anti-immigrant rhetoric could stop for a while.  I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and it's still on my mind, especially each time I hear more angry political rhetoric about blaming "them" for our problems.  But finding the right group to hate (or ban) has never worked long-term; it's a temporary way for some folks to feel better, even though in the end, it solves nothing.

I keep thinking about how our Founders didn't agree on everything, and in fact, history tells us they had some intense debates.  Yet they were still able to collaborate when it mattered most, and as a result, we have our country and our constitution.  As I see it, that's an example of true patriotism:  working together for the greater goal, being willing to commit to making America even better than it already is.  Here's hoping we can rediscover that spirit of collaboration-- if it was good enough for our Founders, should we settle for anything less?

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