Collected Thoughts

April 2014
April 9, 2014

I am, at last, back at home after a long journey. Whenever I get home, the first task is to unpack and repair all the disorder that occurred during the trip, putting all my things in the right places, and so forth. Part of that always involves reordering my notebooks. Keeping my notebooks in some sort of order is one of the ongoing perplexities of my life. I’ve been at it for more than a half-century now and it’s hard to see that I’ve made much progress.

This, though, I have learned. There are just two basic uses for notebooks -- other than the pleasure of jotting in them in the first place. One use is to call on them for details, in writing and in conversation, about events that are still fairly current. The other is to skim through them long after they have been made, with no particular goal in mind, merely to recall ideas, events, and stupid statements that have slipped out of easy memory.

This morning I have flipped through three notebooks, one fairly recent and the other two from almost a year ago. Here is the information and advice I found in them which I suspect you may be in need of:

  • Don’t fill out a questionnaire on a computer in order to get a code, which if delivered to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop will allow you to get a free donut, provided that you purchase a medium cup of coffee. Remember that you shouldn’t eat a donut anyway.

  • If from any shopping mall in the United States, an adult person were randomly chosen, and then compared to me as to attitudes, concerns, beliefs and interests, there likely would be less than a 35% overlap between us. This may be true of everyone. I don’t know about that. But I’m pretty sure it’s true of me. So, what does that mean? Should it cause me to feel lonely? Does it indicate that I’m threatened? So far, neither of those emotions have infiltrated me (as I was typing this, I began to be alarmed that I may have said something about this in a previous posting, but since I can’t remember, you probably can’t either).

  • About a year ago, John Cassidy expressed the hope that Pope Francis would take the church in the right direction. This made no sense to me because I don’t know what the right direction for the Catholic Church is. And I suspect that neither John Cassidy nor Pope Francis does. Who’s to say there is a right direction for the Catholic Church? And if there is, where does it come from? I would like to say that I don’t wish for Pope Francis to take the church in the wrong direction. But, on the other hand, whatever direction he takes it is unlikely to alarm me.

  • Unequal distribution of intelligence is a greater problem in the United States than unequal distribution of income.

  • Some people are saying that the DNA which Texas veterinarian Melba Ketchum says came from a Sasquatch or Bigfoot probably came from an opossum. I have no opinion about where it came from.

  • Class status is written in the body -- frighteningly.

  • We are in the midst of a transformative shift in which attitudes, valuations and pieties which once were honorable have to be discarded or else we will perish.

  • Lady Pyrates, on a thread after an article by William Boardman about Justin Carter, a young man who was thrown in jail for putting a joke on Facebook, says that the Texas judicial system is a stud farm for jackasses. I suspect she’s right but I have no hard evidence.

  • A poll reports that four out of ten Americans believe that Jesus will return to earth by 2050. I doubt that will happen.

  • Some are charging that secular society is trying to “take God out of the equation.” I don’t know what the equation is.

  • Never trust a woman older than thirty-five who wears pink ribbons (I failed to note where this came from).

  • There are eleven states where more than 30% of the people live in poverty. They are: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and South Carolina. I couldn’t help but note that there seems to be a geographical concentration in this list.

  • Brian Hauck, deputy assistant attorney general, announced that Americans targeted by the government overseas do have legal rights, but these rights cannot be enforced by any court before or after these persons are assassinated. This left me a bit puzzled about what the rights might be.

  • A former advisor to Dan Quayle told Rick Perry of Texas that once you’re stuck with the moron label you can never get away from it. I don’t how stuck Governor Perry is, but from what I’ve seen on late-night talk shows, he seems to be in a sticky situation.

  • Larry Flynt announced, “I never met a Republican who wasn’t mean-spirited or a racist.” I’ve been trying to think whether I have or not.

  • Bill O’Reilly says that Stephen Colbert is a very destructive force in America. I predict that Colbert will not retort that O’Reilly is a destructive force, but once he does respond O’Reilly might well wish he had.

  • Mike Huckabee has announced that he isn’t a homophobe; he’s just on the right side of the Bible. This was explained yesterday to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

  • Finally, Anne Hathway and Jimmy Fallon have collaborated to turn rap songs into show tunes. Their rendition of “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” was quite popular.

You may think there’s no general theme linking these eighteen items together. If you do, I disagree, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.


April 13, 2014

We Americans are in need of a word which will instantaneously and clearly denote the social metastasis which flowered in the 1980s out of our insistence on remaining immature forever. You might think “Reaganism” would be good enough. But that would require a greater honesty than we have ever been able to summon.

Probably the best analyst of this disease is Thomas Frank. If you have not read his book, What’s the Matter With Kansas, you would do well to delay no longer. Frank, though, is not the only writer to whom you can turn. Actually, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds. The phenomena they describe is so glaring one would have to be culturally blind not to have seen it.

There are plenty of descriptive phrases. We might call it addictive grandiosity, or a national inferiority complex on display, or little boy greed in old men, or simply, vulgarity. Frank himself has written of the “rainbow shit” we have chosen to follow. James Howard Kunstler has been perhaps more graphic, coining the term “Clusterfuck Nation.” These are instances of linguistic ingenuity and they have their uses but I doubt they can serve as the default phrase that would summon instant recognition of the whole mess.

Keeping in mind that Americans are far from the first people ever to fall prey to this disorder, we might remind ourselves of the inevitable decay of overreaching empires. There have been numerous historians who see the development the United States has followed over the past three decades as a kind of iron law of history. Nations, having achieved something decent and solid, fall first to admiring themselves more than anybody could ever deserve and then begin to believe that the rewards due them must exceed what any other people have experienced. The glory of Rome has to shrink to nothing in the face of the current eruption of grandeur.

We are bigger, we are more to be feared, we are better than any other people of history and, therefore, we have to find signs to proclaim that we are. Our top salaries have to be larger, our billionaires more numerous, our mansions bigger, our armies more lethal, our private expenditure more prodigal, our control of the globe more complete than anyone else has hitherto imagined. This, of course, is a mental and spiritual sickness, one for which we have no adequate name. We have Donald Trump, we have Rush Limbaugh, we have Sheldon Adelson. We have plenty of symbols of the decay, but no recognizable term. Because pretentiousness with us has become a god-substitute, it must not be named.

The current medicine being administered to try to combat the sickness is the preachment that the middle class is being eviscerated. But no matter the dose, it doesn’t appear to be effective. There probably is sincere regret about loss of a genuine broad, strong, middle class but the measures required to restore it to health strike a timid people as too radical. It would be easy enough, for example, to set a maximum for annual income, not to be exceeded for any reason, something in the neighborhood of a million dollars. But imagine the howls that would rise if anyone were to propose such a thing. It would be the death of freedom and the complete destruction of incentive. If people can’t look forward to raking in more than a million a year, why would they do anything?

I wish we could wake up but I don’t think we will. The disease has to get worse before a genuine national will for health can be created. I don’t know how bad things will get before livable order begins to disappear. Conditions seem pretty bad to me already, but I suspect our descent can continue for decades before counter-action becomes irresistible. No one can say for sure what the counter-action will be but I doubt it will be pleasant. It’s hard to see how it could be.

The depredations of an egotistical empire might be easier to take if the principal recipients of its benefits displayed compelling character. Nietzsche says somewhere (which right now I’m too lazy to look up) that the common people will accept almost anything if their leaders project images of strength and intelligence. But the masters of American greed are leagues from meeting that standard. They not only are petty men, they are almost universally recognized as petty men. Doubtless they have their sycophants trailing them who give the appearance of constant obeisance, but that’s nothing other than opportunism attempting to cloak itself in loyalty. For the most part people who view the so-called masters of the universe as public figures see them also as clowns. How could they not? Think of what the leading CEOs who get their names plastered in the news really are -- shyster manipulators who care only about raking up piles of money in order to indulge their bad taste. Who can actually admire such persons?

The regime of sleaze we have slipped into is justified by nothing. It has no redeeming features. It is not only not freedom, which it is always declaring itself to be, it is the antithesis of freedom.

So, what’s its name? It has to have a name so it can be fully known. It has to be known before it can create rejection. It can be described; it has been described many times. But it hasn’t yet acquired a name it can’t wriggle out of.

I think we should all keep on aspiring to be name masters and then, maybe, one of us can find a moniker that will stick. That would be an historic accomplishment.


April 19, 2014

I’ve been reading about Thomas Piketty, the French economist who has been touring the United States and making a major impression with his new book, Capital in the 21st Century. Piketty’s thesis is that market capitalism will put an ever greater portion of the world’s wealth in the hands of a few so long as it is not countered by political action. As he says, capitalism and markets should be the slaves of democracy, not the other way round. But right now in America, of course, it is the other way around. The rich own democracy rather than being guided and constrained by it.

It appears to be an iron law of history that the piggishness of the rich is not only willing but eager to grind up the lives of those who are not rich in an obsessive quest for every larger piles of money. If something doesn’t rise up to counter them, the rich will scoop up every penny beyond what’s required for the subsistence of a portion of the poor, who, out of desperation will subside into virtual slavery. Are we at that condition now in the United States? No. Are we headed towards it. Clearly, we are. There seems to be little in the American political system willing to fight against the trend.

In one of the charts in his chart-littered 700 page book, Piketty points out that the portion of our total national income which goes to the richest ten percent has now reached 48%. France, by contrast, is at 32% and Sweden is at 28%, themselves fairly troubling percentages. But the French and Swedish numbers at least allow for the continuation of a middle class. 

Piketty is not optimistic that an effective political counter-force can be established, and I’m not either. That’s because one of the powers of money, and probably it main purpose when it resides in the coffers of the rich, is to buy the political system. That sweeping purchase is moving towards completion in the United States. Keep in mind that the rich don’t have to brainwash everybody in order to control the political system. A mere 50% will do quite nicely when it’s added to their own numbers.

A goodly portion of Americans are naive enough to think the rich want money in order to have luxury for themselves. Most people fail to reflect that with 10 or 20 percent of his income, the average rich guy can buy as much luxury as he can imagine. What’s he going to do with the rest? He wants to buy the minds of his fellow citizens (or the people who once might have been thought of as his fellow citizens). He will spend millions for the services of the most effective and duplicitous propagandists he can find.

One might retort that people don’t have to be propagandized, which is true. Many aren’t. But, at the moment, neither the intelligence nor the knowledgeability of the American people is strong enough to thwart the greed of the super rich and their mind-bending publicity. Small dollops of sentimental flattery, married to phony definitions of abstractions like freedom, patriotism, and the American way of life, are more than enough to persuade millions to throw their lives away while wallowing in self-deception. The stupidity of the people is the most treasured resource of the rich. They believe in it with as great a faith as religious fanatics devote to the doctrines they have been duped into thinking come directly from the throne of God.

I know there are many who would say that I’m being too hard on the rich, that there are exceptions to the analysis I’ve sketched here, that many rich people get involved in charitable contributions. Of course there are exceptions but the very word announces that they can’t refute the general propensity. Most rich people are wealthy because they give most of their thought and effort to accumulating money. They think of it as the essence of success. And that means they don’t give great attention to art, or to literature, or to science, or to careful thought, or even to kindness. They may dabble in those activities, but for most of them that’s all it is.

There are also those who say that criticism of the rich leads to bloody behavior on the part of the masses, and consequently to social chaos. That can happen, it’s true, and to my mind those are bad things, just as bad as the systems they are trying to overturn.

Cruelty to the rich is not the answer to anything. But it is not cruel to use political action to change the distribution of wealth. The rich would not suffer from a reform of distribution; they would remain very well-off by most people’s standards. They just wouldn’t be able to determine the lives of the rest of us. Being divested of that power would cause them to scream bloody murder, of course. But it is insane to let the screams of deluded people determine social policy. We see that in the silly imbroglio created by the Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who is obsessed by the thought that he has the right to use public land without paying for the privilege. In truth, he’s a pretty good model of the stance of the rich generally in America now.

My only optimism lies in the hope that greater numbers of young people will decide they want lives like Thomas Piketty’s or Paul Krugman’s, rather than the lives of Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankfein, that is lives devoted to finding out rather than piling up. And we need to recall that Piketty and Krugman aren’t doing too badly. Anybody not satisfied with their degree of affluence is simply nuts.


April 20, 2014

Agapi Stassinopoulos has an essay in the Huffington Post this morning which I think is worth reading even though it has some dubious features. It’s titled, “Why I’m Eliminating the Word “Busy” From My Vocabulary.”

Her main theme is that you should never get so caught up in your whirl of activities that you can’t give full attention to the person right in front of you. It’s a valid point but it’s only one feature of the curse of busyness. The most destructive aspect of the curse is that it dissolves your ability to ask yourself about your life’s meaning, which is a very different thing from the meaning of life.

Egotism is forever seeking masks to allow it disguise the sleazy thing it actually is, and at this historical moment busyness is the primary mask it employs. Insane as it may seem, it is nonetheless true that people are proud of being busy, of being on the go, as they say. They proclaim it about themselves at every opportunity. It’s a way of saying, “I’m important,” without being bothered either to ask or explain what’s important about oneself. The latter is a query that must not be approached.

Personal importance is another term that could well be laid aside.

Why should one wish to be busy? Can it be anything other than a running away? But running away from what? The answer is fairly obvious: running away from the thing you most fear to know about yourself. That’s something I’m pretty sure everyone would do well to inquire into: what is that thing you most fear about yourself? The answer is not likely to be either simple or obvious. It’s the revelation that many forms of psychotherapy see as the key to living well. The notion is that if you fear something but don’t know what it is, then it takes on added degrees of fearfulness, and not infrequently becomes a monster capable of erasing the good of life.

I’m getting ready to begin a book discussion series on Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and in an attempt to appear informed in the face of my audience -- which I guess is a form of egotism too, but maybe not the worse sort -- I decided to read D.M. Thomas’s biography of the Russian writer. Thomas goes into considerable detail depicting Solzhenitsyn’s period of exile, after he had finished his eight-year term in the Gulag. Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to live in a remote district of Kazakhstan called Kok Terek. Thomas speaks of this hard, poverty-stricken, remote region as a blessing in disguise for the still emerging writer. And why? “He was spared the doubtful blessing of a plentiful supply of research material, such as he would have during a much longer later exile (that is, in Vermont). He had only a few books, memories, and imagination.” Reading that passage I couldn’t avoid remembering the squirrel-like frenzy of many of my fellow students in graduate school, busily exhausting themselves in their quest for academic elevation. They had been told by their professors, equally harried persons, that in order to become genuine historians they had to read more books than any human actually could read, that is if he or she were trying to digest and learn from them.

Only a few books, memories and imagination: not exactly a formula for modern busyness. Yet serious making came out of it.

I don’t suppose the academic world is the only environment where people are desperate to avoid the question of why they’re behaving as they are. Have you seen clips of traders on the floors of stock exchanges -- crazed people, veins standing out on their foreheads, screaming at the tops of their lungs? If you observed persons acting that way anywhere else, you’d think they needed to be taken away for treatment. And if we consider the results of all this screaming, we have to conclude they should be taken away also. Wall Street is scarcely a model of sanity.

A common defense of busyness is that it lifts one out of boredom. That hasn’t been my experience. More often it’s just the opposite; busyness is boredom. That’s because it is almost impossible to learn anything in the midst of busyness. And learning is the only sure defense against boredom. When you’re learning something you simply can’t be bored. If you have reached the conclusion you’re completely satisfied with who you are I suppose busyness could be seen as the grand recourse. But self-satisfaction, obviously, is the ultimate delusion. I used to work with a man who would repeatedly, and proudly, announce that his life had been a matter of schedules. And when, by way of greeting, he was asked how he was, he always answered, “Perfect.” I can’t say he was the most boring person I ever met, but he had less than an interesting mind. The longer I knew him, the more I began to wish that someone could extricate him from his stasis, not only so that he could be better to those around him but so that he could be kinder to himself.

I suppose we’ve had busyness throughout history, but it seems clear to me that it has grown more acute over the course of my life. It has now reached a level in the United States that can reasonably be designated mental illness. Despair for multitudes rides in its wake.

I hope it’s not needed to say that the healthy counter to busyness is not laziness. Rather it’s a combination of curiosity, patience and persistence. If you want to know, really, what’s going on in your world, whatever it may be, you can’t busy yourself to the answer. You have to wonder, first, and then look deeply at the things you’re wondering about.

More and more people are coming to see we need a cure. So, even though Agapi Stassinopoulos’s writing may lean in the direction of feel-good, sugary self-help (a style I generally don’t like), I still think she deserves considerable respect for pushing the subject of busyness toward the public mind.


April 22, 2014

Have you noticed that every time there’s a whiff of wrong-doing in the United States, it becomes a “gate?” Does this bespeak a deficiency of imagination in the American journalistic community? Yes. It does.

I’m not sure why American journalism, at least in its most publicized manifestations, is such a paltry thing. But I am fairly sure it’s not a condition generated from within journalism alone. It seeps in from the outside.

David Brooks has a column this morning which argues that most of what goes on in the United States now comes from calculations of expediency. The issue, for virtually everyone, is how will it play, not what will it do. Brooks tries to contrast this propensity with supposedly moral impulses which rise in the emotions. He wants politicians to be moved more by the latter than by the timid advice of supposed experts. But that, of course, is a problematic wish. It’s not hard to imagine the prayer: “God save us from the emotions of politicians!”

I think Brooks, as he often does, has concocted a false opposition. The valid counter to expediency and the rule of advisors is not emotion. It’s thoughtful intelligence (if I may be permitted to use such a freighted term). The reason this quality -- whatever we want to call it -- doesn’t play much of role in our social decision-making is not that it’s in limited supply in the country. Actually, there’s quite a lot of it, displayed in myriad ways. Yet it doesn’t generally manage to squirm into the higher ranks of decision-making. The reason for the exclusion emerges from our national character. From early in its history the United States has been a country displaying not just a suspicion of intelligence but an outright hatred of it. Think of Sean Hannity when his inconsistencies are pointed out to him. If you wanted to be stringent you might say that Hannity exemplifies the American way.

To give the devil his due we need to admit that suspicion of supposed intelligence is not, altogether, a bad thing. Intelligence presents us with the problem that it’s not always easy to recognize. Recall the now near-classic statement that Newt Gingrich is a stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. The basic deficiency of democracy is that it’s usually not able immediately to perceive intelligence when it swims into view. By its basic nature, democracy cleaves to mediocrity and soapy sentimentality. Politicians, though not normally intelligent, at least know this. So they play to the democratic impulses. And they are rewarded for it, with the only pay-offs they can recognize. This is a difficulty all over the world, not exclusively an American habit. But it is exacerbated in the United States by something that is distinctive to us. And this something we need to get in hand if we’re ever to have a chance to work on the underlying weakness of democracy.

I don’t possess definitive evidence for this but I suspect that Americans identify dull-mindedness with manliness to a greater degree than any other people on earth. If you want to be brave, and tough, and steadfast, and patriotic, then you’ve got to be dumb as hell. That’s a formula which actually rules many people’s thinking. Perhaps we should replace “In God We Trust” with “Toughness Trumps Intelligence Every Time.” The latter would at least have the virtue of sincerity. It seems this notion became ingrained in the national mind very early in the country’s existence, as the populace sought to exalt ill-read frontiersmen over British aristocrats. They would have done well to remember that Matthew Arnold spoke of the English aristocrats as the barbarian class. But, then, few Americans had heard of Matthew Arnold, a condition which continues to this day. They thought they were rejecting something which actually didn’t exist, and in their eagerness to do it they were ready to embrace a diseased concept of human interaction. If Americans could grasp  that there’s very little to be said for ignorance, it would significantly invigorate our political discourse.

In the news right now is a fervid example of these cheap values, manifesting themselves on the eastern border of Nevada. Cliven Bundy and his supporters are obviously caught up in some sort of macho cowboy drama in which ignorant pronunciamentos take the place of any attempt at reasonable conversation. When one listens to the clips of people speaking in favor of Bundy’s determination to get free use of land there can be no doubt that the notion of give and take, or of considering the point of view of other people, has never entered their minds. They pop off solely for the purpose of lauding themselves as avatars of American rugged individualism.

One of the worst things individual persons or societies can do is to attempt to hold onto ill-thought-out, immature, idealisms. They pledge allegiance to positions they can neither define nor understand, and then proceed to induct themselves into the pantheon of heroes. A little boy strutting can often be cute. A Cliven Bundy strutting is an absurdity. We’ve seen this social freakishness all too often in our history, certainly enough you would think we would have grown tired of it. That we haven’t indicates that too many in our ranks remain tempted by the fantasy of ignorant virtue, when the reality behind that notion is almost always merely callow greed.


April 26, 2014

Here’s the thing: it’s all right, even admirable, to steal from the government. That shows enterprise, shrewdness, and general gumption, all qualities derived from the founding fathers.  But to get support from the government legally, that’s despicable, demonstrating a lackluster, slovenly mode of life. People who have fallen into that mode need to be rescued, or, as we say, kicked out of the hammock. If they and their children starve a bit on the way to self-respect, that’s just the way things are, and the way they ought to be.

We’ve had quite a bit of fun with poor Cliven Bundy, and even more with those who tried to use him as a symbol of independence and patriotism. Yet now, perhaps, the time has come for a turn away from hilarity and towards a becoming sadness. Think about it. Would you want to be Cliven Bundy?

The real issue about Bundy and his cohorts is not so much that they’re stupid, but rather why they’re stupid. What is it about growing up in the so-called land of the free that produces pathetic minds such as the one Bundy has demonstrated to us over the past week? Where does that sort of thinking come from? What it is that has pushed it into a time when it should have long since become extinct?

I’m not sure of the answer, but I am fairly sure that if an accurate one could be produced, it would be complex and composed of multiple ingredients. The problem with liberals is they tend to settle on one ingredient, and then to think they’ve got the whole thing solved. They throw around words like “racism” as though it were a simple, homogeneous condition. If we wanted to use a meat metaphor, we would have to say that racism is not a chicken breast; it’s a sausage made up partly of the scrapings from the butcher’s floor. It you actually want to know what it is, you’ll need to pull it apart and analyze it carefully. We don’t have many people, regardless of  political orientation, who are willing to engage in labor of that sort.

The people of the United States didn’t get into their screwed-up modes of thinking overnight nor were they projected there by a single event. They built their pathologies steadily, bit by bit, over a couple of centuries.

During the past week I’ve heard numerous persons speak of slavery as America’s original sin. There’s truth in that judgment, but it doesn’t explain how the experience of slavery, drip by drip, affected the national mind, how it wormed into the thoughts of virtually every man, woman and child. One might not be far off if he said it was grounded in tribalism. The people thrown into slavery were from a different tribe and consequently didn’t need to be considered full human beings. And not only that, our tribalism was made more toxic than usual by the slaves having distinctive physical features. 

I’m not totally confident of this but it might not be going too far to say the early national experience of extreme tribalism (involving Natives Americans as well as slaves) made white Americans more susceptible to its general influence and transmogrified into a U.S. tribalism in which inhabitants of other countries don’t really count. Hence Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on. Think of trying to explain that hypothesis to Cliven Bundy.

The point I’m groping towards is that each one of these cover-ups creates a layer of stupidity, and all of those layers get so tightly interwoven it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to penetrate them. We have a tremendous degree of opening up, or unweaving, to do in this country, and given the conditions our closed-in nature has built into our character, we need to start unfolding it energetically and quickly, lest it foul up not only ourselves but the rest of the world as well. The biggest delusion in the United States is thinking we know who we are. We are clotted and, therefore, not free.

I probably don’t have a good enough mind to sort all this out, but I do have one advantage that has become comparatively rare in the country now. I grew up in a time and place when what’s now called racism was complete and near-perfect. I find in talking to friends that they have a hard time grasping what that means. Many of them can’t believe the persons I knew in my childhood, and who to me were thoroughly ordinary, even existed. I am told, when I relate some of the stories from my youth, that I’m making up monsters. But they weren’t monsters; they were people who saw themselves as normal, above all else. And the truth is, in their world, they were normal.

Television and the Internet are full of expressions about how bizarre Cliven Bundy is. That’s how he was able to confound so many people who now have decided to turn against him, Sean Hannity, I guess, being the most notable. Yet from my perspective, there’s nothing bizarre about Cliven Bundy at all. His problem is there’s almost nothing individualistic about him. He’s exactly like all the mature men I knew when I was a boy. He comes from the same mold they did. I knew exactly what he was going to say as soon as I heard him open his mouth. There’s nothing surprising about him

There is, though, something deeply sad in his brief elevation to fame. I enjoyed laughing at him probably as much as anyone else. I delighted in Stephen Colbert’s “The Ballad of Cliven Bundy,” and in Jon Stwewart’s clever take-downs. But through it all there was a lingering depression in the back of my mind. Why did we, as a national community, make Cliven Bundy? Is he his own fault, or ours? The answer is pretty clear. He is scarcely a self-made man.

If Cliven Bundy is not the quintessential American he’s a strong representative of many of us,  I suspect, more than half of us. So, if we look at Cliven Bundy and don’t like what we see, then we should start peering more carefully in the mirror. And in the process, find a way to extend a bit of compassion to him.

P.S. On Monday we're taking off on a much delayed trip to France and Italy. I may not be able to post here again until we return. But you can expect me back here by the 21st of May, or so.



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