It’s a New Day


The election results are in and Mr. Biden has finally been declared a winner.  Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept defeat and concede the Presidency to Mr. Biden reminds me of Dylan Thomas’ famous poem that begins with:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Mr. Trump appears to see his presidential defeat as tantamount to   losing the power that has kept him alive, perhaps causing him to experience an emotional death.  Because losing can often build character, it is a shame that he puts so much stock in winning.  The former Vice-President, and now President Elect, certainly can understand what it means to lose, but to his credit, he has persevered.

This election year will be a time that few of us will forget. I would maintain that if President Trump had managed the COVID in both a more professional and realistic manner, he very well might have won the election.  If the test of a leader is how she/he deals with a crisis, I cannot give the President a passing grade.

Rather than shirking from their responsibility, the important issues of the day, in conjunction with the different platforms of each candidate, brought the greatest voter turnout of the American people, percentage wise, since 1900.  Prior to the day of the election, the polls had opened allowing people to cast their votes early.  And despite the coronavirus, cast their votes, indeed, they did.  Like him or hate him, Mr. Trump affected the American people in such a way that they were going to be sure to vote.  Neither waiting on line, often for more than an hour, nor the COVID, would deter them from voting.  The television programs continually showed Americans of all colors, socially distanced, waiting to cast their ballot.  In the past, the only time I would see such long lines would be for people waiting to receive social security checks or waiting for an appointment, here in California, with the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

I view this as an extremely important step forward.  If nothing else, Mr. Trump’s boisterous presence catapulted his admirers and detractors to the ballot box. Those people that used to say, “it doesn’t matter who wins because they are all the same,” this time exercised their right to vote.  For quite a while, I have seen in America an erosion of its social and political institutions.  My hope is that the inspiration for people of all races and income levels to both get out and participate in the vote this election year will have a ripple effect stimulating newcomers to be more involved in the political process that constitutes our democracy.  It is today’s youth that will someday be the country’s leaders. The high turnout of the younger generation, I believe, may in fact support this wish for both a more active and knowledgeable electorate.


Noah and the Flood

Each week a different section or parsha of the Torah, that is Hebrew Bible or five books of the Torah, is read.  This week is the Noah parsha.  There have been innumerable interpretations of the Bible, and it is, in particular, this feature that makes this text such a wonderful piece of writing to study.  Let me offer my take on this segment of the Bible.

As we all know, Noah and his immediate family are forewarned by God to build an ark that will save them from the flood.  Subsequently, God creates a rainbow in the clouds as a reminder for him to deal better with His own anger and to never again destroy the entire human race.  God’s anger cast upon the world serves as a wake-up call for humans to recognize the danger of uncontrollable anger.  As a cognitively trained therapist, I do not believe in the cathartic release of anger as a healthy coping mechanism.  Anger can be avoided in most situations, if people do not suppress the daily stressors of life, but rather deal with them as they arise.  It is far better to discuss disagreements with one’s partner, openly, rather than to keep them inside oneself only later to explode.

Generations after the flood waters recede, the people erect the Tower of Babel with the goal of reaching up to the Heavens.  It is a time epitomized by human hubris when human life is less important than the clay and brick materials used to erect the Tower.  God does not destroy those that are blasphemous like he chose to do with the more extreme evil that existed before the Flood.  Rather, he will disperse all of humanity throughout the earth causing them to speak different languages.  Perhaps the lesson here is that one opinion, exemplifying uniformity, held by the creators of the Tower is not the best way of adapting to the daily challenges of life.  Diversity brings an increase in the ways that people can approach common barriers or problems.

America was founded on the principle:  E Pluribus Unum.  This Latin phrase means out of many one.  It was the guiding foundation that brought the colonists of the original 13 states together to declare their independence from Great Britain.  No doubt those from the North and the South had very different temperaments and dispositions, but they understood the importance of uniting as One, if they were to free themselves from British rule.

We are currently facing a conflict between the political Right and the Left where neither side wishes to engage in meaningful talk with one other.   Social media is inflammatory inasmuch as it packages the news in a way that confirms preexisting biases resulting in exacerbating our differences.  This makes bridging our polarities that much more difficult to do.  The late Rodney King asked: “Can we all get along?”  I am not ruling out that possibility but, as George Orwell put it, “in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  My hope is that the election will bring America a leadership that will allow for greater transparency and honesty than what we are presently experiencing.  If this occurs, an act of revolution will not be necessary to change the structure of our government that was founded on democratic principles.


The Rational Man in a Sea of Irrationality

The recent fight over the deficit problem between the democrats, as represented by President Barack Obama, and the Republicans, as represented by Speaker of the House, John Boehner gives us both a look at our leaders today and the problems we face as a country.   As a mediator, I always try and assist the opposing  parties in seeing how an agreement will better their lives even with compromise.  In reality, no one gets exactly what they want in a mediation unlike the result of a trial where the defendant either wins or loses his/her case.   However, both the Republicans and the Democrats appear to believe that they each  hold the solution to the complex problems we as a nation face making the game they are in:  Win-Lose.

David Brooks’ recent article, The Magic Lever, published in the New York Times on July 12, makes a very cogent and timely point: “Bankers, Democaratic Keynesians and staunch Republicans have one thing in common:  They all believe they have identified the magic lever.  They believe they can control their economic fate.”   Mr. Brooks then goes on to point out the fallacies of such oversimplified thinking.  

Not long ago one of the biggest ideologues, Alan Greenspan, confessed to Congress, that his belief in minimal government intervention with no regulations imposed in the private sector, is the best way to run an economy had been proven wrong.   Being a fan of Ayn Rand myself, this was difficult news for me to bear.   Unfortunately, an economy where there is no interference from the government, does not take into consideration the human motivation of greed and deception.  And so the bubble of greed and deception, as seen in past subprime mortagages, exploded, causing the present crisis that so many homeowners today are facing. 

On the other hand, John Maynard Keynes, who supported strong government interventions, was once asked what do we do in the long run?  Mr. Keynes was said to have replied;  “In the long run we’ll all be dead.”  Of course, the long run, in his mind, did not include our children and their children. 

Perhaps our leaders should ask that famous question  posed by Fisher and Ury in their classic work, Getting to Yes: “What is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.”  One of these alternatives is not raising the debt ceiling.  Is it worth clinging to one’s views and not compromising with the outcome being America very possibly defaulting on its debt.  I don’t think so and neither does David Brooks.  What I like about Mr. Brooks is that when there is an impending crisis, he refuses to take the easy way out:  That is to blame the other side.  Rather, he sees the muddiness of, if you will,  Reality, and through this muddiness, understands the importance of compromise.   The truth of the matter is that the current complexities of the world will not get simpler in the future.  Given this fact, perhaps we all should step back for a moment and recognize that the economic assumptions made by our political biases may not always be correct.  Mr. Greenspan learned this.  It would be a step forward in the progress of the present conversation on the debt ceiling, if more of our leaders, that include both the President and Mr. Boehner, would allow their crystal clear vision of the future take on a few grains of realistic mud.