Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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Rants & Reason

Resolve not to self-destruct in 2019

1/2/2019

There’s little reassurance in scholarly, religious or glib comments that “we’ll survive.”

Maybe instead of wishing one another “Happy New Year” for 2019, we should say something like “Stay sane” or “Peace be with you.” Such alternative hopes may seem particularly appropriate because of the concerns of the day, but, really, each day of our lives brings with it a desire — even a plea — for sanity and peace, better times ahead.

The baggage for 2019 includes concerns about self-destruction — given climate change, divisiveness and myriad other fears, all (for me) exacerbated by fears of the fellow in the White House in particular and threats to self-governance in general.

So how about a New Year’s resolution that we not self-destruct as individuals nor as a nation?

There’s little reassurance in scholarly, religious or glib comments that “we’ll survive.” Such reassurances usually come from old white guys who are well-insulated from threats by dint of income, race, social status and the like.

Besides, such “survival” has the connotation that life will return to normal, whatever that is. Our society often does not survive and certainly is not static. It changes, sometimes drastically in awful, irredeemable ways, as so-called survivors struggle to put the pieces together so they can move on to the next crisis.

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The notion of not self-destructing or forsaking our values — and, holy cow, maybe even improving the lives of others — is neither new nor novel.

It was around in 1787 when the founding fathers built into their experiment in self-governance the notion of checks and balances with three branches of government and devised other ways they hoped would cope with threats to their new-fangled ideas, including having an electoral college. Talk about the law of unintended consequences!

These thoughts result in part from end-of-year epiphanies that include these:

• President Trump is exempt from selfdestruction: The Irish writer Finian O’Toole put it this way in the New York Review of Books: “Trump’s flaunting of his own most shameful qualities deflects the damage that any revelation can
do to him. When he displays his vices so openly, the drama of revelation leads only to a shrug of the shoulders: Tell us something we didn’t know. His outbursts normalize the outrageous — habit, as Samuel Beckett has it, is a ‘great deadener.’ ”

• Iowa’s U.S. Senators Grassley and Ernst seem clueless, oblivious — maybe just deadened: Grassley declares his unequivocal support for President Trump’s re-election in 2020 when it comes to the Iowa caucuses — not even mentioning the threat of impeachment or the non-judicial indictments of Trump’s incompetence by former cabinet officials. Ernst regally dismisses dozens of honest-to-goodness indictments linked to Trump, grandly declaring that
special prosecutor Robert Mueller has “nothing to show” for his two years of investigations.

• Astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was more down to earth than many commentators and public officials these days: “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

• Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) in his eulogy of George H.W. Bush noted a Chinese proverb their mothers cited: “Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.” Good advice for those of us driven to distraction by contempt for President Trump.

In responding to critics, Trump has chastised them for not respecting the Office of the President. Boy, is that reverse thinking. Few, if any, respect the presidency less than Trump does. That is what drives those fearful of the loss of our liberties and why we should resolve not to self-destruct. President Trump doesn’t need our help when it comes to harming our future and that of our nation.

Properly so, the headline in O’Toole’s review calls President Trump “Saboteur in Chief.”

Stay sane. Peace be with you. ♦

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes the monthly Rants and Reason column for CITYVIEW.

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