Carpe Diem

Over the last year, deaths, dooms and chronic, debilitating conditions have overtaken people close to me in unprecedented profusion. In previous decades such banes had come rarely and one at a time, this year in a flood. Some were the nearly inevitable results of age, others wholly shocking.

We spend most of our lives half-consciously averting our eyes from our eventual fates. Mortality is something we want to understand in only the driest, most intellectualized sense – we keep it at arm’s length. Internalization of its meaning comes later, if at all.

Men, in particular, tend to get into a groove in their twenties, then more or less ignore changes in their bodies for the next forty years or so...

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Trump-Hatred

I have spent a fair bit of time wondering what motivates the extreme Trump-hatred that I see daily in the press and among some of my nearest and dearest. Sure, many of the same people strongly disliked George W. Bush, or thought him an idiot, so in that sense the personalization of opposition to Trump seems almost normal; but there’s more to Trump-hatred than the now-customary anti-Republican disdain among the elites. Trump’s detractors hate him. Many have even convinced themselves, and seek to convince us, that he’s some sort of Nazi – a warmonger, a bigot and an authoritarian. Let’s look at Trump’s record as regards each of these alleged character flaws.

Ironically, the same people who, at first, were certain that Trump would prove to be a warmonger have nothing but contempt fo...

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Global Anti-Americanism, Considered

For one of my book clubs, I recently read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It’s the tale of a Princeton-educated Pakistani who both falls in love with an American woman (who is emotionally wounded, and thereby doomed), and comes to detest if not America per se, our nation’s global footprint. For reasons that will be obvious from this post, the novel was far closer to home for me than most.

Apart from that gut reaction on my part, the question of general interest that arose from my reading of Hamid’s book is whether the acid conclusion by the novel’s narrator that America has a consistently baleful role in the world is correct...

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Different Narratives

A recent poll of 1,000 American undergraduates found that of those who self-identified as Republicans, 74% were very proud to be American, as compared with only 8% of self-identified Democrats (https://www.thecollegefix.com/poll-8-of-democratic-college-students-74-of-republican-college-students-very-proud-to-be-american/). These results reflect profoundly different perspectives on our past.

One narrative, advanced by mainstream historians since the nation’s birth, casts American history as a story of the triumph of freedom over tyranny through the American Revolution, followed by a gradual dawning, punctuated by the Civil War and the Civil Rights Acts, of a shared understanding that all adult Americans must equally possess the same unalienable individual rights that the founders had...

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Bleak Thoughts

I went on a bicycle ride with a close friend this morning. Our route took us along beautiful – and quiet – country roads. The sky was blue, the air was warm, the leaves were just starting to turn and the conversation was, well, really depressing. Most CH posts reflect my generally up-beat disposition; this one will not.

I kicked off the big picture part of our conversation with the observation that while my most recent post had ended on an optimistic note – that ‘one of democracy’s greatest strengths … is that it fosters orderly course corrections as voters come to new understandings about what does and doesn’t work’, and a quote from Winston Churchill about America always eventually finding its way, subsequent reflections have dampened my optimism.

I was thinking about...

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The Best of Times…

A few weeks ago, the Beloved Spouse and I were guests at a dinner with five friends at a lovely, ocean-side club. Given the liveliness of the chatter at nearby tables, much of the mealtime conversation was necessarily with whoever was sitting to each person’s right or left. The gathering’s hostess, a retired executive who had been a pioneer in her field and is still on the boards of major corporations and philanthropies, was on my right.

During dinner, she offered me the casual and, she thought, uncontroversial observation that today’s world is in a terrible state...

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A Society Out of Balance

Last night, just as the Beloved Spouse and I were settling into sleep, one of our daughters called seeking reinforcements. Her husband was traveling for work and one of their two children was vomiting aggressively and had come down with the kind of red-hot fever that only little ones can bear – and they miserably. We jumped out of bed, got back into our clothes and headed to their apartment. By this morning all was well again, but the long night had reminded me just how hard parenting can be.

And, apart from being exhausting, child-rearing is so punishingly expensive that it’s a wonder that anybody – especially those who are middle class – decides to do it. Let’s consider the context in which these decisions are made:

According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, fo...

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An American Dragon

Kanye West got it right: President Trump has dragon energy. He also has dragon breath, which he uses constantly, sometimes to the chagrin of natural allies like yours truly. And a dragon’s wiliness. 

My first instinct, on reading Trump’s “command” that American businesses that do business in China look for other places to produce their products, was to think “this time he’s finally lost it – no president has the authority to boss around private businesses like that.” I thought his words were a mere tantrum that made him look foolish and, ultimately, weak – that last ways that a president should allow himself to look. 

I was wrong. Apparently, under the International Emergency Powers Act (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/chapter-35) if a president declares...

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On the River

I’m looking out over the narrower end of Lords Cove, low-lying, grass-covered Goose Island and the Connecticut River beyond. On the river’s farther shore I can see a few houses and the entrance to a tucked-away marina. It’s late in the day with a nice breeze rising off the water. I feel proprietary about this scene – and the river’s lower reaches generally.

Where a river meets a sea, both change. Rivers are fresh and often muddy, flowing ever onward; seas are grander, salty and tidal. The waters I see are all of these things, with different elements predominating by turn – and distinctly moody besides.

The river can be – and frequently is – the picture of serenity*, but when the wind is up and the tide is running, the waves and current can make headway in a kayak – my usu...

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The Drones Club*

When I was young, I looked like a truly hopeless student. In my third grade report card my teacher tried to soften the blows of her other comments by adding “at least he is average in math”. (Could a teacher even write such comments today, and not get fired? I doubt it.) That report card was just one in a long line of dismal assessments of my capabilities, all of them lovingly saved by my mother and returned to me as a set many years later. Boys’ minds are less orderly, and mature more slowly, than girls’ – and mine was right in line with the other boys’, or possibly worse than most.

I didn’t really catch on until the second half of eleventh grade...

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