A Pompous Ass? Me?

Across the span of almost fifty years, I still recall the awful moment when I learned I was a pompous ass.  I wasn’t told directly, nor in those words, but rather through an overheard remark from one early-twenties lady to another—both of whom I had earnestly been trying to impress.

The actual statement, I believe, was, “You know he’s full of shit, right?”

Had I not stopped unexpectedly just after leaving their company, bending out of view to tie a shoelace, I might never have known.

surely not

There I was, a handsome young man (if I may say), gainfully-employed, socially-acceptable—though, perhaps, a tad taken with my own opinion—hearing for the first time that my efforts to ingratiate myself in their favour were unappreciated.

Even worse, mocked.

Surely not! I raged.

It took me some time to digest that unwelcome revelation; in fact, my first instinct was to reject it.  Further attempts to win over the winsome duo proved fruitless, however, and that fact finally forced me to re-examine my approach.

Whatever I eventually changed must have been enough, thankfully, for I have been happily married for fifty years to a lovely lady who apparently did not share the opinion of the others.

I mention this episode now, not because it still bothers me—for I have long-since accepted that, sometimes, I am indeed full of shit—but because I have been watching a relatively-new actor on the world’s political stage strut his stuff.  And I wonder what those two young ladies would have thought of him.

There are words that come to mind:  charlatan, popinjay, imposter, fraud, narcissist.  None of which would matter in the slightest if they were applied to me.  Alas, I am writing of the president of the United States of America, and whoever occupies that office does matter.

He, in my opinion, is a pompous ass.  And it pains me to think I might ever have been regarded in that same light.

He poses theatrically when the mood strikes, tiny eyes narrowed to what he must assume is a steely gaze, lips pursed, chin thrust forward aggressively.  And he holds the pose for as long as his attention span will allow—seconds only, but enough to engrave it on the public consciousness when repeated often enough.

He reminds me of nothing so much as a fascist leader of the 1930’s who affected such Caesar-like poses.

mussolinTrump

He boasts openly of a callous, abusive approach to women who are not significant to him, except insofar as they might mollify his carnal desires.  He grabs them at will, and….wait for it….according to him, they like it!

What are we to make of this mountebank?

More importantly, what do other world leaders make of him?  At a recent gathering of G7 leaders, as he was pontificating over a statement about his country’s changing stance on the Paris climate change accord, those leaders were seen rolling their eyes and smirking at his buffoonery.  Openly.

Did he even notice?

At a recent Arab-Islamic-American summit in Saudi Arabia, he was feted in a manner which he must surely have deemed his due.  Among the kings, emirs, and sultans of fifty nations, he primped and preened like a man to the manor born.

But how do those eminences really regard him?  As a competent and effective leader, their equal in diplomatic affairs?  As a trusted ally?  Or as an easily-duped patsy, susceptible to flattery and fawning, and groomed now to help them accomplish their own geopolitical and economic goals?

We shall see in due course.  But his colleagues on the world stage remind me very much of the lovely young ladies who gutted me so expertly those many years ago.

A pompous ass?  The president of the United States of America?

Surely not!

The Right to Be Wrong

Among the inalienable rights we enjoy in democratic societies is the right to be wrong.  We have an unfettered right to make a choice about our fundamental values, our publicly-stated opinions, and our actions—and to express these choices.

We bear a burden for holding this right, however, in that we are expected to (and can often be made to) accept responsibility for the consequences of our choices.

This notion has become more significant for me recently, as I watch in horrified fascination the shenanigans of the so-called ‘leader of the free world’, and his enablers, in the great republic to the south of us.

The circumstance of being wrong is a subjective concept.  How do we know, how can we determine absolutely, when someone is wrong?  Is there a conclusive test?  Do we always know right away, or does it sometimes take a long time to figure it out?

In fact, there are societal norms in place to govern our interactions and behaviours; but most of them evolve over time, as each succeeding generation shapes the world to its liking.  An action considered wrong for my Victorian grandmother (like appearing on the beach in a two-piece bathing suit) would certainly not be condemned today.

bather

The norms come into existence in one of two ways.  They are legislated for our common good by duly-elected representatives, or they are adopted by people at large as benchmarks for social intercourse.  Regardless of their source, they become truly effective only when they enjoy a high degree of acceptance among those for whom they are intended.  It has been called governance with the consent of the governed.

An example of the legislative method is the imposition of speed limits for vehicles on publicly-owned roadways; it is clearly wrong to exceed the posted limits.  An example of the adoptive method is the attitude towards smoking, particularly around other people; even in jurisdictions where smoking is not yet illegal, it is definitely frowned-upon to subject others to second-hand smoke.

Of course, in neither form, legislated or adopted, do our societal norms enjoy universal approval.  There are countless scofflaws in the general population who pay only lip-service at best to those they consider trivial.  Have you, for instance, ever exceeded a posted speed limit?  I confess I have.  And there are people who, despite both the social opprobrium and scientific evidence attesting to the effects of smoking, who still choose to light up.

More importantly, and more dangerously, we have fringe groups among us who vigorously, sometimes violently, oppose those norms they disagree with.  If that were not the case, abortion clinics would not be bombed; temples, mosques, and churches would not be defaced with hateful graffiti; and people would not be denigrated and harassed because of skin-colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

Thankfully, such violent actions are widely considered wrong in a democratic society.  And, wherever possible, punished.

In the distant past, Isaac Newton famously hypothesized that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Known as Newton’s Third Law of Motion, it pertained to the physics of interactions between two opposing forces.

We might think of the relationship between behaviour and consequences in a similar, though not identical, manner.  The first begets the second.  If I drop a crystal goblet on a tile floor, for instance, the goblet shatters; if I stroll through an afternoon shower sans umbrella, my clothing becomes soaked; if I bite down on my tongue while chewing, I experience pain.  Such natural consequences are the result of the behaviours immediately preceding them.

Logical consequences are different, but no less substantial.  If I drop that crystal goblet while examining it in the store, I will almost certainly have to pay for it.  If I speed through a residential neighbourhood (even if I am fortunate not to strike a pedestrian), I may be cited by a traffic cop, leading to the payment of a substantial fine.  Logical consequences are imposed as a result of our behaviours by outside authorities empowered to do so.

All of which brings me back to my dismay at the disarray I witness almost daily in the USA.  People elected to govern on behalf of the people who elected them behave, instead, in their own selfish interests.  They make decisions, not on the basis of how a particular matter might benefit their constituents or their country, but on whether it will improve their chances for re-election.  They take positions, not representing those who voted for them, but the moneyed interests who finance their pursuits.

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They spend their time, not enacting legislation to benefit all citizens, but fighting their partisan, internecine battles in a sadly-ritualistic dance to the death.

And at the forefront, a bombastic, narcissistic showman, ignorant in the ways of leadership, determined above all to have his way.  To win!

Can the great republic be wrong in the fateful choice it made just six months ago?  And if so, what will be the consequences for the nation, and for the rest of the world?

We have an inalienable right to be wrong, it is true.  But never in my memory have the potential consequences of being wrong been so enormous.  I want to cry out—

How can you be so stupid?  Fix this!  More important than your right to be wrong is your duty to be right!

And, helpless to affect matters, I continue to watch.

 

 

So, Who Won?

In all the history of warfare between nations, one of the adversaries has almost always been declared the winner.  In the Peloponnesian War, it was Sparta; in the Punic Wars, Rome; in the Norman Conquest, William of Normandy; in the War of the Roses, Edward VII of the House of Tudor; in the American War of Independence, the newly-formed USA; and in both the First and Second World Wars, Britain, France, the USA, and their allies.

On more than one occasion, ‘though, armed conflict has ceased with no winner declared.  In 1953, for example, an armistice brought fighting to an end between North and South Korea.  No peace treaty was ever signed; a demilitarized zone was created to separate the two countries.  Hostilities ceased, but a mutual hostility has continued to this day.

korea2

That struggle on the Korean peninsula was not the only war fought between north and south armies.  Almost a century earlier, the USA endured its Civil War; southern forces, the rebels, opened hostilities with an assault on Fort Sumter in 1861, and ended the fighting with a formal surrender at Appomattox in 1865.  In this war, the northern forces defending the union were the winners.

civil war

(In a strange twist, and unlike almost any other conflict, where defeated leaders have been vilified by the victors, heroes from both sides in this war have been venerated by succeeding generations—Lincoln and Grant from the North, Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the South.)

The official history of these wars, and every other war, has been written by the victors.  And any attempt to counter their accounts has generally been ineffective in supplanting the approved versions.  We know who won because the winners told us.

It’s worth considering, however, if future wars will similarly boast clear winners and definite losers.  Or will everyone lose?

The world is presently on tenterhooks, wondering where the simmering tensions between North Korea and the USA will take us.  Whenever one side in a conflict is headed by a preening, egotistical, autocratic, and impulsive leader, we have a right to worry.  But in this case, both sides are thus afflicted, and both, to some extent, have (or are feared to have) access to nuclear weapons.

trump kim

It is an irony of diplomacy among nations that treaties and accords are signed by various and sundry allies in an effort to keep the peace.  But it is those same mutual-defence agreements that pull nations into war when one of the signatories is attacked from outside.  Secure in our North American fortress, Canada has never gone to war because she was attacked, but because she was bound to defend her allies who were.

There are no exact, universally agreed-upon figures, but in the First World War, almost 31 million military personnel from all nations were killed in action.  In the Second World War, nearly 25 million were killed.  In the Korean conflict, almost 1.2 million military personnel were killed.

Ask those deceased veterans who won the wars.

Civilian casualties are another matter.  Almost 7 million lost their lives in WWI, nearly 55 million in WWII, and 2.7 million during the Korean conflict.

Ask those poor souls who won the wars.

bayeux-war-jp5

In the next war, if there is one—perhaps pitting the USA and its allies against North Korea and its allies—one can only imagine what the death tolls might be.  The current population of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is approximately 25 million.  The city is well within the range of North Korean bombardment.  The population of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, is close to 4 million, and it, too, lies within range of enemy attack.

Imagine the horror of a nuclear strike against either city, or a chemical or biologic-pathogen attack.  Imagine the carnage that would follow.  Strike would be followed by counter-strike, the targets would multiply, and any nation that dared join the fray would leave itself open to similar attacks.

If past examples are anything to go by, such hostilities might well lead to a world-wide conflagration, where even western-hemisphere nations would be affected.  It might not last long, but it would almost surely be the most deadly conflict of all time.  And as we know, the hangover from nuclear detonations or man-made epidemics would alter living conditions on the entire planet, perhaps threatening everyone still alive to witness it.

cockroaches

One might imagine (if one had a macabre sense of humour) a cluster of cockroaches amidst the ruins, perhaps the only survivors.  After surveying the desecration, one might turn to the others with a quizzical expression.

“So, who won?”

The Eyes Have It

“All my men!  Here now!  All-l-l my men!”

The cry would ring out across the schoolyard, almost every recess or lunch-break, and hordes of eight-, nine-, and ten-year-old boys would scamper to a grove of elm trees adjacent to the playground.

The boy they rallied around was an object of ridicule among my friends, we grade-eight boys playing soccer and baseball.  We had no time for his foolishness.

A classmate of ours, he called himself Marvellous Marv, without a shred of embarrassment.  We called him Starvin’ Marvin, and not because he didn’t have enough to eat.  He was porcine, in fact, taller than I, but physically uncoordinated, and somehow out-of-place wherever he was.  The girls we sought to impress thought he was icky.

Once gathered, his acolytes would listen to whatever he was telling them there in the shade of the trees.  And then, at his signal, they would swarm across the soccer pitch, across the ball diamond, sixty or seventy strong, yelling like banshees.  They never accosted any of us—we were older and bigger, after all—and they never stopped, even when we’d trip as many of them as we could, angry at the interruption to our games.  They simply picked themselves up and kept running, rendezvousing eventually back in the trees where he awaited them.  Never once did he accompany them on their wild raids.

Marvin’s voice had deepened sooner than most of ours, so his clarion call to his much-younger followers was quite distinct.  But his eyes, not his voice, were his most distinctive feature, squeezed between plump cheeks and eyebrows, squinting pig-like at everything and everyone.  We used to wonder why his younger acolytes continually obeyed him, but I think it was probably the impact of his eyes.  Although unafraid of him personally, even we were unsettled when he’d stare at one us in class, as he often did.  There was a disturbing aspect to his eyes, as if the brain behind them were somehow untethered from our reality.

Today, as I contemplate influential people we’ve come to know in our society—political, military, entertainment, criminal—I try to understand what it is that makes them attractive to many of their peers.  Lots of easy reasons spring to mind: a compelling message, brute force, overarching talent, a pathological audacity, a promise to make us great again.  None of these, however, would be sufficient on its own if we did not become convinced that the person, him- or herself, is authentic.  Conviction is key.

And it’s in the eyes we find that messianic fervor, that zealous certitude, that passionate persuasion that ensnares us.  That conviction.

Consider the gazes cast upon us by some historic influencers, for better or worse, during the past century—

manson1   rasputin2

 

Evil or brilliant?

loren1   bardot1

Safe or dangerous?

trump1   ali2

 

 

Mad or conniving?

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Stone-cold or warm and loving?

newman3     churchill1

Visionary or murderous?

When I see their full faces revealed, I’m drawn to the eyes of these people, even if just in photographs.  In person, I imagine, I would be transfixed.  But I don’t know if I could ascertain their true character or purpose by simply returning their steady stare.  I could easily be fooled.

It’s been said that a person’s eyes are windows into the soul; deep wells from which we are often compelled to drink; pools of mystery into which we sometimes plunge, occasionally in spite of our better judgment.  Our eyes may be sorrowful, laughing, blazing, blank, wide, squinty, even Irish—and, for the most part, unremarkable.

Not so for those who aspire to lead us, and for many who have in the past—whether in war or peace, good times or bad, for good or evil.  More often than not, they captivate us with their remarkable, magnetic eyes.  We can easily be misled, and have been in that same past, because we misread the message those eyes convey.

The eyes portrayed in this piece are, left to right, top to bottom:  Charles Manson, Grigorii Rasputin, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump, Pierre Trudeau, Golda Meir, Paul Newman, and Winston Churchill.   Some we venerate, some we abhor.

But all have influenced us, and others continue to—in part because, despite our best intentions, we cannot help being drawn into those compelling eyes.

The eyes have it.

 

 

 

 

The Quality of a Nation

According to St. Augustine, a nation is an association of reasonable beings united in a peaceful sharing of the things they cherish; therefore, to determine the quality of a nation, you must consider what those things are.

He wrote this in a monumental work of Christian philosophy, entitled The City of God, in the fifth century AD.  Fifteen-hundred years later, in 1951, the Canada Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters & Sciences used it as a preface to their report to parliament.

royal-commission

The recent triumph of Donald Trump in the US presidential election was one of two things that got me to wondering what a list of those qualities might be—not so much for the USA as for my own country.  What are the values that Canada, as a nation, truly cherishes?

The political opponents of the American president-elect have cast his ascension to power in the darkest terms, quite a difference to the sunny ways seemingly endorsed in our own federal election a year or so ago.  Words like racist, misogynist, bully, and xenophobic, used in reference to Trump by his foes, offer a stark contrast to words such as enthusiastic, transparent, optimistic, and leader, which have been applied to our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, by his supporters.

On the flip-side, Trump’s supporters have described him as strong, forceful, down-to-earth, and no pushover.  Trudeau’s detractors have used words and phrases like boyish, emotional, and not man enough in their descriptions.

Of course, political opinions, like beauty, are mostly in the eye of the beholders, and care should be taken not to believe everything one reads or hears about either of these gentlemen.  Still, the fact that both were elected to their country’s highest office by their respective citizens might say something about what is cherished by each nation.  At least at present, and by a sufficient number of those who voted.

But the critical thing about nationhood is that, despite these opposing viewpoints, each nation as a whole must accept and adhere to a basic set of values if it is to survive.

us-constitution

The second thing that prompted my curiosity about the qualities Canada might cherish was the proposal by a presumptive political-party leader, Kellie Leitch, to vigorously pre-screen potential immigrants for any trace of “anti-Canadian values”.  If they fail to measure up to the standard she will presumably establish, she will bar them from entry.

It makes sense, of course, to ban terrorists and criminals; it also makes sense to admit people with skills and training Canada needs, and people who are fleeing for their lives from oppressive regimes.  In fact, our current immigration practices and procedures do both of these things quite well.

But what are the values Leitch is looking for?  She has stated that the test will screen for anti-Canadian views that include intolerance toward other religions, cultures, and sexual orientations; violent and/or misogynist behaviour; and/or a lack of acceptance of our Canadian tradition of personal and economic freedoms.

I wonder, though, how she might define such concepts as intolerance (Sorry, but I will not eat poutine!) or personal freedoms (Okay, okay…I won’t pee on the golf course!).  Could it be so simple and light-hearted?

Likely not.  For example, if I were a prospective immigrant of a particular faith, say Catholic, would I be banned for not endorsing the notion of same-sex marriage?  If I were to vigorously protest the environmental policies of the federal government (perhaps a government she might be leading), thereby exercising  free speech, would I be expelled?  If I chose to wear a niqab during my citizenship swearing-in, would I be rudely escorted from the room?  And the country?

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted as part of the Constitution Act in 1982, pretty much lays out in its thirty-four sections the entitlements and responsibilities conferred upon, and expected of, every citizen.  By its very existence, it establishes many of the values our nation cherishes; for example:

  • the right to life, liberty and security of the person…
  • [equality] before and under the law and…the right to the equal protection and equal benefit  of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability…
  • [these rights] shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms that exist in Canada…
  • [these rights] are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

canadian-charter

In effect, this means all citizens enjoy the right to cherish, and act in accordance with, whatever they believe—with the proviso that they must not harm anyone else.  No one, it seems to me, including a politically-motivated Kellie Leitch, can judge any of us on a set of arbitrarily-established Canadian values.

Perhaps John Stuart Mill said it best, in his 1859 essay, On Liberty, where he attempted to identify standards for the relationship between a nation’s authority and its citizens’ liberty:

          The maxims are, first, that the individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself…

          Secondly, that for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punishment, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite for its protection.

If we were to accept the guidance offered in these two foundational sources, I don’t believe we would need a test to suss out anti-Canadian values.  To the contrary, our co-existence would exemplify those values, and allow us to live united in a peaceful sharing of the things we cherish.

And we would be proud of the quality of our nation, upholding it for all to see—from sea to sea to sea.

Everybody Knows

By now, I suspect, everybody knows that Leonard Cohen, an iconic Canadian poet and songwriter, died at the beginning of this week.  And of course, everybody knows that Donald Trump, an American entrepreneur and novice politician, won the US presidential race a day later.

I am struck by the awful asymmetry of these two events.

For many lovers of music, the passing of the artist, while distressing, allows us once again to celebrate and honour the memories his songs created for us.

For progressive, liberal-minded people, the election of an erratic demagogue foreshadows a period of pullback, retrenchment, and isolationism in America.  The nation’s motto, E pluribus unum—out of many, one—takes on an ominous tone.

I know of no one who is happy at the death of Cohen.

cohen

By contrast, millions upon millions of Americans are thrilled by the ascension of Trump.  And, despite my many misgivings, I could well be among them if all the actions he has pledged to take were similar to these, for example: impose term limits on all members of Congress; impose new restrictions on lobbying and lobbyists in Washington; allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward; and fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.  In my view, these are reasonable, wise moves.

Alas, he may also proceed with actions such as these: renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal altogether; lift the restrictions on the production of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal; cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs; repeal, rather than fix, the Affordable Health Care Act; appoint conservative judges to vacancies in the Supreme Court (who will, quite possibly, reverse Roe v. Wade affecting women’s rights with respect to abortion); and cancel funding to such organizations as Planned Parenthood and Sanctuary Cities.  I deem these actions to be backward-looking and regressive.

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For me—one of those liberal progressives favouring public policies of inclusion and social conscientiousness—it is interesting to consider some of the sobriquets bestowed on Cohen over the years, and to see how many of them might fit Trump:

∙ prophet of despair,

∙ gloom merchant,

∙ grinning reaper,

∙ world heavyweight champion of existential despair, and

∙ dark messiah.

In Cohen’s case, these phrases were intended as respectful descriptions of the songs he wrote and performed.  They are almost oxymorons, in that they combine positive and negative attributes in each phrase.

By contrast, for Trump they may bear no double-meaning; depending upon the actions he does choose to take during his first months in office, I fear they may have to be taken literally.

Consider these lines from Everybody Knows, one of Cohen’s most revered works; time will tell if they prove prophetic:

Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes…                                                                                                                

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied…

And if the worst does come to pass, keep in mind these lines, also from Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

light

Cohen knew that, and we know that, too.

Everybody knows.

 

Presidential? Or Preposterous?

As a resident of a country bordering the economic, military, and political colossus that is the United States of America, and as a highly interested, but mostly-unaffected, observer of its 2016 presidential election process, I have some thoughts about the current contenders as they portrayed themselves in the first televised debate recently.

debate-in-the-ring

But let me begin with some context.

First, the American dream, as popularly understood, is that everyone who works hard will achieve prosperity and upward social mobility, unfettered by such barriers as racism, religious persecution, gender bias, and other obstacles of that ilk.  Private enterprise and capitalism will provide the means, and every citizen will provide the ambition.

This worked reasonably well for the educated, dominant white landowners and merchant class in the largely-agrarian country that emerged in the two centuries following the founding of the republic.  It worked less well for the working class (including both slaves and freemen, and immigrants), and scant thought was given to assisting those who didn’t prosper, and who fell into radical poverty.  They, it was assumed (if, indeed, anyone even considered their plight), constituted collateral damage, and could move west to pursue their dream.  Or die unnoticed.

Today, in a population approaching 325 million, inhabiting a largely urbanized country, there are too many of these unsuccessful achievers of the American dream to ignore.  The private sector tries its best to do that, however, in its endless pursuit of profit.  Getting rich has become the yardstick for whether or not one has achieved the American dream, and capitalists pursue that goal without regard for the widening income disparity between the wealthiest and poorest.  Consider the insurance conglomerates, the big banks, and the pharmaceutical industry as examples of this.

So who will look to the needs of the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, if not corporate America?  It would appear the government cannot.  Socialism is a bad word in America, ‘big government’ is anathema, and any candidate espousing an increase in taxes may be committing political suicide.  How, then, can government institute a general sharing of the wealth, drawing from those with means, and giving to those with needs?  Such a radical notion runs contrary to the American ethos on which the whole experiment in nationhood was based.  We’re not commies, son!

But somebody needs to figure out an answer, and soon, before an American Robespierre arises—angry, ambitious, and armed.

Second, the mainstream media portray (or, at best, do not question) the ‘imperial presidency’ as an office where the person occupying the role is omnipotent.  The average American voter—unaware or forgetful of the three branches of federal government, or of the separation of powers that governs their functions—tends to see the president as one who can singlehandedly fix everything that’s wrong with the country, one who can make America great again.  And the media, including the unconstrained social media, perpetuate this misconception because of their endless fascination with ratings and readership numbers—the profit motive.

As informed citizens must know, the presidency is the executive function, intended to manage the government’s functions, enforce the laws, and serve as commander-in-chief.  Congress—the bicameral, legislative branch, comprising the Senate and House of Representatives—is charged with making the law.  And the Supreme Court, the judicial branch, is supposed to ensure that the laws and their execution are constitutional.

If all voters knew this, they would be, perhaps, less likely to fall for the pitches of pretenders to the presidency.

us-capitol

The two candidates for the office in 2016 present a striking contrast, and it was evident in the first debate we watched.  Voters will have to decide which of the two will be best able to manage the economy, address the issues of poverty and racism, combat terrorism to ensure the security of the nation, and deal rationally and firmly with other world leaders.

The economy is nowhere near as healthy as reported by the media—rigged numbers supposedly representing the growth rate, the inflation rate, the unemployment rate.  The only rate with any plausibility is the interest rate, and it’s so low that people (except for the very wealthy) have no incentive or wherewithal to invest or save.  They sure do borrow, though.

The poverty gap is not going to lessen dramatically, regardless of who is elected.  In an increasingly-technological society, low-skill jobs are gone forever.  State-of-the-art education and innovative entrepreneurship are of utmost importance if the situation is ever to improve.  Racism is pervasive and, it sometimes seems, part of the national DNA; there is no quick fix for that, only generational change brought about by relentless pressure and, unfortunately, oft-violent protests.

Terrorism is part of our world, like it or not, and (whether foreign or home-grown) unlikely to be eradicated; there are too many disenfranchised people in the world, with too many grievances, too much hatred, and too many weapons.

The leaders of other nations, allies and foes alike, are not so much interested in American greatness as in their own national aspirations.  And it is they, not just the next president, who will exert a large influence on the state of international relations.

So it’s obvious that neither Mr. Trump nor Ms. Clinton can ‘fix’ America’s problems, make her great again, just by virtue of being elected president.  Were I an American voter, unimpeded by party affiliation, I would try to suss out which of them is best-positioned to make the best stab at it, imperfect though both may be.

Is either of them presidential, or are they both preposterous?

I would want to know which of them (even if neither is truly altruistic) is more interested in my plight; in helping me to achieve my own American dream; in advancing the prospects of every citizen, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.  Which of them best appreciates the differences between federal and state government functions, and has the skills to foster productive relationships between and among them?  Which of them has the most comprehensive understanding of the sacrosanct Constitution?  Which of them has the ability to talk with, and listen to, other world leaders?

In short, which of them has the experience, the patience, the gravitas to faithfully execute the onerous obligations of the office most effectively?

Given the limited choices in 2016, I know which of them I’d be voting for.

ballot-box