Three Presidents

Three presidents spoke at a funeral
Of love, and courage, and character,
Of better angels,
Lifting a nation’s spirits.

Three presidents,
Different in so many ways,
Admiring another man’s character
For raising a nation’s spirit and
Calling to its better angels.

Three presidents spoke like beacons
To the light within our souls,
Seeking one light
To guide one nation
Out of the dark.

Feeling Useless

I’ve been feeling useless lately, and looking for an explanation. First, I wondered if retirement from a challenging career had caught up with me, but I left my work with the Court ten years ago and this feeling is new, so that was probably not it. Covid isolation was another likely suspect, with its disruption of comfortable patterns and interruption of intimate social intercourse, but wouldn’t that more likely cause feelings of loneliness than of uselessness? It’s not like I’m not still productive in that retiree sort of way—reading and writing, helping friends and neighbors, building and fixing things, etc.–but for some reason that no longer feels like enough. The problem, I’ve decided, is the enormous gap between the problems I see and my ability to help. After a lifetime of problem solving and public service, I no longer feel like part of the solution. I suspect I’m not alone. Continue reading “Feeling Useless”

What I’d Hope Joe Biden Would Say

In Erik Larson’s new book, The Splendid and The Vile, Winston Churchill leads England through twelve months of incessant German bombing that killed 45,000 Britons and wounded countless more. His responsibilities for mobilizing the material and human resources needed to meet that challenge were extraordinary. By his own example, with oratory that lifted spirits even as it reported hard facts, and with heart wrenching empathy for his nation’s suffering, Churchill inspired his fellow citizens to hold together in resistance to Hitler’s attacks. And all while he was diplomatically nurturing an alliance with the United States he believed would be needed to win the war. The contrast to America’s leadership today is breathtaking. Continue reading “What I’d Hope Joe Biden Would Say”

Looking Forward from Corona

As Naomi Klein explained in her 2007 book, Shock Doctrine, extreme circumstances and fear can make choices a society once considered unacceptable suddenly seem necessary and appropriate. For better or worse, these choices can re-set people’s expectations and become a new normal. From such disruption dictators can arise. But valuable lessons and changes for the better can also take hold and possibly endure. We would be wise to notice and cultivate re-sets that lift us, personally and socially. Here are three on my list. Continue reading “Looking Forward from Corona”

Change In a Crisis

As Naomi Klein explained in “Shock Doctrine,” sudden social and economic disruptions provide opportunities to advance deep cultural change. Ideas on the periphery of mainstream thinking can be re-introduced in the midst of distracting turmoil, when standard notions are in flux and maybe not seen as working. The Corona virus is presenting the world, and Americans, with opportunities and choices that will reveal our core values, individually and collectively. It’s a good time to ask what we want. Continue reading “Change In a Crisis”

Tipping Point

Maybe it’s only through hindsight that we can see when a society’s slide into authoritarianism becomes inevitable. Historians say democracies die from within. One can imagine ordinary citizens mistaking the increasing drama for politics as usual. And it’s easy to see how those benefitting from the concentration of power would tell themselves they can always stop the authoritarian leader from “going too far.” Until they can’t. At some point their own investment becomes too great, their culpability too obvious, and their own vulnerability to the authoritarian too certain to risk opposing him. Continue reading “Tipping Point”

Facing the consequences

The inevitable has arrived. With the assassination of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Oassim Suleimani, our country faces an international crisis while dependent on a President who cannot or will not distinguish fact from fiction, or truth from lies. Our security now depends on an administration existentially compelled to support whatever version of reality the President thinks will make him look good in the moment. Ironically, our most trustworthy sources of accurate information are Administration leaks and investigative reporting. Continue reading “Facing the consequences”