Selections (3)

A periodic roundup of selected political opinion and social commentary, reflecting the political values of liberalism and the ethical values of Buddhism.

Vol 2, No 3 ……… February 1st, 2021

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FEATURED SELECTION:

In a recent newsletter to his email subscribers, New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni marveled at what he described as Joe Biden’s “generous” comments about his predecessor Donald Trump. Since generosity is one of the three core ethical virtues espoused by Buddhism (the other two being compassion and wisdom), and since the primary theme of this occasional feature on The Liberal Buddhist blog is the common values promoted by liberalism and Buddhism, Bruni’s comments are offered in their entirety as this issue’s featured selection …

“Today I’m going to reach back to the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. How good it feels to write that! President Joe Biden. We needed a change, and now we have it, and the rightness of this particular one was captured not just in his excellent inauguration speech but also in other words and gestures of his in the hours just before and after that address.

I’ll focus on three unscripted sentences shortly after 5 p.m., when a small group of journalists were on hand for his signing of several executive orders in the Oval Office. One of them asked about the content of a letter that President Donald Trump — who actually followed tradition in this instance — left Biden. There’d been doubt that Trump would do so. “The president wrote a very generous letter,” Biden said. “Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous.”

Generous. The word grabbed me, and not because Biden used it twice. For starters, “generous” perfectly describes Biden’s response to the question he was asked. He could simply have declined to characterize the letter, citing etiquette and discretion. He certainly wasn’t under any obligation to compliment and essentially thank Trump, not after Trump refused to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s election, spread conspiracy theories and fomented violence. Trump was intent on making Biden’s transition into the presidency as rocky as possible and bequeathing him a country almost impossible to govern.

Biden nonetheless went out of his way to be big. To be kind. He placed Trump, of all people, in proximity to “generous,” when our former president (it feels good to write that phrase, too!) is anything but. Ever since Election Day, Biden hasn’t merely been urging civility. He’s been modeling it, despite a magnitude of ugliness and absurdity from Trump and his Republican enablers that has tested it at every turn. It’s a monumental feat of discipline. It’s the epitome of grace.

And it’s the definition of, well, generosity, which is as good a one-word summary of what America and Americans need right now as any other. We need it from our president. We need it from other political leaders. We need it most of all from ourselves.

I don’t chiefly mean material generosity, though there’s a strong argument right now for government spending well beyond the norm and there’s a call for those Americans who have not been financially hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic to lift up those who have. I mean emotional generosity, spiritual generosity, the kind that puts proper value on the public interest and the common good; the kind that recognizes the trap of endless, boundless rancor; the kind that acknowledges human flaw while rooting hard for human redemption. It doesn’t downgrade the importance of accountability, punishment, justice. It integrates that into the mapping of a place where we can most successfully fix all that needs fixing.

Generously, President Joe Biden is trying to point us there.”

You can sign up for Frank Bruni’s weekly email newsletter here.

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ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS:

#1 – Joe Biden’s uplifting inaugural address …

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2021/jan/20/unity-is-the-path-forward-joe-bidens-inaugural-address-in-full-video

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#2 – Amanda Gorman’s inspirational inaugural poem …

https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007561374/poet-amanda-gorman-inauguration.html?campaign_id=9&emc=edit_nn_20210121&instance_id=26239&nl=the-morning&regi_id=1518433&segment_id=49887&te=1&user_id=d5db21857560d585c919832c1b387ecd

Selections (2)

A periodic roundup of selected political opinion and social commentary, reflecting the political values of liberalism and the ethical values of Buddhism.

Vol 2, No 2 ……… January 18th, 2021

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FEATURED SELECTION:

New Yorker editor David Remnick argues convincingly that Donald Trump and his many enablers bear full responsibility for the disgraceful and unlawful assault on the nation’s Capitol …

“Once the Capitol was cleared, the solemn assurances that ‘this is not who we are’ began. The attempt at self-soothing after such a traumatic event is understandable, but it is delusional. Was Charlottesville not who we are? Did more than seventy million people not vote for the Inciter-in-Chief? Surely, these events are part of who we are, part of the American picture. To ignore those parts, those features of our national landscape, is to fail to confront them. The millions of Americans who understood this Presidency from its first day as a national emergency, a threat to domestic and global security, can be excused for finding it curious that so many are now taking the exit ramp for the road to Damascus three years and fifty weeks later. How surprising can Trump’s recent provocation be when for years he has served as an inspiration to bigots everywhere, to damaged souls plotting to mail pipe bombs to journalists and to kidnap the governor of Michigan? This dawning of conscience is as bewitching as it is belated.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/18/the-inciter-in-chief?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker&utm_social-type=earned

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ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS:

#1 – New York Times opinion columnist Jennifer Senior describes the predictably disastrous end to Trump’s presidency …

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#2 – New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg describes the inevitable violent ending to Trump’s presidency …

Selections (1) … formerly “Current Comment”

A periodic roundup of selected political opinion and social commentary, reflecting the political values of liberalism and the ethical values of Buddhism.

Vol 2, No 1 ……… January 2nd, 2021

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FEATURED SELECTION:

New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik contends that we should focus less attention on the question of why democracies fail, and more on understanding why autocracies flourish …

“We are told again and again that American democracy is in peril and may even be on its deathbed. Today, after all, a defeated yet deranged President bunkers in the White House contemplating crazy conspiracy theories and perhaps even martial law, with the uneasy consent of his party and the rabid support of his base. We are then told, with equal urgency, that what is wrong, ultimately, is deep [and] systemic. Lurking behind all of this is a faulty premise—that the descent into authoritarianism is what needs to be explained, when the reality is that . . . it always happens. The default condition of humankind is not to thrive in broadly egalitarian and stable democratic arrangements that get unsettled only when something happens to unsettle them. The default condition of humankind, traced across thousands of years of history, is some sort of autocracy.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/04/what-we-get-wrong-about-americas-crisis-of-democracy?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker&utm_social-type=earned

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ADDITIONAL SELECTIONS:

#1 – New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg examines Donald Trump’s legacy of destruction …

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#2 – An insightful panel discussion on “How the pandemic has exposed America’s deep divide” from the PBS NewsHour …

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-the-pandemic-has-exposed-americas-deep-divide

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#3 – New Yorker staff writer John Cassidy with some thoughts on how we might avoid another dangerous and disastrous presidency like Trump’s …

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-next-big-challenge-trump-proofing-the-presidency

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Current Comment #13

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 13 ……… December 12th, 2020

SCHEDULING NOTE ~ With this issue, Current Comment is taking a 3-week break for the year-end holidays. The next issue will be posted on January 2nd, 2021.

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ Three separate news stories this week gave us small, but significant, cause for guarded optimism. First, concerning the coronavirus pandemic, the Pfizer vaccine began shipping to all 50 states. Second, amidst the continuing uncertainty about the electoral college’s certification of the presidential election results, the Supreme Court – its three Trump appointees notwithstanding – rejected the Texas challenge to the election results in four crucial swing states. Third and last, the United Nations reminded us in its latest report that the global climate crisis is still very much with us, and suggested that we may actually be making some progress in dealing with it.

The two selections this week both reflect back upon recent history to paint contrasting portraits of Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama. Reading them one after the other may bring to mind the famous opening line of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Twelve words that perfectly capture the last twelve years of the American presidency.

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Selection #1 – New York Magazine political commentator Jonathan Chait takes a look back at an ominous but influential essay from Michael Anton of the conservative Claremont Institute, published in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the author misappropriates the heroic choices made by the 9/11 victims on Flight 93 to make a fantastically delusional case for Republicans to choose to support Trump …

“Anton articulated the bedrock principle that has driven the right the last four years: The Democratic Party is so terrifying and all-powerful that literally any measures, however unwise, are justifiable to block them from winning an election. That is the power of Anton’s chosen analogy, which urges his audience to overlook all of Trump’s complete unfitness to handle the job (“You — or the leader of your party — may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane,” he concedes) on the grounds that the alternative means imminent national death. Consciously or not, Anton’s imagery seemed to lodge in the minds of the party elite. Again and again, officials tasked with preventing Trump’s erratic impulses from producing a disaster cast themselves in the position of emergency pilots. “I can land the plane,” promised Rod Rosenstein. “I’m landing the plane right now,” testified William Barr.”

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/michael-antons-flight-93-election-trump-coup.html?utm_source=tw

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Selection #2 – Author and retired New York Times lead book reviewer Michiko Kakutani interviews former president Barack Obama on the occasion of the publication of the first volume of his presidential memoirs, “A Promised Land” …

“Mr. Obama speaks slowly and thoughtfully but with the conversational ease that distinguishes his books, moving freely between the personal and the political, the anecdotal and the philosophical. Whether he’s talking about literature, recent political events or policies implemented by his administration, his observations, like his prose, are animated by an ability to connect social, cultural and historical dots, and a gift — honed during his years as a community organizer and professor of constitutional law — for lending complex ideas immediacy and context.”

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THE WEEKS AHEAD ~ Looking for progress on the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the ongoing Biden presidential transition, and hoping for an end at long last to the democracy-undermining tactics of Trump and his enablers seeking to overturn the results of the November election.

Happy Holidays! Wishing you all in the year ahead good health and growing harmony, in your personal lives and in the world at large. 

Take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom 

REMINDER ~ Current Comment will return with issue #14 on January 2nd, 2021. Until then, you can keep up with the articles I’m reading by following me at https://twitter.com/LiberalBuddhist.

Current Comment #12

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 12 ……… December 5th, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ We held our collective breaths as the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic increased in strength, and at the same time we collectively breathed a little easier as the Biden transition team continued to put forward competent nominees to lead the new administration while Trump’s baseless, and often fraudulent, lawsuits and other schemes to overturn the election met with one failure after another.

This week’s three selections explore from various perspectives the profound consequences for the country as a result of being led these past four years by an individual whose most identifiable trait is, and for his entire public life always has been, his complete lack of honesty.

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Selection #1 – New Yorker editor David Remnick considers the widespread and long-lasting damage caused by Donald Trump’s constant disregard for facts and by his continual embrace of falsehoods …

“Trump’s assault on the press and his assault on the truth––he made more than sixteen thousand false or misleading claims in his first three years in office, according to the Washington Post’s fact-checking operation––have taken their toll. Where once American Presidents gave at least rhetorical support to civil liberties, he has given comfort to foreign autocrats who routinely parrot his slogan of ‘fake news’ and lock up offending journalists. Perhaps Trump’s most disgraceful act in this regard was his refusal to speak a critical word against the Saudi leadership after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Post. The costs at home are no less ominous. It is now estimated that one American dies every minute from Covid-19. Every two or three days there is a 9/11-scale death count. How many of those people died because they chose to believe the President’s dismissive accounts of the disease rather than what public-health officials were telling the press? Half of Republican voters believe Trump’s charge that the 2020 election was ‘rigged.’ What will be the lasting effects on American democracy of that disinformation campaign?”

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Selection #2 – New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni offers a shout-out to Dr Anthony Fauci and other lesser-known heroes of “the deep state”, who, by consistently and courageously speaking the truth in the face of Trump’s lies, often at grave personal danger to themselves and to their families, have made such a huge contribution to our democracy …

“’Deep state’ isn’t the right term — its overtone is too clandestine, its undertone too nefarious — but let’s go with it, co-opt it, [and] define it ourselves, not as a swampy society of self-preserving bureaucrats in Washington but as a steadfast, tradition-minded legion of public officials and civil servants all over the country, in every branch of government. These officials and servants are distinguished by a professionalism that survives and edges out their partisan bearings, by an understanding that the codes of conduct and rules of engagement become more important, not less, when passions run hot. They’re incorrigible that way. Invaluable, too.”

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Selection #3 – New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg examines the toll Trump’s world of “alternate facts” is taking upon many of those Republicans who have supported and enabled him throughout these past four years …

“Since Trump’s defeat, the MAGA revolution has begun devouring its own. As it does, some conservatives are discovering the downsides of having a president who spreads malicious conspiracy theories, subverts faith in democracy and turns the denial of reality into a loyalty test. Historically the American left, more than the right, was known for circular firing squads and excommunications. By turning the Republican Party into a cult of personality, Trump changed that. As the archconservative Jeff Sessions learned years ago, even a lifetime of ideological service is no defense when you’ve displeased Dear Leader. People and institutions that get involved with Trump often end up diminished or disgraced. Since the election, this is happening faster than ever. The president is reportedly thinking of firing Attorney General Bill Barr because, for all Barr’s obsequious toadying, he has declined to repeat Trump’s fantasies about widespread electoral cheating. Much of the MAGA-verse has turned on Fox News, because its news programs aren’t pretending that Trump won.”

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THE WEEK AHEAD ~ More worries about the spread of the coronavirus, and more relief as we move one week closer to the inauguration of Joe Biden.

As always, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom 

https://twitter.com/LiberalBuddhist

Current Comment #11

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 11 ……… November 28th, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ With the official transition finally under way, President-elect Joe Biden began naming his cabinet nominees, while the second wave of coronavirus infections continued to soar. Yet, amid the swirl of these two fast-moving developments, the country seemed to take a much-needed pause from polarization in order to observe Thanksgiving with a minimal, but still welcome, sense of somberness and gratitude.

The first two selections below represent two different perspectives on Thanksgiving and gratitude – one personal, the other political, and both very apropos for our times. The final selection comes as a wake-up call for liberals, urging us to broaden our perspective beyond the narrow confines of liberalism’s Anglo-American roots – a most timely invitation, as the United States attempts to resume its leadership role in the global community, much of which is still reeling from four years of the Trump administration’s disregard and disrespect.

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Selection #1 – Meghan Markle, the native-born American actress who, as the spouse of Prince Harry, is also the Duchess of Sussex in her adopted country of the United Kingdom, offers a deeply personal appeal for compassion and concern for others. A most welcome reflection for this week of Thanksgiving in this year of widespread suffering …

“When people ask how any of us are doing, and when they really listen to the answer, with an open heart and mind, the load of grief often becomes lighter — for all of us. In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing. So this Thanksgiving, as we plan for a holiday unlike any before — many of us separated from our loved ones, alone, sick, scared, divided and perhaps struggling to find something, anything, to be grateful for — let us commit to asking others, ‘Are you OK?’ As much as we may disagree, as physically distanced as we may be, the truth is that we are more connected than ever because of all we have individually and collectively endured this year.”

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Selection #2 – New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman offers thanks and gratitude to all those who stood firmly on the side of democracy as Trump and his enablers continuously sought to subvert it during these past three weeks following the election …

“We should be truly thankful this Thanksgiving that — after Donald Trump spent the last three weeks refusing to acknowledge that he’d lost re-election and enlisted much of his party in a naked power play to ignore the vote counts and reinstall him in office — we had a critical mass of civil servants, elected officials and judges who did their jobs. It was their collective integrity, their willingness to stand with ‘Team America,’ not either party, that protected our democracy when it was facing one of its greatest threats — from within. History will remember them fondly.”

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Selection #3 – Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra examines the limitations of the Anglo-American tradition of liberalism, which has historically ignored all cultures but its own, and now finds itself unable to respond meaningfully to the global political and social crises of our time …

“[The] narrative of a US-led global journey to the promised land was always implausible. Four years of Trump have finally clarified that between 2001 and 2020—and through such events as the terrorist attacks of September 11, intensified globalization, the rise of China concurrent with the failed war on terror, and the financial crisis—the world was moving into an entirely new historical period. Moreover, in this phase, many ideas and assumptions dominant for decades were rapidly becoming obsolete. Today, those who insisted that there was no practical alternative to Western-style liberal democracy and capitalism have no concepts with which to explain how China, a Communist-ruled country, became central to global networks of trade and finance; how India, ostensibly the ‘world’s largest democracy’ and fastest-growing economy, as well as a counterweight to China, came to be ruled by Hindu supremacists inspired by European fascist movements of the 1920s; and how electorates angered by dysfunctional democracy and capitalism at home empowered far-right demagogues.  The laments and exhortations of a still largely white, male, and middle-aged commentariat bring to mind James Baldwin’s verdict that ‘the white man’s world, intellectually, morally, and spiritually, has the meaningless ring of a hollow drum and the odor of slow death.’ A new way to understand the forces at play is urgently needed.” 

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/11/19/liberalism-grand-illusions/

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THE WEEK AHEAD ~ The transition to a Biden administration should pick up speed, as his advisors and appointees begin to engage with their counterparts in the outgoing administration, and as the United States prepares to re-engage with the global community after four wasted years of Trump’s misguided “America First” approach.

As always, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom 

https://twitter.com/LiberalBuddhist

Current Comment #10

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 10 ……… November 21st, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ Another week of President-elect Biden continuing to be patient and presidential, and of the (hopefully) outgoing President Trump continuing to act puerile and pitifully. The world’s leaders are increasingly more welcoming of Biden, while the occupant of the White House is increasingly isolated and unsuccessful in his attempts to undo the election results. The daily drama of waiting for Trump to concede while worrying about what dangerous actions he may yet unleash in his bid to retain power has exerted unprecedented stress upon the country. What is normally a time of calm in the wake of the election contest just ended, and of peaceful transition from the outgoing administration to the incoming one, is instead a time of intense agitation and heightened polarization. As regards America’s four-years-long national nightmare, sadly it’s not over yet.

The two selections that follow each explore the prospects ahead in the next four years – the first a realistic assessment of what we must expect, the second an inspirational picture of what we might hope for.

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Selection #1 – The New York Review of Books political commentator Michael Tomasky defines the limits of the Democrats’ electoral victory and outlines the challenges that await Joe Biden …

“The election demonstrated, more intensely than any other before, that Americans inhabit two different moral universes. In our personal lives, we may share broadly similar ideas about what constitutes right and wrong: how to raise children, how to be responsible friends and family members. But on political matters, we see two opposite realities.  The ‘Democratic brand’ is in trouble in vast stretches of the country. The party must determine why. Joe Biden will reset our struggling democracy in some important regards. He will shift away from Vladimir Putin and toward our traditional allies. He will not interfere in Justice Department investigations. He won’t fire his FBI director because the bureau is investigating him. These are not small matters. But what was needed in this election to turn back this dark tide was a much broader repudiation of Trumpism than the voters delivered.”

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/12/17/election-2020-what-did-democrats-win/?utm_source=nybooks&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email-share

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Selection #2 – This speaker needs no introduction, and his remarks require no excerpt. As we came to expect during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, and as we have so sorely missed during the four years of Trump’s, here is a welcome display of presidential eloquence and erudition. Enjoy …

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THE WEEK AHEAD ~ A short news week looms before us as America prepares for its first – and hopefully last – Covid-19 Thanksgiving weekend. Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday!

As always, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom

https://twitter.com/LiberalBuddhist

Current Comment #9

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 9 ……… November 14th, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ Joe Biden continues to act presidential, while Donald Trump continues to act puerile. No surprise on either count!

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Selection #1 – Political scientist and New York Times guest opinion columnist Bryan Garsten argues forcefully that each of us needs to renew our personal commitment to a “Constitutional culture” if we hope to avoid a future presidential demagogue like the one we have just voted out of office …

“Mr. Trump is a creature native to our own style of government and therefore much more difficult to protect ourselves against: He is a demagogue, a popular leader who feeds on the hatred of elites that grows naturally in democratic soil. We have almost forgotten how common such creatures are in democracies because we have relied on a technology designed to restrain them: the Constitution. It has worked by setting up rules for us to follow, but also on a deeper level by shaping our sense of what we are proud of and what we are ashamed of in our common life. Today this constitutional culture has all but collapsed, and with it, our protection against demagogues. The college-educated elite and well-meaning technocrats may say that expert rule is the only alternative to demagogues, but they are wrong. When we allow them to rule, we fuel popular frustration and drive people into the arms of demagogues in reaction. The real alternative is to strengthen our ability to govern ourselves well by supporting the kinds of schools and jobs that train us in the habits of citizenship, by creating the background conditions in which we can solve more problems in our families and communities, and by reforming electoral systems and legislative procedures to strengthen the incentives for politicians to move beyond demagogy. Too many of us are guilty of prioritizing immediate policy outcomes over the work of maintaining a system of self-government that will bring out the best in us over the long term.”

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Selection #2 – New Yorker editor David Remnick takes a deep breath in to consider the daunting challenges awaiting President-elect Joe Biden, and a deep breath out to reflect upon the myriad disasters that might well have accrued under a re-elected President Trump …

“There can be no overstating the magnitude of the tasks facing Biden. If he survives whatever challenges, legal and rhetorical, that Trump throws his way in the coming days and weeks, he will begin his term facing a profoundly polarized country, one even more divided and tribal than the polls have suggested. It is a nation in which one half cannot quite comprehend the other half. He also confronts a country that is suffering from an ever-worsening pandemic, an ailing economy, racial injustice, and a climate crisis that millions refuse to acknowledge. The end of the Trump Presidency is, by any measure, a signal moment in modern American history. These four years have wrought tragic consequences; there is no question that another four would have compounded the damage immeasurably. Throughout his term, Trump openly waged war on democratic institutions and deployed a politics of conspicuous cruelty, bigotry, and division. He turned the Presidency into a reality show of lurid accusation and preening self-regard. But what finally made him vulnerable to defeat was his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly a quarter of a million Americans. His disdain for scientific and medical expertise, his refusal to endorse even the most rudimentary preventive measures against the spread of the virus, was, according to medical experts, responsible for the needless deaths of tens of thousands.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/11/16/the-biden-era-begins

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Selection #3 – New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman calls for a restoration of truth-telling after the endless lies of the Trump administration …

People who do not share truths can’t defeat a pandemic, can’t defend the Constitution and can’t turn the page after a bad leader. The war for truth is now the war to preserve our democracy.

“It is impossible to maintain a free society when leaders and news purveyors feel at liberty to spread lies without sanction. Without truth there is no agreed-upon path forward, and without trust there is no way to go down that path together. The truth binds you, and Trump never wanted to be bound — not in what he could ask of the president of Ukraine or say about the coronavirus or about the integrity of our election. And it nearly worked. Trump proved over five years that you could lie multiple times a day — multiple times a minute — and not just win election but almost win re-election. We have to ensure that the likes of him never again appear in American politics.”

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THE WEEK AHEAD ~ The transition to a Biden presidency will continue in a mature and reasonable fashion, while the whining and false charges that “the election was stolen” will continue to spew from the mouth of Trump and his enablers. The big concern for now is whether or not Trump will succeed in persuading a number of Republican-dominated state legislatures to appoint replacement electors to their states’ Electoral College delegations in order to overturn the popular pro-Biden decision when the official electoral votes are tabulated on December 14th. Still much to worry about, unfortunately.

If you’d like a head start reading the articles that will be featured in next week’s Current Comment, and you have a Twitter account, please follow @LiberalBuddhist.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom

Current Comment #8

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 8 ……… November 7th, 2020

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ What else is there to say about this past week, other than to note the collective sigh of relief that accompanied the news a few short hours ago of Joe Biden’s electoral college victory? There was minimal motivation for reading the opinion pieces that appeared this week, written as they were by commentators constrained by the same uncertainties as all of us were. Thus, the lone selection for this week’s edition is the following essay from the Editorial Board of the New York Times, published within the hour after the news of Biden’s win …

“Fortunately for America, Mr. Biden promises to be a president for both sides — a welcome shift from a leader who has spent his tenure dividing the electorate into perceived fans and enemies. While the coming weeks will most likely bring unexpected moves and more dangerous disinformation from Mr. Trump, it is worth taking this moment to raise a glass and breathe a sigh of relief. America gives its citizenry the ultimate responsibility for holding leaders accountable, for deciding what kind of nation this will be. The broad endorsement of Mr. Biden’s message of unity and healing is cause for celebration. Americans have embraced that optimism and Mr. Biden as their next president. Now the real work begins.”

THE WEEK AHEAD ~ We can expect plenty of information about the transition just beginning from Biden and his team, and plenty of misinformation about the campaign just ended from Trump and his enablers. The election may be over, but the polarization that characterized it, sadly, is not.

If you’d like a head start reading the articles that will be featured in next week’s Current Comment, and you have a Twitter account, please follow @LiberalBuddhist.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom

Current Comment #7

A weekly recap of worthwhile political opinion and social commentary.

Vol 1, No 7 ……… October 31st, 2020

Happy Halloween, everyone!

THE WEEK JUST PASSED ~ Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in the kind of reckless super-spreader event we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration, the Dalai Lama made a welcome appearance in New York’s Times Square on this George Floyd billboard, and the presidential race entered the final days of the campaign with the unmistakable contrast between Biden’s decency and Trump’s lack of the same on full display day after day (or, as PBS NewsHour commentator Mark Shields describes the difference, Biden campaigns as the “we” president, Trump as the “me” president).

The three articles selected this week inform us of a former president we could be proud of and moved by, a current attorney general we ought to be very cautious about, and a traditional Buddhist teaching that can support us in the uncertain times that lie ahead …

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Selection #1 – New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman reminds us of the time – not that long ago, although it seems like a decade or two – that we could be proud of, and moved by, the intelligence and the compassion of our president …

“Trump has so redefined decency down that we have forgotten what is normal, let alone optimal, in an American president. We have forgotten what it is like to have a truth-teller, a healer, in the White House, someone who starts his day with at least the inclination to unite the country and to project America at its best for the world — not someone who has lived every day in office aspiring to be president only of his base, while offering anyone at home or abroad looking to the United States for inspiration just one message: Show me the money.”

PS – Be sure to click on the link in this article to see the video clip of Meklit and the Kronos Quartet in their memorable performance of “The President Sang Amazing Grace”.

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Selection #2 – New York Review of Books columnist Fintan O’Toole profiles the current Attorney General, William Barr, and shows clearly how he is not at all the person that he purports to be …

“Because of his suave, courteous, even jovial demeanor and intellectual acumen, and his long record as a member of the pre-Trump Republican establishment, it seems superficially plausible to look to Barr as the one who might ultimately seek to restrain Trump and protect the basic institutional and constitutional order. All evidence—including ProPublica’s report on October 7 that the Department of Justice has now weakened its long-standing prohibition against interfering in elections by allowing federal investigators ‘to take public investigative steps before the polls close, even if those actions risk affecting the outcome of the election’—points in the opposite direction. The desire to believe in Barr as a potential savior of democracy goes deep. [Some of us] believed that Barr would use the independence of his office ‘to prevent us turning into a banana republic.’ But no one who has thought about Barr’s ideological formation, and in particular his views on the nature of authority, should be so naive.”

{Note – I was unable to embed the full article here … please click on “Attorney General, William Barr” above for a link to it.}

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Selection #3 – Buddhist teacher and social activist David Loy explains how the teaching “don’t-know mind” is a useful practice, never more so than as we prepare for the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential election …

“We are now living through the most dangerous moment in human history – the climate crisis, threat of nuclear war, rising authoritarianism, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic breakdown, increasing social polarization, and the November election, in which many of those problems are at stake, perhaps including the very future of our democracy. Buddhist teachings have always emphasized impermanence, and this year certainly offers us plenty of examples to demonstrate that truth. The instability of the world that most of us nonetheless took for granted has become more apparent and the future seems more unpredictable than ever. We may not know what happens after we cast our ballot in what could be the most important election in US history, but there is good reason to believe we’re in for a wild ride.” 

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THE WEEK AHEAD … Tuesday, November 3rd, Election Day. Only a mere six words in that sentence, but they bear the fate and future of the country, and perhaps even the world. Here’s hoping that (1) we have an outcome by the end of the week; and (2) it’s an outcome that liberals, Buddhists, and all of humanity can take hope in.

If you’d like a head start reading the articles in next week’s edition, and you have a Twitter account, please follow @LiberalBuddhist.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and stay well … Tom