Why Does the World Look Doomed?

Perhaps we are constantly bombarded by Trump, Hollywood, and the media with the message that the end of the world is just around the corner. We’ve come to see doom and gloom both as entertainment and an accurate forecast of the future.

Perhaps we know too much. Through the Internet (Facebook, etc.) we get every dot and tittle of bad news, but everything good that happens seems to get ignored in favor of horror stories. For example, when have you ever read about a wonderful Sunday family picnic?  But you read daily about whole families being extinguished by an overturned ten-wheeler. We take nice picnics for granted but we thirst for tragedy!

Even when we go to the movies to laugh and feel good (try Bridget Jones’s Baby for a wonderful example!!!) we are treated at the outset to at least four trailers that show the world being wiped out in fantastic scenes of explosions and carnage.

We saw Monday night how Trump trumpeted one basic message over and over again—what a horrible mess our country and economy are in, and how only he can make everything great again.

His assertions about some loss of jobs and economic stagnation (exaggerated but not entirely wrong) obviously resonate with that portion of the population who see some real signs of those problems in their lives. But his statements are overwhelmingly exaggerated, as all the indisputable data makes crystal clear.

Trump is trying to take advantage of the country by selling a sham reality. Clinton should hammer home the real story—facts—to enable fence-sitters to see how cynical Trump is in painting such a grossly misleading picture of reality.

It appears more and more that the election is in the hands of those fence-sitters, who for various historical reasons do not like or trust Clinton.

Those people need to see more of what the first debate hopefully showed: a sniveling Trump bobbing and weaving around the truth, smearing and distorting reality, and a poised, composed, and good humored Clinton who was coherent, consistent, and realistic.

If only a small percentage of those fence-sitters could wake up to the harsh reality that either not voting or voting for a third-party option could be the same as a vote for Trump, they would see and understand that, whatever their reservations about Clinton, she is by a wide margin the only real option in this election!

And as far as doom is concerned, all Trump is going to do is bring it about all by himself.

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Cast Your Vote, Keep Your Reservations

It is beginning to become clear that more than a few likely voters are having a hard time committing to vote for either Trump or Clinton.

In most polls, the Libertarian and Green candidates—Johnson and Stein—draw around 10% of the vote, apparently taking primarily from Clinton. Their unexpectedly strong performance indicates that many people are saying that they want anybody BUT Trump or Clinton!

Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. One of two people—Trump or Clinton—will be elected president. The others have no chance. Our two-party system might not be to everyone’s liking, but it is not going to change before November.

I think I understand how these voters feel because I believe I feel much the same way. I acknowledge that Clinton is smart, experienced, and qualified for the office she seeks, but I also have reservations about her character. If there was any other reasonable candidate in the race, I would probably vote for that person. However, there is none.

Many of those who claim to support Johnson and Stein might simply be registering to pollsters their displeasure with Clinton and Trump. By election day, those voters may “wake up” and vote for whichever candidate they see as least worst.

If there was some way to vote for Clinton and simultaneously register a reservation (anonymously, collectively, and visibly), we could help ensure that Clinton defeats Trump while sending a clear message that there are voters who expect her to do better.

If she were to win by a huge margin, Clinton might forget that people don’t trust her. She might not address the issues she sorely needs to take care of. Something as simple as creating a website—www.votedhillarybut.org—could allow voters to register their displeasure with her doubtful behavior while also doing their part to ensure that Trump is kept out of the Oval Office.

Though anyone could indicate on such a webpage that they had voted for Hillary, the downside of giving people at large a way to express their reservations are vastly outweighed by the looming peril of a Trump presidency.

In a perfect world, it would not be necessary to put an asterisk on this election, but in such a world, we would not be faced with this imperfect dilemma.

THE SLEEPER SCARY ISSUE IN THIS YEAR’S ELECTION

I promised recently that I would try hard not to bother you with obvious or boring developments in the election.

But something is steadily creeping up on all of us, and we should be wary and anxious. Just a few weeks back, Clinton had a clear and steady lead of about 9%. You may have noticed that her lead has shrunk to about 4%, though Trump’s overall percentage has remained pretty steady at about 39%. He seems not to be gaining, but she clearly is slipping.

At the same time Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, this year’s more prominent third-party candidates, have gone from next to nothing to 9% and 3% (respectively) for a total of 12%. Considering that less than 1% of Americans can probably tell you anything about either, that is an amazing number. It seems unlikely that so many people actually support Johnson and Stein, but more folks of various political stripes are saying pox on Clinton than on Trump.

This is a big deal. Remember the Perot election year: he nearly tipped that election away from Bill Clinton by getting 19% of the popular vote.

Something similar to that seems to be hatching here. Yes, the Electoral College still gives Clinton an advantage, and Trump has to hold and improve his overall percentage. But it does not take a lot to imagine that things could get very scary near the end.

Strategically, Clinton does not need to keep hammering so much at Trump’s clear and present weaknesses. She needs to cast some light on those two third party candidates and remind everyone that (since neither of them have any chance of being elected) a vote for Johnson or Stein might just turn out to be a vote for Trump.

Unless a prospective independent voter is aware of that consequence and is OK with Trump, he or she should rethink their support. However, if Clinton seeks only to dismiss and or discredit Johnson and Stein, she may perversely make them better known and even encourage others to their cause.

As one analyzes the options, the only one that seems practical is for someone—Michael Bloomberg, who just months ago dropped his third party bid, would be perfect—to help create a large, inclusive bi-partisan group of recognizable leaders from all parts of the country to make a rational pitch to the growing number of prospective voters for the independents.

The essential core message is VERY simple: this is not a moment in time for voters to engage in the theatrics of a protest vote. The consequences are HUGE—they threaten the very core of America. But, these people who indicate their wish to vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton surely have their genuine concerns: it appears that many of them may hope that Clinton will defeat Trump, but wish to deny her an overwhelming victory, which might then seem to give her a mandate to practice a type of politics that they deplore.

Perhaps such a Bloomberg led group could inspire Clinton to publically pledge that she will be fully transparent, avoid ALL conflicts-of-interest, and end blatant favoritism. That way, after the election, we—Clinton included—could all know that any mandate to govern comes with conditions: that she put a stop to the sort of behavior that has led so many Americans to view her with concern and suspicion.

Perhaps, IF she responded to such a pitch to the independent supporters by ENTHUSIASTICALLY embracing such a proposed pledge, she could blunt and reverse the trend toward the independents.

It is still not too late for Clinton to “soften” by changing her approach to her weaknesses and letting down her hair. She might still have time to remind everyone that she is human by accepting not just the legal responsibility but the ethical and personal responsibility for the events that led the public to fear her trustworthiness. By doing so, she very likely could regain some of her lost independent support, which just may be the key to the election.

This is a tricky business that needs a lot of careful thought and analysis, as this election is not just a two-way street.

At the moment it feels something like a multi-level cloverleaf interchange.

WE NEED MORE SOCRATIC TEACHING

Well over one hundred and thirty million babies are born each year, but only fifty-five million people die.  In the face of that many new children, we need to find better ways to educate the young to cope with the complex world they will inherit.

The answer is not to just throw money at our schools. There are far too many school systems with above average per-student spending that are outperformed by schools with significantly less per-student spending. While money is certainly necessary to educate children, we can’t just write a check and walk away, as we seem to so often do.

The basic building blocks of education have long been the 3 Rs—reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. While our education system is far from perfect, it is making strides in improving literacy, computing, and STEM skills. However, I’m not convinced that the three Rs will be enough to survive in the world of the future.

The most important thing that we do not teach today is empathy.

Empathy—in the compassionate sense—will always be a tool for building social capital and easing tensions and relations, and empathy—in the sense of understanding another’s thoughts and motivations—will always be necessary to negotiate effectively. Teaching children empathy will make them better citizens, better people, and—I suspect—better lawyers, scientists, and laborers.

But how does one go about teaching empathy?

Let’s start with new, or better yet old, ways that could possibly be applied to educating the large number of babies that are raining down on the whole world and need to coexist peacefully as well to play with their electronic toys?

When we think about it, we have to remember that long before the 3 Rs became the cornerstones of education, learning began on mothers’ breasts. From there, they watched a cow or goat being milked and soon were able to try it themselves.

Education 2 or 3 thousand years ago was not bogged down with the 3Rs—which simply did not exist—and it was based almost entirely on copying, watching and experiencing.

Now, we see whacky examples like a six year old boy being suspended from school for paying too much attention to and kissing a girl classmate. What do you suppose those kids and their friends and parents learn from such nonsense?

We really need to rethink our teaching methods from scratch to fit the needs of the modern world.

Those of us fortunate enough to have attended certain schools had an effective encounter with systematic use of the Socratic case method. We were not taught facts or many strict rules, but how to question; not taught only how to think, but how to investigate.

Such methods do not just permit making mistakes, but encourages them.

An old wisdom is “Good judgment is based on experience, because experience is based on bad judgment.” Perhaps we learn more from the sting of a mistake than when we got it right.

I’m not a child psychologist or education specialist, but I’ve watched three younger generations of my family grow, and believe that the Socratic Method could somehow be applied to teaching empathy and how to get along in life to the children of the future.

Exactly how, I’m not sure, but I hope that idea might provide some food for thought and hopefully action.