OK – What’s Next?

I hate what am about to tell you because you probably will not like it. But it has to be said!

The election is, mercifully, about to be over. Barring some completely unforeseeable event or events, Clinton is going to win by a substantial margin.

She and most Americans will wipe the sweat off their brow, saying “Whew, thank God that is behind us!”

The issue with that is the PROBLEM will still be there, large as life and twice as big.

Trump has been the symptom, not the disease.

The disease lies in the fact that about 40% of America was taken in by such a dangerous fraud.  Our biggest national security issue has become this question. We must make every effort to figure it out and address it wisely to be sure we never have to confront this kind of populist danger again.

We were witnessing an attempted assassination of democracy.  After the Kennedy assassination the first thing Lyndon Johnson did was create a highest level National Commission. That is a fine model for current times, and should be done immediately. Clinton should act IMMEDIATELY to investigate the root causes of the disease and propose ways to cure it.

That will take a great, diverse group of citizens beyond fear, favor or reproach, which must be well-staffed with ample resources. The group must be large enough be representative of the country; but small enough to be realistic. It should not be just household names and should include ordinary folks.

Everything –without any exceptions—must be on the table including, if deemed necessary, structural political adjustments.

This must be a strictly non/bi partisan effort. The Trump supporters must be made understand that this is just as much in their interest as every other American.

The disease has badly metastasized into all aspects of American life.

The Trump people are not entirely wrong about the state of the world. Nor can it be assumed that Clinton has been entirely without blame. We are all in this mess together and it simply will not disappear after the election.

The effort has to bridge the whole span of our democracy.

I told you that you might not like this idea.

Now, like it or not and despite that, it must have our highest and broadest national support.

And, all that said, no matter what a good, honest, fair job gets done, it will not be perfect and for sure many people will still be unhappy.

That is the ultimate fate of our random species.


There is a lot of Rubbish in Life

The title of this essay is true, both figuratively and literally. Today, I am concerned with the literal – the vast mountains of trash that litter our land and water.

In earlier times, most people had fewer things and what they had – like string and paper — was quite expensive and treasured so it was saved for multiple uses.

In earlier times, there was far less packaging of any sort. When shopping, people carried their own sacks to bring home their purchases. Today, probably half the trash in homes comes from discarded packaging.

Why are we doing this to ourselves and our precious world?

Packaging has become an essential part of the selling process for a simple reason: it costs far less than advertising. Packaged goods rely on attractive containers to catch the eyes of consumers, communicating an array of values – thrift, strength, luxury — with materials, colors, fonts, and graphics .

Other parts of the trash in our lives are the excess we purchase to get what we want and need. How much waste is created when you – and millions of others — buy a dozen of something you want just to get the 6 you need.

And, to make matters worse, our system does everything it can to maintain these excesses. If we all, by simple discipline or a need for frugality, cut out 25% (which is not impossible) of our purchases, the economy all around us would shrink, jobs would be lost and we might fall into a depression. So we are stuck in a self-fulfilling path of more, more, more……

Is that a good idea? And, how might we work around that cul de sac and turn it to our and the world’s advantage?

The first and essential step, of course, is to get the population to acknowledge the issue/problem. That itself will be very difficult; but let’s assume a can opener and pry open the process for starters.

If peer pressure and education campaigns (think about the successful sorting of today’s trash) could reduce the amount of trash by 5% a year for 5 years, using economic incentives from money saved in trash handling—we could make a good start.  Spreading it out over 5 years would mitigate significant economic adverse consequences, and the overall result would be less trash messing up our planet and more disposable income in the form of “trash coupons” to be spent on things NOT requiring packaging!

This problem and related problems with having to constantly GROW everything in our lives to remain competitive in our worlds merits more concern than we have been aware.

Our global population is now about 7 ½ billion people. If we stay  on that trajectory for a very few years, we will run out of adequate and affordable food and water for millions of people all over the globe, with who knows what grave consequences. This year’s election is a leading edge indicating the kinds of problems we need to foresee.

We must figure out how to reverse the trend of ever more AND at the same time solve our global common problems.

Perhaps a good place to start and experiment is with our own trash bins?

1920-1940 Tells a Story to be Remembered

A recent trip to London and Paris to get away from our ghastly election news cycle perversely opened my mind instead to some horrifying parallels.

Before getting to that topic, the thing that rang loudest in my head was the amazing beauty of Paris for several days of fabulous pre-fall weather. Then as an Uber approached L’Opera the bright sun light shone on its greenish copper tower in a way I could not recall having seen before. The brave German General Dietrich von Cholitz deliberately ignored Hitler’s final order to blow up Paris making it still possible to see that gorgeous sight. The Parisians should consider a small monument for him to remind themselves how lucky they were compared to the rest of Europe ravaged by Hitler.

Perhaps my mind moved to that idea because I have been reading a very new and AMAZING book about Hitler (Hitler: Ascent by Volker Ullrich). This book tells the story of how Hitler maneuvered his way over thirteen years through byzantine German party politics, actually got elected, and went on to tear up the world.

Many of us knew the rough outlines of that history, but this book takes you by the hand and moves through the whole contorted process in fascinating detail and with great intensity, as if it were happening again! And, to an amazing extent that actually seems to be the case. The rough outline you thought you knew really does not begin to do the story justice. And the full story is terrifying parallels to the current political situation in the US about the amazing ascent of Trump.

Let’s hope to God that today’s outcome is completely different!

We must remember that it took Hitler 13 years to get there. A handful of highlights:

1—Hitler found just after WWI that he had a ‘voice’ and could inspire people. Trump discovered his television skills in the 1980s almost always, it is worth noting, playing himself.

2—Hitler failed as an artist and architect and had both an inferiority complex as well as extreme narcissism. Trump was virtually wiped out in his casino collapses in 1995 and he then set out to make his name a profitable narcissistic brand.

3—Hitler had three basic goals. He wanted to make Germany great again after the Versailles treaty. He believed that Jews were undermining and contaminating the German world and had to go. And, he believed that Germany needed to move its borders to have room for its cleansed population. Trump wants to make America great again and wants to rid the US of Muslims and Mexicans and build a border wall against Mexico at its expense.

4—Hitler had a knack for tailoring himself and his speeches to his many different audiences. He invented facts and he had no compunctions about lying and hiding his real agenda, when it suited his purposes. Trump has revealed at least three personas and has charmed some people. Who is he really?

5—Hitler had little use for his staff. They included some genuine experts who had been seduced by his claims to power, but he rarely listened to them. Trump listens only to his mirror and occasionally his children of three marriages.

Quite a number of people have been making the Hitler reference since the summer of 2015—including me. We have all gotten slammed for going over the top. WRONG. The critics either never knew the real story or simply chose to ignore and forget it.

The reference to Hitler, then and now, is less about Jews and murderous war than it was/is about a certifiably crazy person tapping into millions of peoples’ fears and misunderstandings to divide and conquer a majority of a relatively well-educated population that was reeling from economic turmoil. And then converting the German body politic, which was as badly fractionated as is ours today, into a pure dictatorship maintained by complicit military force who had been seduced by money.

The parallel between Trump and Hitler is that they both had/have an uncanny gift of arousing fear and hope among large numbers of gullible people in a large and diverse population. Of course, there are many differences. But the similarities make dismissing the parallels into an ostrich-like response to something that needs to be revealed.

Hitler largely hid his murderous side until he was safely in power. Similarly, we have no way of knowing today how Trump is going to abuse his Presidential power.

Indeed it is true that people who do not know or forget or ignore history are likely to see it repeated.

Everyone who reads should read Hitler: Ascent ASAP and they will see for themselves the fearsome parallels.

Only then perhaps Trump will begin to drift off into ‘what if’ space.

If only that had happened in 1933, the year that FDR became President. The world today would surely be a different and better place.