Friday, February 11, 2022

All you newspeople get off of my lawn!

I may have found a new avatar.

I'm not actually this bald (yet) and I haven't worn a moustache since law school. And, of course, that long-ago moustache was never as luxuriant as the one on this old codger. Not too surprising, given how young I was then, that my moustache was more of the starving caterpillar variety.

But this fella's all-you-kids-get-off-of-my-lawn bravado rather neatly sums up my attitude toward... toward... toward, well, just about everyone these days, actually.

I am particularly disturbed, these days, with the news.

It's not that the news is bad. News is always bad. Always has been. Crime, poverty, hatred, taxes, war, disease -- and stay tuned for the full 7-day forecast right after these messages for medicines whose side effects sound worse than the diseases they supposedly treat.

What's different about the news these days, I think, is that it's not just always bad, it's always the same bad. Trump, Covid, masks, Trump lawyer, Covid protest, vaccination passports, Trump, Covid, MASKS.... Everything repeats endlessly, but ever more shrilly with each repetition.

I think it's starting to affect our collective mental health. I know it's affecting mine.

And no one makes a mistake any more. No, any little inconsistency between what was said yesterday, or last week, or ten years ago, and just this moment, is seized upon as proof of lying. LIAR!

Sometimes, of course, professional politicians do lie. You know the old joke:
Q. How can you tell if a politician is lying?

A. His lips are moving....
But that's a joke, not a statement of Holy Writ. If it's in their best interests, a politician can be counted on to speak some version of the truth. More or less. Most of 'em, anyway.

Moreover, not every civil servant is a politican. Some are. Especially in the highest places. But most are just pepole who keep their heads down and do their jobs to the best of their understanding and ability.

Most judges aren't politicians either. Even on the U.S. Supreme Court. Whatever the hysterical fund-raising emails say. Despite the braying of 'experts' on cable news. Judges are political animals only because all humans are. It's a fact of our evolution -- our primate heritage. Like saying cattle or bison are herd animals. Or bees and wasps are hive animals. But it's a different brand of politics; judges are by and large not professional politicians.

In many states, including my home state of Illinois, judges are elected. Even these elected judges -- with a few exceptions -- are not professional pols. (Now and again someone will move from the ranks of other elected officials and onto the bench. It's not the most common career trajectory. To the extent that Illinois pols become involved with the courts, it's usually before the bench. In the dock, as they say 'cross the Pond. We had a governor some years back who later went on the federal bench -- and then to federal prison. But that was an unusual case. (Bonus points if you remembered Otto Kerner before I gave you the answer.)

If you stop and think about it -- something I suspect that our media masters really don't like us to do -- there are a lot of men and women who have influence on the health and security of our polity without ever holding real elected office. Thank God!

Sometimes the reason people, even professional politicians, say one thing at one time and then another later on is because they've learned something in between. It happens.

Perhaps not often enough, but still....

All this back and forth about lying, and all these elegant accusations of he's a liar or she's a liar, no matter how passionate, no matter how fraught, is ultimately sterile. Useless. It doesn't fill a single pothole, or pick up anyone's garbage, or repair a single bridge. It doesn't make our streets safer, our schools better, our banks less rapacious.

The genius of America has always in our ability to hunker down and do things. We used to do what worked, regardless of who proposed it, or where the idea came from, leaving it to the academics or the Europeans to figure out labels for it after the fact. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the benefits.

Did we always get it right? Hell, no. We can catalog our national failures some other time. (The fascinating thing about that exercise is that, if it is done honestly and in good faith, anyone can see how far we've come, and how we've improved the human condition, despite our many flaws and failures.)

You will read surveys here or there, or articles, or videos, about how this Scandanavian country is happier than America, or how that other country has reduced wealth inequality. Other countries can boast less street crime. But the poor and persecuted across the world still look at America as a place of refuge and safety.

Why can't we?

I lay some of the blame on our media -- that stokes our fears and divides us into warring camps in the pursuit of bucks and clicks. To them I say, get off of my lawn.

I want to secure the Blessings of Liberty to my Posterity, and this will be impossible if We the People descend further, from our current stalemate, to political violence (the first dangerous rumblings of which have already been seen in our sad country), and ultimately to civil war. Don't tell me it can't happen here. It happened to the Roman Republic. Our Founding Fathers wanted to spare us that fate. They knew Roman history intimately, and debated it, and drew (often conflicting) lessons from it. Our kids don't even study the fall of the Roman Republic in school. But that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile... turn off your TVs (at least as soon as the weather segment is over). Embrace your community, greet your neighbors, and remember, while you may not like everyone the same, we are all in this together and we have an obligation to try and get along.

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