politics

President Trump
It’s been a year since the citizens of the USA elected their new president, and both the social media and the news media have great difficulty accepting the results. We read the stream of disparaging comments regarding the president, alongside the moaning and crying of the disappointed. Since then, there’ve been devastating hurricanes in Florida and Texas, and a terrible fire in California. Those natural tragedies became old news very quickly. But the anger and the insult over Trump’s election have not gone away. It looks as if it’ll continue till the end of his term in office. Is this in our best interest? They’ve had a lot of presidents there, and they’re strict about the rules. Once a president is elected he serves for a term of four years, and if the people like him they can ask him to serve for another term. It’s very hard to fire a president. There is a mechanism for it, but it’s never been really done.

Let’s take a break from the super charged emotions, and study the situation objectively. Looking at ourselves, it’s important to remember just how lucky we are. Most of our ancestors lived in harder times. We don’t choose when or where to get born or which culture to be raised in. It’s a matter of luck. We come, we live a while, and then we’re gone… like a lot of people before us. Usually, not long after we get here, we notice a few things that could be improved. And if we don’t notice, someone tells us. Youth, having come recently, are most enthusiastic about change. The older folks are more aware of the complexities.

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Quite a few years have gone by since that first democracy in Greece. It wasn’t perfect. Only about 10% of the population voted, slavery was legitimate, and there wasn’t equal pay for women. But over the years, the institution has grown. The objective of democracy is to govern the society according to the will of the majority with consideration and sympathy for the minorities and for the helpless. You could say that it’s a lot more comfortable living in a democracy these days than it was in the past. And there’s hardly any room for comparison with living in a dictatorship, whether it’s governed by a king, an ideologue or a despot. All of us live in countries that have known better leaders… and worse. One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that leaders are exchanged after a while. In other regimes, leaders have been known to hand the reins over to a son or best friend. Once, they were offered to a horse.

In this last election there was an elderly professional politician with a dubious reputation running against an elderly TV personality who had organized a number of ‘beauty competitions’ in the past. Most of the voters didn’t like either of them, but the rest of the candidates were even less popular. The majority chose the woman politician. She would have been the first woman to be president in their country. But according to the time tested conventions of American government, the position was awarded to the TV personality. He was more popular in more states or something like that. The race was close. Keep in mind that these rules were established long before any of the voters were born.

Since then, the crying and moaning, good jokes and bad about the president; and some really vulgar insults and hints that he might have betrayed his country have become an obsession of the news media. Some of the most enlightened citizens of the west, intelligent and educated people, think nothing of descending to the lowest levels of foul mouthed insults in order to express their disapproval of the president. The half of the country that voted for the TV performer are insulted as well. Instead of offering new goals and aspirations, the disappointed are demonstrating their contempt for the president, and for government, and the barbarians are watching.

This isn’t only happening in America. I’ve seen the same phenomenon here in Israel. Political groups rally against one another with outspoken hatred, and hurl insults and lies at each other. I do not believe in political correctness. But at the same time, I’m amazed that the same people who worry about the feelings of minorities and handicapped people see no necessity for respect and politeness to their fellow man when it comes to political expressions. From what I’ve seen, such emotion packed politics have become common in Europe as well. Let’s not forget that respect and self-respect are part of the same thing.

Society as a whole is built on common conventions. Just as we personally undergo change, our society and our rules change with the passage of time. We make new laws in order to improve our collective well being, and sometimes these laws are retracted or changed because they didn’t work. An example of this in the US was the prohibition of alcohol which led to a rise in criminal activity and public disobedience. The law was rescinded. The nature of leadership has progressed in like manner. Like the swing of a pendulum, the leadership has gone back and forth, giving priority to conservatives and liberals alternatively. What might be considered an advantage to one part of the population may be suffered as a grievous injury to another part. And yet we need the cooperation and the partnership of the vast majority of the population in order for this sort of government to work. When encountering injustice, we may protest. The most severe protest in a democratic society is civil disobedience. It’s considered elegant. But often, it is accompanied by violent anti social behavior as well. If we are to countermand civil order, we risk chaos and an increase in the power of the police and army, and a reduction of our own civil liberties. Because of the price that has to be paid, the public is usually loathe to employ such methods. For we know, that in another four years we’ll have a new opportunity to change the government.

If we insult or provoke our political opponents, we will just amplify the hostility between the sides. If I have a neighbor with whom I disagree, but I see him every morning as we go to work and again as we return home in the evening, I prefer that we’ll wish each other a good day and smile when we meet. Our fellow citizens are our neighbors. Those that voted for the prohibition of alcohol didn’t intend to bring gang fights and machine guns to their city streets. They just wanted more peace and quiet. Those that think that aggressive confrontation against injustice will teach the other side to respect our freedom should take a long look at Syria where a half a million civilians have been murdered in the past few years, and many more millions have fled the country and remain refugees in far off places.

I believe that a truly progressive person should speak clearly and softly. He or she should be careful to stick to the truth and focus on reason much more than on emotion. We should remember that the message is not meant to influence our greatest opposition, but to convince those that are still undecided. If we convince some of the opposition, that’s good too. But time and experience may convince even those who don’t want to listen to us. And all the while, we certainly don’t want to alienate any of those who might be considering our merits.

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a modest mermaid in Jerusalem

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42 responses to “politics

  1. Yes, he won. Fair and square-ish. (ok. maybe with a bunch of questionable foreign paid ads online swaying the public’s opinion.) But the tone he’s taken on twitter… We certainly think of him as a “sore winner” because the way he whines and throws his weight around is unlike anyone before. I personally get sick of hearing about him as a person all the time. If he’d just go about normal business without a lot of drama, please? A lot of the people dissing him all the time in the media, but they are also sincerely worried he’s going to just tweet something irresponsible about North Korea that sends us into WWIII or something. *sigh*

    • Hi there Rusty. I’ve voted for quite a few prime ministers in my life. Some of my candidates won and some lost. Mostly, when my guy won, I was later disappointed by the way he handled things. A few times, I was even very disappointed. When my candidate lost, and another guy had the privilege of running things, I accepted defeat, and still hoped for the best. Sometimes I was surprised, but in most cases, I saw that they ‘system’, the overgrown fat government, had more influence than the prime minister. In a few cases I watched terrible mistakes (made both by my guy, and the other guy), and couldn’t so anything about it. In one case, what I thought was a terrible mistake turned out to be not so bad (it was made by my guy, but I hadn’t voted for him… a long story). But in all cases, I knew that I was sailing in the same boat with all my fellow citizens. If someone were to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat, I, or one of my friends would have tried to stop him. Because if the boat goes down, we all go with him. What I learned through the years was that no one was going to lead exactly where I wanted to go. But I was part of a society, and I wanted the society to succeed. That meant that at best, I could only work to improve the society. I tried as a teacher, to convince my students of my vision for the country. I hope I had some success. Social changes come slowly. They move a couple of steps forward and then a step or two backwards. Trump seems to me a vulgar character, but I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by going down to his level in response.

  2. A breath of fresh air. Thank you.

  3. I honestly don’t know where to start, Shimon. It’s far easier to respond when I disagree with what’s being said. I was stunned at the ongoing hysteria post the election. I felt as you do, that in a democracy that voters are free to vote their politicians out of office. Speaking softly and sticking to truth and reason is admirable, but isn’t going to cut it in this world where the might of the Internet jury makes the decisions. Fake news is a common term now,. I think it was President Trump who said it first. I prefer to call it out for what it is – dishonest reporting.

    • Thank you, Mary. ‘fake news’ was a new expression for me too. But I’ve been aware of it for a long time now, and sometimes it sounds like a lot of noise. When I was young, there might have been less avenues of expression. There were more newspapers but there wasn’t any internet. Still, I felt there seemed to be a greater variety of commentary. The news seemed more objective. Maybe I was more naïve. What bothers me since the Trump election, is that the voices in the mass media are sounding more and more like a mob. I still believe in reason, and disagree with you about whether it ‘cuts it’. We have to wait to see how it’ll look in history. I thank you very much for voicing your opinion.

  4. You write beautifully Shimon. Persuasive in this case; focussing on Trump and his ilk, I am not persuaded. There is just so much we do not know and will not know about, to paraphrase Rumsfeldt. You and I are of an age where the information we do not have will not be revealed in our lifetimes. That is of course, assuming we don’t live too much beyond a hundred years!

    You are certainly seeking a discussion, however, I wonder how it will develop. Are we too set in our thinking to accept in the alternative realities that we are being presented with, which, are so far removed from the realities that we are familiar with? Or, are those alternative realities so distorted we should question them?

    Speaking softly, forming intelligent argument, such ideas are drowned out by the very people you would approach, yet, it is generally undeniable that if you are able to communicate with one person alone, a discussion, a negotiation, can be had. It does not, though, guarantee it to be a worthy and trustful change maker. History is littered with such attempts and how politicians have used spokespeople – the messenger -for their own ends and often to the detriment of the messenger.

    In current times I would like my dog very much, and I could also find some relaxation, if allowed, in the company of a demure mermaid.

    x

    • I really enjoyed your comment, Menhir. The one to one discussion is the most powerful and the deepest. Having been in this world for some time, I don’t expect things always to go my way. I try to accept the reality as it is, even though I also try to influence. When I saw the sticker about the dog, I pulled out my camera with joy. My friend is a cat, but I know what he meant. And the sticker was in English so I could use it for the blog. When I was young, I enjoyed looking at mermaids, but never fantasized touching them. Their breasts were alluring, but they were fishy below the waist… and who wants to start something that can never be truly realized. And then I saw this one as graffiti here in Jerusalem, and my smile just stayed with me. She didn’t try to tempt me. I could relate. x

  5. Well said, Shimon. I’ve grown weary of this year-long temper tantrum as well as the lack of civility, especially by those that demanded my civility during the previous administrations when their preferred “sports team” was in charge of the government.
    I wrote “sports team” on purpose, as many in the United States now treat politics as they do their sports fanaticism, complete with the trash talk. The only differences is that, typically, the sports track talk is done mostly tongue-in-cheek. With the political trash talk, the hatred is real.
    This would be yet another great conversation along a dark highway, or at your table with glasses of whiskey at hand.

    • It would be a good conversation at the table, with a little whisky to lubricate our tongues, but still it was very good to get your comment because you’ve added to my vision of things. I’m not a sports enthusiast myself, but I have seen a few minutes here and there on the TV. My impression was that there was a lot of similarity between sports and politics. They seem to bring out a primitive instinct of tribal loyalty. And it was a pleasure learning from you about trash talk in sports. I can well imagine it, and it’s amusing. On the other hand, the hatred is off putting. It makes people look so ugly. Thanks for coming by, Bill

  6. I think his only purpose in running for office was to change every single thing he could and make it his way because he’s a ‘businessman’ and knows how things should be. He’s a joke. And it is a sad commentary that we look to see what nonsense he is up to or has tweeted to the masses. There is nothing presidential about him. I have to laugh when he talks about ‘crooked Hillary.’ Hey, Trump–look in the mirror when you say that!

    • Hi Loisa. I couldn’t guess what his purpose was in running for the office. I suppose a good part of it was self-realization, as the Americans like to call it. Seems he had been involved in a lot of competition games before that. I guess a good part of his motivation was connected to ego, as it is for many who run for high office. But what I think is important, is that we judge him by his acts in office. I don’t think his weight or the way he combes his hair has much importance. If I were an American, I think I would see him as a mirror if my society. But I certainly wouldn’t take his election as a personal affront. Thanks for your comment.

  7. It is always good to hear from you, Shimon…

  8. It’s so good to see you back Shimon, I missed your writing. A very well written and reasoned essay. Society in general seems to have lost the art of debate and accepting the right of people to hold differing opinions. Politics has become polarized, with parties in opposing corners shouting at each other, opinions hyped, employing fake news, to drown out their opponents for whom they have no respect.

    • I remember, back when the internet was just getting popular, people spoke of an information highway, and were very optimistic about the possibilities of heightened communication. I was enthusiastic too. But was also mindful of what happened in the wake of TV accessibility. We got to the point where there were tens of TV stations, but still not that much that was new or different. People have always discussed politics and social issues, and the invention of the printing press with movable type certainly added a new dimension to the exchange of thoughts. But what we’re seeing now is a very intense chatter, amplified by all the social media. And just as there are reports of bullying on facebook, I fear that we may see more of the mob personality in mass communications. Fortunately, I have an optimistic disposition, so it’s not keeping me up at nights. But we’ve seen a number of elections recently that indicated a backlash to liberal aspirations. Change in this world seems ever faster, and maybe it’s hard for even young people to adjust to all the changes. Thanks for your kind words, Andy.

      • There has been quite a few comparisons between Martin Luther’s theses that sparked the reformation assisted by the Printing press, and the rise of radical islamism spread by social media.

        • I hadn’t thought of that myself till now, but I can see the similarity. What is different though, is that the reform movement in the church was connected to popular desire for rationality… what was later called ‘enlightenment’. But though radical Islam has become popular as a means to displace corrupt leaders, the values that have come to the fore in that movement are antithesis to liberal western values. Of course, the reform wasn’t a picnic either. There were some cruel wars. The 30 year war as well.

  9. A reasoned perspective from you Shimon in a world that has lost its’ ability to remain calm. We can only hope this is temporary…’This too shall pass….’

    • Yes, I agree with you, Jane. This too will pass. But truthfully, I have an uneasy feeling about the speed with which the world is changing. You know, we used to say, ‘two heads are better than one’. In the same way, having large organized societies with effective avenues of communication has speeded up technology to a great degree. In recent history, we’ve been aware of growing pains that have accompanied the ‘miracles’ of invention. And we’ve had to adjust to a lot of changes in life styles since the industrial revolution. There was a time when those who wished could abandon the intensity of human activity and go off to nature. But now, we’re truly on the verge of becoming a global village, with a tremendous gap between rich and poor. I hope it will all work out, but we do have some horrors in our past. Thanks.

  10. A very interesting essay Shimon. Of course in the UK we have Brexit. Cameron chose to hold a referendum on EU membership. There was just one question on the ballot paper, in or out. Just 52% of the population voted to leave. That’s left 48% of the population who didn’t. Our politicians keep saying Brexit will happen because they’re carrying out the will of the people. Really? Forty eight percent of the population would disagree. I believe to leave a different majority should have been set. Perhaps 75% of the vote required to invoke Article 50 would have been more appropriate. Then we could really say that the will of the majority of the people is being carried out. Fifty two – forty eight is just too close. I think the debate between the remainers and the Breixiteers has been a little less insulting than the liberal media has been reporting in the US but there a similar situation exists. Clinton won the popular vote but Trump won because of the electoral college system. This is inevitably polarising as it is here in the UK and dividing a society with such polarised views is clearly not healthy and actually highlights the issues that exist with our democracies that is, they’re not perfect but most definitely the best of a bad lot. We might be able to change our government at the next general election here in the UK but undoing Brexit would be impossible as so many concessions would have to be made to allow us back into the club.
    Popularism is now here to stay in the Internet age with many politicians, including Trump, willing to take advantage. I mourn the days when we didn’t have career politicians whose only concern is to be re-elected. We used to have statesman.
    So nice to be enjoying your very wise words again Shimon.

    • I watched the Brexit vote with great interest, Chillbrook. I think it was a very difficult decision for England, and I wasn’t surprised that the vote was so close. It seemed significant too that age was a factor in the choice people made. There are some serious demographic changes in Europe because of the reluctance to reproduce, and this may soon cause society to grow heavy with old folks. At the same time we are interacting more with other peoples from all over the world. The crucial decisions of today might very well be irrelevant in 30 years. As for the pain of accepting a decision of 52% vs 48%, it is hard on those who’ve lost. But this is very common in a democratic society. Though the democracy gives us a taste of having a hand in the affairs of our society, our influence is very limited. Even in our own private lives, we don’t always get what we want, but we have more influence as a rule. I agree with you completely regarding democracy. It’s not perfect, but it seems the best system we’ve seen. Thank you for your thoughts on this subject.

  11. To a T Shimon. To “T”! May I make an appointment with our congress for you? As I age, I understand more of the political thing I don’t even Want to understand. And then theres Rocketman.

    • Thanks DrBob. I know we agree on a lot of things, but when it comes to appearing before congress, I can tell you that I’m very grateful that we have someone like Mr. Netanyahu to speak for us. I didn’t vote for his party (we vote for the party here, not the man), and I disagree with him on some issues, but I do believe he represents us very well. Like yourself, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m no longer anxious to know everything. I turn on the radio at least once a day, and turn on the telephone two or three times a week… and that’s enough for me. As for Rocketman, I really do worry about him… not just him… and not for myself… but for my children and friends.

  12. This is just what I needed

  13. Beautifully written Shimon. The world does seem very divided these days, if only we could debate, sadly humans have never managed to get along or agree on much. Looking at how strange the world is becoming, I often wonder if we are living in the Matrix! All things are certainly possible. I have to admit the company of dogs and other animals can be preferable to that of people.xxx

    • Yes, we humans are very complicated and have conflicting desires even within ourselves. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. We wouldn’t want to be like sheep or lemmings. And our advances in all fields were probably aided by our having multiple points of views. But conflicts have brought war and cruelty to mankind. I loved that sticker when I saw it, Dina, because sometimes I feel the same way (about my cat), but the truth is that I do love people. And a friend is a friend, whether man, woman, dog, cat, crow, or any life form. I also keep an eye out for things in English which I could use for the blog. I do have the feeling that we’re rapidly approaching a very significant change for the world. I don’t know if man as we know him will survive the change. We could be getting ready for the next step of evolution. xxx

  14. I appreciate your wise words and call for moderation. In fact I have filtered out ‘Donald Trump’ on my Facebook because I am so fed up with the endless complaining and nastiness. I don’t like what we see of him, but he is democratically elected, whether we like it or not, and if we believe in democracy, then we have a right to protest. But nothing is gained by mud-slinging.

    • Like yourself, I too have had enough of the Trump saga. I don’t enjoy listening to him, and it saddens me to hear or see the mud slinging. Fortunately, I’m not a member of facebook nor tweeter. And I devote less time to the news media, because all of this hatred and antipathy is repetitive. I can only hope that the established institutions of government will help to avoid disaster, and hope too, that the American president will be a more positive influence for his country and for the world than we might guess from first impressions. In the meantime, I believe it is in all of our interests to relate to one another with respect and tolerance. Thank you for your comment, Gill

  15. I am so glad to see you back, Shimon. I have missed your words of wisdom and reason.

  16. You’re brave to jump into a political discussion! I liked what you said about change and older people having a better understanding of the complexities. Also, the ideas in the last paragraphs about not alienating people, and speaking in ways that might convince those on the fence. This is the kind of wisdom that typically accrues with age, sin’t it? Good luck to us all, because like you, I see the polarizing happening in many parts of the world these days, and i wonder how long it will be, and how far it will go, before a more moderate and temperate attitude prevails.

    • Thank you bluebrightly. It’s a strange thing about the political and religious moods of the people… especially to those of us who’ve studied a bit of history. They blow like idiot winds through societies; fads and fashions that drive folks to foolishness, and the results are often painful. But while people are swept up in it, it’s very hard to encourage reason. I would only try among my friends, really… and even that is not always safe. As for wisdom, unfortunately… that doesn’t necessarily come with age. And some of the young have taught us all many of the most important lessons. But we all get second and third chances … sometimes many more than we deserve as time passes, and it’s only a fool who doesn’t learn when he’s shown again and again. We have to remember though, that democracy and equality is only a matter of rights and respect. As to real equality between human beings, that is not given. Whether one believes in god or nature, the inequality shouts to all who’ll hear, and only human compassion cares. It was really nice hearing from you.

  17. For the record, she received my vote, but more as a vote against him – not for her.

    Mr. Trump won fair and square. I’m not sold on the idea that the media has a problem against his election. After all, the most-viewed news station is very supportive … and he has a way to bring problems upon himself.

    Nonetheless, I agree that listening is a forgotten virtue not only among those elected, but also among the citizens.

    • In this particular case, Frank, I have the luxury of not being an American, and so I had no obligation to vote. Had I been, I think it’s quite possible that I would have done as you did, that is to say that I might have voted for what I thought was the lesser of the two evils. I do believe that sometimes we have to compromise. But even as a citizen of another country, I am embarrassed for America. I truly believe that both choice were an insult to America. But I didn’t want to stress that aspect of the problem. What you said was very interesting to me, because from what we read here, it does seem like the news media is against the president in an hysterical way. Most of the news here is on local issues. But we also get news reports from the New York Times and Washington Post. We haven’t been exposed to “the most-viewed news station” which you say is very supportive. But we have heard people whom we usually respect, speaking of him with derision. And I’ve also encountered that attitude among some bloggers whom I respect and usually enjoy reading. It was because of that, that I wrote what I did. Are you suggesting that I got the wrong impression? If so, maybe I owe an apology to my readers.

      • No apologies necessary. You have an independent perspective from afar, which is something we here should consider.

        Yes, the NY Times & Washington Post do have their share of negative reports. Of the papers here, they still do investigative reporting.

        As I’ve written before, somethings one side does have a better idea … other times, the blend is better …. and at times the best answer is outside of either side. American politics is (and has been) in the mode of winning take all. For me, that’s dangerous – thus way I hoped for continual divided power (which I hope the 2018 election brings). Both parties favor a shove-it-down-your-throat approach.

        • Yes, I agree with you… best to have dialogue; to have different ideas and cooperative endeavor behind power. Most important, I think, to remember that all of the society has to be addressed and cared for, even if certain interests believe they have the only handle on the ‘truth’. Thanks for your comments, Frank

  18. Sooner or later a society reaches a point where a critical mass of people are beyond persuading. At that point “speaking softly” only ensures that you will not be heard and that your opponents will be emboldened until they actually become your enemies. But I respect your perspective and the spirit behind it. But America is a different animal and is in a different place right now than anyplace else at any time in history. Political warfare is breaking out and I am here to testify that it needs to. There is no peaceable coexistence with a Donald Trump supporter because their desire is less for them to win something than it is to upset or offend you. That is the American reality in 2017 my friend.

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