When I run across an article that I want to read but don't have time for, or don't want to take the time for at the moment, I send it to my reading file for later perusal. Today I am clearing out my reading file. Here is some of what I've been reading and thinking about lately. You may discern a pattern...
Our president is a liar. This is a verifiable fact. (You remember facts? "A thing that is indisputably the case," says the dictionary.)
People have actually taken the time and effort to verify it. People like David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson who, last Friday, published a definitive list of the man's lies since his inauguration in January. It is mind-boggling.
The Toronto Star also has been keeping track of his lies and they calculate that he has told an average of 2.1 lies per day since his inauguration. That number seems low to me.
One consequence of all the lying is that three-quarters of the world has no confidence in the man and, unfortunately, they extend that lack of confidence to the country he represents. This information comes from the Pew Research Center which conducts worldwide polling on many subjects. Their research was conducted across 37 countries and shows a median of 22% have some or a great deal of confidence in the current president to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. Almost three-quarters (74%) have little to no confidence in the Republican leader. The polling also shows that the low level of support for the president is leading to a decline in support for wider American values. Just 49 % expressed a broadly positive view of the US, compared with 64% in surveys carried out 2015 and 2016.
Only two countries in the survey reported positive impressions of the president and his abilities: Israel and Russia.
Erin Gloria Ryan excoriates Democrats for their irrationality, e.g., their enthusiasm for weak candidates running in dark red districts (Jon Ossof in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana) and their gnashing of teeth and "All is lost!" wailing when those candidates lose. She has a point.
Her piece concludes: "Hope is important, but without a healthy dose of reality-based pragmatism, it amounts to little more than irrational exuberance."
Sadly, to some Democrats, "pragmatism" is a dirty word.
That lack of pragmatism, a clear-eyed view of the real world, leads some Democrats to join Republicans in attacking Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most effective Speaker of the House since Sam Rayburn.
Susan Chira points out that Pelosi is just the latest in a long line of female politicians - on both the left and the right - who have been characterized as "wicked witches". The lies about her are sexist and incendiary in the same ways that those about Hillary Clinton are and have been in the thirty year campaign against her.
But even on the right, women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have sometimes been the rich and resonant targets of false characterizations. All of these women have been attacked in ways that play off sometimes subliminal, often indignantly denied, biases about women shared by men and women alike in this country.
One might expect such odious attacks from the opposition. It is particularly infuriating when they come from one's own party.
Have you watched Oliver Stone's "The Putin Interviews"? Neither have I and I don't intend to.
Masha Gessen has watched them and he makes the case that both Stone and our president have been seduced by Putin. He lists five telling characteristics that one must have in order to experience affection for a dictator.
At The Washington Post, Amy Siskind has been tracking the changes that she sees in our society since January 20. In doing so, she hopes to make us aware that these changes are not normal and perhaps provide guideposts for us to find our way back to normal, eventually. Lately, her list has gone viral. She has hundreds of thousands of weekly viewers.
Finally, a very good writer whom I have enjoyed reading, Howard Jacobson, has written an op-ed about the necessity of making a mockery of the unqualified reality show star at the head of our government. His essay was in response to the recent disruptions of the Shakespeare in the Park's production of Julius Caesar by followers of the president.
He concludes his op-ed thusly:
Derision is a societal necessity. In an age of conformity and populist hysteria, it creates a climate of skepticism and distrust of authority. If mercy droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, derision spurts up as though from a pantomime geyser, drenching the braggart and the fool in the foulest ordures.Amen. And Shakespeare, I think, would agree.