One of the most difficult things for me is to watch politicians, governments, corporations, and organizations of all stripes, tell lies in order to persuade their intended audience to support them. This is clearly a naive reaction on my part: Why be perpetually bothered afresh by something that is pervasive and nearly universal? After all, "everybody cheats", and the most important thing for these entities is that they survive, they prevail, or that their influence waxes rather than wanes, not that they do the "right thing". To this question I have no pragmatic answer, except to say that I believe that honesty has more potential to make people and organizations successful, to make the world that more loving place called for by the major religions, than does the selfish manipulation that is the lie. The lie all too often gets you what you want, but at what cost to others, and at what cost to yourself?
Aretha Franklin recently sang at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Carole King, reprising the song Carole wrote for her, A Natural Woman. The performance was glorious, and drew tears from the President, as well as from myself as I watched and listened to it later on video. Obama said of Aretha afterwords: 'Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and rollâ€”the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings.'
Today's Republican Party, in choosing a clearly unqualified candidate for the presidency, in choosing to wallow in the deepest trough of political mud in my memory, in choosing to embrace the grossest of lies and the most laughable of conspiracies, in choosing to generate fear and hatred instead of exercising civilized, reasoned judgment, has embraced my 5th grade teacher's admonishment for a ten year old's bad behavior: "Crude, rude and impolite".
After viewing the mini-series O.J.: Made in America, Ta-Nehisi Coates looks back twenty two years and finds that as a young black college student he missed what most outraged white people missed: Many in the black community celebrated O. J.'s escape from a brutal justice system that they lived with every day.
President Obama's Cuban plan started the process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba. President Obama's Cuban policy has components found in other of his administration's foreign policy efforts: To fix the present by symbolic attempts to mend the past. They are marked by a recognition that: incremental and indirect change can be just as important as more obviously interventionist moves can be; change in other parts of the world is usually shaped more by internal efforts and perceptions than external; dialog with other countries is a vital part of exerting influence on change outside our borders.