Know it All?

Still terribly busy.  This is a repeat from 8 years ago which I hope feels a bit prescient.

Think for a moment on how much you know about the world around you.  If there’s a debate about banning a very useful chemical because some people have found it is toxic or dangerous, what is your opinion?  If that’s too much, what do you know about how the operations of the Legislature that is debating your taxes and services for the next year?  Perhaps we should try something simpler – how do you know if the sneakers you are wearing were made with child labor?

Perhaps you say, “I don’t care.  I’m too bizzy to worry about it all.  There are experts to handle these things, I’ll trust them.”  Which ones do you trust?  In the next election, do you vote based on an appeal to your guts because it sounds right, and what do you get for it?

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Post-Political

Our times are often described as “after”. The term “post-modern” came into vogue decades ago as art and architecture slid back into a desire for structure and meaning. “Post-racial” turned into a handy way for white people to never talk about what was right in front of their eyes. “Post-truth” became a useful word in 2016 as the effervescence of “truthiness” fizzled.

Welcome to “post-reality,” the final frontier of after.

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Formal

Ask any non-American for one word to describe us. You’ll get a lot of different answers, for sure, but there is one that stands out for me. I’ve asked this of a lot of people from many different nations and there is one word which came up more often than most.

Open.

Americans, as a people, have few limits. We honestly believe that if you put your mind to it you can achieve anything at all. More importantly, we don’t have any problems talking about those dreams – or many other details about our lives. This doesn’t happen in a lot of other cultures, and it is one of our greatest strengths.

Like all great strengths, as we play to it very hard it can also become a terrible weakness.

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Cat Language

If I told you what was going on in my life, you wouldn’t believe it.  Pushing the “reset” button isn’t easy, but it’s time to do it.  A detailed explanation will come later.  In the meantime, please enjoy this piece from 5 years ago.

Is there anything cuter than when your cat “talks” to you?  Cat people all love that cheery “Brrrup!” first thing in the morning (ideally after dawn) or the hearty “Ma-row!” when they first get home.  Or when the food dish is empty, depending on your li’l one’s personality.  What does it mean, exactly?  If you are a veterinarian or other expert on cats you’re probably pretty sure it means … nothing.  That’s right, cat people, just about any felinologist will tell you that your furry box dweller is simply meowing and chirping for no real reason at all.

I don’t believe it, either.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the domestic feline has some limited vocabulary that means something, even if we aren’t smart enough to understand it.  I doubt they are planning to kill us or report back instructions to an invading army back on the cat planet, so perhaps I am a bit naïve after all.  But here’s what I’ve found.

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A North American Story

In just a few days we celebrate a holiday somewhat more popular in the US than in Mexico. That’s just as well because it’s a classic North American kind of holiday in many ways.  We are a family, which is why our relationship is so intense and personal at times.

It started as invasion by France to collect a debt, but the larger and better equipped French invasion force was defeated by a ragged group of Mexicans, some armed with little more than machetes and pitchforks.  The Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862 was 150 years ago this Saturday.  It was not decisive, needing a few years before the colorful armies and politicians could sort it all out.  But the victory at Puebla is a story deep at the heart of Mexican character – a determination and toughness that the great continent of North America shares as a very odd, sometimes dysfunctional family.

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American Privilege

Any essay on “privilege” has to start with a solid disclosure. As a middle-aged pale male, I have no business lecturing anyone on privilege. I’m at the top of the heap, and I know it. That is my point in this piece, after all. I have the privilege of contemplating privilege.

It still seems to me to be primarily the benefit of the doubt. If I walk into a store, I’m a customer – not a potential thief casing the joint. If the cops pull me over I get a certain level of respect that not everyone does, and I do use this to my advantage at times. If things get really bad and guns are pulled out, the benefit of the doubt makes me the good guy in the split second decision that separates life from death.

I have no illusions about any of this. That is, actually, my point through all of this.

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The Conch Republic

April 23 was the 35th birthday of the Conch Republic. It was an important day because once it turns middle aged it can start lying about its age. Lying is an important part of the story because a well told lie is the heart of any legend.

You may not have heard of the Conch Republic, the Independent Florida Keys. To some people, that’s just as well. But the story needs to be told because it is a tale of lust, greed, power, and … well, actually, it’s just a lot of fun. You can get a lot further with a good gag than you can by being a jerk. And so it begins.

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