Disaster

The worst natural disaster in American history is unfolding right now, and will continue to for days. The coast of Texas, particularly Houston, is being slowly drowned in what may wind up being 48 inches (120cm) of rain. It will continue for days more and will not recede completely for weeks.

The only thing most of us can do is pray. There will be opportunities to donate and volunteer and I urge everyone to do so. This is going to cause a lot of suffering for a long time. But even through the pain there is something valuable which I hope we can learn – we are indeed all in this together and our world is, defiantly, what we make of it together.

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150 Years of Canada

An important holiday is coming up, worthy of celebration throughout North America.  It’s a good day for fireworks, cold Molson, and generally sucking up to the youngest large nation of this continent if only because we we might need to flee that way soon.

July 1st is Canada Day, the celebration of Canadian independence on July 1st, 1867.  More or less, that is, because Canada became a nation slowly over the next 150 years.  It was a peaceful and orderly transition that fit with a people that are generally … peaceful and orderly.  We should celebrate by all rising for their national song:

Dum da-Dum da-Dum!
Dum da-Dum da-Dum!
Dum da-Dum da-Dum!
Dum da-Dum da-Dum! …

Whoops!  That’s their second national song.  But they get tired of people from the USofA singing “O Canada”, and only that part of the lyrics, as just about the only thing from this great nation.  It’s time we give them their due as a people that are more than just the very nice people who live next door.  No, once they lace on their skates and pick up their sticks, they aren’t very nice at all.

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Men’s Issues

Nothing causes men to latch up quicker than a discussion or article on “Women’s Issues.” We are, by definition, not included. More to the point, it almost certainly is going to stray into something we’d rather not hear about in the first place given that it’s almost certainly going to make us feel brutish, inadequate, or queasy.

Don’t worry guys, this is not about menstruation. This is about the stuff we can actually do.

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Reason

“Conventional Wisdom” isn’t.

Everyday life is the process of understanding and using key facts about the world around us. The sky is blue, red means stop, the 94 bus leaves at 7:53, and coffee will wake you up. Most of the important things in life are obvious enough, based on immediate observation or past experiences strung together.

However, the presence of technology and a growing interconnectedness impinges critical “facts” onto our lives which reach far beyond our senses and sensibilities. Cell phones work because they just work, this thing called “money” in our bank account is extremely important, people who live in distant lands are motivated by something akin to demonic possession, et cetera.

This is where it all breaks down. Or, more importantly, where things breaking down accelerates as reason itself fails.

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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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A Crisis of Faith

Rejection of the “mainstream” is an important part of the polarization and radicalization of America. Socially and politically, movements on the left, right, and whatever else there is measure their stands by how far outside the establishment they are.

For all the bluster, it’s mostly nonsense. Trump supporters often rely on Obamacare, as they are learning, if not social security and other programs. Left wingers usually have jobs like anyone else. Everyone has sold out in nearly every way possible – except one. Religion and spirituality is the one place where the true mainstream is indeed slipping away, caught in an “uncanny valley” where the teachings seem too simple, too childlike, to be relevant.

And this is the one place where America is truly failing.

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Divide, not Divide

One prominent theme came out of the 2016 election – voters are ready for change. A near majority was excited enough by the idea to actually vote for a narcissist with no rational plan at all. Are voters simply stupid?

In a democracy, you always get the government you deserve. No matter how you may feel about that, it remains true that Vox Populi, Vox Dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God, a sentiment first developed by radical Whig reformers in Scotland 300 years ago.

For those of you who favor the short version, skipping a journey through history, voters aren’t stupid. They may be badly informed and even more badly led, but they are onto something. America is clearly adrift. The essential guiding philosophy is obvious, given a little distance provided by history and the experience of hungrier developing nations. But in the bizzy here and now, what does that mean in terms of politics?

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