Won’t You be My Neighbor

Fifty years ago, the United States was in turmoil. Dr King was slaughtered, and later Bobby Kennedy. Protests against the Vietnam War turned violent. So did the Democratic convention. It was the year America fell apart, possibly never to be put back together quite right.

But that year a guiding light came into American homes, flickering with the cool glow of a television. Fifty years ago Mister Rogers achieved national syndication from PBS and quickly became the pastor, the psychologist, and sometimes even parent for a generation.

Today, we may need Mister Rogers more than ever.

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Conflict and Peace

This is a season for peace.

It’s not about the birth of the vulnerable infant savior or the miracle of light. Climate and darkness commands all boreal people to hunker down and slumber, to close their eyes for a moment and accept their frailty as they seek comfort in family and friends. This is the time of year when all are equal in the search for warmth, for love, for companionship, for peace.

But we do not live in a time made for this season. There is conflict everywhere, as those with the means to close their eyes in security feel a need to secure their safety before they can rest easily. Those in pain lie down in the cold and wonder jealously what it would be like to fell such peace in the few dark moments they have of rest.

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Practical, In a Way.

After writing for a decade on my political philosophy, it’s perfectly natural for many people to have an opinion about me. Some of my progressive friends make it clear that they view me with some suspicion, due to my tendency to support “the establishment” and my interest in economics – the dismal science of the elite. Some of my conservative friends see my interest in social justice and desire to make constant improvement as dangerous tinkering with the social order and a desire for perfectibility, an intellectual pursuit always fraught with danger.

Both are wrong in a way. Call it “enlightened self interest” if you want, but I see my view as nothing more than the only practical one given my one and only goal. Like Beethoven contemplating the Ninth Symphony, I only want to be happy. And my politics flows naturally from that.

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Cyprus

Genuine leadership doesn’t seek out headlines – in fact, it sometimes deliberately avoids them in order to get things done. The best example of this comes from a close contender for the Leader of the Free World now that the United States has largely abandoned the role in practical terms.

The leader in question is not Angela Merkel, although she is indeed the most important leader of a democracy today. This comes from the more junior Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, who has taken to solving the most important conflict left over from a by-gone era – Cyprus. Stepping into the British role as sometime creator of order she pushed a lot of heft behind the re-started talks which may, just yet, create a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.

The critical point is Turkey, as always, and the relative isolation this critical nation has been saddled with.

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Start the Year Right

Happy New Year! In this time of turmoil it’s hard to say what the turn of the calendar will bring. Yet it remains true that life is what we make of it.

Barataria promises to dedicate itself to spreading as much peace, brotherhood, and happiness as possible in 2017. We’re all going to need it. Someone has to lead the way – which is just what this piece is about.

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Resetting the Middle East

Let’s imagine a foreign policy based on promoting freedom, stability, and peace. Let’s assume that our drive to energy independence makes this not only possible, but desirable. Let’s assume that we no longer use our military to “protect vital resources” or some other euphemism for imperialism as we come to respect and develop a truly free market globally.

With these assumptions our view of the Middle East, in particular, changes dramatically. Like many situations in this rapidly integrating and evolving world, it demands attention to fundamentals – both our principles and an examination of the real powers which shape the world.

In the Middle East there are really only three permanent powers which have survived the test of millenia – Egypt, Turkey, and Persia (Iran). No matter who or what has swept through the region, these three have always been there. They are the best place to start when considering how we promote what matters most to free people around the world.

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National Identity

Angry crowds are boiling over. Revolution is at hand, something has to change. But change to what and where is it going? It doesn’t matter to many people. Smash what’s there and take control – we’ll figure the rest out later.

Many terms bubble out as we struggle to describe this moment. “Socialist” and “Fascist” have been easily pushed out to describe the followers of Sanders and Trump, some of whom move more fluidly through Sanders / Trump / Paul than our typical left to right, Democrat to Republican divide tells us is possible. What language do we have to even describe this?

That is, in the end, the problem. We have a rise of “Populism”, a largely apolitical beast whose character reflects is leadership – which can come from anywhere in the spectrum. At the radical heart of it all is “Revenge Populism” which lacks any vision of the future and little sense of past, living entirely in the hot here and now.

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