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American Sociopathy

In the United States in the year 2021, you, as an American citizen, do not necessarily have the right to vote.

You do not necessarily have the right to teach or to learn about matters of race, gender or anything else state lawmakers consider “divisive concepts.”

But you do have one absolute, sacrosanct, inviolate, God-given, self-evident and inalienable right: the right to refuse a coronavirus vaccine — and to infect as many people as you can.

Dana Milbanks

The Self

I believe the self is, at least in part, a cleverly disguised deception that allows the social world in and allows us to be “overtaken” by the social world without our even noticing.

—Matthew D. Lieberman, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect (Crown Publishers 2013)

#PandemicDreams

Recurring theme in my pandemic-era dreams: I am in a social situation with many other people, and then I notice none of us is wearing a mask. These scenes used to freak me out, even wake me up. Now my dreaming mind sometimes thinks, “not this again.” Seems the thrill is gone.

Leadership Failure

… As senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who—safely ensconced in the West Wing—was too busy watching fiery television images of the crisis that was unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their cries for help.
“Six Hours of Paralysis”

Statistics and Tears

In fact, the more who die, sometimes the less we care, [Paul] Slovic said in an interview. In greater numbers, death becomes impersonal, and people feel increasingly hopeless that their actions can have any effect.

Statistics are human beings with tears dried off," Slovic said. "And that’s dangerous because we need tears to motivate us.”

William Wan and Brittany Shammas

Leadership and Trust

Trust is fundamental, reciprocal and, ideally, pervasive. If it is present, anything is possible. If it is absent, nothing is possible. The best leaders trust their followers with the truth, and you know what happens as a result? Their followers trust them back. With that bond, they can do big, hard things together …

George P. Schultz

Children Watching

“The Children Were Watching,” dir. Robert Drew and Richard Leacock, USA 1961, 25 min. — This documentary doesn’t feel as old to me as I wish it did. In part that’s because I watched it in Trump’s America during an especially difficult year, but something deeper is at play. The film’s ongoing relevance represents an ambiguous answer to its directors’ main question: What were the children of a New Orleans neighborhood learning as they watched their parents during the conflicts surrounding school integration in November 1960?

Looking forward to a more productive week in quarantine now that martial law and the end of our democracy appear to be off the table for the time being.

Curfew

The disturbing emergency alert sound from my phone (for DC’s 4th curfew night) makes me think of an air raid siren. The blaring is an apt metaphor for this presidency.

Riots

Minnesota Governor Walz’s assertion that ongoing riots are no longer about George Floyd ring true in a way. But were they ever about one man? Floyd’s death was certainly no one-off. The protests—and the participation of so many young people—should give pause to those leaders who would gloss over this society’s brutal injustices and disparities.

‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’

I watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) last night. Despite the many differences to today’s world and the oversimplification of the state political machine, the politics in the film strike me as relevant to our own time. Thing is, though, it would probably resonate with Americans regardless of ideological or party orientation. Anti-Trump people could take its anti-corruption and pro-democracy message to heart. Pro-Trump people could embrace how the Washington outsider triumphs, and credulous pro-Trumpers could go for the anti-corruption, pro-democracy stuff too. Finally, the rough-and-tumble quality of the political game would resonate across the political spectrum.