I think anyone who grew up near the ocean has a special affinity for Melville's Ishmael when he talks of a "damp, drizzly November in my soul." It's not quite the same anywhere else. The land always holds the promise of sanctuary. The sea offers only an endless horizon that bends towards the abyss of infinity.
November 30, 2015
The irony of the current climate debate is that both believers and disbelievers want to downplay the inevitability of a climate meltdown. “There’s always hope.” “It’s not happening.” But in our collective gut, we know we are nearing a point of no return. And thanks to something called thermal inertia, even if we never pump another molecule of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- like that’s going to happen -- the oceans would continue to warm for another half century. We’ll have to fight like hell to stay even. We sure as hell can’t take another fifty years of business as usual.
November 19, 2015
Certain politicians won’t look you in the eye when confronted with the sacrifice of our children at the altar of the Second Amendment, but they get all steely-eyed when it comes to terrorists. They talk tough about Syrian refugees but turn a blind eye to the 300,000 domestic deaths from firearms versus the 300 Americans killed by terrorists. They go along when the NRA lobbies against legislation aimed at preventing suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and explosives. From 2004 to 2014, 2,233 people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist applied to buy firearms; only 190 were rejected. Anyone worried about that?
November 17, 2015
Great literature appears prescient partly because it foretells the future but mostly because we fail to learn from the past. In Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Marlowe comes across a French warship. “In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent … nothing happened. Nothing could happen.” Fast forward: 6,000 plus American air strikes against ISIS and what has happened? Nothing. Vietnam taught us that you can’t stop history. The de facto partitioning of Iraq is happening. We can slow it down -- contain it, if you will -- but we can’t unwind it.
November 14, 2015
French President Hollande has described the attack on Paris as an act of war. Those words have meaning. One gets the same feeling as after 9/11, when the American people rose up as one and said, “Enough!” But it’s not enough for a single country to react. A global coalition needs to band together to take on this self-declared Caliphate by any and all means. Destroying the Islamic State is not a cure-all. Self-actualized terrorists are here to stay. Rooting them out will take decades. But sometimes governments have to act in the moment. This is one of those times.
November 13, 2015
November 9, 2015
The Preamble to the Constitution -- today we’d call it the vision statement -- begins with, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect Union …” It didn’t say perfect … just more perfect. The Framers understood that our government would be a work in progress. They understood that working through the vast differences that underlay our great political experiment would necessitate a willingness to accept solutions to problems everyone agreed weren’t perfect … just more perfect. In today’s heated politics where compromise is a dirty word for some, it’s worth remembering that perfection was never the goal.