Transforming the National Political Conversation

I think that both major parties waste too much political capital on trying to abridge established rights. Why not take it as given that we have the right to keep and bear arms, terminate a pregnancy until the 24th week, or marry someone of either sex? Hardly anyone embraces all three simultaneously, but all three are established rights. The talk of abridging rights is a key driver of our polarized political landscape. People are more apt to get defensive when a right they value is threatened.

Rather than trying to control the choices these rights imply, why not use politics as a tool to shape policies that help with problems associated with these rights? For instance, what can we do to lower unwanted pregnancies to reduce abortions? How about focusing on the reduction of crime and terror so people don’t feel so inclined to build an arsenal for their safety?

The three rights I’ve chosen as examples of course do not enumerate all of our rights, but they have been tinder for many arguments that prevent consensus on useful political action. The laws of this land should not be a theatre for personal values or any one religion. There should not be bills, ballot measures or new amendments that take away rights.


I am startled at how polarized this country has become in the last decade. It seems that a growing contingent of the U.S. is elevating politics to a near religion. I thought that the practical benefit of a two party system was to provide an arena for opposing views so a policy consensus could be reached that would benefit the most within the constraints imposed by the Constitution. Instead of lively debate, I see attempts to remake this country according to the vision of just one side or the other. The capacity to compromise is essential to maturity, so why are we as a nation becoming more immature as we reach our 240th birthday?

While it is true that there is a personal dimension to politics, I feel it is folly to take political issues so personally that one is willing to reject friends or family because of opposing viewpoints. This great country of ours was founded in part on the freedom of speech, so who are we to try to subvert a basic right by  browbeating each other into political agreement?

As the election approaches, I welcome hearing ¬†opinions from many perspectives, even if some of those stances may be extreme. I do not mind hearing an impassioned point of view, but I hope that I don’t see more people threatening to “unfriend” or otherwise alienate others based on political differences. Our friendships and family connections should not be threatened by disagreement over this election, whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump gets elected.

Performance fantasies

I have found a way to turn the secret life of this Walter Mitty to my advantage. From my childhood onward, I relished daydreams of being able to sing well enough to get major radio airplay. These fantasies did not involve writing songs or even putting a fresh twist on a cover song. I often could not resist imagining what it would be like to sing a hit song with perfect fidelity to the original. For years, this was an embarrassing habit, for I don’t sing all that well. To even entertain the possibility of being able to sing like Aretha Franklin bordered on a delusion of grandeur. For a time, this contributed to depression because I kept thinking that I was not entitled to imagine doing the impossible. Isn’t that what an imagination is uniquely suited for?

When I had agoraphobia, my therapist suggested that I imagine being successful at venturing out instead of staying home over catastrophic predictions of what could go wrong away from home. At the time I considered that it would do no harm to try to imagine success at something practical even if the outcome did prove negative. Life is full of false predictions, so go with ones that are uplifting (kind of like it being better to be a fool with faith than a fool without it).

It took me more years to see that there was also benefit to imagining success at something impractical, like being able to sing a hit. Just let go of the embarrassment of likely failure (there will only ever be one Aretha, after all), and imagine mastery, the capacity to inspire others. There will never be a need to test such a skill, at least in my case.

Life is full of subtle delusions. Choose ones that will move you forward. The theatre of your mind is your show. There is no harm in creating a positive phantasm rather than a disaster. Each of us is an event that won’t be encored. We are all as special and valuable as our heroes.


Past self diagnosis, whether absurd debatable

About ten years ago, when I been in a low functioning stalemate with my funk for several years, I suggested to my psychiatrist that I believed it was possible that my treatment had been of limited success because my diagnosis could be wrong. I told him that perhaps I did not have major depression, but instead schizophrenia with almost entirely negative symptoms such as anhedonia. He greeted this suggestion with his usual stone expression. At that moment I realized that I could have told him anything outrageous, such as telling him I could channel the Buddhist monks who immolated themselves in protest of the Vietnam war, and he wouldn’t have reacted to my words at all. Maybe he was tuned into details like my body language and appearance to gauge how well I was functioning. I don’t think that my outfit, which had been slept in, or my hair, which hadn’t been cut in four years, contradicted the possibility that I had negative symptoms of schizophrenia. My affect was wooden as well. I felt more disordered than the bland term major depression would suggest.

Super Data

I love data, to wrap my mind in it like burrowing under a blanket on a cold day. Trivial to me is the quality of such data, though I do enjoy correcting errors when I find them, like picking a just noticed blackhead. It’s not like I need to have faith in data. Rather I need the distraction. I wonder if it would ever be possible to create a narrative from a spreadsheet. Maybe a spreadsheet is the tool that can knit data into a blanket of comfort for the mind.

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