Category Archives: Later, in commentary

In a Strange Land: One

And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. [Exodus 2:21-22]

It was the same but different. There was no turning back for Lisea and me. I had entered uncharted waters, and yet I knew that was as it was meant to be. I had always known that.

There was something that I could not reach. A forgotten memory perhaps. It felt like an exile. Yet, all was familiar. Daily life did not have rules—of course—but the rules had been changed. Perception had shifted by a degree.

What were we meant to be? What was I meant to do? Asking the question made it sound absurd. I had never been a great believer in meaning. The question seemed to insist itself on me ever since my exile began. It did not mean anything is what I said to myself. Take that either way.

If there were a meaning to it all, that meaning was a mystery. It was an unknown and unknowable meaning. If so, then such a meaning itself seemed to have no meaning. I could say, more plainly, what did it matter if there were a meaning that could not be known? From my perspective, there might just as well be no meaning.

It was a troubling situation, but it rarely bothered me. More important than meaning, it seemed to me, was the way of being. I could choose a way of being. We could adapt our ways of being. We had that choice.

A way was part instinct, part inclination. It happened, most of the time, without conscious thought. We lived on autopilot until something, some event or some spark of thought brought our course to the surface to be examined, adjusted, recalibrated. Then, with the new parameters factored in, we resumed autopilot.

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The Next President: Debate One Afterthoughts

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton won the debate last night at Hofstra University in New York, but Clinton gave the better performance. Donald Trump played to his base. He seems incapable of appealing to voters who do not already support him. The same might be said of Hillary Clinton, although she was able, if only once or twice, to make a broader appeal to the middle class. She did not reveal anything new, anything that we did not already know about her. She did not follow the advice freely offered by the next chapter yesterday to “show voters the person she is.”

Surprisingly, the “basket of deplorables” question did not come up, and Hillary Clinton did not find the opportunity to acknowledge the error of those remarks and to reach out to those voters whom she had earlier characterized as irredeemable basket cases. TNC believes that she could make an effort before Election Day to reach out to those voters as well as to other voters who found her “basket of deplorables” to be troubling.

There is a lesson about leadership here that is being missed. The best presidents see a whole nation. The best leaders have a vision of the nation that is broader than ideological divisions. Barack Obama embraced this vision in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston:

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump did not help himself. His support is pretty well baked in by now—at something slightly less than the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. If he manages to gain a winning margin it will not be due to his appeal but rather to his status as not-Hillary. Anyone who was still expecting to see a new Donald Trump in the debates must finally realize that Donald Trump will always be as he has always appeared to be: petulant and puerile, pompous and pugnacious.

Hillary Clinton delivered the better debate performance. She was able to maintain her steadiness and good humor. She held her own against a domineering and thoroughly unpleasant male without appearing weak, strident or condescending. She maintained her composure in spite of Donald Trump’s frequent interruptions, insinuations, insults and attempts to intimidate. While Donald Trump frequently evaded and changed the subject, Hillary Clinton kept on track and answered the questions that were asked by the moderator, Lester Holt (who, by the way, did an excellent job). I would like to see her give shorter—more memorable—answers. It is counterproductive to disgorge the details of six policy proposals when the flavor of one would satisfy. I know she knows policies, positions and issues; I want to know her personality, her passions and her humanity.

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