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Looking Back III

The next chapter is beginning its fourth year. The year just ending has been productive, with forty-four posts, starting with a retrospective of the preceding year, Looking Back II, posted in November 2015.

Politics dominated the past year as the next chapter followed the presidential election campaign in the United States. Eighteen posts addressed six “focus issues” and the candidates’ positions on these vital matters of public policy:

  • Immigration
  • Health Care
  • The Iran Nuclear Agreement
  • Climate Change
  • Minimum Wage
  • Campaign Finance Reform

A review of each candidate’s public statements on this set of issues provides a basis for comparing the candidates and for predicting their views on other important questions. We might also imagine what kind of country the United States will become, judging from the policy pronouncements of the winning candidate on these six focus issues.

Now, of course, we know the outcome of the election. The next chapter draws two conclusions from the nation’s choice of Donald Trump. First, the election was not about issues, and so despite this blog’s diligent efforts to present fairly the candidates’ views, in the end the analysis was just not relevant to the decision-making of most voters.

The focus issues, however, are no less important. Because the next chapter disagrees with Mr. Trump on just about everything (at least on the six focus issues), TNC’s second conclusion is that, under his leadership, Republican-dominated government (at the state and federal levels) will take the United States to uncomfortable and disheartening places for TNC and those who share its views.

One such uncomfortable and disheartening place is likely to be the Supreme Court. Republican senators seem to care more about the assumed political beliefs of nominees than about their judicial experience and jurisprudential intellect. Republicans blocked hearings on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Scalia. TNC wrote about this shameless abuse of power in Why I Am Not a Republican in February 2016. TNC also visited the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, capsulizing the Court’s opinion in the December 2015 post, The Freedom to Think.

The next chapter was created as a retirement project, and the blog has featured a series of postings on retirement and getting older. In TNC’s third year, this ongoing rumination over what has been called the Third Age has produced:

Who Are These Old People? – A summary of age-related statistics describing “old people” (aged 65 and older) in the United States.

Optimal Living – A look at “successful aging.”

And How Are We Today, Dear? –An examination of the insidious impact of “elderspeak” and the importance of having positive perceptions of aging.

Another retirement project is continuing my self-guided study of Spanish. I try to spend some time each day improving my comprehension and use of the Spanish language. After seven years, I still consider myself only an advanced beginner, but I have put my learning to the test by translating TNC’s postings to make this blog bilingual. Over the past year, TNC has featured the following translations:

¿Quién Saca Provecho? (Who Profits?)

Ahora Un Piñon, Siguiente Un Muelle (Now a Pinion, Next a Spring)

Jubilación Es El Nuevo Normal (Retirement Is the New Normal)

El Error de Nuestras Maneras (The Error of Our Ways)

Descubrimos Costa Rica (We Discover Costa Rica)

No Está Pesado (It Ain’t Heavy)

¿Has Visto La Ballena Blanca? (Hast Seen the White Whale?)

 Cuidar Para Nuestra Común Casa (Caring For Our Common Home)

La Vida Óptima (Optimal Living)

A five-part series of posts featured a blog travelogue of our 3,500-mile road trip through eight western states. The illustrated series (with 49 photos) starts with Wild West Road Trip: The First 1,000, which includes links to the other parts.

This year, the next chapter began a new series that will continue indefinitely. The first of three installments published in TNC’s third year, In a Strange Land: One, appeared in October. The Strange Land series is unlike anything that has appeared before on this blog. The series  is semi-fictional quasi-realism. It is experimental writing, deeply personal and yet freely fictitious. It reveals through a scrim of plausible deniability that conceals more than meets the eye.

Three posts this year stand outside any category. In March, Becoming Neil considered what might have been Neil’s ethical will, had he written one. Neil is one of the characters in Jane Anderson’s The Quality of Life, and I had the privilege of playing the role on stage this year. In September, Bless Ed Bee examined the puzzling practice of blessing things. A Thanksgiving Story, posted on Thanksgiving Day, explained why this year I am thankful for strangers.

I am thankful for the strangers, as well as the friends, who have read the next chapter this year. There are more than 30,000 of you! I hope that you find something in the next chapter that makes you want to visit here again.

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  • 64
    The English version of this post—It Ain’t Heavy—was posted here on July 30, 2015. This Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de It Ain’t Heavy.…
  • 58
    The English version of this post—In a Strange Land: Five—was posted here on January 10, 2016. This spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de In…
  • 58
    The English version of this post is The Joy of Work. The Spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de The Joy of Work. Esta publicación…

Looking Back II

I started the next chapter on November 29, 2013, as a retirement project. At that time, I was nearing the end of my first year as an officially retired person. I am now nearing the end of year three, and the next chapter continues. This post is a reprise of “Looking Back” and is a retrospective of the blog’s second year.

Teaching myself Spanish has been another retirement project. In my first look back, I did not mention that many of my posts are translations into Spanish of earlier English-language posts. The translations that appear in el capítulo siguiente are the fruit of my efforts to learn the language. I will continue translating my blog posts, and I hope that my Spanish improves in the process, pero sólo hispanohablantes pueden decir.

January 2014 got off to a lively start with a post about death. Though it is not a topic that often brings a smile, death is part of our common experience as mortal humans, and, for retired people especially, it is never very far away from our thoughts. This is true, at least, for me.

Also in January, “Dipping Into the Thought Stream” was a critique of the blog itself. I aspired to make the next chapter better by trimming the length of posts and expressing my point of view with more personality and spontaneity. I set a benchmark to keep my published rambles to a five-paragraph maximum, and I vowed to increase spontaneity by drafting directly to the posting page instead of laboring over off-line drafts.

The “Tragedy of Brian” (about former NBC Nightly News anchor, Brian Williams), published in February, was an opportunity to scratch the surface of thoughts about forgiveness and kindness. As I wrote at that time:

For the rest of us, we have become a community that is too quick to condemn without mercy, a community where forgiveness has become a strange and uncool concept. Being quick to condemn human failings in others, we have become blind to our own failings as a community–failings that may only be righted by each one of us deciding to step away from resentment and anger and toward healing the social fabric instead of tearing it apart.

In April, the next chapter foreshadowed the approaching spectacle of presidential campaigning. “Daydream Believer” was a wistful musing about Caroline Kennedy as a possible contender. The topic of health care was the focus of “Fixing the Formula,” a piece about the politics behind long-standing problems in Medicare payments to doctors. Health care is a recurring theme in this blog, beginning with “Fumbling Toward Health Care” (May 2014), and revisited in 2015 in “A Meaning Not So Plain” (examining the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell, which upheld a critical component of the Affordable Care Act) and in “The Next President: Health Care” (one of the six focus issues that the next chapter will follow in the race for the presidency).

May inspired “Retirement is the New Normal” (returning to the retirement theme) and two posts about the immigration issue, “The Error of Our Ways” (a review of Aviva Chomsky’s book, Undocumented) and “Rising Above the Babble” (questioning the meaning of “comprehensive immigration reform”).

In June, “We Discover Costa Rica” described our travel adventure and featured my 25 best photographs from Costa Rica. In July, in addition to “A Meaning Not So Plain,” I posted “It Ain’t Heavy,” another retirement piece. Figuring out what to do with my time in retirement has not been a burden, even though I have no master plan. For example, I read a lot—more than was possible when I was working full-time. In August, I wrote a piece about re-reading Moby Dick, “Hast Seen the White Whale?” which formulated the “immutable finiteness of life” and echoed the theme of death from January’s “Now a Pinion, Next a Spring.”

September, October and November kept me busy with Spanish translations of my four-part series on the immigration issue, first published in English in 2014, but in addition, September’s post “Caring for Our Common Home” addressed climate change and the encyclical letter from Pope Francis. I revisited the climate change theme in November with “The Next President: Climate Change.” The “focus” series on presidential politics began with “The Next President: Immigration,” posted in October, and included negotiations with Iran and minimum wage. The last of the six focus issues is campaign finance reform, and posts on this topic will appear in December.

The statistics reported for my website show that the next chapter has had more than 35,000 visitors in the last twelve months. I don’t know if I believe it, because there have been only a small handful of comments. I have written on a wide range of topics, all of them of interest, at least, to me. I have fallen somewhat short of my goals for personality, spontaneity and brevity, and I will continue to work on improving my blog-writing. Your comments, as always, are welcome. I am looking forward to the year ahead, as curious as anyone about what is going to happen next  in the next chapter.


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  • 67
    The Next President: Berning VisionsBernie Sanders, 74, is a United States senator from Vermont. A long-time political independent, Sanders joined the Democratic Party in 2015. Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in political science. As a young man, he was active in the civil rights movement, working as a student…
  • 64
    In 2000, 2.8 million people voted for Ralph Nader as the Green Party presidential candidate. Jill Stein is running for president as the standard bearer of the Green Party in 2016. She has no chance of winning. Her motivation for running—and the motivation of those who would vote for her—can…
  • 63
    The next chapter will focus on six issues this year as the country chooses its next president. Postings on this blog in October, November and December of last year introduced the focus issues and summarized TNC’s take. The candidates in both political parties had an opportunity this month to express…