Tag Archives: happiness

The Opposite of Tranquility

Despite the indelible stain of his impeachment, the Senate, to no one’s surprise, acquitted Donald Trump. They found that their “chosen one” committed no offence to the Constitution. Claiming that he did nothing “impeachable,” the senators completed a coronation.

The Senate Republicans behaved as though they had a duty to acquit. They just would not be bothered by any new testimony or documents that might have revealed more of the truth and delayed the enthronement.

The newly-blessed King Donald has launched a vigorous campaign of vengeance against those he deems insubordinate or disloyal. He has branded all political opposition as “horrible” and “vicious” – oddly casting the king as whiner. The acquittal has confirmed his belief that there is no effective check on his power. He can (and will) run the nation even further into the mud.

While the acquittal is awful, conviction might well have been worse. It would have meant the elevation of Mike Pence, Vice-President and Supreme Sycophant. It would have been the birth of the legend of the Martyrdom of Trump, a legend that would have haunted the nation for a hundred years (assuming the union would survive so long).

We are left with a battered nation, an imperfect Union, and with the gutting of domestic Tranquility. The Blessings of Liberty are unfulfilled for ourselves and our Posterity. We are insecure in our freedom, and our politics is vulnerable to foreign intrigue and interference.

I am ashamed to leave this nation to my child and to the children of my generation. We can do better. I know this because I have seen it in my lifetime.

One odious man has single-handedly shredded all of the progress I thought we had made as a country while I have been alive.

It is an election year. There is a possibility for change.

After the Framers signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, the long process of ratification began. I have been reading Kevin Gutzman’s James Madison and the Making of America. In the book, he describes Virginia’s ratification debate, the Richmond Convention, which opened on June 2, 1788 and finally approved the Constitution on June 25 by a vote of 89 to 79. Virginia became the tenth state to ratify.

Four days before the vote, Madison had addressed the convention on the issue of Congressional power. Opponents of ratification were concerned, in Madison’s words, that “the General Legislature will do every mischief they possibly can…and will omit to do every good which they are authorised to do.”

Madison countered with the idea that the people would choose virtuous leaders to be their representatives:

“I go on this great republican principle that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? – If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks – no form of Government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of Government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea…. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.”

It was beyond the imagination of Madison and his contemporaries that the people would choose to elect a king and a king’s court of enablers in the Senate. After all, the people had only recently declared their independence from the British monarch and had fought a war to secure that independence. It must have seemed obvious to trust the people’s virtue and intelligence in selecting their leaders, and yet it now seems a glaring flaw in our Constitutional democracy.

In Philadelphia, before the vote that created the Constitution, an aging Benjamin Franklin told the delegates that he didn’t approve of parts of the document but that he would “agree to this Constitution with all its faults.” He doubted whether a better one could be made.  He gave his consent to the Constitution, he said, “because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

Madison too understood that the Constitution might be flawed but that no form of government could secure liberty or happiness.

Every political election since ratification has been a test of the virtue and intelligence of the voters. This year will be no different. No election could be more important.

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    On Tuesday night, November 9, 2016, Donald Trump was elected to be the forty-fifth president of the United States. Although more people voted for Hillary Clinton (she is ahead by 786,000 as of this writing*), Trump has won where it counts, in the Electoral College, which will formally vote on…
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What Was It All About?

The existence of this blog coincides with the retirement phase of my life.  I started writing here in November 2013 when I had been retired for 10 months.  I am in my seventh year of retirement, and this blog’s sixth birthday is coming up soon.  I marked my own 70th birthday earlier this year.  Writing these words, I feel astonished.  So many years.

I have not written anything remarkable here.  The numerous blog entries—nearly 130 posts so far—represent many hours that I have sat before a computer screen.  Too many to bother calculating.  I would like to say that in those hours I produced something insightful or inspiring, or at least something clever and entertaining—in a word, something valuable—but I realize that is not the case.

It would be easy enough, I suppose, to delete it all.  That would be the ultimate acknowledgement that everything I’ve written is ephemeral.  One day in the future, even if it is not my doing, it will all go away when my lease on a tiny portion of the Internet world expires.  Whatever I write here means little and counts for nothing in the long run.  It is a metaphor for my life.  Nobody will write my biography.

At best, what I have written here is a record—however short-lived and episodic—of thoughts that have occupied my mind from time to time.  These electronic scratchings have been of interest to me and, much less so, to those few curious others who have bothered to read my words.

The thought of aging is one recurring subject of interest.  It has been all along, of course, but marking seventy years on my calendar has put it into boldface on any list that I could make of subjects to think about.  What is the best way to live with the relative nearness of death?

I am seeking comfort and lately finding little.  I am not comforted by considering the odds.  The odds are that I will have another decade or two before I run out of time.  Thinking about the odds only teaches me that I had better take care of myself—and I do, but it is not enough.

Nor is it comforting to accept the notion that we all have to die sometime.  I gain nothing from this idea.  It is not instructive or helpful.  It merely restates the problem—as if I didn’t get it the first time.

For some people there is comfort in what they have accomplished.  There are great authors, great musicians, great mathematicians and physicists.  There are great explorers and inventors and great artists of all stripes.  Indeed, the list of greatnesses seems endless.  I do not know any people who are great like that and so I am speculating, but in their last years, I think that great people must have a sense of satisfaction about the great things they did in life.  Next to theirs my accomplishments are puny.  I’ve done some good things, but no great things.

I find that thinking about my life’s accomplishments only makes me less comfortable because I tend to remember my mistakes, my regrets, my errors in judgment.  It seems that the negative memories have a kind of adhesive quality.  They get stuck in my mind when I am trying to remember the good things that I have done.

Some people who cannot take comfort in great accomplishments, can yet find comfort in having great numbers of children and grandchildren—and even great-grandchildren!  It seems likely that having a large family would be comforting for some because they might imagine living on vicariously through their multitudinous offspring.  It might be comforting to think that they would be remembered more or remembered a little longer.

The quality of such vicarious life and legacy would depend on the quality of a person’s relationships with their offspring.  The odds of having good relationships and a positive legacy increase as the number of children grows, or so I presume, but even for me and my wife and our only child there is hope.  And there is some comfort for me in that.

Some people shaken by thoughts of death’s approach turn for comfort to religion or spirituality.  In my experience, though, religion promises but does not deliver.  When I retired, I started going to a church on a regular basis, but for most of my life I had very little to do with religion, and I have never felt comforted by it.  To the contrary, when I think about religion—and spirituality generally—I feel disquieted and uncomfortable.  I feel that I am alone on the outside of religion.  It does not speak to me, nor I to it.  I don’t know its language.  Maybe I am too old to learn.

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