July 4, 2018

What Have We Lost?



As the drumbeat of scary, disturbing, upsetting, anger-inducing, even deadly events greet me after a week away in the Arizona Mountains, it becomes harder to think of pleasant subjects appropriate for a blog about the best time of life. Somehow writing about vacations, finding a fun hobby, or a new book seems almost flippant. So, I am going to vent a bit in this post, and then likely go back to what you came here for: retirement lifestyle advice.

I began my radio career as a newsman at the ripe old age of 15. My expose to news gathering and being careful in what I covered started at a very tender age. 

College included a few journalism classes, as well as a major in International Relations. I spent 4 years learning about diplomacy, history of wars and conflicts, the role of geography in shaping politics, and in using strength for positive purposes. 

During that time, many of our country's leading diplomats had graduated from the same school I attended. I could see firsthand the proper use of words, policy and compromise in helping shape the world. Of course, I also saw the disasters of things like the Vietnam War or the Civil Rights horrors, too. People are people and really bad things will happen.

I give you this background to help you understand my dismay at the current state of affairs. With the shooting at a Maryland newspaper and death threats against at least one Congresswoman as just the most recent events, it seems obvious that the rhetoric of the past 18 months is turning more deadly. Certain people feel emboldened to turn political slogans and dangerous talk into horrific actions.

Let's admit that there has always been biases in some of the media. After all, people are charged with viewing or interpreting an event or the words of a speech into a concise recap. Each of us has a way of seeing things that can color what we think, say, and do. Our response is filtered through our world view.

Yet, as someone who is a bit more of an insider in this field, with some training and exposure, I belive that the vast majority of people involved in the media approach their responsibility to be honest and accurate very, very seriously. Credibility is hard to earn and nearly impossible to regain once the truth is given short shift.

In today's hyper-politicized environment, some media outlets have determined that being opinionated and driven by one ideology or another increases profits and influence. Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left have abandoned much of the "truth and moderation" premise of legitimate journalism. 

Some newspapers, magazines, radio networks or individual commentators chose their "side." The idea that used to dominate most of journalism: being centrist, moderate, and restricting opinions to the Editorial page, is slipping away. Economically, journalism has become a business that understands niche marketing: picking a target audience and super-serving it.

What is most dangerous is the recent decision by many of us that something we disagree with, or find goes against our beliefs, must be "fake." That word means the information presented is not real, it is fiction. Anything that doesn't support what we believe to be true is to be ignored and dismissed. By declaring information we disagree with as fake, we are declaring that we know the ultimate truth, with no margin for error.

There is no chance that what we think might need to be reexamined. There no possibility that we can be wrong about something. There is no possibility that a leader's statements are not true, but are made to stimulate a violent, non-thinking, unquestioning response of "the base" whether that is on the left or right. Anyone who suggests otherwise is the enemy and is open to an angry, maybe even violent reaction.

As a society, when we get to the point where anyone who disagrees with us is the enemy, in a very real and physical sense, I suggest we have drawn a line that will be very hard to erase.

If the only response to a different opinion, interpretation, or the truth of a matter is one of violent rejection and vilification, we are no longer experiencing a democracy. If one story, or one point of view is unquestioned and treated as words from the Oracle, with death to those who see something differently, what have we lost?

When the rhetoric, on the right or left leaves no room for anything other than ostracizing, degeneration, suspension of rights, silence of dissent, even killing in the name of what is correct, where are we?

If someone argues that it is about time one side of the argument stopped being put down and marginalized, turn-about is fair play, and it is their time to promote "truth," I think we are close to losing this experiment we began 243 years ago. If truth becomes open to interpretation, if facts are either real or alternative, much more than the media is under attack. One loud voice from Washington recently said that we are headed to a civil war. He left no doubt as to which point of view should "win."

I find Fox News to be pandering and immoral in their dismissal of anything that doesn't support their political and profit positioning. I find nasty attacks and biases from MSNBC and CNN just as wrong. Importantly, I fully support their right to do what they are doing. That is called democracy.

But, never in my worst nightmare, did I think we would be debating what is true and what is fake. And, never did I think that certain misguided citizens would vent their frustration against what they disagree with politically with a gun or bomb.

Are those who attack the media or resort to violence against others not terrorists? Do we find attacks against citizens in another country a crime that deserves the ultimate punishment, but find inciting violence with words and deeds against fellow citizens in our country simply our right to express our anger?

I will most likely be dead in 20 years or so. My fear is not for me. It is for my children, my grandchildren, and their children. It is for the unborn who may find themselves in a world where one way is the only way or where their ability to think and debate and reason is a crime.

What have we lost? I am afraid the answer is becoming clearer. Some will argue that we have been through periods in our history worse than this and have rebounded. Sorry, but this feels fundamentally different and much deeper.

By the way, I picked the July 4th holiday period to write this post, on purpose. What we celebrate on this day is what may be slipping away: Independence.


OK, rant over. Back in a few days, on target and calmer.



65 comments:

  1. There is no doubt in my mind that we all are headed for a physical civil war. I say 'bring it on'. I've had enough and words alone will not resolve anything. Because the truth of the matter is that different cultures, religions, races etc can NOT get along. The experiment IMHO is a complete failure. Stop trying to remake human beings and just let us be. People like who they are, their background, their heritage, their likes and dislikes and if they don't like other people then they just don't like other people. You can't force people to like other people. You can respect and accept but you just can't force human beings to change who they inheritently are. Plain and simple. People are sick of the PC environment. People are tired of being punished or admonished because they don't look and think like the liberal left. People are sick and tired of being admonished because of their religion, their sexual choices or whatever else the liberal left can come up with. Personally, I'm looking forward to the fight. It's about the only thing that will level the playing field. When you can't control the vitriol that spews out of someone's mouth, perhaps a quick kick in the rear will set them straight. Shut up and accept the fact that we all just can't get along. Everyone has opinions. Once we respect all opinions and just let people be then maybe America will be a nice place to live. But right now, no, it's not.
    And another fact: conservatives have guns. Liberals just have their mouths. Guess what's going to happen if physical confrontations come about?

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    1. Anon- Your words are hurtful. Please be sure your guns are locked up safely.

      Bob - thank you for your thoughtful and unbiased post on this special day.

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    2. Bob,

      This post is an illustration of the end-product of your concerns and justification for you having some fear for the future of your children and grandchildren.

      Rick in Oregon

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    3. I'm pretty middle of the road about everything as I think most Americans are. However, I think Anon is "deplorable" as is anyone who thinks a fight is the answer over kindness and acceptance.

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    4. "When you can't control the vitriol that spews out of someone's mouth" is ironically on target from the first comment above. That is followed by "Once we respect all opinions. " Obviously, what this person means is respecting all opinions like his or hers.

      This type of unthinking radicalized hate and belief that humans are incapable of getting along with anyone not just like them is a good comment to begin the reaction to this post. It it makes my point rather clearly and stimulates responses (not gunfire).

      According to this person America, which was founded as an immigrant nation, is a mistake. I disagree but I am concerned. And, by the way, I know liberals who own guns, but respect others enough to use them for sport shooting, and not as a threat.

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  2. Good for you, Bob. I, too, have grown tired of media outlets on both the right and the left that cannot provide news that is unbiased, unemotional, based on well-researched facts, and free of opinion -- whether left-leaning or right-leaning. Once in a while I tune in to CNN and MSNBC, but I tire of the ranting and hostile criticism of leadership of this great nation -- even when I don't agree with leaders' decisions. I am also tired of the yelling and constant interruptions during interviews on news channels. My go-to options are Bloomberg and National Public Radio and Television. Having a press, throughout the country, with integrity and adhering to high ethical standards is absolutely essential for a strong democracy. Having leaders who discredit the media as "fake" is dangerous for a democracy, also. Can we go back to Huntley and Brinkley and Walter Cronkite, please?

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    1. No, we probably can't go back to the days of Uncle Walt, but we can stop watching the channels that tilt and spew. We can let advertisers know we won't buy their products when they advertise on shows that inflame rather than inform.

      Our ultimate power in a consumer society is the pocketbook or wallet: where and how we spend our money and which media outlets we support.

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  3. Perhaps we should divide the country into two. One for the liberal leaning and liberal and one for the conservative leaning and far right. One could be all white, heterosexual and Christian and the other could be diverse in ethnicity, religion, food, lifestyles, culture, art and philosophy.

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    1. With the Hispanic population in the U.S. projected to exceed the Caucasian population no later than 2050, the idea of majority and minority will undergo a rather dramatic shift. If we can't figure out how much we have in common rather than what divides us, I fear for that future.

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    2. The majority of those people who identify as being of Hispanic origin are Caucasians. We continue in this country to try to segregate people by ethnic background in addition to race which actually goes against our melting pot reputation most of us are very proud of. Whether we are of Italian, Irish, British, Spanish, Latin American, Scandinavian, Gabonian, Camaronean, Jamaican, Chinese, Japanese, etc etc etc heritage, we all fall into the racial classifications of
      Caucasoid (White) race
      Negroid (Black) race
      Capoid (Bushmen/Hottentots) race
      Mongoloid (Oriental/ Amerindian) race
      Australoid (Australian Aborigine and Papuan) race

      I am proud that we, in this country, have every race represented and part of our collective melting pot. Many people outside of the USA are confused as to why we keep insisting to align with ethnicity other than that of being an American. I agree with them. Continuing to cause a divide by making our differences stand out versus embracing them as part of being American is key. Special interest groups (much of the media conglomerates included in this list) and politicians who want power are the ones, in my opinion, who are driving all this hatred in America. They are rallying elements in the population who need a cause to stand up for even if these elements really do not understand what they are standing up for to start with.

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  4. Well written post. I,also, fear for my childrens future. I won't be here in 20 years either most likely. I protested in the VietNam war period and we can say hippies did change the outcome by those protests against a war that was fundamentally wrong. This time what is happening with the evil of Trump just confounds me. How can people believe his lies that go on and on. His words have caused others to be emboldened to act out with hatred and evil. Honestly I don't know where it's going but I have a lot of fear that's going in an undemocratic direction. Just watch the Handmaids Tale for a glimpse of a militaristic society that oppresses any one different. By that I mean Kills them, hangs them, does not allow books or reading, and forces women to be servants and other unimaginable things.

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    1. This period in our history will reveal whether the underpinnings of our democratic-representative form of government are strong enough to sustain a direct attack on our core beliefs in people and process. Things like the McCarthy period, with its lies and fear, were minor bumps in the road compared to where we are today.

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  5. Good post, Bob.

    Our technological age is a double-edged sword. It brings forth both light and darkness.

    I used to do a demonstration for my students in one of my lectures. I would have two students bring their laptops to the front of the class, where I could project both onto large screens in the front of the hall. I would then have them log on to their accounts and do a series of goggle searches on identical terms. Often, they would get very different results and everyone would be amazed at the variations they assumed should be identical. The truth is that each student’s search had been “curated,” customized by non-human algorithms or bots and based on the voluminous data that has been collected on them via their past searches, interests and their social media activity. This is a large part of the problem. It used to be that we all read the same newspaper and watched one of the three network evening newscasts. Now people can place themselves into a silo and create their own “truth.” And sometimes they are placed in the silo without their knowledge or consent.

    As for myself, I am grateful for the training in my science career. In fact, when people ask what political party I belong to I generally respond, “Science.” The two most valuable tools a scientist can have are questioning and doubt. You make some observations, conduct some experiments, develop a theory and then set about the task of finding holes in that theory… and you have a host of colleagues world-wide that will help you find the shortcomings and inadequacies in your hypothesis.

    I try to use these principles in every aspect of my life. I doubt and question every notion or belief that I have, and welcome challenges by others. It serves to either confirm and strengthen my system of belief, or reveal that it is in need of some re-thinking or modification.

    This should work for everyone, but it doesn’t because most people base their conclusions and beliefs on emotion and what the “want” to be true rather than careful, rational thought and reflection. Tribalism exacerbates this tendency and fosters the “us vs. them” and the “fake news” phenomenon and unfortunately, technology can magnify and fuel it.

    I have no solutions. This age of “un-reason” will have to run its course… but history does not make me hopeful that it can do so without periods of political upheaval, attraction to authoritarianism and perhaps even violence.

    My own conclusion is that this age will persist until the changing climate forces people into community to fight a common foe. Beyond all of the political posturing and buried behind all of the latest news about the Kardashians are some very sobering articles and news stories about our changing environment. Just to the north of me, in Salem, Oregon a large portion of the city had their water consumption restricted because of a toxic algae bloom—directly related to the ever-warming waters in the lake providing the supply. People were shocked and disturbed by this. They should be.

    The huge challenges we are about to face will either bring us together or finish ripping us apart. Time will tell.

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    1. Human tend to respond only when they are directly affected by something, like rising ocean levels or 10 year droughts. The current trade/tariff "war" could result in millions of lost jobs and the serious disruption of the world's economy. For now, those potential consequences haven't hit home. If they do, you will hear the same type of shocked response: "We didn't know this would be the result. Somebody has to do something."

      It is as if "facts" are only "true" when they arrive at your front door.

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  6. Hi Bob! Thank you for stating so clearly what so many of us are equally concerned about. I agree that most people our age will be gone before the real painful changes start happening, but for anyone with children or other young people they care about...what kind of world are we leaving? The marketing of "truth" and untruth and the lack of reason or thinking is an experiment that only time will show how it turns out. Meanwhile, please continue as a voice of reason in the world. Surely we need that most of all. ~Kathy

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    1. While the first response to this post is hateful and misinformed, I support his or her right to express those thoughts. There is real anger and a feeling of being aggrieved expressed. I am much happier if that person uses words rather than resorts to actual violence.

      I doubt there is anything I could say to shed some light into his or her viewpoint. But, being allowed to express it actually undermines their point: freedom does exist to state your case.

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  7. Thank you, Bob, for confronting this crazy time we're living in with intelligence and sanity. Unlike your first commenter who didn't have the guts to post its name. I am in knots daily over the direction we are going in this country. The similarities to the Nazi takeover so long ago are nerve wracking. We have never been this polarizing before. I am fearful for my children and grandchildren, too. I don't know about you but, I think God or the Universe, for those who don't believe, is very unhappy with where we're at and where we're headed. I see it in climate change, temperament of foes, so much anger, I could go on. I'll be posting later about it on my blog.

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    1. I rarely let my anger and unease affect these pages. But, even mellow-Bob reaches a limit and vents! After a relative period of sanity during the European trip and even the week in Prescott, it upsets me to be thrown back in the mess.

      However, as a citizen, I can't just sit back and pretend things are OK. That would be just as wrong as hiding behind hate and fear-mongering.

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  8. Agreed Bob. I know plenty of journalists and they are all decent, hardworking people. Unlike many industries, journalists work under a code of conduct and you can end your career by breaking it. There is plenty of fake news, but most of it does not come from main stream media - despite what some say. Either it happened or it didn't.

    Regarding our democracy, we are still fighting the Jefferson vs Hamilton battle and I fear the Federalists are losing. The lack of the federal government's ability to get anything done is going to ultimately push action to the states. There will be states with good healthcare and states with no healthcare. There will be states with higher taxes and good social services, public schools/universities, infrastructure, women's health services, and public transportation, and states with none of this. Eventually people will be forced to vote with their feet. I fear that being radically divided culturally will lead to being radically divided geographically. That would be a real threat to our great experiment.

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    1. A recent example of your comment is what happened to longtime ABC reporter, Brian Ross. He lost his job after airing a report that was unsupported by the facts. He and his producer made a mistake in not checking a source fully, and they paid the price. In certain segments of today's media, telling an untruth or exaggerating has no consequences except higher ratings, or an apology hidden deep in a web site. Mr. Ross is the better example of how our media is trained to deal in facts, not speculation.

      Your point about the Federal versus State model is an interesting one. Complaining about the federal government is a time-honored tradition, until something requires the response, "They" should fix it." Weather disasters, a common currency, electric grid coordination, infrastructure (well, maybe not so much that one), things like keeping planes from hitting each other....left to the individual states we'd be in deep poop. But, this has been an on-going debate since Day One.

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  9. One of the problems with the media is the manner in which they choose to report. Do they report the entire story or do they just take the juicy bits out of context? Do they report both sides of an issue equally or have a bias towards one side? Do they report "good news" stories from both sides equally or do they play it up when the "good news" is on one side and play it down or just not report it when the "good news" is from the other side? Same with "bad news" - do they downplay or not report when it's from one side and play it up when it's from the other? In other words, do they give both sides a fair shake? We all have biases and the media is sure not exempt. From where I sit, the biases in much of the mainstream media are showing rather clearly.

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    1. Part of the problem is our attention span. Presenting all sides of a story and keeping everything in context would not work anymore on television. Anything longer than 30 seconds and viewers mentally tune out. That type of full reporting only appears anymore in certain magazines, or in a documentary on PBS.

      Frankly, I am not sure what "mainstream media" means anymore. With Fox News as the most watched cable channel is it mainstream? With less than half that total audience is MSNBC mainstream?

      I am afraid that phrase has become shorthand for a media outlet we disagree with. Fox is mainstream for conservative viewers while MSNBC is mainstream for liberal viewers. Which definition is correct?

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    2. I think mainstream are the long established networks (for television news/reporting/news shows) - ABC, NBC, CBS - those who purport to be without bias.

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    3. I might agree with you except for the fact that Fox has been shown to be the most factually incorrect, on a regular basis. As someone who is a moderate and yet watched all stations including Fox and BBC America, I find Fox to be the most continually inaccurate, and biased of all the news stations. It's also my experience that progressives and moderates read a wide variety of news sources. While my conservative family reads fox and watches fox. Period.

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  10. Pauline in Upstate NYWed Jul 04, 12:08:00 PM MST

    Bob, Thank you for your thoughtful presentation of this this in a way that focuses on what we *all* stand to lose, no matter which “side” of the debate we stand on. Today is the best possible day to post this and give us all pause to consider what we really value. As a country, we have certainly come to a point where it is nearly impossible to have an exchange of ideas without risking true anger and potential division, even within families and longterm friends. The answer for some of us has been to lament the general loss of civility but otherwise keep quiet, and that doesn’t really help either. There are intelligent thoughtful people whom I respect and whom I know to look at the politics of the country differently than I, and I would love to be able to have a conversation about what each of us believes and why, but it feels too risky, especially if those individuals are in your own family. One of the things I really love about your blog (even though I rarely comment) is that you provide a forum for thoughtful discourse and that the regular commenters seem to respect the need to maintain civility, even when we disagree. Thank you for today’s post, and Happy Independence Day to all of us!

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    1. Thanks you, Pauline.

      I'm afraid you are right.Thoughtful discourse is rarely possible. In fact, any type of talk seems to have been replaced by physical manifestations of anger, rage, or portraying those with a different opinion as evil or not worthy of hearing.

      I hope this blog, and many others, can always be a place for safe discussions even on subjects about which we disagree.

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  11. One of the things that get me the most about our times is that the statistics show that we white male senior citizens are the most supportive of our current federal leadership and are primarily responsible for putting him in office. I just want to scream "NOT ALL OF THEM ARE!!!" It is obvious from the responses here that I am not the only one.

    The way we show our opposition in this country is through the ballot box not with bullets. If come November 7th and that isn't obviously clear, then maybe I too will become as fearful for our country as you and many others are. I just refuse to give in to all the fear at least until it is proven to me.

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    1. We will see. I'm fearful that no matter which way the votes fall. close to have of the country will either call the results fake or simply refuse to accept them, and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. That is what makes me most afraid.

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  12. I find this article, and in particular the comments, very revealing. As background I consider myself a conservative, but I don't track all things conservative. I am definitely conservative when it comes to the financial side, but track oftentimes more liberal with the social side. So my perspective comes from someone who is probably a little right of center.

    That being said, I find it interesting that half the country is so concerned that NOW we are in the worst of times. Where were these same people from 2009-2016 when the IRS was targeting non-profit conservative groups for "special" oversight, when ALL Americans phone calls were being tracked by NSA, the illegal Operation Fast and Furious resulted in untold deaths of both Americans and Mexicans, the Benghazi debacle, tens of thousands of veterans being denied care at the VA, wiretapping of AP reporters, the horrid Iran deal, the ramrodding through of obamaCare with not a single vote from the opposition or a complete reading of the law by the legislators voting yes, just to name a few things. To conservatives this was the absolute worst of times, and the media did nothing except largely fawn all over the then administration.

    Before you look at things through a certain prism, understand that the country is largely split in half now, and the opinions of the Right and the Left are not shared by half their countrymen and women. We will survive this stage as long as the side not in power does not push things in such a way that anarchy is supported as a viable way to make their point, as it appears many are want to do nowadays when they can't get their way.

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    1. From my perspective, the slow slide into the post-fact world has been happening for at least four decades, involving both "sides." That is why I currently have no political home.

      Another dialog killer is "Whataboutism," which also happens on both sides and can even come from "a little right of center."

      We have no choice but to ride this out. Passions are seemingly too high for constructive dialog (at least from my perspective). Things will eventually stabilize into a new status quo. It remains to be seen if we will be happy with the changes that will eventually shape all of our lives

      Rick in Oregon

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    2. I'm glad you commented, Chuck. I know your take on things political and appreciate your perspective. Unlike the anonymous person at the top of this section, you cite concerns without resorting to threats of violence.

      I would argue that your examples are valid concerns, but not that half the country agreed with them all or ignored them. That kind of generalization contributes to our problems today.

      I for one have been concerned about the NSA tracking since the beginning. The Fast and Furious program was a mistake. I disagree with you on the Iran deal. American servicemen and women have died in Yemen and places in Africa, places Congress has not approved our military presence, yet we are dying there. While the four deaths in Benghazi were horrific, lets not assume our people don't continue to die in other places since then, with just as little oversight.

      My point is not to get into a point-by-point argument. It is that assumptions about how large groups of people think about every issue is risky. And, the person saying civil war is coming was a Republican representative from Iowa. The people in and out of power at any particular moment are equally culpable.

      All that said, Chuck, I hope you and Deb have a peaceful and joyous 4th!

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    3. It reminds me of one of the greatest lines in literary history - "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times". It all depends on ones perspective on the current time. And I'm glad you brought up the point on both major parties, since they are equally complicit in the current state of the country. In some ways I believe the forment is largely generated by the two, since having the masses at each others throats over every perceived injustice allows them to continue to overspend and enact laws oftentimes detrimental to the general welfare.

      You and Betty stay safe and cool, Bob. Even here on the plateau we hit a real feel of 104 degrees today. Can't imagine what you guys are going through.

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    4. Thanks, Chuck, for your perspective. I find myself in agreement with you.

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    5. 112 degrees on Thursday, Chuck.

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  13. I know many, many conservatives and I know no one, in real life, that writes or talks the way the first comment does. S/he should be ashamed of such words. I know many many far left liberals, in real life, and they would never, never accost someone at their home or in a restaurant with friends and screamed at them. Both sides are WAY worked up.
    I am a teacher (mostly of history). The best professor I ever had was one who said to constantly remind people, "ALL people, when they choose, put their underwear on the same way you do - one foot at a time. We are all human and should all be, at least, civil- even in descent. "
    I will argue that it has been worse. I think glossing over the protests in the 1960's or the Adams/Jefferson campaigns of the 1800's is a mistake. We have had tea pot dome and Presidents killed. We have endured entire populations of legal citizens forced desert reservations, populations jailed, people enslaved or even 100,000 forced to walk across the nation starving in the '30's. . Divorce, unwed mothers and color of skin were shamed.
    Morals are changing, again. Come on- it is not that bad. We are simply going through growing pains.
    The media has supported whomever they wanted- always. It has ALWAYS been bias. They are the reason for the free speech clause. To assume something different would be silly.
    I assume if you are reading this, you have food on your table, a shelter over your head and pretty good access to health care. The place is not all that bad. You taught me Bob, that your mother said, "don't worry". I will double down with my grandmother's saying, "Smile, you can only change lives by loving everyone you can." Comment, meet your congressmen, vote, run for office (there are several available in AZ), but the end of life as we know it? Not for my children. They live in the best country I know of.

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    1. Thank you, Janette, for stating your position clearly, with passion, but without inflamed language. Voting, engaging with representatives, even running for office are important steps we all can take.

      Personally, I think the Internet and things like Twitter and Facebook make comparisons to past problems less applicable. The speed at which rumors and untruths spread around the world in seconds, to be repeated by those who benefit from such promotion, did not exist even 30 years ago. The instant nature of our public exchanges and the sheer volume overwhelms our system's ability to filter.

      That is the scary part.

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    2. While won't comment in general on this topic right now I will say, thankfully that the first commenter is atypical of either sid.Most folks I know can, like Janette and Chuck. Have calm discussions and opinion sharing. I wonder if she even realizes that she does more damage than good to those who hold her perspective? Personally, I've now had to go to full moderation, after avoiding it for years, because of such language.

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  14. I thought this was a blog about making the retirement years better: intelligent, thoughtful, helpful, hopeful, practical advice. Not any more, I guess. I will look somewhere else now. I don't need or want this stomach-churning, alienating, political emotion in my life.

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    1. 99.3% of all posts on this blog are directly related to retirement issues. If you find the rest of the content useful, may I suggest you simply skip the one out of 135 that offends you.

      The situation in this country directly affects retirement. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all under threat of major cutbacks or revamping. Unfortunately, our post truth world doesn't stay neatly tucked away in its own corner.

      This is not a pleasant subject but one that affects our daily lives, retired or not. Once in a very great while I feel the need to address it.

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  15. Politics are an important part of retirement as the choices and changes in Medicare, health car, tax laws etc. affect all of us. It's always best to stay informed. Apathy and denial keeps want ignorant of the facts regardless of each of our political leanings. We retired people, as everyone else, are truly in this together and just stay informed to be able to vote wisely.

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    1. So true. In our constantly inner-connected world, things don't stay neatly in their own box anymore.

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  16. Your post title reminded me of Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching, which says "When Tao is lost, there is virtue. When virtue is lost, there is kindness. When kindness is lost, there is justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual...the beginning of chaos." I used to point out to my law students how far down the list justice is, but it is the last stand before chaos.

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    1. Very interesting quote. Where are we now, I wonder?

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  17. Wow. That first comment!
    I’m tired of these subjects. Brought them up in an FB group for “elder orphans” as I too believe there are too many social issues at risk.
    I would like to thank Galen for her quote—that I think I’m memorizing!

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  18. In a normal post, I would have deleted the first comment because of its hateful and insensitive response. But, whoever it is made my point so perfectly about the coarseness of our public exchanges that I let stand and stimulate this discussion.

    I agree with you. It is a subject I am sick of. But, because it is impacting our world and the future we are leaving to the next generations, I find it morally unacceptable to just shrug it all off and say truth doesn't matter anymore. Everything is relative.

    No it is not. But, as you note, Pia, it is a topic that tends to generate a lot of heat and very little light. Hence my doing roughly one post a year (out of 130 some) on the subject.

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  19. Bob, I admire you for speaking your mind on this topic, and the Fourth of July was the perfect day. Anyone who reads your blog knows you don't dwell on political issues, but I agree it's important to address once in a while, since it does affect all of us, our retirement, etc.

    The first commenter just sounds so angry it's frightening. These are the folks that I fear will tip us over the edge. We have a few in our area and they're generally unhappy and angry people that have been pushed even farther by the current state of affairs. (And I'm willing to bet I could identify that commenter, as could several others who read and write blogs regularly. The voice is familiar after a while.)

    I find Richard's comment re: Federalists vs States very interesting. In a very real way, that's the path we seem to be on. Unfortunately, I agree with you that there are things we need a federal government to do well, and the states are likely become have and have nots. Overall, not very encouraging.

    For myself, I've had to really limit myself re: the news this summer. It just ruins my mood, so I look at headlines, but I find a lot of what passes for news now, since there is a 24/7 cycle to fill, is just conjecture and opinion. Neither of those are interesting unless it's one of a few I respect. May we get through this mess sooner rather than later. And may we cool off soon. The crazy heat is everywhere, although I know you're probably getting it the worst.

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    1. I have an idea who the first comment was left by. If so, she is well-known in blogging circles for her positions and lack of filters when expressing them.

      Like you, I found Richard's thoughts on the Federal-State balance insightful. That conflict was originally designed to keep each in check, but now it is out of whack. There are an increasing number of stories about states defying the Federal government in certain areas, like immigration, climate change or pollution controls. The name, United States, is not just a slogan, but its accuracy might be sorely tested in the future.

      We hit 114 today...hot but not record book hot for early July.

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  20. Bob, what a great post! This topic has been on my mind a lot lately mostly because of all the unwillingness of people of different points of view to actually sit down, face to face, and communicate. I learned early in my professional career that sending inflammatory email messages versus talking to someone verbally whom I disagreed with achieved nothing but inflaming the situation further. We have all become so attached to hiding behind our "keyboards" and not actually getting out into the community and talking to others about our thoughts, ideas, and concerns that it is no wonder that the fringe elements of our society, who seem to understand that public appearances, protests, and the media's quest for higher ratings/more advertising revenue are ensuring their radical agendas are being heard now, are being promoted. Just my 2 cents worth.

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    1. Social media allows for anonymity and seems to bring out the worst in some people. Things that someone might never say in public are fair game in private. I know there are a fair number of bloggers who do not allow someone to post a comment without attaching a name. So far, I haven't reached that point and hope I never do.

      I guess, if I am looking for positives, having hate spewed online maybe means diffusing some of the anger in a way that only insults, doesn't actually harm someone physically.

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  21. HI Bob, bravo and thanks for your post...spot on, 100% agree. 'Anonymous' is a coward, a hate-filled little Russian-brainwashed redneck who loves to hide behind his big gun. We must refuse to be bullied by cowards like Anonymous, with their big words but too scared to even admit who they are...because obviously they're ashamed of what they stand for, as well they should be.

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    1. I've read enough about this subject to understand how much fear and a sense of loss of control and influence plays in such utterances. Often, there are also streaks of racism or misogyny in play. That doesn't even remotely excuse it, but makes understanding what is driving the rhetoric easier. UNfortunately, certain segments of the population always encourage such behavior and profit from it.

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  22. First, there are "Anons" on both sides of the political divide, but neither represents reality outside the "if it bleeds, it leads" media bubble. When you travel around this country, you simply don't encounter this level of hatefulness. Anger, uncertainty, and frustration, yes, but not hatefulness. Recall that in the 70's we had multiple domestic bombings *per day*. Is my head in the sand?

    Second, given the premise that things are in danger of falling apart completely -- which I don't see -- shouldn't we be formulating a Plan B? Even if the chances are one in ten, isn't it prudent to be thinking about what we as retirees can do to prepare and adjust? I'm not talking about guns, etc., but about liquid assets, alternative living arrangements, conversations with friends, perhaps a supply of dried food, and so on. I know this verges on a survivalist mindset, but taking some reasonable steps is more constructive than hand-wringing and helplessness. Perhaps this is a topic for another post!

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    1. Lydgate: The Spanish philosopher Ortega e Gasset once said:

      "The best ideas come from the shipwrecked." And we are close to being shipwrecked as a country. But good people abound through the political spectrum and can come together in times of crisis (think 9-11). I think we will have a time of trouble, and then a great correction will happen to bring us back closer to the center, where the majority lives. At lest that is my hope. As for a plan? Do what Bob and others have long suggested: get/stay out of debt, have a well thought out plan, don't live in fear, but rather seek out the "good life" with family, friends and adventures as much as possible, insofar as your circumstances allow.

      Rick in Oregon

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  23. As a Canadian I can only say America is a great country, just a little confused at the moment.

    As Abraham Lincoln said on September 30, 1859: "It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall pass away.' How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!"

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    1. "Just a little confused" is a good summary. And, as I am sure you know, the vast majority of Americans have nothing but respect, support, and good feelings toward our neighbor to the north.

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  24. I will end my comments on this topic and hopefully decrease the temperature with this:

    Some truly heartwarming news of our great country that you might have seen.

    A skilled surgeon completed a procedure on a little girl. The research that made this possible was funded by the government ( that would be you and me, us). I like to think that this is what we are about as a people. This is what we can accomplish if we can clear our vision.... someday.

    https://abcnews.go.com/Health/year-cerebral-palsy-celebrates-taking-independent-steps/story?id=56370753

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. A new post that is back on the retirement train goes up in a few hours, so this may be the last of a very interesting and instructive set of comments. We would probably all agree that we are better trying to talk about the issues that concern us, rather than pretend all is rosy.

      Nice story, Rick.

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  25. Watched President Trump's rally tonight in Montana. Unbelievable to me. I disagree Bob that both sides of media are complicit......Someone (please someone) needs to go out on the limb and call a lie a lie

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  26. Agree Helen. He is a disgrace and embarrassment to our country.

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    1. There is such a continuous stream of lies and misstatements that the individual falsehoods get lost. It is like noticing a single wave when the surf is rolling in continuously. One lie is immediately covered by another. Which one gets reported? !!!!

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    2. Recent polls reveal that among his supporters, lies do not matter. Only policy. Our democracy is in uncharted waters now.

      Rick in Oregon

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  27. I am just curious, what statement is false? (Sorry, I am not retired but hoping to one day.)

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  28. Bob, I appreciate your writing on this topic. This is such an important issue in our contemporary time that it seems disengenous for bloggers and other writers to avoid talking about it and just carry on as if everything is the same as always. As you note, it is particularly difficult to speak openly about the shift away from rational discourse to emotional name-calling at present because of the extreme polarization in the USA right now. To my mind, no good can come out of further escalating fear and hatred.

    Jude

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    1. The sad fact is that neither side is listening to anyone except their own voices. I know people will say we have gone through periods like this before. I disagree. Never have we been so willing to tear down others while building walls around ourselves.

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