How to Cope with Indecency on a National Scale

America is not a decent country. Not today. Sure, there are some decent people living here. Many, actually. But there is an atrocious number of indecent ones, too. Terrible people. If you don’t believe me, just watch the hate rallies our president holds. Just listen to the angry lies that roll off his tongue. The rallies are a spectacle I never dreamed I’d see in America. But I was wrong. About America.

But don’t stop there. Ponder for a second the billionaires and multi-millionaires who hoard their money while kids go hungry. And consider the ways we use our allegiance to capitalism to justify cruelty. Ponder the number of kids who go without a proper education or health care.

Ponder the fact that all the wealth creation over the past several decades has gone to the people at the top of the economic pyramid, while the average Joe hasn’t gotten a real raise (after inflation) in over 40 years.

Drive through the poorest sections of our cities. And through much of rural America that is mired in poverty. Consider how the system enslaves them with debt. Pays them a pittance for their labor. Denies them adequate health care. And forces their kids to mortgage their futures if they want a college education.

Ponder the immoral war we waged on Iraq and its people. Ponder the torture our intelligence and defense personnel perpetrated on our behalf — the war crimes and other atrocities committed under the Stars and Stripes.

Ponder the corrupt political system we tolerate. Indeed, embrace.

Terrible. Decadent. Indecent. It’s who we are. Or at least many of us. Enough to control things, at least.

Perhaps we’ll all terrible, including those of us who feel like we’re better. Maybe we simply can’t see our own indecency. I don’t want to think that. I hope it’s not true. But I know we never see the log in our own eyes. So perhaps it’s true.

Maybe it’s just the way it is, always has been and always will be. Maybe we were never as virtuous and noble as I had been led to believe growing up. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of the scales of naiveté finally dropping from my eyeballs.

Maybe it’s a matter of perspective. After all, there are many good people in our midst. Courageous people who do extraordinary acts of kindness every day. Maybe it’s simply a matter of looking in the wrong direction. And focusing on the wrong things.

But, of course, it can’t be just that. The indecency and despicable words and actions are not figments of anyone’s imagination. Lies and offensive, crude lies emanate from the White House daily in a way they never did before. From Republican Senators and Congressmen, too. And from Hedge Fund titans and bankers who care about nothing other than accumulating more wealth for themselves.

Conduct is accepted today — at least, by many of us — that would have been unthinkable — indeed, unimaginable — in years past. Utterly deplorable things. The conclusion is painful yet inescapable: we are becoming more terrible. More decadent. Far less virtuous.

Perhaps it’s just a phase. Perhaps something will occur to bring us to our senses and reinstall some sense of right and virtue into the fabric of the public commons.

But perhaps not.

Who knows? Surely, not I.

So what is one to do? What can one do?

I suppose one must start by not succumbing. Not allowing decadent, ascendant cultural mores to pull us in.

We must endeavor to be virtuous. Honest. And kind.

I also think it helps to be stoic. To develop the strength within. And maintain perspective. And focus on that which we can control.

And to experience joyful things. To immerse ourselves in situations and with people who make us laugh. With people we love and who love us. After all, love is the best antidote for the hatred and anger that undergirds much of the decadence we see today.

Personally, I find spending time with nature to be helpful. Nature is my church. It pays to attend regularly.

It also pays to serve. To give. To help. To sacrifice. To nurture gratitude.

Will any of this make a difference?

Perhaps not for the country. But most certainly for the individual.

Therein lies my hope: that there are enough kind, caring, and virtuous people left in my country to turn it around. If not in my lifetime, then at least in yours, Vera.

In the meantime, while we work to make things better, we also shall play. And laugh. And allow the gift of life to flourish within our souls.

Gen Z Has Arrived

Generation Z is now entering the workforce. They’re different from your parents’ generation, Vera. Your parents are Millennials. Their generation is unique, too. I’ve talked about it in the past because it will impact your life. After all, they are your parents.

Generation Z is sandwiched between the Millennials and you (born in 2015). Now that they’re of working age, the surveys and studies are starting to appear with greater frequency. We’re learning more about these young adults. And what we’re learning is fascinating.

Janet Adamy, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, researched this group and reports they are “sober, industrious and driven by money. They are also socially awkward and timid about taking the reins.”

Here are some interesting nuggets. (For the life of me, I will never understand why any person who’s old enough to drive does not want a driver’s license! It was an unheard of occurrence in my generation.) Continue reading

Your Ancestry

Vera, when your dad was your age (almost exactly the age you are today), we took him and his brother (your uncle Andrew) to Disney World. In truth, it may have been for us, the adults. After all, experiencing life with a youngster is a blast.

Despite his small stature, he walked the parks for a couple of days, with few rest stops. Here is one of them.

But, of course, he and his brother did eventually crash.

 

Staying Clear of Scoundrels

A guy selling gutter screens stopped by the house last week. We had inquired about his product because we need something over our gutters so we don’t have to climb high ladders several times a year to clean them out. The surrounding maples and those darn helicopters they spawn are a royal pain in the a**. In any case, the product this guy’s company sells is highly rated and seemed like it should do the trick. If it hadn’t been for the sales guy.

In short, he was a liar. I’m sure he thought he was smooth and that his tactics were effective. And perhaps they were. Most of the time. But not with me. Not this time.

Earlier in my life, Vera, I may have been more inclined to overlook his conduct as salesman puffery. Or just the manipulative way some sales people operate. But no more. Because of what he said and how he acted, I couldn’t trust him.

Unfortunately for him, I no longer will do business with people I can’t trust. It’s as simple as that. Even if they’re a client — a former client, that is. For if I can’t trust them, I don’t want them as a client either. Even if it means I’d be forgoing money.

I was reminded of something I’d heard Warren Buffett say. Buffett, of course, is highly successful, as judged by society’s standards: money. He’s one of the world’s richest men. While I don’t embrace all of Buffett’s principles, I do find a lot of wisdom in most of them. And this is one.

Shane Parrish has this to say about this particular principle: Continue reading

Give an Ass the World Stage and This Is What You Get

The president of the U.S. was invited to Great Britain. I suppose the Brits thought they had no choice given the U.S.’s place in the world. In any event, the visit is turning out to be their worst nightmare.

Upon arriving in London, President Trump royally criticized the Prime Minister and lauded her chief adversary, saying Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister. In other words, Trump is trying to topple the British government.

If a foreign leader came to America and acted this way, we’d show him the door in short order and rightly so. But, of course, the U.S. is the world’s military and economic power so other nations have to put up with this embarrassment of a president and bite their tongues. For now.

I can’t help but think the day will come when the U.S. will have to pay the price for its outlandish, bullying, disrespectful behavior. And, if so, no one can say we don’t deserve it.

Keep Shining

You turn three today, Vera. We’re going to celebrate. Your other grandparents will be here, too. As will your Aunt Elaine and Uncle Matt. I hope you have a good time.

We’re going to have water balloons, and I’ve been informed by your grandmother that I’m going to be the target. We’ll see how your arm has developed. We’ll also see if your grandmother can manage to stay dry!

You are the light of the world, Vera. There is nothing quite like you. Not in our corner of the world. You are interesting, amazing, and astonishing. Love dances with joy when your world encompasses ours.

It was that way with your dad and uncle when they were your age. I suppose there is something about little kids. Their innocence. Purity. Zest for life.

And then the world beats you up. And the flame doesn’t burn as bright. And sometimes it’s but a flicker. And the light grows dim.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not entirely. And it isn’t always. But often.

Sometimes I think our sole purpose in life is to keep the flame alive. And to be the light of the world.

It doesn’t sound like much. But the older I get, it seems like a lot. It might be enough. More than enough. Continue reading

When Your Time Has Passed

There comes a time. At least for most people. When their time has passed. When there’s nothing left to do. When they are alone.

I see it every week when I visit a friend who lives in a nursing home down the street from our house. It’s a nice nursing home. Six cottages. Each has no more than 12 residents. Most are in wheelchairs or use walkers. Many are hard of hearing. Some have a tenuous grip on reality.

Yesterday, when visiting my friend, one of the ladies, who’s in her late 90s, obviously wanted to engage me as I walked by on my way to my friend’s room. This lady is often sitting alone in the living area. I always say hello and perhaps have a brief exchange. But yesterday was different. I could tell she wanted to talk. Continue reading