The Parade and Patriotism

The last parade I watched (in person) was the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, California, a year and a half ago. It’s unique. And quite impressive. But too long. And I doubt I’d ever have the urge to see it again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with parades. But I can think of better things to do with my time. Unless, of course, you want to watch the parade, Vera, in which case I can’t think of anything better to do.

The Fourth of July parade in Carmel, Indiana, where we now live, is apparently a big deal. People staked out their places last week. 

Chairs appeared along the parade route five days before the actual event. And people literally roped off areas to ward against encroachers.

I’ve never seen this kind of behavior in connection with a parade before. I strikes me as a bit weird, but if it works for them, I’m fine with it. The main thing I like about this unusual practice is the confirmation it provides that Carmel is a safe community. In many other communities, all those chairs would be stolen long before the parade got underway.

Far more interesting to me is the whole patriotism thing that surrounds this holiday. We have some neighbors who decorated their properties with patriotic banners, etc. One has a sign in their yard that reads, “God Bless America.” I can’t help but think what is sometimes (not always) implied by this, namely, “God, please give America preference.” Or “put America first.”

Is that anything to wish a parent to do? Apparently, it is. That strikes me as a bit weird.

Patriotism makes me nervous, mainly because history teaches us that people have done a lot of bad things — really bad things — motivated by patriotism. To be fair, however, they’ve done some good things — really good things — too. But the bad things shouldn’t be ignored. At the very least, they’re a reminder we need to be cautious about being swept up by patriotic fervor. It’s important to keep our wits about us. And not allow ourselves to be used by rich, powerful people who are motivated by greed and lust for power. And to take more seriously the taking of human life, no matter the cause.

I’m also a bit wary of flags. Continue reading

A Nation of Laws?

Yesterday President Trump wrote, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” He also tweeted, “The appointment of the Special Councel [sic] is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” (Never mind that no serious constitutional scholar, or decent first-year law student for that matter, believes that.)

There you have it: we’ve elected someone who thinks he’s above the law. We’ve retraced history and have elected someone who thinks he’s a medieval monarch.

Nothing this man says or thinks surprises me. Not even this. But it’s a stark reminder of how fragile our democracy is. To think that such a demagogue could garner the support of enough people to get elected is scary.

I do think most of America’s success as a nation is owed to the preeminence of laws over men. We have been a nation of laws, albeit an imperfect one. But the imperfection is neither surprising nor troubling for humans are innately imperfect.

The principle of law is being tested today in ways unseen in the past century. Not even the outlaw president of the 1970s (Nixon) took it this far, although he was tempted. The difference then is there were responsible members of Congress, even of Nixon’s own party, who held the law in higher regard than the man. That’s not the case today; hence, the risks are greater. Today, Congress is full of small-minded cowards who are way over their heads.

I don’t know how it will all play out, Vera. I don’t know if my generation will pass off to yours a vibrant democracy, or one that is in its death throes — or, worse yet, one that can be found only in history books. It seems some of my fellow citizens fail to hold the principle of rule by law in high regard. And there were enough of them to elect this demagogue to office. So it’s impossible to know where all of this will lead. Continue reading

What Would a Great Country Look Like?

Part of my problem (and I have come to the conclusion, belatedly, that it is a problem) is that I think about how things could be, whether the “things” are a firm, company, city, or country. I’m not a particularly imaginative person, but when it comes to organizations and social structures, my mind is imaginative (beyond what’s good for me). And my level of contentment with the status quo is low.

It’s a problem, I’ve come to believe, because it leads nowhere except to frustration and disappointment. On a national scale, the country I envision cannot possibly come about given humans’ desires and traits. This focus on the could leads to disappointment on a micro scale, too — that is, with respect to individual firms, companies, and other organizations (such as colleges) — because of the ironclad grip of inertia and status quo. The could simply cannot garner critical support. In other words, I’m out of step and always will be. I get it. Finally.

That said, Vera, I thought I might share with you a glimpse of what a great country looks like in my mind. It’s an appropriate time, I suppose, because we have a president who says he’s making America “great again.” Yet it’s clear to me that his concept of greatness is vastly different from mine. But my intent is not to debate who’s right or wrong. Each person can decide for him or herself.

In any case, here’s what our country would look like if we decided to make it great as guided by my imagination — my hopes and dreams and the public policies I would like to see implemented: Continue reading