The two most similar candidates running for president currently are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Despite their aesthetic differences and opposing vanity attributes, they are both uniquely different than the candidates they face in their respective races. Yes, they both capitalize on anger and yes they are both insurgents who break the mold, but the real similarity lies in their conflicts with their respective party tickets and their approaches to the issues about which they are most vocal.
Both Sanders and Trump are relatively unconcerned when it comes to foreign policy. Yes, they will answer questions when forced to, but unlike the late Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton, they do not build their soapboxes atop grand models of global interventionism. The Donald complained loudly a few debates back about the amount of expenditure lavished upon regime change pet projects overseas which garner intangible and incomprehensible benefits for the American people while our roads and bridges crumble back home: “We have spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that, frankly, … if we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and all of the other problems, our airports and all of the other problems we have, we would have been a lot better off — I can tell you that right now.” Back in February of last year Bernie Sanders argued for his proposed infrastructure bill by arguing that it would be far cheaper than the Iraq war and actually provide a tangible benefit for the American people. They make essentially the same argument on this point, much to the chagrin of the DC war party which is supported by both Democrats and republicans.
I live in Harlem, but I’m an outsider. Race is the obvious reason for this: I can walk a half mile in Harlem and only see a couple white faces. But race is not the only reason. Many of families in Harlem have lived here for generations. In this way, my status of outsider would be similar in backwoods West Virginia.
A fellow white resident told me he felt like an occupier living in Harlem. This struck me as an overwrought and guilt-ridden way of looking at the situation, but he accurately identified a level of unease. But the unease is diminishing to an extent: young white professionals who want to live in NYC have begun moving into Harlem because the rent is cheaper. Over the past year, I’ve noticed an uptick in white faces. This white migration in turn has begun to contribute to the gentrification of the area and the slow but steady rise of rent costs that will ultimately drive out multi-generational black families. This in turn has led to guilt-ridden condemnation of gentrification—numerous white neighbors argue this line. It’s quite nauseating especially when coupled (as it always is) with cliché anti-cop rhetoric. It’s straight up hypocrisy: if they really cared about preserving black Harlem, they wouldn’t move there. So why do they? Continue reading
Brussels was just attacked yesterday and dozens were killed. It’s like rain now or some astronomical phenomenon we see every few weeks. I was not shocked one bit when I saw the news. In fact, I was actually surprised there was no major attack in Europe for so long after Paris. Unlike many who reacted to November’s attacks I have no problem with sending prayers and good vibes. After the grief though, there needs to be a coherent response. I’m pretty laissez-faire when it comes to security and intervention. You could call me Newtonian. Crack down too much and you get push-back. The worst time to field opinions on next steps is when everyone is reeling from a disaster. That being said, I’m not reeling.
If ISIS is to be believed in their claim of sponsorship and that the reasoning behind the attack was Belgian involvement in the Middle East coalition striking at the caliphate, then there seems to be a bit of a catch-22. The West, in attempting to keep ISIS from gaining power, is intervening in Iraq and Syria. The reactive force results in attacks in their backyards. So in response the West tries to wage war as delicately as possible to avoid civilian casualties and bad optics. This draws out the conflict and gives groups like ISIS more time to develop counter-actions. In trying to minimize damage, the West merely moves it around. Continue reading
American napalm, that was so four decades ago.
The left loves to excoriate America’s strategic, altruistic, and ultimately flawed foray into Southeast Asia as cynical corporate imperialism. Noam Chomsky is particularly fond of this interpretation. But LBJ’s escalation of America’s participation in Vietnam’s civil war goes hand-in-hand with his beliefs about the ability of government to remake society and the world. The Great Society and Vietnam War were flip sides of the same coin. Champions of the left such as FDR, LBJ, and Obama in recent years, have characteristically opted to ally with corporations to advance their altruistic goals, which creates dissonance within the left driven by a misunderstanding of cause and effect. Corporations become the boogeymen that drive war, when in fact well-meaning, left-wing pipe dreams animate conflicts that corporations then more than willingly accommodate. Conservatives, supposedly so pro-corporate, have made less use of them than liberals.
I digress. Back to Southeast Asia. While the Vietnam War is a favorite topic of American-haters, Vietnam doesn’t share their obsession with getting stuck in the past. The other day The Diplomat published an excellent article that explored both Vietnam’s strategic considerations and its historical consciousness. America’s massive crime of getting involved in that far off land appears to be little more than a blip.
Good times in Harlem
The other night I was drinking a beer. I hadn’t enough sense to finish what was left in my tall boy. So I poured it out my window. An impolite act, but I’m four stories up and there was barely a finger of liquid left in the can. Plus it was raining.
Five minutes later I climbed out my window for a smoke while I spoke with a friend on the phone. I got yelled at. “White boy, pouring beer on us! Quit it! Fucking cracker!” I was confused. The beer I poured out wasn’t enough to even reach street level. But apparently it had. So I got hollered at. No matter, I sat there silent till the howling crowd below settled down. Moments later missiles began to explode around my head. It took me a second or two to understand what was going on. But as egg dripped off my hand I knew. Glancing down I saw fellows winding up and letting fly. The white specks growing larger as they approached my head. I quietly slipped back inside my window. Nothing came of it after that night, although I must admit worrying a bit about a confrontation the next couple of days (my plan: buy them a case of beer and apologize). Street justice. Don’t pour beer out your window in Harlem. It’s a reasonable rule. Eggs are a good enforcement mechanism. Continue reading
The 18th Century: The Transformation of Family is Nigh
The ideologues of past centuries taught that with the proper adjustment of material-political circumstances mankind could escape the world of necessity and enter into an era of peace, prosperity, and personal happiness–the problem of evil all but eliminated. As a matter of faith, ideologues believed that the solution to mankind’s trials and tribulations lay without, not within. Tinker and be saved.
While our country certainly has its issues, it would be foolish to deny that we live in an era of unprecedented wealth and opportunity. Our politicians may squabble over the distribution of wealth while eschewing the bombastic proclamations of old world ideologues, but they all agree that wealth and more of it is good. And yet they rarely note that wealth itself has not solved misery. More importantly, and paradoxically, the individual and civilization both labor under the burden of gold and liberty. Nowhere is the suffering and confusion more apparent than in Americans’ romantic and family relations. Continue reading
What Might Have Been: President of the United States
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a counterfactual historical novel. The story focuses on a Jewish family by the name of Roth living in an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh, the Nazi sympathizer, wins the 1940 election on the platform of keeping America out of the war. Despite the consternation of many Jews across America, some prominent rabbis become convinced (not without good reason as it turns out) that Lindbergh’s “Nazism” is calculated to put America in a better negotiating position vis a vis Hitler. Call it politics. Call it the ambiguous future.
Roth’s book emphasizes the unknown. If his story was straight historical fiction, we’d all be able to look up how the story ends. Instead we get familiar ingredients (Nazis, Jews, America, Hitler) but an unclear finale haunts the proceedings. Continue reading