Now that the dust has settled from the long-anticipated Jim Comey testimony, I have had some time to reflect on it. The former FBI director presented himself in earnest fashion and continued his “aw shucks, I did my best” boy-scout routine for which he is well known. Overall there were no bombshells, despite what the pop media claims. There was some confirmation and a whole lot of innuendo (Something at which Jimmy excels and uses masterfully). The most important moment, I believe, is his explanation for why he began writing memos: the first meeting with Trump. Everything that came after this is merely a detail, since that first conversation set the tone for whatever followed. I tend to look at history and human interaction as one long chemical reaction, so this meeting was a catalyzing moment in which the collection of elements that is Comey reacted with the collection of elements that is Trump. Metaphors aside, (God knows Comey loves those) we only received the account of the catalyzing moment from one perspective, which makes Comey our narrator. The natural question to follow is: how reliable is our narrator in this case? What assumptions did he bring into that catalyzing moment? I think Comey brought in a set of preconceived notions about Trump which tainted their relationship from the start.
Thomas Sowell in his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggle identifies two approaches to the world: constrained and unconstrained. The liberal, Sowell argues, tends towards the later while the conservative tends towards the former.
The unconstrained vision argues that reality is malleable and that “experts” can “fix” social, political, and economic problems through policy. Human nature is perfectible provided the environment he lives in his properly constructed. The constrained vision argues that reality is fixed and that man by nature is flawed. There are no permanent solutions only prudent trade-offs to mitigate conflict in the evolved system we live.
Which brings us to this election.
It’s gotten around my place of work that I was at the very least sympathetic to Trump and his supporters. I defended the reasons why people supported him on a number of occasions. Now, of course, I supported him, but for rhetorical purposes I removed myself as much as possible from the conversation and approached the Trump phenomenon clinically. Perhaps it was cowardly, but the Left was throwing around terms like “misogynist” and “racist” so it was best to keep them off with a nine-foot pole. Sometimes they got too close (“You’re not going to vote Trump ARE YOU?!) and I would just remind them that my vote doesn’t matter anyway (“New York is going for Hillary. Darned electoral college.”) and then they would grin and agree. A little obfuscation buys you an audience. Continue reading
Bodega. 136th and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. 2 AM
It’s a bender and I want one more beer so I wander downstairs to the 24 hrs service window at the bodega. I start to make my order through the glass shield that separates me from the attendant when a dude shows up with some ladies on his arm. He’s middle aged, short, got a belly, and is decked out in nice threads, a gangster cap, and a gold chain. He barges right in on me and begins making his order, talking a mile a minute. “Excuse me. Boss [referring to the attendant], give me Miller Light, tall boys. Two of them. No, make that Bud. And ladies, wait, what do you want? Cigarillos? Boss, two cigarillos, wait, what? No cigarillos, oh Newports? Excuse me. Boss, Newports.” He looks at me and I’m just smiling, tired, a little drunk, and amused. “Sorry boss,” he says to me, “I’m just making a quick order.” I nod, “Sure man.” He looks at me, “I know you. You hang around here.” I cock my thumb behind me, “Yeah, I live right back there.” “Yeah, boss, I’ll only be another minute. I know you.” Looking back at the ladies, “Girls, you want something else? Miller Lights? Ok, boss, two more Miller Lights. Come on, boss, hop to it!” Turning my direction but speaking rapidly to no one in particular, “Damn hot night, these nights. Damn hot.” His money goes into the turnstile window, it spins and the goods arrive. He’s off as quick as he arrived.
“Alright, boss,” I say to the attendant, “A tallboy, St. Ides.” It’s a rapper’s beer. I don’t like rap, but 8.2% works just fine by me. Continue reading
Contrary to those who claim to know the arc of history or declare themselves on the right side of history, it is more wise than foolish to acknowledge the ambiguities of the present in these troubled times. If the study of the past teaches us anything, it’s that ideas and movements wax and wane, twist and turn. Predicting the future is as dubious as it is interesting. While certain trends seem set, the future, simply put, is wide-open and progress is as common as regression (leaving aside the lofty standards by which we judge such things).
Two poems highlight this dual reality of trends and surprises.