Join us in June(mostly)
Watching the president elect’s inaugural address last Friday I was struck by two things; one that this was a remarkably coherent speech and two that bits of the address were eerily and disturbingly familiar.
The coherence was not expected as the President’s streams of consciousness, ramped up by contempt and vitriol, rarely are focused or logically ordered. A recent speech at CIA headquarters supports this opinion.
The president started off well. His respectful tone towards Chief Justice Roberts, Presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush, and Carter were appropriate and dignified. His exclusion of Mrs. Clinton was perhaps not nice, but one wonders if ‘President’ Clinton would have mentioned Trump or Bernie Saunders. Trump then got to the meat of his discourse. In a movie-trailer worthy synopsis, he pointed out the perceived problems with the ‘carnage’ happening in the United States.
He proceeded to isolate the USA, on the way to making it great again. ‘From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.’
The familiar echoes were the ‘giving power back to the people’ and ‘building with American hands’. And then there was the Charlie Sheen moment, when ‘America will start winning again, winning like never before.’ The echoes of Bane, of John Frederick Paxton, and oddly of Bernie Sanders seem at odds with a speaker, who rarely evokes anyone but himself.
The imagery of an American heartland littered with broken people, rusting dreams, and crumbling infrastructure is not altogether untrue. Coming from the newest resident of the White House, the statements seem a tad ingenuous. To be fair, the image of the 45th president striving mightily to protect people, and using every breath in his body to change the course of mighty rivers may fill some with hope.
Now comes the big moment. ‘Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who ‘are all talk’ and no action, constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it.’ I am reminded of the scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian where the talk is all of ‘not just talking’.
‘The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.’ As if the point needed to be underscored.
That this individual, so long divisive, so long derisive and so often disinterested in anyone but himself, could talk of healing, of racial harmony, of a shared creator. That he could speak of caring what happens to a child in Detroit or Nebraska under whatever sheltering skies he may see in his mind’s eye. These statements can only bring back the impassioned question of Joseph Nye Welch, “Have You Left No Sense of Decency?”.
_________:First put on your helmet.
_________:Yes. Now fasten the chinstrap.
_________:It’s so uncomfortable.
_________:It’s only uncomfortable at first. You’ll get used to it.
_________:Sit on the motorcycle.
_________:I know how to do this.
_________:Please pay attention. Sit facing the front with one hand on the throttle and the other on the brake.
_________:I can steer with one hand.
_________:You can also get arrested again.
_________:I don’t want that.
_________:Then pay attention. What do you do at a red light?
_________:Go very fast.
_________:No! You stop. What do you do at a stop sign?
_________:Right… I mean, that’s correct.
_________:When can I go fast?
_________:Once you learn how to be safe then you can learn how to have fun.
CSR: Good morning. Pay Now Fly Whenever Airlines
Customer: Oh yes. Good morning.
CSR: Can I help you?
Customer: I’d like to …. I need to reschedule my flight.
CSR: When is it?
Customer: At 5:30.
CSR: Where are you going?
Customer: I’m going to Jamaica.
CSR: What airline are you traveling with?
Customer: Jamaica Air.
CSR: When do you want to reschedule for?
Customer: For later this afternoon, if that’s possible?
CSR: Okay do you have your ticket?
Customer: Yes, Ah here it is.
CSR: Okay …. That’s Jamaica Air from New York. Uh oh …Okay. No flights this afternoon.
Customer: No flights?
CSR: Not until Tuesday.
Customer: My vacation isn’t that long.
CSR: That’ll be two thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars.
CSR: Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars for a return ticket.
Customer: What. I only paid One thousand, four hundred for the package.
CSR: Ah, you had a package.
CSR: Well then …nothing I can do.
Customer: What do you mean?
CSR: You need to call your travel agent.
Customer: Aren’t you a travel agent?
CSR: We wholesale tickets. The agent is listed at the bottom of your ticket.
Customer: Hmmm, yes. Now I see it. Dodgy Destinations. Wow … how did I not see that name?
CSR: Call them and they should be able to reschedule things.
In the years and centuries to come we will explore our solar system and reach beyond the incandescent majesty of our home star. We will stretch out with our will and our curiosity.
At our best we will be, at once innovative, steady and resourceful. As always, we will be prone to self-doubt and introspection.
It will be our disembodied intellects that will stride across alien deserts and sail the glittering seas of distant moons. While we propel ourselves infinitely across an inky void we cannot be oblivious to the needs and protection of our own fragile sphere.
We will need to enrich, renew, heal and listen to our home even as we seek to communicate with her counterparts.
I have written one or two things in my time so I usually don’t get freaked out by blank pages, but being a product of a less-digital age the blank screen can still be fairly imposing.
Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, by Tim Hannigan, is a well researched and well-written book. Tim Hannigan presents Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (6 July 1781 – 5 July 1826) in a way he has rarely been seen; not as a liberal paragon, but as a flawed, overly-ambitious man. He is presented as intelligent and creative, but also as willful, petty and somewhat of a hypocrite.
An examination of the life and legacy of the man often credited with the success that is Singapore. This book looks at what happened when the British invaded Java. It’s not an alternate history or an episode of Doctor Who. The British did invade and occupied Java for almost five years (Aug. 1811-March 1816).
The changes, reforms and consequences of that half-decade resonated long after they left. From government structure, land division and the administration of tax districts Raffles policies and decisions would have lasting consequences for himself, his family, Indonesia and for Great Britain.
The man who is touted as a great reformer is more often revealed as an example of colonial excess, greed and cultural disregard.