Monthly Archives: April 2016

that irritating (Bernie) (Hillary) Donald supporter

After the Bernie rally, I approached what was left of the crowd just to feel the vibe. I was soon waved down by my neighbor who was there with a friend. My neighbor thought Bernie’s speech was interesting.

And her friend chimed in “But I wonder whether he’s really qualified to be president.” (This was one of Hillary’s most recent talking points.)

In our conversation, my neighbor shuddered at the thought of a Trump presidency which she saw as the worst of all possible evils. She wondered who would do better against Trump, Hillary or Bernie. I told her, that actually Bernie had polled better against Trump.

My neighbor’s friend said that it was fine to talk about the changes Bernie wanted to make, “but how was he actually going to make any of that happen?”

I told her that I felt, “At the very least it was time to start having a conversation about changing the status quo.” “In the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis,” I said “there was very little attempt to fix the system.” “Dodd-Frank was just a band aid on a system that needed to be completely reformed.” “Wasn’t it time to start holding people accountable?”, I asked.

“Yea, yea, yea,” my neighbor’s friend said, “but that’s what Bernie just said, I already heard that.” She pivoted, clearly irritated and said, “As a woman, I just think it’s time to have a woman President.”

“I can understand why you would feel that way,” I said. “It’s really wrong that we’ve never had a woman president, but it’s also time to think about changing the status quo of our unequal economic system.”

And she pivoted again and blurted out, “I just can’t deal with this now.” And she quickly turned to leave. My neighbor, followed her, even though she had seemed to be enjoying our discussion. In an attempt to close out our conversation, my neighbor turned and said, “Let’s all say a big prayer for the country.”

In this year’s New York primary, I’ve seen this same scenario play out dozens of times in slightly different ways. I’ve worn a Bernie shirt in my hood and got many puzzled looks from my neighbors. I’ve knocked on doors for the Bernie campaign and gotten looks like: “Why are you here? Isn’t Hillary the nominee? Can you please go away?” And people who I’ve known for years have abruptly ended conversations and indicated that to question the inevitability of Hillary’s candidacy would come to no good.

And by and large, the news media has taken much the same tact. No matter the result of each primary, each story seems to begin with a Hillary inevitability statement. And looking back, they took this tact even before the first vote was cast. And more recently Hillary’s surrogates and even Hillary herself have expressed extreme frustration that her candidacy could even contain a question mark, like it’s an absurdity that the primary process is even continuing.

If anyone deserves to be president, it’s Hillary. From a resume point of view, her qualifications, are more impressive than any of the other candidates. She has groomed herself for the Presidency to be her most impressive success in a long line of impressive successes. But still the notion that now it’s her turn, the notion that anyone actually deserves to be President is unsettling to me. And what perhaps bothers me most is that so many of her supporters share the view that her candidacy is inevitable, that now it’s simply her turn.

I have no doubt that Hillary will make a good president and help bring about progressive changes that I personally believe in. And I truly feel that it’s long past due that this country has had a woman president. But still I question if she’s really the one we need at this moment.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen very few moments that held the possibility of rapid progressive change, very few game changers that could change our core values, that could change the way we do business, that could give the status quo a really good shake. And in Bernie, with the excitement he has generated, not just in young people, but in a wide swath of the American fabric, I see such a game changer. In Bernie, I see a rare opportunity to effect something more than slow incremental change. And I feel a real need to seize this moment.

One wonders under what circumstances a Trump presidency could be possible. While my own crystal ball is rusty, I do know that Trump’s odds increase when his supporters begin to turn off their minds, to no longer check the facts, to forget the practical implications of Trump’s fantasy solutions as well as to dismiss the possibility that anyone else could be the candidate. At this point it’s easy to start blocking out inconvenient facts, like the rules of the primary process or that the nomination is not yet a done deal.

As a Democratic partisan, it’s tempting for me to believe that Trump’s supporters are simply uninformed. But because an important part of their psychology is their belief in the man rather than an analysis of his ideas, I’d have to concede that much the same thing is currently going on with Hillary supporters. Both camps seem to be marching lock-step behind their candidates and mentally blocking out any new information. This makes it easy for both sides to stop paying attention, to stop listening and yes to become steadily more uninformed.

In this political cycle, it’s disturbing that there are so many similarities in the way the faithful are supporting their front-runners. In my opinion, the same mental submissiveness that could be a gateway to a Trump presidency has a hold on far too many Hillary supporters. And history tells us that this type of blind support can easily lead to mistakes on a grand scale.

So Hillary supporters should at least take notice. They would do well to realize the extent that they are emulating the mindset of their opponents. And they need to find a way to keep their minds just a little more open, to exercise just a little more caution, and to express just little more humility. And while I concede that the path ahead for Bernie has become more of a long shot, the nomination is still not a done deal. So listen to me Hillary supporters, you need to find a way to “just deal with this now.”

And while we’re at it let’s take my neighbor’s advice and “Say a big prayer for the country.” Mere humans seem all too prone to making bad choices, even for what they truly believe are all of the right reasons.

poem for Bernie on April 13th, 2016 (Washington Square Park, NYC)

Wow! I don’t think I’ve written a poem in 30 years. But standing in Washington Square Park, NYC listening to Bernie Sanders I was inspired. And only poetry could foot the bill. So here goes…

poem for Bernie on April 13th, 2016
(Washington Square Park, NYC)

In the shadow of Garibaldi,
we all knew just what to do,
what required all of our voices gathered together.

Through history’s many lenses,
sometimes honest men sowed the ruined soil,
sometimes criminals ran free as rain,
and finally these streetlights could cast our own aspirations.

The overly complicated dream could be untangled,
the sand bags and walls to paths,
that should have been left untaken,
becoming bridges and pipelines still ambling,
toward the words just coming into sight.

The bedside manner we patiently awaited,
our ears were finally ready to outline,
the bright and stubborn truth.

Watch it!

why won’t you return my e-mails? part 2

In the last few weeks I’ve had occasion to send emails to a number of people that I’ve been out of touch with for some time. I was very shocked that I only got a less than a 5% response rate.

It’s true that I asked a few of my recipients for favors, like acting as my reference in an upcoming job hunt, so I can understand some hesitancy to respond. Still, I’ve known many of these people for years, some even for decades.

The near total lack of response was surprising, considering how well I thought I knew some of the recipients.  It was actually quite maddening, if not a bit depressing.

In trying to figure what happened, I got really reflective and wondered if somehow, I had wronged them all. Was I really being a jerk when I thought I was being nice? Was I completely misguided in how close I thought I once was to some of them?

I soon discovered that I was not alone in all of these feelings. It’s a definite trend that people don’t respond to emails, even from people that they know and like. And it drives everyone crazy,

One researcher noted, “We’ve seen an increase in the nonresponse rather than just politely declining. You delete it and hope it goes away, just like if someone comes to your door and you pretend you’re not home.”

Another writer noted that in some cases, that “No response is the new no.” But added this this is often not always true. He cited that “sometimes people would put aside an e-mail to give a longer, thoughtful reply later, but then waited too long and felt embarrassed to send it.” So there’s lots of possibilities.

It’s clear that unanswered e-mails cause everyone a great deal of anxiety. The most common suggestion for ways to get a response is to send a polite reminder. I sent reminders to my list and got a 20% response rate.

The next most common suggestion is just to accept that many people are just never going to respond.

My own personal theory is that in a culture where technology is moving faster than our brains, that we’re just too overwhelmed and busy multitasking to weed out the good from the bad. Perhaps spammers and endless ads everywhere have just inundated us to the point that we have begun to just ignore everything.

For another perspective, one writer asked several Buddhist monks, why they thought people didn’t respond to e-mails. The last of the responses came from a monk who responded that,

“Patience is the ability to end our expectations.”

How Buddhist of him.

And yet can someone really wait forever? On my third reminder, I told people how important they were to me. This increased by response rate to 60%.

So if you want to do it right, you can review this: E-mail Etiquette 101

But don’t miss this…

A wise person at the New Yorker put together a calendar for the whole year of why people don’t respond to e-mails.  Why the People You E-mailed Aren’t E-mailing You Back, by Week

This really explains so much. As for my own situation, I remain hopeful that the rest of the people on my list will still send me a response. Someday.