December 6th, 2017

My Letter of Consolation

The United States of America is in a bad year. I have found the year so disturbing, I have contracted a stress related illness, shingles, and I find myself forced to undertake this project to console myself and relieve some stress. The project is to examine why I find this year so disturbing and try to find reasons for hope instead of despair.

The old silo.

This old silo still stands.

I already know that all is not bleak, but I have determined to examine the situation carefully to reassure myself and gain a truer picture of 2017 and the years immediately to come. I am making these thoughts public on The Vine Maple Studio because they might console others also.

What is bad about 2017? The president and the Republican party are the center of attention, but they are not the only objects of my despair. The Democratic party gets some of the blame. The dismal state of religion in many venues gets its own blame, the attitudes taught at some business schools, the materialistic orientation of a consumer society, the inattention of technologists to the consequences of their technology, the tawdry side of the internet, and the specter of artificial intelligence are a few factors that I give a share of the infamy.

I will discuss each of these points in more detail later, but, for today, I will try to summarize my feelings.

We are in a time of opportunity and transition, perhaps upheaval, on the verge of an age that will erect a barrier to comprehension that will render the 20th Century nearly incomprehensible to the citizens of the late 21st Century. In 2017, we see the consequences of the worst of the preceding age. An ignorant, intemperate president driven by greed and personal aggrandizement. A society that idealizes material wealth and cheap thrills. We have been descending into lawless plutocracy aided by technology that magnifies the power of ignorant bullies. Good men and women have been blindsided by a world in which they are compelled to stand up for what is right in ways that we have not been pressed for many years, perhaps a century. Maybe we have lost the will to stand up against ignorance and greed, but I intend to prove not.

Why are we ready and able to take a stand? Because ignorance, cowardice, cruelty, and greed sometimes win in the short game, but they have never conquered the long game. Evolution favors the species, the ecosystem, and the good of the many, not the luxury and self-interest of the few. The history of the world, whether seen through a scientific or a religious lens, has progressed steadily toward the greater good of all, not the concentration of wealth and power; no matter how hard the rich and powerful have tried to rewrite the story, greed and ignorance consistently lose out to honesty, integrity, diligence, kindness, and compassion. For the religious among us, the Christian God has always favored kindness over cruelty, generosity over greed, compassion over hatred. I am often struck by the clarity of the Christian message, but I know of no religion that is any different. I construe world history as the decline of arbitrary power and the rise of governance based on equality, justice, and compassion.

Am I an idealist? Of course. But I am also an old man. I’ve gotten my share of chops across the mouth and I have been shoved into the dirt. And I have been a coward when, to my deep shame, I could have been brave. But I stick to my ideals because I have also seen crooks in unassailable positions of power taken to jail and bullies fall into disrepute. No one should call me a success, but I am not a failure either. I’ve made some nasty mistakes and survived them. I am lucky to see many people around me whom I trust and honor.

A tiny ray of hope: I am a stodgy traditionalist on the music of the season of peace and good will on earth. The KING Christmas Channel has been broadcasting over the internet the sounds of kindness, goodwill, and benevolence at a level could never have occurred before the internet.

Enough for today.

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