Lazy Saturday Reads: America the Violent


Good Morning!!

We’ve arrived at the end of another terrible week in America. When will it end? Never, until we do something about the availability of guns–especially military grade weapons that are designed for the express purpose of killing human beings. People should not own military grade weapons, if you like guns then get yourself airsoft gun, which is safer.

I’m going to begin with an excerpt from an essay at NBC News by Shorky Eldaly II: An America I See in the Distance. Eldaly was likely writing before the massacre in Dallas took place; his piece is mostly about police killings of Black people. Please do read the whole thing at the link.

Hours after the first report of another American, another father, another son, killed without the provocation all I could do was repeat this mantra to myself as I searched my home, for something to remind me of why we must go on; why we’re not allowed to give up on an America that seems, in some ways, now more distant than ever.

Today our nation struggles to find its breath after the loss of Alton Sterling. As we are still grieving the loss of life in Orlando I try, alongside the rest of the world, to make sense of the loss of Philando Castile.

In the barrage of questions being posed by experts on television screens and news feed updates, I whisper back, “Where are our solutions?” And I apologize (to who or what I am unsure) for not having done enough, in the wake of these executions.

Amidst these acts of terrorism, I am left at a loss for not just words, but of an ability to fully comprehend the true amount of loss we’ve suffered. I’m searching for an America I can still believe in.

Eldaly asks the questions all decent Americans are asking–where is the America we once believed in? When can we be proud of our country again? Or did that country never truly exist except in our imaginations?

This week we’ve seen the convergence of our national plague of mass shootings and the disastrous effects of racism on the way laws are enforced. The Dallas shooter Mikah Johnson claimed he was angry about Black people being murdered by police. In Tennesee, Lakeem Keon Scott may also have been motivated by anger at recent police shootings. He killed Jennifer Rooney, a letter carrier and wounded three others, including a police officer. At the same time, many police officers say say they feel under siege from people who are angry at police-involved shootings around the country.


As Eldaly asks, “Where are our solutions?” Not in Congress, as long as Republicans are utterly beholden to the NRA. A bit more from his essay:

I know we must encompass something more than sense of power to create change. We must restore a sense of compassion and freedom that illuminates the rhetoric of America’s founders. Though these notions of compassion and freedom were not applicable to the nation’s current populous, America can be, and has already in many ways been re-founded and re-defined in the 21st century.

It is by the hands of those, like my parents, who sought and chose to be American that America has been redefined. Their sacrifice establishes the vision that, for most of its life, has been America’s fairy tale. It is in their lives, and the lives of their children, that I see the evidence that we can grow, that we will be great.

It is in that same vein that Black Lives mattering is not a negation of the rights of other individuals, but a needed imperative to correct the record for a nation whose Congress once legislated the counting of people as property and now sanctions their death at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.

Because, in truth, the men and women who live narratives of hate — regardless of race — are no more American, than those who look to divide us and foster hate or fear within us. These individuals are terrorists and nothing short of that.

For each of those who work against equity, of life, of liberty, to those who kill the innocent — for each one of us you kill — you only strengthen our resolve.

You only strengthen the discipline with which we hold ourselves accountable, increasing the heights we dare to dream.

We are the sons and daughters of men and women who against insurmountable odds survived, who in every moment inhabit the American ideals in ways that our forefathers could not have imagined.

We can not allow violence or fear, to shrink us back or lead us to hate or division, because in ways that only love can sustain — we are dreamers, we are doers, and we are, in our resilience and resolve, bravery, selflessness, and love.


During her campaign for president, Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly that we need more love and kindness in this country. This morning I got an email from the Clinton campaign–you probably got it too. I’m going to post the whole thing here:

Like so many people across America, I have been following the news of the past few days with horror and grief.

On Tuesday, Alton Sterling, father of five, was killed in Baton Rouge — approached by the police for selling CDs outside a convenience store. On Wednesday, Philando Castile, 32 years old, was killed outside Minneapolis — pulled over by the police for a broken tail light.

And last night in Dallas, during a peaceful protest related to those killings, a sniper targeted police officers — five have died: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. Their names, too, will be written on our hearts.

What can one say about events like these? It’s hard to know where to start. For now, let’s focus on what we already know, deep in our hearts: There is something wrong in our country.

There is too much violence, too much hate, too much senseless killing, too many people dead who shouldn’t be. No one has all the answers. We have to find them together. Indeed, that is the only way we can find them.

Let’s begin with something simple but vital: listening to each other.

White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about seen and unseen barriers faced daily. We need to try, as best we can, to walk in one another’s shoes. To imagine what it would be like if people followed us around stores, or locked their car doors when we walked past, or if every time our children went to play in the park, or just to the store to buy iced tea and Skittles, we said a prayer: “Please God, don’t let anything happen to my baby.”


Let’s also put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous job we need them to do. Remember what those officers in Dallas were doing when they died: They were protecting a peaceful march. When gunfire broke out and everyone ran to safety, the police officers ran the other way — into the gunfire. That’s the kind of courage our police and first responders show all across America.

We need to ask ourselves every single day: What can I do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters — that we have a stake in another’s safety and well-being?

Elie Wiesel once said that “the opposite of love is not hate — it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death — it’s indifference.”

None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other — not now, not ever. We have a lot of work to do, and we don’t have a moment to lose. People are crying out for criminal justice reform. People are also crying out for relief from gun violence. The families of the lost are trying to tell us. We need to listen. We need to act.

I know that, just by saying all these things together, I may upset some people.

I’m talking about criminal justice reform the day after a horrific attack on police officers. I’m talking about courageous, honorable police officers just a few days after officer-involved killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m bringing up guns in a country where merely talking about comprehensive background checks, limits on assault weapons and the size of ammunition clips gets you demonized.

But all these things can be true at once.

We do need police and criminal justice reforms, to save lives and make sure all Americans are treated as equal in rights and dignity.

We do need to support police departments and stand up for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.

We do need to reduce gun violence.

We may disagree about how, but surely we can all agree with those basic premises. Surely this week showed us how true they are.

I’ve been thinking today about a passage from Scripture that means a great deal to me — maybe you know it, too:

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

There is good work for us to do, to find a path ahead for all God’s children. There are lost lives to redeem and bright futures to claim. We must not lose heart.

May the memory of those we’ve lost light our way toward the future our children deserve.

Thank you,



Now here are some links for you to explore:

New York Times: Suspect in Dallas Attack had Interest in Black Power Groups.

ABC News: Gun Used in Dallas Massacre Similar to Other Mass Shootings.

Los Angeles Times: Dallas police used a robot to kill a gunman, a new tactic that raises ethical questions.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Piedmont Park hanging referred to FBI.

New York Daily News: Trump barred from speaking to NYPD officers; Bratton says Dallas tragedy not a photo op.

The New Republic: The Return of Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

The Washington Post: The math of mass shootings.

The Chicago Tribune: Ex-Illinois Rep. Walsh says Twitter took down Dallas tweet ‘Watch out Obama.’

Buzzfeed: Trump Bought $120,000 Luxury Trip With Trump Foundation Money At 2008 Charity Auction.

The Atlantic: The Republican Party’s White Strategy.

Bloomberg: Sanders’ Influence Fades Ahead of Clinton Endorsement.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Agency and Communion in the 2016 Race for President


Good Morning!!

Hillary Clinton has been making “love and kindness” a theme of her campaign for President of the U.S. In my opinion, that is not only an inspiring message, but it is also an interesting and exciting one for a political campaign.

To me, this slogan is much more inspiring than “hope and change.” Love and kindness are about reaching out to others who are in distress and helping them. It signals caring about people and relationships. But I think “love and kindness” appeals more to women than men.

And why not? After all, we’ve had more than two centuries as a country led by male presidents. Isn’t it about time that the citizens who make up the majority of the electorate had the opportunity to vote for a woman to hold the highest office in the land?

I’ve mentioned before that my focus in graduate school was on language development and specifically on the development and function of narratives across the lifespan and how they affect personality. One of the approaches that my mentor emphasized was pioneered by Dan McAdams, a professor of psychology and presently chair of the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University.

McAdams studied the life stories of men and women and found significant differences in the ways males and females view the world and their lives. He referred to this dichotomy as “agency and communion.” Males tend to be more focused on agency, “getting ahead” and Females tend to be more interested in communion, “getting along.” In other words women are more interested in relationships than in advancing themselves and dominating others.

Of course each individual personality contains both of these characteristics. Interestingly, communion tends to increase with age in males and older women often show more agency in their personalities. This is a generalization, but there is definitely a statistically significant difference in these personality characteristics in the life stories of men and women. Whether it’s based on nature or nurture–personality is a combination of both–females and males tend to see the world and their own lives in differing ways.

Historically, personality psychologists have tried to diagram personality traits using the “interpersonal circumplex” concept. Here’s a diagram using agency and communion:



The idea is to demonstrate the various personality trait combinations that make people unique and at the same time similar to each other according to other characteristics like gender and age.

McAdams also incorporated Erik Erikson’s personality theories into his work. If you took Psychology 101, you know about Erikson’s theory of lifespan development. He argued that as people go through life, they pass through eight stages. Here’s Erickson’s final diagram of the stages he observed in people he studied:


I won’t go into this too deeply, but the ages listed on the diagram are fluid. I don’t think 65 is really “old age” anymore. McAdams has focuses quite a bit of his research on Erikson’s concept of Generativity. He has found that even very young children can experience generativity. What we’re talking about here is basically empathy for the feelings of others and taking action to reach out to and help other people.

Hillary is currently in the Generativity stage. In terms of her personality and behavior, she is nowhere near old age. She demonstrates generativity in the way she obviously cares about others and wants to help them. She especially cares about children and young people. During the campaign, she has reached out to the mayor and the people of Flint, Michigan and to mothers of young black men who were murdered. When young people have derided her at town hall meetings, she has famously said to them (paraphrasing) “You don’t have to be for me, but I will be for you.” Can you imagine Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump being capable of that kind of selflessness?

My point is that we are seeing these basic personality differences based on psychological research being clearly demonstrated in the current presidential campaign. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are focused on themselves as leaders of “movements” that are all about them and what they want to do. Hillary Clinton also shows a great deal of agency, of course; but the focus of her campaign has been on what she wants to do for other people and for her country as a whole. I personally find this inspiring and it makes me feel very enthusiastic about voting for Hillary.

Unfortunately, many of the people in our terrible media think “love and kindness” and caring for others are stupid, corny ideas and they mostly discount what Hillary is saying and doing and project their own ideas about “the Clintons” onto her. No matter how hard she tries, no matter how often she speaks in such positive ways about the future of our country, the media in general doesn’t believe her or care a bit about her desire to do good.

So that’s where we are today. We always knew that electing a woman president would be hard–much harder than electing a black man. Goddess only knows how long it could take to elect a black woman. But we are making progress, and if Hillary wins the presidency, we will very likely see both gradual and sudden changes in our national consciousness.

Women and people of color have learned that progress is slow; change doesn’t happen overnight, as Bernie Sanders wishes it would. But Sanders is irrelevant now; we must focus on helping Hillary defeat Donald Trump. The possibility that this ignorant, dangerous man could become president should motivate both Democrats and Republicans to work as hard as they can to defeat him.

Women, people of color, and other marginalized citizens like LGBT and disabled people can understand Hillary’s message better than the the privileged white men who presently control most of the levers of power in our country. We are the ones who will help Hillary save the country from Donald Trump. Privileged white men have a choice: they can join us or they can remain irrelevant.

Now a few reads to check out:


This piece by Charlies Pierce made me very angry yesterday, but today I see Pierce in the context of many white male journalists who simply don’t understand that white males and what excites them will not decide the 2016 election. The election will be decided by women and people of color.

I Am Not Convinced Hillary Clinton Is the Right Candidate to Take on Trump.

Let us stipulate a few things at the start. Hillary Rodham Clinton is still odds-on to be the next president of the United States. Only George H.W. Bush among modern presidents had anything close to her CV, and he never was a senator from a major state. She has been the victim of incredible abuse and the subject of fantastical lies ever since she first stepped onto the public stage in Arkansas. She is as tough and durable a political figure as any we’ve seen with the possible exception of the guy she married and the guy that has the job now. Electing a woman to be president of the United States is a genuinely big honking historic deal. Electing this particular woman president of the United States is the only sane and plausible choice available….


I would also stipulate the following—as a presidential candidate, as a seeker of votes, as an applicant for the world’s most powerful temp position, for the second time in a row, she’s proving to be something of a mediocrity….

HRC is a plodder. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many great politicians have been plodders; it can be argued that—his ability to galvanize an audience aside—the current president is something of a plodder. What is what he memorably called “the hard, necessary work of self-government” in his acceptance speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, if not an appeal for people to understand that progress does not come like thunderclaps and lightning. But the problem, as I see it, anyway, is the problem of horses-for-courses. A pure plodder is not the best candidate to put in a race against someone who is completely unmoored from consequence, who makes up policy positions on the fly, an improv act for whom the truth is whatever he decides to say next. Against this, HRC can look slow and stolid.

Read the rest at the link if you wish. In my opinion, what Charles Pierce thinks about Hillary is irrelevant. Older white men like him are not the voters who will elect her. I hope he decides to convince other men like him to support her too, but we can probably do without a lot of them. We are the future; they can join us or continue to be irrelevant.


Melissa McEwan at Blue Nation Review: When I Was a Little Girl I Memorized a List of Male Presidents.

When I was in fifth grade, I had to memorize the list of US presidents. At that time, there were 40 of them. To help me remember them, I looked at a series of their portraits contained in my parents’ set of encyclopedias, as I sat cross-legged on the orange shag carpeting of our living room while a re-run of “Barney Miller” played on the telly.

To this day, I can conjure the cross stare of Millard Fillmore and the Ichabodian visage of William Henry Harrison.

There was something about all those faces, first rendered in oil and then reprinted for my perusal, that made me ask my teacher how a person became president.

Something about the way I asked made her think I was asking what I might do if I wanted to be president someday. That was not what I was asking. I am criminally shy and despise being the center of attention; a position as visible as the presidency would be my worst nightmare. But I also wasn’t really asking what it took to become president, either.

I was asking, without saying it, what it would take—was it even possible—for a woman to be president.

Please read the rest–it’s great. I went through the same thing as a young girl–and I’m a lot older than McEwan. I wondered why women were rarely doctors or college professors or lawyers or much of anything other than schoolteachers, nurses, or secretaries. And even women who did those jobs were looked down on–they should have gotten married, had children, and spent their days cleaning house and cooking. Today we are on the cusp of electing a woman president!


Peter Daou at Blue Nation Review: Hillary’s Long Game Is Why Bernie and Trump Can’t Defeat Her. Daou says he observed Hillary’s campaign as similar to a game of chess.

From Hillary’s admirers we hear about Hillary’s discipline, resilience, compassion, experience and knowledge. From her detractors, we hear she is robotic, calculating, and dishonest.

What we rarely hear about from either side is her uncanny ability to play the long game, to see through the fog of news cycles, to hear through the cacophony of opinions, and to make decisions that are many steps ahead of her opponents.

Hillary understands that Bernie Sanders will win more races on his way to defeat, that Trump will keep attacking her marriage on his way to defeat, that the media will jump at the catnip, that pundits will make grave prognostications, that social media will light up with hourly trends.

What Hillary also knows is that her voters are profoundly invested in her campaign and that their support gives her the capacity to withstand intense attacks and weather the most turbulent news cycles.

She is playing the long game, knowing that media hype is just that: hype.

What seems like an earth-shattering issue today is a hazy memory tomorrow. What feels like a crushing defeat one night is forgotten the next. What seems like an insurmountable obstacle on the road ahead is quickly lost in the rear view mirror.

I loved that.

Finally, two pieces about Bernie Sanders that demonstrate where he falls on the agency-communion axis:

kindness quotes (3)

David Wade at Politico: Bernie Sanders, the Zombie Candidate. It’s already over, and now he’s just causing havoc. I’ve seen firsthand how much damage this kind of candidacy can do.

When he first decided to run for president, Bernie Sanders had a goal in mind: to start a political revolution by getting big money out of politics.

If he wants to do it—if Sanders wants to build a lasting movement to fight money’s outsize influence—he has to close one door to open another. The transition from contender to gracious supporter of the nominee isn’t easy for any presidential candidate, but he needs to make it, and soon.

We already know Sanders isn’t going to win the Democratic Party’s nomination; Hillary Clinton has amassed more than 92 percent of the delegates needed to secure the nomination, and she’ll easily pick up the rest. So right now, Sanders’ campaign is the walking dead: a zombie. And having worked for John Kerry during the slugfest of the 2004 primaries, I’ve seen up close how much damage this sort of prolonged “zombie” candidacy can inflict on the eventual nominee—and what’s ultimately at stake for the country.

I don’t claim that the dragged-out primary made the difference in November 2004; the race came down to the wire, and big forces—including post-9/11 anxiety and “Swift Boat” smears—loomed large. But in presidential campaigns, the one resource that’s never renewable is time. Zombie candidates can’t win the nomination, but they squander vast amounts of time and slowly chip away at the prohibitive front-runner. Some of the damage is obvious—the endless series of public dents in the candidate’s reputation; some are subtle, noticeable in ways that perhaps only political operatives can appreciate.

Read more at the link.


Jon Reinish at The Observer: Bernie Sanders Only Cares About Bernie Sanders.

Each election has what become its accepted narratives: themes that, over time, gel into what are considered reliable facts that are no longer vetted or questioned. As the Democratic campaign finally wraps up, it’s time to put two persistent ones to bed: Hillary Clinton is unpopular and limping to a finish, and Bernie Sanders is a progressive from way outside the system.

Neither could be farther from the truth….let’s look at the overall race and break it down by the numbers: Hillary Clinton is ahead of her primary opponent by over three million votes. In the Democratic primary, she’s still ahead by about 300 pledged delegates. America knows her. Which is probably in no small part why she’s so far ahead and why the country is saying a resounding yes to her in such massive numbers.

Call it what you want, but acknowledge she’s ahead.

It’s simply inaccurate to say that a campaign putting those kinds of numbers on the board is limping. They are sprinting. Yet the theme persists it’s one dead-cat bounce after another and she should be “doing better.” But what does that mean? That she should win every state?  Even the best campaigns have good and bad days. That she should have sewn it up by now? Well, newsflash, she actually does have it sewn up by now. Every national campaign has certain good states and certain bad states. The Democratic Party, thank God, isn’t monolithic.

She’s unpopular? Well, first of all that’s sexist, as is the consistent devaluing and snide parsing of every success she has, which the media does. But tell me this: how is she unpopular? That she doesn’t draw 20,000 hipsters to a rally? Those are optics. And they don’t vote in the same number as Hillary Clinton’s core demographics (if I was running for office? I’d ignore the whole Flight of the Conchords crowd and focus on older voters, college educated whites, middle aged women, African Americans and rising new American communities including Latinos and Asians: they vote). How can somebody who, according to accepted wisdom is so unpopular, be winning by so much? Voters support their candidate because they want to. Not because they are forced to. And it’s clear by polls and votes that Hillary Clinton is vastly preferred.

Ergo, a winning candidate.


On Bernie:

As for being a progressive—other than saying how progressive he is ad nauseum—frankly, I just don’t see it. Senator, you’re no Ted Kennedy. There’s no solid legislative record of liberal lawmaking; and I don’t see him leading a single movement until he decided to run for President.

Bernie Sanders is a fighter for Bernie Sanders.

His record points to a career—with the exception of his mind boggling and shameful record on guns—as a reliable left-wing backbencher. Fair enough, and we need the votes and I hope he continues that trend when he’s back in the Senate next year. Congress is full, by the hundreds, in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle, of said rank-and-file backbenchers. But the idea that he has been a liberal crusader with an enviable quiver full of results is hogwash. Voters haven’t seen Mr. Sanders out in front on healthcare, on choice, on climate change and sustainability, in a meaningful way—backed up by the decades-long track record of results that, by the way, he should have by now if he’s a serious person—any more than they’ve seen him at the Met Gala in Alexander Wang. He occupied a vague niche in the mind of the American public until about ten political minutes ago.

This article is a must read!

Now that I’ve gone on for so long, I’ll turn the floor over to you. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread. As always, this is an open thread.