What's Tony Thinking

Taking Stock


Labor Day marks an end to summer — though of course we actually have three more weeks until the official beginning of autumn on September 21. 

Perhaps it is time for us to take stock, so to speak. How are we doing, individually and collectively? Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat did something like that in his recent “Is Seattle Getting Better or Worse?” column. Spoiler alert: he concluded “both.”

If you are inclined toward “everything’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket,” there’s no want of fuel for that fire. Partly that’s because outrage is addictive. We get a hit of it from the latest outrageous news story or social media video and crave more.

And partly it’s because outrage and fear make money. Everytime the right has some sort of victory or screw up, my email lights up with alerts from the left, all of which culminate in “send money now” to avert total disaster. 

Here’s my take on this, that and another thing. Let me know what you’re thinking as the season changes.

On Trump. I’m holding out for the Mueller investigation. Frenzied calls to “impeach” seem to me to feed Trump and his base. Let’s see what Mueller comes up with. If he can’t find the smoking gun, Trump will have to be beat at the polls in 2020, which is actually the better way. 

Which brings up the Democrats. The primary victory by the impressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York has energized the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. The driving issue there — income inequality — remains with us. But I worry that a push to the socialist side will get the Dem’s too far left to win in 2020. I may be wrong. 

Meanwhile, the mid-terms will be revealing. I certainly hope that the Democrats gain control of the House, if only to check Trumpian excess. Trump continues to enjoy the benefits of a strong economy, but I suspect there’s enough revulsion toward him to empower some shift.

We remain a deeply polarized nation. The veneration of John McCain, and before him, Barbara Bush, signals a longing for basic decency and civility. Is that longing sufficient to call us back to our senses and away from the addictive drugs of outrage and resentment? I hope so. 

One insight I took from the book Our Towns (see my blog on that book)is that much of the important and hopeful work is now taking place at the local level. I think that’s true and important not to forget. In the vital towns portrayed, politics was less ideological warfare and more about solving problems.

On the (continuing) Catholic sex abuse crisis. I’m putting my hopes in the Catholic laity. The system as it exists is designed to protect the clergy who have the power. I wouldn’t keep expecting the clergy to get this sorted.

That said, disordered sexual behavior is a much larger issue. My earlier summer piece on “Freedom” is relevant here. We have long taken freedom to mean doing what I want, and forgotten older insights that true freedom requires a capacity to manage ourselves and our hungers.

What about the personal level? It has been a wonderful summer. We’ve rafted the Salmon River with a great group of Wallowa County friends. We welcomed guests and had a big family gathering for my 70th that meant a lot to me. I did the 200 mile Seattle to Vancouver Bike Ride. I have a whole lot to be grateful for.

At this time of life I find some of the mantras, or affirmations, of the Recovery Movement and 12-Steppers especially helpful. 

“I am enough,” is one such affirmation. Problems arise, at least for me, when anxiety fueled “I am not enough” takes over. A corollary is “I have enough.” In many ways, consumer capitalism depends on us believing we don’t have enough (ever). If we are going to make progress on a host of the most vexing challenges from climate change to income inequality, we will need to discover that for many of us “we have enough.”  

Keep the faith, my friends. It matters. You matter. 




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