Sunday, April 22, 2018

Me-Me-Me-first Anarchy in Public Parks

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Travis VanderZanden, chief executive of electric scooter start-up Bird, is unperturbed by how San Francisco and other cities are in an uproar over the dockless vehicles.

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John Brown [from original Facebook entry]: Allow me a statement of minor "outrage": I go,when my failing limbs allow, for a near-daily jog (my kind, diplomatic neighbors, with a smile, call it a "walk" when we share words) in the splendid Rock Creek Park of our nation's capital, an homage to b...See More [JB - see below]

John Brown

Allow me a statement of minor "outrage" pertaining to the above article (see also).

When my failing 70-year old limbs allow, I still go, while going through puberty, for a near-daily jog (my kind polite neighbors, with a smile, say "enjoy your walk" when we share words while bumping into each other in our neck of the imperial capital on the shores of the Potomac river), as I'm on my way to the splendid Rock Creek Park  [RCP] of our nation's capital; an homage, to be carefully preserved, pristine (as much as it can be) nature in the heart of  The City Upon  Hill.

I (without pretending [or so I hope] that I (Walt-Whitman-like,going on the open road), make it a point [as a USA patriot?]) of picking up litter -- everything ranging from used condoms to you-name-it, on a little-known road in North-West, District of Columbia Tilden Street, a minor part of the imperial (but-oh-so provincial) capital, to the RCP, into which I venture nearly every day.

However, in recent months, that national treasure, our Rock Creek Park -- not just for bike riders, but for all of us -- has been invaded by/for [?] a new form of oddly acceptable (by whom?) trash/pollution: dockless bicycles.

These well-ok-pollution-free instruments of transportation God-knows-are all over the park, supposedly because (if I understand media reports properly) because they (the bikes) will picked up (when, exactly?) by the company that licenses [right word, dear lawyers?] them).

BTW, I can't throw bikes into my trash bag. Too big!

Allow my citizen-thoughts on this: Is it not time for serious, non-punitive regulation/legislation -- so as to assure that leave-me-wherever-I-want bikes don't exploit/mutilate, like trash/litter, our increasingly few, real mother-earth areas -- still preserve our non-cyberspace, common spaces in "real" life?

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Two Competing Theologies of American Foreign Policy - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Doran image from

In a sweeping essay, Michael Doran [JB - on Doran, see Wikipedialocates the fundamental tension within Americans’ approach to foreign affairs in the divide between two schools of Protestantism [JB emphasis]. Dispensational premillennialism (or fundamentalism) sees mankind as fallen and imperfectible, the messianic era as not subject to human control, and the task of government to “protect the community [and] safeguard its freedom” rather than “to spread the word of God or to perfect the world.” By contrast, the “progressive persuasion” (or modernism) claims that “the spread of the gospel will produce a millennium prior to Christ’s return.” The first group tends to be suspicious of multilateralism, the second to embrace it. And while the first group has supported Jewish statehood in the land of Israel—even before Zionism—the latter has resolutely opposed it. Even as America has become increasingly secular, writes Doran, the fault lines remain in place:
“We believe,” [wrote some leading millenarians], “that, in this new order of things, the house of Israel, or Jewish race, shall again occupy their own land, and hold the first place among the nations, under their proper king, the Son of David, forever.” This document dates from 1863, the year of the battle of Gettysburg—a cataclysmic moment. The Anglo-American millenarianism of the 19th century was Zionist. . . . Because the return of the Jews to the Holy Land anticipates the return of Christ, American fundamentalism has always considered support for Zionism a proper use of government power, not a hubristic attempt to influence history through human agency. And it has understood Zionism and the mission of America as inseparable parts of a single divine plan. . . .
Not so the Protestant modernists and, especially, the missionary cosmopolitans among them. A key aspect of their global vision was (and remains) hostility to Zionism. Beginning in the mid-19th century, missionaries in the Middle East worked to develop friendships with Arab Muslims. Support for Zionism by the United States led many Arabs to view the [missionary] Americans among them as representatives of a hostile power. In the eyes of the missionaries, therefore, Zionism was responsible for damaging both the missionary project and the national interest—two indistinguishable commitments in their minds. . . .
In mid-[20th]-century America, the State Department and the CIA were packed with Protestant modernists and missionary cosmopolitans. It should come as no surprise that these institutions were reflexively anti-Zionist. Their hostility to the idea of a Jewish state set the stage for a clash between the White House and the State Department during the Truman administration. Truman . . . supported the 1947 partition plan for Palestine and moved to recognize Israel the following year. . . .
No sooner had Truman recognized Israel than the CIA secretly sponsored and funded the establishment of the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME; JB: see). Outwardly a “people-to-people” public-diplomacy initiative, [JB emphasis] AFME brought influential Middle Easterners to the United States, helped them write and publish books and articles, and seeded Middle Eastern student organizations on American college campuses. It also lobbied Congress—against Israel. AFME was a remarkable instance of a CIA-confected front organization designed to counter official government policy, in this case by seeking to delegitimize Zionism in domestic American politics. [The Harvard professor] William Ernest Hocking, [the theologian Harry Emerson] Fosdick, and many other leading lights of the Protestant modernist movement were members of the organization. . . . Despite this powerful lineup, AFME did not turn the American people against Israel, and it failed to roll back the gains of Truman’s pro-Zionist foreign policy.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Democrats’ Gentrification Problem - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times; original article contains links.

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

April 19, 2018

Image from article, with caption: The view from above in San Francisco.

The nation’s largest cities and metropolitan areas — home to a majority of Democratic voters — are at the forefront of the party’s most vexing racial, ethnic and class conflicts.

Last week, in an essay for CityLab, Richard Florida, a professor of urban planning at the University of Toronto, described how housing costs are driving the growing division between upwardly and downwardly mobile populations within Democratic ranks:

The rise in housing inequality brings us face to face with a central paradox of today’s increasingly urbanized form of capitalism. The clustering of talent, industry, investment, and other economic assets in small parts of cities and metropolitan areas is at once the main engine of economic growth and the biggest driver of inequality. The ability to buy and own housing, much more than income or any other source of wealth, is a significant factor in the growing divides between the economy’s winners and losers.

Allies on Election Day, the two wings of the Democratic Party are growing further estranged in other aspects of their lives, driven apart by the movement of advantaged and disadvantaged populations within and between cities. These demographic patterns exacerbate intraparty tensions.

Florida, writing with Benjamin Schneider of CityLab, expands on this point:

While the advantaged members of the knowledge, professional, and creative class have enough money left over even after paying the cost of housing in these cities, it’s the less-well-paid members of the service and working classes who get the short end of the stick, with not nearly enough left over to afford the basic necessities of life. They are either pushed to the periphery of these places or pushed out altogether.

The competition for housing between rich and poor has become a critically important and divisive issue in urban America.

“The state of housing affordability in the expensive coastal metros is driving a wedge between two factions of the American left,” Issi Romem, a fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an email to me.

In a paper published earlier this month, “Characteristics of Domestic Cross-Metropolitan Migrants,” Romem looked at the income and education levels of families moving in and out of 441 metropolitan areas. He found that

Domestic migration across U.S. metropolitan areas is selective: in-migrants to expensive metros tend to have higher incomes and educational attainment than out-migrants, while the opposite is true in the least expensive metros. This pattern contributes to the process of polarization across U.S. metros.

One of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country, San Francisco, is also one of the most Democratic sections of the country, (San Francisco County: Clinton 84.5 percent, Trump 9.2 percent). According to Romem, between 2005 and 2016, those moving into the San Francisco area had median household incomes averaging $12,639 a year more than the households of the families moving out, $70,015 to $57,376.

Conversely, in the struggling Syracuse metropolitan area (Clinton 53.9 percent, Trump 40.1 percent), families moving in between 2005 and 2016 had median household incomes of $35,219 — $7,229 less than the median income of the families moving out of the region, $42,448.

Research that focuses on the way city neighborhoods are changing by income, race and ethnicity, while not specifically addressed to political consequences, helps us see the potential for conflict within the Democratic coalition.

Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, published a detailed study in 2015 for the St. Louis Federal Reserve of the economic composition of neighborhoods. Overall, he found, “middle-income neighborhoods are tenuous,” while neighborhoods at the top and bottom of the economic ladder have remained strikingly stable.

For example, as Sampson explained by email,

fully 80 percent of all U.S. neighborhoods in the top income quintile remained in place between 2000 and 2012. In Los Angeles, the persistence rate reached 87 percent among the highest income quintile neighborhoods. In Chicago 82 percent of the affluent neighborhoods in 2000 remained in place over the decade.

Chicago, Sampson wrote, is “experiencing a concentrated affluence shift,” in which

the black population has declined and Hispanics are now second largest after whites in population. The race/ethnic shift is something of a milestone given the history of the city.

Despite this shift, Chicago remains reliably Democratic. In 2016, Clinton beat Trump there 83.7 percent to 12.5 percent.

In firmly Democratic neighborhoods across the country, the economic status of those moving in and out began to shift radically starting at the beginning of this century.

Take, for example, “Accounting for Central Neighborhood Change, 1980-2010,” by Nathaniel Baum-Snow, an economist at the University of Toronto, and Daniel Hartley, an economist at the Federal Reserve in Chicago. They found that the core of the nation’s cities is being taken over by members of the affluent wing of the Democratic Party at the expense of the less affluent, disproportionately minority wing of the party:

Central neighborhoods of most U.S. metropolitan areas experienced population decline 1980-2000 and population growth 2000-2010. 1980-2000 departures of residents without a college degree accounted for most of the decline while the return of college educated whites and the stabilization of neighborhood choices by less educated whites drove most of the post-2000 rebound.

Baum-Snow and Hartley cite what they call “a shifting balance between departures of low SES (socioeconomic status) minorities and inflows of high SES whites” and point out that neighborhoods surrounding cities’ central business districts have experienced a turnaround

driven by the return of college-graduate and high-income whites to these neighborhoods, coupled with a halt in the outflows of other white demographic groups. At the same time, the departures of minorities without college degrees continued unabated.

In Chicago, Baum-Snow and Hartley point out, the largely minority census tracts that gained whites the fastest from 1980 to 2010 were “almost exclusively within 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of the central business district.”

A similar pattern has emerged in the urban West. “Gentrification in the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle,” Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, told me in an email, “is definitely pushing disadvantaged populations out of old neighborhoods and into far-flung exurbs.”

Within major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Cain continued,

the sorting is also between neighborhoods, with large nonwhite populations surrounded by white/Asian suburbs, and certain Latinos and Asians displacing blacks.

Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.”

“One of the key problems of the information/digital economy,” according to Cain,

is that it thrives under conditions of amassing large concentrations of human and financial capital, which results in these homogeneous bubbles. It doesn’t help that many of the tech workers are not as inclined to be good neighbors.

The trends Cain cites are part of a nationwide shift.

From the 1960s and 1970s to 2000, Florida pointed out by email, the basic pattern was

blacks were moving into and staying in cities, and whites were moving out. But in the period since 2000, and earlier than that for very successful cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., and Seattle, affluent white highly educated people begin to move in, and less educated whites and particularly less educated and less affluent blacks begin moving out.

As intraparty economic and racial divisions have increased within the Democratic coalition, the political power of the well-to-do has grown at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities.

Right now, a heated conflict has erupted within Democratic ranks in California over pending legislation (SB 827) that would override local zoning laws to allow developers to exceed height and density limits in return for an agreement to include more affordable housing units near transit hubs.

In very liberal Marin County (Clinton 77.3 percent, Trump 15.5 percent, median household income $100,310), elected officials of at least seven local municipalities have voted to oppose the legislation.

Jonathan Chait, writing in New York Magazine on Wednesday, pointed out that the housing issue in California and elsewhere,

is ultimately a question of whether the most prosperous parts of blue America can be opened up to new entrants, or whether they will remain closed off and increasingly unaffordable. It is also a political test for whether progressives will be manipulated by knee-jerk suspicions, or be able to think clearly about using the market to serve human needs.

After overwhelmingly Democratic City Councils along the California coast voted to oppose the legislation, the Democratic State Senate answered Chait’s question and killed the bill.

The maneuvers in California are a reflection of a larger problem for Democrats: their inability to reconcile the conflicts inherent in the party’s economic and racial bifurcation.

Dani Rodrik, an economist at Harvard, addressed the Democrats’ dilemma in a recent essay for Project Syndicate:

In principle, greater inequality produces a demand for more redistribution. Democratic politicians should respond by imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and spending the proceeds on the less well off.

In practice, Rodrik writes

democracies have moved in the opposite direction. The progressivity of income taxes has decreased, reliance on regressive consumption taxes has increased, and the taxation of capital has followed a global race to the bottom. Instead of boosting infrastructure investment, governments have pursued austerity policies that are particularly harmful to low-skill workers. Big banks and corporations have been bailed out, but households have not. In the United States, the minimum wage has not been adjusted sufficiently, allowing it to erode in real terms.


Rodrik cites the work of the French economist Thomas Piketty, who argues that political parties on the left have been taken over, here and in Europe, “by the well-educated elite” — what Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left.” The Brahmin Left, writes Rodrik,

is not friendly to redistribution, because it believes in meritocracy — a world in which effort gets rewarded and low incomes are more likely to be the result of insufficient effort than poor luck.

Michael Lind, a professor of public policy at the University of Texas in Austin, wrote in a prescient 2014 essay, “The Coming Realignment: Cities, Class, and Ideology After Social Conservatism,” that “high-density downtowns and suburban villages are coming to have an hourglass-shaped social structure.”

“Wealthy individuals” are at the top, according to Lind, with a “large luxury-service proletariat at the bottom.” Democrats, in this scheme, have become the party of

the downtown and edge city elites and their supporting staff of disproportionately foreign-born, low-wage service workers.

Lind’s point raises a fundamental question for the Democratic Party: Can it find a way to hold its “hourglass-shaped” political coalition together?

Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, predicted the potential political developments of this situation in an article in March 2016:

Over the next decade or so, the Republicans will split between their growing nationalist-populist wing and their business establishment wing, a split that the nationalist-populist wing will eventually win. The Democrats will face a similar split between the increasingly pro-corporate but socially liberal Clinton wing and a more economically progressive Sanders wing, a split that the Clinton wing will eventually win.

The outcome?

The Democrats will become the party of urban cosmopolitan business liberalism, and the Republicans will become the party of suburban and rural nationalist populism.

Clearly, the 2016 election demonstrated the fragility of the Democratic coalition and its vulnerability to challenge from the populist right.

Dani Rodrik picks up this point in his Project Syndicate essay:

Why were democratic political systems not responsive early enough to the grievances that autocratic populists have successfully exploited — inequality and economic anxiety, decline of perceived social status, the chasm between elites and ordinary citizens? Had political parties, particularly of the center left, pursued a bolder agenda, perhaps the rise of right-wing, nativist political movements might have been averted.

The forces behind the conversion of the Democratic Party into “the party of urban cosmopolitan business liberalism,” as described by Drutman, may be inexorable. If so, Rodrik’s call on the center-left to adopt a “bolder agenda” may be beyond reach.

Taking it a step further, a Democratic Party based on urban cosmopolitan business liberalism runs the risk not only of leading to the continued marginalization of the minority poor, but also — as the policies of the Trump administration demonstrate — to the continued neglect of the white working-class electorate that put Trump in the White House.

In other words, Democratic strategists looking to piece together a 21st century political alliance have to consider the unintended consequences of taking the easy route: constructing a coalition explicitly dominated by elites.

I say easy because — compared to the average resident of the United States — the affluent are “vastly more engaged politically,” as Douglas S. Massey and Jacob S. Rugh, sociologists at Princeton and Brigham Young University, write in a forthcoming paper, “Isolation at the Extremes”:

Whereas 99 percent of the wealthy voted in the 2012 presidential election and 60 percent gave money to a political candidate, the corresponding figures were just 78 percent and 18 percent for Americans in general. As a result, the affluent are far more likely to have their political preferences reflected in public policies than other Americans.

The force that had historically pushed policy to the economic left — organized labor — has for the most part been marginalized. African-American and Hispanic voters have shown little willingness to join Democratic reform movements led by upper middle class whites, as shown in their lack of enthusiasm for Bill Bradley running against Al Gore in 2000 or Sanders running against Clinton in 2016.

The hurdle facing those seeking to democratize elite domination of the Democratic Party is finding voters and donors who have a sustained interest in redistributive policies — and the minimum wage is only a small piece of this. Achieving that goal requires an economically coherent center-left political coalition. It also requires the ability to overcome the seemingly insuperable political divisions between the white working class and the African-American and Hispanic working classes — that elusive but essential multiracial — and now multiethnic — majority. Establishing that majority in a coherent political coalition is the only way in which the economic interests of those in the bottom half of the income distribution will be effectively addressed.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

'Mission Accomplished’ and the Meme Presidency

Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic; article contains additional images.

Donald Trump used an infamous phrase to describe U.S. military action in Syria, the latest in the president’s tradition of remixing and amplifying messages from his predecessors.

Everyone remembers the banner. It was huge, for one thing—those gigantic soft-brush stars and stripes, the big letters shouting: “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.” It was also a huge mistake.

What’s faded, 15 years since George W. Bush stood beneath that infamous sign on May 1, 2003, is that the political theater that took place on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean was as meticulously planned as it was audacious—a fact that’s almost impossible to imagine in today’s impulsive presidency. Hours after ordering air strikes against government targets in Syria, the current president casually tweeted: “Mission accomplished!”

But in the spring of 2003, every detail was choreographed. President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a fighter jet, then emerged wearing a green flight suit. Bush’s speech was timed for the golden hour, with the idea that the waning sunlight would cast a pleasing glow on the president as he spoke. Even the Navy crew members who gathered on the deck wore color-coordinated shirts, and were perfectly positioned so they’d appear in a single television shot with the words “Mission Accomplished” over Bush’s right shoulder, media strategists pointed out at the time.

This attention to detail was typical in the Bush White House. The 43rd president had a team of special producers who were obsessed with how the president’s message might be amplified on television. “I sort of use the rule of thumb, if the sound were turned down on the television when you are just passing by, you should be able to look at the TV and tell what the president’s message is,” Scott Sforza, who staged Bush’s presidential events, told Martha Joynt Kumar in an interview for her book, Managing the President’s Message. “You should be able to get the president’s message in a snapshot, in most cases.”

That’s why Sforza and his team so frequently had banners appear behind Bush at presidential appearances. In 2002, a backdrop wallpapered with the phrase “protecting the homeland” was used when Bush gave a speech about homeland security in Kansas City. In 2003, just a week before Bush’s infamous aircraft-carrier speech, he spoke about the economy in Canton, Ohio, in front of a giant sign that said “JOBS AND GROWTH”—in the exact style of the “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner.

Bush’s team believed that short bursts of text were crucial to conveying the president’s message—and these messages clearly resonated with people. Fifteen years later, the president of the United States doesn’t need to print banners for this purpose: he has Twitter.

Which is perhaps why it seems fitting that Twitter is where President Donald Trump declared “Mission Accomplished!” on Saturday morning, despite Trump’s well-known affection for television. “A perfectly executed strike last night,” Trump wrote, referring to the strikes he ordered on government targets in Syria. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

One remarkable response came from Ari Fleischer, who served as the White House press secretary for Bush from 2001 to 2003: “Um...I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words,” Fleischer tweeted.

It’s possible that Trump meant to be provocative—he has demonstrated a masterful knack for norm-shattering trolling in the past. It’s also possible that he has no sense of irony, or at least no real knowledge of recent American political history, and didn’t realize what he was invoking with the phrase.

Either way, Trump has a preternatural sense for captivating people. And a president who participates in meme culture—knowingly or not—is a president who commands attention at every level.

The political theater that Bush’s team staged for him seems to come effortlessly to Donald Trump. It is an instinct that has been reinforced, no doubt, by his own obsession with television, and one that Trump leverages constantly on Twitter. Incidentally, the power of television is part of what made “mission accomplished” become a meme so quickly. (A “mission accomplished” banner appears repeatedly in the comedy series Arrested Development, for example.) And the internet’s remix culture has sustained it ever since. (There are multiple meme generators that use “mission accomplished” in some way.)

Trump has a record of dabbling in memes outright, too—and not just because some of his closest confidants, like Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller, are steeped in troll culture. Even Trump’s unmistakable red “Make America Great Again” hat could be considered a meme in its own right. The slogan was used by Ronald Reagan, then remixed in wearable form for the Trump moment. But in the sprawling and context-unraveling universe of memes, “mission accomplished” has always been particularly potent—simply because of how discordant it was with reality from the very beginning. This is the same reason Richard Nixon’s wing-tipped stroll on the beach was a meme of sorts in Nixon’s day. When he was photographed walking in the sand wearing a suit and fancy dress shoes, it wasn’t just awkward—it was totally absurd.

Demonstrators raise a banner that reads “Mission Accomplished?” outside the White House, on the fifth anniversary of U.S. President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
Bush never actually said “mission accomplished” in the remarks he made on the aircraft carrier that day. He was going to, though.

“I took ‘mission accomplished’ out,” Donald Rumsfeld told the journalist Bob Woodward in a 2006 interview, referring to an earlier version of the speech. “I was in Baghdad, and I was given a draft of that thing to look at. And I just died, and I said, ‘My God, it’s too conclusive.’ And I fixed it and sent it back.”

In the speech, Bush put it this way: “Our mission continues. Al-Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed.”

“They fixed the speech,” Rumsfeld told Woodward, “but not the sign.”

Years later, Bush said he regretted the “mission accomplished” moment. “No question it was a mistake,” he said in a television interview in 2010. He wishes he’d gone with “good going” or “great mission” instead, he said.

In the American presidency, however, there are no take backs. That’s always true, but felt especially in times of war, and in an age where wars themselves are televised. Television and Twitter create a sense of intimacy between the chief executive and the electorate, a sense that sometimes masks the true distance between them. In fact, the space between the president and the people is dominated by political theater, and it is a theater of the absurd.

Adrienne LaFrance is the editor of She was previously a senior editor and staff writer at The Atlantic.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Labels and Sharp Power: Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What keeps the United States United."

Joe B. Johnson, Public Diplomacy Council, March 10, 2018; JB: on "e pluribus unum," see below comment.

image from article

Last week I spoke to a Great Decisions discussion group in Arlington, Virginia.  Great Decisions is a program sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association to encourage citizen awareness of foreign relations.
The topic, “The Media and Foreign Policy,” gave me the chance to highlight the work of public diplomacy. As so much diplomacy is carried out in the public sphere, it’s important that voters understand the wide and varied advocacy that our diplomats and locally-engaged staff conduct on their behalf.
The audience engaged in lively discussion, which in Arlington entails knowledge and, usually, a liberal point of view.  The subject of Russian “sharp power” featured prominently in our discussion, with several participants bemoaning our society’s polarization.
After the talk, amid pleasantries and mutual congratulations, a woman strode up to me and announced herself as “one of the Deplorables.”  She proudly stated that she had voted for Donald Trump and indicated her steadfast support of the President.  I listened without comment, and we extended the conversation to less political matters, including her recent road trip across the full breadth of the United States.  To me, she came off as “a character;” she was fun to talk to.
Later, I recognize a missed opportunity.  This woman was far too individualistic to be labeled in any way.  She was labeling herself, I guess, to defy a majority in that room on that night.
What if I had told her, “You don’t seem like a “deplorable” to me.  You’re way too much of a free thinker for any label.”  Would that have opened up more space for honest discussion?
Russian active measures have succeeded beyond expectation because Americans have retreated behind labels: “Deplorables,” the Resistance.”  Red, Blue.  That makes it easier for propaganda, falsehoods, and yes — biased media coverage — to divide us.
Russia will not let up on its active measures and information wars.  That’s how they operate.  And unless Americans change, the Russians (and other foreign powers) will continue to have success.  At the same time that we secure election systems, voters should punish politicians who try to exploit division; they are making America weaker.
In the process of chucking political correctness, Americans seem to have thrown out respect for others.  We need more people like Ambassador John Feeley, who wrote about his decision to resign his position as ambassador to Panama:
I now return to the United States of e pluribus unum. I am confident that we can heal the polarization that afflicts us — one conversation at a time.

Joe B. Johnson consults on government communication and technology after a career in the United States Foreign Service.  He is an instructor for the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where he teaches strategic planning for public diplomacy.

"unplugging from the Matrix"

From a Facebook entry, with gratitude to Zuck

“We’re unplugging from the Matrix.”

About this article

Like modern-day von Trapps, minus the singing, families are climbing mountains and fording streams with nothing but backpacks and a Wi-Fi connection.

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John Brown Walt Whitman: Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, 
Strong and content I travel the open road. 

The earth, that is sufficient, 
I do not want the constellations any nearer, 
I know they are very well where they are, 
I know they suffice for those who belong to them. ...