Bernie Flaws

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I am always talking about what imperfect beings people are. If you’re a believer then it goes right back to those two original forebears of ours, Adam and Eve. They could have left us full of blissful ignorance and innocence but they were weak and so we have dual natures. Each one of us holds the paradoxes within us, in differing proportions, because of so many variables like our nurture in childhood, the social circumstances into which we are born, the cultural context that surrounds us during our relatively short lives.

We hold strengths and at the same time weaknesses, we are good and we are bad, we have talents and things that we seem to have little skill for, we are both stable and unstable at times, happy and depressed, healthy and unhealthy, brilliant and dumb all mixed in an infinite array that makes each one of us unique in spite of our similarities. If you are not a believer it is almost enough to make you believe that the Christian origin story holds more than a kernel of truth. Or we are just made this way?

What we also know to be true is that all of our actions, our inventions, our discoveries, and our endeavors hold the same human paradoxes within them; that they can be used for good or for evil; that they can make our lives worse or better. We know that a flawed human can twist anything to evil purposes or a human with better motives or character can act from strength and get positive results from the same event, invention, idea or strategy. Nuclear energy is probably our clearest example of this – used benignly it can provide power to run the devices that make our lives more comfortable – used as a weapon it can wipe out cities.

We get this stuff on a cosmic level, but we also understand that these same paradoxes operate in our daily lives. So I accept and perhaps you do also that Hillary Clinton is both experienced and flawed. I accept that she made a mistake choosing a private server if only because it gave her many enemies an opening to argue that she was either planning to have a way to hide information or that she is capable of making bad choices, both things we don’t really look for in a person running for President of the United States. However, all Presidents make mistakes given the complex issues they deal with minute to minute. Sometimes we get a leader who seems to make brilliant decisions but we usually don’t know that until we get some historical perspective on their legacy. And from the distance offered by time we are able to see that mistakes were also made.

However it seems that people have difficulty seeing the flaws that Bernie Sanders might have. His message is so consistent and has been for so many years that he seems steady and dedicated. Recent events reveal that Bernie Sanders is starting to show the ways in which his very strengths might also be his weaknesses. Bernie is showing himself to be a bit compulsive these days. He does not seem to be terribly flexible.

He cannot seem to show us the practical details that will allow him to effectively change things in Washington and in America. How does he plan to win new rights for workers? How does he plan to rein in Wall Street without tanking our already hobbled economy? How will he find the money for strengthening benefits? Can he raise the taxes on the wealthy? In almost every area we see the need to change the way wealth moves in America and the need for fairness to equalize privilege. It makes sense to us but Bernie Sanders has not really spelled out how he intends to get us there. So his message may be all to the good, but his vagueness and the way his specifics are sort of stored in the “cloud” and inaccessible may not be all to the good.

And again I suggest that Bernie Sanders is almost coming off a bit obsessive-compulsive lately. He said he would have a fifty state strategy, which is fine, but he doesn’t seem inclined or able to make adjustments for the good of the Democratic Party. I suppose if you are staging a Revolution you need to be a revolutionary, not someone who compromises. But is Bernie’s defensiveness and his meanness actually resulting from an inability to be flexible, to have a certain degree of political nimbleness? He has remained true to socialist principles for so many decades while America wanted nothing to do with socialism.

Personally, I do not believe that socialism is necessary in a democracy because government is already of the people, by the people, and for the people. Where I do agree with Bernie is when he recounts how far away we are from a true democracy. It is not socialism I fight for, it is democracy. In a democracy we don’t need socialism because we are the people and we take care of all the people. But if our democracy is becoming or has already become an oligarchy then Mr. Sanders is right in arguing that the people (all the people) need to take back their government and that this will probably mean making money talk less and every vote count more. However we must accept that if rich folks take their money out of government, which they have shown a willingness to do, there may be fewer things our government can do for ‘we the people’.

But what really bothers me is how Bernie Sanders has seemed more and more like a curmudgeon lately, so intent on his own business that he barely notices what is going on around him. He does not admonish Donald Trump in any sustained way for his outrageous pronouncements and astonishingly unevolved policies. He does not raise money for down-party candidates (except that he did find three worthy souls). He fights with Democratic Party leaders and threatens to bring revolution to the Democratic Convention. He has a right to do these things but they are not done in a manner that suggests strength and composure. They are done with old man bitterness and complaints about bad rules and stacked decks. Instead of sounding like an eventual winner, he just sounds like a sore loser. Bernie Sanders does have flaws and lately he is showing them to us almost every day. If you’re planning to vote for him because you think he is Mr. Wonderful, then I guess you won’t have noticed that he is just looking like Mr. Ticked Off.

May 2016 Book List

 

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Amazon Books

 

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee – (NF)

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

The After Party: A Novel by Anton DiSclafini

Sweetbitter: A Novel by Stephanie Danier

The Summer Guest: A Novel by Alison Anderson

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Happy Family by Tracy Barone

The Sport of Kings: A Novel by C E Morgan

Born of a Tuesday: A Novel by Einathan John

The Noise of Time: A Novel by Julian Barnes

LaRose: A Novel by Louise Eldrich

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel by Elizabeth J. Church

The Honeymoon by Dinita Smith

 

Biographies and Memoirs

 

Braving It: A Father, a Daughter and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell

The Romanovs 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Valient Ambition: George Washington, Bendict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill by Mark Lee Gardner

Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman

My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire’s Lone Survivor, by Brendon McDonough, Stephan Tally

A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight by Maria Toopakai, Katharine Holstein

The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir by Betsy Lerner

The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen

Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story by Matti Friedman

Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me by Ron Miscavige, Dan Koon

 

Mystery and Thriller

 

The Fireman by Joe Hill

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Redemption Road: A Novel by John Hart

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Girls on Fire: A Novel by Robin Wasserman

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

The 100 Year Miracle: A Novel by Ashley Ream

Night Shift (A Novel of Midnight, Texas) by Charlaine Harris

Wilde Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman

 

Publisher’s Weekly Books

 

Gold of Our Fathers by Kivei Quartey (Darko Dawson)

Father’s Day by Simon Van Booy

Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris

One Hundred Twenty-One Days by Michele Audin

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

Born on a Tuesday by Einathan John

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (YA)

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley (Memoir)

Zero K by Don Lillo

La Rose by Louise Erdrich

Sergio Y by Alexandre Vidal Porto

The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (YA)

Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

 

Independent Booksellers Books

 

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

My Sunshine Away by M O Walsh

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

Zero K by Don DeLillo

The Last Mile by David Baldacci

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard

The Green Road by Anne Enright

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahan

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Redemption Road by John Hart

Journey to Munich by Jennifer Winspear

The Lost Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

Maestra by L S Hilton

Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Bachman

Extreme Prey by John Sandford

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

The Sport of Kings by C F Morgan

Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh

Robert B Parker’s Slow Burn by Ace Atkins

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

 

 

Purity

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Purity is probably the word of the day, or the summer, or the year. Panera promises us food that is clean and pure. (I keep picturing a raccoon at a stream washing its food.) I recently read Jonathan Franzen’s book Purity (you can see my review on Goodreads). Bernie Sanders is idolized for his political purity. Conservatives have been testing candidates for purity for ages. In fact Conservatives punish Republicans who don’t toe the Conservative line closely enough by putting up opponents against them in primaries and funding these bought candidates with millionaires’ money, thereby stripping the impure ones of power. It is sort of like being cashiered from the French Foreign Legion and having those buttons cut from your uniform with a sword. Eric Cantor knows all about this.

But Jonathan Franzen and I both have doubts about claims of purity by anyone, given our flawed natures. Our philosophical selves tell us that purity is something that is an ideal worth striving for as long as we realize that it is a goal that probably can only be attained in small matters for limited amounts of time. You may argue that Panera really is removing artificial (manmade) ingredients from its dishes. You may argue that they are trying to choose only the healthiest items from the most organic and natural sources for their offerings and I do not doubt that they giving diners some really trendy choices that attempt to taste good without resorting to the usual American options that are deep fried and generously salted or sugared. Does their ad make me want to eat at Panera? I’m sorry to say it does not but it may be motivating others. Cynically it may just be an advertising ploy to point out the recent difficulties that Chipotle has experienced and to try to tempt their customers to come eat at a place that has not had these kinds of problems.

I recall when my good friend had a young daughter that she wanted to protect from a germy world. We could never be sanitary enough to satisfy her in her campaign to rid her daughter’s world of all bacteria (except the ones in yogurt). We called her The Germinator. She grew up in a country family with 10 children. I’m sure that her family was just like my family with 8 children. My mom never knew that we made mud pies we actually tried to eat. We examined every bug we could find up close and personally. We played for hours on end in the sand pile which could well have been used as a toilet by any number of animals. We waded in ponds full of algae to catch tadpoles. Our exposure to germs actually may have made us healthier. It seems that purity is not always advantageous.

People learn to be compassionate and aware of the shortcomings and the needs of the other people around them by living lives that entail both good times and bad times, both easy times and hard times. Panera cannot protect us from all the impurities that might be in food in these times of corporate crops and too many people and food that travels from distant places and is grown in ways that cannot be completely controlled. Purity seems a bit too “precious” a thing to worry about; a thing that only a society that is a too affluent and too comfortable has time to think about. There are children who survive every day by picking through rubbish on dumps.

I am not saying that we should not applaud people who strive for purity, but I am saying we should be skeptical of people who claim to have captured that elusive thing called purity. I do not believe those Bernie Bros and millennials who worship the purity of Bernie Sanders. Bernie has too much compassion for the less fortunate to have lived a life without painful decisions and hard times. That he is basically a good guy, I believe. That he is pure, I do not. This is the kind of argument that makes Bernie’s followers sound like they are in danger of becoming a cult. Bernie cannot give us a “pure” America. If he did it would not be a society that lived and evolved. It would have to be static. I think I would be as adverse to a “clean and pure” America as I am to that ad that keeps saying how “clean and pure” the food is at Panera’s. Sorry Panera. Sorry Bernie Bros. My apologies millennials.