Tag Archives: Current events

Random Reflections on Power #2

I have been studying Chinese first thing in the morning, before I get up for a while now, before my head is full of other things. This morning’s challenge was trying to make heads and tails of the difference between buy (买, mai–pronounced “my”– with a third tone) and sell (卖, mai with a fourth tone) as an almost tone deaf person. I had a bit of a headache when I arose and started reading the paper. It seemed full of Trumpery, which is often fairly bizarre. Today it seemed weirder than usual, and I don’t think it was due to my headache.

p_20180126_093952-996855681.jpg
Article in today’s Seattle Times.

The article itself was, frankly, neither news nor of particular interest: The First Family, as is traditional, borrows art from museums. Most first families make modest choices based on their individual tastes. The current one wanted a Van Gogh. In this case the requested art was old and frail and scheduled to be shown elsewhere, so the answer was “no”. Simple enough. The offer in the headline was a museum curator’s idea of making a point, perhaps inspired by Saturday Night Live. It’s funny…or at least it makes you laugh as a first response.

She was exercising her limited power. The offer was within her rights; it was also a bit tacky.

More importantly, it takes people’s attention away from the more serious actions of the day. Why talk about this today when it happened a while ago?

Other news today was things like: People on DACA are being used as hostages for the passage of ill conceived immigration and security measures. More examples of a president who has repeatedly tried to obstruct justice, both by abuse of power and by creating stories. Trade wars and devaluing the dollar.

Mention of all these were also in the paper, but the front page spread was about how Amazon’s workplace is a fancy green house. I understand this being on the first page of the local section. A more appropriate use of the column space on both the front page and this “Golden Toilet” article would have been to provide detailed information about the long term effects of the immigration and trade policies. We still haven’t seen a good description of everything that was in the tax bill passed last month.

I like to laugh as well as the next person, but it is not a good idea to let articles like this take our eyes away from the serious news of the day. Let Saturday Night Live take this one. We need to start asking newspapers to cover news.

Chinese for business is 买卖, (the second mai in this case takes the neutral, a.k.a. fifth, tone).  They won’t stop giving us the 买卖 until we stop responding favorably to it.

Isn’t apathy worse?

There has been a kerfuffle…almost a furor… in the media lately about a football player who sat during the national anthem as a way to draw attention to the on-going inequity in how black people are treated by police. The inequity is well-documented and egregious. It has often resulted in people being killed or injured.

The degree of outrage has me Perplexed: this guy didn’t brandish a gun or otherwise act outrageously. He sat through the anthem knowing that the press would interview him about why so that he could communicate his concerns.

But maybe I should give some history about where I am coming from.

I am pretty patriotic. I have traveled enough, and seen enough, to really, truly believe that the United States is a great nation. I also believe that one of the key components of that greatness is the mechanisms for change and adjustment that are built into the constitution for when things aren’t right. The flag and the national anthem are symbols, but they shouldn’t be treated as idols.

Once upon a time I was a Cub Scout leader and we invited the American Legion to come and give the boys a presentation on flag etiquette. The Commander came and by the end of the presentation I understood why some people feel pretty strongly that they shouldn’t say the pledge of allegiance to a flag. The proper etiquette, as presented by this woman, was pretty much the same as treatment of the cross in many traditional churches. That was a point of concern during the Reformation: it had the appearance of idol worship, and it was also a way to seem reverential on auto-pilot. To accord to a flag the same level of “respect” as the cross bugged me a bit.

Fast forward a few years: I was at a small town parade here in western Washington with my father and son. At the start of the parade veterans marched with flags. The only person I saw that stood to attention and put his hand on his heart was my long-haired, wanna-be-a-rock-star son. No one else in my vision took off a hat or did any acknowledgment of the flags. Including my dad, who served in the navy and is “red”. The veterans marching so erectly and proudly holding the flags might have been invisible, everyone was straining to see what came behind them: What did the local grocery store’s shopping cart drill team have in store for them? How were the vintage tractors were decorated? It made me sad.

Fast forward again…not long after it came to my consciousness (there is often a significant lag between when a football personality does something and when I cotton on to it) that the player had sat through the anthem I heard a “news” bite that some mayor of a town in western Washington had canceled a Seahawks rally, because this player had sat through the anthem. He “left the door open for future rallies”. I was outraged: why is a town using community resources to sponsor a rally for a for-profit football team?

I am feeling all mixed up:

Is it worse for a guy to peacefully use his position and constitutional right of free speech to draw attention to a real problem of equity than to hardly notice the flag going by? Isn’t that football player doing exactly what our forefathers were aiming at when they framed the Bill of Rights?

Isn’t it worse that a town is using community resources to support a for-profit football team than that the mayor cancels it, probably because he wants to get free election year publicity?

I wonder how many people in that town pay mind to the flag going by in the parade?