What Happened on January 6th, 2021?

Young children will wonder. Maureen Dowd’s answer:

“He draped his autocratic behavior in the American flag. Surrounded by Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, F.D.R., M.L.K. and monuments to our war dead, this coward whipped up a horde of conspiracists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and gullible acolytes to try to steal an election for him. He said he would march to the Capitol with them, but he didn’t, of course. He watched his insurrection on TV, like the bum that he is.”

‘American Exceptionalism’ No More

A condensed explanation of “American exceptionalism” from Wikipedia:

“American exceptionalism is an ideology that rests on the notion the country is inherently different from that of other nations, stemming from its emergence from the American Revolution, becoming what one political scientist called “the first new nation” and developing a uniquely American ideology, “Americanism”, based on liberty, equality before the law, individual responsibility, republicanism, representative democracy, and laissez-faire economics. It’s also the idea that America has a unique mission to transform the world. In his Gettysburg address, President Abraham Lincoln said Americans have a duty to ensure, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Finally, it’s the idea that America’s history and its mission give it a superiority over other nations.”

Trump is a walking, talking refutation of American exceptionalism. At this stage in our nation’s history, how can anyone feel a sense of superiority?

Forego College?

Consider the recent higher ed news. Absent remediation, most high school graduates are unlikely to succeed in college. Too many college students aren’t learning much. Tuition inflation continues at a faster pace than even healthcare insurance and total student debt now exceeds credit card debt.

At the risk of simplifying things, there are two types of eighteen year olds (and people more generally): risk-averse single hitters who plan on working for someone else and entrepreneurial power hitters not afraid of starting a biz and possibly whiffing.

Neither group is inherently better than the other, but a college degree makes more sense for the first group since most livable wage paying organizations and businesses require at least one. One hopes the single hitters understand a college degree doesn’t guarantee nearly as much as it did a few decades ago. Like a miler standing stationary at the firing of a starter’s gun, they’re paying considerable money up front to increase their odds of future employment success as illustrated by this dramatic graphic.

Of course there are many intangible benefits to a good college education—such as greater independence and self understanding—but those things aren’t necessarily exclusive to those populating leafy college campuses.

Given the escalating costs of higher education and the unprecedented internet-based accessibility to knowledge and people around the world, why aren’t more ambitious, talented, smart, hardworking, risk-oriented, entrepreneurial eighteen year olds using the time right after high school to refine their knowledge and skills on their own in order to create new niches within the economy? Why isn’t there more of an Abraham Lincoln or Mark Cuban-like autodidacticism at work today?

Is it because everyone is afraid to go college-less first, or because parents fear their childrens’ short-term business failures and long-term economic vulnerability, or is something else at work?


I have some close friends whose politics are almost the complete opposite of mine. Our friendships endure because their personal attributes trump their whacked out politics :). Occasionally, one likes to send me ultra conservative mass emails “just to keep you up to date on what we crazy right-wingers are passing around these days to keep our morale up.”

Sunday’s was a video mocking how successful Barack Obama has been considering he graduated from a “community organizer community college”. Occasionally, I’ll crack a smile. They’re rarely good, but this one was particularly bad.

For satire or comedy to work, there has to be an element of truth in it. President Obama has an impressive education history that I suspect some of my friends on the right would wrongly attribute to affirmative action.

Much of the credit probably goes to his no-nonsense mother who demanded excellence. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the President and his wife, whose parents were equally demanding apparently, are holding their daughters to the same high standards. The right won’t acknowledge this, but the President hasn’t used race as an excuse for not achieving. What’s more traditional and conservative than two married parents holding their daughters to very high educational expectations? The power of their personal and parenting examples seem lost on the right.

I don’t know, but my guess is my conservative friends can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that Obama’s well-educated and a committed and caring parent because it doesn’t fit into their intensely negative narrative they’ve crafted. Acknowledging these points might lead to a slippery slope of having to concede other things that might compromise their conservative street cred. Short of eliminating taxes, privatizing everything, and doubling the size of the military, there’s nothing Obama can say or do over the next 2.5 or 6.5 years to change their negative opinions.

For someone who sees subtleties, nuance, and ambiguity around every corner, this is exasperating, but I have to concede that for every right-wing ideologue, there’s a left-wing one somewhere that, because of their passionate dislike of his policies, never could bring themself to acknowledge George Bush the man had redeemable qualities.

Somewhat related to this, can’t help but notice an increasing percentage of lefties are becoming disillusioned with the President. He’s brought some of it upon himself by raising expectations so fast on so many fronts. Take all the references to a “post-partisan era” as just one example. And there’s some truth in the overarching criticism that too often he acts as if he’s still in campaign-mode, trying hard not to offend instead of leading boldly. And I still wish he’d narrow his focus.

Our collective expectations for our presidents are probably too high. Maybe our problems have become too complex and our politics too corrupted by special interest money for any president to achieve Lincoln or FDR-like greatness anymore. Maybe we’d be better off pursing personal excellence closer to home, in the ways we listen, parent, educate, care for other others, work, and conduct our lives more generally.