Given the circumstances, everything is as it must be: Buddhist basics.

We’re anxious and restive. When and where will the next multiple shooting occur? Police are nervous and periodically kill citizens who are unarmed or pose no immediate threat to them. Heroin is cheap and readily available. It’s not unusual for people to shoot up in public. More than 100 die daily from overdose.

We distrust and are angry at our government. After the Lansing Post Office closed, all mail from this area is processed through Grand Rapids. These days it can take five to eight days for a first-class letter mailed in Lansing to reach me in East Lansing.

Congressman Mike Bishop is flummoxed. But aren’t you the government, I asked an aide? He said post office brass is its own imperious clique that won’t listen to them. Congress merely has to fund its bailout packages.

Our streets and roads are in abominable condition. Weaving around and creeping through patches of potholes every time I drive, I get angry. Our Legislature hasn’t done anything about fixing roads for more than five years. The main drag from Okemos to I-96 is down to one lane because a bridge over the Red Cedar River is unsafe. There’s not even a plan for fixing it.

There was a recent crisis over abuse and neglect at the Michigan Veterans Home in Grand Rapids. A video audit demonstrated that required checks on their well-being, while posted on charts, were not provided. The man responsible for managing the home, Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign manager, resigned in disgrace. He was reassigned to other duties within the Michigan Department of Military Affairs. So he’s still rummaging around there. That arrogant disregard for duty is the same as the post office brasses. But it affected veterans’ lives and caused their deaths.

There’s a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court that requires nine members to assure majority decisions on cases. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to not even hold hearings on a nominee until after the presidential election. The earliest that could happen is nearly a year from now.

He says a Democrat in his position would do the same thing. That smacks of professional courtesy collusion to assure political gridlock. They pretend to disdain gridlock but it benefits their partisan agendas. Don’t they work for us?

Does anyone think Flint’s water crisis isn’t our problem? Our Flint problem festered over decades from chronic labor-management strife at GM. It broke out around 1990 when GM closed its plants and left town. Flint’s population dropped in half.

Finally an emergency manager was named. His ignorance led to saving a few bucks by not requiring corrosion controls in the drinking water system. Under the circumstances, the water crisis had to happen.

We want a scapegoat, someone to take the fall and relieve our collective conscience about Flint. Several paths lead to Snyder. He blames the federal government. The feds blame the Michigan DEQ. There will be hearings and reports and debates.

The blame game will continue ad nauseam. And another crisis will occur somewhere else with a similar background story.

Today we’re bailing out Flint. We bailed out GM after it left Flint. Our Flint problem came because we, our government, doesn’t have a tradition of working collaboratively with industry and labor. Working together, everyone benefits. Otherwise the government, by default, has to clean up messes from ruptured relationships.

In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of preserving our new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. He urged us to resolve ourselves “…so that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Nowadays we have no idea about how to balance personal liberty and equality. Notably, the Scandinavian nations, with their socialist democratic societies, understand how to do it. In international rankings they consistently lead the world in standard of living, personal satisfaction and well-being, health and longevity.

A famous line in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is “all the world’s a stage and we’re all actors.” Enter Donald Trump. There’s a certain charm in his irreverent bluster. His lines speak our anger and frustration. He says them passionately. Under the circumstances, he had to come along. So what if he’s a buffoon? We wonder if the risk of electing him president is worth taking.

While the past makes the present necessary, the future is unscripted.

(1) comment


The future, until it arrives, is just an idea. Alas, not the past.

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