Here's some quotes from a speech that Bill Clinton gave a couple of days ago in West Virginia:
"If a politician doesn't wanna get beat up, he shouldn't run for office...Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that? That's what America's about, right?"
He's right. At least that's what this country's supposed to be about. People have a bunch of different ideas, they get together and argue about them - sometimes the arguments even get a bit heated - and then they vote on it and the argument that has been most persuasive wins.
That's how democracy is supposed to work. Sure, it's not very efficient. Sometimes it's not even very civil. Undoubtedly some good ideas get voted down and some bad ones are enacted. Most of the time we end up voting for someone who's imperfect. (Can you imagine that; an imperfect politician? Gosh.) But so far it does seem to be the only way in which a government can manage to please a whole lot of people, a lot of the time.
Problem is that we've come to believe that this idea or that one is absolutely right or wrong, so argument with it is irrational. That's what the Bush Administration has been trying to do; make us all shut up and not argue because they're right and that's all there is to it.
Well, as a vast majority of people in this country now know, that's not all there is to it.
But the kind of right-wrong, black-white thinking that the administration has crammed down our throats, and in which the media has been complicit, has screwed us up in all sorts of ways.
Increasingly I have been hearing Obama and Hillary supporters say that they won't vote for the other one if their candidate isn't nominated. Are they nuts? They seem to think there's something wrong with the two candidates arguing and duking it out for the nomination.
But that's how it's supposed to work. Even when they insult each other, that's how it's supposed to work. And when your candidate doesn't get the nomination, what you're supposed to do is shrug your shoulders, say "maybe next time," and vote for the better of the choices that you've ended up with.
The thing about all this fighting and up and down and talk of right and wrong is that it's just a natural part of the process of things settling down into somewhere in the comfortable middle. You can talk all you want about change, but the great genius of democracy isn't radical change, it's the leveling affect that it has. When it works, it allows for measured, rational, slow but sure change; the sort that in the long run does the most real good and is the longest lasting. Too many of us, however, have become too impatient for that.
We've also got our heads deeply embedded up our asses over the economy. We catastrophize nearly everything. But a stable economy has its ups and downs. That, as in politics, is how it finds its smooth running middle.
The least stable economy is one that doesn't go through the occasional wild mood swing. Inflation, recession, expanding bubbles, bursting bubbles, are all natural in a growing, healthy economy.
I spent a while on the phone last week trying to convince a friend that they hadn't really "lost" several hundred thousand dollars in the stock and property markets.
"Have you sold any stocks or property at a loss?"
"Are you going to have to? Do you have a subprime loan or any upcoming payments for something that are going to require you to sell something at a loss? Or do you need to borrow some money against your portfolio?"
"So you haven't really lost any money, have you?"
"Well, my portfolio is down 15 percent and I can't sell my house for what I could have last year, and and and..."
All I can say is, you haven't lost any money, you've lost your common sense.
There are plenty of people who do have subprime mortgages and who do have payments they need to cash out some investments to make and other such things. And yes, those people are going to lose money. But most people, aren't. Just like any roller coaster, if you sit there and hang on, the track's going to eventually smooth out. If you try to bail out on a big hill or curve, you're probably going to get hurt.
Americans are so busy thinking that everything is supposed to be perfect - and that they have some sort of inalienable right to a free lunch - that they go into a huge tailspin when things aren't just the way they want them to be.
Well, nothing's ever going to be exactly the way you want it to be. Get over it. You're just making things worse for yourself and everybody else when you overreact.
Meanwhile, here's some pretty pictures from a recent excursion out to the California State Poppy Reserve near Lancaster in the far northeast corner of Los Angeles County: