What I’m Reading this Week: 15 September 2016

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So in my haste to return to blogging, I consumed a lot of press this week. Some of it is older, but still important.

Vincennes, France holds a festival about American culture and literature, and has been since 2008. This year’s was held from the 8-11 of September. The festival chatted with 15 authors and Libération posted excerpts from their chat, which centered around the authors’ ideas and impressions of their personal vision of America. Fascinating stuff. Des écrivains racont leur Amérique [Authors talk about their America] — the original article is in French.

Going on at the same time, in Paris, was la fête de l’Humanité [The Humanity Festival], which is the French Communist Party’s annual festival. It still happens, though the party is apparently unpopular. This isn’t an article; it’s a video with a small report attached, but it’s interesting. France : la fête de l’Humanité, entre évènement populaire et vitrine politique [The Humanity Festival: popular event and political display– report and article in French].

Think Progress reports on several scientific studies about the mental health of Black people in the United States, especially battling the daily micro-aggressions and constant onslaught of race-based discrimination. It’s a glancing read, but each study is probably worth a look. Being Black in America is a heavy burden, one that many people are either blind to or deny.

Swinging back out to Europe, Arstechnica reports on Denmark’s move to pay for the leaked documents, in a bid to research Danish tax evasion (‘Panama Papers: Denmark to pay $1.3M-plus for leaked data to probe tax evasion‘). I usually read Arstechnica for technical news, but when tech and government mix, it can only be a good or bad thing. I appreciate Denmark’s willingness to investigate tax dodgers, instead of letting them run for high office.

Speaking of running for high office, two articles about the American presidential campaign, obviously. The Economist discusses the similarities and differences between the war-hawk policies of Clinton and Trump. American foreign policy is unattractive and scary thing to me, but there you go.

And finally, the Washington Post‘s 18 August report about Trump’s not-so-charitable giving is incredibly detailed and incredibly disheartening. I’m so bewildered by Trump’s continued existence. I’m very glad there’s only eight weeks until the election, but I have no idea what’s going to happen then. Nobody does, it feels like.

That’s all from me this week! Until next time. – SDM

photo by David Mark.

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#atozchallenge: The American Kleptocracy

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The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good.

Gordon Gecko is running for president. You see him every hour on television; his speeches become breaking news, as the media breathlessly waits for his plane to arrive. He is the gilt paint over the rotting wood of our infrastructure. We are allowing him to run, because we believe that politicians are corrupt and that we need new blood, obviously.

But is he not corrupt himself? He has used every avenue to his advantage: tax breaks, imminent domain and lackadaisical  reforms meant to improve our ability to trade and destroy.

We point to kleptocratic states like Pakistan and Russia, as if we don’t have clans of hoarding multi-national companies and military contractors siphoning money from the public coffers. We know who they are: the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Lockheed Martin and Blackwater (now called ACADEMI).

So greed, for America, is good for those who are greedy. We have a dire choice this November: who will be greedy in good ways? Is greed ever good? How will American society get past this greed?

Sometimes greed works. Georgia’s state house and senate recently tried to pass a ‘Freedom from Religious Prosecution’ act, similar to some other states, and businesses pressured Governor Deal to veto it; however, the fact that businesses hold so much sway over our politicians is just the exception that proves the rule.

I have no answers, because I am a pessimist. We are reaping what we have sown, and I believe we deserve this disaster, if only to start anew. There are too many working parts that must fail, but fail we must, so that we learn. We should have learned in 2008, but we did not. And now, eight years later, we shall learn a hard lesson again. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Matej Tomazin

#atozchallenge: The American Dystopia

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When we think of a dystopian society, our mind goes to film and literature: The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, The Lord of the Flies, 1984.

Is America a dystopia? If you are sick, poor, non-white or any combination of them, life must look like one of these stories. When I think of America, I think of two things: the multitude of guns in our society and the lack of affordable, universal health-care. These are, for me, two sides of the same coin.

Guns are everywhere. Guns are also the only tool used for one purpose: to kill. Owning a gun makes a person statistically more likely to die by that gun. I have used guns and lived around guns my entire life, but if we woke up tomorrow without them I would not be upset. Nor, I suppose, would anyone else. There is no problem a gun has solved that has not escalated to a bigger, more indefensible problem. Good guys with guns may kill bad guys with guns, but the gun will still be there for the next bad guy.

It is cheaper for me to fly to the United Kingdom and receive routine care than it is for me to pay for health insurance monthly and receive the same level of care. This sentence should make no sense to anyone reading it. I am a person with no health issues, so I have basic health insurance one step above ‘catastrophic’, but even then my out of pocket expenses are unrealistic. So I am happy for my ability to use the NHS for my once yearly check-up and leave everything else well enough alone.

A country where it is easier to die than to be healed for me is the very definition of a dystopia, and America is that country. It is a developed nation where it is easier to get a gun than a doctor’s appointment, if you are not properly insured. And even if you are properly insured, as I am, finding a doctor that will accept said insurance is even more difficult.

It will take a long while for America to change its ways, and I do think it may do, but for now, unless we are careful, our society is at the breaking point, and may yet tilt into the abyss.

Until next time. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by unsplash