The Bigger Picture
Oddly specific. Universally applicable.

The good things that frustrate democracy, and how to have them all

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(Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash)

It’s useful to look back on Plato’s The Republic when thinking about the limits of a state. He witnessed the earliest evolution of the Athenian state that can be traced to modern democracy. America is by far the oldest continuous democracy still functioning. There’s nuance there, but it’s beside the point. Other than India, America is the largest democracy in the world. When we refer to America as an experiment, it’s more literal than we may at first realize. Democracy is not natural or easy. We know this because history tells us how rare it is. It wasn’t until very recently, with the fall of the Soviet Union, that democracy became the most common form of government (we don’t have data for ~25 countries, so it could be even more recent, or not have happened yet). …


Musings on liberty and censorship in a digital age

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(Photo by Ohm Kittipong on Unsplash)

Freedom can be dangerous. My 8 year old learned that the hard way this morning. We were waiting on the bus. I was having deep philosophical thoughts about a conversation I’d read on Reddit.

Meanwhile, my son had tried to engage Mommy in a conversation about whether there would be other kids coming to join us at the bus stop. Mommy had attempted to explain to him a bit of philosophy she’d picked up from a Vietnamese person on YouTube. There are things which are “obvious,” and there are things that are “random.” He has asked a question about something that falls in the category of “random,” and is therefore unknowable. We do not know whether there will be other kids joining us at the bus stop today. We can attempt to infer this information based on the “obvious” facts available to us (that no other kids have joined us at the bus stop this week so far). But when it comes down to it, it is based on whether Harry’s mom or Ava’s mom decides that today is a good day for either of them to ride the bus to school. …


Are we loving the western wild to death?

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(Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash)

My grandparents lived in a beautiful two-story house in a populous San Diego neighborhood. One day, while they were both away from the house, a fire ignited in the gas line causing the stove to blow. By the time they returned, the house had burned to the ground. They lost almost everything they had.

They came to live with my family while they were rebuilding their home, and though I was too young to remember the conversations my parents and grandparents had during this time, I know one thing: They were about fire.

By the time I was six, when my parents hired a fire safety consultant to come to our home, I was primed for terror. …


SPIRITUALITY

Do you need to follow a god to be happy?

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(Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash)

In these times of political correctness, making assumptions and classifications might land one in trouble. At the risk of offending those who can’t handle contrasting opinions, I can undoubtedly say that three categories cover the entire spectrum of humans.

Firstly, the theists and the creationists. Those who believe in the existence of a god. These are people who believe in divine creation and divine interventions. They generally might bow down to some higher power that they feel is controlling their entire existence, right from their birth to their death. …


A message to my fellow Americans

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(Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash)

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, I listened to arguments made by members of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding whether or not to impeach President Donald J. Trump for a second time. The persuasion of every argument seemed to hinge on the presumption of truth-telling. Whether Republican or Democrat, each person who approached the mic did so with the posture of “I am telling the truth.”

We are living in divided times. Exceptionally contentious times. Riotous and violent times.

Conservatives and liberals have, for centuries, fallen on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum and everywhere in-between. But in 2021, we have grown so far apart that we can no longer hear what is being said on the other end of the spectrum. We no longer tolerate views that are diametrically opposed to our own. Democrats feel justified in ousting Republican incumbents. …


OPINION

Life in the Post-Truth Era hasn’t worked out so well

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(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

Many pundits pin the beginning of the Post-Truth Era on the moment Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s then-senior advisor, introduced the term “alternative facts” on January 22, 2017, as she defended then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false assertions about the Trump inauguration crowd size.

Spicer claimed that the crowds were much larger than photo evidence showed. The President, Spicer, and Conway pushed a narrative that crowd sizes surpassed previous inaugurations for reasons that continue to puzzle most of the nation. And so began a presidential administration filled with falsehoods peddled as “truth.”

But the truth has been slipping from our grasp for a long time. …


Social media giants created the Trump monster

The ship is sailing and people are running scared of the captain. They are literally jumping off the boat and into unchartered waters as the ship sails with a crybaby who was praised for being “the most masculine person…to ever hold the White House,” by White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.

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(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

Donald Trump was de-platformed by all the major tech giants, starting with Twitter, then Facebook, followed by Instagram, YouTube, and a slew of other companies. Several Universities stripped Trump of his honorary degrees. P.G.A. of America said it would no longer hold its next tournament at the Trump National Golf Club.


Appeals to decency won’t mend the great divide

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(Public Domain Image)

Joe Biden officially won the Democratic primary on June 6th, smack in the sticky middle of the summer’s racial justice protests. Though he was leading in the state primaries, the timing still felt odd. In the midst of a furious fight against systemic, violent racism, summer voters chose a fabulously lukewarm candidate with a spotty record on progressive voting. Biden’s greatest selling points through primary season were his willingness to reach across the aisle, years in congress, slow-and-shameless approach to social progress, and his willingness to fight hard against Trump. …


The recent platform bans on Trump and his allies show us that times have changed dramatically, and we need to modernize our discussion about freedom of speech.

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(Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

On Thursday January 7th, just one day after the attacks on the Capitol, Facebook announced that it was banning Trump’s page for at least two weeks. A day later, after much pressure, Twitter permanently banned Trump’s account. Other companies have followed the trend since. Apple and Google removed Parler, a micro-blogging service heavily used by Trump supporters, from their app stores; Amazon recently canceled its hosting services to Parler; YouTube banned Steve Bannon’s channel; Reddit banned the main Trump subreddit; Discord banned a Trump-centric server; Shopify stopped processing payments for Trump’s campaign and personal brand stores; and Twitter also banned Trump’s campaign account, his campaign manager’s account, and other right-wing figures. …

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