Forum, Nov. 5: Our Tragic ‘New Normal’

Sunday, November 04, 2018
Our Tragic ‘New Normal’

It is spine-chilling that we are entering a “new normal” where it is OK to devalue human lives — across the world — to satiate autocrats. The aim of all autocratic governments is to wear down the masses to accept these behaviors as normal. Look at how passively we respond to the deaths of thousands in Yemen, the deaths of Palestinians, the deaths of those opposing autocrats in Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, etc., etc. How can we sit by and watch children in Syria pleading for their lives? Children on school buses bombed and “disappeared” by Saudi Arabia in Yemen?

In many of these instances our country has blood on its own hands, by either supporting or ignoring these killings. Now, this “new normal” has reached our country, where our president has equated the importance of the financial interests of our country (and, just as important, quite possibly his own family’s financial interests) to be more important than the gruesome death of a journalist in a foreign embassy in Turkey. How can we contribute to the resolution of this world’s problems when we are allowing those in our government to very possibly “be in the pocket” of autocrats? The president is concerned about a large contract to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Why would we want to sell weapons to the Saudi Arabians when they were complicit in the 9/11 attacks on our country?

We cannot allow family interests to overtake our government and rule us like a Saudi prince.

This latest apparent murder of a journalist, if proven and not met with material punitive measures from our own government, is opening the door to our own further self-destruction. So far, I have been dismayed to see a response by the president’s son Donald Jr. attempting to cast this reporter in a bad light. At such a sorrowful juncture, this goes beyond deplorable and shows a familial lack of humanity. It is entirely conceivable that the current administration will try to sweep this tragedy under the carpet in support of Saudi Arabia.

Sylvia J. Heath

Hartland Four Corners

A Painful Admission

For those interested in the lawsuit against Harvard by Asian students claiming that the institution discriminates, an opinion is offered herewith from an aging grad.

I carry no water for Harvard. It’s large and wealthy and garners very little pity from Cambridge locals, and from most Americans. But on the face of it, this lawsuit seems utterly nonsensical. The current Asian composition of the undergraduate body is 23 percent. That’s nearly a quarter, far higher than the representation of Asians nationally.

The point is, Harvard, as private institution, cannot admit every qualified applicant. Probably no institution can. The last round saw around 36,000 applicants, and there simply isn’t enough dorm or classroom space, and the faculty isn’t big enough. When I entered in the fall of 1960, we assembled freshmen were told, during orientation week, that Harvard could have filled our Class of 1964 (then around 1,200) with applicants from New York City alone. I’ll wager that’s still true. Ditto for prep school applicants, ditto for Jewish kids, ditto for worthy kids from no-name high schools in the American hinterlands. Ditto for applicants from Europe.

A friend of mine served on the admissions board for many years under Dean Fred Glimp. He related that the process was a severe trial and that it aged him, because so many worthy kids had to be turned down. Certainly Harvard (and possibly Dartmouth, too) could fill its entering classes entirely with bright Asian-American kids, or kids from Europe alone, or New York City, but in the interests of diversity the process must be hand-parsed by human beings, and at the present state of the art, very qualified applicants may not always be accepted — at Harvard, or IBM, or Microsoft. It’s a hard fact of life.

A.E. Norton


Fools Rush to Love Kim

President Donald Trump has long been attracted to murderous dictators — Rodrigo Duterte, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Vladimir Putin, and more. But he saved his heart for the most brutal of all — Kim Jong Un. Bad as the others may be, none can match Kim’s brutality.

A 2014 United Nations report cited “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance of persons, and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

So, we shouldn’t be surprised that at a recent rally, Trump described a kind of courtship with Kim: At first they strongly opposed each other. But then, our president says, “we fell in love,” adding that, “he wrote me beautiful letters.” With those words I could hear Elvis crooning, “Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you.”

Wise men and women did warn the president about this love, but like Elvis, he couldn’t help himself. Why? Perhaps his heart was destined to be won solely on the basis of Kim’s viciousness. Or maybe something in those letters finally made Kim the president’s one and only. Someday, scholars reading them at the Donald Trump Presidential Library may find the answer.

Meanwhile, we must live with the consequences of our president’s reckless love. Let’s hope that we fare better than the citizens of Kim’s country and members of his family, all of whom have suffered, and often died, because of his hateful heart.

Rev. Steve Gehlert

West Newbury, Vt.

Calling Column’s Bluff

I must respond to the recent Los Angeles Times op-ed column (“Why We Should Teach All Girls to Play Poker,” Oct. 16), which bemoaned the lack of female poker players, and urged that all girls should be taught poker so as to learn how to gamble (take risks) and how to bluff.

I disagree. These are skills humanity needs less of, not more of. Bluffing is basically deceit, which is fine in a game where players consent, but is otherwise fundamentally immoral. There are already far too many — in politics, business or personal relationships — who try to win through falsehood.

Likewise, taking big risks and losing is, in real life, precisely what destabilizes the prosperity, security and happiness that it takes gradual, steady effort to achieve — in one’s own life, one’s family, one’s community, international relations and the earth.

If there’s anything the world needs less of now, it’s gambling with humanity’s future. The very nature of poker is that most players are left poorer.

For evolutionary reasons, women on average tend to value stability over risk, cooperation over competition, and are less enamored of posturing, bluffing and deceit than men. Getting more women into positions of power not only vindicates equal rights, but also carries with it the promise of infusing more of these supportive and stabilizing values into our collective lives.

To say girls should play poker is, at bottom, saying women need to be more like men. I beg to differ.

Bernie Waugh