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Open Letter to US House of Representatives

Open Letter to US House of Representatives

Open Letter on the US House of Representatives
Sunday, October 15, 2023

Dear US House of Representatives, 117th Congress:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The reason we have a representative democracy and not a direct democracy is that individual citizens do not have the time and energy to go into the minutiae of governing, and also to instill some calm in the process of governing by not subjecting it to the caprices of public opinion at every moment.

As representatives to the House, you are elected to a two-year terms, and — assuming you’d like to play the game another two years — are then expected to go back to the people in your districts, explain to them why you did what you did with the power invested in you, and ask them to reelect you.

Who are you representing? What is your job? Do you just represent those people in your district who voted for you? Or is it a little bigger than that? Do you represent the whole district — even those individuals and interests who didn’t vote for you? Or, since you are making decisions for the Federal Government, do you at least to some degree represent all the citizens of the United States of America. Or, …

Maybe a better question is: How far does your responsibility extend? Only to those who voted for you? Only to your district — including those who didn’t vote for you but might vote for you next time? Only to your district — even those who didn’t vote for you and aren’t very likely to vote for you next time? Or, since you are working to create legislation that affects everyone in the nation, are you responsible to do what you think is best for all the citizens of the United States? Or, since you are helping to govern a powerful nation whose actions have a great impact on the rest of the world, are you responsible to do what you think is best for everyone in the world — insofar as your decisions impact them?

Here’s another question for you: Have you ever been out for a walk in the park or to a mall or a sporting event or church service or school or et cetera, and not worried about being blown up or otherwise executed? We think you have. And wasn’t that nice? Wasn’t that a wonderful feeling? Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time? Now looking back, can’t you feel how wonderful that felt? And isn’t it nice not to be driven from your home, running from the rain that explodes and strips limbs and life from friends, family, maybe you too? Or have you ever publicly disagreed with government officials and government policy without fear of being imprisoned, killed, bankrupted, or losing your loved ones? We think you have. And wasn’t it nice? Isn’t it so nice to be allowed to relax and live and speak as you will?

Who has a Right to nice things like not being blown up and being allowed to speak one’s mind and find one’s own way? Just the people in your district who voted for you? Or just the people who would vote for you if they were in your district?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

You represent the United States of America. The above few words is our opening salvo. Not the first words of the Declaration of Independence, but the words in the Declaration of Independence that sketch out our shared vision for the kind of nation we want to create — one that holds as self-evident the equality of all people, and the recognition that all people therefore have the same inborn and irrevocable Rights, including Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

It is fundamental to your job as a Representative of the House of the United States of America to recognize that everyone is fundamentally equal and everyone has an unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Every moment you should remember that this is the Truth that we as a nation are working together to hold self-evident. We are working together to remember this Truth and to together live and govern in accordance with this shared Truth.

After reviewing the situation, we suggest that you Representatives of the House of the 117th Congress pursue the following plan:

1) Republicans vote to not elect Jim Jordan as Speaker of the House.
2) Republicans and Democrats vote to reelect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.

It’s not perfect. No one will love it. But we need the House and the Senate to work meaningfully together, and they will again need to pass a budget in November, and they have a lot of difficult decisions to make together. McCarthy avoided a government shut-down by working with the Democrats; Jim Jordan’s track-record makes him unlikely to do the same; and what we need from our elected officials is that they govern meaningfully and sensibly together — and that means meaningful conversation and sensible compromises.

In the end, none of us are right about what is best for ourselves or everyone. This life is much bigger than we are. We need to harken to Wisdom to make good decisions, and Wisdom Knows that we are all in this together and are all fundamentally the same; and that that means we all have not only the Right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, but also the Responsibility to recognize everyone’s Rights, and to base our actions on that recognition.

Because we all share not just Rights but also Responsibilities, a representative democracy is a good way for us humans to organize ourselves: Wisdom wants us to share power with one another both because Wisdom recognizes the limits of human wisdom and human systems and because Wisdom recognizes that we all share not just Rights, but also Responsibilities, and so if we are to all grow in wisdom, we must share ideas, decisions, and power (that is to say: share Responsibility). So it is wise to together safeguard, improve, and work within our democratic republic.

What else must we do to grow in Wisdom? Share Joy! Share fun! Be able to together protect democracy and within that game have fun — tussle about a bit over the details; but at the end of the day go home as friends because we have remembered all through it that the game is not the point:

The point is preserving, strengthening and working within a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

So We the People can gently nudge the government towards the better and away from the worse, and act as a final check on madness and corruption in the government (more madness/corruption is when worse ideas, impulses, behaviors, and decisions find it easier to gain and maintain power and/or prestige).

A final note:

Let’s not quibble about who endowed us with unalienable Rights. The only thing we know for sure about the Creator of Life and Love is that this Creator is wider and deeper than our ideas and feelings about Creation, Live, and Love.

We Know deep inside prior to our certainties and doubts only this much:

We should think, feel, and act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-together; seeking to translate the Love that is deeper and wider than our ideas, feelings, words, and deeds into ideas, feelings, words and deeds.


It is clearly impossible to translate what is prior to our capacities into our capacities perfectly/literally/directly/1:1. And so it is clearly impossible to speak for God or the Truth or to Prove anything this way or that. And confusing our ideas and feelings about what’s going on for the Truth causes us to get more and more riled up about our own ideas and feelings, and less and less open to and ready for the Truth.

But the inherent imperfection of human wisdom does not mean we can’t work every day alone and together to connect better and better with the Love that chooses everyone — the Love we experience shining through each moment more fundamentally than our affirmations, doubts, and explanations.

Why not together remember this simple truth:
Either Love is Real
Or none of our worldviews mean anything to any of us

Why not together remember that we should be aware, clear, honest, accurate, kind, gentle, compassionate, and joyfully-sharing; and do the best we can together — even though we’re just people, are not infinitely Wise or Good, but just people?

We will all get older and we will die and all the huff-and-puff that we’d fed ourselves will evaporate, and we will be left with what we did with what we were given. And we will Know to what degree we lived in, through, and for Love; and to what degree we did not. This much we all Know now, deep inside — deeper than our big bold ideas and heavy swelling feelings.


Bartleby Willard
Amble Whistletown
Andy Watson
New York City, NY, USA, Earth

PS: Yes: the Declaration of Independence said “all men are created equal”, and went on to create a government that continued the practice of chattel slavery, and that only extended the right to vote to some men, and not all women — a government that has not always used its power wisely domestically or internationally. But that’s the mark of good ideas: they can go beyond the people who initially voice and sign onto them — they contain Truths beyond the truths of the times, places, people and systems of their birth. Good ideas give us room to grow into them and with them.

PSS: God, help us enjoy each other’s company in this life. We are stuck with each other now and forever, so we may as well get used to it and draw the benefits of teamwork and fellowship here and now.

PSSS: Aghh! Another failed essay. What are we to do? How can we stand up straight within ourselves, push out from within, let the Light in, and be kind to ourselves and everyone? How? While still just being people, hanging out, living in the swirl of sunlight, faces, chitchats, hugs, flashes of foliage, slivers of moving water, and everything else spinning around and around?

PSSSSSSSS: What to do?

This is the fundamental human dilemma:

We can only understand, believe in, or care about our own feeling, thinking, and acting to the degree we live in and through and for the Love that chooses everyone; but that Love is prior to our feeling/thinking/acting; and confusing ideas and feelings about things like “Love” and “Truth” for the Love that is True causes us to turn our focus away from Love and onto our own notions. So what to do?

We all (to some degree wittingly, to some degree unwittingly) try this: Organize our feeling/thinking/acting around the Love shining in and through everything, including each conscious moment; experiencing, syncing up with, and flowing off that Love as best we can — translating Love into feeling/thinking/acting poetically (pointing imperfectly but still meaningfully towards; rather than trying to capture literally, directly, 1:1, definitively, or exclusively). But how much progress do we make?

And we all mean to all agree to most fundamentally prioritize the universal values (aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, joyfully-sharing) and the Love animating them. Since we all can’t help but recognize that none of our worldviews make sense to any of us except to the degree we do this. But somehow we slip and slide in competing and overlapping moral vaunts and prideful cynicisms.

So, like, what are we to do?

And here we have another essay. Another log on the fire.

OK, ok, okay, let’s relax. Shoulders down. Chest out. Deep breath. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be joyful. Kind and gentle is not supposed to be stressful; it is kind and gentle and should be kind and gentle.

Start again.

Take your partner, and one two three four five six seven eight, one two three four …

Authors/Editors: Bartleby Willard & Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andrew M. Watson

A Wisdom Meme for Liberal Representative Democracies

A Wisdom Meme for Liberal Representative Democracies

The universal values are something along the lines of:
Aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-sharing.

None of our worldviews make sense to any of us except to the degree we understand and abide by the universal values.

But these values are asking for Absolute, not relative direction. We are seeking not “what I feel like is the case”, but “what is actually the case”.

But (1) feelings and ideas are essential aspects of our conscious experience & (2) the Absolute is wider and deeper than our feelings and ideas about It.
Therefore, we can hope only for imperfect insight into the Absolute — the kind of poetic (imperfectly pointing towards rather than perfectly capturing/defining) insight that requires constant whole-being effort, and constant self-observation, -critique, and -adjustment.

Furthermore, using religious tests for political power tempts people to lie to themselves and others about the most sacred things.

For these reasons (our non-Absolute and thus constantly evolving/self-observing/-assessing/-correcting relationship with the Absolute + the increased temptation to lie to ourselves and others about our relationship to the Absolute that accompanies tying religious purity tests to political power), as well as the general danger of concentrating power, combining metaphysical authority with political authority tends to corrupt leaders, followers, and the state.

If humans are to grow together in wisdom, they must be able to speak and work with one another meaningfully, and that means in a way that is fundamentally honest, and deep inside we all know that that means treating everyone as spiritual equals (recognizing the essential sameness of all humans, and the ability and responsibility of all humans to grow in wisdom — to get better and better at acting in and through and for Love). And that implies sharing values, power, and responsibility (note also that you can’t effectively share power without sharing responsibility; and you can’t meaningfully share responsibility without sharing power).

The best way to together prioritize the universal values (and the universal spiritual sense that we must each develop to more fully motivate, justify, and explicate the universal values) is NOT with a theocracy; but with a liberal, representative democracy where the focus is on abiding by the forms of meaningful conversation, decent communal behavior, and good government.

Good government is government that works to be clear, honest, fair, and representative by working on the nuts and bolts of government. Good government goals include fair elections with wide representation; honesty and transparency in government; clarity in political discourse and policy-making; a clear separation of facts from decisions based on said facts; freedom of speech and press; separation of powers and checks on the tendency of individuals and groups [be they political, ideological, and/or economic] to attempt to bend the rules in order to aggregate more power to themselves; and so on. Good government is about the form of government. Seeking good government policies is an implicit recognition that the systems that we use to collaborate within are very important because we need to think, feel, and act aware, honest, clear, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-together; and that means together building and maintaining structures that select for wiser ideas, feelings, and impulses. We are but human beings, after all. We often forget, but still it remains true that we are very influenced by those around us, by the prevailing norms, by the rules and standards of our situations. So a fundamental part of doing the right thing is working to make the systems we live, think, and work within more conducive to finding the way forward for everyone together, in a way that is meaningful to us humans — i.e: in a way that prioritizes the universal values.

We focus on the forms of wholesome collaboration rather than on religious tests because the former anchors us together in the spirit in a practical, manageable way; while the latter is likely to confuse, divide, and corrupt us. This is because the most fundamental spiritual Truth is not XYZ religious doctrine, but that which animates and gives meaning to all meaningful-to-humans ideologies: the sense that we are all in this together, bound in and through and for the Love that chooses everyone.

We choose a liberal representative democracy so that
(1) We the People can serve as a meaningful check on madness/corruption in government
(madness and corruption slide into one another: an individual, group, or nation states is more corrupt/madcap when more foolish ideas/feelings/impulses are more likely to gain and keep power/sway/interest than wiser ideas/feelings/impulses are);

While (2) simultaneously both
(2a) Building a shared vision
(by speaking meaningfully to one another, anchoring our behavior and discourse in the universal values)
(2b) Nudging our shared government towards the better and away from the worse
(by focusing on good government practices
together choosing representatives who accept our general visions for how to move the nation gently toward the better and away from the worse, and who we also have good reason to believe can implement these general visions in accordance with the universal values and good government practices).

We choose a liberal representative democracy rather than a direct democracy because we do not have the time, energy, nor inclination to go through the entire government process, and voting on X legislative detail without understanding how it intertwines with Y detail is often counterproductive.

We choose a liberal representative democracy (with guarantees for universal personal and economic freedoms, including freedom of speech and discourse, freedom of religion, the right to personal property and freedom from political persecution, and equality under the law) because we are trying to work better and better both alone and together to find better ways forward as individuals, groups, and as a nation; and that implies letting people figure things out for themselves — so long as they stay within the universal values, without which no human philosophy or religion is meaningful to any human, and thus without which we actively court the nihilism of living for whims rather than for Love. A fundamental motivation for liberalism is the sense that humans need to grow in wisdom individually and as groups, but no one can force wisdom on anyone else, and demanding doctrinal purity tempts people to lie to themselves and others about what is most important; therefore, we should prioritize the universal values and systems that help us keep to and select for them, while letting people find themselves: thinking and speaking openly, and living their lives as they see fit, so long as they are not harming others or our shared systems, resources, and spaces.

We share a liberal representative democracy:

Guarantees of individual rights like free speech and freedom from uncontestable imprisonment. Open debate and government. Separations of and limits on powers. Regular and fair elections to choose representatives beholden to, but not day-to-day by, the citizens.

With this tool, we can together gently evolve both our shared culture and our shared government. We can together safeguard the universal values while peacefully sharing thought and power. (To most meaningfully share either thought or power, it is best to meaningfully share both together.)

The good of individuals is the good of liberal representative democracies. Aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, joyfully-sharing discourse; decision-making; organization; and action is the way forward both for a self-governing individual and a self-governing people.

But we don’t have time for the minutiae of policy-making, nor the energy to clearly and carefully steer the details of government. What we must make time and energy for is to select for candidates who protect the integrity of our democracy and speak and work honestly, carefully, and competently to find what is best for all by abiding by civic and democratic norms, listening to others, finding win-wins and compromises, and otherwise performing their jobs responsibly and competently.

Our elected officials have a job to do!
Their job is NOT to make us feel proud of ourselves. Their job is to help us gently steer our shared ship towards the better, the wiser, the kinder, the more secure, sustainable, healthy, inhabitable, and life-overflowing for everyone.

To sustainably evolve a shared culture and government, everyone within the bounds of that shared culture and government must hear, understand, care for, and grow with each other — protected by and protecting the universal values and the right to the free spiritual searching and expression required to grow a meaningful relationship with the Love that alone Knows how to truly feel/think/act aware, clear, honest, accurate, competent, compassionate, loving-kind, and joyfully-sharing.

We are all in this together. An individual human conscious moment must remember that fundamental Truth to meaningfully organize its own feeling/thinking/acting. And a group of individuals must remain aware of the fundamental bond between all sentient beings if it is to organize itself in a way that is meaningful to its members and to what they share. The sense that “we are all in this together” is more fundamental to our experience than are any doubts, certainties, explanations, or extollations of it. We are all in this together and can only make sense to ourselves to the degree we acknowledge, accept, live, and treasure this key atom of human experience.

Author: BW/AW
Editor: AW/BW
Copyright: AM Watson

Let’s make a deal

Let’s make a deal

I don’t want to write about politics. At least not current-events / specific-case type politics. I want to write fictions, poems, essays that deal with the light sparkling off the water. And most are like me. Few of us want to be consumed by the politics of our day.

In an article for The New York Times (Will DeSantis destroy conservatism as we know it?), the conservative (at least the way the word was used 20 years ago) writer David French discusses differences and similarities between Trump and DeSantis while arguing for a return to a more traditional Republican politician. Trump he described as being all about crushing anyone who goes against Trump; that is to say (our words here): the politics of thuggery. DeSantis he considered more principled: he’s all about owning the libs. In seeking to economically punish Disney for speaking out against his policies, DeSantis is pursuing a politics that is contrary to the freedom of expression required for a functioning democracy. But there are, at least for the moment, some principles to his madness, and we don’t yet have evidence that he wishes to wage a full-out assault on democracy.

Trump was already waging an unprecedented assault on democracy we were compiling his threats to democracy before the 2020 election (Trumps Threats to Democracy). And then, to clarify once and for all that Trump really does prefer a King Trump to a functioning democracy for three hundred million US Americans; after the election he encouraged the assault on the capitol and also tried to convince state election officials to cheat for him. And yet here Trump is, leading in the Republican polls. This clearly demonstrates that the average Republican voter is an evil person. But how can that be? And what can a country do with that information?

There’s a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly (America is headed towards collapse) by Peter Turchin, that argues that the US’s wealth inequality is currently at pre-Civil War and pre-Great Depression levels; and that the only way to save the US and her democracy is to once again (as happened in these eras) drastically redistribute wealth from the top to the middle and bottom.

[This article calls to mind an idea from Tony Judt’s 2010 Ill Fares the Land: the Bolsheviks and others were convinced that there could be no wealth redistribution without violence &emdash; it didn’t occur to them that the Western countries might non-violently vote their way towards major wealth redistribution. Of course, as Turchin’s article points out, FDR’s economic revolution was made possible by extreme conditions (the Great Depression and WWII).]

But if income inequality is the real elephant in the room, why choose Trump, who has shown himself neither interested in nor capable of effecting that kind of wealth redistribution?

So what is the story? Are you republican voters willing to destroy democracy over a culture war that is not even particularly interesting, let alone compelling, to the average US democrat?

And what exactly is it that you need to win here?

Take history textbooks: Is it not possible for US American classrooms to use a curriculum that is straightforwardly true? Something like: The Founders worked through and implemented some great political and cultural ideas that we are still benefiting from; and they also allowed for a system of enslaving people from Africa and forcing them to do manual labor under the tyranny (original sense of the word — as in “unchecked power”) of their owners; and they also encouraged policies that were often disastrous for the remaining native populations? US American children can hold a few ideas together at once: the Founding Fathers were products of their time and place; they gave us a functioning representative democracy with majority rule and protection of individual rights that we still enjoy while we still must work to improve it; and some of what they did we as a nation must now regret — in the same manner and to the same degree that we celebrate the more positive aspects of our political and cultural heritage.

What is the past? It was, but now it isn’t. It leaves traces of itself in our present, but it is not the inevitable ruler of our future. Let us together think gently through our pasts, presents, and possible futures — and where else to start the process but in school? That is to say: is there really a disagreement here? No one can make sense of a pure-triumphalism 1950s-era US American textbook anymore. But most people also don’t want a textbook that does nothing but scold and chide our forefathers, who were, anyway, just people. Insight into how very much one is influenced by one’s time and place is a critical element of wisdom. Why not begin as elementary school students to collectively meditate upon how difficult it is to be wiser than one’s time and place? “To see things as they really are. It can only make you wise.” (Cannons in the Rain by John Stewart, singer-songwriter from California)

Or take trans concerns: What? I don’t think we necessarily have to let biological males into restrooms that say “Women” on them. Nor do I see why we necessarily have to let biological males compete against biological females in high school sports, or in the olympics, or on professional teams. Such topics can be discussed. They are not the main point raised by the reality of transpeople: They’re just people; they should be allowed to be themselves; you shouldn’t pick on them, or act like somehow they are lesser. In a similar vein: No child should ever kill themselves because kids at school pick on them for being a “sissy” or “gay” or whatever it is. Seeking an environment that ushers that kind of foolish cruelty out of our shared spaces is simple decency. But these are cultural issues more than they are political ones.

It goes too far to call someone “bad” because they believe boys should remain boys and they should pursue girls; and girls should remain girls and they should pursue (or sit about waiting to be pursued by) boys. It also goes too far to call someone “bad” because they don’t believe that. But where’s the issue here? Why do we need to call anyone “bad”? You have you ideas; I have mine; we both agree that anger and meanness and vanity are never any good for anyone. So where’s the problem? The problem comes in with anger, meanness, vanity. Minus that you just have people who disagree and need to continue to work to find common ground, but who can do that because they still have a shared and functioning democracy.

In time I suppose the side that believes boys must remain boys and chase girls will fade more and more. But that’s just because gender norms are spiritually irrelevant. When we die, we are not men or women, straight or gay, rich or poor, white or black; when we die we are only the Love we lived — everything else is burned away in the fire raging between this world and the next. The more we live Love here and now, the more we don’t even feel the fire, a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego. Gender, race, nationality, political party, religious affiliation, and so on: these things are not real enough to get worked up about.

What’s real enough to get worked up about is whether or not we put Love first. And in this department, my responsibility is not to tell you about the shape of your own soul, but to constantly search myself, trying over and over again to stand up more straight within myself, organize myself better and better around the Love shining through everything, including each conscious moment.

In conclusion: let’s redistribute more wealth from the top down; let’s create a New Green Deal that includes everyone this time (the New Deal did not include people of all races equally and so did not lift all boats as well as it could’ve); let’s admit we all already agree on the essentials and can and should share government and together gently nudge us all and our shared government towards the more aware, clear, accurate, honest, competent, kind, compassionate, and joyfully sharing/collaborating/exploring/growing (the values without which none of our worldviews make sense to any of us).

And let’s let Bartleby Willard, Amble Whistletown, and everybody here at Skullvalley After Whistletown Booksellers relax and mosey on back to dreamtime fictions and other ancient lays.

But what about how evil republican voters have proven themselves to be by supporting Donald Trump for presidency now, even after his cards are on the table? This we can’t fathom. Where is the point where willful incompetence becomes evil? And does it not require willful incompetence to continue to believe that Donald Trump has the desire, training, and aptitude to work with us and our other elected officials to guide our nation towards what is best for all? And if that is not what you are seeking in a politician, are you not choosing evil over good leadership? And is that not another case of willful incompetence?

Don’t you Trump-supporters feel yourselves desperately flinching away from aware, clear, accurate, competent, kind, joyfully-sharing feeling/thinking/acting? Don’t you feel a mistake in your very souls? Anger buys what it wants at the price of soul. Us-vs-them chips away at soul. Needing to be right erodes soul. What is going on? What demon possesses you?

What is going on here? What are humans? And how are they to relate to one another? What is good? If God is all that truly exists, and God is only good; does that mean that evil is 100% illusion? Yes, but how to make things better when anger and pride and self-satisfaction so often accompany criticisms of others? Sometimes others are choosing poorly and these choices are damaging everyone. So then shouldn’t you say something? But how to criticize in a way that actually helps others? And how to criticize in a way that doesn’t clench up your own heart/mind/soul?

Oh America, what can we do so that we are like the 90 year old lady who has shrunk down to 4’2″ and who has dentures for her front teeth and whose bottom teeth are worn into inclines, and who looks up with bright eyes and says that she’s spent the day praying for everyone: “Someone has to do it!” And who then adds that the most important thing is your mood, that’s the whole thing, it can even make bad things good, and then, hugging herself, says, “that’s why I cling so hard to it! I don’t want to lose it!” America, we ask us: Where’s our mood? Where’s our joy at life?

Update 6/12/2023: Ron DeSantis thinks Trump didn’t go far enough / DeSantis finds a new set of laws to ignore / DeSantis privately elevates election deniers while publicly staying mum on 2020 / DeSantis would kill Democracy Slowly and Methodically

Oh, hmmm. What has happened? Republican voters seem leaning towards a clearly established would-be tyrant; but their number two guy is arguably also a serious threat to our democracy. He has bent Florida and its legislature to his will, punished politicians and organizations that disagree with him, flouted campaign laws, exerted pressure on the legislature to pass a partisan gerrymander of his own making, and “Two months before he was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pick to oversee Florida voting, Cord Byrd was a featured speaker at a seminar for people who falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen and wanted training to stop it from happening again.” [that quote is from “DeSantis privately elevates election deniers while publicly staying mum on 2020” linked to above.]

What is going on? Republicans favor an open opponent to the rule of anything but his own whims, and the only other candidate they seem to consider worth considering seems like a more competent authoritarian. And both men run on outrage and anger.

And now (6/13/2023), with Trump’s Federal indictment, high-ranking Republicans are tweeting that Biden is weaponizing the justice department. How? Did they read the indictment? Bill Barr did: “I do think we have to wait and see what the defense says and what proves to be true. But I do think … if even half of it is true, then he’s toast … It’s a very detailed indictment and it’s very damning,” said Barr. []

How is it that Republican voters are so ready to destroy representative democracy?

Republican voters have decided that their country has been stolen from them; ergo the democracy must already be over; ergo they are right to impose a tyrant of their own? They don’t know what they are doing, and yet they are being evil. Because willful incompetence is bad, and if you take it far enough, it becomes evil, and undermining US American democracy amounts to sowing salt in the hearts and minds not just of three hundred million citizens, but of the world. Because we’ve never been perfect, and often have overplayed our hand and overpraised our prances; but at least we have fair elections and freedom of speech and thought, and with these goods we have the ability to collectively evolve and the space to find our own paths to the Truth as individuals. Now what?

The Republican voters hate us so much that they would burn down the world just to hurt us. Why? And who are we? And how are we so different from them that this is their resolve?

What has happened? The Republican Party has been corrupted, which is to say it is a place where worse ideas and behaviors are chosen over better ones — where it is easier to succeed with harmful actions than with helpful ones.

What would you have me do, God? I don’t want to talk to them anymore, since now they have decided that they’d rather put me in prison for back-talking than carry on a conversation out in the grassy free spaces where we used to have picnics along rivers and otherwise enjoy nature and her smiles. What would you have me do? They’re being bad has not made good. Their foolishness does not make me wise. I don’t mind if people want to debate about how big or small the federal government should be, or how much various groups should pay in taxes, or what textbooks should say about history, or what limits should be put in place to prevent underaged people from undergoing a trans operation that they might later regret, or any of that. All I ask is that they agree to protect our collective right to a functioning representative democracy, with individual protections, majority rule, and clarity honesty accuracy competency and good-will in conversation and policy. But they are agitating to dissolve those goods in the name of — what? Wounded pride?

But then again, if we really have reached the point where the wealth gap is once again unsustainable and the only way forward as a nation is to drastically raise taxes on the few people and organizations who possess the vast majority of the money; then we are in a desperate straight: Add this fundamental econcomic/power quandary to our current habit of escaping into media landscapes and social networks (virtual and physical) of our own self-enforcing choosing, and it is perhaps not shocking to see people flinching into evil.

But what should we do? How can we actually improve things? How can we go back to speaking to one another? You might say to start with I should stop calling them “evil”, but what are they then? “Misguided” is not sufficient; because they could stop and think a moment; stop for a moment and consider what reality is more plausible; but they do no such thing. So then they must be “willfully misguided”, which is to say “evil”. They choose mighty, dramatic feelings (teeth-clenching/shoulder-shaking alternated with heart-swelling/pride-exploding) over gentle kind resolve. Everyone does that some, but they take it so far as to make a Reality out of what is not even a reality. Isn’t that what’s going on?

So is the average Republican voter an evil person?

Or what?

This situation is more difficult to address than we had thought.

Dear God,
What are we to do?
What is good and what is evil?
What are the paths that goodness takes and those that evil takes?
How can we tell the one path from the other before it is too late, and evil has silenced all dissent?
What are we to do here and now?
What should we do to regain the center?
What is the center, and why is it to be chosen?

If the average Republican voter is an evil person, then we are all evil people. The only difference is setting. Or at least almost all of us are evil people, and the only difference is setting. For example, a few brave souls resisted NAZI Germany.

I think the safer bet is that we are all both good and evil, but we can behave evilly with a setting that favors evil behavior and personal imperfections. So for some people, it is more difficult to go along with good than it is to go along with evil; and some people are the other way; and many are in the middle-ish. And of course we are all always changing.

The reason that representative democracy is a spiritual good is that the people serve as a final check on madness and corruption in government AND in their own collective thinking/feeling/acting. How to help us all find the way forward?

That was what the wisdom meme was for.

I guess this is the best wisdom meme we’ve come up with so far: To the Rescue.

Trump helped inspire another one years ago that we’ve always thought pretty good: A Fun New War.

I don’t know. How to nudge us all towards the better? “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still!” No forced belief is real wisdom. We must seek wisdom for ourselves and our collective search for wisdom must also be open and not coerced. We must relax and enjoy one another, otherwise we’ll destroy one another and our shared resources — as dysfunctional families, given enough time, will.

But how? You are supporting Trump and DeSantis; instead of someone willing to say the 2020 election was not stolen, political power shouldn’t be used to punish people who publicly disagree with you, and that the point of politics is to work together to find what is best for everyone — not bend the country to your will, even if the tactics you employ for that bending help slide the nation towards the vanishing of a government “Of the People, For the People, By the People”.

I see this as evil behavior on your part. Since what you are asking for would harm everyone by making the nation more corrupt, and thus a place where it is easier for bad impulses to succeed and more difficult for good ones to succeed. What you are asking for is a place where evil has the upper hand. This is evil. What is your problem? Why are you doing this? I see future blood all over your hands. Like you are clamoring to harm other people and ultimately yourselves. What do you see when you look at your hands?

[Update October 2023: By late-summer 2023, DeSantis was trying a new tact and said, “No, of course he lost. Joe Biden’s the President” But also saying things like, “I think what people in the media and elsewhere, they want to act like somehow this was just like the perfect election. … I don’t think it was a good-run election,” DeSantis said. “But I also think Republicans didn’t fight back. You’ve got to fight back when that is happening.” De Santis – Of Course Trump Lost 2020 Election. Which is still saying that Biden didn’t really win; the Republicans just didn’t fight back about the right things quickly enough to keep Trump in office. In this, he still gives ample room for conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from Trump. In this, he encourages what? What fantasy about a perfectly run election? And if you can argue that there’s imperfections here and there, the losing side has a right to call the whole thing a cheat? That’s not how you find the way forward for everyone. You find the way forward for everyone by admitting that there is no perfection in human affairs, but that this election was fair and the winner is clear and it is over. But no, he can’t bring himself to do that much for our shared democracy. Instead he kicks up nonsense:

“Still, DeSantis made sure to point out in Sunday’s interview that he saw a number of problems with the 2020 election, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s grants for election administration, the widespread availability of mail-in ballots, state laws that allow third parties to collect and return voters’ ballots, and how social media outlets de-emphasized a story about the laptop of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.”

And this all adds up to what, Ron DeSantis? Election results that should’ve been fought right then real quick and overturned? What does all this really add up to? Not corruption, but laws and circumstances that you think favor democratic voters. So what, until we figure out a way to get all circumstances, and all state, local, and federal laws to favor republican voters (I think some already do, thought they somehow didn’t make your list of 2020 election outrages), then we have to fight against all election results in real time until they’re overturned? That’s your vision for a healthy democracy?

Everyone slides everything to their advantage. But you take this human weakness too far, although not as far as Trump is taking it. I guess that’s why he’s the front-runner? Because the republican voter has fully embraced the nihilism of momentary victories at all costs, and for Trump and his voters lying is just another weapon? Is this where we’re at? DeSantis is evil, but not evil enough?

What is going on?

How can we deal with this broken half of our political system? How to help when we are probably right to feel existentially threatened: this behavior of the Republican Party is putting our democratic republic in existential danger. And yet what allows them to behave this way? Is it not the clearly mistaken notion that the democrats are putting the nation in existential danger? And so we begin the death spiral. It is true that the republicans are further from reality, but that is not enough to save us as a nation, and it will be cold comfort when we and if we fully self-destruct, and then, if the evil really wins, that truth will anyway be erased from what we can say.

How to deal? When are we in an emergency? And then how to move out of the emergency and into a more sustainable trajectory. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about politics in the United States of America. I pine for my youth, when it seemed plausible that the US would always be a nice, safe, healthy place, with a functioning democracy and reasonable exchange of ideas.

Oh, wait: Did he mean that republicans just need to get all the circumstances and rules to favor republican candidates before the elections end? And that that would be a “fair election”? That’s not so evil as my initial interpretation, although what he’s talking about mostly means enfranchising less people, so it works against the good government practice of enfranchising as many people as possible. For example, election days should be federal holidays, and everyone should be legally obligated to vote, and voting should be super easy; and important primary votes should get the same treatment, with the additional detail that in primaries we do ranked voting, so as to pare down the radical edges.

Here’s a real worry about our presidential elections from the point of view of good government: not many people bother to vote in primaries, which selects for the more extreme candidates; and you can win the presidential election with a minority of the popular vote. States have rights, but we’re kidding ourselves to act like they are individual nations and should have those kinds of rights. States rights should not be allowed to interfere with the proper functioning of the federal government, particularly not federal elections. Our constitution is not perfect and not perfectly clear; when interpreting it, we should lean towards laws that help the cause of good government, democracy, the will of the many, and the rights of all. In that way we are true to the spirit of the constitution without being untrue to the oft-vague-ish letter of the constitution.]

Authors: Committee for Committed Something Deeperism
Editors: B Willard and A Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson

IDF – Web Communication – Question 8

IDF – Web Communication – Question 8

This time the Interaction Design F​oundation listed a bunch of tips for making copy snappier and then asked us to rewrite something. We rewrote their example of snappy text: The Gettysburg Address. Then we wrote a little essay about Lincoln’s question: how to make a nation helpful to God. No real answer is found, a few wheels are spun, we skip out again into the sunlight, looking for a breeze.

Before Gettysburg Address

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —

that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion —

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom;

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

After Gettysburg Address

Twenty-seven years ago our fathers established a new nation, conceived in liberty and proposing universal equality.

Now a great civil war tests whether ours or any nation so conceived and dedicated can long endure.

Voici a great battlefield, a portion we now dedicate as the final resting place for lives here sacrificed that our nation might live.

Surely fitting and proper. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, consecrate, hallow this ground.

Brave soldiers, living and dead, consecrated it far above our poor powers.

The world may not long remember our words, but it can never forget their deeds.
Let us living men, rather, dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work they’ve thus far so nobly advanced.
Let us, rather, accept the great task remaining before us –​
taking from these honored dead increased devotion to what they sacrificed their last full measure;
Demanding purpose for their deaths;

that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom;

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Gettysburg Address breaks a lot of the rules here promulgated. It would probably not do as internet copy. Neither would my worsened version. The topic requires consideration. The speech’s poetic beauty opens up a window into one conscious moment’s confrontation with the great problem of his day and his life. By sharing his whole conscious space in a way ours can relate to, Lincoln shares with us his soul’s struggle with the motions of his world.
Lincoln’s question remains our own: how can spiritual values guide a nation? how can a nation be God’s instrument on earth? We know that individuals should empty themselves of all selfishness and let the Heavenly Light flow through and overtake their every word and deed. But when we think that’s what we’re doing, we’re often lying to ourselves, and thus–since the foundation of all spiritual progress is awareness–heading in the wrong direction. With a government the dangers of self-deception are even greater, hence the separation of church and state. But there is a difference between a government indifferent to spiritual values (ie: absolute values like “No, you actually should not lie–for real, that’s how things really are no matter what we little slips of passing fancies may feel or suppose.”) and a government separating church and state. You cannot make things better without following spiritual values (no other values can even ask the question “what is truly better”, since they are not absolute values, but merely unfounded assumptions), but so much trouble is created when people act like they are following spiritual values! Because they so often aren’t actually doing that at all, but are just using the notion of spiritual correctness to turn down the awareness of themselves and their fellows.

Abraham Lincoln did what he could. We all do what we can, given who we are and where we are. Reconstruction was undone. America is a work in progress. Our only hope is always the same: raise our individual and collective awarenesses to the point that we actually believe in and follow Goodness–not the word, nor even the concept, and especially not the swelling and sweetly sickening feelings we sometimes associate with Goodness, but real Goodness, that to which the word imperfectly but not therefore necessarily meaninglessly points.

But how do you do that? Clarity, honesty, openness, kindness, anti-corruption within the individual and every group, every governmental body, every business, church, artistic collective. But how do we do that?

Strange times, troubling times, burbling, gurgling, waterspilling times.


A Fun New War

A Fun New War

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

Yes! Finally! A nice, safe fun war

Remember all those wars where everyone ends up bloody stumps lying in the cold mud or burning sand or, if lucky, the cool springtime grass, gurgling vagueries to the twittering skies? Do you remember the bombs that fall, the cities that burn, the people evaporating at the center and melting on the edges?

So what a great idea Brother Bear’s proposed! Now here’s a place for US American know-how, can-do, and go-get-em to shine bright and pleasant as a laughing spring day of fresh air, light-tunneling streams and limegreen leaf-underbellies flipped up by tickling breezes, soaking in and giggling out a broad clear sunshine!

All we have to do this time is figure out how to make voting machines secure, catch false news, and train every red-blooded American in the fine art of critically considering all ideas. How we’ll investigate and pick apart not just ads, but also conjectures, pop-off comments, well-argued but not necessarily therefore actually-reasonable soliloquies, imagery, everything! And one more tool to complete our victory: if fake news seeks to divide us, what better weapon have we but to unite? What better way to deny an attack on collective goodwill than building up the mighty arsenal of togetherness, of shared sympathies and joys, of love between all of God’s creation?

Step down, if you would be so kind, to a little lower layer*. Eye in eye here in the dark, in this old wood hold of an ancient wooden ship**. Here we’ve the privacy and salty old-oak odor conducive to confidential, earnest discussion.
Now, what if I were to tell you that this time the Russians weren’t our enemies?

You heard that right!

Those members of the Russian government seeking to unbalance and discredit our democracy with fake news and the real or merely-believed corruption of our elections: these are our enemies.

No, not so fast. Not even them!

Those elements within human beings that would live in this mean-spirited way, that would guide their overall selves to behave in this way and to take these steps: these are our enemies. Our enemy is bad-will, the desire to hurt, to maim, and the mindsets and efforts born of these spiritual errors.

We people always dream of holy wars, and now we have one. Oh happy day! The battle for the soul of the nation and the world is here clear as day! Liberal democracies win when clear-eyed, honest, kind thoughtful community wins. Can we answer this cruel, this sour-hearted salvo with clear, honest, careful, loving thinking, feeling, living, acting? Can we make lemonade? I think we can. I think we should.

Then, as we apply our love of good machines, good systems, good thinking, and shared joy to defeat those strange foolish desperate tugs within the human heart — those evil flinches that desire power more than Goodness — , as we fight the good fight against the efforts of foreign bodies to damage our democracy, we will be fighting not just outside invaders, but also corruptions within our own system and culture, even within our own hearts.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy! A neat war. A fun war. The nukes are still piled up and the intrigues yet swirl like feathery shadows on all sides; the war against imaginable horrors never ends for us vulnerable little humanthings. So we should be grateful for this provocation, this inspiration to be more proactive, to fight for what is on the whole still a really wonderful set of possibilities before it is too late, before our own greeds and bitternesses and powerlustvaunts and thoughtlessnesses steal away our own beauty. The power-grab at our hearts/minds/souls by marketers and other psyche-manipulators has been going on for some time, but now the very weapon we’ve used to sucker ourselves out of money, health, community, and wisdom has been turned against us by a foreign government in a clear attempt to break our collective back: surely a sufficient wake-up call!

Let us take our stand here, so that together the Goodness within all human hearts will win and those aspects of human hearts and minds that feed and breed in rancor, meanness, greed, selfish indifference and all such snippy mean small-minded screams will have less and less resources, less and less inspiration, less and less fuel, less and less to say and do. In this way we humans can focus more and more on creation, exploration, sharing kind joy. Why not? We’ve done enough of the other stuff.
Oh happy day!


Rick Assessment
Chief WAP Military Strategist
[From an early-2018 memo]
Author: BW
Editor: AW
[Editor’s Notes:
*a little lower layer:
See Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (Chapter 36: The Quarter Deck)
**eye in eye:
See the same book, but Chapter 132: The Symphony]

[Editor’s Note: This essay is included in “First Essays”, available for sale (or free — write us at and we’ll email you a copy) on the Buy Our Books! tab of this blog.]

Copyright: AM Watson

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What Can We Say 1 & 2

What Can We Say 1 & 2


What strange times! What can we say?

Let’s start with what we all can agree on and go from there.

Example 1: Let’s demand aware clear honest thought searching for truly better ways of thinking and acting, with the whole process guard-railed by the understanding that to the degree we do not prioritize sharing kind joy we are going in the wrong direction. Any human dogma that fails to accept that principle (not so much those words, nor even those concepts, but the inner-senses-of-things they imperfectly but not therefore necessarily inadequately point towards) is meaningless/boring/not-believable to human minds and hearts. So to the degree one abandons it, one disappears from the conscious moment and becomes an amoeba, pushed around by whims that rise up, as whims always will, declaring themselves, as is their spurty want, great Truths. Much wiser to keep working to better and better center oneself around the Truth–deeper and wider than human ideas, and thus not liable to literal/definitive descriptions, but not therefore completely severed from human ideas (think of how a good poem can, when read with an open mind/heart, imperfectly but still meaningfully recreate the author’s experience within the reader’s conscious moment). That way one can compare a given whim’s claims against the Joy within that alone knows that and how human thought and action actually matter. We don’t need to be enlightened to agree on this principle, and we aren’t hypocrites if we agree to it and don’t always live up to it. The point is to agree that this is the goal and to throw back words and deeds that do not live up to it: “please try again!”, not “you’re out of the club!”, which anyway clearly violates the sharing kind joy rule.

Example 2: Let’s demand clean government. We will not all agree on everything. However, we can all agree that our only hope is 1) clear honest well-considered win-win policy decisions are superior to randomly generated / whim- & prejudice-based ones (if not, we humans have no method for coherently thinking our way to truly better thoughts and actions, and are thus at the mercy of chance and history, which would imply there’s no point having political opinions, or any ideas at all [note that you have no good reason to suppose this, and to the degree you do suppose it, you don’t suppose you should bother thinking anything, and so you undercut all your thoughts, including that attempted-supposition]) and 2) our individual and group decisions are, on the whole, clear … win-win. So let’s agree that we will not tolerate dishonesty, nor will we stand for doing any old stupid thing, no matter how much money or other powers request that stupid thing. Ah! But here’s the rub! For most will assent to these principles, but then, in the same breath, they’ll come to completely different conclusions about which politicians are lying and which ones are doing any old stupid thing for the sake of money, ego, or blind worldly dogmatism grabbed with religious fervor. How? What is going on here? And how to fix it before it critically undermines our shared interests with the persistent myth that we are not on the same team and cannot share kind joy?

Example 3: Let’s agree that human ideas and feelings are not Gods, and that we must therefore ask over and over again for the great God to bless us and make us wise enough to understand that and how it is True that what we say and do really does matter, and that we really are all in this together and cannot escape one another and so must find a way, if it takes us eternity!, for everyone to share kind joy with everyone.


What strange times! What can we say?

Upon death, I’ve heard, the soul is led to the River Lethe, where it forgets all but its deepest, most profound, most spiritual lessons. There, every bit of you that is not Love disappears. Everything not soaked through with Love is, as some have put it, burned in the fire. And so, the theory concludes, the eternal purpose of human beings is to understand and live Love. Insofar as we accomplish this, we succeed. Insofar as we don’t, we fail and gently disappear.

Another, related, line of thought runs thus: We are all in this together and the whole rises and falls in accordance with how well we all treat each other, and also by how well we all treat shared resources: our immediate and larger environment, our governments and their organizations, our written and spoken thoughts, and so on–these structures within which all live.

There are of course those who hold that it doesn’t matter what we do. After all, the game goes on forever and there’s no stopping until all are saved. Even, they reason, if we blow up this world: that’s cool–we’ll just inhabit other forms in another world and keep on rocking. Perhaps. I couldn’t say for sure from where I sit, on a tall stool at the great front window of some no-account SouthEasternConnecticut coffee shop, watching the rain stop and a wintry droop-leafed rose bush wobble in the gray winds, the various accounts drifting see-saw all around me. However, it seems safe to say that as far as we know it would be best to not blow our hand. Better to go easy on one another and our shared physical and mental space, to seek more and more wisdom and, no matter the details of our lives, to focus first and foremost on sharing kind joy. Granted: that’s the sort of thing everybody knows, irregardless how foolish we all sometimes are and how high-flying our theories sometimes get; but, you know, at Christmas we remind ourselves of these platitudes, and that, trite as they may be, they are still True, which still Matters.

Authors: Bartleby Willard & Andy Watson
Editorial Concerns / Copyright: AMW

[correction to CNL 2018: delete “no-account”]

What can be done?

What can be done?

Clinton’s email fiasco that may or may not turn into a criminal charge. And the arrogance and lack of judgement that the incident demonstrates.

Sander’s longshot campaign, his lack of foreign policy experience, and does he understand how dangerous terrorism has become? A handful of crazy people could nuke a city, or poison its water, or a mall’s ventilation system–or do that to several cities at once. Or they could blow up the House while most everyone in the Federal government is present (suggested solution: most people can send representatives while watching it on TV in someplace dignified–for example, their state’s capitol). Can he handle this? Privacy is important but so is keeping New York City from evaporating (actually, any city dweller with any imagination will notice that evaporation is about the best option for dying in a terrorist strike).

Trump’s insane ideas: building walls across Mexico that the Mexican government will pay for; stopping all Muslims from entering the country; using his magical bartering abilities to turn the world’s governments into rival businesses that he strong-arms and outmaneuvers. And then also the usual (for a couple generations anyway) bank-breaking Republican fiscal policies that make the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, the government unable to fund necessary services (D+ on our last infrastructure report) and the economy stay unstable. Oh and then there’s the narcissism, flagrant misogyny, and general Nietzschian conception of “might-makes-right or at least it wins and winning’s the thing”. Except that doesn’t even win: when you reduce all to power plays, you are the ones that become Nazi Germany, and someone else must give the King’s Speech and say that might doesn’t make right, that there is more to life than power and money, and that government’s are responsible to those human values first: to creating and maintaining places where people can be both physically OK and morally decent. That is the vision that allows for the mutual trust and support necessary for collective success!

So what can be done?

Because Elizabeth Warren isn’t running and so I’m thinking we won’t unite: we’ll all stay alone in this giant, ill-conceived, incoherent mosaic.

What can be done?

Why would it have been different with Elizabeth Warren running? Because she can explain the necessity of financial regulations, the compatibility of healthy capitalism and taxation and even some redistribution. She can explain that ad-money linked to a candidate’s ear is corrupting our democracy, and she can help us think through our way back to the steering wheel–or at least the brakes: in a representative democracy the primary responsibility of the electorate is to serve as a final check against excessive corruptions and flagrant madnesses of the political class, a duty we’ve largely traded-in for teatime with pundits and rabble-rousers where we pretend we’re all political geniuses and/or that the other side’s too perverted to talk to.

What is different about Elizabeth Warren? Well, she’s not hated by the right like Clinton is, and she lacks Clinton’s email problem. The left acts like it’s the Republicans fault that Clinton is hated: that’s somewhat true, they’ve spent 30 years maligning the Clintons. But is the point here who’s fault it is? And isn’t the email mess more than just Republican headhunting? Wasn’t that at best really stupid? The nation desperately needs someone who can unite us, and it is hard to see how that person could be a Clinton, and easy to see how it could be that sunny, sweet, irresistible, and so very accurate without being pretentious or impractical Elizabeth Warren, who, I regret to say, is not running for President.

Bernie Sanders still is running for president, but he’s excessive: we could make college an affordable part of life without mandating that it be free; we could improve the health care reforms we’ve started without demanding that we jump straight to single-payer; we could regulate the financial sector without acting like they’re all a bunch of crooks; we could move slowly but surely towards a better society–and cranky perfectionism is not the way to do that.

The Republican party is hopeless because their budget ideas are all based on fanatical magicalism, and they flip constantly between hating and trying to dismantle government and pretending they want to and can govern–and even keep social security going. Donald Trump is an arrogant fool with no experience governing and even supposing he is a good businessman and not more like a good self-promoter and con-man, the country is not a business–it is a country, and the bottom-line is not the annual profit report: it is justice, freedom, liberty, safety, and the tools and space for everyone here to become their best so that we as a nation can become our best: yes, staying safe and financially healthy, but most fundamentally becoming kinder, more just, wiser, more fun, more creative, more human–living out our inner landscapes more completely: that is the path to sustainable collective success, and anything else is the Titanic.

What can be done? What has gone wrong? Why can’t we even unite around no-brainers like stopping banks from using publicly-insured money to fund risky investments, taking back the political process from the “ad money + lobbyists = you listen to me” political investors, and improving our D+ infrastructure? Look–the sickness is most pronounced in the Republican party because they’ve given themselves most completely over to the myth that money is the point and justifies everything else. It is that ugly truth that makes bipartisanship tricky. The Democrats are not perfect, but the Republicans have lost their minds. And yet this exact same position in reverse is held by the majority of Republicans. How can I see with their mind/hearts enough to find a common ground? It is painful for me to try. I am so baffled by them. And yet no progress will come to the land that now slouches with flat heavy feet down the rocky ravine–just asking for the decisive tumble into the abyss–unless we can find a common reality.

AMW and BW, worried on of a Sunday morn in the year 2016.

I want to quit

I want to quit

I’d give up, but that seems futile.

I’m getting older without a cause. That’s the problem.

If Elizabeth Warren would’ve run for president, all would be well. I could relax while she unified the nation around sensibleness. But that didn’t happen.

But I don’t really understand what is going on. Why are the Republicans so crazy? Why won’t they stop running for office if they hate government so much? Why won’t they admit that we need to build roads and that people on welfare is not what is breaking the budget and that of those the small percent that are gaming the system really are not what is breaking the budget? Why do they keep pretending that cutting taxes is a magical potion? Why have they trapped us all here in this hog pen while they whistle and rodeo us in the mud–pretending that we’re raging bulls and not puny brown-nosed piglets? I am so lonely here! And the weirdest part is that we all know that we need some mixture of free market, regulations, and safety net. We all know that the magical formulas that toss away any one of those is magical thinking. So how can it be that we let the Republicans act like two of those three economic pillars are evil treacheries and the other is God’s mighty hand in creation? And so we are scattered to the wind. Oh Israel! Oh Israel!

When we be a people? When will we share this land and this purpose? Don’t we have a purpose? Don’t we agree at least that the government should avoid making decisions just to appease people and organizations with money to burn? Why are people voting for Trump? What is going on? Will someone please get me out of this dank cellar?! Who locked the door? Who’s flooding the upstairs bathroom? Don’t they know I’m trapped down here? Don’t they care?

I can’t stop the evil. I can’t even figure out what is behind it, where it is, what it is. I feel helpless and stupid. What do I do? Who do I turn to?

AMW and BW, all upset with no place to go

A New, Improved Manhattan Project: Pt 1: Preliminary Worries

A New, Improved Manhattan Project: Pt 1: Preliminary Worries

[Anti-Weapon / New Manhattan Project]

I live in the world. I worry. Won’t it just have to go off the rails? Nuclear war still clearly a threat; nuclear terrorism now clearly a threat. Antibiotic resistant bugs still being carefully crafted by reckless agricultural practices. Strange rumors of cracking ice and swirling storms. Prison industries profiting while perfectly good people get thrown away. “Race” and other tired old delusions still keeping us from being ourselves and meeting one another for real. And so on.

And look how the United States lost its shit after 9-11. Plus the corrupting influence of money and advertising in the US election cycle coupled with gerrymandering moderates out of the House while everyone tucks into their private media sources for a dose of agreement and amplification in the echo chamber: the politicians become more and more beholden to a few while the many become more and more divided over the glory of their good-good wisdom and the horror of their neighbor’s evil-evil stupidity.

How worrisome!

And yet here on the ground floor of the US, we mostly go on our merry way. It is fun. We like the sunlight and enjoy chatting with friends, family, and acquaintances. We slip into comfy beds with our lovers; we stroller our kids around vibrant, bustling streets, full of life and fun. We have to go to work but not all the time and there’s opportunities to find more congenial, more rewarding work.

[Editor’s Note: This essay was written in the late Summer of 2017 in Brooklyn, NY, USA, Planet Earth, Nondescript Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.]

Meanwhile some groups tell us they very much plan on killing a bunch of us — hard to say how many: 30, 300, a few metro-areas’ worth, the more the better — and get the rest of us to discombobule and blow our hand. The freedom to speak your mind and a safe, orderly setting with a functioning government are wonderful and they are still ours to watch fade on out.

In a representative Democracy the citizens must serve as a final check on corruption and idiocy in the political class. We are not doing a very good job of fulfilling our basic duty, which is to together guard against political corruption, meanness, and other obvious idiocies. The rich feed television to the poor; and judgment’s a storm gathering a thousand miles — the relatively young Leonard Cohen might yet be wrong, but the route oute is difficult to discern.

When a major city is destroyed by a nuclear bomb or everyone at the President’s congressional address is killed(A Worrier’s Suggestion), or even when the citizenry notices that such darkdooms are not necessarily a priori impossibilities, the citizens need most of all to stay calm and resolute. They need to work together to make sure that they keep first things first: yes, immediate safety and order are extremely important, but the very most important thing is that we hold these truths to be self evident:

That all people are created equal and are endowed by the Light within with the right and duty to live well (clearly, honestly, fully, joyfully, creatively, beautifully, kindly) and justly (honestly and impartially, with respect and kindness towards all).

[Some Philosophizing moved to Outtakes!]

I am worried that we lack the shared clarity and purpose required to pull it together and put clear competent kindness first when faced by something awful — or maybe even when merely faced by something that particularly reminds us of awfulness.

I am concerned. But what can I do?, that’s what I’d like to know. Or rather: what should I do, and am I allowed to go take a walk?

Authors: Proposers

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[Anti-Weapon / New Manhattan Project]

[NYC Journal – Politics Page]

[Something Deeperism Institute]

[NYC Journal]

From Before:

I live in the world. I worry. Won’t it just have to go off the rails? Nuclear war still clearly a threat; nuclear terrorism now clearly a threat. Antibiotic resistance bugs still being carefully crafted by reckless agricultural practices. Strange rumors of cracking ice and swirling storms. And so on.

And look how the United States lost its shit after 9-11. Plus the corrupting influence of money and advertising in the US election cycle coupled with everyone tucking into their private media sources for a dose of agreement and amplification in the echo chamber: the politicians become more and more beholden to a few while the many become more and more divided over the glory of their good-good wisdom and the horror of their neighbor’s evil-evil stupidity.

How worrisome!

And yet here on the ground floor of the US, we mostly go on our merry way. It is fun. We like the sunlight and enjoy meeting friends for a chat. We slip into comfy beds with our lovers; we stroller our kids around vibrant, bustling streets, full of life and fun. We have to go to work but not all the time and there’s opportunities to find more congenial, more rewarding work.

Meanwhile some groups tell us they very much plan on killing a bunch of us–hard to say how many: 30, 300, a city’s worth, the more the better–and get the rest of us to lose our shit and blow our hand. The freedom to speak your mind and a safe, an orderly setting with a functioning government are wonderful and they are still ours to watch fade on out.

In a representative Democracy the citizens must serve as a final check on corruption and idiocy in the political class. But we’re too busy playing policy expert with our chosen pundits and otherwise goofing off to focus on the task at hand; and we’ve been too completely lulled and badgered into writing the “other side” off as “hopeless” to work together as a nation: we are not doing a very good job of fulfilling our basic duty, which is to together guard against political corruption, meanness, and other obvious idiocies. The rich have their TVs in the bedrooms of the poor; and there’s a mighty judgement coming–the relatively young Leonard Cohen might yet be wrong, but the route oute is difficult to discern.

When a major city is destroyed by a nuclear bomb or everyone at the President’s congressional address is killed, the citizens need most of all to stay calm and resolute. They need to work together to make sure that they keep first things first: yes, immediate safety and order are important, but the very most important thing is that we hold these truths to be self evident:

That all people are created equal and are endowed by the Light within (deeper and wider than any concept or feeling, though some concepts point better towards it than others–here I picked “the Light within” because because and sometimes we mention “love” with a similar argument) with the right and duty to live well (fully, joyfully, creatively, beautifully, kindly) but also justly (justice = no shortchanging souls in order to achieve your goals; aka: your goals can’t forget that you and other people are full, complete humans; aka: beneath every goal must be the deeper goal: that the Light in our centers bursts evermore through the rags and we all move more and more for real).

We know that sense-of-things deeper and more fundamentally than any doubts we may conjure against it or any dogmas we might use to justify ignoring or co-opting and betraying it. It is a good idea; it is our idea. This idea informs us that we can and should work together to make this democracy of the people, for the people, by the people be just and kind to all the people in this land and the world.

I am worried that we lack the clarity and shared purpose required to pull it together and put joyful-justice/just-joyfulness first when faced by something awful–or maybe even when merely faced by something that particularly reminds us of awfulness.

I am concerned. But what can I do?, that’s what I’d like to know. Or rather: what should I do, and am I allowed to go take a walk?

Authors: BW, AMW


What is this?
A three essay series called “A New, Improved Manhattan Project”
Part 1: Preliminary Worries
Pt. 2: The Proposal
Pt. 3: Some Tips for the Geniuses

Whatever happened to selling evolving ebooks on the world-wide web?
Well, nothing’s being posted, but the somewhat-begun books are still available:
Love at a Reasonable Price are listed and linked-to here:
Intro to Love at a Reasonable Price
Intro to Diary of an Adamant Lover for sale here:
Buy the Books

We also are still selling cat totes and epistemologically controversial baby onsies:
Buy Cat Totes!
&/or Objectively Cute Baby Onepieces! (advertised here: An ad for an “Objectively Cute” baby wrap

But what are we really up to?
I dunno, Bartleby and Andy are writing something once in a while and then sometimes going back and editing things. I think they’ll go back to the ebooks before too long. We’ll see.

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Essayish 5: Proposed Solutions

Can the dashing author-adventurer Bartleby Willard and his faithful editor Andy Watson get anything done? I dunno, maybe, if they can get the right rhythm going. Maybe they can put together enough sanity and creativity and firestorm and discipline and decency to make something of this project. However, what if their surrounding environment goes to pot? What then?

Many things can go wrong. A small band of haters can gather up chemical weapons or nuclear devices and take out a city or three. Or maybe before too long the world’s dependence on oil and fresh water will create a new cataclysmic strife. Or the pandemic really will come, and everybody will tumble into the sea, to float gently along: bloated sunk-eyed jellyfish who don’t recall their childhood in the scamper town or their grownup life drifting through the signs.

Or here’s a list of other worries I recently made:

We’re going to kill ourselves soon. I don’t know exactly where to fit this in. Categorize it under “First things first”. The US and Russia still full of nukes pointed at each other and around the world; still sliding nuclear submarines around the globe, ready to take out a billion people. And countries around the world still trying to edge their way into the nihilistic world-destroying club while those already in chuckle to themselves, their mountains safely full of doomsday–as if anybody could control doomsday! Oh, and then there’s pumping tortured livestock full of antibiotics; in this way agribusiness avoids the cost of treating animals with a trace of decency while simultaneously creating antibiotic-resistant superbugs. And what’s going on with GMOs? And why didn’t we put the brakes on high risk banking after it cost the world economy gazillions and came close to melting it down into burning paper and overturned streets.

Why don’t we get serious about nuclear disarmament? Why don’t we stop small groups from profiting by putting the rest of us in danger? Clearly the only hope is a growth in wisdom. But what does wisdom look like in the public sphere?

I would like to see an end to the subtle corruption of the USA of my day: The way money buys political ads and accompanying that money flutter lobbyists whispering sweet-somethings into squishy, campaign-fatted ears. But apparently spending money to make people see your propaganda everywhere they turn is equivalent to freedom of speech, which of course we need as a fundamental guard against corruption, and which is therefore duly protected by the very first amendment our forefathers brought forth on this great nation. It is perhaps conceivable that the right to outspend your enemies and therefore more fully saturate everybody’s poor little unsuspecting brain with your psychologically proven mind-influencers is not actually equivalent to freedom of speech. It is conceivable that that was nothing more than an opinion held at one specific time by the majority of nine old sitabouts who–far from being the Form-following philosopher kings that their intelligence, expertise, dedication, advanced age, and freedom from financial or career concerns was supposed to make them–had their own hatchets to sharpen.

But even supposing another set of uppermost judges were to–rightly or wrongly!–reverse the ruling that equates regulating campaign spending with regulating speech (perhaps using an argument that the speech act is one thing and the using power to drench the world in it is another thingNote 1), we’d still all be gathered around our own individual media sources, drinking only the spin that already agrees with our own particular prejudices, getting thicker and thicker in certainty and swagger and louder and louder in indignation and disgust at neighbors who gobble the contrary media.

The real problem is clearly that we’re an evil and depraved people. Except that if you actually meet us, we’re not that bad. We’ve just stopped believing in a shared good, in a larger nation, in beliefs and hopes and goals held in common. We’ve fallen for the lie of Red vs Blue and it is killing us down into the asphalt that the jumpers dent, splatter, and forget.

Perhaps if we began to pull ourselves away from the televisions and computers, and/or we began to demand not journalism that makes us feel like we are already right, but journalism that challenges us. (I know!: The problem with the latter fix is that the underlying problem involves how everyone thinks their opinions are the Truth and it’s the other side who can’t bear to be challenged with the Truth.)

Whatever you are trying for: “truth” or “goodness” or “holiness” or “best current guess” or “decency”–whatever phraseology you use, your deep underlying goal presupposes that life matters and that we can consciously find our way to better and worse ideas and actions (ie: your real motivation is a sense of meaningfulness deeper than ideas and feelings). So though our specific philo-spiritual persuasions vary widely, we all agree that life matters and that with open-hearts and open-minds, we can find our way to truer visions and better actions. Take that common ground seriously and you will see that it implies a shared absolute standard of values. The real Truth is prior to our ideas and feelings about Truth, but each of us has the same inner sense: this is the truth from which we can begin: this is the truth from which real commonwealth can beginNote 2): admit that the Truth is in each of us: we all know very well that life matters, that people matter, that we need to treat one another with respect and dignity. We don’t just think that or feel that, we know it, and it is this deep knowledge, deeper than the assumptions out of which we’d build our doubts about the authority of this knowledge, that binds us.

We need to start seeing that we have enough in common and that the only things that win in media battles are memes and dramatic swells of self-aggrandizing emotion-puffs. People aren’t soundbites or momentary thrills. They aren’t even complex, well-thought-out ideas and intricate mazes of overlapping and interacting feelings. They are ideas and feelings centered around that indefinable something that motivates and justifies our attempts to use ideas and feelings to find truer and better paths. People win when they treat themselves and others with dignity and actually think and work together; they lose when they reduce the real world to black and white sides and human beings to us or them.

But in case we don’t straighten up and fly right, I’ve got another plan:

Some scientific genius can come up with some magic dust that will–upon release from a small, square-based, cork-stopped glass flask–instantly fill the world and undo all nuclear weapons all over the world–rendering them all harmless. Another scientific genius can come up with something similar for chemical weapon X and another for Chemical weapon Y. And then we’ll need a scientific genius to release a special bacteria that will make us resistant to all the dangerous ones and a special virus that will keep us safe from the bad ones. And so on. I’m not sure how many scientific geniuses we’ll exactly need, or how we can be sure to keep their inventions from not backfiring and actually making things worse. But at least that’s the plan in a rough-sketch.

Or everyone could do like me and turn into a superbeing that cannot be harmed by anything and that jumps from city to city, from harbor to harbor, from coast to valley, from desert to mountaintop, from the seafloor to the country church. I certainly enjoy this lifestyle and wholeheartedly recommend it for everyone. But for some reason the many–stiff-necked!–drag their feet, make milky-eyed laments and handlebar-frown excuses. They can’t, they don’t know how, they’re just so wretchedly mortal–and on and on. There’s no helping some people!

Author: Bartleby Willard
Oversight: Andy Watson

Copyright: Andy Watson
Note 1: This idea originated in the idle conversation of WAP co-founder and -leader Tom Watson, co-chief of the implausible yet achievable Wandering Albatross Press. On numerous chit chat throughout the continental United States, Tom Watson has expanded at length upon a scholarly legal article that he proposes to write. In this much-promised and little-realized paper, Tom plans on demonstrating the constitution’s ultimate support for campaign finance in the 21st Century and beyond, basing his prodigious future-arguments largely upon the distinction between the freedom to speak and share your opinions and the power to fill the media sea with them. Or so I understand this as yet nonexistent but at least to hear him talk inevitable intellectual, moral, and spiritual achievement. As the unwritten article as yet remains unnamed, for convenience’s sake we will in the future refer to it as “Article I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Note 2: A Literary Allusion: “Villanelle for Our Time” by Frank Scott (Leonard Cohen put music to this poem in his 2004 album “Dear Heather”)

“Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.” is in F Scott’s poem.

I found the poem, along with a concise and thoughtful commentary by a certain “Max Stephenson, Jr”, professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, here;

It goes without saying that this poem is a favorite amongst Something Deeperists far and wide and near and far.

This piece has been filed under Diary of an Adamant Lover: Essayish.

About this project:

We’re letting Bartleby write his book; we’re even publishing it for him; it is two loosely bound sketchbooks:

(1) Love at a Reasonable Price: Stories of his magically timeless time here at Wandering Albatross Press interspersed with writings from that time or from now but somehow connected to that time–stories about manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling Pure Love;
(2) Diary of an Adamant Lover: Stories of his current time here all alone with the quiet squeaking floorboards and the rats thumping in the ceiling: Stories of his cries for help in the ruins of Wandering Albatross Press, the black and dark time after the hope and before the answer. We’re splitting this one into two sections: Biographical (writings that mostly relate the current movements of BW, AMW, and the rest of the WAP gang are ex) and Essayish (writings that mostly stay within a certain thought entertained and cultivated by the author and/or his editor).

Both books sold as they evolve here:
Buy the Books/Chapter
That page also includes a current list of chapters for each book.

Actually, the posts of Diary of an Adamant Lover probably won’t ever require a subscription. Still, with a subscription, you get a nicely ebound eevolving ebook compilation of the writings, and you get a quick buy eye-connecting “Thank you” from AW and BW as they bow their way out of the subway car with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the songs in their lungs.

This blog will consist of extracts from the book’s chapters as they are released into the lumiferous aether. You can buy BW’s book as he writes it here. You can also consider this blog a long advertisement for Wandering Albatross Press’s some-such-several wonderful products; like . You can also view this blog as it’s own thing–a good unto itself–and as such a sweet, chaste little kiss running through the infomaterous aether (the theory of a lumiferous ether through which electromagetic waves move is no longer widely accepted and its originators all long dead; it is very much in the public domain and so publishing houses, such as the beautiful WAP, can use it any way they please). But insofar as this is a commercial venture, we still need it fundamentally grounded not in profit-motive, but in kind delight. So cross your fingers for us; say a prayer for us; keep a gentle but stern, a wary but hopeful eye on us. Help us to try. Or at least let us try.

Author: Bartleby Willard, fictional character

Copyright holder/editor: Andrew Mackenzie Watson (of the Sand Springs Watsons)