This week’s (selected) events in review.
I’ve been having some headaches. Four weeks of them, to be exact, since the end of my summer in the UK. They could be from neck tension. They could be from a tumor. They might be from anxiety, and they’re certainly driving that anxiety up.
What I do know is what aggravates the headache–for example, talking to my parents, loud and overbearing as ever. I had a conversation in which I had to defend the value of immigrants (of all stripes and skill levels) to this country–with my immigrant parents. I do find it interesting that the English resented the Germans, who then assimilated and resented the Irish, who then assimilated and resented the Italians, who then assimilated and resented the Mexicans and Asians. (All of whom were resented by Native Americans, while Africans originally had no desire to be here.) And for us, it’s not even been a generation before we start complaining about newcomers.
Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.
– Ben Franklin
It’s also worth noting that without immigration, we would be heading towards demographic crisis. The frequent scapegoating of immigration, when it makes no actual sense–that’s issue #1 creating pain for me.
Why else am I having headaches? At least some of my anxiety this year has been due to Donald. As my friend said, “Trump is literally killing us.”
After North Korea and Charlottesville (get to that in a moment), he started the week well enough: slipping into the fold of the previous two presidents by cementing America’s involvement in Afghanistan. In today’s world, this is the best we can expect out of the White House–if it is a mistake, at least it’s shoring up an old mistake.
I’m not fully convinced it is a mistake. The speech I thought was actually quite good, again by current standards. I also didn’t take this as coming from Donald, but from Mattis and McMaster, whom I could trust, in theory. Is Afghanistan a lost cause? Maybe, depending on the cause. It’s called the “graveyard of empires,” but less dramatically, it is a historically difficult place–ethnically fragmented, poor, largely tribal, the center of games between larger states–so nobody should be surprised that it’s taking a long time to build a stable, autonomous government.
The only thing worse, I think, than making stupid mistakes like Iraq is being inconsistent, and I respect the administration’s attempt to be a little more responsible towards the Afghan people and sacrifice Americans have already put in, while making some necessary changes. My experience at the Fed doesn’t always translate well to foreign policy, but I do know creating timelines for when you will do things sets expectations, and my personal experience says don’t set deadlines you can’t meet. In addition, getting India involved, even at some cost to the Pakistan relationship, is a welcome step, since these guys are sort of free-riding the security provided by NATO. America can pull out of Afghanistan, but India and Pakistan can’t move. There are also some problematic changes that should be reconsidered, like loosening up the rules of engagement–which sounds to me like letting more civilians get killed. I also don’t think there was enough emphasis on economic development in a country where opium is still the bulk of economic activity:
We spent millions of dollars importing Italian goats into Afghanistan, hoping to create a thriving cashmere-production industry. The goats went missing and were “presumed eaten,” according to Newsweek. Worse things have happened to goats.
And as that article says, there’s plenty of reason to disagree with this direction. But the alternatives aren’t much more appealing.
In my many searches with Dr. Google, I came across a whole host of problems that might be causing my headache. I was surprised to find that malaise–“general feeling of discomfort, illness, or lack of well-being”–actually qualifies as a symptom of some issues. It’s like becoming aware that something is wrong with you.
The day after the Afghanistan speech, Trump completely changed tone and went back to being himself. I don’t have an issue with Trump going back into a sort of “campaign mode”–many presidents have done this to sell their policies, and perhaps Obama could’ve done this more. But this was an loyalist-exclusive party to drum up hate and stupidity, all to shore up Trump’s own pride–stop calling me racist, I said all the things I’m supposed to. It might help for a president to defend himself against the media once in a while–but this was downright juvenile. He ran back to his own people instead of working to unite the country and treating anti-racism as more than a box to check. (Before you take a position on Charlottesville or on the state of racism in America, make sure you know what the people marching say.)
And he just kept talking, talking, talking the way he does–and in begging him silently to please shut up, I got a headache.
Last bit, nothing to do with our president. When I’m home I find myself stuck with my parents watching ABC World News–which ought to be called “U.S. News with a sprinkling something else in the world if it merits interest, also here’s a story about a puppy.” Besides its geographic focus, the 30-minute evening news show aims at topics–poisonous drugs coming from China and over the border, shark attacks–meant to inspire fear (the puppy gets five seconds at the end). Yesterday, I got particularly annoyed: They spent some minutes on the opioid crisis affecting white Americans–which is indeed an attention-worthy crisis–and some minutes later showed a teacher getting beat up by a black student. This sort of coverage is not the kind to improve race relations, is all I’m saying.
If I think too much about the headache, it comes back. If I think too much about all the things America is dealing with at the moment, it gets worse. Getting nauseous again–be back later.
Also, solar eclipse.