No, really, what was that?
There have been so many unexpected and unexpected events last week, from Kansas’ rejection of abortion restrictions to Republicans’ praise of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her visit to Taiwan to Senators Joe Manchin and Kirsten Senema de facto agreeing to support Democratic legislation. If there are people out there competing in Vegas on political developments, I suspect that even the smartest of gamblers now owe the house big time.
When it comes to politics, I’ve never been one for predictions. I have never trusted polls or FiveThirtyEight. Even among the most educated and experienced critics, there is no way to know for sure what will happen next. For people who demand certainty, the NC Education Lottery offers more predictable returns.
Several years ago a few readers started telling me things like, “Special Prosecutor John Durham will send Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden to prison.” The wording was as interesting as the predictions themselves; They didn’t say, “I hope Durham will send…” or “Durham will probably go…” The tone was more emphatic – that’s what will happen.
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One reader promised that when there is an opening, President Biden will appoint Kamala Harris to the Supreme Court. He then appointed Hillary Clinton as Vice President. Then he resigns, and Clinton becomes our unelected president.
Once again, this prediction was made with a degree of confidence that Dale Carnegie would be proud of.
I wondered: Is this from the law? Do some prophets claim the gift of foresight, or secret access to hidden government files?
Needless to say, none of these predictions ended. Until now.
In the past few months, we’ve all heard, “When the Republicans took control of Congress in November” – a claim that doesn’t require much predictability. It is an old tradition in the United States for a minority party to make big gains in midterm elections, as if to correct a ship, whether it swayed in port or starboard in the previous election.
But given conservative pressure for strict abortion restrictions — as well as some Republicans insisting that we need to reconsider Social Security and Medicare — even that certainty now appears questionable. We may encounter a surprise, as many of us were in 2016 and 2020. There is a lot of disruption in the system — much more than usual, I would say. Everything is normal.
I worry about the future sometimes. Especially in light of the climate that resists our manipulations. I worry about losing our democracy.
I am concerned about our encounters with wildlife, which seem to be increasing. I’m worried for wildlife; We haven’t been great at meeting the needs of the natural world.
The increasing degree of uncertainty we face in America – turmoil – has a profound effect on our well-being. I have no doubt that it contributes to our growing national crisis of anxiety and depression.
Any trustworthy economist will tell us that predictability is important not only to individuals, but to society. However, our economic system seems to be generating more uncertainty these days, and it did so long before Biden took office.
Perhaps this uncertainty is what drives many to listen to the peddlers, whose interpretation of the confusion of modern life always leads to a conspiracy to incite.
“Relaxed with uncertainty,” Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says in her book on meditations, after the present moment, uncertainty is always present and can be distressing. But its harmful effects can be mitigated through certain practices – meditation, breathing exercises, and “the cultivation of the four unlimited qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and poise.”
I have found such practices to be beneficial – but they require more work and dedication than simply blaming a useful scapegoat.
As for the future, there is hope. A central character in Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel “The Last Trial of Christ” reveals a sure way to predict it: “A prophet is he who hopes when all despair. And when all hope, he despairs. You will ask me why. That is because he has mastered the great secret: that the wheel turns.”
When I go down, I think of that central, most certain truth I know: things change. Spin the wheel. We just have to wait for that to happen.
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