For Baby Boomers who grew up in the shadow of the Cold War and the nuclear age, we thought all of that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. It seemed as if the Cuban missile crisis, 50 years ago, was the apogee of our nuclear fears.
But today, if we're paying attention, we see that the nuclear age has spread. There are not two, but nine nuclear states in the world today; and while it’s a lot less than the twenty-five that JFK thought we’d have by the 80’s, its enough to make the world of nuclear weapons 2.0, a very dangerous place.
John Stuart Mill said, back in 1848, that "It is hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar ... Such communication has always been, and is particularly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress."
Given the globalized nature of our world, nothing could be more true, even 164 years later. Jesse Aizenstat has done exactly that. Using his love of surfing, he forged a common bond with the disparate peoples of the Middle East and proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the ability of our common humanity to transcend those man made constructs that divide us.
Many fear that technology is out of control. But perhaps, what’s really out of control is an imbalance of values. Over the last few centuries we humans have drastically valued technology as a solution to the problems of life. Consequently the emotional aspect of problem solving has often been left by the wayside. Few understand this dichotomy better than bestselling novelist Dr. Robin Cook. He has used this imbalance to scare the bejesus out of us in his books like Coma, Cure, and Fever. Now in his latest work, Nano, he once again walks us through the cost benefit analysis of medical technology falling into the wrong hands.
If we were talk about a time of bitter angry partisanship, flawed leaders lusting after women and power, worried perhaps more about their legacy than their constituents. Politicians who were accused of being pragmatic rather than idealistic. Who sometimes did care about ideas, but to the determent of good politics. We might easily be talking about current members of Congress, President Obama, President Clinton or Jack Kennedy. In fact, we’d also be talking about Thomas Jefferson. The man whose idealization has in many ways clouded how we should see and understand the better nature of politics...even today.
Pulitzer prize winning biographer and journalist Jon Meacham, in his new bookThomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
gets to the heart of who Thomas Jefferson really dined with, when he dined alone. My conversation with Jon Meacham:
Forty-nine years ago last month JFK’s assassination brought the end of Camelot. Yet the Kennedy legacy and even the Kennedy Dynasty still continues. A political dynasty that was, at its core, the dream of one man. Joseph Patrick Kennedy the father of Jack, and Bobby and Teddy. Joseph Kennedy was a Zelig like character, whose impact was part of almost everything in the first half of the 20th century.
Faith today is a complicated business. There is organized religion, politics, irony and expectation. Yet, at its core it’s a simple idea. The notion that we don't have all the answers, that we should express gratitude for what we do have and that we can stop and smell the proverbial roses.
Once we were a nation defined by our sameness and by our homogenization. The Levittown like subdivisions, The Organization Man, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Today we are a nation defined by our differences; from each other and from any kind of an artificial norm.
Yet the one difference we can’t ever seem to really grasp, is when our children are profoundly different from us. Where the apple does in fact, fall far from the tree.
We cling to the foundational idea that our children must do better than us. From 30k a year preschools, to endless driving to extra curricular activities. But what happens when this can’t be the case? When our children cannot live up to our ideal. When they have a physical or mental illness or a disability, or are just not the people we dreamt about. The answer is that we love them anyway! And this is the path that Andrew Solomon explores in Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. My conversation with Andrew Solomon: