Monday, July 3, 2017

“Time Passages”

Happy 4th of July Eve.  Before I launch into the main course, some quick notes on the calendar to infuriate some and delight others…mostly the former.

1)    We are less than one month away from Back-to-School Sales.
2)    In two months and change, the Detroit Lions will begin their march to their inevitable Super Bowl victory.
3)    We are approximately 10 weeks away from the first Christmas displays being assembled at Macy’s.
4)    In roughly 100 days, we will be reminding ourselves to pick up extra candy, for the Trick-or-Treat crowd, bien sur.
5)    In about 51 weeks, Marylanders will be watching primary election returns.  Which reminds me: gubernatorial campaign X, don’t forget to email me back on that question.  Thanks in advance.   

Back to the subject of time.  Of late, I have been watching a number of documentaries featuring British politicians who had their heydays in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  Tony Benn, Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Dennis Healey, Michael Foot, and others.  Most of the documentaries were filmed in the 1990s and 2000s.  One fascinating recurring theme has been to extent to which score-settling has been prominent in these programs.  First, kudos to the BBC for the exceptional interviewing and editing work.  Second, it is evident that these men, and it has been monochromatic in terms of gender and ethnicity, were not content to be Lions in the Winter.  Each of them were still actively extolling the virtues of their policy positions while chastising their opponents for any number of failings (political, personal, etc…). 

Perhaps it was because none of these individuals ever made it to the highest rung of their chosen profession (Prime Minister), that they were each still striving to secure their legacy and ensure the best possible entry in the Great Book.  Of course, being freed from the obligation to be diplomatic helped.  To that end, the candor level was mile-high and rising, which makes for engaging viewing.  Beyond that, the erudition of those interviewed - in general – was impressive.  Jenkins and Foot were accomplished authors.  Healey was bright with a razor sharp sense of humor.  Benn was a gifted orator. Dr. Owen is a genius, just ask him.

Regardless of the ideological differences between these figures, and the personal animus that would occasionally make itself felt when one politico was asked to comment on the motivations, actions, or foibles of another, the viewer cannot get past the intense feeling that these were Serious People who could be entrusted to contend with Serious Problems.  Yes, they were all ambitious and no, none of them were close to perfect.  That said, a media and policy-attentive American in 2017 would look at these individuals and wonder, where are our titans? 

And time continues to pass.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Audience. Purpose. Context: A Spartan Considerations PSA

Allow me to handle some house-keeping and provide a brief rationale for it.

My primary Twitter account (@JasonABooms) has served multiple functions.  In recent years, it has been primarily a gateway to my Spartan Considerations essays on national, state, and local public affairs and politics (bonus points if you read the wine reviews).

Increasingly, in light of my career focus and interests, it has become evident that brand alignment dictates the need for @JasonABooms to be centered on strategic communications and communications research.

While some of you will enjoy such information and related musings, others in my audience will not find such posts relevant.  For you, I have created a new account/nom de plume: @SpartanConsider. There, you will find my ruminations on political and public policy matters…and whatever other topics I choose to cover.  Howard County news?  @SpartanConsider.  Thoughts on the Presidency, political theory, and past & future U.S. presidential elections?  @SpartanConsider.  Slats?  Off-line but @SpartanConsider as his schedule allows.

So please, feel free to follow me @SpartanConsider.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Until then, stay tuned, as more will follow.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Loss and Father's Day Eve

The ineluctable peril when writing about loss is that it has been done.  A fresh take on a multi-billion-year phenomenon is rare.  Yet, here goes nothing, or more fittingly, the absence of something.

My Co-, well, Religionists?  Practitioners?  Whichever.  They speak about impermanence, that change is a constant.  Physicists, as a lot, tend to agree.  Yet cannot the same be said of change in the specific form of loss? 

All of us face loss in one form or another.  Loss of youth, of innocence, (eventually) of life.  These are the mortal locks of human existence.

The challenge is understanding, within the limits of knowledge, perceptions, and physical abilities, how to deal with loss.  Railing against it is a popular option, as is mourning.  Acceptance is much harder to embrace, depending on the type and severity of loss.  For there is always hope, sometimes rational, oft times not, that what was lost can be found once again.  This might be a form of hope and/or a manifestation of self-delusion.

Case in point, I “lost” my Dad in 2016.  Yet, in a truer sense of the word, he was lost to me before I was even born.  He served in Vietnam and, from what I am told, it took a horrific toll on his psyche.  Those who knew him said he did not truly “return” home insofar as the Jack Booms who resided in Metro Detroit in the late 1960s and afterwards was not the same Jack Booms who lived there prior to being shipped off to Indo-China.

The Jack Booms that I knew was one who was struggling, with varying degrees of success, with several maladies that fell under the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) umbrella.  And his “remedies” were rarely helpful and frequently self-administered.   These behaviors, of course, helped expedite his separation and eventual divorce from my Mom, with both events occurring in the latter half of the Carter Administration.  But I digress.

By the time he passed, I had (for the most part) accepted his lack of presence in my life.  Frankly, I was surprised to be contacted and told that he was in failing health.  I had anticipated that I would simply hear from someone, one day, who would be the bearer of the news that “Your father died.”  As it turned out, I had about four months, at the very end, from when I learned of his deteriorating condition to when he “shuffled off his mortal coil.” 

But in a way, as we had extremely limited contact from 1982 to 2016, his loss was accounted for, it was “baked into the cake” to use that horrid cliché.

That said, I heard he became a different person…more thoughtful and compassionate.  I am not certain precisely what caused this change in him, but I understand that his presence in the lives of others was warmly greeted.  He helped others as they faced their own losses, and was a true friend to them.

The more challenging losses, in my estimation, are those that are self-inflicted.  The loss of a relationship (friendship or otherwise) through neglect, or gross stupidity come to mind.  And not knowing how, or if, such losses can be repaired can cause the mind to fold in on itself.  Wondering.  Anguishing.  Hoping.  At times, doing our best to heal the wound.  Yet some solutions may be forever unobtainable, no matter how quickly or bravely we race into the breach.  Sometimes, we create the circumstances that are beyond our control.

Kierkegaard wrote, “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  Of course, Jay Gatsby said, “Can’t repeat the past?  Why of course you can!”  On the whole, Kierkegaard had a better handle on reality, although both the man and the character died young.

In any event, when considering loss and its impact, it would be wonderful to be able to go back and undo what was done…or at least to fast forward past the pain to see how it is resolved.  Yet time moves, in this universe at least, at its own pace and in its own direction, regardless of our motives, feelings, and actions.

All we can do as sentient beings is to live and learn, and to appreciate both.  And to hope that mindful words and deeds can help us avoid potential losses, and help us deal with actual ones.

So, to Dad, I would say, “Thank you” for the lesson on loss.  It is probably the best counsel you ever imparted.  And it is appreciated, truly.

Stay tuned, as more will follow.