An Elder’s Lifelong Double Vision Finally Finds Its Focus in Learning to Gaze Instead of Grasping for Clarity

From my earliest memories I recall seeing two moons at once. When I was just six years old the optometrist prescribed glasses for me to correct my newly discovered near-sightedness.

“How long will I have to wear these?” I asked my mother, feeling like I’d just been thrown in jail.

“For the rest of your life,” she pronounced with a grimly pleased finality, condemning me to the same life sentence she had served behind glasses. Only many years later did I discover that my myopia may have been due less to genetics than to the blurring effects of panic as…


Learning to Gaze Instead of Glancing or Grasping

Ours is a “grab-and-go” society. When it’s time to eat we catch a bite at the takeout, dash to the nearest bench and rivet our attention on our cellphone while distractedly downing our lunch. We may think we’re efficiently multi-tasking but in truth we’re scarcely half-tasking, wasting our valuable time and dividing the attention we think we’re saving.

We approach grand views in much the same preoccupied fashion. Some years ago my partner and I stopped to take in Bixby Bridge, the iconic image of Big Sur on California’s central coast highway. During the twenty minutes we spent in a…


A Conservative Host And Progressive Guest Cross The Chasm

Following up on my October 26, 2020 column in Newsweek calling for a “new federalism” and pragmatic problem-solving, I recently appeared as a guest on a series of radio and TV interviews on the same themes. The most intriguing of them was hosted by a veteran conservative talk show host by the name of John Loeffler. He can be a fierce debater from the right and has blasted liberals for the past 30+ years on stations and networks from New York to Denver and everywhere in between. As a lifelong progressive, I initially balked at what I feared could become…


Hope is not enough. Cultivate confidence.

“Everything you’ve ever wanted lives just on the other side of fear.”

Eva Cassidy, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

The past several years have held us captive in a collective nightmare. We’ve been confronted by the darkest dimensions of the human psyche — fear, greed, rage and despair. We’ve been challenged as never before by the feeling of walls closing in, options closing down, dread that all that we value is dying. This is not a hallucination. It’s backed by indisputable scientific evidence. …


With both sides questioning the legitimacy of the other’s authority, it’s time for a trial separation that makes room for each to experiment with their own approaches to the challenges the country faces

Self-styled militia members at Michigan Statehouse

As we approach the national witching hour, right-wing militia groups are threatening violence at the polls and afterwards. “Civil war” has become the meme of the moment, wielded like a flaming sword of divine retribution, as if its mere threat would cause enemies to capitulate. Many Trumpists warn that if their leader is defeated they will refuse to accept the results. From legal challenges to vigilante violence they vow implacable resistance. Minus the violence, many Democrats pledge total noncooperation with a renewed Trump regime. What happens if neither accepts the legitimacy of the other’s authority?

Whichever party ends up in…


Withdrawing Our Consent To Be Ruled By An Illegitimate Regime And Choosing To Govern in Partnership With One Another

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 to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.

Franklin, Jefferson and co-conspirators editing the Declaration of Independence, June 1776

It’s right there in the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the American republic: democratic governments derive the legitimacy of their rule solely from the consent of…


What’s in it for the rest of the country to rebuild the industrial Midwest as the hub of a renewably powered 21st century manufacturing base?

Wind turbines on Ohio farmland

For citizens, companies and workers in the nation’s Heartland who have endured decades of neglect as corporations moved manufacturing to Asia to capitalize on lower wages, fewer regulations and higher profit margins, any proposal that would revive the region’s industrial base is welcomed with open arms, and rightly so. But for federal investment and incentives that would rebuild this vital region to attract the political support essential to their success, other regions of the country must see clear benefits for their own residents and for the country as a whole. Here are several such benefits:

· Rebuilding manufacturing in the…


As trade with China plummets, repatriating U.S. manufacturing becomes an urgent opportunity. Let’s do it right, swapping out obsolete fossil fuels for cleaner, more affordable wind, solar and switchgrass biomass. Build American industry back better, greener and fairer.

Current percentages of wind, solar and geothermal development in U.S. states

Pandemics and economic calamities have a way of making scenarios long deemed impossible altogether imperative. One of the most significant changes likely to occur in the post-pandemic world is the repatriation of a large share of U.S. manufacturing. The outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to China and East Asia over the past several decades greatly lowered the cost of the cheaply made goods American consumers buy, but at the devastating expense of U.S. workers and their local economies. …


In 1968, Republicans stoked white racial fears of rising black political power to turn the solidly Democratic South into the permanent refuge of white retro-Republicans. In 2020, might Democrats galvanize a broad, enduring partnership of multiracial youth, boomer elders, educated urban and suburban voters, and residents of Middle America to launch a shared project of Heartland renewal?

Sunset on the Northern Great Plains

In 1969, political analyst Kevin Phillips, author of the seminal book, “The Emerging Republican Majority,” revealed the divide-and-conquer strategy Richard Nixon had used to win the 1968 election. Succeeding Republican presidents have employed this same cynical playbook to keep winning national elections for half a century since. Phillips came to rue his historic role and renounce his own strategy in the 1990’s after watching it turn the Republican Party into a refuge of white supremacy. The Southern strategy united much of the Deep South and the Great Plains in a Heartland red-state fortress of fear and racial animus. When I…

Mark Sommer

Mark Sommer is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist based in Northern California.

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