Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


What if the most powerful person in the world is a woman?

Today, I walked past a stand whose last remaining newspaper showed a photo of our candidates for President on the debate stage. A phrase came to my mind and just floated there, seemingly out of place. The most powerful man in the world.

I’m a white American male who voted twice for Barack Obama. I will this November cast my vote for a woman to be president of the United States. At the same time, I’m a citizen of the EU with extensive experience abroad, enough to allow me to see America from the outside even when I’m Stateside.

If I’m unable to watch American culture and customs with the eyes of someone who has never lived or visited the US, I can certainly sense the confusion so many abroad feel when they see our spectacle (this “debate” between a blowhard bully and a constantly interrupted woman many times his superior in everything from her knowledge base, experience, empathy, intelligence and political savvy) and wonder “How is it possible that someone should want to vote for this fiend?”

I know plenty of the fiend’s supporters, as I grew up among them. Some of them will vote on an anti-immigrant platform despite themselves being immigrants, displaced persons or the children of refugees. Some continue to hang on to a whitewashed Nelson fantasy of an America that put everything…everyone…in the “right place”. They now look at America and see a country where next to nothing is being arranged as their fantasy would have it.

It’s this perception of disorder that I want to consider. The election of a black man as President of the United States sent many into a panicked fit. The world was supposed to be one way, but it turned out to be another. Everything was supposed to make a kind of sense they were used to, but now nothing made sense anymore.

What was to blame? It wasn’t their worldview. No. The problem was that the world had gone wrong; it had been taken from them, its rightful owners, by rogue elements. It needed, as quickly as possible, to go right.

Originally, quickly meant either less than or no more than four years. But in 2012, it meant yet another four. Now, in 2016, those people stand at a threshold that, in their view, presents a chance for everything to go right again, for the world to be returned to its rightful owners.

Of course, to their great fear, there’s a chance for it to head to even greater disarray.

How can these people possibly perceive even greater disorder? Think of how often we throw around the phrase the most powerful man in the world to describe the President of the United States.

The phrase is significant to our collective consciousness. Part of the problem is that  we think in hierarchies, but for the sake of my example, let’s take it at face value and agree that, indeed, the President of the United States is the most powerful. Think for a moment, then, of what it will mean when the planet’s most powerful individual is a woman.

Germany and The United Kingdom and Lithuania and Austria and San Marino and Liberia and Georgia and Argentina and Costa Rica and Brazil and Switzerland have selected women heads of state. But those elections of women did not require the key phrase to be revised. How would we revise it? The most powerful woman in the world, spoken today, has a ring only slightly different from the world’s greatest female athlete. Both phrases assume there is someone greater and more powerful, and that person is most definitely male. But if we say the most powerful person in the world and end up meaning she’s a woman, the panicked see their order of things fall further apart.

Americans love power and success perhaps more than anything else. One person might have a high level of skill in something, but they won’t matter to anyone until they have presented success. Success is always money, as money determines one’s ability to impose or influence. You might be benevolent or evil, but in America you are only real and worthy when you’ve got enough power.

We don’t hate cons. In fact, we’re almost forced to love them. I am among those Americans who work in a place that’s pretending to be one thing (a college) but is actually another (a business). Others of us sell a product nobody needs, a tool or gizmo we know harms much more than it aids. Selling something, from a drug to a “service” or “course” is its own justification. And the more of it we sell, no matter the method or outcome, the more successful we are. The best sentence is the one bought more often than any.

That explains, partially, the appeal of a wealthy yet blatantly sexist fiend and con. But his act is only part of the gig. Alongside it stands a test of our collective identity. Sure…some people are voting against Clinton because they have some set of immovable reasons that have less to do with the fiend and more to do with how they perceive her nature. I’m driving at a larger sociological point: People are fine, to a degree, with a powerful woman, but they’ve never been faced with the prospect of her being the most powerful person of all. Electing Hillary Clinton to America’s highest office—a woman, mind you, more prepared than any candidate running in my lifetime, far better prepared than Obama was the first time around—would require us to rewrite the descriptive phrase.

To what consequence? The revision would push us further towards thinking not of people as men but of women as people. Quite naturally, it would also require us to rethink our concept of power. Let’s not pretend huge numbers of Americans are not prepared for either shift. Like their candidate, they like to settle things without any admission of guilt.

 

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Photo: Mural, East Garfield Boulevard, Chicago, IL


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Please sign this Fukushima petition

I would like to urge all my readers to sign and share this petition regarding current very challenging and dangerous maintenance attempts at the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan. It is to be delivered to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Barack Obama. They are urged to call out to the world’s experts to help handle the situation in Fukushima. 

My Roshi, Robert Joshin Althouse, sums it up very nicely. I pulled it from his Zen Life Blog

Under normal circumstances I usually write about practical issues concerning mindfulness and living a Zen-inspired life, but these are not ordinary times. While we are preoccupied with running our government, the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Japan continues to struggle. After months of covering up, Tepco (Tokyo Electircal Power Company), which runs the plant, admitted that there has been some leaking of readioactive waste into the Pacific ocean. It turns out that in fact, tons of radioactive iodone, cesium, and stontium-89 and 90 have already leaked into the Pacific Ocean.

Within the next sixty days, Tepco will begin trying to remove more than 1500 spent fuel rods from unit-4, a tank standing 100 feet high and holding 400,000 tons of radioactive fuel. Yale professor, Charles Perrow writes in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “much more serious is the danger that the spent fuel rod pool at the top of the nuclear plant number four will collapse in a storm or an earthquake, or in a failed attempt to carefully remove each of the 1,535 rods and safely transport them to the common storage pool 50 meters away. Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. ”

Admitting that this is a complex global problem is not a negative judgment on the Japanese government. National sovereignty aside, this kind of environmental problem is really a global problem, and as such we should be harnessing as much of our resources worldwide in the scientific and nuclear industry to help assist Japan in cooling this plant safely.

On Sept. 17, 2013, Colin P.A.Jones reported in the Japan Times that Tepco and the Ministry of Economy in Japan have repeated resisted offers from America to help. He says, “The United States successfully cleaned and decommissioned nuclear facilities at Hanford, Washington, Rocky Flats, Colorado, and Portsmouth, Ohio. Other projects are currently under way in both the U.S. and U.K.”

I have formed a “Fukushima Circle” at our Zen Life & Meditation Center to follow the news stories about this situation and keep our community up-to-date on this. I have also requested that any of you, who are concerned about this, please sign the enclosed petition requesting the United Nations and President Barak Obama to use all of their resources to assist the Japanese.

The petition reads:

“At Fukushima Unit-4, the impending removal of hugely radioactive spent fuel rods from a pool 100 feet in the air presents unparalleled scientific and engineering challenges. With the potential for 15,000 times more fallout than was released at Hiroshima, we ask the world community, through the United Nations, to take control of this uniquely perilous task.”

Please consider signing this petition.

Click here to add your name to the petition. (http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/the-world-community-must?source=s.fwd&r_by=1391209)

We certainly have our own problems as a country, but this crisis in Japan is a global problem of potentially disastrous proportions. For our children’s future, and for safety of our planet, let’s keep our eye on the ball. —Robert Joshin Althouse

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