Play The Hand!

“The fortunes that the gods give to us men

we must bear under necessity.

But men that cling willfully to their sufferings

. . . no one may forgive nor pity.”

(Sophocles: “Philoctetes”)


I am about to stop reading Facebook. Honestly! There are many reasons, but the main one is that so many contributors find it necessary to pull scabs off sores, refusing to allow time for healing. There is a surplus of weeping and gnashing of teeth about the new president-elect and everyone has an opinion about what will almost certainly happen once the man takes office, watching his every move while feeling it necessary to comment ad nauseam. And one person’s prediction is more dire than the next. If we could see these people we would expect to see them rolling around in the dirt tearing out their hair!

Can we all agree that this man is a wanker, as our friends across the Pond would say? He should never have been elected and he will turn government into a circus where he takes center ring demanding all the attention. In the end, it is my sincere hope, he will be impeached by a Congress that becomes sick and tired of his shenanigans, his thin skin and his vulgarity. But this is all speculation and it is time to stop speculating and accept the fact that the next four years are going to be difficult for us all, a real test of our fortitude and even our courage.

I find some solace in the fact that, historically, people have risen to the occasion. Challenges and problems tend to bring out the best in people. One of the greatest political documents ever written, the U.S. Constitution, was written by a handful of men while under the sword of the most powerful nation on earth. Most of the great art, literature, and music has been created during periods of great stress and even suffering on the part of the artist, writer, or composer. Dante, for example, wrote the Divine Comedy after being ostracized from Florence and separated for years from his family. Human beings have shown themselves to be incredibly resilient and creative during times of stress. We can hope that this will once again be the case.

Heaven knows Americans are a spoiled and self-indulgent people and we have needed a wake-up call for some time now. The ancient Greeks (sorry to bring them up again, but there were many wise people among them) together with great thinkers such as Dostoevsky were convinced that suffering brings with it wisdom, a deeper understanding and sympathy for other people and a greater appreciation for the gifts we usually take for granted; given the self-absorption of the American people this must be regarded as a good thing. We are facing a struggle like none other we have faced in several lifetimes. We can only hope that we will pull our collective head out of our collective butt and face up to the fact that the situation demands that we start to pay attention to what is going on around us, while not going on endlessly about what a terrible hand we have been dealt.

This means making every effort to effect change where we can have a positive impact and accepting as unpleasant, but inevitable, those things we have no control over. The important thing is to know the difference and to stop whining about the pair of deuces we have been dealt in what has become a high-stakes poker game.


14 thoughts on “Play The Hand!

  1. Nice post, Hugh. I cannot imagine what Facebook must be like – had not thought about it until you shared what it’s like! It’s another positive reason for me to remember to cherish where I live, in a bit of a Mayberry setting on the equator. Mindo is picturesque and very quiet, and surely the people here have their own dramas, but I am blissfully unaware of them.

    I especially enjoyed your observation, “great thinkers such as Dostoevsky were convinced that suffering brings with it wisdom, a deeper understanding and sympathy for other people and a greater appreciation for the gifts we usually take for granted; given the self-absorption of the American people this must be regarded as a good thing. ”

    You are right, and at least the sensitive ones will reach down and find catalyst that inspires great literature, art and music.

  2. Hugh, of course, with the news that more fake news websites were frequented by Facebookers than real news sites, should give anyone pause. I do think it is our duty to focus on the issues and not the person. I cannot argue with the wanker assessment. His stance on climate change, the Paris accord and appointing a climate change denier is an issue worth raising concerns. Keith

  3. Hugh, thank you for this. After I got into an ugly one a week and a half ago, I’ve vowed to not join any political discussions on Facebook for a good while, and just skate over any of my friends’ political posts. It’s not easy, as you note, because they seem ubiquitous right now.

    And you’re quite right about the need to “play the hand.” We have an obligation to do so. I’ve seen a few comments on Facebook and elsewhere from people who are considering leaving the country or withdrawing from political engagement. Neither option serves the country, nor those Trump will likely begin targeting.

    We have a duty to stand up to Trump and stand up for minorities, the disabled, for constitutional rights, the environment and anything and anyone else he might trample. We need to do that by realizing this is the hand we’ve dealt ourselves, stay engaged in the process by being active in local and national politics and policy-making, by being a proactive and legal opposition (fighting his initiatives through legislative means and the court system), and by exercising our constitutional rights to speech and expression. Folding our hand simply cedes the table to Trump, who — if Clinton’s popular vote total continues to stand — certainly received no mandate from the electorate. It’s not his table, in other words. It’s still all of ours.

  4. In the spirit of your comment, I offer the following–

    “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” Gandalf, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    Also, because I wearied of nothing but political reading, I took up John Kaag’s American Philosophy: A Love Story (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). Very interesting and well written. On the outside chance you haven’t seen it, I’ll simply say I think you would like it.

    Thanks, again, for the sane and settling commentary.

  5. Either Face book or Twitter was ground zero in the disinformation campaign that helped to get this wanker elected; both were essentially tools.

    I am slowly working my way off Facebook because I’ve decided that in some cases, it is best not to know what became of childhood friends.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your community, Hugh.

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