A General Observation:

Having never been particularly impressed by your choice of music in your Bonus Tracks, this octogenarian took an hour and a half of his ample spare time and listened to the following three recordings:

- “Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond

- “Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran

- The complete 9th Symphony by Beethoven. (Leonard Bernstein’s directed 1990 Deutsche Grammophon recording, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, is my favorite.)

I imagine that you can guess which two of the three performances I can listen to over and over again?

Closing with your words: “Be open to music, wherever it happens. It might surprise you.”

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Good stuff.

When you say "Because the attraction - maybe a better word would be the addiction - is that Trump hates their ideological enemies as much as they do, if not more. And he punches them in the face every time he opens his mouth. And they love that! It’s what they love most"

This is true and when we try to figure out DJT in terms of all the statesman and politics we have grown up with it is fruitless. He is a reality TV host, and has only done his shtick in search of ratings for "Reality President" and I guess we are all boosting his ratings.

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Ok, but you don’t have to pick either The Band or Taylor Swift. Taylor just put 5 bil into the GDP and she fucking goes all out in her shows. Anyway, I’m not saying you’re one or the other but anyway.

Also you’re ranking your kids in 5th place, that’s nothing I have 5 kids and I rank them, imagine being 5th place in the kids ranking which are already down to 5th place in the overall what would I like to do ranking?

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Can Don Jr. and Eric actually read? Here I was thinking "No."

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Sorry David. Family first...LOL. I will tell you though your arguments are on point, excellently written and delivered.

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Burning the midnight bourbon I see. I agree that Trump deserves more pain than what he will get. I believe he is an accessory to murder and conspiracy to comitt murder on Jan 6. He has become the equivalent of those 3rd world wanna be and dictators that the US has either helped to put in power or take out of power. In this case though we count on our legal (won't use justice unless the murder charges are brought against him and his henchmen) system to get it right. I dislike Trump bordering on and may even hate the guy depending on windage. As much as i would like to ask you to move on, I can't. Our history of 240 plus years and everything that will be written potentially, hell not potentially, hangs in the balance because of him. Please keep standing on this soapbox here to keep us from looking at other "shiny objects" such as the abject failure of the current resident at 1600 PA Ave. and all the the hare-brained arguments and opinions from both sides. We may never know if HRC would have been better although she too is an accessory to murders. Come to think of it so is Joe as it relates to what happened in Afghanistan upon our departure. I say for good measure Obama should be an accessory after the fact, since he also did nothing to help the poor souls at the Embassy Annex. Not for me to judge though. The Devil in Hell holds those types in high regard for their crimes and will provide justice. Sorry, not sorry, for getting off the subject a bit. You stated you are a fan of assigning specific blame where it is due. Agreed. I as stated I assign specific blame on those of that did vote to put his and his ilk in 1600 (Billy) or did not vote (sorry to run you over with the bus Matt) because the chioces available sucked. We will never know. One thing we do know WE (collectively) share the blame. We allowed this to happen (the vocal Trumpster minority) by violence and rhetoric stomped the (silent or uncaring, unorganized, lets move on, majority) into somewhat of a submission. That statement though points back to you and others and ultimately the rest of us to listen, actually hear, see, speak out for change and hold us and everyone else accountable. Unless we hold ourselves, individually and as a Republic accountable we are doomed to repeat this failure.

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Aug 27, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

Finally, a great discussion! Exhausting, but worth my time.

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Matt (and David, too, if you’re reading this)—Reading your exchange was very worthwhile and spurred much thought. So much so that I wrote my own column examining highlights of the exchange and adding my thoughts. (Which, obviously, you’re welcome to read, etc.) I share almost every bit of your sentiments, but I think David has some good points to consider, and I also think lots of us could learn some useful things from some careful thought on all this.

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I enjoyed reading the exchange, Matt. I won't pick a winner here, as I think this is the basic challenge of our republic. Both sides like to spike the football in the other side's face as soon as one party or the other takes the White House. There must be middle ground somewhere. I've written here before that Republicans should cede some level of universal gun control in exchange for Democrats ceding some level of anything goes abortion (sorry ladies or men if you are inclined to a uterus transplant). Which parenthetically leads me to one point I would make and that some other commenter touched on. Can anyone in the "We believe in science" crowd show me the science that indicates that this is anything other than what, until recently, had been classified as a mental disorder on the body dysmorphia spectrum until the World Health Organization reclassified it (by cutting/pasting) from the mental disorder chapter to sexual disorder chapter so as to de-stigmatize it? That is the best that Google can come up with for me, by the way. Of course the DSM followed suit and suddenly we have growing and fairly public population of people changing genders or at least changing their pronouns. Sorry, but outside of LGB, you've lost this cis-male.

Not to ignore the Republicans, but what two consenting adults do in their own privacy is not anyone else's concern. Can anyone on that side, show me the evidence, other than Biblical books written anywhere from 3500 - 1700 years ago and compiled into three different versions (66, 73, 81 books) through oral traditions that we're told originated divinely when God spoke directly to certain people (but no one since the year 33 CE or so) and whose sketchy veracity of authors who had no known last name, nor even lived contemporaneously to Jesus's time, that is is their job to govern what goes on behind those closed doors?

Sorry for the diatribes but these are good questions to ask courtesy of having taken a critical thinking course in my graduate program. Neither side demonstrates any critical thinking on these two topics, nor many others.

Either way, if we do not get our shit together soon, this republic is headed the way of the Roman Empire.

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With several friends who are honored decades long psychology professionals at Harvard's McLean Hospital I've discussed the lack of any branch of that field which in a serious and detailed way addresses the psychopathologies of societies at large. and the dynamics of those mental illnesses. 80-90 years after Nazi Germany such a psychology discipline is long overdue.

Some insight into the current United States situation can be gleaned by considering it as analogous to a disintegrating relationship where the police are often being called for "domestic disturbances." One partner can manage to so alienate and enrage the other that a spiraling firestorm of visceral responses breaks out. Pouring more fuel on that fire is exactly the wrong course of action. But that is precisely what is occurring in the US.

In a sentence sure to annoy both sides: "The Trumpers are literally insane and the left not only drove them there but now seem hell-bent to push the MAGA tribe into permanent madness." Attempts at recovery will be futile if that continues.

Going back 20 years there was at least a kernel of psychological truth in Michael Savage's phrase "Liberalism is a mental disorder" I won't argue that point or provide details. Only to say that the Right saw a disturbing unrealistic disconnect between stated ideals and the paths being used to pursue them.

In a relationship one often faces the choice between getting one's way vs preserving the relationship. And one often knows exactly which arguments, or style of arguments, will absolutely incense the other party.

At this point the Trumpers are clinically deranged. They regard as doctrine that the 2024 election is absolutely critical to preserving the US. Yet in pursuing Trump's nomination they are following a path that any sane person with third grade math skills knows will end in defeat.

No intervention will work until the other side realizes that favorite issues, as important as they might seem, are nowhere near as existentially critical as healing this deadly rift. When the Right howls in pain, understand that it is real psychological pain. Extreme pain. They are acting out on that pain.

In that context is this really the time to go full throttle on transgender issues, reparations, further attempts to make schools from K-12 to grad school indoctrination centers, etc.? This is not to argue the merits of any of those issues. It's only to point out that the US right now has reached a point of no return as evidenced by the dismal "leading" candidates on both sides.

Some time look at the US Flag. Like few other flags on the planet (Ireland comes to mind) it symbolically announces that this country has always had an enormously difficult time figuring out how to make "E Pluribus Unum" a reality. The thirteen original colonies and the 50 states all sit in uneasy equilibrium. That equilibrium is disintegrating.

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To both verbal schtupers (jousters), in my humble opinion (which gets you nothing) your schtuping was viewed as a draw. I give Matt the edge though, marginally. He gets a half point for being one of the only family members alive I like. I believe we can not fix what we have broken. We have schtupped ourselves while we had at our disposal the most enviable of everything. Collectively we have allowed our opinions to cloud true hard facts and argue and worse over the opinion and not the fact. Our political system is in shambles. Currently as I see it all three branches made deals with the devil, of which we are accomplicies and complicit because we chose to elect them and to do our bidding. Please do not come at me with the crap "I did not not vote for him or her. Don't blame me." We have resigned ourselves to choose whose lies will create the least pain. Someone, anyone tell me why would any of the so-called elite want to truly make our lives today any better? In doing so they would have to give up some of what makes them elite. Never going to happen. Unless we decide to burn it to the ground, blow it up, kill the fruit bearing trees at the roots and give it our best attempt to return to the Republic for which we stand. One Nation under God. Indivisible. With Liberty and Justice for ALL. Unfortunately the only way I see this occuring is that real blood will be shed. Another Uncivil war. Somewhere along the timeline we lost our identity, our ideals, our compassion, our ethics, our understanding of civics, our responsibility to each other. WE are ALL created equal. Throughout history every great nation has fallen only to be replaced by another great nation. Just a place holder in history.

This has been said, If you want to know who to blame, look in the mirror. WE are to blame.

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"Distrust in the system is well-earned, and we'll never correct excessive distrust if we just ridicule those who aren't sufficiently balanced and critical."

I was in the middle of my own discussion shitstorm this week when my sister -- a former Maryanne Williamson acolyte who's always had lots of airy fairy and often endearing beliefs about how the world works -- came for a visit.

This sentence of David's leaped out at me. There *is* reason to distrust institutions, both corporate and governmental, as the news incessantly reminds us. And yet, two gin & tonics in and losing my ability to nod and change the subject, I watched as my ability to successfully engage in conversation with my sister's increasingly whacky worldview crumbled.

Maybe it was her going all in on RFK, Jr., and telling me if I listened to his interviews, I'd understand he's not the whackadoodle I think he is. Maybe it was her incessantly negative comments about gender identity. Maybe it was her supposed deep research on scientists that disagree with practically all the known scientific knowledge about the benefits of vaccination. Whatever -- I blew up.

And then apologized and told her I loved her, and that I'd rather continue adding to the growing list of topics we shall not discuss than lose her. But as I told her later when she asked why I could not calmly debate her on topics where we disagree so strongly, it's because it causes me grief. How can someone I love so much believe things that are so profoundly wrong? I'm not talking ideological differences, the things that separate those with a conservative from those with a liberal bent. I'm talking factually, scientifically wrong.

And that's why David's sentence struck home for me. There is no way either one of us will change the views of the other. I don't know any other way of preserving the relationship than refusing to engage because I find discussions across this abyss profoundly, gut wrenchingly and *physically* painful.

Thanks for sharing this. I didn't mean to turn your Comments into a personal reflection but I've gone and done it anyway. I appreciate how often your words give me the opportunity to explore my own life more deeply, Matt.

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Aug 26, 2023Liked by Matt Labash

Hey Matt. Thanks for being human. And reminding us all what it takes to be one. Love the writing.

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You are both attacking the wrong target. Polarization/disfunction will not be resolved until the meritocratic elite (ME Level 1: 4-year degree; level 2: postgrad. degree; 3: PhD/professional; 4: from Ivy league; 5: making >$500,000/yr.; 6: one tenth of 1%) recognize their privilege. The populace (the non-elite) have been screwed left, right and center by the ME. Many of them have pretty tough lives, but they instinctively understand who has made it this way. Why do they call it fake news? – because the journalist contingent of the ME control the media, tell them how they should live, but themselves have done very well out of it, thank you. Why do they not believe in the rule of law? - because the legal contingent of the ME tells them what they can and can’t do, and punishes them for just trying to get by, and have done very well out of it, thank you. Why do they oppose vaccination? - because the immunology contingent of the ME tells them what they must do, and have done very well out of it, thank you. Why do they not believe climate science? – because the scientist contingent of the ME tells them they must change how they live, and have themselves done very well out of it, thank you. Why do they think politicians are corrupt? – because the Beltway contingent of the ME does nothing for them, but have done very well out of it, thank you. Why are they anti-business? – because the commerce contingent of the ME treats their labor like a commodity, and sells them stuff that they don’t need that often doesn’t work (supported by the marketting division of the media contingent), but have done very well out of it, thank you. They may not be rational, or fact-based, or ‘truth’ cognizant, but they know instinctively who is responsible for their precarious, difficult life situation. Unless the ME recognize their privilege, and start thinking of us as again one nation, rather than just feathering their own nest, this is not going to get resolved.

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Now I know from your exchange with Matt that you aren't that obtuse, or are you ChatGPT with a nom du internet? The you is the editorial you, not the David Atkinson you, the you as in all youse guys who make up we the people.

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Your comments section is reminding me of Hilary Clinton’s comment regarding “ a basket of deplorables “ which pissed off this voter enough to vote for Trump( still not a mistake considering the competition). Given what’s transpired with Biden, I cannot regret my second vote for Trump ( although I grant he is a most imperfect vessel). The constant carping about Trump’s voters fails to consider Hilary’s or Biden’s voters who in their view are equally guilty of damaging the country with their preference( in the interest of brevity I won’t list the horrors that would have and have been inflicted on the country by Democrats). I clearly see both sides, do you?

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