•  Annoyances, Culture, Equality

There and here.

London has a new mayor, and the phenomenally accomplished Sadiq Khan—with a biography any good socialist would cheerfully give his or her left arm for—has been receiving congratulations from future colleagues worldwide on his victory in the election, which boasted the highest turnout ever for a mayoral contest. The mayor of Paris swoons over his “humanism” and “progressiveness.” Jakarta’s governor calls his victory an “inspiring story of democracy, merit, and tolerance.” A breathless tweet from -H herself extols Khan’s virtues as a “champion of workers’ rights and human rights.” Even the sister of his challenger, Zac Goldsmith, calls his victory “a great example to young Muslims.” This son of a Pakistani bus driver, who grew up on a council estate, avoided a rough crowd at school, developed a passion for education, politics, and equality, and keeps it real by taking out the trash and putting his two daughters to bed, is the darling of those who would unify a splintered electorate everywhere. Except, presumably, that other self-proclaimed great unifier, Donald Trump, who as of this writing remains undecided as to whether Khan would be allowed into the U.S. if he were victorious in the Presidential stakes.

These days in politics, you can either be a lover or a hater. There is no in between. Khan is a lover—a lover who because of his heritage and his looks would likely be targeted for suspicion in any number of cities in the United States of today. He insists, in his first interview with Time as Lord Mayor, that being British, Western and Muslim is not a contradiction; that his election symbolizes the spirit of Londoners who “respect, embrace, celebrate” their diversity; and that “it’s really important” that he “use his experiences to defeat radicalization and extremism.” He’s vocal on the need for good role models for young British Muslims today, so that when presented with the sometimes alluring prospect of fighting for ISIS, they can “just say no.” He’s not shy about his convictions and he’s willing to stand up for his beliefs, even when that puts him in danger—a fatwa was issued against him thanks to his support for gay marriage. Perhaps most importantly, he believes that his election means that “actually there is no clash of civilization between Islam and the West.”

I’ve been trying for a day now to reconcile Khan’s ascendancy to a position that puts him in charge of the daily lives of nearly 15 million people with the irrational hatred of Muslims in the U.S. that forces innocent travelers off planes; earns people death threats because of the color of their skin; and constrains the devout to abandon plans to build places of worship. This isn’t saying that there’s no anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.K.—there’s plenty, much of it in evidence during this election. Zac Goldsmith ran a campaign The Guardian called “soaked in racism”—ironic and sad, given his own not-exactly-mainstream-British heritage. But somehow the innate generosity of spirit and openness of mind that has always characterized the England we like to imagine, the England of Downton Abbey, triumphed—putting Khan and, by association, the entire nation on the right side of history. Would that I were certain the same sterling qualities of character would suddenly emerge over the next few months in our own political discourse.

It seems so, well, unfair that the often tortured relationship Britain has with its former colonies has come to this—to the seemingly inexorable rise to power of the son of an immigrant from one of those colonies—when we in our own country spend our time, when we’re not vilifying or murdering the descendants of people we used to buy and sell, complaining about those nasty immigrants who are taking all of our jobs away, threatening our families, and destroying our society. And indeed, it is a slap in the face to the much-ballyhooed idea of American democracy that a man named Khan now holds one of the highest political offices in the U.K. when here, he would have trouble getting ahead these days unless the middle letters of his last name were reversed. The big-hearted and hopeful America of the 1950s and 1960s, the America that marched steadily and compassionately toward progress of every kind, has disappeared into a vortex of debt, dissension, and disgust—a place where kindness and decency no longer have any real currency, and division is the order of the day. Democracy has room for every kind of attitude, of course, and we have seen glimpses of this America before. But today, thanks to the legacy of a generation’s worth of indiscriminate, profligate greed, we have more division than ever. Which means more hatred, and then more division, on and on, the ouroboros busily eating its own tail until someone cuts off its head. The dirty little secret of America—which, if things go the wrong way this November, will not be so secret any more—is that hatred has become not just the overriding tone of our discourse and the raison d’etre for much of our popular culture, but our guiding national principle. “Haters gonna hate,” in the sunnily styled vocals of our foremost pop diva. And how. Too bad we can’t just shake it off.

 •  Culture, Manners, Morals

God help America.

It’s official: We live in the scariest democracy in the world. Last night, after being pummeled by Donald Trump in Indiana despite his recent #HailCarly pass, Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican presidential nominating game. And this evening—after frenzied declarations to the contrary earlier today on Twitter—John Kasich threw in the towel, leaving Trump as the presumptive, de facto, or all-but-assured nominee, depending on who you ask.

The mood among the media elite just after the Kasich announcement was leaked expressed itself as a collective tone of voice best described as “if there were any way for me not to be journalistically objective right now, you BET I’d tell you how I’m feeling.” Most news outlets greeted the development with the same sort of weary resignation that has characterized so many of the stories about the campaign in recent days. No one was brave enough to say “I told you so” except John Hockenberry, who managed to express the “this can’t be happening” mood perfectly by awarding Ira Flatow of Science Friday an award for being the only one of his colleagues to have recognized early on that Trump would stay in until the convention—no, to infinity, and beyond!

The coming weeks will presumably bring public fumbling by the Clinton campaign, as it tries to figure out which of Trump’s lobbied insults to answer, and private desperation among the Republican elite, as it quickly convenes back room meetings to find someone, ANYONE, to step up to the plate of what it fervently hopes will become a contested convention. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters—and there are many, despite what the intellectual elite would have had you believe just a few short months ago—continue to sing his praises, calling him “the only man who can save this country.” This reminds me vividly of Michael Douglas telling Gwyneth Paltrow’s lover in A Perfect Murder, “You steal the crown jewel of a man’s soul and your only excuse is some candy-ass Hallmark card sentiment? Even if that were true, buddy, that’s not good enough!”—the crown jewel, in this case, being any claim to fame America might have had until today to be the world’s standard-bearer for democracy.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. Until recently—very recently, in fact—the United States represented the last best hope of many people around the globe for decency, clear thinking, and goodness in the political arena. Even slips like Nixon’s six years in the White House (yes, he opened China, but let’s not forget that he was still a crook) were forgiven the nation that had given the world so much in the personages and policies of Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and even Bush 41. It was only during Bush 43’s first term that the murmurs of dissatisfaction with the country that had saved the world less than fifty years earlier began to crescendo. In the past eight years, despite the emphasis in the White House once again squarely on “negotiation first,” the murmurs have grown even louder, thanks largely to the legacy of 43’s many failed wars or “actions.” Today, they are a full-throated roar. And no wonder.

The disgust overseas greeting this latest development in the 2016 presidential stakes is eclipsed only by the incredulity here at home among much of the political elite that this is Actually Happening. But why are we so surprised, when the sotto voce preparations among our allies for the worst over the past months were answered here by a stubborn refusal among almost 100% of the intelligentsia to take the unfolding events seriously? As though if we just continued to ignore reality it would Just. Go. Away? Today, it’s become painfully obvious that the only person who benefited from that strategy was, yes, Donald J. Trump. While the people who could have mounted an all-out campaign against his all-out assault on democracy were fiddling, CNN burned, and ABC, and NBC, and Megyn Kelly on Fox News, and 26 states. And now, the man who HuffPo called the “800 pound orange gorilla” is on his way to a showdown with the most reviled woman in American politics (except, maybe, for #HailCarly). I don’t know about you, but I’m investigating overseas contracts—and in my spare time, maybe I’ll start a movement to change the words of the song that has become the official anthem of the seventh inning stretch.

 •  The Friday 13

The Friday 13.

The inimitable Terry Gross on not having kids.

Rethinking museums.

An excellent reminder of just how far we haven’t come.

It’s understandable. We all look exactly alike.

An artist shoots the LA Gun Club.

Certainty is preposterous.”

Shame on my alma mater.

Prince, consistently making the world new.

A cautionary tale.

Apparently, it’s not just a movie.

Two giants, one fighting to keep its position.

Dream house of the week.

Why Hillary deserves her diversity credentials. (Via.)

 •  Annoyances, Culture, Morals

You’re still not worried?

He won five states last night with popular vote tallies far greater than expected, and you’re still not worried?

Nate Silver says it’s “his nomination to lose,” and you’re still not worried?

He’s developing what appears to be a pretty plausible rust belt strategy, and you’re still not worried?

He’s fleshing out his foreign policy agenda—sounding almost as presidential as 43—and you’re still not worried?

Susan Page says we “shouldn’t make assumptions” about how the election’s going to turn out if he’s the nominee, and you’re still not worried?

He delivered a speech today that the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee described as “very good,” and you’re still not worried?

He’s already having a negative effect on the economy, and you’re still not worried?

Megyn Kelly is yielding to his dubious charms, and you’re still not worried?

A major poll has him at 50% support among Republicans and Republican leaners nationally, and you’re still not worried?

Really?

Let’s get into that last one for a moment.

There are 146,311,000 Americans registered to vote (actually, probably a few more now—that was as of August 2015—but let’s work with those numbers). 41% of those, or 59,987,510, are Republican or Republican leaning. And half of those, or 29,993,755, support him.

You can look at it this way:

The U.S. population is, at the time of this writing, 323,439,880. So, one in eleven Americans supports Donald Trump.

That doesn’t sound so alarming.

Or you can look at it this way:

Thirty million Americans are in favor of electing as their highest representative a man who’s racist. Misogynist. Anti-immigrant. Whose campaign tactics are right out of the dictator’s playbook. Who opposes marriage equality. Who thinks carrying concealed weapons should be an American birthright. Who thinks choosing a running mate who’s actively anti-LGBT would be a “great idea.” Whose platform is named for a political movement allied with Nazi goals. Who doesn’t believe in climate change. Who wants to deny health care to the people who somehow get through his wall.

Thirty million Americans.

I could go on. But I’d rather just ask you a question.

You’re still not worried?