Three years ago, my teenage son walked on the streets of Berkeley, raised his voice and said, “I don’t like Obama.” While attending summer camp, a fellow student visiting from China was incredulous that one could speak such blasphemous words against the President out loud. To prove that he would not face any consequences for those words, my son walked down the street shouting to no one in particular, “I don’t like Obama.”
Recounting this incident, my son said, “Until I walked down that street saying the words out loud, he didn’t believe me.” This incident is a reminder that, even in the 21st century, to live in a vibrant democracy predicated upon the right to free speech is indeed a privilege like no other.
Building upon the private citizen’s right to speak is the all-important role of the media as a watchdog on power. It is the fourth pillar on which the house of democracy rests. For President Trump to refer to the media as, “the enemy of the American people,” is an egregious mistake that I strongly condemn.
Trump is indeed the classic “disruptor,” upending all rules in governance. In this scenario, there is a windfall for him that few are talking about. Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times said, “In a single month, he received $817 million in coverage, higher than any single person has ever received in the four years that mediaQuant has been analyzing the media. Obama’s monthly earned media value hovered around $200 to $500 million.”
mediaQuant is a firm that measures every mention of a person or brand that has not been paid for which adds up to earned media value. President Trump is smashing records for free coverage, even when you pit him against the 1,000 most famous people in the world today. The article says, “The coverage those 1,000 people garnered last month totaled $721 million. Mr. Trump gets about $100 million more in coverage than the next 1,000 famous people put together.” And, that should give us pause. Active political engagement is critical, but we cannot let all parts of our being to be subsumed by our new leader.
There is plenty going on around us that does not involve the President. As I write this editorial, sheets of rain are hitting the windowpanes and California is in the middle of a deluge. According to a federal report by the US Drought Monitor, just 3 months ago, 60% of the state could be classified as facing severe drought while now only 7% of the state can be classified in that manner. Aging infrastructure was brought into sharp focus with the damaged spillway at Lake Oroville, where agencies are now working overtime to prevent a catastrophic incident.
Wet weather heralds the arrival of spring and brings with it new possibilities. If you’ve been thinking of signing up for a yoga class, you don’t have to go further than the local strip mall. Geetika Pathania Jain’s cover story is a fascinating look into yoga’s journey to that strip mall near you. At the Hong Kong airport, I stumbled upon a “Silent Room,” and found everyone perfecting asanas. There is an enviable stillness that envelops the practitioner when you just watch. What can be more wonderful than that?
Come to think of it, maybe there is something that can compete with that yogic stillness. When my younger son was three years old, he would sit on his haunches staring at the roses in our garden.
He would stare even longer at the newly bloomed flowers wondering how they could have morphed from bud to flower in the time that he had slept. On one such day of intense observation that only children are capable of, he asked me, “If you and I sat through the night with a flashlight, can we actually see the petals open?”
Can we see these daily miracles that spring is sure to bring, by training our mind’s flashlight all around us?