Don’t give up voting on election day.

During a sea battle in the War of 1812, as he lay dying in his quarters, Captain James Lawrence spoke his last words: “Don’t give up the ship.” For good or ill, his crew did exactly that as soon as Lawrence died. A few months later, though, commander Oliver Hazard Perry won a decisive victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, flying a flag that quoted Lawrence’s last words.

Don't give up voting on election day.

The dying words of Capt. James Lawrence and the triumphal slogan of Oliver Hazard Perry

This quote, and its history of failure followed by success, came to my mind when a friend despaired of this election saga in a Facebook post, writing “I have no faith in my fellow Americans anymore.” I do and here’s why:

While some people have come unhinged during this very long election slog, I believe that our better natures will prevail once we are not constantly being wound up by a click-hungry, cynical news media that has abandoned responsibility to act in the public interest. We’ve been through worse, so don’t give up voting on election day.

Experience Matters

At this risk of sounding preachy, I’ll say that this anti-intellectual, “we-hate-elites” strain in populism is what makes it so dangerous. Elite, educated thinkers like Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton founded this republic. Businessmen like Paul Revere and radicals like the Sons of Liberty had vital roles to play, but they did not have the global experience to lead the nation once the revolution was over.

We won the revolution because elites like Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson went over to France and negotiated an alliance. Shortly thereafter, the Constitution was built on compromise, even in the midst of fierce partisanship. We need radicals to shake us out of complacency and call our attention to injustice, but not to hold the reins of power, and certainly not to negotiate on behalf of the nation.

So Do Patience and Inclusion

Guys like Trump and Sanders offer quick and easy answers to problems within existing systems, but have no realistic ideas about how to actually fix things. As Trump says, he just wants to “blow up” Washington. Hillary Clinton is a reformer, not a radical. She’s good at building working partnerships and I believe she will lead us in making things better. True, change will be incremental, but that is better than a deadlocked government fueled by cable without conscience.

Don't give up voting on election day.

Vote: No matter how you say it, be sure to do it.

When vested powers feel threatened, they freak out and push back. That’s why the atmosphere is so venomous now. Going slow and being inclusive is tiresome and not everyone is cut out for it. Hillary Clinton is. And there are Republicans who are also. The reformers in both parties will find each other. So “be just and fear not” (Shakespeare, Henry VIII), and be sure to vote.

Saving Landmarks from Lovelocks

I’m thinking of starting a nonprofit. It will be called GOTCHA, which stands for Guardians of the City’s Historic Architecture. Its mission is for members to patrol landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, catch couples in the act of defacing these sites with one of those stupid “lovelocks” (a padlock to signify lasting love) and cheerfully throw them over the side.

Landmark Brooklyn Bridge

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge

Really, what is the mindset of young adults (and they are almost always young) who think it’s OK to attach junk to an extraordinary public treasure in order to mark a relationship which is significant only to them? I already can’t walk the bridge without stumbling over tourists planted in the middle of the walkway, poised to stab my eye out with a selfie stick. Now I get to see scores of cheap, colored padlocks—often with accompanying graffiti—hanging from the beautiful cables of an engineering marvel, placed there by people with no respect for public heritage. I want to wring their self-centered necks.

They won’t always have Paris

Paris has several times had to remove millions of locks from its landmark Pont des Arts footbridge over the Seine. Their weight actually collapsed some of the bridge’s parapets. In the weeks following, hundreds more locks appeared, forcing Paris to add protective guards to the bridge that make defacing the structure more difficult–and also diminish its charm.  A few years ago, a group of lock pickers here in New York went up on the Brooklyn Bridge and removed many of the padlocks that were degrading both the structure and the view. Just days later, new locks appeared (although, thankfully, not as many as in Paris).

The landmark Pont les Arts bridge jammed with lovelocks

The Pont des Arts bridge in Paris jammed with lovelocks

But perhaps Gretna Green

This ridiculous phenomenon is happening to landmarks all over the world. On the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, along the Wild Pacific Trail on Canada’s Vancouver Island, on an overpass at Taiwan’s Fengyuan railway station. Sensing a commercial opportunity, a private business at Scotland’s Gretna Green (the Las Vegas of the 18th century) decided to go with the flow and sell special, lightweight padlocks to lovers so they can deface the historic place without causing too much damage. I wonder how the people who live in the village, as well as other visitors, feel about that.

So who wants to join GOTCHA? In the interest of keeping you out of prison, I promise to protect your identity—at least until the Russians hack my server.

To Watch or Not to Watch? Debating the Debates

Years ago, in a very funny book called Parliament of Whores, conservative political satirist P. J. O’Rourke dubbed television news “the fourth branch of government.” That was never more true than now, when 24/7 cable produces pseudo-news hour after hour, in pursuit of eyeballs and clicks. And the industry is salivating over the current election debates.

How television will cover the debates

A satire of politics and Washington

Yes, internet commentary is ubiquitous (and often crazy) but it tends to be more authentic than television because it lacks the pretense of serious journalism beamed out by CNN, Fox and their clones. The endless and shallow commentary offered up by people whose main objective is to sell advertising has worn me out, and I imagine many others too.

So what to do about these debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Do I watch and grit my teeth as Trump distorts truth with impunity? Shall I sit on the edge of my sofa, stomach in knots, while Hillary is interrogated yet again about “her damn emails?” This morning I thought not. But as the day goes on and the time of the first debate nears, I find myself circling the flame, feeling that it is somehow irresponsible not to watch. Or perhaps I am simply justifying a need for spectacle, like the ancient Romans who flocked to the circus.

The Debates Are a Form of Living History

Hillary Clinton brings ample experience to the debates.

Hillary Clinton speaks at UN Women’s Conference

It doesn’t really matter. Much as I’ve complained about this election, I can’t not be part of history. And it is history, regardless of who wins. Certainly I hope to see Hillary Clinton in the White House, and not because she’s female. I would not lift a finger to elect a Sarah Palin or a Nikki Haley. In fact, I would campaign against them. I want to see Hillary become president because she is a feminist who has always acted on the conviction that women and children matter.

So my solution is to watch the debates, but to boycott the commentary. It’s all biased one way or another and I’ve heard it all by now anyway. I’ll decide for myself who scored points about what, and how I think each candidate performed. I hope other voters will do the same.

P.S. O’Rourke, a traditional conservative, says he is voting for Hillary.