La Vie est Belle

Life is beautiful. The question came up on Quora, what does la vie est belle mean. The answer given by many was the affirmation of life, the celebration of success, and the recognition of the inherent hope and goodness of life. Now I’m a speaker of French albeit not a native speaker and I don’t consider myself fluent. I reach for words in conversation, and I get frustrated while explaining what word I want only to find out that I know the word, or it’s a connotation of some word I hadn’t thought of in that context.

Language is complex and beautiful. Once you know a language well enough to think in the language when reading, speaking and listening, you experience the language entirely differently. One of those experiences is finding out that translation is a herculean task for anything but technical and trivial content. I was reading Le rouge est le noir by Stendhal and I was tired of reading in French. I went to Barnes and Noble to find an English version and had to look at three before I was satisfied that the translator’s viewpoint was in concert with my understanding.

To me the phrase La Vie est Belle is most importantly a cry against the darkest of times. It is what you need when you are at the depths of depression, receiving awful news about your condition or the state of your loved ones. It is an anodyne against despair in seeing that  there’s fundamental beauty and hope in life, that things get better. It is what I try to convey to friends and family in their moment of need, and a reminder to myself when life is overwhelming me.

For the rest of this post, don’t read it if you don’t like my political views.

Election

I’ve waited and thought about the election results for a while now. I have many friends who voted for Mr Trump. I’ve had to separate out their reasons from the fear I have and those things that are hateful. I remind myself why people in this country found a populous message that included more than a little bigotry and racism to be attractive because they despaired of finding good times again, to them, La Vie est Belle!

I must admit that the alternative was not so attractive either. A woman of naked ambition who would not necessarily serve the rights and needs of women or the LGBT community. A woman who is deeply flawed as a candidate. Just slightly less flawed than the winner in my opinion. Unlike any election since I started voting in 1976 I truly felt that both choices were evil choices to make.

The results do not leave me hopeful. Like others I wanted and still want to believe this will work out. I am discouraged by a line of white men being appointed whose claims of diversity are mostly supported by the variation of their branches of Christianity. I am horrified that his chief strategist Steve Bannon was affiliated with Breitbart. To be fair, working for Breitbart is not the same as espousing every piece of news that site carries or a statement of Bannon’s personal views, but as they say, the optics are awful.

This is not improved by the appointment of Sessions to head Justice, the department in charge of prosecuting civil rights issues among others. Is Sessions still a bigot? I don’t know, he clearly was in the past. Suspicious optics.

Last, I am deeply discouraged by Trump continuing to use entirely false statements as he moves forward. If these were just cherry picked by the “leftist” media then I might understand. I do consider the media to be more left than right for the most part. Yet he’s been brought to task by such figures as Bill O’Reilly, who can hardly be called even a moderate.

I wish the men and women of the republican party of sound ethics good luck in convincing Mr Trump to talk to and make decisions with actual factual data rather than what the thinks will attract ratings.

At a time when the nation deeply needs healing from a divisive election season that has pitted friends against each other and incited openly racist, anti-semitic and LGBT bashing attacks, I do not yet see a hand from our president elect to calm the waters, decry the violence and remind the nation that we are all Americans.

LGBT Issues

From my own parochial interests I’m very concerned with LGBT issues, specifically the potential to have no support for civil rights violations in any of the three branches of government. The executive branch with Sessions as the Attorney General seems unlikely to continue to support LGBT rights on the basis of the civil rights act. A virtual invitation for a ramping up of idiotic bathroom bills into direct condoning of discrimination in housing, employment, healthcare and public accommodation.

The Supreme Court has one vacancy but potentially others due to either retirement or death given that a number of justices are in their 80s. A lock between the congress and administration may see fast tracking of highly conservative justices forced to pass a litmus test for approval by the Senate. While existing decisions are unlikely to be overturned, at least not in bulk, this leaves huge open questions about the course of the judiciary and congress when it comes to both LGBT protections as well as the likely support for the continued erosion of women’s healthcare decisions.

The VP elect Mike Pence is also a cause of huge concern. Even after discounting some issues that don’t stand up to fact checking (c.f. conversion therapy on Snopes w.r.t. Pence) he still is clearly a strong traditionalist unappologetically against LGBT rights.

Perhaps the one reason I do have some hope is that honest members of Congress, even if they are historically against LGBT rights, may yet be swayed by facts. Additionally there is no complete control over the Senate which is very evenly divided and where any really nasty legislation can die by filibuster.

Last, the mid term elections are only two years off. This will be an opportunity for people to repudiate the policies if they are oppressive and if the campaign promises that really resonated such as ridding Washington of political insiders and bringing jobs back to the US. Since the former is already being broken and the later is actually impossible do to automation it seems unlikely that these legitimate concerns will be met.

Hope

If there is reason to hope, it is because despite the politicisation of these issues, they affect conservatives as well as liberals. You don’t need to be a liberal to have a gay, bi or trans child, brother or sister. You don’t need to be a liberal to have a daughter who gets pregnant and whose life will be entirely derailed at 16. Not to mention that not every member of congress, even religious members of congress believe that early abortion is murder.

The supreme court nominations may not work out as hoped by those in favor of bringing back the era of back alley abortions and LGBT people being beaten with the law standing idly by. Conservatism doesn’t itself stand for intolerance. The political view mostly argues for less government and less government intervention, and issues such as limiting the interpretation of the constitution to the intent of the founders. As such there’s nothing specifically racist, homophobic or antisemitic about conservatism as a value system.

Because justices are appointed for life, there has been more than one surprise where the appointed justice rules very differently than the person doing the appointment intended. Targeted appointments may backfire, one can only hope.

 

Whether you are an atheist or not, perhaps it would be appropriate to say, now let us pray.

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