The Paradox that is America

A close friend of mine for whom I have a great deal of respect astutely questioned my premise of a divided nation citing several relevant historical data points. (“Are labor protections worse today than in 1890? … As a nation, we’re certainly less divided than in 1862.”) Nothing is more divisive to a nation than a civil war; certainly we are less divided than in 1862. But can social progress coexist with social division?

Civil wars are a ludicrously absurd method for resolving ideological disputes: ideas are judged not on merit but rather on might ending with the suppression of ideas rather than resolution. I do not find it surprising that based on the 48 values questions Pew has been using for the past 25 years, the partisan gap has doubled. Nor do I find it surprising that a growing number of voters do not identify with either party, and support LGBTQ civil rights.

That said, perhaps we can agree that America is a country of paradoxes; a nation both politically divided, and capable of social evolution; a nation with a legal system that can both clear Officer Darion Wilson of any wrongdoing whatsoever in the killing of Michael Brown, and find “widespread civil rights abuses by the Ferguson Police Department.

Can the pickup and the Prius be friends?

Prius RepellantOne can barely take a breath without being bombarded with reminders that the United States is a country divided. Socioeconomically, institutionally, educationally, professionally, informationally, we are a populous that is unable (or unwilling) to reach across barriers. The American flag itself has become a symbol of division and not of unity.

The upcoming presidential election may well test the limits of this political experiment in representative democracy called the US. Democracy, by design, is dependent upon consensus.

Can we adapt to a way of life that minimizes greenhouse gas emissions even if we cannot agree on global warming? Can we compensate for the correlation between wealth and race even if we are at odds over its causation? Can we fix the fact that America is a first world superpower yet most American public school students live in poverty without letting these very kids get caught in partisan crossfire?

Is American ideology a zero sum game, or can Beyoncé and Taylor Swift peaceably coexist? Can the pickup and the Prius be friends?

O RadioShack

mitnick_wanted0610231802O RadioShack, Titan to a generation of Olympians, how your absence will be felt, especially by those of us who both know the smell of molten solder and work in advertising.

Your brand was the subculture of my youth. We were subversive, clannish outsiders. We valued craftiness and wit. We communicated incessantly (but only via devices and networks of our own making). And we believed that upon the shelves of RadioShack lay the secrets to world domination.

This subculture – RadioShack subculture – was the launching pad for the true digital natives: the likes of Bill Gates, Bill Wozniack, and especially Kevin Mitnick.

But you mistook yourselves for a consumer electronics store, the very nemesis of those still nursing their homemade RadioShack receivers. We, your loyal target audience, waited patiently for you to come around. But you never did. You went 9-to-5 when you could have gone 24 hours-a-day (we are a nocturnal tribe, after all).

We – your erstwhile target audience – is growing, but we have matured from integrated circuits to Arduino, Open Source and iCub. We hoped that you would mature along with us, give us a homemade of atoms rather that bits. But, alas…

A final thought:
Mr. Magnaccia: I can’t stand to watch a once-great brand die of irrelevance. March 28th is Adruino Day, and Kevin Mitnick is out of hiding. Txt me if I can help connect the dots.