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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Beauty of Redemption and Why I Love Easter

Generally, I am a huge fan of all holidays so this blog post may ring hollow for those who know me best considering how much I fawn over other celebrations too, namely Christmas. Honestly though, I love Easter. The underlying story regarding the rise of Jesus Christ who rose today and who I, as a Christian, believe is the Lord and Savior of humanity, is one that ought to give human beings tremendous hope (or "Omeed" in Farsi). We all make mistakes in life. That's what makes us human. The fact that God, reflected in Jesus in human form, could still forgive us, give us a chance at redeeming ourselves, and ensure us the opportunity to start over with a clean slate with the promise of eternity in heaven is remarkable. Above all, God is a magnanimous, loving deity and no day better reflects that than Easter. Rather than being condemned to destitute and eternal punishment for the errors of our ways as humans, we have a shot at redemption through him. To just think of the awesomeness of this chance at renewal and cleansing makes one realize that you are not defined by your shortcomings and your worst moments but instead judged on how much you demonstrate good towards others. We are greater than that and through Jesus and because of his rise, we have the chance to prove to the world our ability to put our transgressions behind us and be more generous, productive, and selfless members of our communal society. The joy, love, and boundless opportunities that chance at forgiveness provides us are worthy of celebration and that is why I love Easter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

LBJ, Sebelius, and Colbert

This brief post will be the first multi-pronged, genuinely short post I've ever done on this blog but there's a first time for everything. First, I wanted to say that I love the celebrations of LBJ happening this week at his library, in news articles, and in our collective national political discussion. Yes, Vietnam escalation was truly, truly horrible -- horrendous in its consequences for millions and millions of people. Nevertheless, the profound good that LBJ accomplished at home is still huge. It's remarkable in scope, size, and scale especially given the fact that his two immediate predecessors in office, Eisenhower and JFK, did not achieve anywhere near the level of his accomplishments in the domestic policy front. Contemporary political observers will often note LBJ was aided by enormous Democratic majorities in Congress, a sweeping landslide in 1964, and the national mood following JFK's tragic assassination. All of these facts are true and what is certainly true is, as the current president alluded to in The New Yorker in a David Remnick interview, the LBJ victories faded once the 1966 midterm election resulted in significant Democratic losses and Johnson's popularity declined amid Vietnam. However, none of these facts should diminish Johnson's impressive, progressive legacy. The Great Society was nothing short of tremendously ambitious, unabashedly liberal, and fundamentally transformative for the United States. Johnson could have utilized his enormous mandate to do just about anything. That he spent it pushing legislation that improved the lives of millions, like the Civil Rights Act and Medicare and Medicaid to name a few examples, reflects a willingness to use the levers of power to advance the common good in Washington. That's something that should be a trait in all of our politicians. He worked hard at it too which wasn't really necessary in some cases given his huge majorities and the massive victory he won but he did it anyway because he passionately, emotionally invested himself in these causes -- a kind of leadership that stands tall among presidents. For these reasons, he is certainly one of our greatest presidents and should be remembered as such.

On Kathleen Sebelius, I wanted to say that though the initial rollout of Obamacare was obviously horrible, she came out strong in the end. That's why she'll ultimately have a positive legacy. She presided over the creation of a law that is going to be a significant aspect of our social safety net and she ultimately made it work as the administration surpassed pre-rollout enrollment goals. That's no small achievement. Through it all, she displayed determination, strength, passion, and grit and her impressive final month in office is all the vindication that the President should need to know she did a fine job.

On Letterman and Colbert: For one, I want to note I am a huge fan of Letterman and his style. His quirky, weird but lovable style may be silly but it's a unique kind of funny that is "irreplaceable," as The New Yorker put it. Further, the cultural significance of his show is profound when considering his venerable Top 10 Lists and his marvelous interviews as well as the stellar musical performances. Simply put, TV is losing a real giant. On the other hand, I am conflicted about Stephen Colbert taking over for Letterman. Colbert out of character may be unusual and I can't see him being the earnest personality that one typically characterizes for a late night host. Nevertheless, I must say Colbert surprised me, and a lot of critics, when he knocked it out of the park on The Colbert Report once it launched. I have no doubt that given his talents, skills, quick wit, and sharp humor, he can devise a successful formula for his stint on The Late Show. Time will tell.