Friday, June 16, 2017

Trying to Stay Non-political

As I’ve said before, I try to keep away from any political subjects, first because there are many other writers who love to make political comments, but more important because Washington is unable to fix problems we have brought on through our own behavior.  The only difficulty with this stance is that almost everything that happens lately is reframed as a political dispute making it very difficult to find behavioral examples of a non-political nature.  (A clear demonstration of a national perspective failing is that Senate hearings take center stage while what used to be considered real news is treated as an afterthought.)

Perspective is about values, what is important and what is trivial, setting appropriate priorities, separating wants from needs and gratitude for our blessings.  Two stories this week, when taken from a nonpolitical angle, reinforced this need for perspective:  the President’s son’s shirt and the Boston Globe’s comments on air conditioning.

As Barron Trump exited the helicopter with his parents upon arrival on the White House lawn, he was wearing a t-shirt with the words “The Expert” on the front.  Within a matter of hours people going to J. Crew’s website found a message saying that the shirt was sold out and offering other suggestions.  Some observers point out that the shirt was already sold out before everyone saw young Trump wearing one, but others attribute some of its popularity to his appearance on camera.

It could have been the news spot or the President’s son could have just jumped on the same bandwagon as many others.  In either case a $30 t-shirt most people didn’t even know existed suddenly became a must-have item.

In the second instance the Boston Globe published an editorial suggesting that readers should reduce or eliminate the use of air conditioning for the summer.  They pointed out that since “the first window unit was brought to market in 1939, air conditioners have become ubiquitous in the United States. Today, almost 90 percent of American households have one – as do the vast majority of restaurants, stores, museums, and office buildings.”  They go on to warn about the high amount of energy usage with a global-warming impact equivalent to each family driving 10,000 extra miles per year. 

Conservative sites were quick to point to it as another example of climate-change hysteria and to question whether the Globe would be turning off the air conditioning in their own building.

Setting aside the politics, the Globe has a point that air conditioning is one more thing we take for granted.  It wasn’t that long ago, certainly within my memory, that families would look for an excuse to go to the movies in the summer just to enjoy a couple of hours of air conditioned comfort before returning home to the sweltering heat.  People in cities would sleep on the fire escapes and those in the suburbs might spend the night in the basement.  Today we look at an outside temperature of 92 and decide we will stay in the house in comfort.  Jokingly referring to a 4-60 air conditioning system in the car (4 windows open at 60 mph) would be lost on today’s car buyers.

We can live without it, but would prefer not to, and are probably more productive at work and at home with it.  From a perspective point of view, A/C has crept from nice to necessary in only a couple of generations.  Many can’t imagine living without it, but many others in the world have no choice.

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