In Defense of OK

“How are you doing?” my co-worker asks me in the breakroom.

“OK,” I reply.

“Just OK?” she says, smiling as if for encouragement.

“How are you?” I ask.

“I’m great,” she responds.

Must I be great? Isn’t OK enough?

OK is a positive word. When we fall on our butt, what’s the first thing we tell the people around us? “I’m OK.”

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The Politics

Cambodia’s government arrested opposition leader Kem Sokha for treason this month. It accused him of conspiring with the United States to undermine the government of long-time prime minister Hun Sen. Kem Sokha, the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was arrested without a warrant by more than 100 police officers armed with assault rifles.

News reports say Hun Sen seeks to consolidate his power ahead of national elections next year. The Cambodia National Rescue Party was expected to mount a serious challenge to Hun Sen, following the party’s “unprecedented gains” in local elections in June.

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Corporate Culture Isn’t Culture

Lately, journalists and business pundits have blamed culture failures for every corporate scandal, whether it’s Uber, Volkswagen, or Wells Fargo. Corporate leaders talk of culture as if it is simply a matter of values, principles, and rules.

The way they talk about corporate culture demeans culture.

It’s as if the president or prime minister of a nation picked a few values, slapped them on everyone’s mouse pads and drink cups, and called it a culture.

Culture is not that simple.

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Charlottesville and the Heritage of Shame

It’s history, they say of the monuments. You can’t erase history.

It’s heritage, not hate, they say of the Confederate flag.

After Charlottesville, after the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and white supremacists, and the murder of a young woman who stood up to them, how can they stand for anything but hate?

I was born in the South, in Georgia. I grew up there in the 1960s and 1970s. In school we learned about history. When we studied the Civil War, we would learn about the events and people leading up to the war: the Missouri Compromise, Dred Scott, the abolitionists, and the election of Abraham Lincoln. And year after year, when class was over, our friends, some of our elders, would take us aside to educate us about the “real” reasons for the fight.

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The News About Castro (Missed Opportunities)

“Well-informed sources in Miami announced the imminent fall of Fidel Castro, it was only a matter of hours.” — Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadows

Before there was a Plan B, there was another plan. No, not Plan A. Call it Plan B-1.

Plan A was Argentina, but that fell through. I hurriedly researched various locations: Iceland and Mexico were chief among the contenders. But one country was at the top of my list: Cuba.

For more than five decades, Americans have been banned from traveling to Cuba. The U.S. has maintained an economic embargo established during the Cold War soon after Fidel Castro took power. Only a small number of people who had obtained U.S. government permission could travel there.

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Ticking Clocks

The question comes up often: Why don’t I do this full time? Travel. Write about travel. Make it my job, my life.

I envy some of my fellow bloggers who have put careers on hold, sold their belongings, and set off around the world. The guy who writes the voluminous how-to guides, the Australian midwife, the intrepid budget travelers, all those couples on open-ended global honeymoons. It’s what I should have done at their age. In my twenties, I wanted to live abroad. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t. Sometimes.

The thing is I have a career. I’m a writer, an editor, a journalist. I work on magazines. I’ve worked for a long time to become good at my vocation. I endured crap jobs that paid so little I lived on rice and macaroni & cheese. I moved from city to city following the next job.

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The Travel Ban

I saw a video this morning from over the past weekend. The news were interviewing an Iranian-American man who had been waiting for his brother to arrive at LAX airport in Los Angeles when he learned that his brother had been detained and was going to be deported. The man was distraught. “I left Iran because of this,” he said. “I’ve lived in America for twenty years,” he said. “I am an American citizen.” “Now this happens here,” he said.

I’ve heard many similar stories this week since the sudden ban on travelers from seven Middle Eastern, majority-Muslim nations and the 120-day suspension of admission for all refugees. Families, children being detained for hours. Green card holders who were legal residents of the U.S. There were protests against the ban at airports in major cities and federal court rulings blocking it. And yet it continues.

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